Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Stay-at-Home-Dad Training Guide

So you got it into your head that staying home and raising your children might be a good idea. You have visions of working on your golf game while your little one sleeps peacefully in your combination baby stroller/golf bag. You'll be able to stay in your pajamas and play on your XBox all day. You'll teach your little one(s) to appreciate the fine points of the cover 2 defense and the importance of middle relief. But in order to inject a bit of reality into your expectations and to prepare you for what is to come, I've created this short training guide. While nothing can fully prepare you for what lies ahead, this will give you some idea.

1. Look around at your stuff and find the one thing you'd least like broken. Break it.

2. Trap a squirrel in your back yard. Try to put a onesie on it.

3. Get two noisemakers - one that screeches at an impossibly loud pitch and one that says the same word over and over and over. Place them in your back seat while you drive. Now, try to listen to the song on the radio.

4. Paint a pasty white spot on the shoulders of all your shirts, sweaters, and coats.

5. Cook a delicious meal. Eat it really fast without tasting anything.

6. Get a dog that ignores all of your commands and does its own thing. Teach it to read.

7. Tie your arm behind your back. Make two peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, one with creamy peanut butter and one with chunky. One has strawberry jelly and one has grape. Cut the crusts off one. Cut one into triangles and one into squares. Get the right combination and do it within 30 seconds. Now drop one on the floor and quickly make it again.

8. Rig a contraption with a gas can balanced precariously over an open flame. Go to the bathroom and hope nothing bad happens.

9. Scatter toys all over the ground. Carry groceries in one hand and a baby carrier in the other and navigate through the toy mine field. When you do trip, don't drop the baby carrier and try not to swear.

10. Don't shower until you wake up one morning and can't stand your own filth. Get used to that feeling.

Good luck!

This training guide may seem quite cynical, but let me assure you there's nothing I can do to prepare you for the good parts - and there will be plenty of them.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Most Likely to Run Away and Join the Circus

Last weekend the five of us visited the St. Louis City Museum, which is a must for any kids visiting St. Louis. Clara and Kate tried to get themselves lost within a complex system of tunnels and caverns. When our niece Alex was 7, Megan got stuck in one of these tunnels, prompting a line of bottlenecked tots to shout, "She's stuck! She's stuck!" They pushed on the bottoms of Megan's shoes until she squirmed her way out.

Clara and Kate loved the three story slide, the mini train, and the no-skateboard skateboard park. What they didn't agree on was the circus. Clara was bored and unimpressed: "When is this overrrrrrr?" But Kate was enthralled, spending the first half of the performance absolutely still. Soon she started to move around like the acrobats and contortionists, climbing up to stand on my kneed and then my shoulders. What the performers did, she tried. When the performers bowed, she bowed. You can kind of see by the top picture that she is in the same position as the performers - legs out, arms at her side, ready for what was next. We were up on the top row, so few people saw Kate's performance, other than the performers themselves. At one point, Kate was up the air bent over backwards on my hand, arms held out and one leg up in the air.

It got a bit complicated when the acrobats started flipping (I picked up Kate and flipped her) and two ballerinas held themselves aloft with drapes, but eventually everyone bowed, and Kate joined them. After they were done, performers came out with donation buckets. I gave Kate money and pointed her in their direction. I waited up top to see if she could make her way through the crowd on her own. Never one to let anyone get in her way, she got down there without looking back, stood quietly in front of a performer until she noticed her, and then held up her money. The performer crouched down and talked to Kate - I saw Kate nod once but I don't know what was said. When she turned back to me Kate was beaming.

When it comes to the circus, I identify more with Clara's reaction, but when a child finds something that brings her joy, the parent feels the joy as well.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

In case you didn't already know...

My mom was in town for the week after Christmas and I was surprised that we had never told her why we chose the name "Kate." Since the most common comment I get from people about this blog is how great it will be one day for the girls to read about the first few years of their lives, I'm going to take this opportunity to explain to them where we came up with their names and the names of things around them.


Your mom and I met, fell in love, and got married on the campus of Santa Clara University. Your Papa (Piazza) is also a graduate of Santa Clara. We couldn't think of a prettier or more appropriate name for our first daughter. As I write this, you are four years old, and think Santa Clara is someone related to Santa Claus. I hope we haven't pressured you too much to attend Santa Clara, but it is a great school in a great part of California, the California Bittles will be just a short drive away, and it is filled with Jesuit scholars like Father Tom Powers, who baptized you. No pressure.


I'm kind of a fan of William Shakespeare, and when we were deciding your name, we wanted a longer name that had a short nickname. I pushed for Katherine, because the long name made me think of Catherine from Henry V while "Kate" was the shrew in Taming of the Shrew. I was not trying to influence your disposition by naming you after the shrew. I merely hoped you would be fiery and strong. And I was right.


Contrary to popular belief, you are not named after a Simon and Garfunkel song. While we did have that song in our heads constantly for your first months, it's not really a song you name your child after. We named you after your great-grandmother. And the only other Cecilia we knew, Cecilia Vollert, is a great kid. Your middle name, James, is from your Uncle Jim, who was named after your great-grandfather. We asked Clara to name you and she picked "Cosmo."

Some other things...

We named the Clarices, those lambs you can't put down, after a character from this movie (we'll pay for the therapy bills):

Big Papi, that big bear in Cecilia's room, was named after this guy:

Your dog Scout was named after the girl in "To Kill a Mockingbird." Scout's name on her pedigree is actually Jean Louise Finch.