Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Not a leap baby

I only get to say "On this day" this particular day every four years.

It was on this day 8 years ago that Maxfield decided it was time to start his entrance into this world. I remember so much and so little from that day.

February 29th 2004 was the due date. It was also the first nice day of that winter. The sun was shining and it was in the low 60’s. Being that we were pent up for most of the winter Lauren and I decided to enjoy the weather by going for a walk around the neighborhood. We left our house hoping to suck up as much sun as possible. It was about 2:30 in the afternoon.

As we left the house we saw all of our neighbors out in their yards also enjoying the weather. We said “hello” to Gary and Julie and other neighbors and all of their kids. I think Rick and his wife, who I can never remember her name, were also out with their kids. They were all standing on Julie’s yard, across the street from our house, watching their kids play. We said we would be back shortly to chat.

Lauren and I turned the corner and were talking about how nice it was outside. Yes it was her due date and we were talking about the weather. We were walking at a slow pace because Lauren was big in the belly. We made it halfway up the block when Lauren grabbed my arm and said, “Oh my God!”

“What?” I replied thinking that maybe she forgot to turn off the Television.

She did not say anything she just kept giggling. A peculiar giggle.

“Did your water just break?” I asked.

“Yeah. And I’m wearing white pants.” she replied. Her eyes went wide with excitement and embarrassmentt.

“What? Do you feel okay? Let’s head home.”

I was too excited. She was worried about her pants.

“Give me a second.” She said as she was inspecting herself.

In my mind I was going through all the things I learned in birthing class. “I have to get her a new COAT. I need to time her breathing. Hell I don’t own a watch. Maybe we can stop at the mall on the way to the hospital to get a watch. I need to get her bags to the car. What did we forget? I have to call my mom and tell her we cannot make it to her Oscar party.” These were only some of my thoughts.

We shuffled back down the block and did our best to sneak past the neighbors across the street. As we approached our house Rose and Paul, the neighbors to our left, pulled up in into the driveway. Rose yelled out, “Hey guys! Don’t go in yet. Sabina wants to say hi.” Sabina was Rose and Paul’s 3-year-old daughter.

Lauren turned to me and through gritted teeth said, “I’m going inside. You can explain.”

We just waved and entered the house. Lauren called the doctor while she changed her clothes. I remember from the class that the baby has to be delivered within 24 hours of the water breaking to reduce the risk of …of….something or other. I knew we were going to be at the hospital for the next few days. Holy crap! I was going to be a dad within 24 hours.

Lauren was not experiencing any labor pains and took her time getting herself together. Once she was ready, I grabbed her suitcase and took it to the car. I would come back to escort her. As I walked out with the suitcase Julie looked over with a puzzling look. Rose, Sabina and Paul were now standing across the street.

“I think it is time.” I yelled over to the gaggle of people gathered on the sidewalk.

“Really?” someone said.

I went back to the house and did a mental check of everything before I was ready to escort Lauren to the car. As I stepped onto the walkway, Rose and Julie came over and asked if we needed anything. I said no.

“I can’t believe this happening.” Rose said.

“I know.” Replied Julie. “It is so exciting that we are here to witness this.”

I went back in the house and told Lauren about the gathering in front of Julie’s house. She mentioned how awkward it was to be going through this with everyone watching. We left the house. The people across the street were talking louder and louder and pointing to us. Lauren and I didn’t really know what to say. We got into the car nodding and smiling.  As we pulled down the street all the neighbors gathered on the sidewalk and started cheering and clapping. I compare it to the end of the move Brubaker, when Robert Redford leaves the prison or to the end of Wizard of OZ when the balloon is about to take off and all the munchkins are waving and cheering. Maxfield would not be born until March 1st, but his entrance was already starting in a very surreal way.

* I originally posted this story in 2006.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Wyatt Inspired

Our children's name's are inspired by artists.

The oldest boy, Maxfield, is named after Maxfield Parrish . Jackson Pollack is the inspiration for our youngest boy, Jackson.

Our middle child Wyatt's name is inspired by the artist family the Wyeths. Lauren and I both enjoy all three generations of the Wyeth art.  I am a bigger fan of N.C. Wyeth's work. My wife enjoys more of Andrew (N.C.'s son) and Jamie's (Andrew's son) work. We named Wyatt Wyatt instead of Wyeth so it would not sound as though he had a lisp when saying his name.

Although the winter has been mild both Lauren and I were feeling the winter blahs from a creative standpoint. The boys were just starting week two of a two week suspension from video games. Our whole house was feeling a little blue and antsy. In an effort to boost everyone out of their funk Lauren and I decided to take the kids to the Brandywine River Museum.  The Brandywine, located on the South West side of Philly, houses the largest collections of all three generations of the Wyeth family's artwork. The Wyeths lived in the Brandywine Valley. Lauren and I hoped the museum would give us some inspiration and relieve us of our blahs. We told the boys that if they were well behaved I would shave off 4 days of their suspension and that was their inspiration.

Walking into the first gallery I was overwhelmed by the size and color of the paintings. I have been to the Brandywine before but not since Wyatt was born. This was his first time being around the artwork of his "namesake" and I felt a wave of satisfaction at naming him after this family of artists. Lauren turned to me and said, "I really needed this."

I think Wyatt was excited that the day was kind of about him.
Even though there are signs that say "No Photos" I couldn't help but take a few pictures of Wyatt standing in front of the incredible paintings of the Wyeths.  N.C. Wyeth illustrated many novels in the early 1900s including Last of the Mohican's and Treasure Island. The kids seemed to like these paintings.
Maxfield Parrish was a contemporary of N.C. Wyeth and we were lucky that the Brandywine has some Parrish work. The above picture is my Max standing in front of the Parrish painting called the "Artist". My Max was very nervous because he read the "No Photo" sign and though we may get arrested.

The portrait work in the Jaimie Wyeth gallery was very impressive and I think I enjoyed this section the most. I was able to convince the kids to sit on a bench while Lauren and I had a chance to look around. I hope that as the kids get older they appreciate their names and the inspiration behind them and maybe actually the artwork.

I did not get any pictures of the Andrew Wyeth gallery because security started tailing me. Security either realized I was taking pictures or they heard me say "Don't touch." over a hundred times. The kids enjoyed this gallery the most because there were lots of "heinie" and "butt" pictures.

If you live in the Philadelphia area and you enjoy a good art museum I would highly suggest going to the Brandywine River Museum. Admission is free on Sunday mornings and you get to see some "heinies and butts."

Thursday, February 16, 2012


Back in September Maxfield joined Cub Scouts. My wife and I discussed this issue back and forth for several months. At first I was against it, she was for it. Then I was for him joining scouts and she was against it. Then she was for it and I was not listening. Then I was for it and she was trying to decorate the powder room. We discussed the time commitments, the financial commitments, the volunteer time needed over and over again.

During our many discussions my wife made a very valid point, not just about scouts, but about many other group activities. She said, "This is the time where Max may be forming the bonds of life long friendships. Shouldn't we expose him to scouts and what the scouts teach? Don't you want him to grow up with his friends being a good influence?"

Now I have known many kids in my life that I grew up with who were part of scouts and turned out to be "bad" kids. These bad kids usually never continued with scouts past 3rd or 4th grade. But I have also known a few other kids who went through Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts and turned out to be incredible people. I am not saying that all the kids who stopped scouting were bad kids*. I am also not saying that kids who do not join scouts are bad kids. I just know that the kids who continued with Scouts into Boy Scouts all turned out to be exceptional people. I would like for Max, and my other boys, to be surrounded by exceptional people.

So we signed Max up for Scouts.

We are seven months into scouting and it seems like Max likes it. I have attended every meeting. There is a bit of a "insiders club" feel to the pack and the people who run it but you get that with every organization. Little League, Home and School Association, Soccer Clubs you name it, they all have their own inner circles of leadership, I get that, I understand it.

 I enjoy going to Scouts with Max and watching from the outside. I get to participate as a parent.

And that right there is the one thing that I see different about the Scouts than other club type organization or sports team. Everyone is involved. Everyone participates. I have yet to see (as I have with coaching) a parent drop off their kid and leave as if the den leader is a babysitter. All the parents stay. Some take a more active roll during the meeting than others but for the most part all the parents are involved. No parents are complaining that their kid is not getting enough playing time. No kid is upset that they did not get to play short stop. No parent is mad that their kid is second chair in the trumpet section of the band. The parents are spending time with their kids at Scouts. Good quality time.

The Scouts, so far, have been a good idea. Max is surrounded by good kids and I am surrounded by good parents. Both of which are good influences.

*For the record I stopped Scouts in 3rd grade. I am not a pot head, gangster, thug, hooligan, goon, ruffian or troublemaker...

Okay maybe a troublemaker.

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Pez Peeve

A few years ago my family drove our friend Tara and her daughter to an event. Tara, to show her appreciation of the ride, bought my boys Pez Dispensers and Pez Candy. For the rest of the day I think Tara regretted ever having car pooled with us.

I appreciated her kindness of the idea of a small token of appreciation given to my kids but for the rest of the day I cursed her. Not only under my breath did I say bad things about Tara and her gift but I also ranted right to her face. You see I hate Pez Dispensers.

Did you ever try to load Pez candy into one of those dispensers? You pull the spring loaded inside "clip" up out of the casing, struggle to keep it out while loading individual pieces of candy into the slide. It is inevitable that the slide snaps shut, or that one of the pieces of candy, which are too small for adult hands, gets stuck sideways. You then need to empty what you already put in the device and start all over. The wrappers to the Pez candy, most likely due to the fact that there is no expiration date, end up sticking to the candy making it difficult to slide them into the dispenser.Try doing this over and over again, with coffee induced jitters for multiple children for multiple packs of candy. It is torture.

On average it takes me 10 minutes to load a Pez Dispenser. On average it takes my kids 90 seconds to eat all the candy in a Pez Dispenser. My kids complain that it takes too long to load the candy. I tell them to just eat the candy. They argue that the candy has to go into the toy dispenser (so they can pop Jango Fett's head back and suck a rectangle candy from his Adams apple) because that is how it is supposed to be. The turnaround time to whiner ratio is overwhelming. I hate Pez Dispensers.

Besides Tara giving the boys Pez Dispensers they also occasionally receive them in gift bags from friends birthday parties. Which since I am on the subject, is another pet peeve of mine.

I was talking with my friend Jim the other day and we were trying to figure out when did the whole giving a gift bag of party favors to your invited b-day party guests become a thing? When I was a kid I went to a bunch of birthday parties but the only thing I ever left with was a belly full of cake and ice cream. It seems like now every kid who attends a birthday party comes home with a bag full of dollar store choke hazards and carpet clutterers. These tchotkes always find their way in or under my furniture.

As parents shoudn't we try to help other parent's alleviate the clutter in their own homes. I know my kids do not need any more super bouncy balls, plastic spider rings, whistles, silly straws or tiny yo-yos that I refuse to put those items in gift bags for other kids. Maybe as parents we should be more practical with the gift bag party favors.  Maybe we can replace the small trinkets with items like shoe laces, band aids, sun screen or safety pins. You know the things that you never have around the house when you need them. That way when these items are strewn all over the living room floor and shoe lace breaks...we will know we can find a pair under the couch cushion.

Do we even need gift bags at all?