Cat’s in The City

Readers, I sense an uneasiness in the air. A feeling that many of you may be concerned for the state of Dad Blogging. After all 2010, proclaimed far and wide as The Year of the Dad Blogger, is quickly drawing to a close. In fact, at the time this post is published, there will only be one short day remaining before all Dad Bloggers from Seattle to Shanghai unceremoniously turn back into pumpkins only to be dropped from 3rd story windows onto sidewalks below.

Readers, I sense an uneasiness in the air. A feeling that many of you may be concerned for the state of Dad Blogging.  After all 2010, proclaimed far and wide as The Year of the Dad Blogger, is quickly drawing to a close.  In fact, at the time this post is published, there will only be one short day remaining before all Dad Bloggers from Seattle to Shanghai unceremoniously turn back into pumpkins only to be dropped from 3rd story windows onto sidewalks below.  Right?  I mean you might have noticed that the posting has been a bit, um, scant around here recently. 

Not to worry. We here at Dad Revolution like many of you I suspect, have been a bit caught up in the rush and hum of the holiday season.  We will still be here once the clock strikes midnight Saturday morning and Old Lang Syne courses steadily across the country like The Wave swallowing up fans at a local sports stadium.

And, even though I am officially off work this week, I am not imune to the time constraints that this time of year ushers in.  With that in mind, rather than a new post today I am going to repost one of my favorites from the past year over at my personal blog ‘Luke, I am Your Father’.  It is from July, titled Catch 42, and is about father and son bonding.  It will also be included in a best of the year post I plan to publish there in the next couple of days. 

So, forgive my laziness.  But if you enjoy it, leave me a comment with a link to one of your favorite posts from the past year. I would love to read them.

My son turned three just the other day
He said, “Thanks for the ball, Dad, come on let’s play
Can you teach me to throw?”, I said
“I got a lot to do”, “but…that’s okay”

 And perhaps he thought, “I’m gonna be like him, yeah
You know I’m gonna be like him”

My apologies to Harry Chapin, but just the other day – Lukas’ 3rd birthday – we were recovering in our living room from the Pirate party we had had earlier that afternoon. My parents were also here and we were all pretty exhausted. In fact my dad was starting to doze off on the couch.

Lukas, on the other hand, was up from his nap and looking for fun. After playing with a few of the toys he had received earlier in the day he got up and ran off to the foyer. When he returned he was holding a baseball and two gloves, one just his size.
“Baseball!” he exclaimed, holding the mitts over his head.

“Do you want to play catch Buddy?”

“Yeah”

“Okay, in one minute. Stay here”

And with that, I walked to the foyer myself and returned with another adult sized glove. I tossed it to my old man, who had perked up upon hearing the interchange. A smile crept over his face at this. At this point, with new life breathed into us, we all made our way to the back yard for our very first three generational game of catch with a baseball.
Lukas was pretty excited, and seemed to be doing pretty well with his throws, but still needed some work with keeping the mitt on and catching with it. However, what he lacked in polish, he more than made up for with enthusiasm and creativity in his goofy wind-ups while preparing to throw the ball.

In between the short throws and catches to Lukas, my dad and I were able to stretch things out to a longer distance and begin feel the zing of horsehide smacking leather. It was, after all, my dad who taught me to throw and catch a baseball. Probably at around the same age that Lukas is now. It felt really good. It always does when we can work in a game of catch.

“You do realize this is my Little League glove?” I said to my father, holding up my mitt as we exchanged tosses. “Really?” He replied. “Yeah, I won it that year for selling the most candy bars. I think you told all the vendors who stopped by the farm that they had to buy several bars or you wouldn’t do business with them anymore”. And at that we both laughed.

I’ve always had a great relationship with my father. He is an exceptional man who has always been there for me. He still is. And though we have good conversations on those occasions where we are not too busy going about our busy lives, some things most often go unsaid.

It’s funny. As a grown man I can say three words 10 times a day to my 3 year old son, but still feel awkward about saying the same three words to my own father. That’s where baseball comes in handy.

Because between a grown father and son, nothing says ‘I love you’ like a hardball tossed back and forth from 60 feet away. At least that’s what I’ve found to be the case.

And as I hung up the glove it occurred to me
He’s type of dad that I want to be
I’m going to be like him, yeah
You know I’m going to be like him

I’m leaving on a jet plane…

I will be back in NYC by the time this is read. We are preparing our bags on a breezy and sunny morning about a hundred kilometers south of Rome. My inspiration this morning is the slightly choppy sea right in front of my in-laws’ house. They have already kidnapped my son to spend every minute of the last day we are here in Italy with him. It is always a melancholy dawn – the day before our departure. It seems that just as they get used to enjoying all his quirks and pouts and giggles we whisk him away again until the next vacation. Yesterday, we were just a few miles away at my parent’s house where my sister and her family are staying. We were celebrating my niece’s birthday and my son running around the garden like crazy, chasing and being chased by the other kids and his cousins. There the mood was festive, but in an end of the summer kind of way. The time we spend here always feels like the time I spent cramming for tests and exams at school – desperately trying to get through everything you did not get to do during the rest of the year.

We always wish we had more time or that we could find a way to make more time. The reality of parenthood is that you hardly have time for your wife and kids let alone for your siblings and parents and relatives especially when they live so far away. Even in the moments we are together you try as much as possible to make it just lie any other day for the kids, but inevitably you end up having to explain to them what it means to get on an airplane or train or take a long car ride leaving behind grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins (this must be done each time the child repeats the question: “Why?”).

Today you can “see” each other more often thanks to technology, but watching my son interact with his cousins in person is priceless. Of course, we will come home and boot up the computer and call everyone on Skype and exchange all the pictures we took and the fun moments we had and then we will have to dive back into the daily grind until the next holiday or vacation.

Despite the stress that it can certainly cause, I always envy those who live fairly close together. The visits are never “use it or lose it” time where you feel guilty if you miss even an hour together knowing that it will be another year probably before you see each other again. Then again I live in New York and have not been to the Empire State Building since I was a little boy just because I think, “It’s right there so I can go whenever I want.” So I might end up doing the same if I lived in the same city as my sister or my parents or in-laws.

These are some of my random thoughts as I start to gather our things for tomorrow’s trip back to New York. In the good and the bad of having to “schedule” time with the relatives I have had a great few weeks of fun and relaxation with my wife and son and “the folks”. I can’t complain. And now back to my regular programming.

Beating the heat in the city – Water Fountains

Finding places to stay cool in the city is an important part of a parent’s job, especially in the summer. I have found that Water Fountains offer a unique blend fun for the kids and simpler tracking for a stay at home dad with three toddlers to keep track of.

Even in the NorthWest we get some hot days. I know it’s hard to believe, what with the reputation of never ending rainy days and tall evergreen tress but we are at the beginning of 90 degree temperatures like the NorthEast. When the weather warms up like this the boys and I go out in search of water to cool ourselves down. There are a number of great pools in Portland but when it is just me and three kids a pool is a bit bigger than I can handle. So instead of hitting up the pool we find one of the many great fountains around town where a stay at home dad can do better to keep tabs on three toddlers.

Rock Climbing at Jamison ParkThe best of the fountains in Portland is the Jamison Square Fountain in the NW neighborhood called The Pearl. We have been to this one many times letting the boys run through the large pool of water and climb the stone slabs where the water trickles out. The pool fills and then drains every ten to fifteen minutes. The moms there seem to think I need extra help because there is no shortage of advice for me on how to deal with the boys. I take it and smile, I know they mean well. The boys love to run in and out of the water in ever growing circles.

Next to our house is Overlook Park and on Wednesdays in the summer there is a Farmer’s Market in the park and the small fountain is turned on during the market. It is a great place to grab some produce and baked goods while the boys run through the streams of water with the other neighborhood kids. There are usually one or two parents on our block trading off kid watching duties while the other parents grab their pallets of strawberries and fill a growler of Organic beer. Though this is a small fountain having their friends from the block makes this a favorite as well.

Waterfront park along the Willamette river has the mother of all fountains that the kids love to play in but is often so packed that it’s not that fun for dad. The Bill Naito Legacy Fountain is in such a beautiful location and should be part of any visit to Portland for people with kids. There are sure to be plenty of kids to play with on warm days.

Finding ways to beat the heat and stay cool while still getting out and about with kids are an important part to exploring your town. Where do you go locally to get a break from the hot weather and let the kids have fun? Would love to hear about the places that you love in your city

Portland Dad writes over at Stay At Home Dad PDX about raising two boys as a stay at home dad. You can also find him on twitter as Portlanddad.

Summer Day Trips

We don’t take many vacations. Most of the ones we do take involve going to see family. Still, it occasionally is nice to do something outside of our ordinary day-to-day routine. We’ve figured out a couple of kid-friendly getaways nearby to escape from the everyday.

How Amusing

The most common destination is a local amusement park. Now, I’m not a big fan of wild rides. NHL, on the other hand loves them. When we go to Six Flags, NHL’s favorite ride is the bobsled. We’ll get in our seats, lower the safety bar and up we go. Then, all too suddenly, we’re going down along a bobsled track, moving up and down the sides. Once, late in the season, B, NHL and I were the only ones in the bobsled and the sled actually left the track somewhat. Not enough to fly off and and injure us, but just enough to seriously scare us. Over time, I’ve learned to cope with these intense rides and perhaps even enjoy them a little. The one thing that I don’t want to do is dissuade him from doing something he enjoys because of a groundless fear of mine.

Pick Your Favorite

Growing up, a lot of my favorite moments were going to a local farm and picking our own fruits and vegetables, especially strawberries. There’s just something about getting down close to the ground and plucking a nice, red berry fresh off of a plant that I love. Even sneaking the occasional berry snack is part of the whole experience. Of course, the time that my parents filled the back seat of the car, necessitating that I stand in the back seat going home was memorable for all the wrong reasons. My father accelerated a bit too much and I went backwards, sitting right in the freshly-plucked strawberries!

We’ve taken the boys strawberry picking and they love it. They love hunting for ripe berries and filling up the containers. And, yes, they’ve also (when I let them) snuck a bite. The best part of berry picking is that even when the trip is over, you can relive the day by taking a bite of one of the sweet berries that you picked.

Don’t think that all summer trips need to be long affairs to far off destinations. Sometimes, the best trips don’t involve packing a suitcase or expensive hotel rooms. Sometimes, they merely involve getting out to a fun place right in your own backyard. What fun, but not far getaways have you done over the summer?

Tips for summer outings with a baby or toddler

The first official day of summer is June 21st which is exactly a month from today. The beautiful, warm weather means you and your little ones can start spending more time outdoors. Young kids love being outside, whether it be in the back yard, downtown doing errands, the park or pretty much any place where they don’t have to sit still and be quiet. However, leaving the house with a baby or toddler is no small event. Here are some tips to consider before heading out and while on your outing this summer. These tips are geared more towards a short trip to the park, doing errands, etc. as opposed to a longer road trip or vacation away from home.

Attire and protection

Dress your baby or toddler lightly–shorts, tank tops, a cool dress, sandals, flip flops and don’t for get a hat to help keep the sun out of their eyes. If they are cool, dry and comfortable, it will make the outing so much easier on you.

If you will be in direct sun for any length of time apply some sun block/screen on your baby/toddler. There are products made just for their young, sensitive skin. You will want to try the product on a small patch of their skin first as some children may be allergic to the ingredients.

My personal dad tip: You also don’t want to jump into a blazing hot vehicle with your baby so a few minutes before you actually get into the vehicle, start it up and turn on the air conditioner. If the weather is cool enough you can simply open up the vehicle and lower the windows to vent all the hot air. Also, try to park in the shade.

Your gear

Consider how long you will really be away from the house and pack accordingly. The key here is to pack lightly and keep organized. Here is my usual arsenal of baby gear.

  • One or two diapers, that’s all.
  • A small packet of baby wipes, not the huge wholesale family pack.
  • A pocket size packet of tissues or a soft spit-up cloth. (To clean drool, boogers, etc.)
  • One or two servings of baby formula in an easy to despense container. You don’t want to carry the whole can of formula because it’s just too messy to scoop out when on the go.
  • One or two baby bottles with water already in them. When your baby needs a bottle simply dump one of the pre-portioned servings into the bottle. (Don’t carry a bottle already mixed as the summer heat may make it turn bad before your child consumes it.)
  • A single, maybe two, change of clothes.
  • A small toy or two.
  • A snack for your little one.
  • My gear: wallet, phone, iPod, keys, sunglasses.

Keep things organized in your diaper bag and pack things horizontally, next to each other as opposed to on top of each other so you’re not digging through it to find what you need. Also, try to pack it yourself so you know exactly where everything is.

My personal dad tip: I hate lugging around a diaper bag so when I can get away with it, my weapon of choice is a good, comfortable pair of cargo shorts. I simply pack the bare essentials in the cargo pockets and head out the door.

During your outing

Keep an eye on your child. This may seem obvious but during the summer, public places become much more crowded so don’t let your child wonder off too far and don’t take your eyes off of them.

Keep a cool drink handy for your child. They may not sit still long enough to drink the whole thing but offer it to them often so they can sip it and keep themselves properly hydrated while you’re both out.

In the hot weather they will probably drink a lot of liquids so make time for frequent bathroom breaks. If your child is still in diapers, be sure to check them often to see if they are in need of a change. The last thing you want is your baby to end up with diaper rash.

My personal dad tip: Kids may not be willing to stop and take a drink but I’ve found that they love ice. So try a snow cone or crushed ice if they are refusing liquids.

My personal dad tip: If it’s especially hot and humid I sometimes would forgo a thick diaper and put a cool, breathable underwear on my boy. Make sure you are prepared to clean up a messy accident if you do this.

Do you have any “daddy tricks-of-the-trade” for surviving while away from the house?