Sleepover

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Yesterday morning, I woke to the sound of my alarm. This is so foreign to me these days that in my confusion I was totally unable to locate said alarm (or my glasses, for that matter). After all, who needs a wakeup call when there is a small human living in the next room?

On this day, however, I was determined to wake before him. Despite it being her birthday, Wifey was traveling for work, so there was a bottle to prepare as well as my own (lifesaving) coffee. And let’s be real: even small tasks like that are much easier when nobody is yelling at you at the top of their lungs from starvation.

Once a week or so Mommy leaves Little Dude and I on our own for a manly slumber party. (Honestly I’m much more interested in slumbering than partying, but you catch my drift.) It’s a bittersweet occurrence; we miss Mommy desperately the moment she walks out the door, but boys will be boys… so this time around we tried out a new pizza delivery joint and also spent a fair amount of time at the gym. Mini-mi even wore a muscle tee just like Daddy.

Next week the nugget and I have two days to ourselves, and I’ve already begun to lay down plans. For sure we’ll throw back at least a couple of rounds together up the block at Thorn Street Brewery - our new local haunt – and maybe we’ll even make it to the San Diego Zoo. When the cat is away, the boys will indeed play. But we sure are happy to see that cab pull up to the house at the end of the day.

Renovations

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Little Dude has recently become a fixture at our local Home Depot as much as he is at my wine tastings.

You see, we’re moving next week. And although Wifey and I have each relocated every year or two since we were 18, this time is a little different. We bought this house, and we have some renovations to do before making it our own. Also, there is a crazy little monkey by our side to complicate matters at every step of the way, and who is now crawling (as if he wasn’t already keeping me on my toes).

Our realtors got to know Micah’s mood swings well. He was even comfortable around the seller’s agent by the time we closed escrow, and when we solicited bids from contractors they wooed us by showering affection on our child. (Coincidentally or not, the guy with the four month old at home ended up landing the job.)

Now that it’s time to pick out furniture and fixtures, perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised that our kid has similar tastes to his mother and I. He enjoyed the texture of the tiles we were scoping out last week, and when confronted with carpet samples (as pictured above) gave us clear signs that we should leave the hard wood flooring uncovered. Soon we’ll be picking paint colors, and I’m sure he’ll provide his two cents on those as well.

The little guy and I certainly do have our work cut out for us. While Baby Mama busts her ass so that we can actually afford to furnish our new home, he and are heading out, tape measure in hand. With this particular assistant, though, I should probably be sure to double check the measurements.

 

 

Crack

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It’s been a couple of weeks since I’ve had a chance to write; not surprisingly, I’ve found a direct (inverse) correlation between Little Dude’s activity level and Daddy’s ability to write about it all. Simply put, shit’s gettin’ crazy over here. We’ve got rolling, and babbling, and scooting – oh my!

Even as it grows easier to keep our guy stimulated and entertained, calming him down becomes steadily more complicated. As he moves around more confidently, he becomes focused on practicing his new skills – even in his crib. Lunge. Roll. Scoot. Sit. Repeat. With all of this new excitement, who has time for sleeping, let alone sitting still?

I don’t know what I would do if it weren’t for that CD we got in music class. You see, since the beginning of the year we’ve been attending classes offered by Sweet Sounds Music Together. (No, they’re not paying me for writing this. But they are awesome.) This lovely organization, which teaches the Music Together curriculum here in San Diego, not only provides Micah and I the excuse to sing and dance with other babies and parents every Monday morning, but also with the recorded material that allows us to boogie down at home. Or in the car. Or a cappella, walking down the street.

I’m telling you, these tunes are straight-up baby crack. Now that he’s hooked, nothing else will take the edge off. I used to brag about how much he digs Chet Baker and the Rolling Stones. Now all he wants is “Wiggle!” or “All Around the Kitchen.” What’s a (musically-inclined) dad to do?

He puts the damn CD on, that’s what.  But when I upgraded the speaker system in my car a few years ago, this wasn’t quite what I had in mind.

Diapers

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As much as I like to say how progressive a world we live in, there is one constant thorn in the side of dads like myself who, while “stay-at-home”, also spend a lot of time out-on-the-town:

Wherever we go, the men’s rooms lack proper baby changing facilities. So my dude and I end up on the floor – or in the trunk of the car – which is somewhat more sanitary but still a less-than-ideal setting for wiping your child’s ass. (For the record, plenty of ladies’ rooms also lack proper surfaces, and my wife has also done her fair share of floor time.)

There are, of course, exceptions. Airports and major tourist attractions have pretty good track records for having family changing rooms; shopping malls may be hit or miss. But the photo above, which I took last week at Ballast Point Brewery‘s Little Italy location, represents an all-time first. A men’s room, in a restaurant, with a changing table! Granted, they make beer and this is San Diego – that, my friends, is some brilliant marketing. But it is also legitimately awesome. (Yet one more reason why Ballast Point rocks my world: they’ve got my favorite beer – Sculpin – the best soft pretzel in town, and changing tables in the men’s room. I’m still waiting for the catch.)

For better or worse, though, I spend only limited amounts of time in airports and at the zoo, and it’s not really socially acceptable to discuss how often I bring my child to alcohol-focused establishments. So I can only hope that this is the beginning of a trend that will spread quickly to other restaurants and the like. In the meantime, Wifey and I are considering doing our part to speed up the process: I can’t tell you how tempting it can be to change the baby’s diaper right on the table.

Thanks to Mama-in-law Galina for providing the inspiration for this post, and to Sean Kelley for pointing out the photo-op. :) 

 

 

 

 

Grub

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We’re headed out of town tomorrow to celebrate my Dad’s birthday and give Little Dude some quality bonding time with his cousins, so I took a trip to the supermarket yesterday to stock up for the voyage. Along with airplane snacks for Mommy and Daddy I bought quite a supply of baby food; believe it or not, this is the first time I’ve done so. Although our little guy has been on solids for a couple of months now, I spend enough time in the kitchen preparing food for Wifey and myself that so far it’s been no skin off my back to steam and blend his meals as well.

As he and I are often out and about, three meals a day means often feeding him at least one of them in public. So there have been witnesses – several of whom have recently commented to me on his obvious enthusiasm for cuisine. Seriously, though – I’m talking about shaking and moaning over carrots and cauliflower.

When I smile thankfully and respond to folks that I prepared his meal myself, many are taken aback. “Funny, you don’t look like a hippie,” some of them say. (FYI, people: he wears cloth diapers, too!)

Notwithstanding for a moment how hard it is to pin a label on me – Wifey and I do our best to defy easy categorization – I’d like to take a moment to acknowledge how spectacularly easy, cheap, and fun it can be to make one’s own baby food.

I am not alone here – just this weekend there was an interesting article in the New York Times on the subject, although to be honest I was a bit peeved by the fact that most of the at-home baby food chefs quoted were women. It would seem that – drum roll please – the commercial baby food industry is suffering annually from falling sales due to ”a silent, pernicious trend going on that no one was really paying much attention to… mothers [and fathers] making their own food at home.” 

{gasp!}

I confess, I am one of these evil doers. But we didn’t really feel like packing our Baby Bullet along for the trip, so we’ve gotta do what we’ve gotta do.

Ultimately, I have no doubt that our wee one will nom down on these pre-packaged packets of grub as happily as he does on the meals that I make for him. But then again, maybe not. At the end of the day, I like to think that love is more delicious than convenience.

Meetup

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If there’s one thing I’ve found about having a social life as a stay-at-home dad, it’s that not everybody out there wants to hang with a guy who’s likely to roll up with a baby strapped to his chest. So, while I am in fact blessed with some friends who seem to enjoy my son’s company as well as my own (in some cases more so), it’s become apparent to both Wifey and myself that it’s time to put some effort into meeting people who actually do share our lifestyle.

Unfortunately, out there in the real world, this is easier said than done. So – along with enrolling Little Dude in various activities – I joined meetup.com, signed up for a Dads group, and started suggesting monthly meetups at craft breweries around town. I mean, duh, where else would we all get together to hang out with our small children?

I’m not going to lie, it was a little bit weird the first time around. Not quite as awkward as online dating (with which I also have some experience pre-Wifey) there is nonetheless some social discomfort. I decided to handle it the same way I always handled early dates back in my single days: with alcohol conveniently at hand to grease the wheels. Delicious alcohol. I am, after all, the Winedad.

So a few weeks ago, a group of us got together at Stone Brewery‘s Liberty Station locale to sip some beer – responsibly, of course – and get to know each other. The question of how to identify each other was easily addressed; we did not wear the iconic Meetup name tags, but several of us did wear our children. And despite some scrambling on the restaurant’s part when we all showed up unannounced with the kids, I’d call it a success.

I’ve even got a second date planned with some of the guys. If you’re a dad in San Diego and you dig the local craft beer scene, join the gang and come along to the next one in a few weeks at Station Tavern in South Park.

 

 

Heresy

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*Back by popular demand, the following is a re-post of my research into the truth behind kosher wine. Originally written in 2007 as one of my first wine related pieces, I enjoy updating it every so often around the Jewish holidays and sharing with new friends. Chag Sameach!

Last night, Wifey, Little Dude, and I took part in a lovely Passover seder here in San Diego. (Well, Wifey and I participated; we stashed the little guy in a vacant bedroom and blasted the white noise machine as loud as my iphone could go.) Amidst the matzoh balls, gefilte fish, and talk of freedom, the subject of wine came up – after all, tradition obligates us to to consume four glasses each as part of the passover meal. And who are we kidding; wine almost always enters the conversation when I’m around. In this particular setting, somebody inevitably asks: what’s up with kosher vino?

Every spring as Passover approaches – and also in the autumn around Rosh Hashonah – wine shops begin to set aside a bit of extra shelf space for products that have been certified Kosher. Perhaps in an attempt to balance out the ridiculous amount of bacon consumed by Jews in this country, even those of us who do not normally play by the rules seem to feel the need to “go Kosher” on the holidays.

For years my father and I would prepare ourselves for our twice annual pre-holiday showdown: do we drink my favorite new rosé with our chicken soup, or the pasteurized Merlot that appeases his sense of Jewish guilt? I couldn’t help but wonder – what is it that makes wine Kosher? I mean, we’re talking about an agricultural product here. Do you know many secular Jews who go out the week before Pesach on a quest to track down some Kosher OJ? (Tropicana is certified Kosher, incidentally, but I’ve never seen it marketed as such.) You mean to tell me that this bottle of dry-farmed, organic Grenache somehow contains bacon bits? Were both milk and meat blended into that Beaujolais?

Although there was a time when bull’s blood was commonly used as a fining agent, these days none of the ingredients that usually go into wine are directly non Kosher (or even potentially so). So what gives? Over the years of talking to winemakers – as well as to relatives who are more observant than Julia and I – I’ve gained a bit of knowledge on the subject. And while I’m certainly no student of religion and may be prone to hyperbole, I decided to look into the matter further in an effort to end our family squabbles once and for all. I hope not to offend any of you who truly do observe the laws of Kashrut in their lives, but perhaps for some of the fence-sitters out there, this will set your minds at rest. (Bibliographical note: what I didn’t already know here was mostly gleaned from Wikipedia and JewFAQ.org.)

You see, as it turns out, grape products hold a unique place in the Kosher world: other than certain vegetables which require certification that they have been properly checked for insects, grape derivatives represent the ONE agricultural category that is not Kosher by default. Contrary to what one might assume, this has nothing to do with how they are made, and everything to do with who is making them – even who is serving them.

Despite the place that wine has in many Jewish observances (such as the aforementioned four cups at the seder table) the fact that it was also used for pagan rituals apparently made many of my ancestors deeply uncomfortable. In an effort to distinguish one kind of wine from the other, they decided that the simplest course was draw a line based on who picked the grapes and made the wine. Thus, Jewish-made vino was “Kosher” by default; that touched by pagan hands was as traif (non-kosher) as pork.

Now, disregarding for a moment how little this distinction may be relevant in my (more-or-less secular American) lifestyle, let’s assume for a moment that you more closely observe Kashrut and it’s more relevant in yours. So we’ll take this one step further: what happens when a Kosher wine is served by a non-Jewish sommelier? (And anyway, how is this avoidable? Can’t a restaurant get sued for discrimination for hiring only Jews?) The answer presents a nice Catch 22 to Jewish wine lovers: unless it’s “Mevushal” – meaning it has been pasteurized – the wine in this scenario becomes immediately un-Kosher. Sadly, to my palate at least, pasteurizing wine strips it of a great deal of its character and idiosyncrasies.

You’ll have to decide for yourself what your priorities are. I just tell it like it is.

Involved

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The next time somebody calls me an “involved dad,” I think I might just scream.

Not that the term is inaccurate. I mean, I sure am involved in my son’s life – we’re more or less joined at the hip. But if you see a mother wearing her baby around the supermarket, do you praise her for her “involvement” in her child’s upbringing? Or do you just compliment her on her ability to juggle her groceries and infant into (and then back out of) the car?

When it’s a father carrying a child, though, the world seems to stop and take notice. The attention that we get isn’t exactly bad for my ego – nor does Micah really seem to mind it so much. (He’s already a bigger flirt than I ever was.) But there’s just something about that word that irks me. As far as I’m concerned, I’m just doing my best to be a good dad. Maybe there are other guys out there who are particularly uninvolved? 

Perhaps I take my adjectives a bit too seriously; after all, I do spend much of my time playing around with words. I understand that the family role I’ve taken on is outside of the status quo, and that by many standards I’m fortunate to have the leisure to take my son shopping for food in the middle of the day. But you know what? Using words like involved for fathers like me only serves to perpetrate the perception that my lifestyle is (and by implication should remain) abnormal.

For what it’s worth, it means a lot to me that people seem to dig my parenting style. But I hope that it’s because of the ways in which I care for my son, and not simply because I’m a man doing it.

Silence (AKA: Daycare)

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This is my first week as a (pretty much) full-time stay-at-home-dad, and all I can say is: thank God for the YMCA.

During the anxious and exciting months of Wifey’s pregnancy, by far the healthiest of the habits that I cultivated was that of swimming every day. (We needn’t discuss the others in so much detail). Those last few weeks pre-parenthood she even accompanied me to the pool; seeing that belly under water each time I swam by was pretty epic.

Sadly, though, the best habits are usually the first to go; it’s been a real struggle to get to the gym more than once or twice a week since Little Dude came along. Even 15 minutes underwater has been a blessing… until now. You see, along with the awesome outdoor pool (pictured above), the Mission Valley YMCA offers childcare even for small babies.

You might wonder at my comfort level leaving my (now five-month-old) son in the hands of others while I swim. He’s well out of sight while I’m underwater, and I certainly can’t hear him if he cries. But seriously – what the hell did you think I was there for? Nowhere else that my Prius can take me is nearly as quiet. 

Not that it’s quite as relaxing there as it used to be. Where once my swim was entirely therapeutic, now I spend my limited time waiting for the other shoe to drop. Any YMCA employee I spy through my goggles could be the one who is coming to cut short my fun. And it’s occurred to me: if my child has a meltdown, what happens then? Do I run through the gym in my Speedo to save him, dripping with chlorinated water? Am I allowed a quick shower? How does this all work? Sooner or later we are bound to find out.

In the meantime, though, I’m relishing in the silence of my daily swim. I never expected fatherhood to whip me into shape so quickly.

 

Pottymouth

Reader discretion is advised.

The other day Wifey read me an ominous statistic: “though your baby may not actually start speaking until one or two years old, he may start understanding what you say as early as four or five months.” Our guy is now five months old and we speak to him incessantly – he even makes some ridiculously funny sounds in response. The not-so-good news? Wifey and I both possess (and make constant, public use of) terrible pottymouths. Which raises the real question – one that we’ve been avoiding for months now: how the fuck are we to actually stop swearing in front of our child?

Honestly, the whole “cursing is the sign of a weak mind” argument has never carried much weight with me. Some of the most accomplished swearers I know are also the most highly educated; speaking for myself, those who read this blog regularly – and more importantly my wine writing – are unlikely to accuse me of a having lack of adjectives in my vocabulary. I’m proud to say I have learned to curse with reasonable fluency in several languages, and have rarely if ever felt much shame about it. But that doesn’t mean Little Dude’s first words need to be “Holy shit, Daddy!” (or, “Va a fanculo, Babbo!” although I’m not gonna lie – that would be kind of awesome.)

We’ve been tested recently by nieces and nephews, as well as friends and neighbors with slightly older children. Time and time again, we’ve failed. Some call it laziness, I prefer to name it “enthusiasm.” (Wifey blames her own pottymouth on the years spent in New York City.)

Even when we’re on our best behavior there are inevitable slip-ups. We’re trying harder and harder, I assure you. But some folks were blessed with a higher degree of verbal self control than we. I’m confident, at least, that if we are in the end unable to successfully alter our speech patterns, our son will have our back. I can already hear him in my mind, speaking in gentle baby tones:

“What are you looking at, Motherfucker?”