Step down to the Mat

“It will be several years before he can distinguish between dreams and reality.”

This statement is widely accepted as common for 15 month olds.

It really puts in perspective how traumatic a bad dream can be and why, at times, Cash can wake up screaming. Meghan and I are horrified to think what frightening image or scene played out in his little head.

I’ve never been an alarmist or someone who wants to micromanage every minute of my child’s life but this concept should remind parents what they should and shouldn’t expose their kids to.

Sometimes I turn on the morning news show-when Cash is in the living room with me-to get the weather and some “light” interest stories: an upcoming city festival, construction projects, sports stories. As it shifts to the background of my attention, the show cycles through the national news and images of terrorist attacks, explosions, and protests flash across the screen.  I lunge for the remote worried what Cash may have seen. Even though he doesn’t really pay attention to it, it worries me that these human pains reach his little mind without us being able to filter it or explain it to him.

We’ve now made it a point to have the TV on much less in our household. Instead of slowly waking up, coffee in hand while Cash plays with his toys in front of me, I now get off my lazy butt and turn off the TV (I can get weather reports from my phone), get down the floor and play with him.  Apparently, I grunt often when my tired body plops on the floor next to him because now whenever Cash bends down, he makes grunting and straining noises.  Sounds like daddy needs to get in better shape.

Anyway, this is a win-win, he gets more exposure to daddy and less to the atrocities of the outside world that our news is all-too-happy to berate us with.

Cash is going to have night terrors but if we can minimize them, we will. When we cap the night with a “sweet dreams” wish, we mean it.

One of our most important jobs as parents is as primary protectors. We aren’t going to consume the sensationalized negativity from our media and neither is Cash.

Sometimes taking a stand, means getting down on the floor.

 

 

As a Mutter of Fact

If everyone is Irish on Saint Patrick’s Day, now that it’s over, the non-Irish can return to their own nationalities. But almost half the intertwined strands of my DNA read Irish.

I’m an American Mutt-perhaps redundant considering two generations before me were born here as well-but my most prevalent nationality is Irish.

It’s also the one I take the most pride in and most identify with, even though many don’t think I “look Irish.”

This is based off the redhead, leprechaun stereotype-which is not really based in reality. Most estimations have, at most, 10% of the Irish population as redheads. Now, I do have olive-colored skin which is likely from my other nationalities-though the furthest south we’ve traced so far is Bohemian-the current Czech Republic-not exactly Mediterranean.

Interesting recent DNA research has actually confirmed that the Irish are close genetic relatives of the people of northern Spain.  So, maybe that explains it? Tracing true heritage throughout the history of the migration of humankind is inexact at best. Anyone who thinks they really, really know all of their true heritage is full of, as the Irish say, ‘Blarney.’

So, I’ve chosen to identify with my understanding at least of the Irish culture. What aspects of it?  The underdogs. Always fighting, literally and figuratively, with the British for respect and their independence.

I especially like the wit-humor tinged with a little bite to it. An example of an Irish ‘prayer’ goes,

“Lord, bless my friends. And bless my enemies too. Turn their hearts if you will…but if you can’t…turn their ankles, so I’ll know them by their limp.”

Or the one we had on our kitchen wall in the house I was raised in.

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The Irish seem to have a raw awareness of life’s harsh realities met with a shrug, a smirk and a sonnet. Irish melancholy. The celebratory tone of an Irish wake.  This bittersweet viewpoint on life explains the Irish connection with the arts.

Poets and writers (Yeats, Joyce, Lewis, Wilde, etc) It’s beautiful green bluffs often covered by clouds.  Actors-there are many current leading men with Irish heritage-George Clooney, Chris Evans, Ashton Kutcher, Robert Downey, Jr, Bradley Cooper, Brad Pitt, Chris Kennedy, Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, Matthew McConaughey, and Ryan Reynolds to name ten or so. Okay, maybe you can spot one name that doesn’t belong in there?

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And the musicians in every pub every week throughout Ireland. The more famous-U2, Enya, Snow Patrol, The Coors, Thin Lizzy, The Cranberries.

While many countries’ passports have pictures of crowns, crests, and swords, the Irish passport has a musical instrument. (Harp.)

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And so, I pass on this ancestory to Cash, who combined with Meghan, his American Mutt-er, has even more nationalities to his mix. We tried to represent many of them in a decorative, colorful way in his playroom.

 

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Cash has many nationalities to take pride in and yet none that define him.  Except maybe on one day in the middle of March, where he’ll feel a little extra special that he’s Irish.

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Mother Meg

I often write about being a parent to Cash but it goes without saying writing that I’m a co-parent…and the lesser one at that.

I’m not minimizing my contribution, my paternal influence is equally important but Momma Meghan carries the heavier parenting load.

From childbirth (if you haven’t read about that https://wisconsindadger.com/2015/12/11/one-year/ through present she has been more responsive Cash’s highest and frequent demands. And while he has worn her patience to a nub on many occasions, as you can imagine a work-from-home mom would encounter, she has NEVER shown him that.  Throw in that she is taking a chemistry class this spring while working and taking care of Cash everyday and still Cash wouldn’t notice an ounce of demeanor change in her.

Heck, the woman sing-songs during diaper changes and kisses Cash so often, it’s surprising his skin doesn’t have permanent lip markings.

Even when he squeals and moans and bites her finger while she scrubs his teeth each night, Meghan’s sweet smile remains.

I knew Meghan was the nurturing type going into our marriage and parenthood but she goes above and beyond my expectations nearly every day.

Somehow, though she is Cash’s constant companion and I mean constant…fact: in the fifteen months of Cash’s life, the longest Meghan has been apart from him is six hours, she still can get him to giggle uncontrollably and remain always happy to see her.

In comparison, I’ve been apart from him for a little over two weeks (back in August while handled the water damage in our house so Meghan and Cash extended their Northern California trip.)  I know Cash missed me but our absence was definitely harder on me because, at least he was with his main caregiver Momma.  There’s no way that situation could have been reversed.

I would put the healthiness of Cash’s diet against ANY baby’s in the world.  If it were up to me, Cashy boy would have string cheese, cheerios and blueberries every morning. But, thankfully, it’s not. Meghan prepares his breakfast from scratch, running blenders, heating, cooling, peeling, cutting every day for almost every meal and snack. Mixing in vegetables and legumes I’d never heard of with “superfoods” and organic, additive-free, wholesome food for optimal opportunity for good health.

Beyond diet expertise, even more importantly, the love and exuberance Meghan shows Cash every day is the main reason he’s such a happy kid.

I can only imagine Cash can’t help but feel with every ounce of his being that his loved by both of us of course, but deep down he knows where his bread is buttered…organic on whole wheat.

 

 

Feverish

I had my first stay at home/work from home experience this week as Cash for the first time in his life had a fever – 102.5 degrees.  Meghan does this basically everyday and I’m in no hurry to switch roles!

One of the rare parenting tasks I do better than Meghan is working the automatic body temperature sensor.

Forget the old cold, thin, glass, mercury-inside, thermometer that used to be put…where you’d prefer it not get put.

These temperature taking devices these days are high tech…all kinds of settings, beeps and memory prompts.

All you have to do is swipe the sensor across the forehead to one side of the hairline and boom–you have the temperature reading in digital display! Cash smiles as it slides across his head and now, insists he do it himself. (I’m still the best at it in my house…for now…)

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I was called in as the relief sitter for Cash’s regular sitter, my Mom, who was stuck home with the nasty flu-my sister and nieces also had touches of it.

We do have some back-up sitters but with the little guy not feeling himself and uncomfortable, it just made sense I stay home while Meghan attended her Chemistry class and lab that take up a good part of the day.

It’s certainly a challenge to feed, change, and play with an under-the-weather toddler while also working and being available for co-worker emails and questions.

Besides the fancy, new temperature takers, infant ibuprofen and acetaminophen now come in boxes with easy to fill and disperse syringes…which squirt a sweet and swift pain management liquid. Sometimes Cash will actually suckle the syringe.

Fortunately, Cash is feeling better and I’m able to return to work…let’s hope the flu had flown away from us.

I’m in no hurry to switch roles again anytime soon.

 

Raising a Manner

One of Meghan and my biggest priorities in raising Cash is that he have manners and respect for adults.

The pleases and thank yous and social graces that grease the wheels of a civilizations’ happiness and well being. And melts the hearts of adults

But we can talk a good game and tell him to do those things but if we don’t do it, it’s just chatter. Nonsense.

Parents have to embody and be an example of what they want their kids to be. I was given teaching advice in my early years in the profession, “Be who you want your students to be.” Makes sense for parents and coaches as well.

The opposite of “Do as I say, not as I do.” That’s the biggest line of BS I’ve ever heard and can’t believe we’ve allowed anyone to say that and get away with it.

My freshman biology teacher, Jim Stephenson, once said after handing out an assignment. “I wouldn’t ask you guys to do anything I wouldn’t do.”  I hadn’t heard that phrase before but obviously it’s stuck with me all these years and is a noble sentiment.

Also from a former coach of mine, current Waunakee High school head football coach Pat Rice said, “It’s really easy to talk about scoring 50 points, it’s a lot harder to DO that!” Simple but true.

I may be wandering off point here but we’ve lost emphasis on valuing class and moved into valuing trash.

Think I’m exaggerating? One word-Kardashians. Mrs. Kanye West has a net worth estimated at $145 million. Speaking of “class” acts, how about Mr. Kanye’s behavior? Classy? Good manners? Want your kid to act like him?

But, it’s not just limited to reality TV shows.

TV news’ long-time mantra “If it bleeds, It leads” promotes the idea that we focus on the bad behavior and what’s wrong without showing what’s right.

In entertainment, we look the other way and shrug our shoulders when athletes  and musicians father multiple children with multiple women.

We find bad behavior entertaining to watch on TV but our voyeurism is slipping into a weird sort of worship and reward and it seems to be blurring our sense of judgment.

It’s the parents role to be vigilant, step in and provide proper perspective amidst our current culture.

They say the best way to have polite kids, is to be polite. If you’re a jerk, your kid probably will be one too. So, if your kid doesn’t have manners it’s on you. Teach, reinforce, reteach, re-reinforce…for as long as it takes.

Humans are not born with manners–anyone who has watched a toddler eat at the table knows this–but rather, you learn them. And as parents, it is our duty to teach them.

Manners help our kids function in a society that will be have been made better by the those same manners.

Our kids look up to us…don’t let them lose sight on what’s important.

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Thank you for reading.

 

 

 

Find a Repurpose in Life

The internet has spawned all sorts of unprecedented creativity and idea sharing. I’m especially interested in the “upcycling” items I’ve seen. I believe “upcycling” is a new word that has been spawned from the internet and refers to taking something old and refurbishing and repurposing it into something new.

I’m nowhere near a being a hoarder. I’m quick to get rid of no longer used, no longer worn items. But, I can get nostalgic and as I grow older, gain a deeper appreciation for well-made, interesting products of yesteryear.

So, this past Fall when I drove by a TV set sitting on the curb of an older home, something possessed me to pull over, back up and take a closer look.  The set reminded me of the TV sets my grandparents had in their homes when I was a child.

Don’t misunderstand, I’m a fan of today’s flat screen TVs, thin as an inch and highly defined-we have three in our house.

But, there is something about those old TV sets. The old consoles that were a piece of furniture in family rooms across the US. These were substantial enough to set your drink or dinner on if you had to. Try that on one of these paper thin sets of today!

Still, I drove off thinking, it’s “junk” leave it be and let it go peacefully off to TV heaven. But, a mile down the road, I was compelled to turn around and drive back to it…drawn to it like a magnet.

I parked next to the driveway, looked around a bit cautiously-feeling a little criminally-and quickly hoisted the beastly appliance into the back of my Jeep without “breaking” anything within the TV…or within my spine.

Once it was loaded in, I shut the back and trotted into the front seat and sped off. A check in the rearview mirror confirmed I was getting away, free and clear.

When I arrived home, I asked Meghan to lend me a hand to bring something in the house that “I’d picked up on the side of the road.” She gave me a skeptical look.

Luckily, Meghan is a sport when it comes to these things and has herself “upcycled” several items in her past, some of which are in our house now-our main dresser and TV console.

She agreed the TV set was a pretty cool find but left it up to me to find storage and a purpose?

With our large basement that wasn’t a problem, but I needed to find a use for it.  It, not surprisingly, was dead-which was fine considering I didn’t think it would supplant any of our current TVs for viewing.

A search on the internet revealed a few ideas, but not as many as I thought there might be. The main ones were removing the screen and tubing and replacing it with an aquarium. Cool, but we weren’t interested in having one or owning fish.

Another option was to make it a lighted bar. Seeing as we have a toddler, having a low set, accessible item with tons of glass and bottles, didn’t sound like a smart move.

One more had the screen and tubing replaced to create a cat bed. Uhh, no. Our cat, Emmitt, has too many places to sleep around our house already.

I decided I wanted our son Cash to interact with it. I liked the juxtaposition of old and young.

An original-at least as far as I know-idea surfaced in my brain–I’d paint the screen with magnetic paint and convert the set into a magnetic board on which Cash could use his colorful magnets!

I pitched the idea to Meghan. She was actually impressed and told me to go for it.

So, I bought the paint, had the brushes and tape and went to work.  The magnetic paint is cool but really thick, so I had to stir it with a one inch thick piece of scrap wood I had in the workshop.

So, over the course of a couple nights after work, I painted on layers, waiting for each one to dry, and reapplying.

After six coats, I decided to bring in a trial magnet…and it stuck easily and cleanly!

I ripped off the painting tape, scratched out few errant paint dots and I was on to my last step, insisted upon by my wife…to clean “the crap out of it!”

I scrubbed and sprayed and scrubbed and exactoknifed and buffed and wirecutted and pounded anything else that protruded…and finally, my upcycle was complete!

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But, the real test of my success would be if Cash would want to use it or not.

When you’re only halfway to success, you still succ!

I’m pretty sure that I just invented that phrase. Anyone know how I can start making and marketing T-shirts, coffee mugs and bumper stickers?!

Anyway, you may know from last week’s article https://wordpress.com/post/wisconsindadger.com/1715

how much Cash enjoys touch screens.  This was taking that to a different level!

I set it up in his baby cave and let him loose. He passed through the valley of his toy mountains and went straight to this newest playroom addition.

He sat up…and immediately started moving magnets off, on, and around the screen!

Success!

As I watch Cash play, I feel good that I gave this TV set a new purpose.

Just like my family has given me.

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Touchy Subject

Meghan and I were those pre-parents who make all sorts of delusional, unsubstantiated proclamations:

“Our kids won’t be watching TV!”

“Our kids won’t constantly have their noses in their cell phones!”

“Our kids will not be eating sweets!”

(Okay, Meghan said this last one and I nodded also knowing deep down I would not be the one enforcing this. Pretty sure she knew that too.)

But hey, don’t we all start out with ideals and goals and that more often than not have to amended or outright abolished?

Less than a year into Cash’s life we had broken the no TV rule. (See article https://wisconsindadger.com/2015/09/18/baby-first)

Not only does he watch a little TV but also kid-programming videos on Youtube. It’s especially nice to have him sitting contently and occupied while his food is prepped instead of him wandering into trouble in the kitchen while burners and stoves are running and cabinets are being shut and opened!

And soon thereafter, the sweets rule…turns out Cash loves ice cream, brownies, and peanut butter Clif bars.

And to complete the list, by his first birthday, Cash had become surprisingly adept and proficient using our Iphones and Ipad.

We’re left feeling torn about the violations of our preconceived proclamations.

TV screens, sweets, and cell phones are ubiquitous. We’ve resigned ourself to conciliatory notions of his inevitable exposure and interactions with them. None of them appear to be going away. Why delay or prevent?  It’s like trying to stop a hurricane with an umbrella.

I admit, we feel strained yet impressed with his device usages the most.

With his furrowed brow, intense stare and pointed index finger, Cash easily swipes through screens, pulls up stock reports and enters incorrect log-in codes which have caused both our phones to be locked a number of times.

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To boot, there are plenty of apps that provide entertainment and education.

Just this past weekend, I searched “Best apps for 14 month olds” and spent $.99 on our first app purchase for Cash-called Lunchbox. The app lets you identify and tap fruits on the screen…when successful, the fruit pops and disappears while a little monkey jumps up and celebrates.

I found the app a bit redundant and mildly educational…but to be fair, it’s not targeted at 532 month olds.

I’m kept busy enough monkeying with how to unlock my phone.