Cooking With The Boy

One of the things I always loved to do since I was a kid was to cook. My mother did it out of necessity, but my grandmother did it with passion. Some of my best memories with Nana are working alongside her in the kitchen. It’s been important to me to pass this onto G, and someday to A.

About a year ago I bought a plastic lettuce knife at Williams-Sonoma with a gift card and it quickly became G’s. It’s the size of a regular chef’s knife so I took the chance to teach G some knife skills along the way.

Today we made some watermelon and red grape salad and G took on the job of dicing the melon. He sliced it a little more than diced, bit that’s OK. I grabbed a little video of it because no one would believe me that he can handle a knife so well at just 5 years old. So here’s my proof.

The Value of Teaching Your Kids Oral Editing

G is at the age where everything that enters his mind comes out of his mouth. This is often very cute. He will say “the darndest things” all the time and I wish I had a recorder for almost all of them.

But then there are times when you can see it coming that what he is about to say will neither be cute or appropriate, and sometimes downright embarrassing.

We had one of those moments yesterday. After talking the entire 35 minutes it took to get to the mall, G kept right on chattering his way through visits to Pottery Barn Kids and the Apple Store. So I knew what to expect when we went to Barnes and Noble: He would jibber-jabber about everything he saw; books on display, calendars for sale, toys that interested him.

He lived up to expectations, too. That is why I quickly turned him the other way when I spotted a middle school-aged girl on crutches. I quickly noticed that she was a recent amputee and that her right leg still had a gauze would dressing. There was no knowing why her leg was removed so close to the hip. Was it an injury? Was it cancer? That wasn’t for me to know. My job was to quickly steer G away and change he subject to distract his anticipated line of questioning. It worked.

We went upstairs to the children’s section to get G some Junie B. Jones books, and I thought we were safe. But when we went back downstairs, the girl went by us, and before I knew it G spotted it and started talking about it.

“What book are you looking for, daddy that girl broke her leg!” Yep. He said it just like that. If I could have amputated his lips, I would have done it on the spot.

This was obviously was a teachable moment. How I played the next few seconds was important. I got down real close to G and in a serious soft voice I said, “Don’t ever talk about another person like that again. Understood? That girl does not need you calling attention to her leg or any other part of her body. Got it?”

Message received. G didn’t say much after that and we left the store a few minutes later anyway. Later, when we were in the car, I explained why what he said was wrong. There were a lot questions about why her leg was amputated, and I did my best to answer them. But I’m not so sure we are clear of these moments yet. Only time will tell.

The Beach and I Are Not Friends

The beach and I are not friends, but we tolerate each other. Let’s say we have and understanding.

20110619-021704.jpgWe just wrapped up a weekend in a very nice Wilmington hotel where we visited both Wrightsville and Kure beaches on North Carolina’s Cape Fear Coast. It was a mixed experience. We had lots of fun with the kids in the sand and surf, but it comes at a cost that is almost unbearable for me. I’m just not a fan of lugging half a living room and a galley kitchen to sit and bake on the sand.

This all goes back to when I was a kid and it was just me and my mom. We would venture to the beach for a day and I would be done by about lunchtime. About that time she would be turning her chair to get a better angle on the sun.

We would bring her trifold chaise lounge that weighed 15 pounds, a metal cooler that had a 1962 vintage. All I got was a towel and a plastic pail and shovel. Lunch consisted of soggy and sandy tuna sandwiches and soggy chips. Boo-hoo, right? Call the whaaaaaa-ambulance! Yeah, yeah.

Well, it sucked, and I’ve hated the beach most of my life because of it.

Not all of my beach experiences are bad ones. I have lots of good memories on the beach, even as an adult and a dad.

So now I have a challenge to figure out what it is I like about the beach. I’m beginning to realize that I like to put on sunscreen before I get there. While there I want something to do like build a sandcastle or go on a seashell hunt. And I want to bring as little with me as possible. That last part is crucial. I also want to find a beach that is a reasonable drive, has nearby parking, and isn’t too crowded.

Because all I really want is my kids to have good memories of their childhood’s on the beach so they will one day enjoy the beach with their own kids.


Preschool Graduation: Triumph Without Tears

G graduated preschool yesterday and in just a few short weeks he will be in kindergarten.

The ceremony included all of the pomp and circumstance of a high school or college commencement, including the processional song, “Pomp and Circumstance”. His preschool even went so far as to rent space at a local historic college and provide caps and gowns. The owner conferred the diplomas on a stage inside the college’s main chapel.

During the ceremony, I had two roles. I had to switch between proud father and photographer. As a dad, it my job to wave encouragingly and clap at the right times. As a photographer, I had to borrow from my experience in the newspaper business to get into the right spot and shoot some great photos. But it was hard for me to shoot inside the chapel. The light was transitional, and I have a limited amount of experience shooting in such conditions. Luckily, I have a trusty Nikon D40 and a long zoom lens.

The day had different meanings and feelings for parent and child. G told us he was happy but nervous. He was happy to be graduating, which I take to mean that he is getting bigger and moving on to “real” school. He told us that he was nervous, because he wasn’t sure what kindergarten would be like.

For Susan and me, it was a milestone we’ve been waiting for, and yet dreading at the same time. Unlike G, we saw the graduation coming for years. We’ve been there before. I still have vague recollections of my own nursery school graduation, and even a few pictures. But we dreaded it because it means our little boy is growing up.

But, this day had to come. Now that it is past, we can only look forward. G will be going to kindergarten at the school where I will be teaching 5th grade this year. We are ready for new milestones.


The guilt of a fun day

It’s pretty safe to say that Saturday was one of the best days G and I had together in a long time. We always have fun, but this was a great day of father-son bonding that will be remembered for years. We went to the pool mid-morning and spent a few hours there. We played with his water guns, worked on getting him ready to swim, and I dunked him a few times to show that there wasn’t anything to worry about when going underwater.

We were having so much fun, in fact, that neither of us thought about sunscreen. We put it on before we left. It was a high SPF, too, and we had it on long enough according to the instructions that it should have worked while we were in the water.

But, of course, time flies when you’re having fun, and I didn’t think about putting it on again. Who does? It wasn’t until after lunch when I went back into the pool that I noticed my shoulders start to sting. I took a look at G, who has always been lathered in SPF and scarcely ever had a tan, and his shoulders were pink, too, but not as bad as mine. I knew it was time to go.

By the time night fell, he and I were in agony. Susan, luckily, lathered us both with Solarcaine gel to take down the heat and heal the skin. It didn’t work so well for me, but it did the trick for G for the night. I woke up Sunday stuck to the shirt I had slept in and my skin was still burning. G, however, seemed fine. It wasn’t until much later in the afternoon that we noticed a real problem. G’s shoulders had blistered. That means he had a second-degree sunburn.

We read up on what to, and found that spray Solarcaine should work until the blisters pop on their own. Then we need to treat the blistered areas with Neosporin to help speed healing and reduce the change of infection.

Honestly, I have never seen anything like this before, but I’ve heard of it and lived it once. When I a little older than G, I went to Walt Disney World in Orlando for family vacation. It was the dead of winter and we were living in New England. The sun’s strength in central Florida was exponentially greater than home, so we lathered up with “suntan oil”, as it called then. Except one part of my body was left unprotected – my ears. The tops of my ears burned so bad that they blistered. I can still remember the crusty feel of those healing blisters, and I remember my classmates wondering disgustedly at why my ears looked the way they did.

20110607-104749.jpgSo, when I look at G, I know he will heal in a matter of weeks, and we’ve already bought new, stronger, even more water-resistant sunscreen. The hard part is watching G go through this. He is suffering through a rite of passage for all redheads, but it kills me. He even asked Susan why I let this happen to him. Someone, I’m sure, could have predicted this, but not one of us did.

So long, Blackberry. You were awesome, for a minute

Dear Blackberry 8310:

It’s hard to write this letter to you. You’ve been at my side now for almost two years. You’ve kept me up to date on the important things in life, like the Facebook status of the random people I’ve collected as friends over the years, the insightful links of a few hundred thought leaders on Twitter, and the comings and goings of dozens of people on Foursquare. You’ve kept me in contact with my wife, which is always important (right, honey?).

Despite that, we have reached the end of our run together. Today, the value depreciation algorithm arbitrarily set by AT&T will allow me to upgrade, yes upgrade, my phone to an iPhone 4. You’ve been a good phone, and you’re smart, but you just haven’t shown adequate progress. Later today I will journey to my local Apple store (the good one), and make my purchase.

I know it’s tough hearing this news so suddenly, but you had to know, right? I mean think about all of those “App Error – Restart?” messages you’ve thrown at me in the past six months. How about your limited storage capacity that renders you unable to store a lot of really useful apps? All of the garbage apps by AT&T that can’t be deleted are just pain in the ass. I hate to pile on, but there are two other problems: you get hung up processing simple tasks and you’re not 3G. That’s bad, you know? I mean opening my inbox shouldn’t cause the hourglass to appear for a full minute. I keep that box nice and empty for you. And I basically can’t use the web because “Edge” is just fast enough to send a text that reads “OK”. Not to mention your web browser has some serious problems rendering web pages.

But most of all, the reason I’m buying and iPhone instead of one of your newer cousins is because the ecosystem around the iOS platform is still the best by far. You’re just too hard to develop for. I know, you say you want to keep your tight security to appeal to enterprise clients. Don’t pigeonhole yourself like that, or you’ll soon become like Palm. Soooooo not cool. Take a look at the apps in the Apple App Store. Go ahead, it’s OK. Look at how Apple has generated a revenue stream and a product demand in one interface. Remember when you did that 10 years ago? It was fun, no?

Can I give you some advice? The best thing for you to do is adopt the Android operating system. Yes, seriously. Even though it is open source, you could work with Google to lock down certain parts and develop your own fork of Android. It would give developers the flexibility to create all of those cool-kid apps that catch the attention of the retail market, but still appeal to the enterprise. Because, let’s be honest, not one of my friends who previously had a Blackberry bought a second one since the iPhone 3Gs was released. Many have jumped ship to iOS or Android very enthusiastically.

Today is a bittersweet day for me. I know it doesn’t seem that way to you, but it is. You taught me that phone email and texting are awesome. You taught me that I do want to know whose green snots are flowing like a river. You taught me that I do want to know who is the Mayor of Target, and that I should get the Turkey Club at Village Deli because “it so f—ing awesome!!!!”. You taught me that people I’ve never met will give me meaningful information on topics I didn’t even know I cared about.

It’s been a good run, but it’s over. Don’t worry, though. After I clear your memory of all of my personal data, you’ll go in the drawer with my wife’s Blackberry 8310, too. Eventually, the two of you will be donated so someone else can use you. Kind of like those toys at the end of Toy Story 3. So, see, it won’t be that bad after all!

With much love,

The Mystery Illness

We are starting our second weekend in a row with A fighting some mystery virus that is causing her to spike a fever. She has been to the doctor each time, but no one knows what is causing it because the usual accompanying symptoms such as runny nose or middle ear blockage aren’t there.

We have a great pediatrician, too. He¬†knows child medicine, and he knows our kids. He also knows we’re not some crazy parents who run to the doctor when our kids are suffering from general malaise.

Our options are limited. A can’t tell us what’s wrong, obviously, because she’s only a year old. She’s eating well, sleeping well, and all other signs are good. It’s just the fever. So we are left with treating with infants acetaminophen (still no infants Tylenol in our house after the last recall) and infants Motrin. But I am ambivalent about this treatment because her body needs a fever to fight the infection, however a fever that’s too high or one that lingers too long could hurt her brain development. At the same time, loading her up with NSAIDs like Motrin isn’t good either because it can affect her liver function.

The best guesses we all have about the fever’s cause is that teething is so hard for her that her body is treating like an infection, or she just has some random virus; and that this week’s virus is different than last week’s. If they are viruses, they could be coming from anywhere. A is crawling like mad at home and at daycare. She’s even pulling herself up on furniture. The origins, however, are irrelevant. There’s no way we could clean our house enough to ensure she doesn’t get sick. We’d run ourselves ragged trying to do that.

So, what does a parent do? This is one of those dilemmas that there is no clear answer. We have to just follow the doctor’s advice, and rely on our instincts.

Anyone else have any suggestions?