Thursday, November 30, 2006

The Magical Wire Coat Hanger

Unlike “Mommy Dearest” I thoroughly approve of wire coat hangers. Not necessarily for hanging clothes, but, as an invaluable household tool. That's right men, a tool. Every house has to have one of these wonders.

First, take a wire coat hanger and unbend it, if needed use pliers or a bench vise. Get it as straight as possible. Second, bend a small hook at the end. Congratulations, you’re finished! Hang this tool on a nail behind the basement door and sleep well tonight for you are the proud owner of The Magical Wire Coat Hanger.

“Hey buddy, be careful with that little car. If you keep doing that it’ll go under the couch.”
“Oh no, time for the hanger.”
I get my trusty hanger from its nail and easily retrieve that little car from under the couch. No muss, no fuss. And my back thanks me!

Vacuuming is a daily task in my house. With two little boys, two dogs and a cat there’s no chance to skip a day. Sometimes the vacuuming takes place twice or even three times in a 24 hour period. This greatly increases the chance that something will get stuck in the hose. No amount of shaking or banging seems to loosen the obstruction. Alas, dog fur and toddler socks can block air flow better that a concrete wall. With my handy dandy hanger the blockage is removed and in a flash I’m back to work.

One of those pesky alphabet magnets has somehow fallen off the refrigerator. Hmmm, I wonder how that could’ve happened. Anyway, I have two options; I could wait until the weekly moving of the fridge for cleaning (doesn’t everyone do this) or reach underneath with my magic hanger and retrieve the culprit. My boys can’t learn their ABC’s without an R so I opt for the hanger. After a little fishing around out comes the R, last week’s shopping list, some more dog fur, an S that been missing for at least a week – maybe it’s time for the “weekly” clean behind the fridge party.

If you don’t have one of these devices yet you don’t know what you’re missing. Remember, do not accept imitations; use only the original Magical Wire Coat Hanger.
You’ll be glad you did.

Camera Queen Strikes Again

As a rule, men don’t take pictures. We leave this task to our wives. Developing the photographic record of our children’s childhood is best left to the expert. They know what event requires a picture and what doesn’t.

My mother lives in coastal Florida and is evacuated from time to time due to hurricanes. The only thing she takes with her is her photos. They’re numerous, but irreplaceable. All taken before the age of digital technology. The only record of my childhood, preserved forever in aging photo albums. Over the years, she has parted with a few, giving them to my wife to archive. My mother has said everything else can be replaced, but not photos.

My wife has diligently taken on the role of family photographer. Documenting and recording events and the passing of time. These days this is easier because of digital imagery. Pictures are taken, stored, shared and printed all with the click of a button. Also, if we ever have to evacuate due to a natural catastrophe, a handful of CDs will come with us. They’ll contain every picture ever taken of my sons.

I would suggest that every parent purchase some sort of digital camera. They’re inexpensive enough now and no film is required. They also provide instant gratification as you can view your photos immediately. Email them to Nannie and Aunt Risa within minutes. Or in my case, include some in an article and post them to a website.

My wife has every photo dated and categorized for posterity. I enjoy them now but I’m sure once these guys move out and I no longer see them everyday, I’ll enjoy them even more. Whether posed or candid, these pictures provide proof of life and times. Our camera is always on my desk, ready to go, batteries charged. Click, click – another moment in time preserved for future generations. Thank you, Mary. I’m the first one to whine when the camera comes out, and the first one who wants to see the pictures. Go figure, I’m a man, we’re enigmas.

The pictures above are of our Jet's fans, and their Halloween attire -- Tigger and Roo, best friends forever. The picture on the right is Fire Island Lighthouse. This would be one of those advantages of living on Long Island. Scenery like this is only a ten minute drive away. Enjoy.

10 Phrases Every New Parent Must Know

Please indulge just one more top 10 list. Stay tuned for the following articles:
Camera Queen Strikes Again and Life Is A Highway: The Song

1. “Be Careful!”
Must be said firmly and with no hesitation, but beware, this one is often ignored!

2. “Stop That!” or “Stop That, NOW!”
Usually, must be said in repetition. A minimum of three times is often required for the hearing impaired.

3. “Not Now” or “Later”
Used to put off an immediate request. Remember, “later” is a relative concept -- it could mean 10 minutes or 10 years. A word of warning – this one will come back to bite you when you least expect it:
“Can we go to the store?” he said innocently.
“Not now, later,” you responded.
Three days pass and he’s putting on his jacket, you say, “Where you goin’, buddy?”
He responds, “To the store… it’s ‘later’.”
You get your coat too.

4. “Please, Be Quiet”
My mother had a saying when I was his age, “Not every minute of everyday has to be filled with the sound of your voice!” Again, this one requires repetition and is also routinely ignored. We add the “Please” to this one – we’re trying to teach manners here, right? Time is also relative on this one, “I was quiet!” – I guess 5 seconds counts.

5. “Stop Jumping!”
For those of us who have boys, this one is especially important. Usually, this one is heard and reacted to immediately. Although, in my experience, it is often followed by #2 within minutes.

6. “We’ll see” and/or “Maybe”
A popular favorite, used to prolong the inevitable. Anyone who uses this knows that you’re going to do it, and usually sooner rather than later. I would advise using this one with caution as they catch on fast to our tricks. They make the leap to number 8 after only one or two uses.

7. “NO!”
This one’s not for wimps! Must be vocalized in a stern and commanding tone. Born with natural animal instincts they can sense weakness as well as any tiger cub. A general rule that must be followed with this one is – NO means NO. Stick to your guns, use this one sparingly. Number 3 and 6 will often suffice. Also, this one gets learned easily and is repeated back quite frequently. Be prepared for tears and loud shrieks. They’ll pass, but it’ll be rough going for a while.

8. “YES” “SURE” “OKAY”
Whoa! Careful here! This one is for advanced users only. It requires immediate action. “Can we go to the park?”, they ask. You say, “Sure!” Better have a bag packed, beverages chilled, car running and have visited the rest room. When in doubt, use #6. That way you’ll be a hero when you say, “C’mon, lets go!” But beware, jumping usually ensues and you’ll have to use #5 to quell the excitement.

9. “I Love You”
Cannot be overused! If you ever want to hear it back you need to say it first and often. This one’s a bonus as it can be used for your spouse, too. Same rule applies – cannot be overused!

10. “I’m Sorry”
Like number 9, if you ever want to hear this from your child you need to say it first. This one must be sincere to be effective. Also, like number 9, should be used on spouse as well. Proper placement, tone and sincerity are a must. Use often but use wisely.

Next Top 10 List: 10 Things That Should Never Come Out Of Your Mouth

Laugh or Cry: A Top 10 List

Below is a list of statements that can either inspire laughter or tears. Please feel free to add to this as you see fit:

1. “Dad, c’mon see what I made…” or just “Dad, c’mon see…”
You either leave his room the proud parent of a genius or running to the garage for your shop vac.

2. “Hey, watch what I can do…”
A variation on, “Look Ma, No Hands”, always have a cordless phone in hand with 911 on speedial.

3. “Daddy, the cat doesn’t feel good…” or “Dad, the cat’s sad…”
Hmmm, I wonder why?

4. “Dad, your baby’s cryin’”
My baby? ...Brotherhood seems to be a part-time gig.

5. “I was just playing with the water…”
You rate this one by; Paper Towel, Large Bath Towel or, again, running for the shop vac.

6. “It was yucky, I put it in the garbage…”
What does a 3 ½ year old define as “yucky”?

7. “Don’t worry, I can fix it…”
Wishful thinking!

8. “Can you do me a favor?”
That depends?

9. “Wait here, I’ll be right back…”
Okay, I know I should go follow him, but what’s life without surprises.

10. “I was just cleaning up…”
Looks good, buddy! – Can I help? (Where’s that shop vac?)

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Long Island Dad Begins

This is my first blog dedicated to being a stay at home dad. Since the birth of my son Christopher, almost four years ago I have been "running" the home front. My wife manages a restaurant, and is often gone for 12-14 hours a day.

We live in a relatively large home with two dogs and a cat. I take care of all the child, household, yard, automotive and pet duties. My wife is responsible for food and laundry, lucky for us she's a fantastic cook.

I want to use this space to share my thoughts and perspectives on what it's like here on Long Island. This area provides great opportunities for families, but because of the very high cost of living, some very, very difficult challenges.

It was our choice that I take on this role. It was not by circumstance of a job loss or a corporate downsize. But rather, a calculated decision to have one parent home, full time, to raise our children. The decision was relatively easy and financially very hard. Only time will tell if it's all worth it. I can only tell you that I'm sure my children benefit everyday from this decision.

I will never put down double income families, or the very dedicated child care workers, but it was our decision to have children and our responsibilty to raise them. I would never ask a day care center to teach my children values, ethics, morals or manners. In soceity we take must responsiblity for our actions, we must teach our children to take responsibilty. It's a parents' solemn duty. Unfortunately, due to the times we live in it's basically impossible to live by 1950's family models. Bills must get paid. Parents are often caught between being the financial providers and the life lesson providers. Some do a great balancing act. I don't have that kind of energy. In future blogs I'll go into the choices we've made in order to make this possible, or if it's really possible.

I would appreciate all your input and advice. Please comment often. I look forward to hearing your thoughts. Thanks for reading.