The Kind of Hypocrite You Can Live With

I was listening to Internet superstar Merlin Mann's podcast Back to Work on the treadmill this morning and he said something that really, really resonated with me. He was talking about dealing with the unreasonable demands that people (and the world around us) place on us every day, and he said this:

I think in some ways becoming an adult is (or really in particular a parent) learning to become an adult means becoming the kind of hypocrite you can live with.

While this isn't exclusive to parents, it wasn't until I had kids that I really had to deal with the conflicts and compromises that I had been quietly been ignoring in my life. Basically, it wasn't until then that I started to realize it was OK to become the kind of hypocrite I could live with.

The Hypocrite You Can Live With, Episode #33 of Back to Work on the 5 by 5 Network (quote is 35:15 in).

Two Girls Are Best

My last post for Man of the House is about a study that said the family configuration that results in the "happiest" family was two girls. As this happens to be the configuration of my own happy family, I had some thoughts of my own.

My editor changed what I originally wrote a bit, replacing my final paragraph with another. I still like mine better, so I thought I'd include it here:

I can't say what it's like to have more than two kids and I definitely don't know what it's like to be the father of a boy, but having two girls is pretty great. Before we had our second daughter I used to say to people that we had the first child for us, and the second child for our first. And while there is some truth to that, the older they get I'm realizing that it's the dynamic between the two that makes everything in our family more fun. And I wouldn't have it any other way.

Are Two Daughters the Key to a Happy Family?  []

The Thankful List

Yesterday at Thanksgiving dinner my six year old daughter suggested (completely on her own) that we go around the table and say what we're thankful for. We made it through three rounds (again, at her insistence). Here's the unattributed list.

My sister
My brother
Pull-out shelves
My family
Heated car seats
My brother who likes to cook
Apple Computer
My funny friends
My sister
Four pies for dessert
My job
Teachers and aids
Jersey Shore vacations
My wonderful life
Pink panda bear
Tuesday Zoomba class
Aunt Trish

Thanks Dad - For the 10 Extra Years of Prostate Screenings


I was asked by Man of the House to write a piece in a series they're running called "Thanks Dad." And instead of writing something simple about how awesome my Dad is, I decided to write about something serious he's going through right now.

I'm pretty proud of how it turned out, but I'm more proud of my Dad.

Read Thanks Dad - For the 10 Extra Years of Prostrate Screenings on Man of the

Tip the magician.

So the other night I'm out with my ladies eating dinner, and a table-side magician approached us. Before I had children I would have tried to avoid it if I could, and if I couldn't I would just tell him that I wasn't interested. But now I've got a three year old who, although her experience with magic is very limited, her experience with balloon animals is not.

So after it was all over, it occurred to me that I should give the guy a tip for the floating card trick and the pink dog on a white balloon leash. So I handed him $4, to which he thanked me and went onto the next table. But it occurred to me, how much are you supposed to tip the magician?

As it turns out, I happen to know a guy through a friend of mine who is a magician and who has some experience working table-side, so I emailed him (quite out of the blue from his persepective) to find out what was appropriate. As a magician with an MBA, he gave me a rough frequency estimate of what people tend to tip:

$2 (20%); $5 (60%); $10 (15%); $20 (5%)

He said the high-end would be for tables of many adults where he "freaks them out" for 7-10 minutes, and small families like mine with a few tricks and some balloon animals would be $2 - $5. He also said many restaurant magicians are paid by the restaurant and shouldn't accept tips (I've never seen one), and those that work solely for tips usually work it into their act somehow ("A person wanted to leave me a tip once, but all he had was this poker chip...").

So I guess $4 is a decent tip for the situation I was in. And if you've finished this lengthy post about tipping magicians, chances are you have way too much time on your hands.

(A person was looking to figure out how much to tip the magician, but all they had was this random blog entry...)

[Big thanks to Frank from - the best slight of hand guy I've ever seen close up.]

If you can't bribe your kid with sugar, what are you left with?

With the new baby and everything, our normal morning routine has drastically changed around the MDD household. In the old days it was just me and the Madame at the breakfast table, enjoying a little oatmeal and applesauce. But now she's two she'd rather starve than have me feed her, and with that newfound independence also comes a someone who wants to pick out what she's having for breakfast.

I'm generally fine with choice, within reason of course. Her breakfast request two weeks ago for "chips" didn't go over so well. But it seems recently she's less and less interested in eating much at all for breakfast, which is definitely not OK.

Which brings me to the question posed in the subject of this post. Having been frustrated by this for a few weeks, the other morning my wife tells me that she's got the perfect solution, and busts out a box of blueberry Pop Tarts. Perfect, I think. Her favorite fruit these days is blueberries, it's totally a finger food she can eat herself, and it's sweet. It's got icing for chrissakes. Sure, it's not the healthiest thing in the world, but it's fortified up the wazoo with vitamins, and with a cup of milk and maybe a banana it's a breakfast I can live with. So we give it to her and after one bite we get the phrase we're hearing all too often these days, "No like it."

"No like it"?? It's a freaking Pop Tart. Did my kid turn French overnight? Is her palette so advanced the mere taste of this processed, mass produced pastry makes her stomach turn? Or, perhaps more likely, is she just two and trying to be difficult because that's what two-year-olds do? Maybe. But shouldn't super-sweet (borderline) junk food cut through all that terrible-twos bullshit?

I guess tomorrow it's a baguette with gruyere.

Happy Father's Day

So since this Sunday is the day for breakfast in bed (which I'm not a fan of by the way), new neckties and dad's favorite dinner, I'd like to give a personal "Happy Father's Day" to two friends of mine Dave and Brian who are celebrating their first, as well as my own dad, the Modern Day Pop Pop.

Have a great weekend.


There's nothing like a conspicuous scab right on the tip of your kid's nose to make you feel like a bad parent. Toddlers walk, run, and occasionally fall. And even though it's normal and doesn't mean you're a bad parent, if that scab is on your kid's face it's a constant reminder that somehow you messed up.

So if you see me out and about, and you happen to notice the small scab on the end of Madame's nose that she got from running and falling the other day, DON'T MENTION IT TO ME FOR CHRISSAKES. Do you think I haven't noticed it yet? She might even say "boo boo nose" as she points to her nose, but I don't need to relive it every freaking moment of the day.

And don't ask her "What happened to your noooooose????" What do you think happened? Do you think gnomes sneaked into her room in the middle of the night and roughed her up? Or maybe she intentionally fell down and got a scrape on her nose because that's what all the cool kids are doing these days? Or maybe the goddamn Disney Princesses told her to scratch her nose?

Jesus. Just freaking smile and say hello like you're going to next week after it finally heels.

Man complains about the Christmas-crunch, noone reads (thankfully).

For those of us celebrating Christmas, we're definitely in the home-stretch. This year everything kind of snuck up on me, and although I've gotten a lot done, it still feels like I've got a million things to deal with, and that I'm going to just flat-out forget about 30% of them. Not to make everything about having kids or anything, but my ability to focus on multiple ongoing things has been greatly diminished in the past year and a half.

Anyway, blogging has dropped off as well  - which is OK I suppose because my traffic has dropped off too, and I can think of a lot of better things to do than read me bitch that Christmas is happening way too quickly this year. Plus Typepad (the blog service I use) decided to crap the bed last week, so the time that I set aside to actually blog was in vain. Ugh.

So from here until New Year's I'm not making any promises. Hopefully I'll get a chance to blog a few things, but it's not looking like I'm going to have a lot of time. Of course, I'm pretty sure neither are you.

Telling people you stay at home.

I was reading this really well thought-out post last night on Dadventure about tips for guys thinking about becoming stay-at-home dads. I could only think of one thing to add, and the middle of writing my comment, I realized that I might as well bring this up here too. Is it OK to feel awkward when you tell people that you're a SAHD?

It came up the other day when the DirecTV guy was over installing my HDTV service (the joys of which I'll leave for another post another day). In the middle of the install, he asked me, as most Americans do to people they barely know, "So what do you do?"

Immediately I gave the answer that I've been giving everyone for the past 15 months - "I'm a stay-at-home-dad."

"Excuse me?"

Not knowing if he didn't hear me correctly or that he couldn't fathom it, I said, "I'm a full-time dad. I stay at home with my daughter during the day."

To which he replied, "Oh. That's cool I guess."

To which I replied, "Yeah. It's really cool actually."

Later in the day as I was marveling at the picture quality of my new television, I kept replaying that conversation in my head. Not because the satellite guy was being a jerk, because he wasn't. I just don't think he had ever met a SAHD before (not to mention the fact that the "SAHD" moniker is cumbersome at best and not easily used in casual conversation). The thing I kept thinking about was my internal reaction to the act of explaining to a stranger what I do. For some reason I felt kind of defensive, like I had to justify not going to a normal job every day. And as the explanation was coming out of my mouth, I felt guilty for not having a normal 9-5 job. The whole thing was very awkward.

Admittedly, all of this is a lot of contemplation for a fifteen second conversation with the DirecTV guy, but it got me thinking. Some of my defensiveness was definitely a guy thing - here was this guy doing a very working-guy type of job, and here I am worried if Noggin is coming in clearly or not. And I do have moments sometimes of nostalgia (and envy) when I'm speaking to my friends about their regular jobs, but I think at the end of the day all of this comes with the territory.

Staying home with my daughter is the right choice for our family, and I'm lucky to be able to do it. And just because I feel weird sometimes explaining what I do during the day doesn't mean I secretly wish I was doing something else. I need to get used to the fact that what I'm doing is different, and probably will be until my Madame is out of the house for good.

And who knows, maybe next time the DirecTV guy will go home, quit his job, and make his wife go to work too.

Another "I'm old" moment.

So last night the modern day mom and I went to see Green Day at the local arena.  I was never the biggest fans of the whole "pop punk" thing, but friends of ours had offered last minute tickets so we figured it would be fun. We were right, the show was great and it was a good time (and not just because we got a babysitter and were out on a "school night"). As expected there were lots of young kids there, but the fact that I was closer in age to the parents chaperoning their pre-teens didn't make me feel old, it was the slow songs.

You know that moment in a big arena-rock concert where the band plays the slow ballad and everyone holds up their lit cigarette lighters? The kids today don't do that anymore. Now everyone holds up their lit-up cellphones. Cellphones. Goddamn I'm old.

An impromptu hen party.

Normally I don't write so much about what happens in my day-to-day life, but this Gymboree playgroup thing is screaming to be written about. So thanks for my indulgence. I'll get to more toys and stuff later this week.

So yesterday we went to our second "class" at Gymboree. This time there weren't any dads though, just moms and one female nanny. But whatever. I was cool with it. It isn't a support group, just a chance for my kid to roll around on some cool indoor crawling stuff and maybe get socialized with some other kids.

About a half hour into it the instructor (if you can call her that - really just a girl about 19) gets everyone to come back to sit in a circle with their kids. Then she says, "OK grownups (you're not a parent or a mom or dad or an adult at Gymboree, you're a "grownup"), the topic of discussion is "stress."

What? "The topic of discussion?" Stress? When did this turn into some sort of weird 12 step for parents thing? They didn't do this the last class. Can't we get back to climbing up the ramp and  going down the slide??

Now keep in mind my baby is right in front of me trying to crawl away, so I figure I'll just pay attention to her and kind of hope no one asks me to join in. Some of the moms make jokes about alcohol being a good stress reliever (no argument here), but most complain about their husbands and how they don't help out enough when they get home from work.

Great. I'm pretty sure the closest other dude is the guy making egg rolls at the Chinese restaurant next door, and the last thing I want to do is be the spokesman for men. So I keep on focusing on my daughter, but no amount of ignoring what's going on helps, and finally the instructor looks at me and asks, "How about you? How do you deal with stress?"

In the moment I figured, well, if you can't join them, the least you can do is make them feel jealous. So this is what I said:

"Well actually when Madame's mom comes home from work she's raring to spend time with her, so she takes on most of the responsibility before bedtime. And then on the weekends it's pretty much the same thing, and I get time to myself then too. So it works out pretty well. Plus the baby's perfect so I've got that going for me."

Ha! Take that four moms and one nanny! Your casual laughter at my joke about my kid being perfect belies your true envy. It's not just my kid, MY LIFE IS PERFECT!!!

I have to admit that even though it was all true, it was a hollow victory. Typically I always think of something better to say about a half hour later, and sure enough, on my way back to the car it occurred to me that maybe I should have been more direct (and equally honest):

"How do I deal with stress? Well, I internalize it mostly, and when my wife comes home I pick a fight her. Then after dinner I go upstairs, get drunk and play video games. Oh, and sometimes the next day I'll write about it on the Internet. But that's just me."

Up the water spou... ehh screw it.

TheitsyLast week I mentioned in my post about taking madame to Gymboree that I'm completely inept at kids' songs, particularly that Itsy Bitsy Spider song. For some reason I couldn't figure out how to do the hand movements to "up the water spout." I told my wife about it later that day, and after some pointing and laughing, my wife explained that it's thumb to index finger, thumb to index finger. I'm happy to report that, with some practice I've got it.

But just in case I forget, or anyone else is also a little cloudy on how to do it, AJ over at Thingamababy has carefully written up and photographed all the hand motions. Isn't the Internet great? One man's moment of idiocy can save countless others from the same fate.

How To: Perform the Itsy Bitsy Spider [Thingamababy]

What I learned at Gymboree

Well, my daughter is a year old now, and as I stay at home with her during the day, she doesn't get a lot of interaction with other kids. So a couple of days ago I took Madame to Gymboree Play and Music. It's an indoor playground of sorts, with organized times where parents can bring their kid to crawl around and play with other kids their age. They way it worked was the first part of the "class" they had loose activities for the kids to do, like crawling and climbing up on stuff. Then they close the class with songs and activities that the parents do with the kids, including playing with an indoor parachute at the end. As far as I can tell she loved it, and for that I enjoyed it too. But there were also some things I learned:

  • My little girl loves other kids. All the kids will look at each other, but she was really the only one who would go up to another kid and touch or try to talk to them.
  • Soap bubbles. SOAP BUBBLES. How come I never thought to try soap bubbles with her? The kids were mesmerized. I went to Target the next day and got some (on clearance to boot).
  • Parachutes are cool. Why aren't they marketed more heavily to parents? Maybe they are and I'm just not aware of it, but I would think that there are a lot of parents who would get one for their kids, or their play group to have fun with.
  • I'm an idiot when it comes to kid's songs. I was completely at a loss when it came to the words to "The Wheels on the Bus," and my utter inability to do that itsy-bitsy spider thing with my hands just made me feel retarded.
  • KEEP THE PUBLIC TOYS OUT OF YOUR BABIES' MOUTH. There were lots of little toys around the play area, mostly for bait to get kids to go through tunnels or climb up ramps. It worked, but almost all the kids would then put them into their mouths. Kids do this, I understand, but maybe the parents should think twice about letting their kid do it. Indoor playgrounds are fun, but they are a vector for disease. My Madame would grab the toys but she didn't put any in her mouth (I was making sure). As I've said before, she is above average.
  • I wasn't the only dad. I honestly thought I might be, but in the same class there was another dad with his little boy, and there was a dad who was leaving with his kids from the previous class. Maybe I should start a dads playgroup.

Hold the door?

OK. So I'm obviously a dude, and I don't expect anyone to hold the door for me when I'm walking into a store or going to a restaurant. I expect someone to lean over and unlock the car door from the inside (at least I used to before car remotes), but that's about it. But now that I'm a dad with a kid in a stroller, would it be too much for someone to hold the door for a second while I push my baby through the door to the goddamn Tower Records???

It must be because I'm a guy right? At least I hope so - I hope moms with strollers are getting people to hold the door for them. Because if they aren't then that bums me out more.

The baby and the dog - more in common than I'd like to admit.

My sister (modern day madrina) has been temporarily been living with us the past month or so which has been really great, but the big adjustment for us is she brought her dog, a young pug named Nilla. We're not exactly what you'd call "animal people" but we're (grudgingly) getting better at it all the time. Madame of course absolutely loves the dog. She thinks it's the funniest thing she's ever seen, and there have been more than a couple freak out sessions where it's provided a welcome distraction. But now that the baby is crawling around, I find myself trying to keep her mouth off of the dog's toys, and the dog's mouth off of her toys. This led me to brainstorm all the things they have in common:

  • They both move around on the floor on all fours.
  • They both love to put stuff in their mouths and chew, including but not limited to:
    • Water bottles
    • Magazines
    • Tissues
    • Small plastic toys
    • Socks
  • They hate having their nails clipped.
  • They tend to be early risers, getting up about a half hour to an hour before anyone would really want them up.
  • They take naps daily.
  • They both want to be in the middle of whatever it is you are doing, all the time.
  • They will both pause, turn around and look at you, and then continue to do whatever it is they are doing, even though you know in your heart of hearts that they completely understood you when you told them to stop.
  • They both like having their bellies rubbed.