Thursday, March 31, 2005

The Isle of Tools

The other day Natalie and I were playing with a puzzle, one of those wooden puzzles with about a dozen pieces, each piece with a little knob to pick it up with. This one contained pictures of different types of transportation. A police car, a tractor-trailer, a helicopter, a ship, etc. I decided to make things interesting by making a story out of it, picking up a specific piece whenever I mentioned it. Something to the effect of, "one day, a man was riding a Motorcycle, he drove too fast and was stopped for speeding by a Police Car. The policeman said, "you're going to crash into a Tractor-Trailer if your not careful!" Well, you get the idea.

Natalie then decided it was her turn. Her story began, "One day, a man was riding a Motorcycle. He rode to an island where there were no people, only tools."

I never heard the rest of the story, because I was too busy dreaming of that wonderful, wonderful place.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Filtering Internet content for your children

The other day I managed to mentally scar my 4-year-old (not the first time, and probably not the last) by introducing her to the concept of the Shockwave file. My dad had emailed a moderately humorous Easter-based internet cartoon showing a chicken launching an egg at the screen. Natalie watched over my shoulder, laughed hysterically (4-year-olds are easily amused) and asked to see other cartoons on the computer. So I, like a moron, obliged.

I did a Google search for “funny swf files” and came across a site listing just that. Among the listings was one entitled “valentines day”. Clicking it brought up a cute little kitten (think Hello Kitty) in a box, with three buttons next to it. It was entirely pink and cute-looking, so naturally it had to be a safe bet, right? I clicked the first button entitled “Flowers”. A hand came into the screen and handed the kitten a bouquet of flowers. The kitten began making all sorts of cute “thank you” squeaks and purrs. Then it sniffed the flowers, and began to sneeze. And sneeze.

Suddenly, the kitten decided to hold it’s nose, and that’s when things rapidly went downhill. It sneezed once more, and its head blew apart, covering the screen in virtual blood, brain splattering against the wall. The decapitated torso then flopped to the ground, twitching and lifeless.

Natalie, who up to that point was fully enjoying it, suddenly launched from my lap, screaming and covering her eyes. She then proceeded to scream for the next half hour, demanding that I throw the computer in the garbage and never show her anything again.

I’m an idiot.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Small Pieces Of Cloth

It's 3:40pm on Wednesday, some time early in September 2000. The only reason I knew this is that my Timex Indiglo Ironman, for which I used the “I need it to time contractions” excuse to buy, told me. I never timed a single one, by the way. Instead I used it to tell me if I should be eating, taking out the garbage, sleeping, watching the Simpsons, or heating up a formula bottle for our 4-day-old newborn baby girl. It was a very tired, tired time.

Life quickly became a whirlwind of smelly diapers, washing bottles, and small pieces of cloth everywhere. It's amazing that the new kid was home no more than 4 hours and our spotless house turned into the set of one of those movies where the asteroid plows into Los Angeles.

So about those small pieces of cloth. There were burping pads. Sleepers. Gowns. Onesies. Changing pads. Receiving blankets. Tushie wipes. Washcloths. Diapers. Wet ones. Swaddlers. It seemed we could have made it easier if we had picked up one good sweatshirt and a garden hose.

So Natalie left the hospital at 3pm the previous day. She slept the entire ride home, and until 8pm, when we fed her. Then, she proceeded to wake us at 45 minute intervals until the next morning. During one episode, I checked on her to make sure she was okay (she had been silent for 48 minutes, and we were worried) and I was greeted by a stream of white goo coming from the general direction of her face. As I picked her up to clean her off, I discovered there was already a previously projected stream under her head, which she had been marinating in for quite some time.

It's amazing she survived the night, given her parents' general lack of knowledge at the time of how to keep human beings alive.

That morning, Natalie appeared interested in spending the day at rest. Mommy and I tried to catch up on sleep - but in reality Natalie had training regimen planned for us. She knew that before we had the chance to catnap, it would be time to introduce her parents to the concept of the explosive poop. I'm pretty sure they had been feeding Natalie nothing but corn salsa the entire time she was in the hospital, because that was exactly what was coming out of her. Did I sign up for that part? I couldn’t remember. Then again, I couldn’t remember what day it was without the Indiglo Iron Man. Hmm…Wednesday... Garbage night. Man, those garbage men were gonna hate us that morning.

And that’s how the first 24 hours went. Oh, how easy those days were.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

The starting point

I think that before I get too far into the story, I should provide some background of how I got here.

Tuesday, December 28, 1999

Okay, let’s call this DAY 1. Ground Zero. The point of, well, point of no return, I guess. Hilary had been kind of worried that, well, her monthly bill was past due. “I’m never late,” she proclaimed. “You can set a watch by me, darnit!" (yes she said "darnit")

Well, we thought back a few weeks, and quickly realized the error of our ways. But everyone told us it would take months and months to get pregnant, so we weren’t really worried at the time. Besides, we’re about ready, right? Right?

After work, mostly to sooth Hil’s worry, we stopped at the local Giant Eagle for ravioli, pasta sauce, and a First Plus home pregnancy test. This was the beginning of a long evening.

When we got home, Hilary suddenly realized that the word “ready” meant a whole lotta things that she just wasn’t. “I’m not ready to give up the life we have! I’m not ready to gain weight! I’m not maternal enough! I still want to go back in the womb myself!!!”

I never managed to calm her down real well, but I at least convinced her not to jump out the bedroom window and to take the test. Three minutes later we found out just how well my boys could swim. We’re talking backstroke, Australian crawl, freestyle, all at Olympic levels! Months and months, my butt!

Well, if I thought Hilary was freaked before the test, there was no stopping her afterwards. My initial thought was to keep this a secret from the family until we were sure, but after that test I realized I needed to call in the extra recruits for this one. We headed straight to her mom’s place. Driving 20 miles an hour the whole way. Precious cargo, after all.

And heading there was a wise choice.

Hilary’s mom had that deer-in-headlights look for a bit, but soon she became the cucumber of cool. She convinced Hilary that she’ll survive this, that she’ll make a fine mother, and that the time was nigh.

A few hours later, Hilary realized that this could in fact be a good thing. In fact, it will be.

Me? I always knew.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

What ever happened to the Natalie Chronicles?

A while back, my first daughter, Natalie, was born. I wrote a couple of emails to my friends and family describing all the things I found myself ill-prepared for when it came to fatherhood. It was then that I realized I had a minor talent for breaking down a crazy life change into humorous anecdotes. Since then I have realized that this crazy life change has tremendously interfered with my ability to wax anecdotal, as I find myself too busy with diapers, bath time, meals, Barney, naps, minivans, training wheels, Dora Band-Aids, sippy cups, babyproofing, and tantrums (including my own) to jot down a complete thought.

Four and a half years and a second daughter later, I have entered the ranks of the blogger. Okay, I'm not exactly a first adopter when it comes to the concept of a blog, and I love reading blogs created by other people, but frankly I never much saw the point in creating one myself. All that changed at about three o'clock this morning, when it dawned on me that this might just be my outlet. Many of my friends have said to me, "what ever happened to those emails?" Well, here's my attempt to get back at it. I hope you enjoy.