September 30, 2008

My Crew

Crazy day, very little time to write, but a bit of time to snap photos of my little team. And if at first glance you thought it looked like Annie was pushing Matilda off the chair, well, you wouldn't, exactly, be wrong.

September 25, 2008

Love Over Argyle

As you have no doubt noticed, I have not been writing as much as usual. Over the last two weeks you have been given cute pictures of my children (the real reason you come here I know) without having to put up with my ramblings. This isn’t right. The literary content has been lacking lately for three reasons. First, Matilda+Annabelle=Busy. Second, I was writing something for submission to a local magazine that I needed to finish before posting. And finally, my job opening boxes for “Hip local retailer” has taken up some time if not brain capacity.

The most important of these three reasons is that for the first time in my life I am pursuing the career that I have always wanted. This pursuit started with Unfinished Dad and now progresses with, strangely, the first written work I have ever submitted for public consumption/scrutiny. There is, of course, no guarantee that my piece will be accepted and if/when it isn’t, I will post it here. Its subject matter is one that I am passionate about—raising children without the influence of religion.

Today, I thought we could take a quick stroll down memory lane.

My first job after leaving college was at AT&T in Florham Park, New Jersey. I hated this job. My second job after college was at ADP in New York. I went door to door selling payroll—that just sounds shitty—to local business. I hated this job too. Needless to say, I quit both of these jobs ignominiously. Upon leaving the payroll job, I was strolling through my local mall and drowning my misery by purchasing unneeded argyle socks and sweater vests at JCrew. It was during this drowning process that my younger sister said, “Hey, don’t you love Jcrew?” “I do,” I said, and simultaneous light bulbs illuminated over both of our heads.

I first met my mentor and boss that day and we hit it off immediately. By the end of the week I was again gainfully employed, though poorly paid. If nothing else (and by nothing else I mean rent, car insurance, and food), I would at least be able to satisfy my clothing addiction. Plus, there were cute girls everywhere. My time at the store began with selling on the floor. I soon realized that standing on your feet for nine hours a day is much harder than people realize.

To break things up I would volunteer for any job that took me out of my selling role. I happily opened boxes in the stockroom (this is in my blood I guess) and organized the shoe closet. I even took on the role of that ridiculously annoying greeter you sometimes see at the front of the store. “Welcome to JCrew. Today, all of our rollnecks are $39.99 and socks, as always, are buy three get 20% off.” You may remember me, I invented the tandem greet. I would choose the most bubbly, least self conscious employee working and we would double team you with happiness and sale items as soon as you entered the store.

One such fellow greeter was a serious, but silly girl who liked to wave to people by opening and closing her hand, as if she were trying to pull some invisible object out of mid air. We would greet together for a few hours, then sell, and then greet some more. At the end of the day we would fold pile after pile of hastily strew sweaters while we lamented the meaninglessness of our jobs. It came to pass one night, while noticing her white ankle socks adorned with frogs sticking out their tongues, that I realized I liked my fellow greeter.

There were, however, a few problems. I was 25, she was 21. I worked at a low paying a monkey could do this kind of job, she was finishing college and on her way to one of the most prestigious law schools in the country. I snowboarded, she skied. I waved like a Homo sapien, she waved like, well, something else.

It came to pass that one day while greeting she casually asked me if I would teach her how to snowboard. I eagerly, but coolly said yes and we set a date. I’m still not sure if it was a “date” date, but it was an event out of our normal environment so we may as well assume that it was. If I had known then that perhaps our greatest difference would be our completely opposing levels of patience—mine infinite, hers something less so—I may have turned down her request. It was a day of stress and mild concussions, in which I think she wound up liking my best friend and not me.

I drove her home after dinner with my parents (what am I, stupid?) and we parted with an awkward hug. First girl met at new job, first girl lost at new job. We both went back to work and pretended that our day of winter sports was definitely not a “date.” Work was going well for me. I was well respected and actually kind of talented, and I started to think that I could make a career of it. She was getting ready to head back to school and thinking about friends and drinking and drinking.

The New Year had dawned. The college students would leave the store, trailing behind them all their skipped shifts and lockers filled with molding sandwiches. On January 11th 2002, I worked the closing shift. I couldn’t wait to get out of the store. When we all finished folding our respective tables of clothing we turned out the lights. On a hunch, and a belly full of nerves, I asked her if she wanted to grab a beer downstairs. I could sense her hesitation and I started to stammer something about how it was no big deal, and we could do it some other time, and how I was tired and had to work early, and how I had some sweaters to shave at home, and a nonexistent dog to walk. You get the point; I was sinking fast.

I decided to pull out my trump card. I took a chance and mentioned that my house had a beer pong table in the basement. Her eyes lit up like I had given her a 10 carat diamond, and the rest is history.

It’s almost noon and the babies are stirring. This is a story I enjoy telling and will continue for you next Tuesday. You will here all about the dawn of a new love and a transgression greater than any in the history of mankind, including the murder of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the inclusion of Spin The Black Circle on Pearl Jam’s greatest hits album, and the discontinuation of Rice Crispies Treats Cereal.

September 21, 2008

Next Stop, the Wild West

Certain events require a breaking of the rules. I understand that posting outside of the new parameters (Tuesday/Thursday) of Unfinished Dad dilutes their effect, but Annie riding a Pony? C'mon.

September 18, 2008

Offensive? Yes. True? You betcha.

September 16, 2008

The best laid plans...

Well, the kids derailed my best intentions again. I should have a post ready for you tomorrow. In the meantime, I did keep one promise this week.

September 12, 2008

Independence+Concrete Steps=

September 11, 2008


First of all, I’m a total liar. I didn’t even consider getting out the camera over the last two days. I promise, that by Tuesday…


The local supermarket here in West Caldwell is about 200 yards from our house. In the summer months this allows us to live an old timey, French countryside sort of lifestyle in which we purchase our groceries daily instead of weekly. Given the distance most food travels, I have no idea if this makes our meals fresher, but it makes us feel fresher. Plus, these daily walks are chipping away at my now gargantuan belly. It’s getting to the point where, from my vantage point, my belt looks like the equator ceaselessly circling a very large, fleshy globe.

Having said that, getting to the store on foot is much more difficult than it should be. If you haven’t noticed, we don’t exactly live in a walking friendly country. Residents of most large cities can still walk to complete their essential errands. However, in a small, suburban town like West Caldwell, you are left feeling as if someone out there doesn’t want you to walk. The non-walking residents of our town definitely viewed us as something less than desirable. Instantly, our family of four was transformed into a disadvantaged clan of new immigrants from Moldova.

In the short distance we walked, huddled together and freezing, there were myriad obstacles out there trying to derail us. From dumpster after rancid dumpster that line the back of the ShopRite to the rocky path that made passing with our stroller impossible, we found ourselves turned back over and over again. Eventually we emerged from a garbage strewn alley onto Bloomfield Avenue facing five lanes of traffic without a crosswalk. This always makes me nervous, and if there were not a Dunkin Donuts on the other side I would never venture it with the kids. Sadly, this wound up being the easiest part of our trip.

With coffee fresh in hand, we decided to try crossing the street at the light instead. This seemed prudent given the sudden increase in traffic. I only had to press the “push here to cross” button 37 times before the light changed. I totally got it switch to green with my sticktoitiveness. I’m the guy who helps you out by getting the elevator doors to close by passionately hitting the glowing >< button too. You’re welcome.

Now we were on our way. The ShopRite was in sight and there was nothing left to stop us. Other than the lady on her cell phone who never looked right when exiting the parking lot. We had to dart behind her to avoid impact. Like the rest of America, she never even knew we were there.

The purchasing of groceries, as always, was wholly uneventful. That is, until checkout. For some reason the painted woman behind the register with the neon red bee-hive was giving us the stink eye the entire time. She hated our immigrant asses. All of her fears were validated when we told the bagger that we didn’t, in fact, need any bags. We had our stroller and our ubiquitous reusable bags, and asked to just have the goods handed over. The look we were given now went well beyond stink eye and bordered on outright hostility. She actually picked up the phone and haughtily asked her manager if we were allowed to leave without officially branded bags. Ridiculous. I wanted to punch her in her hive.

We were at last free to go and made our way back past the dumpsters, over the rocks, onto the gnarled metal walkway spanning the creek, past all of the cold, averted, bourgeois eyes, and finally to our home. We unloaded the groceries, smiled at our good fortune to live so close to the store and quickly enrolled Annie in a local ESL course.

September 9, 2008


How different life with a second baby is. Matilda is six weeks old today and already I wonder how it is that we second children out there don’t all have complexes. If Matilda could talk what she would say is, “Joe, listen, I know that Annie is cute and that she can say ‘dog’ and ‘dada’ and make the sign for ‘more’, but really, do you think you could give me a kiss once in a while? You are going to be one sorry dad when I decide to say ‘mama’ first, and instead of signing ‘more’ give you a certain sign that I’ve seen on those HBO shows that you let me watch. Oh, and by the way, the sign for more is done with the fingers extended, not balled up into hungry little, yogurt covered fists like Annie does.”

I guess she’s right. I used to joke with my wife about giving Annabelle at least a thousand kisses a day and I find myself doling out just a few for Tilda. I don’t think we parents of two do this as some form of favoritism. I think we do it because, one, we have no time for 41.66 kisses per hour, two, that we realize a six week old baby gets as much pleasure from being held as having your unshowered, three-day-old beard touch her face, and three, that we are literally, in every nuance of the word, exhausted.

This morning as I sat down to write, I thought I would peruse the pictures we have of Tilda so that I could post them within this entry. I realized that there aren’t many to choose from. The folder on our computer from July 2007 (Annie’s first full month) has 436 photos in it. The folder for August 2008 (Tilda’s first full month) has, shit, this is bad, 154 photos in it. Before you tell me that these really aren’t such disparate numbers, I should tell you that just about half of them are of Annie, and at least ten are of me with a helium balloon tied around my head.

Just ask my father-in-law Steve, another second child, about the photos of him around his mother’s house. He’ll tell you there are none, or maybe one. I'm sure a little chat with my sister-in-law Dani would give us a better result? It’s no use. I’m sitting in her living room now and the only pictures of her are either with her older sister (my wife), or are remakes of shots that her older sister was in years before. Uncanny how both of them look so pensive on their prom nights.

I need look no further than myself for the anecdotal evidence that we seconds are a forgotten lot, that is until we find our outgoing, some would say off-the-wall personalities. When I got married we decided to frame one photo of my wife and one of me for each year that we were alive. These frames would then be numbered 1 to 25 and serve as table markers for our guests. My wife’s family pulled out 25 candid photos from the thousands to choose from in no time flat. My family, um, couldn’t find the album that my photos were kept in. They swore to me that this album existed. However, without a chronological, pristinely kept form of organization to choose from, we went with a smattering of awkward shots and yearbook clippings we found in a dusty box tucked under the bed. In all seriousness, I swear that one of the pictures we used—for my fifth year I think—was of my brother sitting on a rock wall in our yard, chewing on a stick. How cute.

So today, I start a movement to honor our second children and let them know with a thousand kisses a day and the camera flashes to match, that we love them just as much as their predecessors. From now on, every post here at Unfinished Dad will have at least one new photo of Matilda. And don’t worry Annie, you can keep mugging for the camera too. If nothing else, we can pretend that you and your sister are the same person when this conversation comes up twenty years down the road.

Can you guess which photos are of Matilda and which are of Annabelle?

September 4, 2008


As it was planned, you were going to be blown away by my prose right now. I was working on a story about my temporary hometown of West Caldwell and a few of its shortcomings. Instead you get a tired Unfinished Dad who is going to take a few minutes to tell you how I feel.

I should have stopped there, but I like to get things out of my system. If nothing else, I will go to bed comfortable...and sleep for 2.5 hours.

Annie's butt is so red that changing her has become a combination Greco-Roman wrestling match/Beaches marathon. There's a lot of crying and tactical positioning. Diaper rash has always been something she's struggled with, but this week's bout has come to red, open sores. My little girl shakes with pain whenever you have to delicately wipe away one of her colossal poops. If you don't have children you don't yet know what it is like to see someone you love so much in pain. Trust me. You love your husband or wife, but something different clicks open in your mind when have a child. You may offend your spouse by telling them this, don't worry they are thinking the same thing. The icing on Annie's butt rash cake is the fever she is running. This is most likely from all of the teeth she is sprouting. She's hurting.

Matilda, and her allergy to cows, is doing fine. Somehow though, I forgot that babies need to be held most of the day. When you have another child who is struggling this really wears you out. So while she is coping I find myself wishing I could set her down. When I'm standing I wear her in one of the 33 different slings/pouches that we own. However, when I sit down she struggles to get free. That kid has a strong inner gyroscope I guess.

The bottom line is that I have the pre bedtime blues. I used to get this way when Annie was a month old too. I'm too tired to stay up any longer and I'm to scared of how little sleep I'm about to get to go to bed. Let's just say I'm looking forward to the days when my wife and I look back on this and reminisce.

Wait, this picture makes me feel better.

September 3, 2008

Back from the beach.

Well, as I have told ya’ll before I am wont to procrastinate. Despite my love of writing I really need to drag myself back when I take time off. Today, being a monumental day in my family’s world, I thought I would give you an update.

I started a new job this morning at what I will henceforward refer to as a “hip local retailer.” Many of you know that I had worked for JCrew for many years. However, while my wife is on maternity leave we are in need of health insurance. Cobra for a family is around $1300 a month. Wow. Consequently, I was looking to come out of retirement. My criteria were health insurance, very little responsibility, a limited schedule, and a fun environment. I thus landed in “hip local retailer’s” stock room, and at 7 o’clock this morning my life as a stay at home dad ended, albeit temporarily.

The more important aspect of this new turn of events is that my wife became a stay at home mom today. And I’m happy to say that she kicked staying at home’s ass. I remember how I felt last year when I embarked on this journey and my heart went out to her all day while I was folding abnormally small jeans. Who has ever heard of a 25 inch waist? When I got home from work the big sister was napping and everyone else in the house was smiling. It was a big relief.

So while I earned $12 an hour, my wife earned her keep in the traditional way. I’m such a man, no?

There are a couple of updates for you here at Unfinished Dad. First, Matilda is allergic to the protein in cow’s milk and after a little stint in the hospital while we were on vacation—everything is fine, I promise—we now have her on special formula. Yes, it is four times as expensive as the regular kind.

Second, I am going to reduce my posting schedule. From now on you can find posts here only two days a week. This is sad, no? My off days are Tuesday and Thursday, so this is when you will see new material here. The idea is that you will get quality instead of quantity. Of course, as with anything else here, if the schedule doesn’t work, we’ll just change it. I am, after all, the boss.

See you tomorrow.