December 31, 2008

The Mysterious Production of Eggs

Remember when I used to post five songs for you to listen to every week? I don't think I want to take that on again, it is time consuming and expensive, but every now and then something comes along that has to be shared. This is Andrew Bird. Enjoy.

December 30, 2008

The Greatest Civilization Ever

Dear Japan,

My family and I will be moving to you immediately. Please have a Matsushita toilet ready for me upon my arrival.


PS-by the time we arrive, both of my now diapered children will be full fledged Pants Men

December 29, 2008


There’s a lot of talk around here about how to get a baby to sleep longer. It seems every other month I’m writing about STW this or STW that. No one ever talks about how to wake a baby. From what I can gather in speaking to other parents, getting your kids to sleep through the night is no more difficult than say, doing the dishes, or brushing your hair. Everyone else’s little babies go to sleep both willingly and often. Since mine don’t do this, I thought we might talk about the little understood art of baby waking.

This was going to be today's post. Then, true to form, Annie woke up before it got going. It was to be filled with witty, ironic ways of waking children. Such favorites as napping, blogging, cleaning and watching re-runs of Top Gear would have made appearances. I was to come back to this post tonight, but my wife got home late from work. So, Tilda went to bed at 7:00, then Annie went to bed at 8:00 in order to spend some QT with her mother. By the time I was done cleaning up after dinner I realized that the can of formula I had would not make it through the night. The time was 10:21 and the night was already over. I got back from Giant at 10:47. A quick switch of the laundry. A lickity-split setting of the coffee pot...And Good Night.

December 28, 2008

Home Sweet Home

There's nothing quite like knowing that your children are sleeping soundly and safely in their own beds. We are back in Chevy Chase tonight. This house becomes more and more our home every time we step through its weathered, blue door. Our trip to New Jersey was much less stressful than its Thanksgiving predecessor, mostly because my darling Annabelle has finally realized that when exhausted and screaming, with tears pooling under your eyes, the best bet is to take a little cat nap. Matilda of course slept the whole way, waking up every now and then to give us a wide-mouthed smile. I do, truly, have a beautiful family.

December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas

From mine to yours.

December 23, 2008

New Jersey Christmas

We left Chevy Chase this morning in that hour between when footfalls behind you make your heart skip a beat and when you realize those same steps are just your neighbor taking out the garbage. Everything is different when you are outside two hours before dawn. I was loading the car when Annie's learning puppy started singing one of her Broadway style tunes and I nearly found myself using one of the many diapers I happened to have handy.

It looks like we got out just in time too. I'm not sure I have ever seen anything like this. The folks caught in this impromptu river must be counting their lucky stars tonight.

The trip back today was a good one for a couple of reasons, most notably that it didn't take seven hours. But also because neither my wife nor I found ourselves crammed into the 11 inch space that passes for the back seat of our Mazda 3. Annie kept her cool for most of the four hour trip (five if you include the snack/diaper break) and we water main surfed into town feeling good about a road trip for the first time in months.

December 19, 2008

It almost fits...

Long day of shopping and errands. I leave you for the weekend with Annie in her Dad's favorite vest. Some might even call it Super.

December 18, 2008

Around the Block

Confession Alert: Warning, if you are a member of the local police department, social services, or my family, please stop reading and visit Unfinished Dad again on Friday, December 19th 2008. Thank you.

Last night when I returned home from my five hour Wednesday reprieve, I forgot to move my car so that our babysitter could pull out of the driveway. She had made it all the way down our sloping front lawn before I remembered that I was blocking her in. I didn’t think it was fair to have her come back into the house, take her coat off, and watch the beasts for another five minutes while I jockeyed our cars.

Instead, I did what any sensible parent would do. I bundled up Annie and carried her out to the car so that she could sit with me while I backed out of the driveway. She gets a great kick out of sitting on my lap and trying to honk the horn, so the trip would also curtail the performance of her daily six o’clock freak-out. We slowly pulled out of the driveway to give the babysitter enough room to back out and then I saw multiple sets of headlights crest our little hill. Consequently, I had to pull about fifty feet down the street to let them all pass.

Once I was out there though, I realized that because I live on a one way street, I would have to back all the way up to our driveway. It was at this point that I weighed my options. One: Drive backwards up a hill, in the dark, with a baby on my lap. Two: Drive around the block, in the dark, with a baby on my lap. I chose option two, even though while completing option two, I continuously thought about both the death of my beloved Annabelle and the maximum prison sentence for child endangerment.

Three right turns, two minutes, and three attempts to hide my secret from walking neighbors later, and we were home. My heart was racing at my utter stupidity. I truly never considered option three: stop car, put baby in car seat utilizing high tech, five point safety harness, and continue around block. Once safely inside, I was soon rationalizing my actions as something parents back in the day did all the time. You know, before the curtailing of regular beatings and lead paint. Sadly, I was not to be convinced.

Hopefully, some of you readers out there asked yourselves the only relevant question regarding my idiocy and this post. Where was Tilda this whole time? Uh, sitting in her swing in the house, in front of our very see through, glass front door.

December 17, 2008

Chevy Chase

We moved to the haven that is Chevy Chase six weeks ago, and since then most of the space here has been taken up by the ladies of the house. It dawns on me that many of you may not know why the town we now live in was named after the man who portrayed Clark W. Griswold and the Landshark to such fame in the 70’s and 80’s. Truth be told, despite knowing that our town came first, I wasn’t sure if the actor was born here or not. I will tell you more about the connection between the two later. For now, let’s delve a bit further into Chevy Chase, the municipality. Or, as I like to call it, Chevauchee Chace.

I believe the linked document will pretty much explain it all to you. However, if I must, I will continue on afterwards with more facts, history, and miscellany. Oh, and just so you know, I wouldn’t normally call in a consulting arborist, but the one that we keep on staff has been out on disability since we moved.

Okay, let’s move on, sort of. Chevy Chase takes its trees very seriously. Our yard would actually be a great one for the arborist to come see. Every neighbor I have met has asked if I would continue the policy of allowing them to come and suburban forage our fig tree. I haven’t said yes or no yet, because I’m told it’s a rare yellow fig tree, and that the fruit it bares are quite tasty. I may want them all to myself. We also have a Catalpa tree, or what I think is a Catalpa tree, and two of the most magnificent spruce trees that you have ever seen.

Now we can actually move on. Chevy Chase was formed in the 1890’s and derives its name from—Bum Ba Da Dah—its “historic associations to a 1388 battle between Lord Percy of England and Earl Douglas of Scotland. At issue in this "chevauchee" (a Scottish word describing a border raid) were hunting grounds or a "chace" in the Cheviot Hills of Northumberland and Otterburn.” Of course.

Mystery solved. Well, half the mystery solved. What of this man who derived his name from our town? It turns out that Cornelius Crane Chase, the son of prominent New Yorkers, was nicknamed “Chevy” by is grandmother who got the name from the medieval English Ballad of Chevy Chase. Naturally, the ballad drew its name from the same battle in the Cheviot Hills that bestowed its noble name on the residents of our Maryland town.

One last note on Chevy Chase. We have the greatest freaking listserv ever created. Since our arrival, we have used it to obtain a free futon—a clean, free futon—freecycle our refurbished vacuum and four bags of rotting mulch, and to donate a kidney. We could have anyway…if you go through the trouble of registering, check out post number 63240. Now that is an active community.

Many thanks to Chevy Chase dot Org and the Cheviot Hills of Northumberland and Otterburn for information on this post.
Many, many thanks to the person who invented the word freecycle. It’s not exactly a term they used in Louisiana, so I really like to use it whenever possible.

December 16, 2008

Montgomery County

I'm not much of an organizer, or a participator for that matter. Now that I have children, this is something that I'm trying to change. I'm comfortable being alone, but they should make up their own minds about such things. So far I have been quite successful in the endeavor, as Annie makes friends wherever she goes. If you are the lucky recipient of a random hug on a playground in New Jersey or Maryland, then you know what I'm talking about.

Montgomery County, our new home, threatens to take me from a person who was involved in nothing, to someone you'd see around town toting his kids and his latte, organizing play dates, or getting playgrounds built, or, I don't know, running for town council.

Today I took the kids to the Leland Community Center for an "open gym" from 10:30 to 12:00. They do this twice a week and get inundated with about 50 hopped up children, who run and scream and thankfully exhaust themselves for an hour and a half. Sidenote: Annie napped for three hours later in the day. Bonus. While I was there, I found out that my $25 annual fee gets me the playtime and use of all of the other Montgomery County facilities. There are too many to list here, but one of the Dad's that was there plays basketball twice a week at one of five different gyms in the area. In New Jersey I used to drive 40 minutes to play basketball. This fat Dad is going to play some ball tomorrow night. That sounds like a post all by itself. If I live to tell about it, that is.

You may have noticed that I put the words "open gym" in quotes. I was expecting a small group of moms and their kids, docilely playing on wooden slides, climbing through multicolored tunnels. Um, no. We walked in to a literal open basketball gym buzzing and swarming with children, from infants to five year olds. For this throng of children there were two trampolines, a gym mat, a donut thingy to sit in, a slide, and about 20 basketballs. It was a freaking free-for-all. I was happy that Annie is not only social, but kind of, ah, aggressive? She didn't take any crap from anyone. Not even the boy who kept taunting her with his toy fighter jets and yelling at her when she had the nerve to reach for them. Little creep. All in all it was a great trip. You do have to factor in the nap you know.

Let's get back to the new, more sociable, Unfinished Dad. Our new home just seems to be in this vortex of civic pride. We know most of our neighbors, who know the ones we don't know. We've been invited to crafting parties for the kids. Yes, I went, and met all the other moms. We dished recipes with a smattering of town gossip. Chevy Chase/Bethesda seems to be filled with people who care, a lot. Let's not forget that we had our lawn raked by a group of local business owners, who happen to be a 11 year old girls. Provided that all of this doing doesn't wear on me, I think that this will be a perfect environment for the girls to grow up in. Keep your eyes peeled for Annie and Tilda's House Cleaning Service: We Wear the Bibs, So You Don't Have To.

December 15, 2008

VICTORY! cont'd

Okay, let's jump right into the meat of this. Unbelievably, Tilda was a harder nut to crack than Annie was as far as sleep is concerned. By the time we reached our fourth night, Annie gave up and slept for twelve hours. Tilda on the other hand, cried for over an hour on Saturday night and I still had to feed her. Consequently, before we put her down last night I was a little nervous.

These weren't the same old nerves about knowing that I would be up four times in a night. These were the nerves that come from knowing that you are going to have to listen to your daughter cry for, what, and hour and ten minutes? That is a stupid number. There is no way I was prepared to go over an hour. Instead, my plan was to continually give her a pacifier and a kiss until she fell asleep--no matter how long it took.

Instead, when I heard a cry at 6:08 it was Annie and not Tilda. Life isn't perfect, I guess. Everything worked out well thought, because there aren't many things I enjoy more than a little sleep time with my baby. Pretty soon, Annie will be in bed with us, and I will be sneaking upstairs to steal some Z's with her sister.

NB: I should have been much more excited about this post. After all, my new life (fingers firmly crossed) has begun. However, tonight was budget night, blech, and I'm on a post money talk low.


I don't have time to dish all the details just yet--I am sitting with two completely rested babies--but just know that this Dad had his first full night of sleep since July 29th 2008.

December 12, 2008

STW 2008 Night 4

Last weekend, my wife and I were driving home from a friend’s house in Northern Virginia, simultaneously listening to the kids scream and NPR. I’m not usually much for their news coverage, but I love some of their “slice of life” style programming. I get such a kick out of how every presenter, man or woman, speaks in the same monotone, slightly interested, slightly disinterested voice. It's very comforting. On this night we were enjoying a program about psychology and health, the name of which I can’t recall. In traditional “Pete’s Schweddy Balls” voices we were treated to a fascinating story about SIDS.

It seems that in the 1920’s doctors thought they had solved a new medical mystery that was afflicting infants in the United States. Children under six months old were mysteriously dying and no one could figure out why. Once the death toll reached into the thousands, the autopsy results started coming in from around the country. Doctors noticed one common theme in all of the infants. They had unusually large thalamus glands.

They concluded that the large thalamus glands were pressing on the infants tracheas if they rolled over in a certain manner. At the time, radiation treatment was just discovered, and they decided that as a precautionary measure, parents should start radiating, and thus reducing, their children’s thalamus glands. Of course, a generation later, with a whole subset of the population stricken with cancer, their folly was discovered. SIDS wasn’t cured and thousands more were essentially killed.

You see, back in the early part of last century, the search was on by hospitals for cadavers to perform autopsies on. There was a shortage of usable bodies for this burgeoning science, so the field of grave robbing was born. The practice was soon rampant and the wealthy started to protect their recently deceased with guards and fences. Naturally, the grave robbers had to turn to more off the beaten path—some would say extremely poor—cemeteries for their corpses. There was no money to protect these graveyards and the hospitals were soon back up to speed in the dead body department.

The link between all of these cadavers and the new study concerning sudden infant death lay in the financial well being of the bodies being studied. Apparently, the more stressed a person is, the more ragged their thalamus gland becomes. It stands to reason that the poorer a person is, the more they scramble and fight to stay afloat, worried about their job, and their family. The more stress they carry around with them, the more they also carry around the physiological symptoms that come with it. As it turns out, doctors were only studying abnormally small—overworked—thalamus glands.

Sadly, when they autopsied the infants, they discovered abnormally large—in actuality normal—thalamus glands. There were no healthy bodies to study; therefore doctors never knew what a normal body looked like. They made the natural leap, and sought a way to combat a perceived problem. Their error now seems so obvious. The question is what are we studying and “healing” today, which down the line new science will reveal to be archaic and ultimately uneducated.

Okay, as you have seen before, I like long segues. This story was well timed in that it coincides with Sleep Training Week 2008, and the fears that come with it. As I type this, I listen to Tilda screaming, no doubt while lying on her belly. Soon she will pass out and I will be left to wonder about SIDS, and life, and life without her. Everything is just a little fucked up at night. Your senses are wonky. Your imagination runs wild. SIDS isn’t a monster under the bed, but the rationalization of it works just the same. I know the odds are that Tilda will be fine; that doesn’t let the mind rest any easier on the pillow.

Last night, when Tilda finally fell asleep after 45 minutes of crying and a well timed replacing of her pacifier by me, she was out until 5 A.M. Sweet. A full night’s sleep. Oh no, that’s right, I was up on the couch until 12:45 waiting for my wife to come home from her firm’s annual Holiday Party and then Annie woke up at 2:30. I didn’t want her to wake up Tilda, so I indulged her with a nice long hug, and boom, full night’s sleep up in smoke.

December 11, 2008

STW 2008 Night 3

Three days into Sleep Training Week 2008, and here I sit in my pajamas at 2:10 PM. Last night was both successful and unsuccessful. Matilda went down to sleep more calmly than usual and didn't really make a sound until just after midnight. This is a longer first stretch than she has had of late, and with it came an old fear. You get very used to hearing your children. People often talk about the theory that when they are silent they are getting in the most trouble. I don't have too much experience with this yet, but I can tell you that when your children don't make a sound at night, you always think the worst.

One of the very strange effects of sleep training with Annie was that I began to miss spending the very personal time with her that was our middle of the night feedings. I'm determined not to get caught up in this with Tilda. However, last night when she woke up just an hour into my beauty rest, I was something less than distraught about going up to see her. She was, naturally, alive and well, and eagerly awaiting my arrival. Not to worry, I was completely distraught at 5 O'clock when I had to get up again.

I'm not sure if there were and tangible victories in sleep training last night. We will see tonight if the quiet beginning was a fluke or a byproduct. So far I would say that the best part about STW 2008 is that Annie has finally gotten used to Tilda's crying and no longer wakes up every time her sister does.

Tonight we move to 30 minutes--25 seems pointless--an interval that really started to get results with Annie. I'm torn about this. My wife has her holiday party at the Law Firm and is sure to be home quite late. Consequently, I will most likely deal with the first 30 minute stretch all by my lonesome. I may need a beer.

I have an added bonus for you today. Anyone who can properly guess what the below picture depicts gets a special prize from the Unfinished Dad vault. I'll give you a hint, the prize does involve time with children and does not involve time with me.

December 10, 2008

STW 2008 Night 2

If you ask my wife, I am the more tolerant, possibly heartless, member of our parenting team. Unlike her, I am able to listen to one, and sometimes two, children cry at the same time. When we did STW 2007 with Annie, I had to send her out of the house while I listened to Annie wail. Part of this is my training, I have to listen to a lot more crying than she does at work, and part of it is my teeming maleness.

In my experience, there seems to be a physiological reaction that many women experience when children cry. Part of it is linked to breast feeding and the physical need for mother and child to connect. However, the phenomena seems to cover all ages. Annie is beyond what most would consider breast feeding age and her crying can still sends shivers down my wife's spine.

Consequently, sleep training Tilda should be easier the second time around, no? Well, last night we upped the ante to 15 minutes and I was kind of a mess. At 11 O'clock we listened simultaneously to The Hills and Matilda's desperation--ironically they sounded one and the same--and when I finally went up to feed her I was crying. What a mush I have become. I found myself kissing Tilda's head over and over again until she fell asleep.

At 2 O'clock we went through the same routine, only with my wife giving me a mid-nite break and handling the duties. I was thankful for the respite, but no less distraught while laying there in bed listening. At this point we were five feedings into STW 2008 with no measurable results. We were both taking things worse than Tilda I think.

My turn in the rotation would be coming up soon enough. I dosed off and awaited my fate. At 5 O'clock I heard her stir and was soon whimpering--Tilda was that is. However, she never fully woke up. She peeped now and then for the next two hours and woke for the day just before 7 O'clock. Our first measurable success had occurred. Never before had Matilda woke up and gone back to sleep without either of us giving her a pacifier, holding her, or feeding her. Tonight is a new night, we up the stakes to 20 minutes, but I go into it with new hope. Also, I'm not sure if you caught it, but technically I got a full night of sleep out of the deal. That definitely sounds like success.

Editor's Note: If you don't know what The Hills is, and consequently don't know the joy of hating Spencer, the provided link should get you up to speed.

December 9, 2008

STW 2008

Gather round kiddies and bring your sleep deprived parents with you. Collect your binkies, your pacies, your bobs, and your soon to be water logged little thumbs. It's time for Sleep Training Week 2008: The Tilda Edition.

Tilda has been breaking out of her swaddles lately. Thanks to her new found strength, she now has to sleep with her arms unfettered. This is a huge adjustment, and she is having a lot of trouble relaxing, as her arms still bust out the old Moro reflex from time to time. Too bad evolution isn't perfect and this reflex doesn't disappear before babies shed their swaddling cocoons.

With Tilda's arms out, she has more trouble getting to sleep, but once down, she is much more comfortable. Like her sister before her, she has already taken to sleeping on her belly. This is scary, yes. However, when babies roll over on their own, the only alternative is to sit bedside and keep flipping them back over. That would be stupid. If Tilda wants the comfort of having her chubby little cheeks pressed into the mattress then so be it. That's why we spent the big bucks on an organic mattress made by the Amish. Hmm. Should I be worried that the previous company's website is no longer selling these mattresses? Note to self: look into this.

Let's get down to the meat of this post. Last night was night number one of STW 2008. We let Tilda cry for 10 minutes before going in to feed her at 11 O'clock and then again at 4 O'clock. Tonight we up that time to 15 minutes, then 20 tomorrow, 25 on Thursday and so on. When we did this with Annie, she was sleeping through the night by the fourth day. She of course has had well chronicled regressions, but I can say pretty comfortably that she is a good, okay mediocre, sleeper. Here's to Tilda and the hope that by the weekend this Dad is sleeping through night right along with her.

December 8, 2008

Antiques Are Sometimes Better Admired Than Used

We paid a visit to Annie and Matilda's great great Grandmother's yesterday and had a nice family dinner that I didn't have to cook. We didn't bring a high chair with us, so I assumed that Annie would be sitting with me while we ate. Then my wife's Aunt Katy broke out her antique high chair/stroller/torture device. The chair has been in the family for forty years and is almost certainly older than that. I found some pictures of similar chairs from the early 1900's. One note: this high chair was cool to look at, but was dangerously unstable. I spent the whole meal with one hand balancing the chair and the other feeding mac and cheese to Annie.

December 5, 2008

Every Girl Needs a Good Pair of Boots or So I'm Told

Annie got a new pair of rain boots last week and she never wants to take them off. She says they go with everything, even pajamas. The kind with tags that is.

December 4, 2008

Is Your Child Wearing Their Tag On Their Back?

Annie woke up today with a disturbing rash on her upper back. Fortunately for us, the culprit has been on our radar for a while now, so we knew exactly what caused it. She has a few pairs of Carter's tagless pajamas and said company has been in the news lately for the chemicals they used in their Fall 2007 product line. Despite the reports, we never thought that this would happen to us. She has been wearing all three pairs for over a month now. The pajamas we own were purchased at Costco last spring, so it is certainly possible that they are from last Fall's line, however there are reports of rashes from multiple seasons of Carter's clothing.

The rash itself doesn't seem to bother her--though it looks scary--and everything I have read says that it will clear up in a few days. This description, on the other hand, is a bit disturbing, "It was bright red. It was oozing, weeping. It was just bad. I started to pull and the skin came off with his pajamas."

The main issue that I have with this is that tagless clothes don't seem to be made for the reason that we all might think. Comfort is the clothing manufacturer's stated rationale. However, from everything I read, cost is the only factor in the switch. Tags cost money, or maybe the extra stitches needed from a child in a Chinese factory cost money.

Now, I'm not a very reactionary parent, and I don't plan on suing Carter's, but what the Hell? Because of a children's clothing company's decision, my daughter has a disgusting red rash on her back. If her skin had peeled off with her clothes I may have thrown a bit of a fit. I certainly would have written a nice long letter and demanded my money back for the skin melting items I purchased. Well, that Grandma Liz purchased. No matter, the point remains the same.

December 3, 2008

TV, Dusty Corners, and a Bloody Big Toe

I’m a true stay-at-home-dad again, and I’m trying to get back in my groove. Between two children, house cleaning, cooking, and writing, the days have been a little full. So what did I do today? I added Gymboree for Tilda to the list of things to do. Annie benefited both physically and socially from our weekly Gymboree dates and the guilt I feel over Tilda’s developmental learning curve was just too much to bear. The added bonus for Tilda is that today is a babysitter day and she gets me all to herself. She really deserves this. Granted, I love—I mean really love—to be alone, but she has never had the opportunity to experience the super stay-at-home-dad that I can be.

I know there are other parents at home with multiple children, so I have some questions for them. One, how do you keep your houses clean? My house is just getting by, what with the dog hair in the corners and the dishes in the sink. So how is it, exactly, that you aren’t embarrassed to have friends over? Two, how much do you look forward to your night on the couch with the Television? I know that it isn’t cool or progressive to love TV anymore, but in the tradition of Dolores Price, I worship at the altar of our television. I’m just too tired to pretend that I don’t. Take last night for instance. When I was making dinner and baby juggling, I was comforted by the idea that once bedtime was over I would be pacified by the stellar Tuesday night triple of House, Fringe, and Eli Stone. No matter what, they would be there for me and I could vegetate for a little while. Oh, and don’t even get me started on Thursday nights. I live for Grey’s Anatomy—I’m kidding, this life hasn’t softened me that much. But the thought of Alec Baldwin’s wry quips and a little Jim and Pam romance is enough to make me swoon.

I do have a some serious business today. Annie got her first real boo boo. She dropped a toy truck on her toe and bled enough to warrant a Band-Aid. I don’t count the time she got her black eye because she couldn’t see it. In the mind of a toddler that means it doesn’t exist. This little cut was very real, I’m sure she’ll be pointing to it all week. The black eye, fortunately, was forgotten about in an hour.

December 2, 2008

Coming Soon to Theater Near You

The actors in this one truly were spoiled brats. You should have seen their catering bill. And forget about their entourage. In the end though, their collective genius really came through. Many thanks to my wife for the most of the shooting and all of the editing.

December 1, 2008

Stay at Home Dad Part Two

A new chapter in my life begins today. My wife is blow drying her hair right now for the first time in four months. You know what comes next? She goes back to work. If she will pardon my bluntness--things may finally go back to normal. There is a saying out there about too many cooks in the kitchen. In this man's opinion, it should be restated as too many parents in the household.

I like to make decisions regarding the day-to-day activities of our family without any outside help. This probably sounds selfish or overbearing, nevertheless it's true. So, today I get to start making the decisions about what we all do again. The first thing on our agenda will be to make a lunch date downtown with my wife. I'm going to miss her so much. I'm nervous to do this alone, and the idea of a day without her opinions and input and love sounds terrible.