January 29, 2009

Nature or Nurture?

So, Nature or Nurture? I have a feeling that this topic will find the population split down the middle. I also have a feeling that it is one that might get everyone’s dander up a bit. On the one hand, you Nurturers out there would like to think that you have a hand in shaping your mostly wonderful children, and the thought that their paths may be out of your control troubles you. On the other hand, you Natures out there have a ready excuse when your child hits mine over the head with a big orange ball—I’m guessing you don’t want to hear that you may have something to do with this behavior.

As a parent of two children, I believe that I am currently witnessing the answer to this debate. It is well chronicled that Annie has what I would call a distinct willfulness. She has often decided that sleeping through the night not only wasn’t for her, but fought for hours on end proving it. She is also prone to frequent tantrums in which she either throws whatever she is holding—food, toys, Tilda—or quickly rolls on the ground and kicks around until the bout passes. The latter version is getting funnier as she gets older, because she now realizes that hitting your head on the floor hurts. Accordingly, in the middle of her red-faced fury, she gently goes to the ground via hands and knees and then properly freaks out.

Tilda on the other hand, is the serene child that I believe most seconds are. When Tilda cries, it is for one of the three natural reasons: I’m hungry, I’m sleepy, I need to poop. Even when one of these events occurs, she cries for just a minute or two, and is then back to her easygoing self. She is not yet to the true age of reason—I would put that at eight months—but she is at the dawn of it. It is certainly possible that she will be every bit as obstinate as her sister. Instinctively though, I think she will continue on her monk-like path.

If it is not already clear. I am in the Nurture camp. I take full responsibility for the fact that the above story about the big orange ball was actually reversed, and Annie whacked some girl in the head today at play gym. I apologized profusely for my role in this to her mother. You see, Annie was lovingly pampered for the first 13 months of her life, as most first and only children are. She always slept in my arms. I was convinced that letting her cry would damage her future psyche. I thought it was cute when she threw the remote at my head. As a wiser more tired parent of two, I realize that all of those little indulgences have lead to who Annie is today. Don’t get me wrong; what Annie is is not bad. It’s wonderful and exciting…sort of like snowboarding on steep terrain; you aren’t always sure of the final outcome, but you definitely enjoy the possibilities along the way.

Tilda has had a tougher road in her first six months. There have been so many times that she has had to wait patiently for me to feed or change or hold her. Often, the best I could muster were loving words and a quick kiss while trying to feed or change or subdue Annie. This dynamic has always weighed heavily on my conscience, but I am slowly realizing that she may be all the better for it. She already seems to deal with neglect challenges in a manner not befitting her age.

Am I giving myself too much credit as parent? Am I being too hard on myself about Annie’s tantrums? I can only look to the small case study that is my family and say that children seem to respond very strongly to the environment that is provided them. If you are involved in every second of your child’s day, she will probably be needy as she grows up. If you leave her to her own devices, she will probably learn to cope with the world around her. Before you call me naïve or inexperienced, let me say this: The preceding is my opinion as of January 28th 2009. One thing I know is that things change. With kids they change almost every day. There is a good chance that at this time next year my position will be reversed, and I will write a post about how it’s all Annie’s fault that she is still hitting that same girl over the head with her orange ball.

An Alfred or a Jack?

I've been holed up in the ice reading Ken Follett's The Pillars of the Earth, figuring out my beliefs on nature vs. nurture. Will my children grow up to be Alfreds or Jacks, and can I do anything about it? For now, Annie is trying to type at the same time I am, so we can table this discussion for later today or tonight.

Here though, is a photo taken by my wife, that I love.

January 27, 2009


Washington, DC and Annie saw their first snow today. For Annie, it was the first time she had ever seen freshies, and though it may seem that way for DC, I think it may have snowed here back in '84. Annie also went sleigh riding (only after I left high school and Vernon, did I find out that no one else called it that. We also kind of called mischief night, uh, goosey night) for the first time as well, and as is her wont, she made the most of it, taking some some good tumbles in the process.

January 26, 2009


There has been a lot of commentary on the Tilda sitting up video. I think this must have something to do with what a cherubic figure she cuts. My favorite sentiment was that of my sister-in-law Dani, who rightly assumed that Tilda's big sister would be jealous of the attention that the video camera afforded. She didn't push Tilda over, but simply rolled around on the ground screaming until I stopped my foolishness. This is surprisingly effective.

There have also been a lot of complaints about he lack of pictures here. Please accept the below photos as an apology.

January 22, 2009

A Milestone

Today was a big day for little Tilda Claire. She sat up for the first time. As this short video shows, she wasn't quite as excited about this as I was. And, uh, neither was Annie. Depending on your outlook on life, this clip is either very sad or very heartwarming.

What a Week

It has been a very exciting week here in DC. You may have heard that we had an important guest milling around. I wasn't able to go downtown and see him, but I hope to in the beginning of February. He will be appearing at 9:30 Club on the 3rd, and if I can get tickets I will be swooning just like the rest of America. Here for you as a sneak peak, are two of my favorite highlights from that all important day, January 20th 2009.

January 20, 2009


There are many people out there who, with more eloquence than I can summon, will describe the events that took place here today. They will transport you with their words to Washington, DC from your homes in Shreveport, Hamburg, Raglan and beyond. I felt lucky to simply sit on the couch with my two daughters—and a box of Life cereal—taking it all in from afar, while my wife was celebrating within steps of the capitol with her mother. Though, every time the camera panned over the crowd, I found myself wishing for Annabelle and Matilda’s sake that they could have witnessed this in person, affording them the luxury of telling their future schoolmates that they were on the Mall for the swearing in of Barack Obama. One thing I can say with confidence—today feels different than yesterday.

January 18, 2009

A Sentence of Sorts

I’m a huge fan of commercials. Not those overwrought, behemoths that they produce for the Super Bowl, but the everyday commercials that either make me want to put my foot through the TV, or make me want to know more about the actor who just gave me 30 seconds of joy. I’ve told you before; I watch a lot of TV. Therefore, I’m pretty good at both spotting commercial trends and picking up things that your average consumer may not care enough about to pick up.

This weekend I was watching football and a Comcast commercial came on that touted whatever shoddy package they are currently hocking. The spot was predictably boring, but the real fun started at the end when the music they chose rose high enough above the fatuous voice over for me to identify it. The section of the song they used had no lyrics, but it was unmistakably Of Montreal’s A Sentence of Sorts in Kongsvinger. Either Comcast assumed no one would know this relatively obscure song, or they didn’t dig to deep into the Of Montreal catalog before selecting it.

Here are some samples before I get to the specific track they chose. My favorite four album titles from their nine LP discography are: The Gay Parade, Coquelicot Asleep in the Poppies: A Variety of Whimsical Verse, Satanic Panic in the Attic, and my favorite album, Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer. The last of which happens to be the greatest breakup album of all time. If I had to choose their best lyric, I'd go with: I guess it would be nice to give my heart to a God/But which one, which one do I choose?/All the churches filled with losers, psycho or confused/I just want to hold the divine in mind/And forget. Searchingly plaintive and disparaging at the same time, no?

So, I’m not to sure that Of Montreal is exactly the sort of band that a corporation would have play at their annual Holiday Party. Maybe I’m wrong and their CEO is really into the indie music scene. If that’s the case, I will write another 2500 word letter defending these thieves.

A Sentence of Sorts is certainly not Of Montreal’s most risqué song. However, in the spirit of full disclosure, I will include all of the lyrics for you here.

I spent the winter on the verge of a total breakdown
While living in Norway
I felt the darkness of the black metal bands
But being such fawn of a man
I didn't burn down any old churches
Just slept way too much, just slept

My mind rejects the frequency
It's static craziness to me
Is it a solar fever?

The TV man is too loud
Our plane is sleeping on a cloud
You turn the dial, I'll try and smile
We've eaten plastic weather
This family sticks together
We will escape from the south to the west side

My mind rejects the frequency
It's just verbosity to me

I spent the winter with my nose buried in a book
While trying to restructure my character
Because it had become vile to its creator
And through many dreadful nights
I lay praying to a saint that nobody has heard of
And waiting for some high times to come again

My mind rejects the frequency
It's static craziness to me
Is it a solar fever?

The TV man is too loud
Our plane is sleeping on a cloud
You turn the dial, I'll try and smile
We've eaten plastic weather
This family sticks together
We will escape from the south to the west side

My mind rejects the frequency
It's just verbosity to me

Dirty old shadow, stay away
Don't play your games with me
I am older now, I see the way you operate
If you don't hurt me then you die

My mind rejects the frequency
It's static craziness to me
Is it a solar fever?

The TV man is too loud
Our plane is sleeping on a cloud
You turn the dial, I'll try and smile
We've eaten plastic weather
This family sticks together
We will escape from the south to the west side

My mind rejects the frequency
It's just verbosity to me

Okay, that probably wasn’t necessary. As you can see though, Comcast would not have picked this particular song if they had to use it in its entirety. Interestingly, when we last used Comcast, I was on the verge of a total breakdown while living in Louisiana.

Originally, I also planned to write about my favorite trend in commercials—what I call the Bob Stephenson trend—but this post became more about a band I love than the television. We will have to revisit commercial repetitiveness and the man who spoke Fight Club's best line. ”Of course it's company policy never to, imply ownership in the event of a dildo... always use the indefinite article a dildo, never your dildo.”

January 14, 2009

If It Was Good Enough For Dinosaurs

This story makes me feel so manly. When you couple it with the other new scientific find in which it was discovered that early cavemen are thought to have cried at the end of You've Got Mail, I'm on a regular manliness roll.

January 12, 2009

A Slippery Slope

Over the holidays, at “home” in Northern New Jersey, I found myself walking down the street in Montclair. It was Christmas Eve, and though the ground was white, the sky was gray. The freezing rain that fell chilled my bones. It pooled on the sidewalks, collecting on top of everything, including the ice and snow from a storm days before.

Just south of Valley road, I began to pick up speed. My feet skimmed the surface of the ice covered bricks that replaced the traditional sidewalk in this up-and-coming section of town. I found myself starting to lose control, and remembered navigating the old, perpetually unplowed hill, that was my route to and from the bus stop as a child. My muscle memory told me that trying to stop would surely result in disaster. It also told me that speeding up, should the end of my makeshift ice rink not appear soon, would result in a brief hospital stay. While contemplating a quick dive to the right into a nearby snow bank, I spotted the end of my red brick luge, and decided to push forward, impending traction be damned. I narrowly made it to the end, heart racing, legs flailing like Fred Flintstone, walk-running in simultaneous slow motion and silent movie haste.

Back in the warmth that is the Barnes and Noble on Bethesda Avenue here in Maryland, it dawns on me that my trip down the icy sidewalk of Montclair is not dissimilar to my efforts to get my daughters to sleep through the night. Once you start down a certain path, changing directions is nearly impossible, and stopping will surely result in similar disaster. Can you wind up in the hospital from lack of sleep?

If you will recall, I declared victory over Tilda’s sleep patterns nearly four weeks ago. Since then, we have taken that trip to New Jersey for Christmas, dealt with a head cold, and held our noses through a particularly malodorous stomach bug. These events all conspired to undo my hard work. And like the first step onto those glaring bricks, feeding Matilda in the middle of the night sent me sliding down the path to sleep deprivation.

Since our return to Chevy Chase, and that first bottle, this is exactly how my nighttime life has played out. That first time, I fed Tilda around four in the morning, because her nose was clogged. Then I fed her at one in the morning, because her diarrhea had breached her size two Pampers. The next thing I knew, she was up at the ungodly, and decidedly infantile hours, of ten, one, and four. Five months down the drain in two short weeks of bad breaks.

I have always maintained that a parent doesn’t decide to sleep train—in any capacity—until they are at the end of their rope. Last night I reached that frayed end, and let my darling, chubby cheeked, pink skinned little girl cry herself to sleep. She pulled off the feat at bedtime, but failed at ten, crying for over an hour until I fed her. At four, she cried for an amount of time between five minutes and forty-five minutes—I passed out on the couch—and slept until nine o’clock this morning.

Within that topsy-turvy night, there were victories and defeats. At this point I know better then to call it one way or another. You never know when the next virus or cold will spring up. Or, for that matter, when Tilda will decide she likes to sleep with no intervention at all. When it comes to sleep in our house, it has always been a bit of a crapshoot, and it has always been a slippery slope.

January 8, 2009

A Public Service Announcement from Unfinished Dad

Dear Readers,

As someone who suffers from a sort of forced sleep deprivation, I thought it important to detail for you the signs to be weary of should you suspect you are sapped of this most precious resource.

1. If you fall asleep on your stomach and your beard fills with drool, thusly soaking your pillow...your are tired.

2. If you fall asleep on your stomach and your beard fills with drool, thusly soaking your pillow and you don't even bother to shift positions...your are beat.

3. If you fall asleep on your stomach and your beard fills with drool, thusly soaking your pillow, and your arm falls asleep because it is wedged awkwardly underneath you...you are tuckered out.

4. If you fall asleep on your stomach and your beard fills with drool, thusly soaking your pillow, and your arm falls asleep because it is wedged awkwardly beneath you, and you still don't shift positions despite the immediate, real possibility of losing a limb...you are exhausted.

5. If you fall asleep on your stomach and your beard fills with drool, thusly soaking your pillow, and your arm falls asleep because it is wedged awkwardly beneath you, and when you finally shift positions due to the immediate, real possibility of losing a limb, your arm isn't just asleep, but dead, and when you lift that arm above your head to see if the feeling will miraculously comeback, only to find that is just sort of folds at the elbow, hitting you in the face like a wet steak...you have kids.

Hope this helps,

Unfinished Dad

January 7, 2009

It is 3:40 in the morning, and for the first time tonight, neither of my two children are crying. I cannot reiterate for you again how this makes me feel. I am choosing not to go to sleep so that I can spite my body and seal the deal on this being the worst night ever.

January 5, 2009

A Normal Part of Growing Up?

There are certain subtle clues that your child is entering the terrible twos. They may begin to resist your utterance of the word no. Or, they can get frustrated easily when attempting to stack blocks. Maybe your child became a picky eater when they entered this infamous developmental stage, forgoing fruits and vegetables for crackers and cookies. When these harbingers of true toddlerhood show themselves, your parenting skills are finally put to the test.

Other times, the evidence of your child’s burgeoning temper is placed directly on your lap. In my case, this happened earlier today at the doctor’s office when the nurse politely stapled Annie’s physical stats to a leaflet entitled Temper Tantrums: A Normal Part of Growing Up. If you asked her, she would tell you that it had nothing to do with Annie's being sprawled out on the floor naked and crying. She would, I’m sure, reassure you that they give “The Tantrum pamphlet” to all parents of 18 month olds.

Many of the tips that the pamphlet contained are tactics I use at home, not always to the best results. Encourage your child to use words. Avoid situations that will frustrate your child. Be prepared with healthy snacks when your child gets hungry. Over my child’s normal part of growing up, I posed a few questions that were inaudible amidst the din. What happens when the only word your child utters is no? How do you avoid frustrating situations when that includes, well, all situations? Also ma’am, are snickerdoodles considered healthy snacks? Sadly my inquiries went unanswered.

Overall, Annie was doing great physically. Her stats were as follows: Height 31.25 inches, Weight 24 pounds, 13 ounces, Head Circumference, 18.6 inches. The head stands out above the rest. Is that not huge? It must be all brains. Or, if not brains, then certainly spirit. When she puts her mind to it, that girl can wail.