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Babies Don’t Float

17 Jun

KenmoreRedGrillThis past Sunday was Father’s Day and my wife made sure I had a relaxing weekend because she’s the best wife in the world.  I joked a few weeks back that Mother’s Day should be renamed to “Wive’s Day” since my kids are 1 and 3…so I did all the Mother’s Day activities and gifts.  Well, Kate made it a splendid Husband’s Day Weekend.  Saturday I got to sleep in, the boys (and Kate) got me a new grill, Kate baked butterscotch cookies, I played golf with my dad, slept in Sunday, had a pool day with my family and my folks, watched the Heat lose the NBA Finals (I don’t like the Heat), and a fun night with friends.  But…lets go back to the pool day.

Max (3) is very much a fish and can navigate around the pool and other bodies of water just fine with his safety vest on.  He’s fearless.  On Sunday he declared that we was ready to jump off the diving board without me there to catch him and that he wanted to go under water.  This kid loves the pool but hates going under water so I was shocked.  Sure enough…Father’s Day was the day he started doing cannonballs off the diving board into the deep end with no issues around going under water and popping back up to the surface.  Awesome.  Dodge (1) was in my dad’s arms gently splashing at the water and still figuring out the whole pool thing.  I’m pretty sure I ate a pound of cheese & crackers since I skipped lunch and the ladies caught up on art gossip.  When the boys climbed out of the pool for snacks and drinks all flotation devises were shed and the parents and grandparents went on high alert keeping close eye on the edge of the pool.

Then it happened.

Max sat down on the edge of the shallow end and stuck his feet in the water.  Dodge, naturally, did the same.  They began splashing each other with their feet.  Dodge decided he’d stand on top of the water like a puddle to splash Max better.  Everyone saw it and shouted out as Dodge began scooting his little booty into the pool.  I calmly took off my shirt, emptied my pockets, and jumped into the pool as Dodge fell in with a splash…and sank to the bottom of the shallow end.  I scooped him up and raised him out of the water where I greeted him with a smile.  He coughed and looked around in shock but was happy to see I was smiling and there to hug him.  We swam for a minute and then I placed him on the steps where he played in the very shallow water then exited the pool and left the edge alone for the rest of the day.

A healthy fear of water.

Summer in Lake George

Summer in Lake George

Kate and I love swimming but we understand it has dangers.  I’ve cracked my skull open running next to the pool and fallen in, I’ve been hit by a JetSki and knocked out, I’ve tangled my feet up in rope 10 feet under water, I’ve had my regulator stop working at 40 feet while scuba diving, I’ve breathed in water playing water polo, and I’ve lost my bearings swimming at night.  Yet every summer I dive head first into Lake George like an otter and happily swim along the rocky bottom shores at about 7 feet.  Its my happy place.  Both boys have had safe accidents in the pool where they learned water can be dangerous.  Max’s was almost the exact same scenario just over a year ago.  Instead of grabbing them at the edge and risking banging their heads into the wall I let them fall in and realize they don’t float.  It is an important thing to know – and like learning things such as the oven are “hot,” a minor and controlled “accident” is sometimes the best way to learn.  Both Max and Dodge as babies touched the oven at some point and realized that the word “hot” went with the sensation of “ouch!”  Same goes for water, they both figured out that they don’t float.

It is important to note that I don’t condone throwing kids into bodies of water or letting them sink long enough to breathe in water.  No.  I’m just saying…sometimes its good to fall in.  I fell into the duck pond as a kid and my mom let me so I’d learn to stay away from the edge.  Same thing…only no ducks and cleaner water.

To cap off the pool day Max let me show him what to do if he fell in.  He said, “Dada, I don’t float I sink.”  I agreed and asked him if I floated or sank.  He said, “You float because you are a grown up.”  I got in the pool, stopped moving my arms and legs, and sank.  Then I came up and asked him again if I floated or sank.  He asked why I sank.  I replied, “I sink.  The reason I don’t sink is because I swim.”  You could see the light bulb go off in his head and he understood why I was always trying to teach him how to swim without the life vest.  So we ditched the vest, I gave him simple instructions about what to do, and I tossed him into the pool.  He popped back up and stood in the shallow end.  The light bulb got brighter.  “Dada!  I can stand!”  He began running around in circles and found that doggy paddling got him from point A to point B faster.  He was so happy.  I got in with him and asked him to walk toward me (the deep end) and feel where it gets deeper.  He did and found the visual markers that clued him he had gone too far and returned to the safety of the shallow end.  He’s ready to learn to swim!  But that’s for another day.

Sunday, Dodge learned he didn’t float while Max learned he could stand in the pool.  Dodge learned to say “Papa” for my father which made my dad very happy.  Dodge also figured out how to give a proper kiss and began kissing all of us on the cheek.  Both my boys played very nicely with each other and while Dodge fell in the pool he was not so scared that he wouldn’t get back in.  That night I got a kiss on the cheek from Dodge before bedtime, Max during his bedtime, and Kate when we went to bed.  That’s a pretty great Father’s Day and the best gift I could ask for: My family’s affection.



No babies were harmed in the writing of this post.

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Kids Biting Kids

3 Jun

Having 2 boys a mere 2 years apart means there is going to be a lot of wrestling, roughhousing, and fighting in our house over the next few decades.  Max is 3 and Dodge is 1.  Max is overly aggressive with Dodge and often knocks him over, grabs him by the face, and is generally unaware that he is too rough with him.  In return Dodge has mastered an NFL-ready stiff arm, a two-handed defensive shove, and total mastery of the word “no.”  This morning Dodge was not going to put up with any of Max’s antics.  Who knows what happened prior to the incident.  Maybe Max tackled him at one point or maybe nothing happened at all.  Whatever happened…Dodge left his mark on Max today, literally.  At about 8:40 AM Max gave Dodge a very nice brotherly hug.  It wasn’t too rough, it wasn’t an apology, it wasn’t anything other than a sign of affection.  During this hug Dodge turned his head and bit Max’s face as hard as he good causing Max to let loose a blood-curdling scream.  It sucks that Dodge did this during a moment of affection because I’d love to be able to say to Max, “You were too rough with Dodge and so he bit you.”  Instead, we are just saying, “Dodge doesn’t have words yet and this was his way of saying he didn’t want to be touched.”  Truth be told, its probably karma for that time Max bit a kid in the face at daycare.  What’s up with my kids biting other kids in the face?  Is this a kid thing or just my kids?  Seriously…biting…in the face?  Either way, Max has some sweet teeth marks on his left cheek to remind him not to mess with Dodge.  I guess we’re supposed to scold Dodge and teach Max to turn the other cheek?

Dodge (1) bit Max (3) the left cheek.

Dodge (1) bit Max (3) the left cheek.

UPDATE: 3 hours after publishing this post Dodge struck again!  this time he bit Max’s back.  Kate has dubbed him “Sir Chomps-A-Lot.”  Hopefully Max will steer clear of Dodge during this phase.

Dodge bit Max on his back this time!

Dodge bit Max on his back this time!

Perhaps Dodge is a piranha?

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Dodge’s First Bike Ride

20 May

NCFD_Fullpage_templatesWeekends are a time (as a father of 2) to eat things covered in melted cheese, grow a quick beard, and wear basketball shorts like women wear yoga pants.  Its my fatness time.  In my basketball shorts and un-tucked & over-sized tee-shirt I might seem athletic to the FedEx guy or neighbors when I answer the door…but I’m not…I’m relaxing…horizontal style.  However, I peeled myself away from couch patrol to take the kids on a bike ride to the park with Mom, and it was fun.  Dodge (1) had yet to ride in the trailer and Max (3) wasn’t a fan the first time we took him out when he was little.  Turns out the key to success is brotherly love.  The two of them shoved each other, tickled each other, invented games, made screeching sounds, and pretty much had a blast as I towed them down the bike trail.  Every bump in the trail was greeted with hysterical laughter from the rolling 60 lb kid bucket behind me.  They cheered for me to go faster as I lost my breath going up a gentle incline and shouted with glee when we banked around corners on the downhill.  My poor heart pounded rapidly asking me “Why?  Why?  Why?!!!  Why are you doing this…don’t you know you took a blood pressure pill a few hours ago?”  Then the athlete I used to be started to kick back in and reminded me of how I used to ride my bike to work, how I used to go to the gym 3 times a week, and how I used to only order melty cheese things once a week.  “I can do this!  I could bike everywhere!  Cars suck!  This is AMAZING!”

Dodge lost interest soon after Max started a game called “Kick Dodge.”  The wind began to howl and the final push home took everything out of me as I towed those kids down our street and into the driveway against 40 mph gusts.  My wife rolled in next to me with a huge smile on her face…my chest made a smiley face of sweat back at her.  The kids ran in the yard, I chopped down a tree that had died, and everyone napped hard that afternoon.  It was Dodge’s first bike ride…and I can’t wait to do it again.

Max & Dodge in the bike trailer for Dodge's first bike ride.

Max & Dodge in the bike trailer for Dodge’s first bike ride.

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Good Dirt

21 Apr
Dodge Raphael Gates (Age 1)


If you are one of my constant readers then you have most likely become familiar with the term, “good dirt.”  Its one of the many reasons my wife Kate and I moved from New York to Kansas and started a family.  Good dirt.  It is in reference to the fact that when kids shove a handful of Kansas dirt in their mouth (as kids will do) I don’t have to worry about it like I would in a city.  I remember when my oldest son (Max) had his first mouthful of dirt.  I saw it coming a mile away, let it happen, and the reaction was exactly as expected.  That was the last time he ate dirt.  My youngest son (Dodge) is a little more than 1 now.  Easter Sunday he took his first shot at Kansas dirt and had a very different outcome.

As we sat on the back porch of my parent’s house, my kids romped through the yard in search of hidden Easter eggs filled with stickers, toys, and of course…candy.  Max (3) was a very good big brother and made sure to not grab all the eggs to Dodge could find a few as well.  Dodge was much more interested in the pebbles along the walkway.  We pointed out the eggs to him, he’d pick one up, shake it excitedly, then drop it and head back to the path to dig his fingers into the sensory smorgasbord that is a pile of small round pebbles.  That’s kids.  Buy them a cool toy and the box is fascinating!  Build a tree house and the crane is the hit!  Hide Easter eggs full of candy and the rocks on the path are amazing!

20140419_192040It is hard to find good dirt in my parent’s back yard…it is an adult playground that is the reward of a lifetime of labor and hard work.  The wooden patio is not wood but some super dense material that looks and feels like wood but requires zero upkeep.  The pool is chlorinated, the surroundings paved, there is an AstroTurf putting green, and of course…the path:  A swath of light beige paver stones and store-bought pebbles cutting through the yard.  To clarify, I’m not knocking this…it is delightful back there.  I’m just pointing out the setting of this story.  The grass is real, the dirt below it is real, the trees are real, the flowers are real, and so on.  However, the pebbles are not bonafide “good dirt.”

eatdirtWith this setting in mind…the stage is set.  Max is on the putting green rolling golf balls, the adults are on the patio having cocktails, and Dodge is…wait…where is Dodge?  Dodge is sitting on the path scooping up giant handfuls of pebbles and letting them fall back onto the path.  He is very happy.  Then, as any 1-year-old may do, he placed the handful in his mouth.  My first reaction was, “ah yes…good dirt.”  Then I realized my son was hoisting a faux-rock choking hazard to his mouth and shouted out at him, leapt to the path, and removed the rocks from his mouth with my fingers.  I pulled the rocks out of his hand and told him that eating the rocks was “no, no, no.”  He’s 1.  Who knows what he heard or understood and about 5 minutes later he got one round grey rock about the size of a pea into his mouth again…this time when I went fishing for it in his mouth…it was gone.

Its Monday.  The rock has not graced us with its presence yet.  Dodge is fine…but we’re on the lookout for a poo-laden, pea-sized, grey pebble from the rock store that has gone missing from my parent’s back yard path.  They don’t want it back but should arrive any day now.  It looked very smooth and round like the rest of the pebbles.  We shall see.  This weekend I was planning on filling the window wells at my house with pebbles and black river rocks.  Now?  Maybe wait a few more months.  The moral of the story?  I think it may be that “good dirt” is a state of mind.  Its easy to pick out the faux items at my folks house because they’ve designed their yard to be low maintenance.  My yard?  Much of the soil is from the nursery and hardware store, the grass is from seeds I bought, and I have my fair share of cement and window wells.  While there is real “good dirt” to be found just 15 minutes of me in the prairie…my “good dirt” is the safety of knowing how I’ll react when my kids ingest the earth…which is, “Meh…good dirt.”  See you soon small pebble!


Happy Easter 2014

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Toddlers Sleeping Through The Night

15 Apr
Baby Max Asleep

Baby Max Asleep

It would appear we’ve come full circle…its time to get Dodge (1) to sleep through the night like we did 2 years ago with Max (3).  Dodge is stubborn…real stubborn.  He’ll kill you with kindness during the day, but at night it is clear who is in control of this family.  Dodge.  He likes to sleep…but only if he is held.  My wife and I like to sleep…but only when we’re not holding a baby.  Max likes to sleep…and can sleep through a Mac truck derailing a train into an air-horn factory.  My wife Kate and I are at our limits of patience and needed to make a change.  We can’t leave him with a sitter because he just screams in their faces till he’s blue and stubbornly refuses to go to sleep.  He throws toys out of the crib, pounds his fists on the railing, and no matter what…he will not lay down.  He stands.  Stubborn little dude.

A little research online (funny enough) brought me to this article:  “1-Year-Old Not Sleeping Through The Night.”  Its my own article I wrote about Max when he was exactly the same age as Dodge and I was ready to pull my hair out as a new parent at the end of my rope.  Dodge frustrates me like Max, however, I’ve seen Max evolve into the wonderful kid who puts himself to sleep and sleeps through the night.  I know the answer is within sight and this time next year sleeping won’t be an issue.  Sleep is coming soon…sleep is coming soon.

Sleepy Dodge

Sleepy Dodge

With Max, Kate and I made a plan and it worked.  It was a very new parent 1st kid plan.  Lots of thought went into it because I was reading about how you can’t nurture your kids enough and should hold them anytime they cry and books about how to ween them away from needing you and teaching them to sleep on their own.  This time around?  Less plan – more adult sleep.  Dodge woke up crying after Kate put him to bed and I went up to comfort him.  He calmed once I entered the room.  As usual, he would not lay back down and threw a fit when I tried to help him back to sleep…so I picked him up and cuddled him in my arms.  I like to press my face against his cheek, kiss him relentlessly, and sing softly to him.  He was asleep in my arms in seconds.  However, now is the part where he opens his eyes every few minutes to check and see if you are still holding him and still rocking the chair.  It can sometimes take 30-45 minutes to get him back to sleep (which he could easily wake up from again in an hour) which is ridiculous.  Limp in my arms I placed him into the crib and his eyes shot open, the tears came pouring out, and the crying began.  Kate prepared to come in to take over and instead I just put up the “stop” hand, looked Dodge in the eyes, gave him a kiss goodnight, said “night-night,” and left the room.

Dodge cried.  Dodge stood.  Dodge stomped his feet.  This is what Dodge does every night.  The difference this night was no one responded to any of these actions.  Game on!

Sleep Standing

Sleep Standing

I sat angrily on the couch and kicked a pillow.  Its frustrating not being able to put your own kid to sleep!  It sucks putting in hours every night on a project that fails!  Kate and I agreed to let him cry for 15 minutes to tucker himself out as we have done in the past.  After 15 minutes we decided to give it another 15 to see what happened.  Once we hit the 30 minute mark we figured “why not?”  We went for 60.  After an hour of crying and stomping Dodge ran out of steam.  He fell asleep…sort of.  Stubbornly refusing to lay down he rested his head on the crib railing and went to sleep standing up.  STANDING UP!!!  That’s stubborn!  Adorable…but stubborn!  He tossed and turned trying to find a more comfortable position but there is nothing comfortable about sleeping while standing.  Seriously…I’ve never seen anything so stubborn.

He stirred when we came upstairs and cried for a few minutes.  Kate looked at me wondering what to do.  I looked at her wondering what to do.  We looked at the monitor.  Still sleeping…sort of…standing up.

Photo Apr 14, 11 24 26 PM

Still sleep standing…moments before giving up and collapsing for the night.

I put my airplane-grade earplugs in, cranked up the sound machine, turned off the light, and went to bed.  Somewhere around the 2 hour mark Dodge gave up and laid down.  He went to sleep on his own.  He woke up around 6:30 AM when he normally does, cried, rolled over, and went back to bed.  He didn’t wake up till 8:45 AM!  A full hour after Max!  Since I was the last person he saw the night before I wanted to be the first person he saw that morning.  He was fine.  His head had not fallen off, he had not turned into a devil, and he was happy to see me and held no grudges.  All was fine.  Last I saw he was playing cars with his brother Max, sporting a giant smile, and looked as happy as he does every day.  The only difference was Kate and I got 7 hours of sleep and felt fantastic.

blood-moon-nasa-eclipseThere was no plan last night.  The plan was, “Are we doing this?”  Yes…its on like Donkey Kong, earplugs ahoy, and let him cry it out.  There’s a saying I always tell the sitters that I had to tell myself last night, “No baby ever hurt themselves from crying.”  Max is using the potty, Dodge is gonna sleep through the night, and darn it all…I’m going to not step on a toy car in the middle of the night when I get up for a glass of water!  The kids can have their day in the sun…but Dada and Mama will have their night in the moon.  Oddly enough last night was the “Blood Moon” which began about an hour after Dodge laid down and went to bed.  We had planned on staying up to see it since we’d normally be up with Dodge…but plans changed.  Second child experienced parent changed.  Good night…and good luck.


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