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Hello.

 

You ever think to yourself, “Man, I think I might be able to get back to creating some cartoons and writing and blogging again.  I think the kids are older and life is getting a little easier.  And I think I’ll be motivated and inspired”?

Or did you ever think, “I’m almost 40 and I’ve done nothing with my life”?

 

Hello.  It’s good to be back.

 

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Parenting With Style(s)

They used to say that children don’t come with User Manuals.  And maybe that’s still true, for your particular model, anyway.  But if you’re looking for a general set of instructions on how to care for and raise your recently acquired human flesh baby, you will not be at a loss for choices.

We have a particular, thick, worn out tome now buried under pop-up books and empty snack bowls.  Its cover is severely warped, there are pages torn or missing completely and the whole thing will be forever stained with avocado, breast milk and urine.  It was a go-to book during L.J.’s first year.  She was new.  Parenting was new.  And our own parents were 3,000 miles away with their “I told you so’s” and their “Feed her a steak and she’ll sleep through the night.”  The book guided us through teething and fevers and rashes and cradle cap.  I had no idea cradle cap existed, so imagine my relief when the book explained that the grotesque yellow flakes of flesh peeling away from my child’s tender and fragile head were not early signs of now owning a lizard baby from the mini-series V.

But while this book could guide us through the straightforward medical type stuff (what temperature is mildly irritating and which temperature is a cover-her-with-ice Jacob’s Ladder scenario, for instance), it had little to offer in the way of how to raise this little bundle of poop, snot, flesh flakes and rashy redness.  (L.J. was still cute, mind you.  We have pictures to prove it.)  Common sense tells us you should just raise your child as you were raised.  This seems about right, though I doubt my children would want me to divorce their mother and only visit with them uncomfortably on birthdays and Christmas.  And besides, I have no recollection of how I was raised and cared for during my formative years.  I’m sure my single mother did a fantastic job since I survived those years without losing a limb, but as far as specifics go, I wouldn’t know.  And even Mom only remembers bits and pieces of the details.  Something about rolling off of a table and thinking my younger brother cried far too much.

Plus nobody wants their parents to tell them how to best raise their child.  So my wife and I took it upon ourselves to research some parenting philosophies that would tell us how to best raise our child.  There are plenty out there:  Attachment Parenting, Continuum Parenting, Consensual Living, Whole-Life Unschooling, Micromanaged Trans-Parenting, Murphy’s Law.  I might have made one of those up.  Also, I might not have.

Truth be told, we’re not clueless people.  If we never picked up a book or read a web page, I think we’d still be doing a decent job connecting with our kids, teaching them right from wrong and not losing them at the mall.  But it’s nice to have some written guidelines to reference and refer to when you’re dealing with a screeching two-year-old on three hours of non-consecutive sleep.  We easily gravitated to Attachment Parenting.  Here’s the Wikipedia definition:

Attachment Parenting is a parenting philosophy based on the principles of the attachment theory in developmental psychology. According to attachment theory, the child forms a strong emotional bond with caregivers during childhood with lifelong consequences. Sensitive and emotionally available parenting helps the child to form a secure attachment style which fosters a child’s socio-emotional development and well being.

Hug your baby.  Got it.

Of course there’s more to it, and the books break out the major principals and break those down into action items.  There was little offered that we probably wouldn’t have been doing already– natural childbirth, babywearing, breastfeeding, co-sleeping, and so on– but it was nice to put a name to our already chosen style.  At its core, AP is basically about being there for your baby with love, sensitivity and respect.  Not hard to do for a man that fell head over heels in love with his kids the moment he saw the ultrasounds.  As we dug deeper into Attachment Parenting, there were aspects we didn’t quite agree with or expect to practice, but that’s normal in anything.  Like I think a lot of us do, my wife and I will often pick and choose the best parts of something to practice and enjoy.  From religion we take Christmas and “thou shall not kill.”  College basketball:  Final Four.  Pornography: girl-on-girl.  The same goes for Attachment Parenting.  Sure, we are comfortable calling ourselves AP parents, but we still eat meat on Fridays.

So, ironically, we’re not attached to Attachment Parenting or any other styles of parenting or parenting methods.  (Though we swear by The Sleepeasy Solution.  It saved us.)  (Oh, and there’s one other method of parenting I champion because I created it.  Or labeled it, really.  Will be writing about that here soon.)  We are, however, entirely attached to common sense, which was what we liked most about the parts we liked in Attachment Parenting.  It’s hard to go wrong with Common Sense.  If your child is crying, Common Sense tells you to go to her and ease her distress.  Common Sense will also tell you when she’s faking it.  If your child hits someone, Common Sense tells you to stop her and correct her.  If it was a hearty hit, Common Sense tells you to enroll in some karate classes.  If your child begins to choke on a grape, Common Sense tells you to try and get that grape out of her throat.  It’s all fairly easy stuff, really.

Until you talk about it with another parent, of course.  And then it is all wrong.  All horribly, irreversibly wrong.

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Work Doodles – 4/11/11

I doodle during conference calls, and there just hasn’t been that many over the last few weeks.  This is why you haven’t seen a new Work Doodles for a while.  My job offers no extended downtime during the week, except for a call or two.  And that’s when the pen gets moving.  For the most part, I just start making shapes and see what comes out of it.  I didn’t think to myself, “Try sketching an airport,” it just sort of happened.

But I did choose to draw those four animals in the top left corner.  They are characters from my long-dormant webcomic All Boxed In. I’ve been thinking about adding the comic to this blog as a weekly feature.  Perhaps posting on Sundays like the Sunday funnies.  They are, after all, comic strip characters starring in a comic strip about being comic strip characters.  Or something close to that.

Do me a favor.  Click on the link above (to start at the very beginning) or this link here (to start around the middle, where I ditched coloring the strips) and read a few.  Let me know what you think.  I will be bringing them back, even if you tell me it’s terrible.  But if you tell me why it’s terrible, it may help me make it better.

And I thank you.

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Thank God For the Portable Potty

The condition of a men’s public restroom has never really bothered me.  I had long ago trained my bowels to hold off its usual routine of digestion and evacuation while away from the safety and entertainment magazines of my home toilet.  So sitting down on an unfamiliar, wet, disease-covered toilet seat has never become an issue.  Unflushed, uncleaned, unmanned.  Didn’t matter much to me.  Point, shoot, wash, and leave.  I didn’t even mind if there was a gentleman or two hanging out soliciting, um… a favor.  A kind, “No thank you,” always did the trick.

But now I have kids.  Two daughters, in fact.  And occasionally I’ll have the sole responsibility of their potty breaks and diaper changes.  It’s rare, but it happens.  Usually it’s the wife that’s alone with the kids.  And historically, a women’s lavatory is always kept in spit-spot condition– cleaned thrice daily, exhaustively stocked, sitting areas with sofas and TVs tuned to Oprah, aromatics timed to expel every ten minutes.  Or so I imagine.  I’ve never had the privilege.  At the very least– 90% of the time– the ladies room will have a wall-mounted changing station.  Not so for men’s rooms.  Heck, we’re lucky if there’s a lock on the door.

Recently, my wife has been working on the weekends, which means it’s just me and the girls and hours to fill.  In case you don’t know, LJ is three and H is one.  One is potty-trained; the other is a ninja with a diaper.  And though I’m great with the sandcastles, hide-and-seek, tickle fights and general goof-ballery, I’m a bit of a wreck when it comes to corralling the pair for a potty break and diaper changes.  In public, that is.  At home, no sweat.  At home, there’s little worry about one of them stepping in a mystery puddle, backing into an exposed screw or getting curious about the pink urinal cakes.

But any anxiety I have over facing bathroom breaks with the two of them on my own wasn’t about to stop me from getting them out of the house on a gorgeous Sunday morning.  So it was off to the Los Angeles Arboretum and Botanic Garden, with their glorious landscapes and free-roaming peacocks.  It’s a wonderland of foliage and fauna, and as an added bonus, it’s never been all that crowded when we visit.  We were all having a great time, until a bulbous diaper was spotted and a restroom needed to be found.  And while the Arboretum takes great care in maintaining their beautiful climate-themed gardens, they appear to have spent no time worrying about the condition of bathrooms.  Concrete floors, nests of bugs, little room and no changing tables– for the men, anyway.

Thank god for portable potties and designer changing mats.  Instead of trying to make due in those less than stellar conditions, my oldest was able to pee into a bag in the glory of nature, while the baby could be changed on a park bench of happiness.  And not wanting to feel left out, I took a dump behind a Chionanthus retusus.  The outdoors was our bathroom, and really, isn’t that the way things should be?

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My Daughter Has a Bear Named Munnus

There are a lot of things my wife and I are doing to screw up our children.  Not intentionally, of course, but it’s happening.  Mostly– so far– it’s small things.  Like the naming of stuffed animals.

When L.J. was born just over three years ago, the teddy bears, stuffed frogs and plush elephants came rolling in.  They were numerous and great, and as she grew, they all became her everyday playthings.  The little one couldn’t talk yet, so it was up to the wife and I to name each of these distinctive animals.  The very first teddy bear was called Bear.  Nickname: Teddy.  It was the first, after all, so why would it need to be named anything else.  Later came Blue Bear, Colorful Bear and Winter Bear.  Winter Bear has a green scarf.  We were going to go with Green Scarf Bear, but that was a bit of a mouthful.  Colorful Bear eventually became Dirty Bear because she took it to the park once.

The wife and I didn’t pre-plan this naming strategy, it all happened naturally.  It’s not like an 8-month old L.J. was going to understand calling a fuzzy pink hippo Emily any more than calling it Hippo.  So we called it Hippo.  See, we were teaching our little lady while directing her to the toy we were too tired to walk across the room to pick up ourselves.  That’s a hippopotamus.  That color is green.  Naming it Big Ear Elephant covers a lot more ground than calling it Juju.  And it worked.  She knows her animals, her colors, her sizes and her body parts.

But she can’t name a new stuffed animal anything normal to save her life.  Unless you think Munnus is normal.

L.J. is now at the age where she understands that people and animals shaped to look like people all have names.  She knows I have a name besides Dad.  She can name the Seven Dwarves.  Everybody has a name.  So when it came time to name her first ever Build-A-Bear, she knew she had to come up with something.

“Okay, sweetie.  Now we get to name your bear.  What should we call her?”

“Munnus.”

“What?”

“Um… Gerbotch.”

“Oh.  Well… What do you want to name her?”

“Uh… Munnus.”

She had said Munnus twice, so we went with that.  Munnus.  It’s Gaelic, I think.

And so as new dolls and bears and multi-colored caterpillars arrive on birthdays and holidays, new names keep popping out of her mouth.  “Sheembo.”  “Flugotty.”  “Murchbooten.”  Most of the time they don’t stick because she and the rest of us have a hard time remembering them.  But at the time, it all makes sense to her.

“This is Carshup.”

“Oh.  Carshup.  Hello, Carshup.  Why Carshup?”

“Well, Carshup is Carshup, so… Carshup.”

Can’t argue with that, I suppose.  But Carshup didn’t stick.  Just like this little naming oddity won’t stick.  In fact, her gibberish names are even starting to stumble into normalcy.  She has three frogs she plays with in the tub.  Their names are Kah-Non, Toombo and Cindy.  Finally– a name that didn’t get flagged by spell check.

Should we have given Bear a more thought-out name oh so many years ago?  Perhaps.  But then we might not have Munnus.  None of this is actually a problem, really.  It’s a phase, as they say, and one we will miss and reminisce about over and over again in the coming decades.

Of course, truthfully, we’re screwing up our kids in much bigger ways.  Like how I inadvertently taught my daughter to hate.  But that’s a topic for a later entry.

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Killing Time. Killing it Dead.

Where do you find the time?  Yes, you.  The parents reading this. The ones with a full time job.  The ones with children clinging to your leg, screaming about having a broken graham cracker.  Where do you find the time to do the things that I read about you doing? On Facebook I see it.  I see your many statuses about your Zumba classes.  Or movies you just saw.  Or marathons you’re training for.  Or jewelry you’re been making to sell online.  Or the book you just read.  The adult book with no pictures and words like “obfuscate,”  “paradoxical” and “antidisestablishmentarianism.”  Where are you finding the time?  Because I’m finding it difficult.

Of course, I’ve never been great at time management.  Well, let me rephrase that.  I’ve never been great at personal time management.  At work, managing time is all I do.  I schedule, I prioritize, I assign, and I follow up.  But on my own time, I procrastinate and, what’s the technical word– dilly-dally.  Why do today what you can do 15 minutes after it was supposed to be finished?  It doesn’t help that I’m terminally exhausted.  The instant a moment of time does open up, I opt for a nap as opposed to, you know, actually getting something constructive done.

But you people do it.  You have careers, kids and, apparently, time to pursue other interests.  So I know it’s possible.  Heck, I’m even proving it can be done by putting this little blog entry together.  I only hope I can keep it up.  And that’s why I need to know:  Where do you find the time?  Literally.  Share your tips and strategies.  Is it as simple as turning off the TV?  (I owe this entry to a rerun of How I Met Your Mother.)  Is it a matter of reordering my day?  Or must I simply wait for the kids to get older and need me less?

Comment below.  Help a guy out.

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Work Doodles – 3/11/11

So here are two of the many things that have kept me from making this an active blog:

1: No routine.

2: Worry about the art.

To help remedy both of these ridiculous issues, I’m presenting the outstandingly cleverly titled “Work Doodles.”  This will be a weekly, routine post which will help me, you know, make posting more of a routine.

“Work Doodles” will also, hopefully, help me get over my silly concerns with the imperfections in my drawings.  I’m not a professional artist.  It’s not going to be as perfect as I would like.  So weekly I’ll offer up sketches where it’s not about trying to create a perfect shape, it’s just about, well… doodling.

The bits below were collected from a few weeks of team meetings and conference calls, so don’t expect as many as this feature becomes weekly.  Routine, as it were.

Enjoy.