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How this Dad Stopped the Nagging and Started Rewarding Instead

Dadcapades Girl to do list croppedMornings are annoying

“Now that you are done eating, please go brush your teeth and get dressed for school.” <Five minutes later> “Put your lunch in your book bag. And why are your dirty clothes still on the floor?  How could you forget, they are right there in front of you.  Did you remember to brush your teeth?  No!!! Hurry up and brush them, the bus is almost here.”

After School is frustrating

“How many times do I have to tell you get your folder out of your book bag?  And why is your coat on the floor AGAIN.  <5 minutes later, after nearly falling to my death> “PICK UP YOUR DAMN BOOK BAG!!!!  I almost broke my neck tripping over it!!!”

Bedtime sucks

“OK, Jack, did you brush your teeth yet?  No?  C’mon brush your teeth.  Kaylee, please go pee already, I’ve asked you three times.”  <5 minutes later> “Why haven’t you brushed your teeth yet?  I don’t care if Sarah had your toy, you have to brush your teeth.  Why are you getting on the toilet?  YOU HAVEN’T PEED YET????”  <5 more minutes later> “OK, let’s go read your books.  I told you already to have your book picked out, do we need to skip a book tonight?  It’s already 10 minutes past your bed time, c’mon let’s go!”

A non-parent listening in on this spectacle just once may spontaneously become infertile to avoid ever experiencing this themselves. Yet, this song and dance repeats itself in our home day after day, week after week…and yes, year after brutal year.  “Someday we need to find a way to make this easier.”  I hate you “someday.”

After entirely too many non-somedays, someday has finally arrived.  It came too late to save my sanity.  Much too late.  But, it came none-the-less.

Someday is Here

One technique we’ve had some success with in the past is the idea of removing the parent versus child dynamic.  The basic idea is you make some other thing be what they are pitted against.  Something that isn’t the will of the parent.

The best example of this was our sons Kindle Fire with Kindle Free Time.  Free Time is an app that controls how long the tablet can be played for.  Once the specified time is up, that was it, tablet time was over.  There is nothing we can do about it, the tablet says time is up. This removed all whining, begging, and pleading because there was nothing we could do about it either.  It worked remarkably well.

One day while thinking back on that wonderful application that Apple STILL DOESN’T HAVE!!! I started wondering how I could do something like that with their various routines.  Something that would get us out of this groundhog day from hell that is our lives.  My son actually planted to seeds to the solution by, in a fit of exasperation, saying “I wish you would just make me a to do list instead of nagging me all the time.”

The Chart

So.  I did.  I created each kid their own customized routine chart.  It has pictures and words for each individual task they have to complete for Before School, After School, and the dreaded Bed Time.

We had to pick a reasonable number of tasks, so we went with ~5 to start.  Each task has a checkbox.  To make it easy to reuse, I laminated the sheets so they can use dry erase markers (you can pick up a laminator for as little as $14 at Aldi or Amazon).

The New Routine

Now, instead of ushering them through each irritating step, we just announce “OK, time to get your chart done!”  If we have a deadline, we will set a kitchen timer for motivation.  They now usher themselves through the processes, checking off boxes as they go.

Do we still have to nag?  Oh hell yeah, but it’s decreased the nagging by 80% at least.  Instead of that mess at the top of this post, we just say “you are running out of time to get your chart done.”  If we find clothes on the floor we just say “make sure each box is checked.”  Just the reduction in the number of words has made this a huge success; I no longer want to throw myself down the stairs from being tired of hearing my own voice.

The Reward…with Benefits

The chart alone would be somewhat effective.  It is definitely an improvement on the old model.  However, we needed something else to motivate them to want to use the chart.  We had also been struggling for a long time on how to hand out time on their tablets.  It’s been a major source of contention (Apple REALLY needs a Free Time like service).

So, we decided to reward them with iPad time for successfully completing their charts with minimal nagging.

Each Sunday night they get a 30 minute token to be used the following weekend.  Then for each day they successfully complete all 3 routines, they get a 15 minute token.  Then come the weekend, they turn the tokens in for iPad time.

If they have a perfect week, they get 2 hours and 15 minutes of iPad time to use throughout the weekend.  Not only is this a great motivator, but it once again gets us out of the “keepers of the iPad” game.  We can now say “sorry, you used up all of your tokens.  There is nothing we can do about that.”  We aren’t the bad guy.  If they do better next week, they can have more time.

One thing we have decided to never do, is take tokens away once they’ve earned them.  We can deny them getting a token on a specific day for bad behavior (though I really want to limit that), but we cannot go into their room and take one away.  At this point, taking their tablet away is the nuclear option, only to be used for egregious misbehavior.

The Tokens

Rather than use plastic coins or pretend money, I made my own tokens.  I picked something they liked and put the number of minutes that token is worth on it.  Then I printed them, laminated them, and cut them out like coins.  This also avoids any shenanigans where they may “accidentally” end up with each other’s tokens since they are unique.

The kids each have a special spot where they put the tokens they earn so they know right where to find them come cash in time.


Once they get used to this setup and start becoming more reliable with their charts, we intend on adding some extra options.  Examples:

  1. Trade in tokens for money
  2. Earn additional tokens by doing extra chores
  3. Tokens for grades maybe?
  4. Gift tokens just because we feel like it

Is it Working?

After three weeks I can say it is absolutely working.  It’s not perfect.  There are days where we still have to remind them to do things on their chart…but it feels like reminding now, not nagging.  I haven’t said “brush your teeth” or “did you go to the bathroom” in over a week, that is down from 20 times in a night (seriously…20 times).

I’ve included the links to the original Microsoft Publisher file as well as the charts in PDF and JPG.  Feel free to hack em up and make them your own.  If you use them, let me know how it goes.


Dadcapades To Do List – To Do list in Publisher format (need to change the file extension to .pub)

Dadcapades to do list – To Do list in PDF

Time Tokens – Time Tokens in Publisher format (need to change the file extension to .pub after downloading

Time Tokens – Time Tokens in PDF



The thrill of discovery…and Star Wars


Dec 18th is here, Star Wars the Force Awakens day.  The anticipation is killing me as we won’t see it until Monday the 21st.  Somehow I have to avoid the sea of spoilers until then.  I have never in my life wanted to avoid spoilers more.  There is a reason for that.

The first movie I remember watching was Star Wars.  I remember visiting my dad’s friend’s house, he had way more money than us, and watching Empire Strikes back in his bedroom on his very own VCR, such extravagance.  I remember asking my dad repeatedly if we could go back to that guy’s house so we can watch Star Wars again.

It was a different time.  No digital copies, no DVDs, no On Demand, VCRs were too expensive…it was the dark ages.

Regardless, I was hooked.  I would watch the movies endlessly when we did get a VCR (maybe it was cable, I can’t remember), I wanted nothing but Star Wars toys, and, as my dad has recounted a million times, I once said “You know who I remind myself of? Luke Skywalker.”

I really like Star Wars.

Fast forward a whole lotta years and the movies still hold a special place for me.  There are very few things I look back on more fondly.  It is… me. (sorry, wrong movie).

Of course, when my son was born, I couldn’t wait to introduce him to the Star Wars universe.  In a strange twist, however, he didn’t learn about the universe from the movies, rather he picked up all the characters from video games.  Angry Bird Star Wars and Lego Star Wars.  That was nice and all, but it felt anticlimactic all the same.  The first two times I tried watching the movies with him (granted, he was 4 and 5 those two times) they just didn’t hold his interest.

I had some genuinely low moments, downright pouting cause my own son didn’t like Star Wars.  My wife, the sage she is, kept urging patience.  I aint got none of that.

Then…it happened.  I showed him the first Force Awaken teaser trailer, 6 months before the movie came out.  He loved it.  We watched in 5 times.  We watched it the next day.  Within a week he had gone from liking Star Wars on the periphery to being a true blue fan.

He wanted to watch the movies, wanted the toys, wanted books, and wanted to watch the trailers over and over again.

We did watch them over and over again.

Our excitement grew as release day kept coming closer and closer.  A decision I am currently regretting is that we decided to avoid opening weekend as none of us do fantastic in a crowd.  Instead the wife and I decided to pull him out of school on Monday the 21st so we I can take him to see the movie in a much smaller crowd.  HURRY UP MONDAY!

Anyway, I told you all of that, to tell you this.

One of the dads in a great Facebook group I am part of posted a quandary. He found out his company is offering take employees to see Star Wars on opening day, paying for the tickets, and doing it all during working hours.  Awesome right?

But, should he take them up on that offer or wait until Sunday to see the movie with his family for the first time?

For me the answer would be a resounding no.  I’d rather work and miss out on seeing the movie on opening day. Why?  It’s the same reason I am avoiding spoilers.

We often share our passions from our childhood with our children, its a great part of being a parent.  Share the same Legos we built with, show them our favorite movies, introduce them to our favorite toys.  As wonderful as those moments are, they are us imparting things to our kid.

This is different.  It is much much more.

In that theater, when the words “A long time ago, in a galaxy far far away…” pops up on the screen, I will squeeze my son’s hand…and he and I will feel the exact same sense of anticipation.  When the John Williams’ score blares as the words STAR WARS appear on the screen, my giddyness will match his giddyness.  Then together, we will read that floating marquee and together we will get our first glimpse of this new universe.

Every discovery in this movie we will make together. I will look at my son and see the same exact wonder I am feeling mirrored in his eyes.  And when the credits roll, and the theme music is once again reverberating in the theater, we will high five each other and excitedly recount our favorite parts and we will be doing it together.  I will not impart things I’ve loved to him that day, instead we will fall in love together.

Memories with strong emotions are the most significant memories we have.  Saving this movie until we see it together means this one moment will bind us together with an emotional memory neither of us will ever forget.  This is a moment we will remember for a lifetime.  And we will remember it together.



Shooting Away a Crinkly Heart with Happiness

When I was growing up, talking to other kids gave me mountains of anxiety.  I had a terrible time making friends. The suggestion “Just go over and ask if you can play” was akin to suggesting I cut off my pinky finger with a cigar cutter.

I would withdrawal at the first sign of discomfort.  Other than my cousins, I had no actual friends until late in middle school.  It wasn’t until 11th grade I finally beat the anxiety and found some confidence.

So, needless to say, I have been very worried that my son would have similar issues.

After something that happened this week, though, my concern is starting to dissipate.

My son Jack Jr is 6.5.  My wife and I have not been the greatest at getting him together with friends, something we are actively working on.  To that end, we finally got him over his best friend’s house (for the first time in months…we suck).

By his account, he had a lot of fun.  However, shortly before I arrived to pick him up, a couple neighborhood boys came over.  One of them apparently took a disliking to Jack.  In my son’s words:

“He kept saying I was cheating at everything.  He said I was cheating in soccer and in freeze tag, but I wasn’t.  Then he told me a bunch of times I should “Zip my mouth!”

I asked him what he did when the kid was saying those things.  He answered:

“I just ignored those things he was saying to me.”

We were in the car, and through a quick glimpse in the rear view mirror I saw him start to fidget.  Then his voice started to break a little.  I braced myself.

“Daddy.  Remember when you said any time my heart gets crinkly I should talk to you about it?”

A crinkly heart is his amazingly apt description of anxiety.  We had a talk a few weeks ago that anxiety is OK, that its there to warn us something might be wrong.  But I told him sometimes anxiety goes haywire, and so he should talk to me whenever he feels it so we can learn to deal with it together.

After I assured him he should definitely tell me, he had this amazing thing to say:

“Well, when that kid was being mean my heart got crinkly and it made me feel sad.So, I just ignored the mean things he was saying. And then, my happiness shot the crinkly feeling away, and my good feelings came back. Every time he did it, my happiness pushed the crinkly feeling away and made me feel better.  I just thought about my happiness every time.”

At that moment, each chamber in my heart went in a different direction.  I was anxious and annoyed that my son was treated badly, I was stunned and speechless by his amazing insight, I was proud…I mean  crazy freaking proud, and I was relieved that my son may not endure the years of loneliness I did.

After my mouth moved wordlessly for a few moments (it really did) I could think of nothing to say other than “Son…you are amazing.” To which he replied humbly “Thanks.”

After that we came up with the idea that the next time this happens, he should approach his friend’s parents and say “I think Kid X and I are having a hard time. Could you help us play better together?” He rather liked that idea.

There is a ton of parenting advice articles that seem to come at things from every conceivable angles. It can be exhausting figuring it all out. One thing that seems generally consistent is getting your kids to understand their emotions is important.

We try our best to get our kids to tell us how they are feeling and help them to understand why they feel that way. It seemed like the right thing to do, but we were never quite sure.

After seeing his ability to work through this all on his own, I am definitely a believer.

Have your kids every impressed you with handling situations better than you had as a kid?

When Postpartum Depression is a Family Affair – Part 1

Shortly after the bursting incision incident, I started to notice that my wife was struggling.  She cried.  A Lot!  Seemingly for no real reason at times.  Other times she would cry because she thought she screwed something up with the baby.  Things started getting dire when she would cry because she thought the baby would calm down when I held him, and not when she would hold him.  After all, she was home with him all day and she’s his mom.

At first I chalked it up to baby blues.  But 5 weeks later things kept getting worse.  When the baby smiled at me first, and she got mad at me, and cried again, I knew something was not right.  I started researching Postpartum Depression (PPD).  I had already read into it because we had an amazing prenatal nurse tell us about her experience with it so I had some idea of what to look for.  I found a good questionnaire that can help determine if it is PPD.

One night I sat her down and started asking her some questions.  During that discussion she finally came out and told me “I think the baby hates me.”  She meant it, she believed it deep in her heart.  This wasn’t a cry for attention.

My heart stopped.

I couldn’t imagine the sadness, loneliness, and pain in feeling that your own newborn hates you.  My heart broke for her in a million pieces.  I hugged her, and held her.  All of her behavior made sense now.  There was no doubt in mind at this point that she was suffering from PPD.

I called her doctor first thing in the morning and got her an appointment to be assessed.  They asked her a series of questions and determined that she should be put on antianxiety medication.  Reluctantly we agreed.

Within a few weeks she had an amazing turn around.  Most of her anxiety was gone, she was enjoying the baby, and was largely back to her old self, as much as she could be with nursing 85 times a day and getting little sleep.  For the time, it was a miracle cure.  Eventually, the miracle went bad.  But for now, things were good.

For all dads to be, it is absolutely CRITICAL that you watch for signs of postpartum depression.  They can range from anxiety with lots of crying like my wife to straight out psychosis.  I think the most important thing to do is watch for a significant personality change.  We all change after having a child, but it should be a gradual adjustment, not a sudden change that leaves you thinking “I don’t even know this person anymore.”

Your wife will have absolutely no idea that something has changed in them.  They will not see it. You have to pay attention and YOU have to push to get them help.  Call on help from her friends, parents or doctor if you suspect PPD.  Most importantly though is talk to her to understand her worries.  During that talk, for the love of all things good, do not judge her.  Do not dismiss anything.  I could have easily said “that’s ridiculous, of course the baby doesn’t hate you, it’s a baby!”

Had I done that, instead of feeling like she was understood and about to get help, she would have sunk even deeper.

In Part 2 I talk about how circumstances lead to my own PPD experience and my first ever brush with an anxiety disorder.

When Postpartum Depression is a Family Affair – Background

It was supposed to be exhausting, sure, but also the happiest weeks of our lives.  There was exhaustion and there were moments of happiness, but there was also pain, sadness, and side effects that would last years.

My wife delivered my son via cesarean.  It could have gone better.  But, by the time we got home from the hospital 3 days after my son’s birth, things seemed to be going as expected.  My wife was sore, we were tired, our son adorable but we were doing OK.  A couple days after we got home though, the pain in her abdomen started getting worse.  We thought maybe she had done too much.  She had very little energy and she started sleeping with 3 blankets because she was so cold.

That was when we realized she had a fever to go along with the new pain.  Concerned, I called the doctor.  He said it sounds like she may have a minor infection and that I should go get her antibiotics.  After panicking that we wouldn’t find a pharmacy open on Thanksgiving day, we found one and she started taking them.

What happened next is one of those memories that will be forever etched into my brain.

I had gotten up to feed the baby on Friday morning so my wife could sleep.  She called in from the bedroom that her back was wet.  We both thought “yuck, she peed the bed.”  Then a few minutes later she called in from the bathroom, voice quivering: “umm, honey, can you please come here.”

The tone in her voice immediately sent me in fight or flight.  Something wasn’t right.  I laid the baby down, and went in to check things out.

***The following section is, NASTY.  If you are eating, or have a weak stomach, you may want to skip down to the next set of ****.

She was on the potty and she asked if I could check out her incision.  She still had pregnancy belly obviously, so she had to move it out of the way so I could see.  Once she did, white puss poured out of her incision.  I can still see it ejecting out.  Of all things I expected to see, that was NOT one of them. The smell was even worse and it still haunts me to this day.


I am not proud to say, but I had a momentary panic.  I think I blurted something like “wholly shit!” I backed away, probably white as a ghost.  Just then the baby started crying.  My wife, has no idea what I saw so now she is panicking, afraid her guts are falling out.  I ran out of the room to get my son and as I picked him up, I got a hold of myself.  My family need’s me to have a level head.  I got my head together and went back to see my wife.

I told her that it looks like the infection is maybe coming out and that I think everything is OK.

I did NOT think everything was OK. This was most definitely NOT OK.

I called her doctor, thank god he called back within a minute.  I told him what I saw and his response was both comforting and infuriating.

In the world’s most casual tone he says “Oh, it sounds like she just has a little secondary hematoma.”

WTF is a hematoma, and what is a secondary one????

Bottom line, she had an infection in the incision, but not internal, that grew a nice bubble of puss.  The antibiotics started doing their thing and her incision burst open real nice to let it all out.  It turns out one of the reasons they use staples is for these cases, as its better to allow what happened to happen to avoid having to make a new incision.

So yeah, that was horrible.  Then I had to help…get the rest out.  Finally, It stopped, we cleaned her up, went to the doc, he verified all was well, and we went home with care instructions.

This is where things went from bad…to worse.

Since my wife could not really see down there, it became my job to clean the incision site 3 times a day with peroxide and gauze.  I won’t get into all the details, but suffice it to say it was NOT in any way pleasant for either of us.   The story continues in When Postpartum Depression is a Family Affair – Part 1

A Birth Story – Part 3

They had told me that I would go out to the infernal room while they cleaned my wife up, and that they’d bring the baby out for me to hold while I waited. Instead…I waited alone.  And waited.  And waited some more.  Nurses went in and came out, none of them had my baby.  I was getting anxious.  Then anxious and annoyed. Then bordering on pissed.  Then, twenty minutes after I left the OR, they brought my son out in a bassinet.  I STILL wasn’t allowed to hold him. I was going CRAZY. They wheeled him to our room, the entire time I had a mental image of myself body checking the nurse out of the way so I could finally pick my son up.

I had played out the first time I held my son in my mind a million times.  I’d look into his face and introduce myself.  I’d kiss him gently on his head, and I’d maybe shed a tear of joy.

Instead, as we walked into the room I found my in-laws sitting there.  Stunned and disappointed, I finally got my son in my arms but the moment I had dreamed was gone and never to be had as I imagined it.  It was no fault of the in-laws.  They graciously bowed out of the room in less than a minute to let me have my moment.  But at that same time they rolled my wife in.  The emotions were strange.  I was disappointed at that moment, but also feeling amazing as I had my son in my arms.  I can still remember how he felt in my arms, still feel the sense of awe.

I took him over to meet his mom. I expected my wife to look a little haggard, after all a person was just ripped out of her  (pretty literally).  But I didn’t expect her to look so bad.  All around her eyes was puffy redness.  Her face was a mask of exhaustion.  She could barely open her eyes to look at her son.  I gently laid him in her arms.  I still remember her smiling weakly at him, and reaching her hand over to touch his face.  But a few moments later she had me take him back as a fit of nausea over took her. She threw up for the first time a couple minutes later.  An action she would repeat half a dozen times that day.  The pain medication was more than her body could handle on an empty stomach.  The entire day of my son’s birth she was sick. Looking back, that certainly makes my silly regret look…silly.  She couldn’t enjoy him at all that day.  Regretfully for us, and especially my wife, it was just the beginning of a long ordeal.

For me, the rest of that day was a blur of motion. Family and friends came to visit in a steady stream.  I did my best to entertain and coordinate handing the baby off to people, trying to mentally calculate a fair amount of time for each person, and occasionally allotting some time for myself to hold him.  I took as many chances as I could to tend to my sick wife.  I took every chance I could to take care of Jack (it took me months to be comfortable calling him Jack…silly how the mind works).

I am not sure the nurses knew what to do with me.

1) I insisted that the nurses let me help bath him for the first time (a good thing as I had to handle most of the baths in the coming few weeks)
2) I changed every dirty diaper
3) I fed him bottles (we had to supplement due to his size)
4) I tracked all the feedings and diaper changes
5) I helped my wife nurse by helping with positioning the baby and being her cheerleader
6) I was involved in every discussion about my wife’s and my son’s care.

Some nurses were bemused, obviously thinking “how cute, he wants to help.” Others were pleased, happy to see a dad so involved.  There was only one nurse who blatantly treated me like a kid at the adults table.  She shunned me, belittled me, and all around treated me like garbage.  Thankfully, she was only there for one shift.

So that first day passed in a blur of visitors, my wife throwing up, changing diapers, talking with doctors, and getting every second I could with my son. Finally, at the end of the night, my wife was able to sit up and hold our son and give him a proper ogling.

And we finally got to have a moment together with him.  Our first family moment.

That night my wife decided to try and nurse him throughout the night.  It was difficult.  She was so tired, and nursing is damned tricky.  After her first attempt, we decided to let the nurses handle him so she could sleep.

Day two was more of the same.  Many more visitors.  I continued to play host.  I got more and more tired. About half way through day the nurses convinced my wife to try and get a shower.  I hung out in the room with my son while she showered.  I set him in his bassinet when she was done and I went over to help her out of the shower.

She was chatting it up about how she was glad she took a shower. Then…she started talking nonsense.  Stringing words together that didn’t make sense.  Then her words started to fade out…and she started falling.  I caught her, set her down on the tub and pushed the emergency button. “Something is wrong with my wife, she is passing out!” I held on to her and waited for the nurses.

They came running in, ripped open some smelling salts and waved them under her nose.  And just like in a damned movie, it was like flipping on a switch, my wife was back.  And I was finally able to breath.  We took her back into bed.  They checked her out and said she should be fine.

Despite that terrifying moment, the rest of the day went fine. Jack’s billirubins were high due to his weight and not getting enough food from nursing alone.  So, we had to supplement.  We decided to let the nurses take him all night for the second night, as it was to be our last in the hospital. Sleep in a hospital isn’t exactly sleep in the strictest of terms.  Between the beeping of the machines and the frequent checkups from the nurses and the horrid “couch” I didn’t so much as sleep as I took a series of shitty naps.

Day 3.  Time to head home.

We finally started to feel a little normal on that third day.  We spent several hours packing up the room, gathering up the many generous gifts we got from family, and of course finalizing our paperwork.  My in-laws came to help us checkout and load up the car.  Finally my wife was placed in a wheelchair, Jack Jr. in her arms, and we left the hospital.

The ride home was surreal.  I had my family in the car.  I had a family.  I had an amazing little boy.  It felt momentous at the time and looking back it still does.

From there we arrived at home, and set on the great journey of parenthood.  All the good, the bad, the beautiful, the terrifying, the exhausting, and the amazing.  I had my family at home, and I was at peace.

A Birth Story – Part 2

We were up at 4 am the morning of the c-section.  We had to be at the hospital at 5:30.  I ate something, but I don’t remember what.  My wife was not allowed to eat as she was having major surgery after all.

We loaded the car, I took one last pregnancy picture of my wife, and then off to have our son we went.

I parked my car in the garage, where it would stay for 3 days, and I carried all of our crap to our room.  It was our first…so yeah, it looked like we were on a 2 week vacation.

They took us into a room, hooked my wife up to some monitors, had us fill out some forms, and then more or less left us to feel nervous as crap.  One of the monitors was the heartbeat monitor for my son.  It was a very relaxing sound that was with us for the next TWO HOURS while we waited to go into surgery.

One of the forms we needed to fill out was the baby’s birth certificate.  It was then we sort of realized we never actually settled on a name.  The only name we had even discussed was Jack Jr.  We were still dealing with the fact we convinced ourselves we were having a girl..and already had a name picked out before the ultrasound said otherwise.  So, the conversation went like this:

Carey: “So…what do we name him?  Did you still want to go with Jack Jr?

Me: “Yeah, I think so.  I mean.  What do you think?

Carey: “It’s fine with me.”

Me: “OK, Jack Jr. it is.

For those that know me, they know I am NOT a patient man.  I get downright crazy when waiting for something big to happen.  Christmas eve was TORTURE!  So waiting in this stupid little room for 2 hours for the doctor to finally be ready for us had me going about insane.  I am not sure what I would have done with 24 hours of labor!

As if that wait wasn’t abhorrent enough, they came and finally took us to the OR.  When we get there the nurse leaves me sitting outside the OR while she got the spinal tap (too many husbands pass out I guess).  That took for damned ever. I also found out later that my wife had a near panic attack.  I was and still am furious I wasn’t there for her in that moment.

So, some 15 minutes later they bring me into the room.  There is my wife, surrounded by 2 doctors at her feet, 2 nurses at her head, and couple other nurses milling around doing nurse things.  At her head was the blue sheet I was told about right in front of my wife’s face, which was covered by a breathing mask.  As I walk in I can see they were already cutting on my wife, but I averted my eyes.

I sat down on a stole by her head, she managed a weak smile.  I smiled real big…which she of course couldn’t see since I had a mask one.  I reached down and grabbed her hand.  The rest happened fast.  I am talking the micro machines guy on crack fast.

They finish their incision and declare that he was folded in half and coming out ass first.  They began struggling to get him out.  As they YANK on my son’s legs and jam him back and forth within my wife’s womb to remove him, I see my wife’s shoulders jerk from side-to-side and back and forth.  I begin to see extreme discomfort on her face and I start to worry.

One of the doctors (she had two working on her) said “Wow, this kid has a really big butt.”  Desperate to try and do something, anything for my wife I tried to make a joke: “Hey!  That’s my son you’re talking about.”  Everyone giggled an appreciative giggle.  My wife didn’t.

The doctor declared they successfully got a leg out.  Then the other leg.  More rocking and shaking of my wife’s shoulders.  She looked horrible.  I found out later that every time they jerked her around it didn’t hurt, but it made her feel like she was an instant away from throwing up.

At long last, they got my son completely out of the womb.  Then, I waited that miserable wait every parent has waited.  I listened with all of my might.  And there it was, my son’s cry.

My entire being changed in the exact moment.  I have never felt more protective of anything in my entire life.  I am not talking about love.  I didn’t feel like I loved him for quite a few weeks, which surprised me, but which now I know to be normal.  I am talking a larger than myself feeling.  That crying baby on the other side of this damn blue sheet was mine and I would throw myself in front of a bus to protect him.

The doctor then said “you want to see him?”  I thought “dumbest question EVER dude” but I squeaked out a “yes.”  And around that infernal blue sheet came my first look at my son.

I looked at his face, and breathed a sigh of relief that is still floating around that hospital.  I had this recurring fear that he’d have something wrong with him, but he was perfectly normal.

What I saw was a pudgy blue baby. I can still visualize every little roll in his belly, the look on his face, and the two foot long poop dangling from his baby butt cheeks.  It was the tarry marconum stuff and it was just a stringy nasty mess hanging in mid air.

As quickly as they had presented him, they took him back to do all the post delivery cleanup and testing.  I finally remembered my wife.  I looked down at her, and saw a single tear leaking out of her eye among her pained smile.

I sat and held her hand and we looked into each others eyes.  She couldn’t talk because of the mask, so we just looked at each other.

A few minutes later they invited me over to cut a little piece of the umbilical cord, which I was happy to experience a little bit of that.  It was tougher than it looked, just like everyone said.  I gazed lovingly at my the baby who was to be my only son for as long as I could.  While I was there, they had to prick is foot for what was to be an every other hour ritual to check his blood sugar due to his size.

They weighed him after the umbilical cord, and he came out at 9 lbs 14 oz (probably would have been an even 10 lbs if not for that monster poop).

After that, they made me walk away from my son.  I hated it. They had me bid goodbye to my wife as they stitched her up. Back into the infernal room outside the OR.  Where, for the third time that morning, I had to endure a horrendous wait.

The story is continued in A Birth Story part 3

A Birth Story – Part 1

“I’d like you to go in for an ultrasound next week as the baby is measuring pretty large.”

I never missed a checkup during my wife’s first pregnancy.  To say I was completely in the moment would be a massive understatement.  We were in the “appointment every week” stage, somewhere around 37 weeks.  The doctor pushed around on my wife’s stomach and declared that he could feel the head facing down and had us push on my son’s butt near my wife’s chest.  He then wrote us a prescription for a second ultrasound to get a more exact size.

I was giddy.  I get to see the baby again 😀

A week goes by and we head into the ultrasound place.  My hopes were dashed a bit as the tech said we wouldn’t see much because the baby is too big (this seems pretty obvious now since the paddle obviously can’t zoom out to the whole stomach).

My wife, at times, becomes…talkative.  This is greatly exacerbated when she is nervous.  So as the tech is scanning the top of my wife’s stomach close to her chest (where my son’s butt was supposedly sitting), my wife was busy rattling on about what the doctor said.

“He said the baby is head down and was able to feel him down there, and he said his butt is where you are looking right now, I am glad he is head down…”

Meanwhile I am looking at the screen at what was, without a doubt, a head and it most certainly was NOT down.  When my wife finally left some open air, the tech dropped the news.

The baby was breach, and was huge which would almost certainly rule out any kind of inversion.  We were having a c-section. While this was far from being the worst news parents ever got, it left us feeling cheated.

We weren’t going to have an interesting birth story.  I wasn’t going to get my chance to make a ton of mood-lightening jokes.  No middle of the night vending machine runs during the marathon birthing session.  No threats about how the misery she was in was all my fault.  No cutting the cord.

And worst of all…no Bill Cosby Himself references.  I was going to buy salad spoons and pull them out at just the right time, just after my Johnny Bench impression.  When the doctor declared he saw the head, I was going to tell him “Well go get it!”  And I was going to do my best manly breathing “ZIFF WOOF WOOF WOOF, PUUUUSH..PUUUSH!!!”

But..there would be none of that.  We felt like and still feel like we missed out on a life experience that we will now never have.

But, there were some perks to a scheduled c-section.  First, we got to pick our son’s birthday.  We had 3 choices, and we went with November 19th, which just so happened to be my dad’s birthday.  It also worked out best for my vacation time cause it landed around Thanksgiving.  We also didn’t have to deal with her being past her due date.

In the days leading up to the c-section we decorated our house for Christmas.  We cleaned the house top to bottom, probably the last time it was ever that clean.  We had our bags packed, we made and froze some food, and actually found ourselves bored waiting for the baby (certainly the last time we were ever bored).

The night before the c-section, we watched Wall-E.  We were quiet, as usually happens right before a major event.  We had talked daily about how our life will change, how amazing it will be to have a little baby to hold, and even about what kind of parents we wanted to be.  But by the night before, we had nothing else to say.  We just couldn’t wait to hold our little boy for the first time.  At least, that is all I thought about.

Later I found out my wife was extremely nervous, nearly terrified, of being cut open.  I regret not realizing that as I would have liked to ease her worry.  But such is life.

Continue to A Birth Story Part 2…

Local dad has three kids, you won’t believe what he almost forgot!


Since becoming a dad one thing has been a constant, new memories.  The kids do something every day that is worth remembering.  The problem is that much of my head is filled with 8 billion other child rearing details like how many times did the baby poop today and was it squishy, runny, or in tiny balls.

Since the brain tends to eject minor details like a Star Destroyer ejects garbage before entering hyperspace, many of those sweet moments you’d love to look back on are gone.  I can already see myself sounding like my dad in the future, recounting the same 5 stories about my childhood eliciting the same “yes I know I know you’ve told me this a million times” from my kids that I say to him.

I’d like to avoid that.

A large reason I started blogging was in hopes of capturing some of those moments for myself and my kids.  I also overshare on facebook in hopes of not forgetting the small moments.  But, the blog is public and it doesn’t really work for “Today Sarah and Kaylee hugged for the first time.”  Nor does it work for “Today was the day the urologist finally declared that I am officially shooting blanks.”    Facebook is terrible for searching and sorting so finding anything past yesterday is about impossible.

The blog and Facebook certainly don’t work for one of the most perplexing issues facing parents everywhere…kids artwork.  We have two Costco wipe boxes filled with artwork, a table overflowing in the stuff, and bits and pieces stashed everywhere.  Each piece is shoved somewhere with the tired mantra “we really need a solution for this.”

Well, a solution dropped in my lap about a month ago.  I know, another silly-named web app (it grows on you).  This app though aims to solve exactly all of the issues I’ve been experiencing.

Memfy is memory tracking website.  It is simple and quick, which means you can hop in, record your memory, and hope right back out.  It’s power is in its ability to sort and search.  It also has the ability to export all of your data to PDF, so even if you decide to move on one day, you don’t lose all that information. Another feature I love is that it’s completely private by design, which encourages the oversharer in me to write memfies only for myself without feeling like I have to make it interesting to anyone besides my family.

I’ve already forgotten so much.  I can’t remember most of my son’s little moments from when he was a toddler anymore.  My wife and I have both had those: “Remember when Jack used to…?” moments, with the other person having no memory of it.  I have no idea where any of my kid’s first teeth came in or what their first words were or when the first time it was I dropped them off the bed!

I am afraid of losing more and more of my little moments.  That is why I have started to make Memfy a part of my daily life, to capture memories, both the new and those old ones I don’t wan to forget.

I will write up another post detailing some of the ways I am using Memfy to capture my memories to help you get started.  But…do get started TODAY.  Don’t let the wonderful moments slip away. is free.  To get the most out of it though, I highly recommend the premium version @ $4 a month as it allows you additional categories, which makes sorting and searching much more effective.  From now until November 1st you can save $10 by helping to fund them on their indiegogo campaign.  They are working hard to create a mobile app, which would be the ideal way to use the service  (It does work in mobile browsers, including uploading pictures).

What is a memory you are afraid you might forget?

The Keys to Sibling Friendship

Since having our second child, nothing in this world brings overwhelming joy to my heart more than seeing my kids interact with one another.  Lately, most of the focus goes from older siblings towards Sarah, the 15 month old, which frequently causes a bad case of heart-exploding-itis.  

Sadly, the older two have grown apart, especially over the summer where they have very little time away from each other.  They are more worried about finding transgressions to whine about than finding ways to have fun together.  This becomes very clear when Jack talks about his sisters.  Sarah can do no wrong, Kaylee can do no right.  It’s sad really.

So I wasn’t surprised when they got into a huge fight shortly after Jack got home on his second day of school

It seems that he is learning site words, and each day he gets a new paper key with a new site word.  He cuts out the key, colors it, and the teacher puts it on a huge key ring for him.  The first day he brought it home he treated it like a treasure, which means Kaylee HAD TO HAVE IT.  Within seconds she was running across the room with the single paper key in hand, with Jack running full tilt after her whining all the way.  She stole it no less than 4 times that night.

This has continued any time the keys come out, the fight continues.  Fast forward to yesterday, Jack asked in desperation “why does she keep stealing my keys?”  I explained, gently, “it’s because she sees how much you like them and she wants to have some too.”  I then suggested, as an afterthought, “you could see if your teacher would let you bring some home for Kaylee.”

As is typical, I then completely forgot that conversation ever happening.  When I got home from work, Jack ran up to me excitedly to show me…3 paper keys, all colored in, with Kayllee (sic) written across the back. He told me that he asked his teacher for extra keys to take home for his sister.   

BOOM!!!  That is the sound of my heart exploding.  I was impressed that he thought of his sister and equally impressed at his lack of fear in asking an authority figure a question like that.  As a shy kid growing up, I couldn’t imagine doing that.  And lastly I was genuinely proud of him.  And as if that wasn’t enough, when I got down to his level to say to him “I am really proud of you for thinking of your sister, and doing something to make her so happy” he said, with genuine excitement “YOU ARE?  Oh Thank You!” and threw his arms around me to put an exclamation point on the whole thing.

I love that kid.