Two-wheeled wonder

As I mentioned yesterday, Miles scored big-time in the gift department when his grandparents (my parents) visited this past week.

MeMe and Pawpaw decided Miles needed his first real bicycle. A monumental occasion for a little boy for sure. So off to the stores we went.

We finally found a winner at Wal-Mart. Miles seemed to be drawn to two bikes in particular, both of them neon green. Then we discovered that one of those green bikes, a Hot Wheels-themed one, had a speedometer and made a revving sound when you twisted the handlebar, like a motorcycle.

Decision made.

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With just a little bit of a helping hand, Miles rode his new Hot Wheels bicycle all the way from the back of the store to the register. He sat on it the entire time we waited in line, and considering it was Wal-Mart on a Saturday, that line was not a short one. Then (again, with some help, but this time from my dad) he rode it right out the front door and through the parking lot to the car.

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When we opened the hatchback to Abbey’s SUV and hoisted the bike inside, Miles scrambled in right after it. “I want to ride with my bike-cycle!!!” he said. Obviously that was not an option, but it was a lot of fun for all of us to see his enthusiasm.

The real surprise, though, came when we got home. It was just a little too cold to stay outside, so we carried the bike down to our basement, which is a big open space with plenty of room to ride around.

Within 10 minutes, Miles was riding that bike like a champ. I mean, yes, it has training wheels, but if you think about it, that whole pedaling thing must be pretty tough to figure out.

But with just a little push to get started, Miles can keep that bike going just about as long as he wants to. He even understands how to steer himself around obstacles (or into them, when he chooses to). I’m no expert on child development, but it’s pretty impressive for a three-year-old, if you ask me.

Probably won’t be too long before he’s zooming up and down our street and I’m struggling to keep up. Guess I’d better start practicing myself.

 

Meet the grandparents

Please forgive the lack of blog over the last week or so, but with the Doyle parents in town, I took a mini-vacation of a sort.

My mom and dad made the 12-hour car trip from south Louisiana to stay with us for a few days. They got to meet Owen, see how much Miles has grown since the last time we visited them in the spring, check out the new house and see a little bit of Evansville.

It was a very enjoyable, relaxing visit. We didn’t do anything monumental, but in general we just enjoyed each other’s company. Abbey and my mom hit a few arts and crafts stores, my dad helped me out with a few projects around the house.

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We all sat down and watched the LSU and Saints football games – both improbable last-minute losses in what seems to have become the norm for both teams this year – but hey, I can’t remember the last time we all sat down in the living room and watched a football game. Despite the final scores, it was a good time.

And in a pretty rare happenstance, both sides of our family got together. Abbey’s mom and sister came over one night and we all had dinner. I can count on one hand all the times that has happened. Actually I can count it with just two fingers. It was really nice and something I hope can happen a little more often from now on.

Needless to say, we all ate very well. It’s the Louisiana coming out, I guess. We went to one of my very favorite places in town, Los Bravos for Mexican food. My dad wanted a good local cheeseburger – naturally the choice was G.D. Ritzy’s. They were maybe most impressed by Papa Murphy’s pizza. I am pretty sure my dad is right at this moment starting a petition to begin that company’s expansion into the south.

Owen obviously got his fair share of attention, lots of hugs and holding and that sweet sock monkey hat, among I am sure many more gift and baby clothes I haven’t yet noticed.

 

Miles also made out like a bandit, scoring his first big-boy bicycle (more on that later in the week) and somehow stole the spotlight away from his baby brother a few times. His MeMe (my mom’s grandmother name) read him books at bedtime almost every night. I found myself just watching as Miles squeezed into the recliner with my mom. I don’t get to see them interact that much, but it’s amazing how natural it was. I guess family is family no matter how far apart you are, or how seldom you get to see each other in person.

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Miles helped me see them off this morning, luring them back out of my dad’s truck for one more goodbye hug. We both waved until they drove out of sight.

Of course, there I was, a grown adult, struggling not to cry when my parents left. It’s hard to describe why exactly. When you live no further than 40 miles from your parents all your life and suddenly live 12 hours away, those goodbyes are a lot harder.

But we hope to make a trip down to see them in the spring.

In the meantime, I will be trying to figure out if there’s any way to mail a Papa Murphy’s pizza.

 

 

Thinking healthy

Last week, I wrote a story about a very nice man, Larry “Ox” Townsend, from Henderson, who has recovered from a stroke he had earlier this year. It got me thinking about a few things, mostly that I need to start taking better care of myself.

I’m 35, staring down the barrel of 40, and some days I feel like I’m 80. Too much bad food, not enough exercise, poor sleep habits, too much stress – all those risk factors that I am sure affect a whole lot of us.

As Mr. Townsend told me his story, I knew exactly what he was talking about.

The main thing is food. I like food. I really like meat, and salty things, and spicy things and cheesy things and fried things. And sugary drinks. Pretty much all the stuff you’re supposed to stay away from.

Of course, as I type this blog, there’s a commercial on the radio for Subway’s new pastrami melt sandwich. See, I love pastrami. I am kind of obsessed with it, actually.

I haven’t even really started the “health kick” and I’m already feeling like it’s going to be an uphill battle.

It’s not like I haven’t tried before. I’ve gone on diets before, dropped 20 or 25 pounds and thought, “Hey this is not hard at all.”

But I’ve never really stuck with it. That’s the hard part. You start to think you have control, and hey, I lost all that weight. I can eat that whole pizza, just this one time. But then one time becomes twice, then three times, then before you know it you’re supporting the Tri-State pizza industry all by yourself and back to your old weight.

I know what you’re thinking. “Hey this guy is talking about starting a diet with Thanksgiving coming up, good luck with all that.” And you’re probably right.

But I think if I start slow, cutting down on the soft drinks …

(Down south we call them “cokes” regardless of whether it’s Coke or Dr. Pepper or whatever, but that’s another blog entry for another time)

… I think I can build up to a better overall plan. Cutting out a few things at a time, instead of just dropping everything at once and expecting a miracle.

With two little kids around, I need to do a better job this time. I’m not committing myself to a “full body transformation” or anything crazy. I won’t be doing P90’s or crossfit or any of that stuff right now. I just want to start eating a little better.

Now if they’ll just stop running that darn Subway commercial…

Gaseous happenings

Little Owen has some gas problems.

It’s not unexpected, I mean, the nurses did tell us that newborns have an undeveloped digestive tract. And I do remember that Miles had some issues there.

Baby gets the gas face.

I’m sure you’re thinking, “Oh but they’re cute little baby toots.”

Not really, though. These are full-blown, rip-roaring FARTS, the kind of thing you’d expect to hear coming from medium-sized cattle. Some of them go on for 5 or 6 seconds, and then when you think the poor boy couldn’t possibly expel any more gas they start again.

If he could walk he’d be cropdusting the living room.

Fortunately, for our sakes, they don’t smell at all.

(I wish I could say the same about the dog, who dines frequently from the trash can these days. Don’t ask.)

I just feel bad for him though. You can tell when he’s in pain because he starts kicking and shaking his little fists. The tough thing is, he can’t always get it out on his own, and sometimes it keeps him from sleeping like he should.

Earlier today, during a particularly bad episode, he found the soft part of my throat with his little fingernails. And thanks to all those good prenatal vitamins, babies do have seriously sharp fingernails. But I don’t blame him, I’d probably want to take it out on somebody too.

We’ve got an array of gas medicines, gripe waters and burping/patting techniques at our disposal. There’s something called “bicycle legs” which is pretty much exactly like it sounds – you pump his legs up and down to, you know, force things to happen and get the gas out. It’s kind of like “burping” him, but you’re burping the other end. If ya know what I mean.

Unfortunatley, there doesn’t seem to really be any good solution to the problem. We just have to wait until his poor little stomach develops some more. If anybody knows of anything else, please feel free to suggest.

In the meantime, next time he’s gassy, we’ll just put the camera on video mode. Who knows, maybe he could be a big YouTube star.

The highs and lows

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Three-year-old Miles sure is a roller coaster ride these days.

So when Owen was having newborn pictures taken at home yesterday, and it came time to pick up Miles from preschool, something told me a little field trip was in order.

“I should probably just not bring Miles right back home, huh?” I asked Abbey.

Looking around at all the very breakable camera equipment inhabiting the living room, a vaguely fearful look crossed my wife’s face.

“Oooh, yeah,” she said. “That’s probably a good idea. Take him out for lunch or something. Stay out a while.”

I decided McDonald’s on the west side of town was the place to go. I know, I know, the food is terrible, but with all the energy he expends I figure calorie-burning is not really a problem at this point. Plus they have a great playground there.

I got to St. Theresa’s at the usual pickup time and Miles scampered down the sidewalk with a big smile on his face and practically jumped into my arms.

“Hi, Daddy! I had fun at school today. I hungry!” he said.

“Well, I guess we’re in business then.” I replied. “How about a cheeseburger?”

“Yes daddy! We ARE in biz-i-ness!!!” he said, saying the last word slowly while sizing it up.

(He does this with unfamiliar words all the time. It’s kind of hilarious.)

Anyway, you would not believe this was the same child that just a day ago threw an epic, threw-himself-on-the-floor, kicking-and-screaming tantrum when we picked out the wrong Justice League episode on Netflix.

He said hello to everyone in McDonald’s and went and sat down calmly in his seat. He ate about 90% of his cheeseburger and fries and all of his yogurt, then calmly asked to go play. No tantrums, no begging.

He played really nicely with the other kids, went all the way to the top of the playground set all by himself and didn’t even raise a ruckus when I told him it was time to go.

But the car ride on the way home was the best moment of my day, by far.

“Daddy,” Miles said from his car seat. “Can you hold my hand?”

So we drove all the way home with his hand in mine, my arm awkwardly bent around the back of the passenger seat, but I didn’t care.

It’s those little moments that make the roller coaster ride worth it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Get your car seats checked out

Ever since Miles was born, the car seat has been always been an issue.

Not for him. For me.

You see, the gosh-darned things are just so hard to install correctly. The guideline, they say, is no more than an inch of wiggle room side-to-side. I don’t know that I’ve ever been able to achieve that.

I mean, I’m a grown man, of not insubstantial size, and I’m literally standing in the back seat of the car, pulling those belts as tight as I can with all the strength I have. I’m also fairly intelligent, smart enough to read an owner’s manual and figure things like this out.

Still, it seems like it’s never quite tight enough.

So a few days before Owen was born, we took both our cars over to St. Mary’s for a car seat safety program they were putting on.

Thank goodness for these folks, who are certified by the National Standardized Child Passenger Safety Training Program. They are truly doing good work. A quick evaluation on both cars and they told me what I expected, that neither of Miles’ seats were as secure as they should have been.

They showed us how to make sure they were as tight as possible, which is not nearly as simple as it seems.

For example, we learned that the “LATCH system” belts we had been using to install Miles’ seat wasn’t adequate in either of our cars.

The LATCH system (standing for Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children) came into being in the early part of the 2000’s and was supposed to be a universal, foolproof solution for installing car seats.

For newborns and infants, it does just that – for toddler-sized kids, it’s more of a hit-and-miss proposition and even something as insignificant as the shape of the seat back can mess everything up.

St. Mary’s registered nurse Terry Cooper showed us why the “latches” weren’t working for us and showed us how to secure the seatbelt in the more traditional way with the lap and shoulder belts, which in our specific case, proved to be a far safer and easier method.

I could go on a rant about how the car manufacturers and car seat manufacturers need to get their collective acts together and collaborate on a truly universal system for car seats, but if that hasn’t happened by now it’s probably not going to.

Instead, I will simply point out the importance of making sure your children’s car seats are 100% safely installed.

The good thing is, both Deaconess and St. Mary’s here in town have car seat safety programs. My guess is most hospitals have something similar in place.

If your car seat doesn’t seem quite secure enough, it probably isn’t. Make an appointment, and they will check everything out for you at no cost.

 

http://www.deaconess.com/TheWomensHospital/Wellness-and-Education/Pregnancy.aspx

http://www.stmarys.org/car-seat-safety

Requiem for a grouch

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I’d like to think I am a good dad.

But I can also be a real grouchy jerk, often without even knowing it.

I was reminded of that while having a “constructive dialog” (i.e., an argument) with Abbey the other day about how to handle disciplining Miles these days – he has been acting up quite a bit lately, especially since the new baby came along.

I don’t mean to be a crank, but I suppose frustration gets the best of me too often. I probably raise my voice a little too much. And Miles, being the stubborn, willful child that he is, isn’t particularly inclined to listen any better when the decibel level of my voice gets higher – he simply misbehaves even more in protest.

In addition to my usual triggers – noise, messes, mornings – it seems like all of us in this house let ourselves get wrapped up in it. If one person gets upset and starts raising their voice, it turns into a cycle of tension, frustration and raised voices for everyone. Even when you’re not mad at somebody, you still end up raising your voice, if for no other reason than just to make yourself heard.

One of the things I most admire about my wife is her ability to size up a complicated, emotional problem and come up with a solution. She intuited that if we raised our voices less, Miles would probably behave better.

So far, it is working. There are far fewer episodes of willful disobedience and he is a lot more cooperative with us the last few days.

When he does act up, he goes to his new “timeout chair.” This is a rocking chair in the corner of the living room. There aren’t any toys or distractions – his previous timeout spot was his bedroom, which only seems to exacerbate the situation which put him in timeout to start with. I won’t say the “timeout chair” is perfect, but he seems to respond to it much better. After all, a three-year-old bundle of energy can’t waste time sitting around in a boring chair in a boring corner, there are just too many other things to do.

This has been a good reminder for me how my bad mood can affect everybody else, even when I don’t mean to inflict it upon on my family – and I think Abbey would admit she can be the same way sometimes.

It’s also a reminder that we need to stay flexible in how we interact with our kids. What works for one kid may not work for another, and even with the same kid, what worked a year ago may not be the best approach for right now.

Nobody died and made anybody a parenting expert. We are learning just like everybody else and doing the best we can. Hopefully, one of these days, we’ll be able to look back and say we did a good job.

 

 

 

Home sweet home

One of the things you do with a newborn in the house is watch TV.

A lot of TV. After all, when you’re sitting in a chair with a baby in your arms, there aren’t exactly a ton of realistic entertainment options.

In our house, that usually means marathon viewings of series on Netflix.

Lately it seems we gravitate toward the home renovation shows on HGTV and the like. It’s enough to give us serious thoughts as to what we plan to do with our house in the future.

Background: We bought our “dream home” this past spring.

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While we are extremely lucky and grateful to be living and raising our kids in this house, I would be lying if I said everything was perfect. The house has tons of character, which is great, but something I’ve learned is that “character” also equals “issues.”

Nothing major, really. It’s just that the décor seems to date to the mid-70’s (not so bad) and early 90’s (a horrendous era for style, judging from my own teenage memories).

There’s a lot of wallpaper. The wallpaper in my office, for instance, has a plant pattern. It looks like reeds, the kind I might see alongside the road when I go back home to Louisiana.

In the meantime, I am concerned about ducks trying to fly in through the windows in an attempt to land on my wall.

The living room has a giant mirror spanning the width of the fireplace and going all the way up to the ceiling. I am no interior designer, but I cannot understand for the life of me why you would want an enormous mirror above your fireplace.

The fireplace is another issue, itself – even if we wanted to use it, the gas lines have been pulled. Plus, the currently-HGTV-playing television just happens to be parked in front of the fireplace area, seeing as how it was the only logical place in the room to put a TV.

There are other things – the finished basement would be great to use as living space, except it’s leaky; the downstairs bathroom has all the square footage of a postage stamp; and the upstairs is always about a thousand degrees.

But I don’t want to sound negative. It really is a great house. I am extremely proud to live here. I look forward to raising my two boys in this house and growing old here.

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In a funny way, I feel like we are carrying on a tradition, as the previous owners raised their kids here. On the back garage wall, there’s a series of marks charting the heights of all the kids.

I can’t fully explain it, but seeing those marks on the wall inspires me. This place has seen a few kids grow up to become adults – at least three generations’ worth since it was built in the late 1930’s.

No doubt there have been lots and lots of birthday parties, family fun, afternoons spent playing in the backyard, heartfelt moments and hugs shared in this old house. I look forward to adding a few hundred more.

(That doesn’t mean I won’t be writing a few of those home renovation shows, though. That projection theater room in the basement isn’t going to just build itself, you know.)