Boy VS. Beard

I woke up early today with Jack and fed him while listening to Morning Edition on NPR. It was quiet and cloudy, and I noticed my neighbor pulling out of his driveway as Jack sucked down the last few ounces, milk drool covering his chin. I took in some of the last precious few moments of silence before all of our Thanksgiving guests arrived for the week, and I wiped his face with a burp cloth before hoisting him onto my shoulder for our little burp ceremony. He let a huge one rip, the guttural nature of it still slightly shocking to me, then smiled. He spent about five minutes staring at the radio, probably still not quite sure where the voices were coming from.

I wonder if he’ll ever know his Dad as a radio man? It was a job that I always thought would be cool to have when I had kids. They’d get to tell their friends that I was on the radio, and I’d get to show them around the studios. I also planned to milk my child for radio humor as long as I could. Alas, my radio career is on hold, maybe forever. I can’t say that I miss it terribly, but I do miss it. However, Jack and I get to be listeners together now, and some day I’ll play him my last show, the one where he got to “talk” on the radio when he was three months old. How many kids have something like that to take to Show and Tell? I wonder if radio will still be around then? The way that industry is going, you never know. I’m glad I decided to be a dad instead. The future of that is pretty solid.

So there I was, being a dad, burping a kid, listening to the radio with him before the arrival of the Thanksgiving circus. I found myself just staring at his ear as he stared at the radio. I do that a lot. It’s weird how I can be so content just staring at his perfect little ear. I could do it for hours. This time, I did it for seconds before he grabbed a fistful of my beard. Then he grabbed with his other hand. I got him to let go, only to have him rear back and grab even bigger clumps with both of his hands at the same time. He gave me this goofy smile, while yanking back as hard as he could. It hurt like hell. It always does. Jack can be a real prick sometimes.

I’ve pretty much gotten used to his beard grabbing. He’s been doing it pretty much since he’s been born, so I know what I’ve gotten myself into. My favorite is when I’m holding him and he starts to fall one way or another and grabs two handfuls of beard in a desperate act to steady himself. It’s like my skin is getting ripped off. He seems to enjoy inflicting pain on me and even thinks it is hilarious, while I’ve learned to slightly enjoy the pain. It’s some sort of weird form of sadomasochism, I suppose, a fun daily game of Hurt the Daddy. In some weird way, I feel like it’s a way for us to connect, a way for him to distinguish me from everyone else. I grow my beard, he grabs it with all his might. It’s our thing. It also hurts like a motherfucker, but I press on.

Sometimes I really want to shave my beard, but I can’t. I won’t. I’m in it for the long haul. It has taught me patience, which I need now more than ever. People also take me more seriously for some reason. Beards put you a step above your average Joe. Even homeless guys with beards get a little more respect. But the main reason I will continue to grow my beard is for a moment in the distant future.

Now, I’ve experimented with facial hair for quite some time. I even had a trial beard about a year before I grew my current one, but I got sick of it and relented to the razor. However, I’ve been growing my present beard since before Jack was conceived, and I will continue to do so until that glorious moment down the road when he is old enough to talk back to me and thinks he is old enough to question one of my decisions or motives. It is then that I will finally get to say it; “My beard is older than you, Jack, so I don’t want to hear it!” I’ll yell back to him. He’ll then go off to his room to pout, and I’ll go finally shave my beard.

Tampons? Really?

I woke up this morning and there was an open box of tampons on the bathroom counter. Tampons? Really? I hadn’t seen tampons in my house in over a year. “Are you using these tampons?” I asked Jules, yelling from the bathroom while sitting on the toilet.

“Um…yeah,” she responded, like it was a dumb question.

“Awww, Jackie boy, your momma has become a woman,” I yelled to Jack in the other room.

Julie started laughing hysterically. I love that. The sound of my wife in full on laughter is my favorite thing in the entire world. I try to make it happen at least once a day. It makes me fall in love with her again and again, and it keeps me sane, especially when so many other aspects of our lives have changed over the past year. So, yes, my wife has become a woman…again. But I know what that box of tampons also means. I stared at it for a solid five minutes cursing it in my head. Aunt Flow has returned, and with her she’s brought yet one more excuse for us to not have sex.

I miss making love to my wife. It hasn’t happened since August 19th. Yes, I know the date. Well, there was one other time maybe back in September when we tried, but there’s something about having sex with a crying baby in the next room and a dog sniffing your ass that just doesn’t work for me. I’d classify it more as an honorable attempt. But hey, at this point, I’ll take it.

I get why it’s not happening. As misguided as it might be, I get why she doesn’t feel attractive, despite the fact that I’m more attracted to her than ever. I get why she thinks she’s fat and unsexy, which she’s totally not. I get that there’s still lingering physical issues with having to push seven pounds of Jack out of her poor vagina.

I know sex is the last thing on her mind after spending a day juggling a new job and new motherhood. But I also know that seeing how strong she is, makes me want her more. I know why she chooses sleep over sex. I understand that it’s hard to get in the mood when you’re sleeping less than five hours a night and have a little man sucking on your tit for a quarter of the day. I know the opportunities just aren’t there. I know we’re not going out and coming home drunk to an empty house anymore. I know.

The thing is, it’s not really just about getting laid. I can pretty much relieve that issue myself, and I’ve gotten pretty good at it over the past few decades. I hope she knows that it’s not really about just having sex. That seems so selfish and unimportant. It’s more about her. It’s more about having something that’s just us again. It’s about connecting to the way we were. I miss the way we were before Jack, it’s hard to just let that go. I don’t want to, and I don’t think we totally should.

Before Jack, we never argued. We never fought. We had conversations that didn’t revolve around baby stuff or child rearing. We went out. We had fun. We got drunk. We made love. There were no expectations. There was just us. Us living; us loving; us laughing; us fucking; us period. I know we can’t really go back to those times, and I know neither of us would want to. We love our son and are excited about seeing him grow up. We are excited to be parents, even if we never planned to be. We are better for having him in our lives. Sure, we still have fun, and we are still in love; maybe even more than ever. We were always the ultimate team, and now we are even stronger. Now we are three.

It’s different now, though. Way more different than I ever thought it would be. I wonder if most people really know what to expect before undertaking this adventure of parenthood? Do they know what it will do to their former selves? Do they know how much it will change their relationship, for better or worse? I know I didn’t, I know we didn’t, and that’s with putting in over a decade together before becoming parents. I can’t imagine doing this in any less of a relationship than what we have.

I’m extremely thankful for the relationship we have. Things are slowly getting better as we’re getting used to our new lives. Things are getting back to normal, or at least our new normal. We’re figuring things out; we’re helping each other along; we’re getting the band back together, so to speak. We’re learning how to communicate even better and we are learning how to be parents, together.

I wouldn’t change anything about our lives right now, but, I feel that if we can re-establish some of the non child related intimacy in our lives, we’ll be better for it. We need it, even if we both don’t totally realize it yet. We need to have something that is still just about us, in our life that is now pretty much just about Jack. We need to be able to go back to those times that got us here, so we realize why we are doing this in the first place. Even if its just for some brief moments. Even if it’s just having sex again.

We are a family now, there’s no turning back and there’s no running away. I just want to make sure we don’t lose sight of that couple that started all of this in the first place. I’m pretty sure we’ll get there, I’m pretty sure we’ll figure this out, and I’m damn sure that when we do start having sex again, we’ll be using birth control.

My Son is F’ing with Me!

I spent close to 14 years working in radio before I took my current position as Dad to Jack. I used to think radio was the greatest job in the world. I had no idea. My life is exponentially better in my current status. I get to wear pajamas all day. During his naps I can workout, write, catch up on my relationships, or take a nap of my own. Plus, my boss can’t talk. Most importantly, though, I get to witness every single second of his development and hang out with him all day listening to tunes and dancing. Staying at home every day with my little Dudicle, while sometimes more challenging than radio ever was to me, is my favorite job of all time. I know how lucky I am. However, I also know that my son is fucking with me.

As he has gotten older, he has learned to make more noises, control more body parts, and notice the connection between action and reaction. He is also learning very quickly how to fuck with me. He’ll cry, but only when I’m trying to talk on the phone. He’ll whine, but only when I’m trying to eat. He’ll take a dump, but only after I’ve just changed his diaper. He’ll try to talk up a storm, but only when I’m trying to catch those last few precious moments of sleep. My wife laughs it all off as coincidence, but I am convinced that he knows what he is doing, and he will eventually get what’s coming to him.

Take for instance, diaper time. I used to hold the land speed record for diaper changing, with cloth diapers no less. I could do it in the dark, I could do it one handed, and I could do it drunk, always faster than you could say “Pampers.” Now, however, he has decided that diaper time is the right time…to fuck with me. First it was the kicking. He would move his legs as fast as he could like he was trying to beat Michael Phelps in the 4 x 100 relay, alternately pounding them into the changing table while avoiding my grasp. He’d kick the wipes off the table, he’d kick the diaper out of my hand, he’d kick his foot right into the pile of his own feces. Grab one foot, he’d use the other to blindside you. Grab both feet, then he’d enact tactic number two, the rollover.

All the while, I’m trying to remove the soiled diaper, keep the cover out of the shit, keep him out of the shit, wipe the shit and piss off of him, move the dirty diaper to safety, fold a new diaper, and get it in the cover and under his ass, only to have it kicked off behind the changing table again. Then it gets tricky. You have to try to grab the new diaper from the floor behind the changing table while keeping him from kicking or rolling himself off of said table and onto the floor as well. He thinks it’s hysterical.

You know what else he thinks is hysterical? Peeing everywhere as soon as fresh air hits his junk. Sure, I know what you are thinking, “rookie move.” I would agree, as I learned to cover up his little pecker on day one. However, after months of not peeing randomly during diaper changes, I got cocky, and the little dude’s little cock has now gotten me four times in a week. I know this isn’t my fault. It has nothing to do with whether I cover him up or not; I haven’t since the first month. He’s doing it on purpose. It’s like he’s holding it in until I get his diaper off, and then turning on the hose just to spite me.

His pee surprise usually hits a nearby clean diaper, soaks his onesie, and if he’s really aiming right, sometimes he’ll have the distance to hit the wall or ceiling. Luckily, I usually dodge the stream, often by chance, and he’s the one taking it in the face. He laughs and laughs and laughs, and I have to clean up the mess. Jack loves giving himself “golden showers.” I guess he’s just perverted like that.

When he’s not engaging in his favorite urine fetish, Jack is usually eating. This opens up a whole other world of possibilities to mess with me, and he takes full advantage. Now that he holds his own bottle and can feed himself, he likes to take it from me, start to eat, and once I leave the room toss the bottle as far as he can. I pick it back up, hand it to him, and he starts eating again dutifully until I turn my back. Then he launches a Jay Cutler like spiral to the dog. He is either incredibly gifted and likes to show off his arm, or merely fucking with me. I’m betting the latter; that’s what separates me from other parents.

When I’ve had enough of playing fetch the bottle, I’ll usually move on to the baby food. It’s kind of funny, I’ve always heard so many stories about kids getting food everywhere when trying to eat, but Jack had maybe one day of that, and since then he makes sure it all gets into his mouth. If it were up to him, he’d eat everything. There’s no wasting food for this guy, unless its a casualty of humoring himself. He loves to eat, but he loves to fuck with me even more.

He’ll sit in his high chair very still and allow me to feed him a few spoonfuls before aggressively slamming his hand onto the tray in front of him repeatedly and laughing. He’ll grab for the spoon while yelling, grab for the bowl or food container while screeching, try to rip off his bib and stuff it in his mouth, turn his head as I bring the spoon towards him, and not relent with this combo of violent thrashing, talking, and avoidance until I get frustrated. Sometimes I think they really need to invent handcuffs for babies. Then he’ll sit still and smile with a “why aren’t you feeding me that food?” look and eat the rest of it in silence.

Sure, you’ll say, “he’s just a baby, that’s what babies do sometimes.” But I know better. He only does these things for me, and to me. He doesn’t do them when there are witnesses. He rarely acts this way towards mom. But I see it. He has this look on his face every single time, like he’s laughing at me on the inside. To others, he’s a perfect angel of a child, and I wouldn’t disagree. He is the greatest. But like Transformers, there’s more to him than meets the eye. He takes great joy in fucking with me, and I know I probably totally deserve it. But just remember my Jackie boy, payback is a bitch and I’ve got nothing but time.

Maple Syrup and Titties: Life with a wife on Fenugreek

My life no longer smells like pancakes. This is mainly because my wife no longer smells like maple syrup. She had been taking Fenugreek supplements, and in the doses she was consuming, they made her smell exactly like maple syrup. They made everything smell like maple syrup. But now she says they’re too expensive, you know, with only one of us working and all. I am not protesting. I’ve had just about enough of life inside a syrup bottle, and it means my wife’s life as a dairy cow is finally nearing its end.

It’s amazing how much our lives have revolved around breast milk and its quantity from the moment Jack was born. We had chosen to go the breast feeding route prior to Jack’s birth for all the usual and natural reasons, but little did we know that he’d be pretty much insatiable; contributing heavily to months of “breast stress” and requiring all sorts of supplemental formula bottles and Julie’s incessant consumption of gallons of water and fist fulls of ayurvedic herbs, just to keep up with him.

Fenugreek is an herb used in Indian cooking and curries. It smells and tastes like maple syrup, and in fact they use it to flavor some cheaper syrups from time to time. Breastfeeding moms have been taking the supplement for years to help increase milk production due to it being an herbal galactagogue that increases lactation. To me, it’s just one of many old wives tales and tips that I’ve been privy to now that we have a baby, but Julie swears by it and gobbled the pills up by the hand full. She was convinced that they were increasing her milk load, but mostly, they were just making everything smell like my morning waffles twenty four hours a day.

When it started, it took me by surprise. I took a pee after her in an unflushed toilet and started smelling it. It was not a side effect I had imagined, having known nothing about the stuff until she started taking them, and at first I thought I must have gotten some syrup stuck in my beard. Hey, having a beard has its struggles. But after about the third day or so, and a few showers, I was really getting confused. Then I started noticing it not only in the bathroom, but in bed, and in the living room. Our sheets smelled like syrup; our pillows, syrup; our couch cushions, syrup; our rugs, syrup. Anything she came in contact with was infected. She even tasted like syrup when I kissed her neck, a novel and minor benefit that would quickly outstay its welcome. I was married to Mrs. Fucking Butterworth. The Fenugreek had infiltrated every molecule of her body: her sweat, her urine, and her saliva. I can only imagine it made for some interesting tasting breast milk. No wonder Jack had been hogging the tits, the milk must have tasted like a White Russian or liquid fucking IHOP.

I remember when those tits came out for reasons other than feeding. I used to get to spend some time with them. I used to get to touch them. Now when my son isn’t hanging off of them, they are usually too full or too sore to even try to incorporate them into any other part of our lives. I get to see them out now more than ever, but I don’t get to have any fun with them. They get taken out in the living room, during the Bears game, in the car, in the kitchen, and sometimes even in public. They get taken out in front of family, friends, and total strangers without a second thought. It’s tits, tits, everywhere!

To make matters worse, when they’re not fully exposed, they often get paraded around the house all day in those weirdly sexy nursing bras that offer easy access to the treasures they harness, and oh what treasures they are these days! Julie has never been one to have more than a handful, but now she’s the proud owner of a bona fide rack. She’s filling out all of her shirts, sweaters, Bears jerseys, jackets, and even baggy hooded sweatshirts like she’s Eva Wyrwal, and only one person in this house gets to reap the full benefits. It’s not fair. He owes me, the little fucker. He’s bogarting the boobs and he knows it while I’m left as a neglected bystander. It’s like living in a strip club, minus the poles, the glitter, and the patented stripper smell. There is a strict no touching policy and I’m running out of singles.

Things are looking up for our poor Stay at Home Hero, though. Feedings are happening less, and the damn Fenugreek is finally working its way out of her system. Some day I suppose I’ll look back with fondness at these days when my house was like a 24/7 titty-bar with an all you can eat pancake buffet, but for now I’d rather only smell syrup with breakfast and get those bodacious ta-tas all to myself. I may even get to touch a nipple sometime soon. Until then, waffles anyone?

Crawling lessons.

I tried to teach Jack how to crawl today. Turns out, I’m pretty good at it. Not so much the teaching, but the crawling. He seems to watch everything I do so intently, that I figured if he saw me crawling around the house, maybe something would click in his brain, and he’d figure it out. So, that’s what I did today, I crawled. I crawled from the couch to the stereo. I crawled from the kitchen to the dining room table. I even crawled to the bathroom. I crawled towards him, I crawled away from him, and I crawled back. Unfortunately, that was the only crawling that happened, though not from lack of trying on either of our parts.

He wants to be mobile, you can see it in his face. He can raise himself up with his arms. He can also bend and move his legs. He just can’t seem to realize that he needs to do both at the same time. Instead, he stretches his arms out in front of himself, balancing on his belly, and kicks his legs in unison. It’s like he’s swimming on land; cute but futile. I’d love to toss him into a pool and see what happens. Lucky for him, it’s practically winter, and we didn’t bring Julie’s kiddie pool with us from Illinois.

I do wonder if all this crawling around will actually have any effect. When he does finally make his move, will he be thinking about me crawling around the house on this random Monday afternoon? How much of his watching will actually become doing? When I catch him staring at me while doing the mundane activities of my life, what is he thinking? What is he learning? It’s a frightening responsibility, but I’m ready for it…and I have the rug burns on my knees to prove it.

From the archives: Omaha Dad Journal Entry 08/19/09

This was originally written on Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Today, I fell in love with my son.

I was changing his diaper while Jules was downstairs putting away the new Tupperware set she bought me and making us a late dinner. I pondered the oddity of my pleasure over the plastic-ware while I tossed the soiled diaper into the hamper and laid the diaper cover over the end of the changing table. I guess I’m officially the homemaker now. I flipped on some lullaby Led Zeppelin while I stuffed him into his zip up sleeper, which he seems to be already outgrowing. Next thing you know, I was balling my eyes out and blowing my nose into a cloth baby wipe. We had both been experiencing so much anxiety and frustration over the first two days of this great Stay At Home Dad Experiment, that all it took was one of his glorious open mouth smiles to put it all in perspective and put me over the edge. It’s been quite the few days, to say the least.

I had pretty much been either working, packing, driving to Omaha, unpacking, or playing second fiddle to Momma Jules for the past three plus months, but now I’ve made it halfway through my first week at the baby helm, and I’m relatively unscathed. Sure, the naps aren’t really happening, so I’m barely eating, not really exercising, and I sure as hell haven’t been showering, brushing my teeth, or getting dressed until most people are heading home for dinner and calling it a day. By that time, it’s not even worth doing, but it helps to make me feel normal at least for an hour or so before I have to try to steal a few hours of sleep for myself. I feel like I’m being very unsuccessful as a person, but it’s not about me at this point, and I’m slowly realizing that, as hard as it may be. It’s really just about making sure everything is cool with the little man. I think it will be good for me to have to think about someone else all the time instead.

So there I was, bonding with my half naked three month old son, singing a variation on a Notorious BIG song I like to call “Big Poopa,” while fastening the snaps on a fresh diaper cover. Suddenly he unleashed this amazingly wide mouthed smile while looking up at me and grabbing for my beard. I dodged his grasp and he let out the tiniest little giggle. That was it. I lost it. Joyous tears ran down my face while the subtle lullaby version of Zep’s “Thank You” flowed out of the CD Clock radio on his makeshift nightstand. Despite my slight embarrassment, I just let them roll, allowing myself to experience the moment as it was; my son, laughing at me crying at him. I was completely overwhelmed, I was totally smitten, and I’ll never forget it for the rest of my life.


“Remember when going to bed was just going to bed?” my wife asked during a commercial break while watching Top Chef. “Now it’s a whole ordeal. There’s all this trepidation about when the kid’s going to wake up, if he’s going to go back to sleep easily, how much he’s going to sleep, how much we’re going to be able to sleep, how long it’s going to take us to go back to sleep…it’s just so frustrating!” she continued.

“Sucks, huh?” I responded, knowing exactly how she was feeling, “Sleep used to be something to look forward to. It just happened. Now, it’s a crap-shoot. I do almost fear it,” I said.

“Exactly. Sometimes I sit here with you and the dog and forget we have a kid. Then when we go to bed, it all comes rushing back. It totally sucks,” she whimpered.

Sometimes it does suck. Sometimes, as bad as it sounds, you do wish for the way you were: The dates, the drinks, the sex, the sleep.

I think of all the issues that come to a head after the birth of a child, the sleep issue is the most frustrating. It causes the most strife, the most contention, the most arguments, the most yelling, and the most tears. Without a solid relationship, I don’t know how many parenting couples survive this single, life consuming issue.

Just when you think you have it figured out, it blows up in your face. One night little Jack will sleep for ten hours and we’ll think we’ve turned a corner, but then the next three nights he’ll be up every two hours again. It can be an unbelievably disheartening strain on your relationship, and unimaginably tiring. My wife and I could have probably counted the fights we had, in a decade plus prior to parenthood, with one hand. Last month it seemed we fought every day, and definitely every night. It can get pretty ugly at 3:30 in the morning when you’ve both averaged under five hours of sleep a night for the past half a year. You yell at the kid, you yell at each other, and you even yell at the dog, knowing full well that the yelling isn’t helping anything. It can get so bad that you actually do dread the hours that you used to dream away.

“I called my daughter a ‘little bitch’ last night,” my friend told me the other day, referring to the previous night’s sleep struggle with his five month old daughter.

“I call Jack a ‘little bitch’ all the time,” I responded, feeling slightly guilty but also feeling that he does in fact deserve the label from time to time, especially when he’s trying to be wide awake at 4AM after I just finally fell back asleep after his 2AM wake-up. I’m sure the last time it happened won’t be the last time it happens, unfortunately.

That’s the thing with these little bundles of joy that we choose to produce, one second you can’t hug them enough, the next you want to throw them through a wall. I’m guessing that it’s probably the case for their entire lives, they just get heavier and learn to drive…and by then you’re probably bitching at them for sleeping too much. Go figure.