Curd, son. Nothing else in the world smells like that.

I love the smell of curd in the morning!

It is something you forget once your child moves on to eating solids. The tangy, slightly pungent smell of regurgitated milk. It is oddly a comforting smell. It is a newborn smell. Certainly better than what happens when you move on to solids and things get toxic.

The smell is also something that parents can relate to as a “been there, done that” badge of honor for having survived in the trenches. This is the reason you don’t sleep, the reason you lose your mind, the reason you forget everything, the reason you cannot get anything done and yet “it smells like victory.”

Despite all the laundry that goes with a newborn it becomes intoxicating to put your newborn on your shoulder and inhale that first whiff of curd. Even after a bath and a change of onesies there is that cheesy baby breath that hits your nostrils every time they sigh or yawn. You can even see those pieces in their mouth left over from their last burp.

Why am I so enthralled by this I really don’t know? Probably the realization that they are newborns today and toddlers tomorrow. I have flashbacks from my older son’s first months, but not the baby smells. Reminds me of the late great Peter Boyle as Frank Barone sniffing his grandkids because the baby smell is a sort of fountain of youth. Maybe I am crazy and find something as gross as spit up romantic? Maybe it is just the sleep deprivation? What is seen by so many as an unpleasant smell to me brings out warmth and coziness. The intimacy of holding part of you close. It is another living being, but it is an extension of your soul and a piece of your heart. All I know is that tomorrow it will be on to stinky diapers and I really don’t want to write about those so I figure I would put down a few words in honor of the classic “eau d’enfant”: curd.

LBK, LAK and reincarnation.

I realized early this morning while watching the minute hand on the kitchen clock sweep towards sixteen with the hour hand seemingly stuck on three that last time around I did not have a blog. Last time around was over three years ago when my first son was born and the only blog experience was a few posts on Blogger about my beloved fountain pens in 2007 when I was living my other life – LBK (aka life before kids). Then I was reincarnated as a bumbling idiot who didn’t know what the heck to do with the tiny wriggling body that they plopped in my hands as they pushed me out of the hospital.

Many of my esteemed colleagues and fellow writers have spent copious keyboard strokes on LBK and LAK (aka life after kids). In my case the year my oldest was born was 2008 LBK (if you were looking at a marble façade in ancient Rome it would read MMVIII) and instead today would be 3 LAK (or for the pagan Romans MMXI). Most of us will agree that although LBK was pretty great and lots of fun, LAK is certainly much more fulfilling albeit stressful. But back to me alone in the dark watching the seconds tick ever so slowly away with my newborn son sleeping in my arms. I am actually happy that I get a chance to write about him from the start and it will make up for the fact that I kept a physical journal about our first pregnancy and newborn experience and instead have been (predictably) a lazy bastard about our youngest boy. The sensations have been similar, but with the experience of our first it gives you a whole new perspective. The confidence is certainly there, but in so many cases the experience with our first is not the same with our second: sleeping, feeding, burping, pooping, crankiness and so on are quite different. The expressions, though, are oddly the same: pensive, angry, hungry, uncomfortable and so on. I cannot wait to see how he develops and how his personality takes over. Although, I must say he seems to have a lot to say already – more than his big brother did – so it’s going to be interesting!

I would compare the second time around to “déjà vu”, you feel you’ve seen it all before, but you just can’t say so for sure.

 

The Brother P-Touch and that scuttling noise behind me.

As some of you know from earlier posts (Divide and conquer or fall asleep trying…), I am a bit of a neat freak. Of course as those of you who are parents know all too well tidiness is not part of the job description. The moment I put something away and turn my attention to the next object I hear an odd scuttling, much like the one you hear in horror movies before something jumps out at the protagonist , and the object I just put away is back on the floor. Although my second son is just a few weeks old it is just a matter of time before the scuttling grows louder and the objects on the floor multiple. Divide and conquer may have been a good tactic with one child, but with two it will take maximum concentration.

I, therefore, jumped at the opportunity to participate in the Brother P-Touch ambassador program and put their labels to the test. Not, mind you, because I am under the illusion that the scuttling will stop, but for my own mental sanity. I need the labels on boxes and toys to lull me into a false sense of security that if I blink my eyes three times everything will be in order. Although, I will still have to do my own cleaning up, I will at least be able to dig out my son’s toys from the sandbox time after time and rapidly check to make sure it is his Thomas The Tank Engine and not one of the other five bazillion lying around the sand box.
          
The first challenge Brother gave us was to use a test kit with a scrubber, Clorox and nail polish remover to find out how durable are the labels. I actually decided to go beyond that and think like a scuttling toddler. So I dunked the label overnight in water (because I know I am not the only one who has “rescued” toys from the toilet). I smeared oranges, blueberries, strawberries and yogurt on the label and let them dry out and then scrubbed the label under hot water. I also froze the label and then washed it in the dishwasher a couple of times. I figure this is the type of abuse that the labels would get if they were on my son’s toys, sippy cups, and any other object he might get his hands on.
         

The good news is that the labels held up incredibly well, the bad news is that many of the objects that I would attach them to will probably not. I will continue to try the label out and I will also try to organize my sons’ room in the coming months. Stay tuned for photos and updates on whether or not the scuttling has diminished.

NB: I wrote this review while participating in a campaign by Mom Central Consulting on behalf of Brother P-Touch and received a product and gift card to facilitate my review and a promotional item to thank me for taking the time to participate. All opinions expressed are my own.

Fool me once shame on you. Fool me twice…

I am a new dad – again. I get to deal with breastfeeding, poop, burps, spit up and less no sleep. The second time around, though, I realize that the first time was not so bad after all. Newborns really do just eat, poop and sleep. It’s the whining and now jealous older toddler that kills you. I was warned and I read dissertations about it, but as when you become a parent the first time you don’t really get it until you live it. I must premise all of this by saying that I am a lucky man. I have two beautiful and healthy boys and a lovely and loving wife. I had my kids at a time in my life when I was in a good place and was ready (although who am I kidding, you are never really ready for parenthood) to start a family. So for all these reasons I am a happy camper.

Reality is, though, that now it’s just one-on-one. There is no double-teaming my son anymore. He’s got help and no matter how reluctant he may be to have that baby brother around to take away a piece of his pie, he sure loves the added distraction to mom and dad’s vigilance.

It all started a few weeks ago (although my three year old new something was up months ago) when roughly twenty-four hours before we were scheduled to go in for an induction my second son decided he was going to one up his big brother (who was induced) and come out of his own volition.

After a false start we were back in the hospital after only a few hours and chance would have it in the same exact delivery room as my first son. My son also happened to get whisked away to the NICU with me in tow since they were worried he had inhaled some fluid, but it was a false alarm. Sure enough my second son decided that he too must visit the NICU, but this time he wanted yet again to crawl out from under his older sibling’s shadow and stayed there a full week since he actually did inhale fluid.

An earthquake and a hurricane later, we were finally allowed to bring him home and made sure to bring his big brother to the hospital to see him being brought out by myself and the nurse. We wanted him to understand that we hadn’t just bought a baby at the local pharmacy since mom had already come home without a belly or the much talked about baby brother. We even did the whole baby brother gift tactic to smooth things over.

So far I will say there has been no overt Cain and Able moments, but whatever tenderness big brother has shown to baby brother (we caught him reading to baby brother the other day of his own accord) his alter-ego, Big Bad Brother, has stricken down upon us with great vengeance and furious anger. But that my friends is whole other post altogether.

The Clarisonic Classic: A spa minute (literally) for this tired dad’s face.

I was recently approached with what I felt at the time was an unusual request: to test out a facial cleansing product. The request by Clarisonic, though, was use it as a pre-shave treatment to reduce razor burn and ingrown hairs. I was skeptical since I really did not see the point since I use a badger brush to do the same thing, but I was intrigued and accepted.

After just a few days I got a package with my kit that was mine to test and to keep. The kit included (and it’s what you get in the regular kit when you purchase it):

 

– Cordless Clarisonic Classic (Graphite)

– Charging Cradle (120v)

– Normal Brush Head (you can also get a sensitive skin head separately)

– 1 oz. trial sizes of Refreshing Gel Cleanser, Gentle Hydro Cleanser and Nourishing Care Cleanser

– I did not get the travel bag which I was rather bummed about until I saw that it was floral patterned.

I followed the instructions on charging the unit with the cradle and the next morning decided to start the regimen. I confess that as any guy would I really did not read the instructions in detail. Basically it says to apply some of the gel to the Clarisonic brush head and then lather around your face and neck thanks to the gagillion movements and vibrations per second that the brush does on your skin  (or something like that). I grabbed it, put some gel on it and into the shower it went with me (it’s waterproof). I had read it should only take a minute and also not to push the brush hard, just glide it across your face, so that is what I did. I pushed the start button on the handle and the Clarisonic came to life. It looks like a giant Sonicare toothbrush and, in fact, it was invented by the same people (I am not going to bore you with all the technical mumbo jumbo, but if you’re into that here is a good link: Clarisonic Research).

The vibration was pleasant and before you all get naughty thoughts in your head please remember that my kids may read this some day. I pretty much winged it (since, again, I’m a guy and don’t really read instructions) and let the brush do its thing for a minute or two. It gave me a pleasant face massaging sensation so I was not counting the seconds. I pushed the button again and the vibration stopped. After rinsing off the lathered gel and getting out of the shower I definitely felt tighter (cleaner) skin and I proceeded to shave using my trusted badger brush and safety razor.

I must confess that although I have oily skin, I really to do not have problems with ingrown facial hair or with breakouts, but I do use facial soap regularly so to make sure I was giving the Clarisonic a good run I decided to use it exclusively for a few weeks. This is also the amount of time that Clarisonic told me to wait before I starting seeing results since your face adjusts to this new method of cleaning. The Clarisonic certainly gets the job done. It cleaned me up just as well if not better than some of the soaps I use regularly. As far as making it an indispensable part of my own shaving routine I will say that it is not necessary, but again I do not have problems with my facial hair that this product could certainly resolve. I can certainly see the benefits of it opening up the obstructions that usually trap facial hair for those who suffer from in grown hair and I can certainly see how acne sufferers would get a good scrub with this. I do, though, enjoy using the Clarisonic for my facial scrubs and will continue to use it in the shower to keep my face clean and quite frankly massage my face since with two kids it is the only spa treatment I will be getting anytime soon – even if it lasts only a minute.

The Parenthood Hymn

There was a game we used to play

We would hit the town on Friday night

And stay in bed until Sunday

We used to be so free

We were living for the love we had and

Living not for reality

 

It was just my imagination

 

(Just My Imagination, Bury The Hatchet – 1999)

 

I find it amazing how the meaning of lyrics to a song that I have listened to for years can change so drastically. Until recently it was another sappy song about love and heartbreak. Now it has become my parenthood hymn and as another great band sings “time keeps on slippin’, slippin’, slippin’”.

Clichés and growth spurts.

As clichéd as this may sound, it is really astounding how fast kids grow up. Not height wise, mind you, although that is just as incredible, but how Mini Me they become. They pick up on different tones of voice, they can ask for things, they ask about things, they give you attitude, they give you affection, they give you heartburn, they are fiercely independent and stubborn to boot. I am as proud of my son as I am ready to plunk him on the top of his head. He surprises us with words, thoughts and deeds and then a second later drives us nuts with an act of utter stupidity like only a toddler can manage. The need to stay a step ahead is always thwarted by his improvisation and diversion from what is otherwise his self-imposed routine of eating, blankie, playground, snack time, song time etc. As exhausting as it is for parents, I also feel it keeps the mind sharp much like playing Bridge or Chess does.

I do miss the days of eating, pooping and sleeping, but as you watch him mold into his own shape and form his own, albeit often exasperating, thoughts and desires you feel a parent’s pride that despite all the doubts and fears of failing as a parent, you are doing something right (or so I like to tell myself whenever my son is throwing a tantrum at my feet).

Nostalgia and a bit of latent ego…

I’m not often suckered into doing things through shear sentimentality, but this time a combination of latent nostalgia and pure ego overcame me. I was asked if I would like to bring my son to see The Fantasticks. Specifically, the idea was to promote their backstage tours following matinee performances. For those of you who do not know what I am talking about, The Fantasticks, a twist on Romeo and Juliet set in a small town somewhere in the US, holds the title of the world’s longest running musical. After a brief hiatus it returned to its off-broadway roots in 2006 (the original production started in 1960 at NYC’s Sullivan Street Playhouse and ran for a total of 42 years and 17,162 performances). I unfortunately cannot bring my son because he is just too young to sit through what is a truly fantastic production (although I certainly plan on bringing him when he is ready to sit still for more than a minute!). The reason I decided to write about this production is not only because it has been a longtime New York fixture, but because in my short lived theatrical career in high school and college, I not only played the part of Henry (the old actor in the musical), I also worked on the lighting and set design. I was also lucky enough to see the original off-broadway show at the Sullivan Street Playhouse. When they contacted me a few weeks ago and invited me over I felt that clichéd wave of emotions wash over me as I thought back to my own time as a cast member and some of the more comical moments during that production. The one that comes immediately to mind, though, was opening night when I awaited my grand entrance from a box in the middle of the stage (you have to see the musical to fully appreciate the hilarity of the situation) with one of my classmates who was playing Mortimer who must have eaten a few too many beans for lunch. Needless to say popping out of that box could not come soon enough, although I will say it did make my entrance much more energetic!

If you are in NYC do go see The Fantasticks, with or without kids it really is a great production and you will be humming Try to Remember for days later.

 

“He’s a regular…”

That’s what the kind lady said to me as she walked around the bakery counter and recognized my son sitting in the stroller. She handed him a mini vanilla (or banilla as my son says) cupcake and smiled as he devoured the icing. Luckily he has been less of a regular these days since he is no longer going to the daycare next door. She laughed and said,”he always goes for the icing first. “He ONLY eats the icing”, I thought to myself. She got out of her crouch next to the stroller and mussed his hair, “what a cutie and so well mannered!” (huh?!) And she went back to her other customers.

Half way down he block my son sticks out his now empty crumb encrusted hand and says,”Daaaady?! I want another one!” And stood up in the stroller, harness and all – to punctuate his quasi-interjection.

“You just had one. Sit down and put your feet up. It’s 115 degrees and Daddy is melting faster than the Wicked Witch.”

“Daaaady?!”

“What.”

“I neeeeeed it!”

“No, you really don’t. Let’s go.”

“Daaaady?!”

“What.”(sighing)

“I love you!”

“Nice try. Feet up let’s go.”

The stand off finally ended and I made it home dripping with sweat as my son bounced up and down in the stroller in the grip of a full fledged sugar high. I could just imagine if the bakery had installed a few stools they would greet my son as he walked in with a “Norm!” and he’d slide onto “his” stool and wait for the nice lady behind the counter to slide him a cupcake.