Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Right, Dad?

I'm not sure I can format this one to tell a story, but here it is anyway: The newest, oddest thing my daughter does.

It goes like this:

Mihret and I get into the middle of an activity. Suddenly, my daughter feels she must state a rule. Like so:

Her: We sit when we eat, right dad?

Me: Right, Mihret.

Her: Right, Dad?

Me: Right, Mihret.

And so on. It's like living in a "Leave it to Beaver" episode.

What's interesting about it have been the variations. If Kara is around, we get:

Her: Right, Dad?

Me: Right, Mihret.

Her: Right, Mom?

Kara: Right, Mihret.

And so on.

Only now, because she thinks it's funny, when it's just me and the kidpants, I'll get:

Her: Right, Dad?

Me: Right, Mihret.

Her: Right, Mom?

Me: You'll have to ask mom.

Her: Right, Mom?

Me: Dude. You know I'm not your mom.

Her: Right, Mom?

Me: *sigh*

I have yet to find anything like this in a parenting handbook...

Friday, November 5, 2010

Unsolved Mystery

Lately, our life has revolved around a magical thing called The Potty.

If you listen to people like My Friend, The Nanny, kids eventually just get it. They figure out how to do it, they think it's grand, they pull off the pull-up and they are ready to go.

It happens as if by magic.

The only problem is, in our house, it isn't happening by magic.

Oh, we thought it would. We brought in underpants, we got excited about them, we tried to make them sound awesome. The little one, on the other hand, decided we could pee and poop in 'em. And why not? She doesn't have to clean them.

Then we figured we'd let it happen naturally at the day care. She'd move up to preschool, and all the other kids would be in underpants, and she'd want to be a big kid.

Didn't happen.

Then new, younger kids moved in, and we thought being a "big kid" might make a difference. Perhaps she'd learn to use the potty just to show the other kids how it's done.


We tried a sticker system, which lasted for ten minutes, because she tore the special chart off the wall. Not on purpose. She just wanted to look at it. She didn't seem to understand what it was for.

And all the while, she kept getting better at the MECHANICS of the potty.

She can pull down her own pull-up. She can wipe herself, when poop isn't involved. She can wash her own hands, and use soap, and dry herself off.

And in the last four or five weeks, she seems to have gotten to a point where she can actually hold in her pee, instead of just letting it out in drips and drabs throughout the day.

Which is certainly an important step.

She's finally, finally, finally learning to put all her pee and poop in the potty, and I'm going to tell you how that's happening:

It's called The Treat Tin.

What's in the Tin? Candy. Lots of different kinds of candy, collected over time, given to us at birthday parties, at day care, and pretty much any time someone encountered us and thought we had a cute kid who needed a treat.

That Tin has all the power in the universe. And I think the reason it works is that it's not all the SAME candy. Whereas we played this game once before with M and Ms, she eventually realized that she was always gonna get a little hunk o' chocolate if she went on the porcelain throne.

So if she didn't want chocolate, well, feh. Why bother?

This feeds into my other theory, which not everyone in the household agrees with: I think our kid has refused to potty train because she realizes it's a bad deal.

Right now, if she's playing, or reading a book, or watching a movie, and she has to go? She can just go. There's nothing to stop her. She can void herself and just keep on having fun. She knows that's an awesome deal many adults would kill for.

(If you don't believe me, Google the Bleacher Buddy.)

But since there's a treat at the end of the tunnel, she races up the stairs, and voids her bladder, and runs downstairs because she knows some variety of candy, maybe one she's never had before, is totally on tap, and she is PUMPED.

Just last week, I got her through an entire day in a single pull-up, because every time she felt an urge, she knew a reward was waiting for her.

Which brings us to "The Mystery" in question.

Generally, when I'm in the shower in the morning, the little one occupies herself with something from our DVD collection. VeggieTales, Elmo, Dora, and lately Charlie Brown. She has some juice, she wakes up (she's not very good at that, just like everyone else in this house) and it gives her a chance to mellow before school starts.

Meanwhile, Kara is upstairs if there's an urgent need. Granted, Kara is asleep, but she would wake up if there was screaming or a loud crash.

At any rate.

On this morning, Kara was already at work. I went into the shower. I got out of the shower. And there was Mihret, with a big grin on her face.

"I went poop! Can I have a treat?" she asked.

Here's the issue: Mihret doesn't poop alone. She can pee alone, because she can take care of all the extra business that goes with it. But poop is another matter. We've had poop dropped on the floor and tracked around accidentally during poop alone time, so we carefully monitor her during such times now, and perform all wiping duties.

And I know her teachers give her a hand during these times as well.

So... I thought she might have been lying to me. Or, worse, had done horrible things in the upstairs bathroom even as I cleansed myself.

I checked her hands. I smelled her fingers. No poop.

I went upstairs and checked the floor, the toilet seat, and the box of moist wipes. All seemed to be clean, unused, and in order.

The only thing that indicated my wee one HAD been in the upstairs bathroom was her little stool, which she stands on when washing her hands. It had been moved in front of the sink, indicating that she had, at the very least, washed her hands while I was cleaning myself up.

I asked if she didn't just go pee. She insisted there was poop. Later than night, I asked her again if she went poop today, and she said she did. When I asked if it was before school or during school, she said, before.

Ultimately, I had to trust the little one, and gave her the treat she requested. But now I'm trying to figure out if there's some way to add a potty-verification system to the upstairs bathroom.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

A Haiku for My Daughter

A Haiku for My Daughter
(in Honor of her Mama Delame)

She sang to you and/
I'm singing to you and our/
Voices, mother-love.

-Kara N. Patterson

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Family History and the Big Girl Bed

Growing up is tough. Growing up as a parent is tougher.

The various tests and troubles of parenting start the moment your kid comes home. They have a pattern of some kind, but they can’t explain it to you, because they haven’t learned to talk yet.

So your life turns into a science experiment of eating, and sleeping, and diapers, and cuddling, and eventually you get to a point where everything works.

At which point: Boom. Over. On to the next phase.

And you get to learn a whole new set of eating/sleeping/running rules.

Then you adjust, and then, BOOM, over.

In the midst of it all? The big girl bed.

As an adult with no children, you spend very little time thinking about the many beds of childhood. Your brain understands the whole baby/crib, older child/bed thing, and that’s about it.

But as you start raising actual human beings, you learn that there are many itinerations of the big-girl bed.

First, you’ve got the crib. NO blankets allowed. Maybe one, if it’s really tucked in. Because if you don’t tuck it in, the kid will kick it on their face, and then IT’S ALL OVER.

At least, that’s what the parenting books tell you.

Then they get a little older, and maybe you put a blanket in there.

If they’re little when they come home, you leave the bar on the crib down. The kid gets bigger? You raise the bar.

Then comes the day when your child moves to a “toddler” bed. Which means you take the bars off the side.

It’s like a small miracle. First it was a crib, and now, with a little tugging, it’s a bed. A small one, granted, but a bed all the same.

Finally, it’s time to move your kid to an actual, you know, bed-type-bed. Maybe a full. Or a twin.

In our case it was a twin, though I didn’t realize it at first.

You see, Kara and I were PREPARED for this moment. We bought an awesome crib, which is designed to turn into a toddler bed, and then into a bed-type-bed. Even better, when I told my parents that I thought it was time to move the kid to a regular bed, they said they had one.

There’s a story I’ll come to there. In a moment.

So our plan was set. They’d come over, they’d bring the bed, and we’d arrange the little one’s room to accommodate her brand-new, big girl bed.

Only, as it turns out, I know nothing about beds.

To start with, I didn’t take into account that my daughter’s bed-to-be would have to be a full-sized bed, in order to accommodate the head-and-foot-boards previously known as “crib parts.”

So, instead, I tore apart her crib, and my dad and I (mostly my dad) hauled the parts of the bed upstairs and started assembling them.

Which is when I learned something – the bed used to belong to my dad.

For weeks, my parents had referred to the bed in question as belonging to my grandparents. But I didn’t realize they were talking about the Patterson side. I had assumed they were speaking of the Dorows, who both passed away this year.

I was sort of right and sort of wrong.

According to my father, the bed that now sits in my daughter’s room was his – or possibly his brother’s. My dad was one of seven kids, and the bed in question was, essentially, a cheapie from Sears. Back when my dad was young. Which would have been back in 1950-something.

The bed resided at the Patterson household for years, until the Dorows had to move into assisted living, and needed beds that would fit in their tiny apartment. So this little bed, and its brother, left the Patterson household for the first time in their long history, and became part of the Dorow household.

Then my grandfather passed away, and the bed returned to my parents.

The bed itself is in great shape. There’s a scuff here and there, but my Grandma Patterson recovered the headboard years ago in fake brown leather that almost perfectly matches my daughter’s bedroom set.

You might notice that the color is a little off from the other furniture, but it would take you a while.

In a lot of ways, the bed is perfectly at home in my daughter’s room, a collection of books and toys from her childhood, my childhood, and my wife’s childhood. Adding a bed that my father, my grandfather, and almost certainly I, have slept in at one time or another feels right.

I’ve already said that growing up as a parent is tough. Three generations of parents have slept in that same bed, and with any luck, one day Mihret will present a big-kid bed to her son or daughter with the words, “This used to belong to your great-grandfather. And your great-great grandfather, for a while.”

And if we’re all very lucky, the bed will pass along four generations of parenting wisdom.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

An Open Letter to Huggies

Dear Huggies People,

I've been meaning to talk to you for some time about your Pull-Ups. These are, of course, the diapers that have been designed to act like underwear for kids who sometimes still pee in their pants. Or poop in their pants. Or have other pants-related accidents that parents would rather deal with by throwing something in the trash instead of trying to wash something covered in fecal matter.

Here's what I wanted to say about them: I hate them. They are worthless. They have exactly one good quality, which I will detail now.

This is the good quality: Just like a regular diaper, you can put them on and take them off without having to remove your child's pants, shoes, socks, leggings, lederhosen, etc.

So I want to thank you for thinking of that, since you are the only Pull-Up makers who realized that would be a good thing.

But now it's time to talk about the stuff that makes me froth at the mouth like a rabid marmoset.

1. Pull-Ups are almost totally useless as a waste-containment system.

In winter, this is less of a problem, because the lack of heat in the air means my child doesn't require a lot of liquids. Ergo, she doesn't have to pee as much.

But now, as summer drapes its sweaty body over us like a warm, moist towelette, my kid gets thirsty all the time. And she wants something to drink. Something that comes out as urine. Which goes into her Pull-Up. Which can hold about two ounces of widdle before I start seeing little puddles of pee on my couch, on the floor, on my kid's pants, and so on.

What this means is, I STILL have to remove my kid's pants, and replace them, and while I'm not a huge fan of the process in general, I enjoy it even less when I get urine on myself in the process.

The job of the waste-containment system is to CONTAIN waste. So let's work on that, shall we?

2. Let's talk about how diapers go on.

Every disposable diaper that exists right now goes on in the following fashion: The the front of the diaper goes up over the waste-excreting part of the child, which is then held in place by two Velcro straps that move from the back of the diaper to the front.

To review: The straps in the back go over the TOP of the diaper in front.

But for some reasons, your Pull-Ups are the complete reverse. The straps in the FRONT go over the OTHER straps in the back.

Now, you might argue that Pull-Ups are designed to be pulled UP. Which is true. But please see above, re: removal of lederhosen.

Regardless, it's an irritating thing to have to learn in the midst of teaching a child to put their waste in another receptacle. We as parents are already frustrated - why do you feel compelled to ADD to it?

3. And speaking of Velcro...

Frankly, folks, your diapers just don't hold together all that well when doing the thing they are designed to do. Which is to slide off like faux underwear so that our kids can get used to the semi-removal of clothing all adults who need to void their bladders do on a daily basis.

Unfortunately, like most human beings,kids push down on the sides of their undergarments when getting ready to let the waste fall into the toilet. This is right where your Pull-Ups come together.

Which means that, frequently, the Pull-Ups just plain fall off. And when that happens, kids come to view it as how Pull-Ups are supposed to function. So they just start tearing them off, which is not how you use underwear at all.

At least, not in a bathroom setting.

To this end, let me make a radical design suggestion that just might prevent me from having to burn a pile of horribly soiled clothing that I just don't want to get involved with:

First, let's up the containment factor on these things. I realize that you make a "nighttime" version as well, but I don't feel like slapping Sleeping Beauty on my little one's booty every time she wants a cup of juice.

Second, let's fix this strap issue. For the love of sanity, please make Pull-Ups assemble the same way all the other diapers in the universe assemble. I realize this might cost you one more cent for that stretchy fabric, but you can pass that cost along to us, the parents. You were going to do it anyway.

Perhaps you can save some money by eliminating the "wet spot" portion of the diaper, which is supposed to tell kids that they're wet and should go pee in the potty, but just gives them a diaper rash.

You can get rid of the "when pee gets on this, it turns purple" section of the Pull-Up as well. You know why? Because it's under PANTS, which means no one can see that the color has changed.

I mean, have you not HAD children? Do you not realize that if a kid learns their diapers change color when you pee in them, they view it not as a reason to use the potty, but as a reason to play "baby science?"

In conclusion, way to go on the Pull-Ups that change like diapers. Now, I'm begging you, please do something so I don't have to change my kid's trousers three times a day just because she wants a drink of water.



Thursday, May 6, 2010

Why I Will Always Bring a Diaper Bag Everywhere: A Tragic Tale

For the last several weeks, things have finally been warming up around here, and the giant yellow ball in the sky has finally started sticking around past 5:30.

In some ways, this is bad, as it is becoming a little more tricky to convince the little one that bedtime is nigh, when the sun is still a-blazing outside.

In other ways, this is A Good Thing, mostly because after a long winter of her wanting to sit and watch “a movie” after dinner, she is now much more entranced with the idea of being outside.

This pleases me, since I can now worry a lot less about whether or not I’m turning my child into a couch potato. If I am, I’m doing it slowly.

When we have time on our hands, we usually head to one of three places:

The backyard/around the block: We did this a lot last year, as we finally had a swing set, and a walk or two around the block was usually a good way to kill ten minutes.

A local school: They have a play area, they’re in walking distance, and if it’s just the two of us she can even walk by herself, with some assistance when we cross the street.

City Park: For some reason, this is often the place We Must Go. The problem is it’s kind of a commitment. We either have to drive, because it’s more than a half-mile, or we have to walk, and there’s at least one major street-crossing along the way.

Plus she can’t walk it, because it’s too long, so we have to get out the stroller, and walk for fifteen minutes, and play vigorously, and then walk back.

Don’t mock. This is how I lost eight pounds last summer.

The problem with carting the little one around is that you have to bring all her “stuff” with you everywhere you go. You need the diaper bag. You should probably have a drink in there, and snacks, and diapers, and an extra outfit, and also make sure you packed wipes…

But I’ll admit it. I’ve gotten lazy.

At first it was just the school. It’s a short walk, so why bring an extra diaper? If she gets wet, yeah, it’s uncomfortable, but we can be home in maybe five minutes.

Then I just got tired of bringing a diaper bag to the park, because it is a long walk, and after a while carting around an awkward bag just gets tiresome.

And here comes the meat of this story.

So, it was a pleasant Sunday afternoon. A light breeze, a lot of sun. The perfect park weather, when it’s not too hot to run around, and not so cold that you need a heavy, arm-impeding coat.

As per usual, it took a little scrambling to get out the door. We’re ready to leave, but first we need a snack, okay we ate, let’s clean our hands, okay, let’s go, no, wait…

So when I saw that the little one’s diaper was starting to look a little wet, the conversation went like this:

Me: We need to get you changed.

Her: No, I wanna go to the park!

Me: … Eh. Fine. We can change you there later.

And so we got out the stroller. And I looked at the diaper bag. And I thought, “Meh.” I just didn’t feel like lugging the thing. I’d already spent most of the day running from place to place, and I was tired and didn’t want to drag along an extra five pounds.

So I jammed a diaper in my pocket and we rolled out.

Things started well. The walk was tolerable, even though I felt like I could use a nap. And when we got to the park, we discovered that a couple of kids from Mihret’s day care were already there.

Then things went a little South.

Mihret, it seems, has something of a love/hate relationship with the little one in question. They’re both three, they’re both not great at sharing, and as it happens, neither of the kids had taken a nap and they were both running on fumes.

So they played for a while, and then there was some yelling about, “My ball!” and then the other little one started crying.

Mihret ran off to continue playing with the ball in question, while the other kid’s parents calmed him down. I apologized about the ruckus, but they calmly informed me that it’s just the way things go at this age.

I could not disagree.

Mihret returned, ball in hand, and gave the ball to its rightful owner so the other family could go home. A moment later, she lifted up what appeared to be a sand-covered finger. “Poop!”

I looked to the other family, who looked down at her. I looked back over at my daughter, and said, “I don’t think so…”

Partially because my daughter isn’t a diaper-digger. I’m not saying she’s a perfect angel, but we keep her hands away from the goo in her pants.

Also, partially because I really didn’t want her to have poop on her hand. Because, ick.

The other family looked at me with sympathy. The mom confirmed it was probably poop, and apologized and said they didn’t have any diapers or wipes. And then they left me there, to face the consequences alone.

(I don’t blame ‘em.)

I looked down at my daughter, who then turned around… and exposed the horror. The back of her pants, almost an entire leg’s worth… were brown.

Something had gone seriously wrong. And all I had on me was one diaper. And a fifteen-minute walk home, by stroller.

Oh. And Kara? She was at work.

I was on my own.

I glanced around the park, hunting for a restroom. It wasn’t a perfect option, but if I could at least clean her up somewhat… maybe stuff a huge wad of paper towels under her… perhaps I could get home mostly poop free, and fix things from there.

I grabbed Mihret’s poop-free hand and led her towards the bathroom. Luckily, she came with me. Sadly, that tapped out my luck reservoir.

Mihret and I stepped into the bathroom, and I saw immediately that nothing here was really going to help me. There was one stall, with some, but not much, toilet paper. There was no soap dispenser.

And in place of the paper towels, they had a hot air blower.

Oh – and no trash can in the bathroom.

I stood there and pondered my options. My child was, literally, covered in poop. And the scraps of toilet paper available to me were not going to protect her stroller, even a little bit. I could drag her home, and try cleaning it later, but the fact is, poop molecules don’t just leave that visible stain we all hate.

It also leaves The Smell That Will Not Die.

Plus, seriously. Poop all over the pants.

I took a deep breath and considered my options.

If I took the pants off and folded them juuust so, I could carry them home and try to figure out what to do with them. Or, if they were old, I could just toss them. Because seriously, this was a lot of poop.

I started pulling toilet paper off the roll, in an attempt to create a makeshift changing table on the floor. This didn’t really work, as toilet paper isn’t all that wide, and the slightest breeze, like, say, the one caused by setting a toddler on it, causes the paper to shift.

I removed the little one’s shoes and socks and set them aside. They appeared to be clean, but there was no way to know.

Then I started tugging at the pants.

I tried. I tried so very hard to keep the poop away from the parts of her leg that were clean, but the poop fought back and coated her entire leg, up to and including her foot.

I checked the pants. 3T. They were new. I couldn’t morally toss them in the trash. They would have to come with me.

I then discovered the source of the problem.

First, if you aren’t aware of it, Pull-Ups aren’t really diapers, per se. They’re too thin, don’t absorb all that much, and as a bonus, have a tendency to cave under stress. Either the sides get torn or detached when being pulled off and on, which is what a Pull-Up is FOR, or a too-large urine or poo flow can easily spill out of the edges of the filth containment system.

In this case, a side of the diaper had torn, rendering the diaper useless, but giving no outward signs that this was the case. So the poop was free to roam wherever it chose.

I took off the remainder of the diaper, which had very little poop inside it. It was, in fact, fairly clean.

Since there was no trash can, I just set it aside.

Then I started pulling toilet paper off the nearby roll, and attempted to turn the massive smear on my daughter’s leg into a slightly smaller smear.

This did not work. At all. The poop was already starting to dry, for one, and for two, it was coating her all the way to her foot, which gave me nothing to grab and manipulate the leg with. I couldn’t remove the stuff so much as spread it around.

Finally, I started grabbing a few squares at a time. Then getting them damp in the sink, but not too damp, because then they would disintegrate and I couldn’t use them. Then I’d wipe off perhaps a half of a square inch and throw the waste into the toilet.

This went on and on and on. At least two men came into the restroom while I was there, neither of them offering comment or help.

Finally, I deemed my little one “slightly cleaned,” and put a new diaper on her.

Then I picked up her pants. Poop rolled out.

I sighed. I used some more paper to pick it up. I realized that my fingers smelled badly, but there was nothing I could do because there was no soap in the bathroom, and nothing to wipe my hands off with except toilet paper or a pair of poop covered trousers.

I carefully shoved Mihret’s shoes and socks into my pockets, in order to get as little poo as possible on my own pants.

I picked up her dirty diaper, and dirtier pants, and also grabbed the last of the toilet paper. Sorry, anyone who was in there after me. I really needed it.

We walked out.

I found a trash can and disposed of the diaper, and then gave more consideration to just tossing the pants. Looking inside them revealed just how awful the damage was. There was a lot of poop, it was smeared everywhere, and it wasn’t just a light glazing. It was almost an eighth of an inch deep in several spots.

We walked back to the stroller, and I laid all the toilet paper down, but as I mentioned, the stuff doesn’t sit well. I put Mihret in, and started the long walk home, with a child who had no pants, and probably had at least some poo on her shirt. And also, one of my hands was mostly full of poop pants that I didn’t want to squeeze.

By the time we got home, I still had no idea what to do next. I had Mihret’s poo-covered shoes and socks on hand, and no one to take the little one from me while I attempted to deal with them before they dried out even more than they already had.

After much deliberation, I opened the screen door, then opened the door and tucked her inside. In an attempt to keep her from rolling away, I set the brakes.

I zipped down to the basement, and desperately tried to rinse the larger hunks of poo out of the pants. It simply didn’t work. Meanwhile, my child was sitting in her stroller waiting for me to set her free.

I gave up, and tossed the pants and socks in the washer, hoping that even if the stain didn’t come out, at least the washer wouldn’t smell like feces.

I went upstairs, passing my child along the way, and started running a bath for her. I had to move her soon, as she had started yanking the toilet paper off of her stroller and throwing it on the floor.

Finally, blissfully… I washed my hands. It never felt so good. I then selected a special towel, dubbed it the poop towel, and vowed I would dry my hands with no other towel in the near future.

I looked at myself. What to do? Had I soiled parts of myself? Should I just throw everything I was wearing in the wash?

I tossed my shirt, and went down to get the kiddo. All the toilet paper was now on the floor.

I sighed, freed her from the stroller, and brought her up the stairs. I did this by holding her under her armpits and not letting the poo foot, or any other poo-parts, touch anything. At all.

Until I set her in the water. On her feet. And pulled off her diaper and her shirt.

The diaper went into the pail. The shirt went into the laundry, which I had already started to think of as “the poo laundry.”

I took one of the six washcloths I had grabbed and did a thorough re-scrubbing of all the affected poo parts. Then I took a second washcloth and did it again.

Finally, my daughter was allowed to sit down in the tub. A thorough bathing was administered, and when I was done I had used six washcloths.

Her towel went into the poo laundry. As did my pants. And post-bath-and-getting-dressed, all poo-laungry was put in the wash. Her pants and socks had come clean, much to my shock.

But, sadly, I still wasn’t done.

I had to collect all of the bits of toiler-paper that were on the floor under the stroller, and then scrub the stroller with soap and water. And then wash my hands for the eight-millionth time.

In conclusion: Ick. And also, bring a diaper bag with you when you go out to play. For that matter, consider bringing two.

Just in case.


Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Hammock Haven

This is Mihret cuddling in her Nona and Pappa's hammock with her Nona in Evansville, IN. I learned hammock hunkering (and Mihret cuddling) from the best!

April 21, 2010
Post-Crescent column: Warm weather puts me in the swing of things

You know spring has sprung at the Patterson house when the hammock is in full swing.

I'm not sure when my fascination with the freestanding, woven-rope-on-poles resting place first began. It seems like a hideaway I've always wanted to have.

Although far from an athletic child, I made up for it in imagination, and for that reason, I was always outdoors in good weather. I unfolded my share of picnic blankets and even read books perched on the highest bars of my swing set, but the hammock was a treat that never materialized.

A fan of the "Star Wars films" as a child of the '80s, I was well aware that the Ewoks, the teddy-bear-like helpers of Luke Skywalker and his sister Leia, had hammocks. Their village on the forest moon of Endor was pocketed with them. Perhaps that's what first caught my attention.

In the books and magazines I read, both fiction and nonfiction, adventurers and travelers always carried their trusty hammocks, whether they were National Geographic explorers or the hobbits of the Shire in J.R.R. Tolkien's Middle-Earth.

I received my first hammock as a gift from my parents a few years ago. When the snow stays away long enough for our first tulips to show their greenery, we haul the hammock out of its garage hibernation and set it up in its place of honor under our lone apple tree.

Suspended between the hustle of the last hour and the bustle of the next, when I'm in the hammock with a good read and an iPod, everything seems to look, well, up.

I savor my chosen solitude and I take the time for myself that's so hard to get when my feet are still on the ground.

Now, if only I could put up a hammock in the basement for the off-seasons.
-By Kara Patterson, Post-Crescent staff writer/

Friday, April 16, 2010


For the last couple of years, Kara and I have talked about writing a book detailing our entire adoption experience. We’ve gone back and forth about writing it together, or writing different chapters, and a few times I’ve talked about writing it myself.

Why just me? A few reasons. There are quite a few adoption books from a female perspective, but none that I’ve been able to find that take a man’s view. There’s also a time factor – Kara has always had the zany, work-all-the-time job, and getting extra writing in doesn’t seem feasible much of the time.

Why write the book at all? Because people have questions, and no matter how much time we spend talking to people, it never seems like we can describe everything.

Today, I went to a memoir workshop that was being held at a local library. We were asked to bring a picture, and then the person running the workshop asked us to write about what was happening in the picture in both the past and present tense.

I ended up with two very different perspectives that way, and since we don’t update nearly often enough here, I thought I’d share them:

Present Tense:

I am a father for the first time. The nannies at the care center have handed my child to me and my wife, and given us a bowl of baby cereal for our daughter. We’re ushered into another room, along with a fellow family, like we’ve been feeding Mihret for months.

Like we understand her.

I awkwardly try to cradle this 12-pound being that I’ve spent two years waiting to meet. My wife attempts to get the adult-sized spoon past her six-month-old lips, but our little one doesn’t seem to be hungry. I take a turn, and prove just as inept.

Wanting to hold onto this moment, we ask our new friend to take a picture of us feeding our daughter, even though we have failed in our first act as parents.

Past Tense:

When we take photos, we try to get everything perfect. We want to look taller, thinner, more competent, more awake, more alert. At our best.

But in this single photo, the only one we have, we are dressed in the same clothes we’ve been wearing for the last three days. I have slept maybe four hours of the last 30, and Kara only a bit more. We are posed awkwardly, our child seems to be half-asleep, and everything about us, even the picture framing itself, is askew.

But it is the only picture we have, so it is perfect.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Our Kid and Her Movies

Recently, I had a friend of mine looking for recommended movies. As you know if you’ve been following this blog, Kara and I avoided watching TV with the little one until she was two, and then pretty much avoided watching it after that until she expressed curiosity with the huge screen-y thing that we sometimes used to show other people what she looked like as a baby.

Then we started getting into The Potty, and with it came potty videos, and then we were off and running.

Not long ago I read an article that said some kids as young as two years old knew how to operate the remote to the TV, and that many parents didn’t verify, at all, what their kids were watching.

So I gotta admit, the 90 or so minutes a day my kid watches a video while we attempt to accomplish necessary life tasks (making food, consuming food, cleaning, trying to plan other days in our life) don’t make me feel like a bad parent at all.

I also feel decent about our watching time because we do most of it together, and more importantly, it’s all DVD-based, so I actually know what it is she’s watching.

Here’s a list:

Elmo DVDs

We’ve got a few of these, but man, once you’ve seen one, you’ve seen ‘em all. Which is the point. Kids like patterns, and so every Elmo DVD follows the exact same structure. Which is great if you’re a kid, but enough to make you want to weep for your sanity as an adult.

If anyone wants a complete list of Elmo DVDs, feel free to ask, but really. They’re all the same, and in general good at helping kids learn about concepts. For example, the one Mihret loved for about two weeks was “Elmo Visits the Fire Station,” which talked all about avoiding fire, and not to be afraid of firefighters.

So you can’t go wrong with them, but they’ll drive you insane.

A Bug’s Life

This was Mihret’s first real movie, which did lead to some whining when she wanted to watch it in the morning, when she needed to be entertained for about 30 minutes while I showered, and not for an hour and a half.

“Bug,” as she calls it, is an AWESOME movie, and even after seeing it more than a dozen times, I’ll still stop whatever I’m doing and watch parts of it with her. It does get a little intense at the end, which both scares the little one a bit. Though she enjoys it.

She takes after her dad that way.


This was Mihret’s favorite movie for about a week, and you know what? It got old, fast. The genie doesn’t show up for half an hour, and while you think he’s going to be funny, a lot of what he does is now based on fairly dated pop culture.

As for the rest of the movie, it’s got decent songs and an okay story, but it doesn’t whistle along the way Bug does.


This one? Funny, but it made me a little uncomfortable showing it to the kiddo, as it contains a lot of jokes that use an alternate word for Donkey.

Luckily, the kid got over this one fast, and I’ve tried to tuck it away so it doesn’t become a staple.


You know what? When I was in college, I resisted these, and I think I was partially right. I’ve seen some of the old videos, and while there’s humor and good life lessons in there, the animation isn’t that great, and the dialogue comes off pretty stiffly.

But a lot of the later ones are fantastic.

Mihret’s favorite one for a long time was the story of St. Nicholas, and honestly, it’s well worth a look. Check it out, and take a peek at the bonus features to see how much of it was true (they did actual research).

Jonah: A VeggieTales Movie didn’t do all that well in theaters, and actually bankrupted the company, but there are some awesome songs in the movie, and it tells the complete story of Jonah. If you think you know Jonah’s story? Watch this, and learn.

The Pirates Who Don’t Do Anything: This one is something of an anomaly, as it doesn’t mention God at all, making it a non-religious story. It’s a little slow in spots, but it still has a nice message.

Lord of the Beans: Lord of the Rings parody. A good one.

I also have a soft spot for Sumo of the Opera, which takes Rocky and Gilbert and Sullivan and jams them together in a really hilarious way.

In general, stick to anything made in the post-90s, and you’ll be okay.

Dora and Diego

Repetitive. Really repetitive. But the kiddo likes them.

In general, I’d say stick with Diego, who at least will teach your kid about animals.


Monday, March 8, 2010

Making memories, one jelly bean at a time

Post-Crescent column - March 5, 2010
My long oak dining room table holds multiple centerpieces at one time, a mix of handmade and handle-with-care.

Many of them — crafts my 3-year-old daughter Mihret created — we've arranged around a candleholder from my childhood home. A googly-eyed, blue paper octopus with crinkly, curled-up tentacles sits next to two nativity figurines we thought too precious to put away after Christmas. Their neighbors are a glittery pumpkin and a Mother's Day vase containing tiny handprint flowers.

The latest addition is a see-through jar of jelly beans with a flower arrangement atop it. The gold lettering on its ribbon is flecking off after several weeks of display, but we can tell it read "Great-Grandpa."

Mihret and her great-grandpa shared special time together in the few years they knew each other. David Dorow, my husband Josh's maternal grandfather, died Feb. 16 in Oshkosh at age 86.

When Great-Grandpa was a boy, he'd visit his grandma and she'd give him a jelly bean or two. He continued that connection with Mihret when we visited his assisted living apartment.

Unsteady on his feet, Great-Grandpa often sat in a recliner. Mihret knew the way to his apartment from the building's front door and she'd race ahead of us, often reaching him first.

She'd climb up on his lap, undeterred by the fits of coughing that had become a fact of his life.
Their exchange was simple. Great-Grandpa's hearing was almost gone, but this time needed no words. Great-Grandpa would reach into the container of jelly beans he always kept on his chair-side table, Mihret would accept the colorful candies from his hand and they'd snuggle together.

At Great-Grandpa's funeral, the flower arrangement and jellybean jar showed up among the other displays of caring. Josh's parents had thought of everything.

Mihret is too young to remember anything but snatches of her time with Great-Grandpa. We hope that when she eats jelly beans, it'll trigger those precious memories.

-By Kara Patterson, Post-Crescent staff writer/

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The Word on the Street is: Braids

A few months ago, we started getting our daughter’s hair braided on an every-two-weeks basis.

Since then, we’ve had a ton of questions asked, a lot of them the same, which leads me to think that that a lot of people are a) just curious, or b) wondering what to do with their own kid’s hair.

So here are the most commonly asked questions we get:

Do we braid Mihret’s hair?

No. No, no, no. I think if we were more crafty people, we might. But Kara doesn’t do all that much with her own hair, and while I’m good with words, I’ve never been much of an artist.

We have a wonderful woman, Miss Carla, who does her hair.

What does it cost?

$29. Plus tip.

How long does it take?

1 to 2 hours, depending on how squirmy the little one is, how elaborate the hairdo is, and how busy the hair place is.

Does it hurt?

Not me, no. And Miss Carla is well known in these parts for being an ouchless hairdresser. That said, Mihret will, every once in a while, give an, “Ow.” But much less than the average person combing their hair.

How do you get her to sit for so long?

First, she usually sits in my lap. She’s sat on the booster seat a couple of times, but I think the comfort of having daddy there makes it a little easier to take.

Second, movies. Miss Carla has a DVD player. So we put something in, it runs, and that helps to distract during the hair process.

Third: The smoothie. Our daughter is a fruit-smoothie junky, thanks to the College Avenue Farmer’s Market. So after she gets her hair done, she gets a smoothie. It works for her.

How does she sleep on her braids?

Very carefully. Actually, Miss Carla keeps the ponytails out of the way of the back of her head, and she can sleep on her hair just fine.

She does need a silk pillowcase, though, as she refuses to wear a silk hat to keep her braids looking nice.

How often does she get her hair done?

Every two weeks. We’ve gone for three, but she gets really, really fuzzy, and we can’t take her hair out because it’s gotten WAY to long to leave it free now.

How do you wash her hair?

Get her head wet, put some shampoo in my palm. Get the shampoo wet, then rub it into the spaces between her braids.

I’ll also rub a little shampoo into her braids as well, especially if things have been messy lately.

How often do you wash her hair?

Every 10-12 days.

Do you have to do anything with her hair between braidings?

For a while, I used to put extra conditioner in her hair every few days. Then I started doing it once or twice.

Now, I check her hair for dryness, and I’ll condition maybe once. The kid’s hair is REALLY soft now, and it doesn’t have a lot of weather damage, so this works out just fine.

Plus there’s conditioner in her shampoo. That also helps.

Feel free to put more questions in the comments, and we’ll answer them in another post. I know people hunt for this information all the time – at least, I know I did.


Thursday, January 21, 2010

The Whole Tooth... Er, Teeth

Mihret's first official visit to the dentist. A few observations:
1. She took the actual visit in stride and was very curious about the surroundings, new people/health care providers, equipment, etc.
2. She was a bit reluctant about climbing up in the chair, although I did great prep work by having a good checkup right before Mihret's turn to ride in the chair and her brief oral exam. :)
3. So, being the daddy's girl she is, once Daddy sat in the chair (and Mama got behind the camera for the appropriate documentation of the moment) our peanut opened her mouth wide.
4. Because her teeth are in very good shape, she won't have to go back for her first official cleaning until I return for my next cleaning in six months. The dentist did note she has a "crowded mouth" but anything of that nature won't become an issue for a good number of years.
5. She loved the hygienist's mirror-on-a-stick and loved "examining" our teeth with it.
6. She chose a new Dora toothbrush at the end of the visit. She's graduated to the next-level toothpaste, too... the children's toothpaste that is the next step up from training toothpaste.
7. Not an observation from the dentist's visit, but just a cute anecdote, to close out... Mihret is very much growing in independence, and when she's in the right mood, is trying more and more to take care of some of her tasks of daily living. She's obsessed with her pink bathroom stool and she's figured out she can move it everywhere to help herself get things she wants. :)
Side note: One early morning when Josh was showering and I was either still sleeping or already at work (depending upon the day - can't remember in this particular instance) she carried the stool down the steps and used it to pull a candy cane down from the counter. She peeled off the wrapper and sat on the couch to eat the candy cane. When Josh came out of the shower he didn't know whether to chuckle at her cleverness or scold her about eating candy without permission and before breakfast....
But I digress.... One recent weekend, Mihret and I were brushing our teeth together at the bathroom sink. Mihret got her stool, and pointed at the "Hot" and "Cold" taps to make sure she remembered which was which. She did, so she proceeded to fill up her own Dixie cup with the little cute purple octopi on it, drink her water, and then say "Your turn, Mama" and fill up a cup for me. She is growing up.... and that's the Whole Tooth.