My first try with Instagram

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After a nice Easter bbq Saturday we decided to stop and try a Sammy’s pie shake.

Who else uses Instagram?

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The Dentist

For me, trying to stay away from sugar, candy, desserts, has always been a battle…  so it wasn’t too often that I would leave  dentist without battle scars. We went to the dentist once a year, and for the most part, I didn’t think too much about the battle with sweets–until it was the dreaded day of the appointment. Then I’d be dying with curiosity, wondering if I’d won or lost. Cavities = I lost. No cavities = victory for me. If it were a batting average, my no-cavity average would be about a .097.

But MY dentist made it so that getting teeth worked on wasn’t so bad. Not because of the laughing gas (though, let’s face it, who doesn’t like the laughing gas?), but because of his nature.

My parents would load up the van with anywhere from 4 to 6 of their kids, make the hour long trip up to Layton, and we’d flood the small waiting room, looking for Highlights magazines and any kind of game or toy to pass the time.

In the waiting room, I always felt an even mix of dread, nerves, and excitement.

Dread, well, from being conditioned at an early age to fear The Drill.

Nervous, because besides the fact I was about to go under the pick and drill, my parents would pay us 5 bucks if we didn’t have any cavities…so for a kid under the age of 10, I felt like I might win the lottery. Could this be the time that sugar didn’t get the best of me?

And excitement, because I was about to see my uncle Richard, who was my dentist–and one of the kindest people I know.

After getting patched up, I’d chew my numb cheek and tongue in the waiting room, and wait for my siblings and parents to get finished. I’d almost feel disappointed–like my time in the spotlight was over. The attention, the equipment, the care, the focus–Uncle Richard was so good at taking what could be a bad experience for a kid with a sweet tooth, and turning it into something not only bearable, but enjoyable. He could actually make you feel like a little bit of a rock star in that moment. He was gifted in this regard, and I’ve never had a dentist since with that ability.

I rarely won the no-cavities lotto, but it was never a disappointing visit. We’d load back up in the van and head home, a little less excited, a little less energy. The excitement was over, back to ordinary life, but it always had been a pleasant visit.

We don’t see each other as often as I’d like, but every time I do, I’m filled with excitement just to be talking with uncle Richard. As gifted a dentist as he is, he is just as gifted inter-personally, making me feel like I’m the most important person in the world. This has happened countless times at weddings, baby blessings, baptisms, funerals–whenever I run into uncle Richard, we pick up right where we left off.

Well, I’m praying we can have another conversation like that soon. Because right now, Uncle Richard is fighting a much harder, and much more significant battle of his own, while his body tries to recover as he lays in a hospital bed, hooked to machines keeping him alive.

Unlike the slow formation of pesky cavities caused by neglect or carelessness, this came on quite suddenly. He has always done the physical equivalent of “flossing daily”, by exercising and eating healthy, but for some reason, his healthy strong body had a negative reaction to some medical treatment. Without getting into too much detail, it set off a chain reaction that led to sedated life support. Without much warning, he went from playing with his grandchildren one day, to the shutdown of vital organs the next. I can’t imagine what that must have been like for his wife of over 50 years, and all of his children, grandchildren.

His doctors initially didn’t give him much hope. Said he might live a day, maybe a week. Well, it’s been over a week, and he is battling. He’s battling because he is a warrior. Not the fighter, confrontational type of warrior–he’s one of those optimistic, always cheerful kind of warriors. And in a world filled with doom and gloom, dispair and disappointment–to be that positive, that cheerful, you HAVE to be a warrior. And that’s what he is. I’ve never seen him unhappy, even though I’m sure he has been. He’s just one of those people who chooses to be happy, and is.

And with that warrior spirit, his body is making progress.

I talked to my parents today and got an update. They were just returning from the 5 hour drive to the hospital where uncle Richard is staying. He is responding to people’s voices, to his wife’s voice, his daughter’s. He is squeezing back, and showing signs of listening, of being able to understand what is going on. Doctors are much more hopeful now.

My thoughts about this have been all over the place. At first, the harsh reminder of our own mortality, and the fragility of life. It was shocking to hear the news that all of the sudden he was on life support, and was a rude awakening. I also couldn’t help but think about how awful it would be for me to go through what my cousins are going through–with my parents also healthy, and about the same age.

But as he has continued to improve, my thoughts have gravitated towards the power of hope, prayer, and positive thinking. Because of the man he is, I can attest that the progress he’s made in this battle is a direct reflection of who he is.

My prayers are that he will continue to improve… that I’ll be able to see him soon and have another one of those moments where I feel like I’m the most important person in the world to my dear uncle Richard. The best dentist I’ve ever had, one of my favorite uncles, and a truly great man.

Insomniacs… Anyone? Anyone?

I’ve been a lifelong insomniac.

I’ve sought help through countless books and articles. I’ve tried all kinds of sleep aids:  OTC ones like Melatonin or Unisom, and all kinds of natural solutions…  turkey, herbal tea, peanut butter, warm milk, cheese, forcing myself to get up earlier so I’ll feel sleep sooner… I’ve tried it all.

It’s hard for people who can flip the “brain-off” switch (like my wife) to understand how frustrating it is to go to bed and have your brain kick into overdrive. It’s like my pillow is a thought accelerant. Almost nothing is as aggravating as looking at the clock, seeing a bright red 4:00 AM, and knowing you have to get up in a couple of hours. And aggravation isn’t exactly tryptophan.

In High School, I actually researched sleeping and relaxation techniques–not exactly a book selection I shared with my peers. I learned to exercise selective disclosure after telling a buddy during football practice that I had recently read “How To Win Friends and Influence People” by Dale Carnegie.  The “influence” provoked a healthy round of mockery.  So yeah, I wasn’t about to tell them I was reading about self hypnosis and relaxation.

During the times in my life when I actually DID master the early morning wake-up,  I can’t deny I felt like a million bucks–exercising and studying at 7 AM. I was getting my day started off the right way, and nothing was gonna “break my stride”, a la Matthew Wilder. Would I prefer that? Of course.  Sans the massive mustache of course.

But those times were the exception, not the norm… and I’ve recently embraced my Night Owl-ness. Instead of trying to fall asleep to episodes of Psych or Monk (They work as well as anything. Not intense or gory, but are captivating enough so I don’t think about anything that is truly worrying me–perfect combo for an insomniac) I blog, conduct research, exercise, etc. Then I feel I’m not wasting time–because after-all, those bright eyed bushy-tailed morning people are doing the same thing,  right? But I struggle to view it positively, due to the social stigma associated with having a hard time waking up early.

Sometimes, though, I just have no desire to go to sleep. It’s like I’m 9 again, and I just got sent to bed..and more than anything, I wish I could be up laughing and playing games with my older siblings.  Except, there is no laughter, no party, just some no-deadline time to read, blog, research, etc.

This hits harder Sunday nights. I dread the thought that my weekend, the “my time” portion of the week is over. If I go to sleep, the next thing I know, my alarm is ringing, and I am hitting the snooze button–and I’m off to work where my time isn’t really my own.

So I drag out being awake as long as possible. Like now, here it is at midnight, and I have no desire to call it quits on the weekend. So I’ll finish this post, then read “Term Limits” by Vince Flynn until my eyes start descending like a garage door whose motor has died.

Do any of you have insomnia? Or are you one of “those people” who say they can’t ever sleep past 7 am?  Does your brain click off when your head hits the pillow, or do you start running through your lists and deadline?

And what do you think…should I just embrace being a “night owl”? Or should I try to alter my internal clock so I can feel like I have a more productive morning?

My favorite parenting advice

Just like everyone else, I have received a lot of parenting advice. Some of it was solicited, some wasn’t. Some of it is good, some I’ll probably never follow.

Here are a few things shared with us:

“Always be consistent in  your punishment. That’s the biggest thing. Consistency.”

“Never correct a child when they try to talk, that will make them afraid of making mistakes. But don’t mimic their incorrect speech. Just speak correctly, and they will learn to speak correctly over time.”

“Remember that the greatest thing you can show your child is how much you love your wife.”

“Make sure when you have more than one child, that you take time with each one individually. Respect and love their differences.”

And I don’t know of this counts as advice, but one item I have most appreciated hearing from seasoned professional parents is simply: “Yeah, that’s totally normal.”

My absolute favorite advice came from, Johnny–a good friend of mine. We were catching up on g-mail chat, and he simply said  something like:

“You know, I don’t do everything right as a dad, but one thing I’m happy that I have done is create email addresses for each of my sons, and every Sunday I take a few minutes to write them to tell them what it is like raising them. During the week I try to think of things I can tell them, then jump on the computer and write it out… I include attachments, pictures, etc. Then one day, I’ll turn the passwords over to them, and they can read through their emails and see what they were like growing up.”

What an amazing idea. I have often wondered what it was like for my parents to raise me during different stages of my life. What was I like as an infant? A 1 or 2 year old? What was I like in kindergarten? I have pictures, but what kinds of things did I say, do?  At what point did I show signs of what I would be in the future?  What were things that I did that provided feelings of pride to my parents? What things were heartbreaking?

Then a couple of months after I got started emailing my son, I happened to see this video from Google:

BTW, my conversation with Johnny was on 4/14/2011… This video was posted 5/2/11. So apparently, Google DOES monitor those g-chats. 🙂

But seriously… this has been the advice that has been the most fun to follow. I send my son pictures, video, and long letters of what he’s like to raise. I try to detail every major development. I’m not perfect about writing him every week, but I do my best. One day, maybe I’ll share his email address with some family members–maybe on his first or second birthday–and ask them to send him an email as well.

I envision one day when he’ll appreciate it, maybe when he’s about to become a dad of his own, I’ll turn over the password and let him read through his gradual progression as a son, and me as a dad.

I hope he likes reading them as much as I have liked writing them.

Parental Quiz

This morning, it was my turn to take the little one to his baby-sitter. I also had to get myself ready to work. So I carefully assembled his favorite toys, play-pad, and set them up for him. He can barely army-crawl (more like army-drag) so I wanted to make them easily reachable so he could keep himself occupied  while I showered, brushed my teeth, and got dressed.

So here’s the set-up:

 

Now, here is my question to you other young parents out there.

Reflecting on your own parenting experiences, what do you think my little guy will do with a convenient set-up like this? Which item in this picture do you think an almost-crawling, 8-9 month old would focus on first?

Perhaps the beautiful, colorful, and multi-lingual piano, complete with multiple instrument options, a spinning plastic cage of multi-colored marbles, and varying volume levels? Would this keep your child busy?

 

Or maybe this thing, whatever it is, which lights up, plays songs, and sounds like you are shaking a bean bag? Would this help your little one pass the time?

 

Or perhaps your child will go for the keys which are “supposed to be like daddy’s keys–but they are ridiculously colored, and we don’t run around the house growling from frustration when we can’t find them?”

 

Or maybe just one of the hanging, psychodelic, A.D.D. inducing items hanging from the play-pad? Some of them even make noises. Would your child zone in on these? Maybe a combination of all 4 of these listed items?

 

 

I practically have Disneyland in this little hallway, right? Enough for my child to be entertained for hours…..right?

 

Wrong.

This is what he went to first:

 

 

He exerted every muscle in his body to claw, scratch, and drag himself past all of the toys to grab that towel hook, then banged it on the tile for the entire time I was in the shower, all while chomping on that installation manual. I’m just glad I didn’t leave the sheetrock screws lying on the ground.

Seriously. Why do I buy toys?

 

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