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April 2008 Archives

April 2, 2008

In 17 Short Years, He Will Be Moving Out

Ronan held up, grinning
Ronan is told he will have cake and ice cream for the first time.
He's holding his tootbrush.

Friday will be Ronan’s first birthday. He’s survived his first year. This is the seventy-sixth entry on this blog.

We’ve all survived. In some ways, it’s been a tough year. I had a big fight with my now-former employer, leading to much anger and depression. Terry’s job went from full-time to contract employment, and there’s not much out there to replace it. If Ronan weren’t in our lives to make this a wonderful year, it would be one of the more depressing years of my life.

But he was born, and everything seems to pale in comparison. Job problems suck, but they point out just how lucky Terry and I are in terms of the beautiful baby boy we got early Wednesday morning, April 4, 2007.

I’m going to look for temp work now, until Terry goes back to work, but the past 18 months – I was working on my websites before he was born – have been wonderful. Being home, besides letting me set up unforkids.com, gave me a chance to fully participate in Ronan’s gestation and birth, and then to be home with him every day.

I will always cherish this time we had together. Many years from now, when to his horror he discovers this blog and makes me pull it down in a fit of embarrassment, perhaps he will read these entries in this online diary before demanding that the site be nuked. For a little while at least, I hope he learns a little bit about how he came to be, what his birth meant to us, and what his first year taught us.

Being married is a wonderful thing. Sometimes I have trouble understanding how much my life was lacking without Terry. I wasn’t unhappy; I had lots of friends, a good career, and many projects and hobbies to work on. But you never miss what you don’t understand. It’s not just that being married is a wonderful thing; being married to Terry is the wonderful thing in my life. Even when I’m annoyed at her for constantly asking if I’ve done something or to get something or whatever – she is acting out of her deep love for me (and now for Ronan). She makes me want to be a better person. She is the most caring, compassionate, respectful, graceful, joyous, temperate, enjoyable person I could be married to. She’s the only woman I’ve ever truly loved, and I hope to be with her for a long, long time. I can’t express to you, if you’ve never found someone that was your soulmate, how different a relationship can be. I waited for someone I really loved, and that is more complicated and sweeter than words can convey. Now that we’re married I can only wonder what it was like to not have her in my life. Sometimes I pity my unmarried, pre-Terry self for being so ignorant of what true love could be. I cannot imagine my life without her; it’s like we’ve been together for eternity, and will be together for eternity. I’m sure some gentle readers are thinking, “Yeah, dude, whatever! Get back to the Dad blog!” but it’s important that you understand how committed I am to my marriage to understand the next paragraph.

Ronan came into our lives about 18 months ago and emerged a year ago, and I cannot imagine what my life was before his arrival. Again, I have this overwhelming sense of emerging out of ignorance into a new understanding, not just of myself, but of Terry, and most importantly of our commitment to each other and to Ronan. At first, things weren’t peaches and cream. We had to learn to be parents, and later we had to learn to be parents in the face of being depressed about our financial and our job situations. This sometimes caused some stress. But we endured, and the reward was more than we could imagine. Some parents reading this will not be surprised, but Ronan has a personality all his own, even when he was just a few months old. There are glimpses of Terry, traces of me, but most of the time he is just Ronan. I have grown to love him very fiercely, and again I cannot imagine what my life would be like without him.

Whatever our job situation, this family is where I was destined to be. For all those people who wondered if I was ever going to get married, or what I was waiting for, I have it now. Here’s to the rest of my life. Regardless of what happens, there isn’t any other place I would rather be.

April 13, 2008

There Will Be Blood…And Cake

Kizz took this photo at the birthday boy’s party.

Ronan’s first birthday party was a huge success even though he accidentally attempted to bite his own tongue off. Thankfully that accident only resulted in a little bit of blood on Dad.

It’s incredible that a year has gone by since Ronan entered our lives. It seems like 12 minutes, not 12 months. I blinked and here we all are, one year later and one year older.

Ronan seemed to have no inkling, really, that the day was about him. He seemed to just go about his business, as he always does, smiling and flirting with all the party guests. Our invited list was made quite late, as we vacillated about having an open party. There’s something to be said for celebrating the last birthday Ronan will not be able to talk about with just the family. But finally, too late really, we invited a bunch of friends. Only half of the guest list lacked a better Saturday plan than watching Ronan get hyped up on sugar.

The centerpieces of the party were our dilapidated yet tasty homemade cakes. If I had known how complicated the cake making was going to become, I would have opted for a single cake. Thankfully I only had to frost.

We started out with a simple plan, the traditional box mix, only organic. Then we added pudding to the list of ingredients. Then we abandoned that plan for Aunt Mildred’s cryptic recipe books.

Aunt Mildred is Terry’s great aunt, and the keeper of several recipe books that apparently were written in longhand (or military code). Recipes are extremely important in Terry’s side of the family, to the point that Ronan’s Grandpa will never be forgiven for losing a book of Great-Grandma’s recipes, and is roundly verbally teased whenever anything vaguely resembling a recipe is made. No amount of protestation or apology will ever get him off the hook. Terry rescued Aunt Mildred’s cake recipes when her family cleaned out her house to get ready to sell it.

Terry selected a white cake with marshmallow frosting and a chocolate cake with chocolate fudge frosting from Aunt Mildred’s recipe book. Those would be daunting enough to make from scratch with Food Network directions. But Aunt Mildred’s recipes require something more in the way of faith. Aunt Mildred’s handwriting looks very much like Colonial Era handwriting. I look at the ledger book (don’t you write your recipes in a ledger?) and immediately wax nostalgic for George Washington, because he could probably read the recipes to us.

On top of that, Aunt Mildred was such a good cook that she left out minor details such as cooking times, oven temperature or a precise definition of just what “a good long time” or “softball” meant for successive generations of cooks. So part of the fun of the recipe is that you get to make up part of it yourself. Terry would collaborate via phone with her mother about what the recipe said and what it all meant. Sometimes her Mom would call back with a passage from another of Aunt Mildred’s cookbooks that illuminated a critical part of the recipe. We weren’t making cakes as much as we were deciphering the Dead Sea Scrolls.

My job was to frost the finished cakes. Which was all well and dandy at 11 AM, when I had energy, Terry didn’t have cake flour on her elbows and Ronan was still interested in what we were doing. However, having two cakes doubled all the preparation time, so by 11 PM, I didn’t feel as excited about cake decoration and just wanted to get them done.

Terry had expertly baked the cakes, and they smelled delicious and the hot steamy cake residue left in the pan tasted great as well. However, the flaw in our plan was that Aunt Mildred’s cakes were not exactly structurally sound. The white cake with the marshmallow frosting (which was supposed to be a meringue frosting) started to shift after the frosting was applied. The three layers slid off each other, creating a cake more reminiscent of a Frank Gehry building than a birthday cake. Attempting to level out the high peaks of the chocolate cake, the top layer broke apart while waiting for the bottom layer to be frosted. The neat, almost geometrical quarters had to be put on one at a time. While they stayed put there was a large crack in the cake that could not be filled with frosting. To prevent additional cake-quakes, we fastened the layers to each other with chopsticks. No really. Chopsticks.

Thankfully they tasted great. Since it took poor Terry all day and most of the evening to bake the cakes and make the frosting from scratch, we had not considered two critical questions. One, where could we store the cakes? And two, where could we store the cakes that would not be accessible by the new colony of ants living in the floorboards? Finally, through careful balancing of the cake plates on each other and sliding the plate edge into the shelf notch in the refrigerator, I got them out of the ants’ reach.

The day of the party, our friend Kizz showed up a wee bit early and played with Ronan while we set up for the party. For some reason, Kizz was determined not to shed Ronan’s blood in an accident. I wasn’t cognizant of how the subject came up. Perhaps Ronan headed for the corner of the coffee table or picked up some deadly instrument. Whatever the reason, Kizz was determined that no blood be spilled at the party.

The rest of the guests arrived and we laughed and talked and sang happy birthday, which delighted and confused Ronan, who sometimes seems to take group singing as a direct threat to his well being. The homemade cake and ice cream (store-bought, thankfully) was eaten and pronounced ugly but delicious, and soon people began to head out the door, including Kizz, who took her magic bloodletting-preventing powers with her.

Ronan’s first cake and ice cream was gratefully received, but only as a toy. He played with the cake and ice cream for a while, but didn’t seem too interested in eating it. He did manage to get it all over his face.

Ronan travels, at the time of this writing, with his tongue out of his mouth at times. As he is on the verge of walking, he is constantly falling over at a much higher rate than previously in his life. Shortly after Kizz left, Ronan took a header that, through a series of incredible coincidences, took his chin in contact with the futon frame, and his teeth in contact with his mouth. The Aristocrats!

A small, but noticeable, amount of blood poured forth as he buried his head in my chest and cried. An audible gasp erupted as the remaining guests realized that the reason for the party was now spitting a quantity of blood onto his father’s chest.

Over a year ago, a friend gave us a gift of a doll that had an ice center. This poor doll has been in the freezer for a whole year, waiting for the day when it would be called to chill a stricken child. Locked in that dark, cold place, rudely shuffled around and battered by too many frozen pizzas and leftover bagels, it had suffered too many indignities. Now, on the day of Ronan’s birthday, we called forth this long-suffering doll from the bowels of our tiny freezer, to soothe Ronan’s broken tongue.

Ronan took one look at it, stopped crying, and dumped it on the floor after a few minutes. I doubt he ever used the ice core of the doll on his tongue.

Now the doll is back in the freezer, awaiting the next time it is called to cool a skinned knee. Sometime in 2009 by the current use schedule.

All was well, however. With the guests full of cake and ice cream, they stumbled home quite early for some food that was actually nutritious.

Some of my favorite moments of that day will always be the family outing to the playground after the party. Ronan discovered that he loves the slide – but only if Dad is there to send him off and Mom is waiting to catch him. Subsequent trips to the playground with only parent did not elicit the same level of excitement. We must of sent our giggling child down the slide dozens of times. Something that the family could do together. So we got our family time and our party with friends both on the same day.

Despite the blood, it was a wonderful day.

One year later, Terry and I are better parents. A year from now we will be even better parents. This past year we learned to be parents together. Terry and I are closer than ever before, and our love for Ronan has grown more ornate and broad the more we get to know him. I cherish our time together. We are blessed by our family, and by so many friends who came to celebrate his birthday.

Here’s to the next seventeen years. May they pass by slowly. Even though I know they won’t.

April 28, 2008


Ronan Stroller
Ronan seems to love his new stroller.
To the point that he cries anytime he has to part with it.

We have come to the inevitable time when parents must part with perfectly useful baby items that are large and expensive and totally useless to us. Ronan has outgrown his carseat and his stroller. 

Before he was born the mistress of all that is known, or can be known through thorough research (Terry) concluded that the Graco Snugrider (America’s favorite car seat!) was the best unit for us. It was useful because the car seat snapped into a stroller frame, allowing a dual purpose use. Yes, it had a clumsy, awkward base that we had to carry around that DIDN’T fit into the stroller frame, so it wasn’t as clever as it sounds. And, until recently, we had no idea that America’s favorite car seat drove something like America’s favorite Humvee until we got our new stroller.

I was secretly hoping that the combination car seat and stroller combo would be available in all sizes, but we had to separate into two different, non-compatible units since Ronan gained the big twenty pounds. The old stroller faced Ronan towards us, allowing easy visibility. The new stroller faced Ronan out into the world, which meant I had to stop and walk around to check in on him. I’m sure there are sound safety reasons for that, but it annoyed me no end.

I was annoyed because I was used to the Humvee of strollers, which does not allow for quick and easy movement. The Graco is a fine unit – I’m sure whomever gets our slightly used stroller will be happy with it – but it is not for delicate maneuvers. It’s a tank that I constantly assumed was secretly engaging its wheellocks to thwart me. Often Ronan would end up on his head after the Graco failed to overtake a bump. Thankfully the five-point harness held. But it was tough; even airport baggage handlers could only rip off the useless cup holders in frustration after trying to jam it into the gate check without any damaging effects. I’m glad we never had a car wreck with it, but I’m sure Ronan would have been fine (assuming we strapped it in correctly.) The Graco is a hell of a solid unit.

The new Mia Moda Cielo showed me just how much of a large, fuel-guzzling, human powered vehicle we’ve been pushing around for a year. I no longer care about carrying a car seat and a stroller around, because pushing the Cielo is like driving a feather. I can steer it with one hand. It lives to go over bumps that would have made the Graco cry and seek another path. It folds up – not in the five seconds advertised on the website, but close – to something so small, it’s shocking. I’m sure with practice I will get that thing closed in no time.

The car seat replacement is also strong. It feels much heavier, perhaps because it’s rated to 40 pounds. Supposedly it will take another two years for Ronan to put on that much weight. We tried it this weekend when we fly to Buffalo. But that’s a story for another blog entry.

Part of this whole parenting thing is losing your concern about waste. Kids waste a lot of stuff. Ronan smears as much food on his face as he eats. We have yet to find someone to take the Graco, but we will definitely be recycling it to another needy parent since it has almost no wear.

The Graco will even come (eventually) with new, never-used padded inserts. Apparently the Graco Snugrider was recalled for having padding that disintegrated in the wash, causing tasty-looking morsels to extrude out of the seams. Graco, for free, sent us a new liner, which is apparently being shipped via snail, since it’s been months since we ordered it.

Ronan grew out of his first major expensive item before the company could recall it. We solved that problem – we never washed the liner. It seems like he grew up so fast, he never really used it.

Do any of us remember our first stroller? I know I don’t.

About April 2008

This page contains all entries posted to Freaks & Geeks Parenting in April 2008. They are listed from oldest to newest.

March 2008 is the previous archive.

May 2008 is the next archive.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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