After a few months with my beard, I shaved it Monday night. On Tuesday, the first person outside my family to say anything at all about it was the crossing guard at Charlie's bus stop after a full day of work and a visit to a client site. This proves my boss's favorite aphorism: "we worry so much what others think about us, we forget how rarely they do."
The strangest thing anyone said while I had the beard was "Wow! I like the beard. It adds ten years." Um, thanks?
Anyway, for posterity, I captured the unbearding process.
After I'd come up with a cool new masthead for what I hope will be a recurring feature, I realized that I'd already posted the tip I planned to feature. Because of the cool new masthead and because I'm really busy today and because I moved to a new kitchen and had to re-implement my own tip and took a new picture to prove it, I'm going to repost the same idea. Call the blog police. My favorite cooking magazine, Cook's Illustrated, has a few recipes in which they have you make a sling in order to get something (no kneed bread, brownies) out of the pan more easily. There are specific measurements for these slings, and I like to follow them precisely because Cook's is nothing if not precise. Instead of busting out the ruler every time, though, I measure places in my kitchen that have the dimensions needed and then footnote those places in the recipe.
I've sent this tip to Cook's for their reader tips section, but, alas, they haven't published it. So I'll just publish it here once every ten months or so.
Also, for the record, I don't really consider myself a househusband because I do work part time, but the 7-H alliteration was too tempting. Art takes sacrifice.
Charlie brought home a school assignment this week that demonstrates exciting (to me) progress in composition. In a structured assignment to write a personal narrative about a life experience, he wrote about riding his first roller coaster. I've noticed a trend of parents posting on facebook their utter shock that their child has reached a certain age (6 months, 10 years, 16 years, 38...ok, not 38). While I can understand this sentiment of a milestone sneaking up on a parent, it amazes me more to be able to watch my kids develop. As Charlie strings together paragraphs like those below, Teddy asks why it says 7-1-D on the back of the bus. It's safe to say that neither one of them could have accomplished these tasks four months ago.
His mother's genes gave him the memory for detail displayed below. My genes contributed over the top emotions and a proclivity for the broad pronouncement. Riding the Rabbit Charlie Forster, age 8
Never, ever in my life have I been more proud of myself than on my 6th birthday. I was at Kennywood with my Mom, my Grandparents, my Dad and Uncle. My Mom and I were waiting in line for the Jack Rabbit. Finally, it was our turn to ride.
First, we got in and sat down. I was so excited! I couldn't wait for the ride to start! I got buckled up. The loudspeaker announced the start of the ride.
Next, the Jack Rabbit pulled away from the station. The Jack Rabbit went oh, so very fast. Boy, did I scream. It kept going as if to never, ever end.
Last, the Jack Rabbit sped through a pitch-black tunnel. It slowed and came to a stop in the station. I beamed and said, "I did it!" It felt great to accomplish riding my first roaler (sic.) coaster. I learned the Jack Rabbit is an awesome roaler coaster. It will give you a highlight of the day. I will still ride the Jack Rabbit for years to come.
A gift I received as a child morphed into an adulthood joke: My uncle Bob bought my brother and me boxing gloves for Christmas when we were about eight. Boxing gloves! Can you believe it?
This year, we opened a box of gifts from my wife's aunt Becca, and there were similarly-sized packages for each boy. The wacky spirit of violence as a generational gift returned. Whereas my gloves looked authentic and had a replica Marvin Hagler autograph on them, the boys' gloves were emblazoned with Sonic the Hedgehog and some other cartoon character. They liked them a lot, and they boxed with some frequency for a few days. We already had an established rule that screaming and crying gets them separated, so we implemented that a few times.
Although I'd joked about the boxing gloves, the memories of my brother and I slugging it out in our low-ceilinged basement with the sharp-edged, foot-high, stone hearth running the width of the room wigged me out. We pummeled each other in what feels now (and sometimes felt then) like a frightful way. Being twins meant that we were in the exact same weight class with identical reach; we were too closely matched for safety. We established a weird ritual in which the winner of the boxing match had to go upstairs and run a bath for the vanquished loser. Flash back to this Christmas. When friends with a three-year-old came over for New Year's Eve and our four-year-old promptly punched him in the stomach "to show him how strong the gloves are", we decided they had to go. When we later told the boys in the car that we weren't keeping the gloves, they both burst into tears and leaned across the gap between their booster seats to hug each other. Happily, within a day or so, they'd pretty much forgotten the whole affair.
The gloves did not go to a landfill. A friend who does therapy with kids took them for some of her young clients who need to work out their anger issues. She wants to find a heavy bag. This seems like a good outcome and one that skips the middleman. This way, it won't be our kids going to a therapist in their early twenties saying "My great aunt gave us boxing gloves, and my parents let us beat the crap out of each other in the basement."
My eight-year-old eats nicely. We just told friends how he turned the corner from picky to rather omnivorous around the end of kindergarten. That said, when the first bite of a dinner makes him lean his head back against his chair and close his eyes in pleasure, I - as father and cook - take notice. The four-year-old also ate this without complaining, which is newsworthy in our house.
If you read down to the bottom of the recipe card, you'll see that this came from the charter issue of Cook's country. Easy and pretty quick to make, the recipe calls for only one non-staple ingredient for us: ricotta cheese. Make ricotta a staple and whapam! You could have this twice a month.
I'm sure shells would play well with the other ingredients. We've been perfectly happy with Penne Rigate. Don't forget to reserve that cup of pasta water!
After an off-hand remark caused an astounding flurry of debate on facebook this week, I've been thinking about why I feel that everyone in our family should dress up for church. I took the transcript of the argument and put it into an xtranormal video, which you can watch if you'd like. The rest of this post only takes that debate as a jumping-off point and doesn't actually refer to it anymore.
Our rule for our kids for Sunday church clothes are: nothing printed on the shirt, no jeans or sweatpants, and they wear dress shoes. That typically ends up being a polo or button down with khakis or dress shorts in the warm weather. They do get to wear sandals, but we specifically shop for sandals that work as summer church shoes. In the winter, they most often wear a sweater with khakis. They do have some wedding and funeral clothes that are a notch dressier - blue blazers, shirts and ties, dressier trousers.
I like to dress up for church. It makes me feel more prepared for worship. I think it's important to signal to the kids, too, that Sunday is different. It's difficult to implement concrete actions that differentiate the sabbath. Wearing clothes that you don't normally wear not only reminds you constantly throughout the day; it also starts right at the beginning of the day.
Also, though, I need to be able to say to my kids on various occasions for various reasons "that outfit is not appropriate for where we're going or what we're doing". Church clothes set the tone for that. With the weekly basis of church clothes, I find it easier to demand jeans and a nice shirt for certain events or khakis and a nice shirt for other events. I find it a little wacky, but in our house, jeans are one step up into dressy because our boys - Teddy especially - would wear sweat pants every day if he had the chance. As Jerry said to George, though, in the pilot episode of Seinfeld: "You know the message you're sending out to the world with these sweatpants? You're telling the world, 'I give up. I can't compete in normal society. I'm miserable, so I might as well be comfortable.'"
Did I just say that people who don't dress up for church have declared themselves unable to compete in normal society? Possibly. I've been believed to have said similar things before.
Although I try to stay away from posts that summarize my day, today feels emblematic of a life stage, so I feel the need to at least pause. It's hard to believe that I've been working part time for over two years. The time feels now as though it has flown by. Ain't that always the way.
While we await Teddy's magnet school application for kindergarten in September, I'm taking stock of the fact that the routine that took rather a long while to settle into will evaporate before I know it. In a matter of months, I won't have my two days a week with my little guy anymore. He's changed so much in two years, and he synthesizes ideas and events in a more advanced way every day. Lately, he's just been so sweet and funny and helpful. We have our moments obviously, but the marvelous aspects of Teddy's personality help me pause and realize that we're sharing a wonderful and unique and irreplaceable part of his life right now.
Even though I can recognize that, I worry that I'm not getting all that I can out of these fleeting days. Being a grownup makes me feel like there's so much that I have to do. This isn't just a state of mind, of course; I went part time so that evenings and weekends weren't full of tasks to accomplish. I do need to get things done during the day. But I don't want to look back at this period and just feel like I only spent my off days dragging my cute companion around on errands.
Don't have much of a conclusion here. Just a commitment to try to make the most out of Teddy's (and my) developmental stage.
The name of this blog is a political statement about fatherhood. Regardless of the progress toward gender equality that has occurred over the last several decades, one stereotype persists and may be getting worse: moms are good parents and dads are incompetent boobs who sometimes babysit. Poppycock, I say. Or an excuse for dads who would like to be viewed as numskulls so that they don't have to parent their kids. Dads are parents too, and I know some who are very good at it.
I'm neither a stay-at-home dad nor do I work full time. I work part time, and I'm the primary parent for the foreseeable future. The primary competent parent, I hope it is not presumptuous to say.