Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Bleu Cheese, Brill Cream, and Beech-Nut

Every month, every year, every generation... we lose someone special. Many of the greatest people I've known are no longer around, but they live on because of the impact they've made on our lives.

My Grandpa Wolf was one of those people, and above all else, he exemplified what it takes to be the patriarch I aspire to be.

I was blessed to have meaningful years with all of my grandparents. I was doubly-blessed to be raised less than a mile from each set.

My relationships with each one were incredibly unique, just as their personalities were (and are) truly one-of-a-kind.

Grandpa Wolf was a career railroader, but to me, he was the ultimate salesman. You could spend ten minutes with the guy and he'd have you so interested in something, that if you were told you'd have a conversation about said subject matter three hours prior, you'd be lifting your jaw off your chest.

Every grandson needs answers and my grandpa was readily available to assist... although his recollections were slightly biased or stretched or completely made up on-the-fly (if only Snopes were available in 1987).

Many grandfathers would think their offspring were slightly off if they were ever told that their hairstyle resembled that of one Millard Fillmore (13th president of the US), that they could always find you in a crowded department store by looking for the guy resembling Cary Grant (from behind), and catching that same grandson opening his pouch of tobacco so he could smell it... all at the age of six.

My grandpa never asked 'why' I was always perusing through his road atlases, AAA Trip-Tiks, and National Geographics.... he encouraged it. As I 'matured' from' nerdy' ventures, he provided me my first harmonica and loaned me my first six-string. Bought me the Mel Bay books, always allowed me to accompany him in his Chrysler of the year on his many treks to Lima (his motherland), and helped me with some of my most gut-wrenching purchasing decisions.

July 7. 1991: I had a fresh twenty to spend from my birthday the day before. We started the morning with a coffee (black, of course), sat at the kitchen bar, finished the crossword, and after sitting at Hartman Auto Sales (Westminster, OH) for what seemed like weeks... I was trotted into the Sears store at the Lima Mall. Always one for safety, Grandpa convinced me I needed a light for my BMX bike. The contraption was a wheel-generatror-mechanism that may have been assembled all of three days on my wheels.

I can honestly say, that's the only piece of bad advice I ever got from the guy. Truth be told, I could have bought fourty packs of Topps at the pharmacy and OD'd on the bubble gum for weeks. (I'm quick to forgive, but have the memory of an elephant).

A few years later, I received a questionable flat top. Never one to critique style, Grandpa took me to his upstairs bathroom and presented me with a mini-tub of Brill Creme, which I'm pretty sure had an expiration date sometime in the late '60's.

The years of my life suddenly started accelerating when his began slowing down. Those summertime trips to Lima were replaced by pop-in's and prom picture visits. My lazy days of boredom were no longer, but my love remained. Along with the annual birthday phone calls, I always did my best to represent him at 'his' family functions.

Unconditional love makes you step out of your element. I recall many of us all doing something 'for' grandpa, whether it was listening to a twenty minute dissertation on the Dorsey Brothers, watching a Buckeye game with him while he paced the floor, or simply being patient with him in his waning years as he drifted from one topic to the next.

The best thing that comes out of death is the ability for us all to see the mark that they not only made on our lives, but those of others. As I stood at the casket of an octogenarian, I expected to see friends of my family, neighbors, and churchgoers. I didn't expect to see childhood friends make a journey together, old co-workers reminiscing, and an honor guard of his peers... but I did.

I'm guilty of wanting my dear son to replicate the same relationship I did with all of my fantastic grandparents. Only now do I realize that it's with my parents and in-laws, and it's just me being selfish.

Reflecting over the past, I received many subtle gifts from each and every grandparent. I don't really care for Bleu Cheese, but eat it because Grandpa Wolf did. I drink a black coffee every day and tip my cup to Grandpa Conley. I geek out over thunderstorms on the horizon thanks to Grandma Conley. I'm brutally honest with loved ones and equally empathetic and patient because of Grandma Wolf.

Our time with everyone is limited.... our memories are eternal.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

First Ever Reader Mailbag

Upon being bombarded with multiple questions from MULTIPLE readers, here's a little more in-depth look into what the people want!

"Can you upload some pictures of Reid?" - Regina, Tupelo, MS

Absolutely... and sooner than you expect! (Check back in 6-8 hours).

"What developments has Reid gone through the past few weeks?" - Bob H., Stamford, CT

Reid has been teething for what seems like forever. It's not a terrible phase, you can tell he's about on the brink though and will just cry and hold his gums out of the blue. (Since this was originally written, RWC now has lower incisors and you can see a faint, white trace of teeth in his upper gums).

He is also on the verge of crawling. Holds himself up well from his tummy, good forearm strength... just needing to figure out that elusive hip wiggle/shuffle thing. (Still on the verge of crawling. Has excellent lifting capabilities as of 3/7/2013).

He is slowly learning the art of eating food. Baby Num-Nums (Banana) are his current favorite. These are a slender wafer in the shape of a banana. There are also the puffs (sweet potato and berry) and assorted mushy fruits.

Reid is developing a very sweet laugh and a coo while he feeds. He likes to say 'DADADADADADADA and 'blablablabla'. He has bashful tendencies, for example: when sneaking up on the 'cute baby in the mirror', he stares into his reflection for a short time, then turns away and buries his head in my shoulder.

"How is cloth diapering nowadays?" - Janelle, Conway, SC

Cloth diapering has yet to present any issues. If anything, it's turning into a cash cow (Julie is selling un-used diapers that never fit correctly or some that were worn once or twice). It has led to a few conversations on starting up a shop or renting space somewhere to distribute and to share the benefits of cloth.

Being that the majority of Reid's food is breast milk, he still has easy stools to clean up. Check back in a month or two.

"Does Reid have favourite toys/games/food yet?" - Kate, London

Covered the food earlier... he is a milk nut! He has a variety of games we play, including but not limited to: "Look at the baby in the mirror", "1-2-Threeeeeeee (counting and hoisting him into the air), and tossing one of his 'taggy' blankets over his head and saying "Where's Reid?!", then watching his reaction (he's slightly out growing this one).

I never dreamed an eight-month-old would have so many toys. Among his new favorites (from Christmas): sea horse that plays soothing music and assorted aquatic sounds, a replica walker that plays some killer guitar licks and saxophone ditties, a flashlight with the most annoying woman doing the voice-over "Red, Green, Yellow, Blue, let's follow the jungle crew!", etc.

(I'm picking this back up after a six-to-seven week hiatus... tsk!)

"How can you tell what he wants sometimes? Do you get any of the non-verbal communication and sounds he makes?" - Rico, Ciudad Jaurez

Non-verbals are pretty easy with Reid. He reaches, he makes the impatient moaning noises after (just) downing a spoonful of applesauce, different cries are readily deciphered.

"How are nights going for you? Has Reid moved into his crib/own room and is he sleeping better?" - Maria, Tampa

Meh. Each parent has differing viewpoints on this subject. It's more or less been a life-changing experience, and nights will never be the same for the remainder of our lives (or until he and any future children settle down and have their own children). No biggie, comes with the territory. It's exactly what we signed up for.

"What is hardest for you?" - Francois, Versailles

For me, dad, I feel guilty that I'm never doing enough. I feel guilty when I'm away from my family... like every extracirricular is judged and picked through with a fine-toothed comb. I feel that my job(s) are my social time and my commute is my escape. Again, it's not hell, but it has definitely been an adjustment being a dad.

Another aspect that's tough is how Reid relies on his mother for the majority of his needs. I know there will come a day that we're inseperable, but it seems so far in the distance. It is nice at the phase he's in now to come in through the door and have his little face beam in my direction. That makes my day every time.

Lastly, waking up isn't what it used to be. Selfishness has been replaced by responsibility. There are no snooze buttons in parenthood.

"Julie, do you find combining your job and your family difficult? ( I am a teacher as well and I find it very difficult)" - MG

She'll field this one and edit accordingly :)

"What does your schedule look like? Do you let Reid decide what the day looks like or do you have a set schedule?" - Manti, South Bend

Again, this differs by parent. Here's a breakdown: Mornings (all) - up at 5:00, mom showers, dad tends to baby, eats breakfast, brews coffee, changes diaper, dresses babe. Dad showers, mom arranges bag for sitter, dresses, etc. Out the door by 7:15 (Dad prefers twenty minutes earlier). Afternoons (majority) - home between 5:30-6:00; community play time on the floor with toys, dinner, bath in the 7:00 hour, PJ's and a story or something to wind down. Ideally (baby) sleeping by 9:00.

Reid will often dictate how a day goes (e.g., do we go to church, do we travel somewhere, does he need a nap). Things definitely aren't done on a whim anymore. Precise planning is required and schedules (even between mom & dad) are coordinated months in advance. With that said, I'd do it all over again and hope to adjust our schedules in the future for other little ones. For now, I'll love my son and admire the changes I see each and every day.

(Side note: all questions were submitted by one of our top commenters, MG, and I had to put alias' on some to make us appear a little cooler than we really are)

Until next time...