Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Birthing of the Rich and Famous

Well, there are reports today that Brittany Spears is pregnant with K-Fed Jr. #2. Dawson is still spinning in his post-series grave after his leading lady gave birth to Tom Cruise Jr., and Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt are now rumoured to be taking the last soul from the Guff for their little genetic union.

Yes, I need to stop looking at the entertainment news on the home page at my computer at work -- that goes without saying. However, I am struck by the absolute obesssion with impending parenthood of the rich and famous that has gripped us all (or at least the "media"). It's rather interesting that, where once we were obsessed who the famous are dating (or at least seen making out with on some random beach) that now we focus our "Entertainment Tonight" lense on the rich and famous getting in the "family way". I wonder what that says about our society's fascination with fame -- are we looking to the beautiful people to embrace the vision of family that on average no longer exists in America?

I'm probably overthinking this, but at least it took my mind off of Sean Preston's parents for a moment.

Saturday, April 15, 2006


When bringing up a child, the right music to fill their little days is essential. I have a pretty vast music collection, and knowing that one day most of it will go do Vampbaby, I've decided to get him on board with a love of music immediately upon entering the world ("see, son, long ago, people used to use these things called 'seee-deees"...). Here are some of Vampbaby's favorites that he feels no collection should be without:

Hush - Yo-Yo Ma and Bobby McFerrin. Immediately following college graduation, I spent a short stint in the "struggling artist" mode, working for an upscale cafe in downtown Boston. Stressed by my lack of money and seemingly darkening future, I'd come home to my roach motel and pop this cd in to unwind while drowning my troubles in a claw-foot tub perfect for bubble baths. Playful takes on classical music and children's songs, this album is a must for any kid. Not to mention that we should support artists that are as passionate as these two about access to the arts for young people.

Singing in the Bathtub - John Lithgow. Actor, musician, children's book writer -- this guy can do almost anything! We were driving somewhere once (probably waiting for the little one to sooth himself into an automotive-induced nap) when NPR used "The Hippopotamus Song" as a spacer between stories. It was one of the first times I heard my son laugh at a song, and rushed out to buy it immediately. Great swing and jazz music that's just right for playtime.

Now the Day is Over - Innocence Mission. I've loved this band since I was in college -- so when they released a benefit cd of lullabies right before Vampbaby was born, it seemed as if fate had stepped in. Soft instrumentation and the beautiful voice of Karen Paris will sooth any baby, and most likely the associated parental units as well. I recommend everything they do highly. You can buy the album from the band directly at:

Carnival - Various Artists. This was collecting dust on a shelf when my son was born. A benefit CD to support Rainforest preservation, it touts childrens song's and lullabies sung from by a variety of folks. The opening song is a version of "The Waters of Tyne" by Sting. Since the first time we played it, my son has stopped whatever he's doing, turned his head to the radio, and smiled whenever that song played. A Sting fan in born! Of course, what really makes the record is an a capella version of "Row, Row, Row Your Boat" by Tina Turner....

Kids are not required to enjoy these, but they certainly help. Rock on!

Editorial note: I changed the comment options on my blog so that you, fair reader, may feel free to comment even if you are not a registered blogspot member. So go ahead and share your reviews of good music I should share with Vampbaby!

Sunday, April 09, 2006

The year in review

Vampbaby turned 1 year old almost two months ago -- and as we revel in his seemingly overnight transition from "infant" to "toddler" ("Angst-ridden teenager" seems very near suddenly), it seems like a good time to step back and look at what I've learned in his first year on this earth. May this be a quide to any new dad beginning the journey:

Lack of sleep will not kill you, but it will sure feel like it. A cousin of mine told me before our son was born, "Remember: no one has died due to lack of sleep". While this thought was of great comfort on the many long nights that followed, it was soon replaced by the concept that, certainly, people have died from stupid things they did due to lack of sleep -- like driving, tightrope walking, or operating machinery like construction vehicles, blenders and microwaves. Semi-conscious use of a pen or keyboard have also been seen as life-altering errors for some. This concept does provide the needed fear to keep you "on edge" enough to avoid entry into the "Darwin Awards", at least until sleep does arrive, which for me was after the 1st birthday.

You will become obsessed with poop. Sorry gentle reader, but as bizaare as this sounded when I was first told, it's absolutely true. Poop's many colors, textures and scents will be the clock you set your watch to. When it arrives, there is great rejoicing. When it does not, there is panic. The primal nature of our existance returns to your attention with full force during the first year. Enjoy*.
*Note that I'm talking about your child's poop, not your own. If you become obsessed with your own, I recommend immediate referral to a Freudian Psychoanalyst. A few years on the couch will be needed. Tell no one.

You will have a new appreciation for the film Memento. Memory of your pre-baby life vanishes immediatley upon delivery. Not until quite recently was I able to picture in my mind exactly what I did with my non-work time before I was a parent. The notion that I would come home from a day's work, plop on the couch and not move until midnight seemed unbelievable, even though it was a part of my routine just a week before Vampbaby arrived on the scene. While we have recently returned to some balance of family and personal time that allows for the occasional free-for-all veg-fest, it is still hard to believe that I had so much free time at one point.

Every baby becomes your baby. I no longer watch the news in the same way I did before. Stories about the evils of the world, and their impact on children, now send you running to the crib to check on and hold your little one. I've always been passionate about improving the world for youth, but when it's your own son that you superimpose over the image of the starving child in Africa, it takes on a resonance that's almost unbearable. Fortunately our news these days is focused more on our national leadership's "goof of the hour", so I don't have to avert my eyes too long. But try to avoid images or stories of child abuse, murder or neglect. It'll send you off the deep end.

You actually know what you're doing. Natural instict does kick in -- at least, it did for us. There is always that question about whether or not you have "what it takes" to be a parent; particularly when you hear so much about those who clearly should have been sterilized early on given what they've done to youth (see the above lesson). However, my wife went from Vamplady to Vampmommy overnight, and I found myself relying heavily on instict that turned out to lead me in the right direction -- the Force really does work in this instance.

Others also know what they're doing, but you won't believe it. Eventually, the dreaded day will arrive; you will hand your baby off to someone else and leave the vecinity for more than 5 minutes. Maybe it'll be the first "date night" for the new parents, or perhaps it will be a more extended trip. Often times the "someone else" is a grandparent -- the very person who raised you! Yet, you will feel as though you need to educate them about every element of caring for an infant as if they've never done it before. While some of the technology has changed ("Car seats?!? Why, when you were young we just put you in a cardboard box!"), the basic framework for caring for an infant is about the same as it was a thousand years ago. Take note of the fact that you seemed to have turned out unscathed when the fear grips you. Everything will be fine*.
*Of course, this is assuming that you're not leaving your child with someone you do not know, or some distant relative who's only experience with a baby was enjoyment of the "dancing baby" on Ally McBeal. If you fall into this category of decision-making -- please go to your nearest competent parent so they can redirect you, hopefully non-violently.

You and your inner-child will become best friends!
I've always been an adult known for my eternal youth, but there's nothing like a baby around to help you revert back to your own childhood days. Of course, while typical "inner child" connect involved the you of the teenage years, your son or daughter will bring you back to a much, MUCH earlier time. The flashy toys that sing, given with love to your offspring by a dear friend, will find their way into your heart as well, until one would wonder from a distance who exactly is playing with all of these toys -- the baby or the parent.

Having a child can be the best stress-reliever available. I was prepared for the stress of parenthood -- there's enough in books and stories out there to terrify even the most competent individual who chooses to take the plunge. But what I didn't expect was that having a child would do actually wonders for my work-related stress level. As someone who used to work 24-hours a day, 7 days a week, a child forced me to re-direct my focus and attention in a more balanced fashion. I'm still obsessed with my job, and work like crazy, but I no longer "bring it home with me". Having a little one who is so "in the moment" helps bring out that quality in their parents as well. The worries of the day, the work not accomplished, the meeting that didn't go well, disappear into the fog when confronted with a giggling child and the five-thousanth reading of "One Fish, Two Fish".

Your car is no longer a transportation device. I have spent countless hours over the past year sitting in my car, listening to NPR and playing video games on my cell phone, while Vampbaby has slept -- in fact, Vampmommy is outside doing this very thing as I type! While our son has had his sleep issues, he does pretty well now, and has always napped effectively in the car. So, afternoon errand runs roll on into a few hours in the Target parking lot, letting the car engine sooth him into slumper while "This American Life" keeps us entertained. Right after my son was born I heard about a product that you can buy that attaches to the crib and simulates the vibrations and sounds of a car going 55 miles per hour. I never got it, but the real thing has done a great job as Mr. Sandman.

There's more we learned in the first year, and the learning continues. My wife and I were told that our lives would change after we got married, and we really didn't notice it. However, life does change dramatically after becoming a parent. As I begin to recall what my life was like before Vampbaby again (that Memento-thing continues for awhile), I am continually noticing new awarenesses that were not there before.

Oh yeah, and poop. Don't forget about that.

Friday, April 07, 2006

A tale of leverage

Parents often collect stories of sacrifice that they can easily whip out at a moment's notice to remind their offspring of the big "you owe me one". These "get out of jail free" cards can't be used often, and should be used sparingly, but can come in quite handy in the right moment.

Vampbaby is a little too young for such reminders as redirection, but nevertheless Vampmommy and I have THE story of sacrifice that should hopefully keep him the ever-dutiful son well into the college years -- after all, it's not about what we've done for him as a baby. It's what we went through to have him in the first place.

Vampmommy is known to have a very close, personal relationship with nausea. Plane rides require "patches" worn behind her ear to ward off the evil spirit that brings lunch around for a second time. The wrong meal doesn't stick in the digestive tract for long, and once she ended up in the emergency room with a flu that made the first night in our new home one for the record books.

So, when the joyful news of our pending little one came, we certainly were prepared for a little morning sickness. What we got was something far different -- a not-so-rare but little-talked-about condition called "Hyperemesis". Think of it as uncontrolable, unstoppable, completely nightmarish morning sickness -- that last 24-hours a day, 7 days a week, for months. Nothing helped -- we tried the "cracker and gingerale" trick, various acupressure gadgets, regular visits to the doctor for hydration, all resulted in nothing but Vampmommy dropping 20 pounds in about two weeks. Finally, she spent a week in the hospital, and was fitted with a portacath. This fun contraption is surgically placed under the collarbone, and allows nutrients in the form of a white goo to be fed through a tube to keep her (and the little one) from withering into nothing.

So, Vampmommy spent the rest of the first trimester laying very still on the couch at home, watching every available season of "Stargate" on DVD (thank GOD for Netflix). I would come home from work every evening and prepare her "meal", by injecting vitamins and other yummy treats into the bag of goo before attaching it to the needle in her chest and turning on the pump (which I can still hear in my mind). A very friendly nurse would come by a couple times a week to take blood, change the needle, and check things out.

Fortunately for us, the hyperemesis got under control a few weeks into the second trimester. We consider ourselves quite lucky in this regard, as it sometimes can run uncontrolled for the entire pregnancy, and we are not often lucky in the health category. But, this time, the universe gave us a break. Vampmommy did spend the rest of her pregnancy on a cocktail of anti-nausea medications, but she was able to go back to work and enjoy the remainder of her pregnancy without similar near-death experiences.

We certainly have a delivery story that sits in our back pocket for the future (delivery in general is a good one to keep), but I think this particular part of the pregnancy will be a valuable bargaining tool someday.

Although, perhaps we'll never need it, since Vampbaby is of course an ANGEL.....

Thursday, April 06, 2006

My, what pointy teeth you have!

So, before we go any further, it's best to expain the "vamp" in "Vampdaddy", as the "daddy" part is rather simple -- I am one. And, although he has recently felt his two eye-teeth arrive with a painful vengeance, he doesn't have fangs, and neither do I.

My first discovery of my interest in vampires came in college, during one Christmas break where I locked myself in my room at home and read all three books of Ann Rice's "The Vampire Chronicles" (there were only three at the time -- "Interview...", "...Lestat", and "Queen of the Damned"). I went from there to reading "Dracula" for the first time, and then had the experience of being on the production crew for a stage version of the novel while in college. Since then I've amassed a pretty decent collection of vampire fiction and folklore -- and the Edward Gorey "Dracula" paper-doll stage set (for the kid in me).

In graduate school, I included a section of my Masters Thesis on the Vampire as a jungian shadow archetype -- it is, after all, one of the most enduring mythical creatures; with movies, books, plays, breakfast cereals, songs, and a host of other things based on it. Clearly the concept has a place in our subconscious.

So, people get to know me, and then come to my house, see my vampire-themed shelf of books, and wonder for a moment if they got me wrong. But, I like to keep people guessing, I suppose.

As I've begun thinking of getting a blog started, I debated for some time what to title it. "Vampdaddy" was my wife's suggestion -- it certainly brings together two things I'm quite into at the moment.

Besides, it certainly sounds more appropriate than if I used my love of my favorite band, the "Cocteau Twins".

Anyway, on with the show...

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

The Beginning

Well, here you are -- and here I am. What will follow? Who knows. I keep thinking that, if I put myself to the commitment of having an on-line blog, I will rekindle the lost writing fire that sits inside somewhere -- most likely buried under the pressures of work and family, juggling both on a daily basis with some degree of success up to this point.

Who am I? A thirtysomething who holds fast to the "young me", a parent who can't believe that the one year old running about has altered my life so, a married man who seems to have defied the norm and found a love that is a strong today as it was when it first began, a passionnate left-winger who has dedicated my life's work to improving communities for young people to thrive in (and adults, for that matter). Oh yeah, and in there somewhere is a guy who loves music, good books, great films, and a close circle of dear friends that keep me alive.

Some of this will enter into these pages, but some I will leave out ("let the mystery be", I suppose). Not knowing where I will go from here, I thank you for stopping by and being interested in my little journey. I promise to try to keep it interesting.