Puff Puff, the Bear from Hell

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Me Strangling Puff Puff

Last Saturday we bought Sissy a “Build Your Own Build-a-Bear” at Big Lots. It was a bear skin in a box that your child (or you) can sew up and stuff. A fun project for our aspiring seamstress and lover of “stuffies” (her term, not ours). She pestered us all evening on Saturday to make the bear but it wasn’t the time. We should have known then to just throw the damn thing in the trash, especially after the epic meltdown that followed when we told her she would have to wait until Sunday to start. But we didn’t, and Sunday came and Sissy sewed and stuffed the bear. And when it was done she was proud of her accomplishment, poured out all of her love on her new baby bear, and christened it “Puff Puff.”

I HATE Puff Puff.

It has become Sissy’s obsession. She carries it everywhere, talks to it, calls Wifey and I its grandparents, brings it to the table for dinner, puts it down for naps, and sleeps with it. She insists that we snuggle with it, kiss it, hug it, say that we love it. Sometimes kids with imagination can be so annoying.

Just to clarify the timeline:

Saturday: Puff Puff is purchased.

Sunday: Puff Puff is made and christened.

Monday: Puff Puff loses an eye.

Oh happy dagger! This is thy sheath; there rust and let me die! Wailing. Gnashing of teeth. Oh the tragedy! Jesus wept for Puff Puff’s eye!!!

For fear of accidentally ripping through Puff Puff’s entire head, Sissy carefully placed her beloved bear on Wifey’s sewing table to be mended. And there it lay forgotten. Until 9:00 that night when Sissy walked into our bedroom.

Sissy(wailing): “I ca-an’t sleep without Pu-u-uff Pu-u-uff!”

Me (having missed the eye incident): “Then take it to bed with you.”

Sissy(sobbing): “She lo-ost her eye and I don’t wa-ant to rip her head in my slee-ee-eep!”

Me: “Well then, you’ll just have to wait until tomorrow after Mommy has fixed it.”

Sissy(gnashing teeth): “BUT I ALWAYS SLEEP WITH HER! I CAN’T SLEEP WITHOUT HER!”

Me (to Wifey, whispering): “Didn’t she get that yesterday?”

Wifey: slight nod while rolling eyes

Me: “Sweetie, I don’t think she’ll rip if you sleep with her. Just go ahead and take her and ask Mommy to fix her tomorrow BEFORE bedtime.”

Sissy: “O-oka-ay.”

But of course she didn’t ask Mommy to fix her. Until 9:00 the next evening when the whole scene replayed itself again. More wailing, more drama, more eye rolling (by me, not her).

Fast-forward to Friday. I am home from work because Wifey has been struck with the flu and can’t get out of bed, let alone tend to our horde. While playing in the floor with The Baby, Sissy hands me a piece of paper. It is an invite to Puff Puff’s Baby Party. She has spent the last hour “decorating” (aka trashing) her room and requests my presence at what is sure to be the shin-dig of the century. And, because I’m a sucker, I accept the invitation. At the appointed time I walk back to her room to join in the festivities, which include a variation of hot-potato designed to make me lose (she hands me the dinosaur so she can turn off the music), some sort of “game” where I have to be Squidward trying to get SpongeBob (her) and Patrick (Bubba) to stop singing so loudly by shouting over them, and ending with Freeze Dance, which involves dancing until the music stops and then freezing in whatever position you are in (that one was actually kind of fun). Apparently, this is all for the benefit of Puff Puff, who is overseeing the festivities from atop Sissy’s cabinet. Wait a sec…she is overseeing with…TWO EYES! The eyes are sewn into the fabric, not buttons like I assumed they were. And they were both very much still present on the damn bear’s stupid head. I grab the bear and shove it in Sissy’s face:

Me: “What part of these eyes is broken? It seems pretty whole to me.”

Sissy: “Look…the dot in the middle of the eye has come off.”

You have got to be kidding me. A small dot of tan thread in middle of the right eye unraveled and came out. There wasn’t even a hole where the thread had once been. And I had to put up with a week’s worth of drama for THAT! I couldn’t even tell that anything was missing! I wanted to rip the bear’s head off and throw it at her while shouting “NOW THIS IS SOMETHING TO CRY ABOUT!”

But I didn’t. I sat down in the floor and proceeded to play a game in which we passed the bear back and forth having to answer any question that Sissy asked while holding her. And while passing Puff Puff back and forth telling Sissy about my favorite colors, places, books, and dreams, I started to soften. This little bear, for all of its BS, was creating a wonderful memory with my daughter, so I guess I should be thankful.

Wait, no…scratch that. I still hate that stupid bear and will continue to pray for her to fall victim to some sort of horrible accident. But I love my daughter, so I’ll put up with Puff Puff…

For now.

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Inked, or How My Tattoo Makes Me a Better Father

For my Christmas/Birthday gift this year, Wifey gave me something that can I can never lose or return: a tattoo (plus a legitimate excuse to never, ever have to give blood…”home tattoo” is way more manly than “cries at the thought of needles”).  I’ve wanted to get one for a long time but hadn’t been able to come up with a design that I would want to carry on my body from now until the day I die.  I was also held up by the fact that I really wanted to tattoo my forearm, a very visible location.

I had this idea that I would never be taken seriously as a professional and as a father if I had large, visible ink, an idea that was only reinforced by the frequent responses of “really?” when I would tell coworkers and other acquaintances about my intentions.  Nobody ever said to me “you’ll never be taken seriously as a professional and as a father if you have large, visible ink,” but their inflection and sideways glances coupled with my own paranoia sure made it seem like that is exactly what they were saying.  As a compromise of sorts, I had decided to get a simple, fairly small cross in the crook of my arm…something that would be acceptable due to its religious nature and small enough to cover for work without having to wear full long-sleeved shirts all the time (my district has a “strict” no-visible-tattoos policy…unless you are female and have one on your calf or ankle, apparently…but that’s a topic for another time).  I’d decided on the artist I wanted to do it (Jeremy Shawn…he’s amazing) and was just waiting to have a little bit of extra cash to get the job done.

The time had come.  Wifey was going to use my Christmas gift as the opportunity to get me to finally do it.  And as the day approached, I was feeling unsure about my cross.  Was it really what I wanted?  I mean REALLY?  Forever?  And the answer was “no.”  So Wifey suggested to me that I get…what I got.  And I listened because she is wise.

By this point I had already come my personal epiphany about being who I wanted to be without concern for the opinions of people I don’t really care about, but I hadn’t connected this epiphany to my tattoo dreams.  So when I made the final decision to go with a giant elm on my left forearm, I did so without fear or doubt.  It’s what I wanted, so I got it.

I tell this story to illustrate my decision to change my life.  I have one life to live.  It can be guided by the opinions of a panel of outside observers who ultimately don’t care about what happens to me one way or another, or it can be guided by me in the way that I want it to go.  Will some people doubt my professional abilities if they happen to catch a peek of my tat under my shirt cuff?  Maybe.  Will some people automatically assume that I am an amoral father because I am carrying my baby in an arm forever decorated in ink? Could be.  Are their assumptions correct?  Absolutely not.  In fact, I would argue that I am actually a better father and teacher BECAUSE I have a tattoo, because I feel more empowered and in control of my life.  For too long I’ve allowed myself to make decisions based on the perceptions of others.  And what has it gotten me?  A significant case of depression and self-doubt.  And those things suck.

30-Something Dad, Round 2

My blog is much neglected over the last 9 months. And I don’t care, stuff happens.

I’ve actually started about 10 different posts that never got published, one for every month I’ve been “silent” I suppose. I would be struck by random inspiration and start to type, and then lose interest and abandon the effort. The story of my life for the last little bit.

You see, I started this blog as a way to jump-start my life. I thought that if I embraced who and where I was whole-heartedly and energetically, I might actually convince myself that my life was just as good as I thought it should be. That was a fail. In order to blog successfully, you have to be pretty narcissistic. You have to believe that your life is interesting enough for people to want to read about it. And I haven’t found myself to be particularly interesting for a while, therefore developing a major case of blogger’s block.

But lately I’ve been doing some self-reflection and I’ve come to realize something: when your life sucks, change it. Despite my best efforts to avoid it, I’ve been caught in the trap of suburbia: fit in, fit in, fit in. Well I don’t fit, no matter how hard I try. I’m not suburban. I don’t care about buying shit. I don’t care about the latest, greatest new chain restaurant. I don’t care about having lots of money. I don’t care about being fashionable, etc., etc., etc. I’ve known this for a long time on an intellectual level, but somehow my inner psyche didn’t connect with that and so subconsciously I’ve been stressing about the fact that I just can’t make it work. I’m done with that now. My psyche has seen the light.

So, welcome to 30-Something Dad, Round 2 where, for better or for worse, I’m just going to let loose to say whatever I want, shoot from the hip, and document my ongoing journey back to just being who I am. If you are enjoying yourself, continue to follow my blog. And if not, then shut it…’cuz I do what I want.

Bubba Lays an OVO

On Friday my parents took me and the family (minus Peanut) to see Cirque du Soleil‘s show OVO, which is currently playing in town (watch the preview above for an overview).  The show is presented in true circus style, under a the big top, and was one of the most amazing performance experiences that I have ever…experienced.  The acts, the costumes, the music, and the performers were all mesmerizing and top-notch.  We all walked away in awe.

Bubba and Sissy at OVO

But the most wonderful part of the evening wasn’t the performance.  It was watching Bubba watch the performance.  He was enthralled with every single aspect.  As each new character emerged, he would point wildly and jump up and down in his seat.  Several times I looked over to see him standing in front of his chair, as if to get just a few inches closer to the stage.  While Sissy had a hard time figuring out what bugs the various performers were supposed to represent, Bubba never even had to think about it.  He knew what each of them were based on their often abstract costumes and stylized movements, sometimes even before Wifey and I had figured them out!  During intermission he ran around just outside the tent, so excited to go back in and see some more.  For a full two hours after the show was over, he just kept going on about it, reliving every last moment.

As an artist, the fact that Bubba was so moved by this performance touched me in a way I can’t describe.  Several times my eyes filled with tears as I watched him immerse himself in the experience.  We try, as parents, to let our children find their own passions.  While we certainly are very involved in the arts, we try not to be overbearing with a push that they be invested in them as well.  We allow them to explore a variety of interests and encourage them to try their best in everything that they attempt.  Because of this, it is even more special for me that Bubba was so impacted by this performance.

If you have the chance to see OVO, I highly encourage you to DO IT!  And if you have the chance to take a child, don’t miss out on the opportunity.  You won’t regret it, and it may even be one of the most memorable moments of your life.

Well, Almost

I still have 21 hours until my 30th birthday.  But to be honest, I think that I have actually been in my thirties for the past 7 years or so.  If you consider the fact that 30 is the new 23 and at 23 I was living the life of a 30 year old, I’m way ahead of the curve.  I mean, at 29 and 364 days, I have already been married for nearly a decade, had 4 children, and have been working in my chosen career for 6 years.  Plus, I’m bald. Let’s face it, I may as well be turning 40.

With the coming and going of the New Year holiday and the big three-o on the near horizon, I have taken some time to evaluate my life in the past few days and in general, I find my life to be quite enjoyable. But, in classic male fashion, my major concern is this: what mark I am making on the world? Sure, I teach high school kids to memorize lines (or at least ACT like they’ve memorized them) and I know teachers shape kids forever and blah, blah, blah. But is that really my lasting legacy? That maybe someday one of my acting students will find success and I’ll receive polite mention in a Reader’s Digest article? I have to say, that doesn’t really do it for me. So what can I do?

The answer: KIDS! They are going to use up all of my time and resources over the next 18+ years anyway, so why not make them my pet project? So, my New Year’s resolution is to re-dedicate myself to being an awesome dad in order to produce the best possible kids.

Phase 2 of Operation Lasting Legacy is keeping this blog, both to document my journey and be a resource to other dads. There are an overwhelming number of mommy sites out there, but far fewer dedicated to the male counterpart. Well, here is one to help shrink the gap.

So welcome to 30-Something Dad! May it inform and entertain, and get updated with reasonable frequency!

*insert catchy dad-related catch phrase here*