March 11, 2008

It’s a gut feeling

A while back I wrote about my battle of the bulge. It’s not a huge bulge but I feel it and, frankly, I’m getting tired of feeling it. Back in November, when I first announced I was going to battle this bulge, I began working out at the Y two to three times a week and I was on my way. I was feeling good and beginning to look good (if I do say so myself). Then, my new job hit and, at first, I had no time to exercise. I was working 10-12 hour days and I was exhausted. But recently, the pace has slowed enough that I have been feeling like I need to work out again. I just needed a push.

That’s when I saw Darren write about his desire to get fit – codenamed Project X (X is for eXercise) and he invited others to join him. He even decided to start a blog to chronicle Project X. So, I impulsively said, “SIGN ME UP!”

So, I’m going to try this again. Darren’s already starting to work out. Me? I had to polish off the last sleeve of Thin Mints so I won’t get tempted when I start Project X. You know, a guys gotta be prepared.

Wish me luck!

March 10, 2008

Tastes Like Chicken

To my beautiful daughter,

You have entered a stage of development where you have become a bit picky with what you choose to ingest. You used to be the best eater in the world (Besides your brother – but you can’t compete against that boy. He sucks down anything in a 5-foot radius.). You would eat anything I put on your tray. I mean, I put down oatmeal with brown sugar on your breakfast tray every weekday morning for a year straight and you shoveled it down like you’d never tasted something so freaking delicious. Then, one day, you looked me right in the eye and said…

“Daddy, I no like eat-mo-meal.”

And just like that it was on. You decided that some days blueberries were the fruit of the gods and other days that you wouldn’t touch that blueberry if Dora herself handed it to you. In fact, there were days when you’d eat nothing but fruit. Bananas, pears and nectarines were the staple of your diet. You became a total fruitarian overnight. While I complained constantly, your brother did not complain one bit. After all, you were sitting within that five foot radius. He devoured your leftovers like a little pound puppy.

So, while you have suddenly become a food critic who only appreciates the finest of cuisines and since I happen to make many of your meals and I cannot help but take these jabs at my culinary skills personally, I would like to address something that came up this weekend that, in light of the circumstances, needs to be further discussed.

You have been fighting a cold, little one. Your little nose has been stuffed with all sorts of gooey, green, slimy substances. And while you are adept at blowing your nose, even your little honking was no match for what was oozing out of your nostrils on a continuous basis. And, it just so happens, that this weekend I watched as you walked by me. You did not notice me watching you but as you walked by, you stuck your right index finger so far up your nose I thought it might be lost forever. But, instead, you came out with some green treasure. And just as I was about to lean over and show you the nearby tissue box where you could deposit that little nugget, you promptly popped it into your mouth. Mmmmmm. Mmmmmm. Good.

So, the next time you tell me you’re not going to eat any of the food I labored hard to provide you, I’m not going to take it personally. After all, since you seem to enjoy a good booger hors’doeuvre from time to time you’ll forgive me if I don’t get too offended.

March 9, 2008

Sun, Sand and Sweets

Yesterday we took the kids out near the ocean. We started with a bike ride where I towed them in our little bike trailer while Beautiful Wife ran ahead of us. The trail we chose was close to the water and we could see sun, birds and sea. It was perfect weather and Swee’Pea and TheMonk did great sitting in their tight quarters with their cute bike helmets on.

After our exercise, we got in the car and proceeded down the road to the small town of Coronado where we lucked out by finding a great parking spot. Soon enough we were walking along the esplanade while the twins tried every tactic they could to go play in the sand. Eventually, we’d let them get sandy but first we had other plans. We were going to get some ice cream.

We devised a little song and dance to keep them occupied along the way to the ice cream shop tucked into the historic Hotel Del Coronado. “Ice Cream, Ice Cream, Ice Cream… JUMP!” we’d shout, while jumping up into the air. I don’t mean to brag, but I got twice as much air on my jumps as Swee’Pea and TheMonk did theirs.

Soon enough we were at the ice cream shop where Swee’Pea chose pink ice cream (strawberry) with sprinkles and TheMonk chose blue ice cream (vanilla ice cream dyed blue for kids) with sprinkles. Beautiful Wife chose Apple Pie and I chose coffee, skipping the sprinkles this time around.

We then proceeded to a table overlooking the pool and with Swee’Pea sitting on Beautiful Wife’s lap and TheMonk sitting on my lap, we ate our ice cream. Everyone was in such a good mood that we didn’t mind sharing our ice cream. TheMonk shared his blue ice cream with everyone and Swee’Pea did the same with hers. There was so much love in the air that, at one point, after sharing a bite of my ice cream with TheMonk, he turned around to look at me and then gave me a big, ice cream kiss on my cheek and then buried his head into my chest – giving me a little nuzzle before going back to his treat. I guess blue ice cream makes TheMonk a little emotional.

After eating our ice cream we made our way to the sand and Swee’Pea and TheMonk chased seagulls across the beach. “Birdy! Birrrddddyyyy!” they’d shout while chasing after the birds, watching them fly away as they approached each bird. The grins on their faces were contagious as several people along the beach stopped and smiled at two little ones chasing the dream of catching a pretty white bird.

After getting home, we fed the twins and put them to bed. They fell asleep before their heads hit the pillow. It must have really taken its toll because as I write this on a Sunday afternoon, the twins are 3 1/2 hours into a nap. Bike riding, ice cream eating and running on sand… a perfect combination for two tired little ones.

March 7, 2008

Why my wife rocks

Back when Beautiful Wife and I first co-habitated, it became apparent that we were on the opposite spectrum of the cleanliness scale. I was a tried and true bachelor who had his own apartment and could leave anything wherever I damn well pleased. I could leave my socks on the living room floor for weeks at a time (you never knew when your feet might get cold while watching Sportscenter) and no one could tell me where those socks should go.

In Beautiful Wife’s mind, everything had a place. Silverware, for example, should actually go into a drawer rather than sit in the dish drainer until ready for use. Clothes actually had to be folded and put into a receptacle called a Dresser rather than a wrinkled heap in the corner of my bedroom. There were rules. Lots of ‘em.

But gradually, Beautiful Wife trained me, much like one would train a puppy to poop on a newspaper, to clean the house. Rubbing my nose in filth really did make a difference in my behavior. In fact, I got so good at cleaning that Beautiful Wife actually began giving me unsupervised cleaning assignments that I was expected to fulfill. For some reason, cleaning toilets kept appearing on the list but I trudged on in my attempt to make the Husband Hall of Fame.

Then, one day soon after the twins were born I was given even more responsibility. I was assigned the entire downstairs to clean while my wife took the upstairs. I think she proposed this to me right in the middle of Sportscenter because I don’t remember putting up a fight. In fact, upstairs had two toilets and downstairs had only one, so perhaps I figured I was coming out ahead.

I figured wrong.

The downstairs has a kitchen. That gets used, like, ALL THE TIME! And then, to make it worse, every toy ever given to Swee’Pea and TheMonk have been placed downstairs. I know, because I spend a great deal of time putting Lightning McQueen and his buddies back to their proper receptacle.

So why tell you all of this? Well, today was the fourth day in a row one or both of the kids have been sick. Since I took the day off on day #1 and Beautiful Wife took the day off on day #2, we have split days 3 and 4 in half so we can each go into work. When I left the house this morning, the downstairs was, admittedly, kind of a mess. What can I say? Some days I’ve got the Mr. Clean touch and others I don’t. I figured I’d have to spend a good part of the evening (Friday evening, no less) cleaning the kitchen and putting things back in order.

But I figured wrong.

Today, when I arrived at 1:00 p.m. and Beautiful Wife and I tag teamed each other at the door, I walked into a very clean, very beautiful kitchen. I swear, if I showed up and Beautiful Wife was wearing nothing but an apron and a smile, I could not have been happier than I was when I saw clean counter tops this afternoon.

Even the silverware was in the correct drawer.

March 5, 2008

I need your help

As many of you know, I work for the YMCA. And rather recently I became the Executive Director of a YMCA that is a stone’s throw from the U.S.-Mexico border. What’s rather unique of this YMCA is that we don’t have a full facility. We operate our programs out of an office building. Because of this, most of our programs are off-site. We provide six different childcare programs – mostly for low-income families – at various elementary schools in our community. We provide youth sports programs that happen every Saturday at local parks and schools. We provide Teen Leadership programs for low-income kids who need guidance and support as they try and capture the American Dream of becoming anything they want to be. In essence, we improve the quality of life for hundreds, if not thousands, of kids and families each year.

One in four families that live within a three mile radius lives under the federal guidelines for poverty. And while there is only one YMCA in this community, there are nine documented gangs – many tied to the Tijuana drug cartels – competing for the same kids in a struggle of good versus evil. Even sadder, is that in a community that is 63% Hispanic, half of all hispanic teenagers will become pregnant in our community. We can do better in serving these kids and their families. That is why we are here.

My job is to make sure that we never turn anyone away due to an inability to pay. I wrote about the joys of making this happen in a post last month. Please take a moment to read that post to get a feel for how impactful we can be as a supportive community.

This month is our Strong Kids Campaign – a fundraising drive that lasts for about five weeks – that allows us to provide programming for anyone who wants it. Our goal is to raise $90,000. As I write this, with one week to go, we have raised a tad over $75,000. We are so close to meeting our goal and yet, as the prospects list grows smaller, we seem miles away at the same time. This is where I ask you to consider helping out.

I have made similar requests in the past and the response has been amazing. And while each YMCA I have worked at has had tremendous need, I can honestly say that this YMCA has been doing so much with so little that it is truly inspiring to show up for work every day. If you can give $25, $50, $100 or more, you can literally make the difference for a parent worried about having a safe, nurturing environment for her child while she works two jobs. Every penny goes straight into our programs and every cent is tax deductible for those of you who live in the U.S.

If you can, you can make a contribution on-line by going here and designating your funds to the Border View YMCA. Please put my name: “Matthew” in the comments section so I can make sure it goes to the right place.

Additionally, if you’d like to give a larger gift that can be spread out over 10 month (the current calendar year), email me at and I can give you information about how to do that.

Thank you in advance for your consideration in helping us achieve our mission.

March 4, 2008

Queer Eye for the Parent Guy

When I first learned I was going to have a child, my first thought was, “Woo Hoo! I am THE MAN!” But my second thought was one of fear. “What do I do now? What do I know about raising a child? How do I do this parenting thing?!” The only thing I could think of was to clean out the parenting section of the local Barnes & Noble. In all, I think I have about 15 to 20 books on some aspect of parenting. So, when I was asked to review the newly released book The Gay Uncle’s Guide to Parenting I was really excited. I mean, thanks to my mother and her wild ways, I’ve hung around my share of gay men. Plus I’m a father. I’ve read my books but I’ve also learned through the school of hard knocks.

Brett Berk, the author, uses his background in early childhood education and his experience as a pre-school teacher and director along with his work as a consultant to companies wanting to sell you things you don’t need, to tell you how you can best parent your child. To me, this is similar to the priest at the catholic Engagement Encounter giving advice to married couples. He’s got an idea about how it should be done but his experience is lacking in some key areas.

Nonetheless, I was eager to read the book. And as you begin reading, you quickly realize that this is not your mother’s parenting book. No, Mr. Berk is no Dr. Spock. I mean, you have to get past all the cursing… and all the references to alcohol… and drugs… and hangovers… But once you do, the read is quite enjoyable as the tone is light and witty and even educational.

Overall, the book has many useful tips and thought-provoking aspects. I think the new parent, like I was three years ago, would enjoy reading this book and letting it digest without any aversion to the tone of Mr. Berk’s style – which is to say, bordering on condescension. The tone, especially at the beginning of the book, is one of “I know how to parent kids because I’ve been a pre-school director and you don’t know how to parent because you are so close to the situation that you can’t see the forest through the trees. Here, let me enlighten you.” Admittedly, this was hard for me to get past now that I have been parenting twins for the past two and a half years. I feel like I’ve earned some serious parenting stripes and I’m not sure I’m up for a guy with no kids telling me that he knows better.

But once I got over my issues, I do have to admit that the book can be a pretty useful tool in dealing with various stages and events in children’s (and parent’s) lives. Some of what he writes is stating the obvious (he spends a great deal of one chapter telling you not to lie to your kids) but others are quite good and a nice reminder even for a more veteran parent like myself (like how to best communicate with your child without using the word “no”).

To illustrate his points, Mr. Berk uses examples from friends and family members who happen to be parents. Luckily for Mr. Berk, his friends and family happen to be the worst parents on the face of the earth. Parents who yell, hit, threaten, berate, act childish, and decide that the time to start potty training is during a six week vacation. With the examples of those closest to him, he gives us better alternatives and the reason why it works. Many of these examples come from extended stays with friends who have kids and he spends a great deal of time telling us how much he loved working with kids but also how much trouble they are when on these visits. Now, once the book is released, I imagine he won’t have any more friends with parents who want to stay with him so perhaps his problem will be solved.

Judging by the tone of this review, you might conclude that I would not recommend this book. But that’s not entirely true. However, I wouldn’t recommend this book to just anyone. The book has good information and can be a really useful tool if you are the right person to receive this message in a relaxed, alternative way. If you are young, hip and clueless as a parent or don’t mind getting advice from a know-it-all gay guy, then this is the book for you. After all, it IS fun to read and does have useful information. But if you are conservative in your views or don’t like to read about the author sneaking in a “quickie” before the kids get back from an outing (FYI, Brett, Too Much Information), then you might look elsewhere for your parenting tips.

Having said all this, I’d give the book a solid B. There is some solid information that can be very helpful when navigating this slippery slope of parenthood. It’s a good, fast read and is easy to understand. If you are a progressive person who doesn’t mind a few four-lettered words mixed in with your parenting advice, this book is worth the price. You can pick up a copy here.

P.S. I have an extra copy of this book. If you would like a copy, leave a compelling reason why you need a parenting book and I’ll choose a winner.

March 3, 2008

Buuuuuut Daaaaaaddddddyyyyyy!!!!

I would consider myself pretty laid back. I’d be the first to tell you that it takes a lot to get me really riled up. I’ve handled awful jobs, four years of Ivy League pressure and rush hour on New York City subways. I’ve done it all and lived to talk about it.

But nothing, and I mean nothing has prepared me for the absolute head splitting, chest tightening, jaw clenching, toe curling, hair raising, eye twitching phenomena of every toddler’s arsenal.

Yes, I’m talking about WHINING. And now, due to my beautiful wife’s amazing ability to spit two eggs out at once during ovulation, we get to listen to whining… in stereo.

“But Daaaaaddddddyyyyyy, I don’t waaaaaaaaaant tooooooooooo.”
“But Daaaaaadddddddyyyyyyy, I hungryyyyyyyyyy. I waaaaaaaaaannnnnaaaaa cooooookieeeee.”
“But Daaaaadddddyyyyyyy, I don’t waaaaaaaaant miiiiiiilllllkkkk. I waaaaaaaant jooooooooce.”
“But Daaaadddddyyyyyy, I don’t waaaaaaaannnnnaaaa wear the muuuuuuzle.”

You get the idea. It’s all I hear now. It’s all day, every day. If I had hair left on the top of my head, I’d be pulling it out right about now. If the CIA can’t use waterboarding as a way of interrogating prisoners, I will gladly offer them Swee’Pea and TheMonk for a nice long weekend – minimum of three days. I mean, the kids will get the prisoners to talk long before the three days are up but I need that time to allow the scars to heal.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m tired and I have to go to bed. I don’t waaaaaaaaaaaant toooooo but I have toooooooooooo. Otherwise I just end up whining like the kids.

March 1, 2008

Things recently heard around my house

“Uh, Swee’Pea, I don’t think TheMonk wants you to put your feet in his face.”

“No, Son, that’s a cell phone in my pocket.”

[with angelic face] “No, I no hit TheMonk, Daddy.” [With all evidence being to the contrary]


“Daddy, has a beard. It has black and white colors. I gonna have a beard. It’s gonna be pink and yellow ’cause they’re my favorite color.” [Let's hope you never have a beard, Swee'Pea.]

[Daddy pretending to be TheMonk] “Waaaaaah, I WANNA DO IT BY MYSELF!!!!” [TheMonk, being Daddy] “Okay.”

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