Boundless Playgrounds are NO JOKE!

Connor's Place on Somers, CT

Connor’s Place on Somers, CT

I found myself explaining to a lady at the park the other day what a ‘boundless playground’ is and realized something: I really have a playground problem. I find myself on the website for said type of playgrounds multiple times a day, as if more are going to pop up in my area.

“Hey, weirdo, what the hell are you talking about, idiot, aren’t all playgrounds the same?”

No, they’re not.

Basically, they’re considered boundless because they are accessible for everyone – disabled or not, 3-year-olds thinking they’re a daredevil or not, adults who need to get said 3-year-old off a horizontal ladder because their kid is freaking out or not. It’s an unstructured playscape that, in a nutshell, offers inclusive play for all kids. Some have one playscape for all kids while others have multiple for different age groups (ages 2-4 or ages 5-12) but no kid really abides by those restrictions.

He made it all the way up this one.

He made it all the way up this one.

Honestly, they’re pretty boss! There is rubberized flooring, which sure beats the hell out of the wood chips that most standard playgrounds have.

We’ve been to three playgrounds in three days — two boundless, one not — and Unit has a great time at all of them, but the boundless ones he seems to enjoy more. They are immense, offer so many dare-devilish options, rock walls, swings, slides, turny-things that Unit can’t get enough of, maze boards. You get the idea.

Unit traced this maze for a good 3 minutes

Unit traced this maze for a good 3 minutes

We’re lucky here in Connecticut since there are so damn many it’s hard to decide which one to go to, but with a 3 month-old and a sometimes impatient 3 year-old, it’s usually ones within a 15-20 minute drive. And I tend to get it done in the morning, before the weather gets too hot and the slides really start baking in the sun, because Unit refuses to go down a hot slide!

There are some drawbacks to some. One of the playgrounds relatively local to us (which we haven’t frequented this week) is awesome, but there just isn’t any shade, which is a damn shame. The one we were at today didn’t have any changing tables in the bathrooms, like where the hell are you supposed to change a diaper?

By and large, boundless playgrounds will kick the ass of your run-of-the-mill town playground. Click the link above or this one to find a boundless playground close to you. They really are all over the place and until we had Unit’s first birthday at one, I had no idea what the hell they were either, so there’s still hope you’ll be an expert in no time.

If you’re too damn lazy to check, I’ll give you some locations of boundless playgrounds near you (there may be this type of playground near you called something else, but I’m not really sure what they’re called, maybe ‘limitless’?). Long Island people, there are two – one in East Northport at the Harley Avenue Primary School and another in Cedarhurst at 200 Cedarhurst Avenue. If you live in Maryland (TJ and Jessica), you can head to one at Fairland Regional Park in West Laurel.

And seriously, this is as honest an endorsement as you’re gonna get. I wish I could – and maybe I’ll try – to build one for Unit and G$ in our backyard one day.

Progression: CT At-Home Dads Group; Digression: Sleep

On a positive note, the Facebook CT At-Home Dads group I’ve been trying to assemble has shown some signs of life and we’re actually planning — well, three of us plus kids — a trip to a duckpin bowling alley sometime this week. Kind of neat.

I have been lucky enough to get some positive feedback and have begun posting with Twitter (@CTDads) and am literally in the process of getting on Instagram with it as well (@CTDads).

On the flip side, sleep has been optional of late. New Guy has decided he wants to turn over and does so in the middle of the night (though last night was relatively quiet). He flips himself over and sometimes erupts into a fit of rage, but I guess you take the good with the bad, right?

Unit sleeps through it all, somehow, but he’s almost always been a great sleeper.

Just got a little kettlebell workout in downstairs while the kids were napping and got back upstairs just in time for G$$$ to wake up from his nap. I fed him a little bottle and off he went, back to sleep. For now.

I’ve been putting off getting my fat ass in shape for a while now but the time is finally here to do something about it. I’m not obese or super-fat but for me, 6-foot 1-inch tall and 208-ish pounds is about as heavy as I want to get. Operation: Fit Dad is underway!

Connecticut At-Home Dads Group (I hope)

I know my audience is few and far between and those of you who read or browse through my posts are not stay-at-home or work-at-home dads, but this is a post for those of you that are, might know someone who is, or will be in the near-future.

It seems lots of other towns, cities, and states have dads groups, as is evident by the “Find a Dad Group” link featured on athomedad.org. There are groups in cities like New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Omaha, to name a few. I know these are metro areas and I’m here in rural Connecticut hoping to catch lightning in a bottle, but that doesn’t mean that there shouldn’t be a group for all the Connecticut at-home dads.

I’ve found a few stale sites and groups on the old Facebook but most haven’t been updated in some time and never seemed to be a regular thing, maybe because of lack of interest or dedication or because they just gave up on it after a few days/weeks/months.

So there I went, starting a Facebook group for Connecticut At-Home Dads, aptly titled “Connecticut At-Home Dads.” I know meetup.com is probably the best and most legit site for putting together group meetings, but being that we’re surviving here on one income, it’s not really feasible for me.

I’m hoping it catches on since I’ve now got two sons now, I’m likely to go bat-shit crazy if they’re the only ones I’m speaking to. I am not saying that dads who work and support their families aren’t good dudes, they’re great dudes, but this is a group designed to bring together dads who spend their “work week” at home with their kid(s).

It’s in it’s infant stages (see what I did there?) but I’m hopeful we can grow this into something successful as an outlet for at-home dads to get together/bond/commiserate about/with their kids and/or bullshit about whatever we feel like bullshitting about, because as hard as I try, Unit can’t quite keep a conversation about baseball in the American League West.

Any kind of advice or help or a point in the right direction would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!

- Ryan

Go (away), Dog, Go!

For those of you who  know me, my dog, Nathan, often times gets on my nerves but when it boils down to it, he’s more like a cat than a dog and is pretty low maintenance, besides the hair tumbleweeds I routinely find around the house. Of course, if you’ve got kids, chances are you’ve read Go, Dog, Go!

It’s one of the most ridiculous books ever written but kids love it, especially Unit. Every week, we go to the library and take out a few books that we read before nap and bed time. Tonight we read said books and I told him to grab another if he wanted, and of course he did (not complaining). As he walked over to his corner “book nook,” he scoured the books on the shelves as I cringed, hoping he didn’t hand me Go, Dog, Go!, but alas, he did.

I offered to read it first since it’s one of the weirdest books ever written and I wanted to get it over with. There are big dogs, little dogs, dogs in cars, yellow dogs, dogs at work, and all sorts of other dogs but his favorite part is the banter between two dogs regarding one dogs hat, which the other never likes until the big dog party, at which point he decides it’s a great party hat! If you’re scratching your head trying to figure this all out because you’ve never read the book, fear not. I scratch my head every time I read it and wonder what kind of drugs P.D. Eastman must have been on when he wrote this book.

Kids love it, though, and Unit is no exception.

He’s tucked in bed falling asleep and New Guy is asleep as well (for now) so Wifester and I are getting a little boozy.

Goodbye. Goodbye!

Pizza and iced coffee; coffee mugs and wine glasses

 

coffee-and-wine3

They’re once again napping at the same time and as a treat, I’m having both leftover pizza and a giant iced coffee for lunch while I listen to the Tigers-Yankees game on MLB TV. Yes, that’s right, listen. Because of the area I’m in, New England, I can not watch Yankees or Mets games even though I paid my discounted rate of $24.99 for the premium package. I caught some of the Rays-A’s game yesterday and a bit of the Reds game as well, and seeing how unexciting the Yankees have been of late, I’m not really all that bummed.

Today’s morning consisted of a trip to Target to get liquid gold freezer bags, a loaf of bread, three gigantic boxes of cereal, and a pound bag of Haribo Gummi Bears.

After that, we took a little trip to Home Goods to look for a few things but came away empty.

Then it was a short stroll to Price Chopper to get a steak for dinner but their cuts were pretty crappy so I picked up some pork chops that I plan on slathering with BBQ sauce and grilling.

While at the supermarket, the old woman in front of us in the “20 Items of Less Express Lane” was carded while trying to buy cough syrup and reminded by the dimwitted cashier that, “There’s alcohol in it so I’m going to need to punch in your birthday.” The older woman responded with, “4/18/1931, before your parents were even born!” BAM! Only issue was she had about 30 things, which really chapped my ass, but she was sharp-tongued with a solid response. She then asked how long she had to redeem her 70 cents off gas points, which led to a three minute conversation all the while the other lanes were just churning out customers. It took me ten minutes to check out — I was third in line — but it was worth it.

The pizza is almost done and it just dawned on me — whenever I unload our dishwasher, coffee mugs and wine glasses take up roughly 85% of the top shelf space. I guess having two kids will do that.

 

Shorthanded SAHD, let the whirlwind commence

life

life

I’m officially outnumbered by the little humans.

Wifester went back to work after a glorious 12-week maternity leave and the dynamic seems a bit off since she left at 8:00 this morning. Despite Becky being away, she’s reuniting with Butlerish and I’m sure as much as she was dreading going back and leaving me in charge of the two boys, she’s actually a tiny bit glad to be back.

The boys and I went to the library for some play group which really consisted of Unit popping bubbles from the bubble machine and he holding New Guy. They’re both asleep at the moment, but that can change in the blink of an…

((Oops, there it is, New Guy just woke up…I think. Unit is passed out and has been since around 1:00 pm, so I’m guessing I’ll see him again around three o’clock or so as long as the crying doesn’t wake him up.))

…eye.

G was hesitant (read: screamed bloody murder) to take a bottle before we trekked out this morning — I guess dad giving him a bottle is a tiny bit different from what he’s been used to for 12 weeks. Unit just looked at me and smiled as I struggled to feed New Guy.

I pray that, like today, I’ll get at least 45 minutes a day just to relax and have a Dunkin’ iced coffee (my second of the day) while they both sleep at the same time. I know it’s a long shot but I’m the puppet-master here and I’m going to try like hell to get them (New Guy) on a schedule.

Wifester said to me, “If you can get to noon, the rest of the day will be a breeze.” And she’s right, because that’s when Unit has lunch and heads to nap, once again leveling the playing field. I’m going to try to do as much as possible in the morning to make the days fun for Unit, myself, and New Guy (even though he just smiles and farts).

This morning I was unsure of how in the hell I was going to swing two kids, one who just last night decided he was going to learn to roll over, prompting a 1:30 am wakeup for everyone but the Unit. He’s a fan of the sleep sack so instead of wrapping him like a burrito, we’ve got to leave his arms free in case he rolls over. I’m glad he is rolling over and becoming more like a real human instead of a ball of mush, but I wish he’d stick to daytime hours to do so.

Now I know two kids is probably a breeze compared to three or four or five kids, but I’ve never taken care of more than one, so it;’s daunting. Unit has been pretty good for the most part despite his occasional “break out” — his term for a freak out. His “NOs!” have been a little less frequent today but it’s just one day, so I’m not counting my chickens yet.

He’s a great kid and I’m sure he’ll be a big help once he realizes that he can physically make contact with New Guy. He has no problem talking to him, or talking towards him, but he refuses to get too close. In time, in time.

OK, let me go enjoy my second mammoth coffee of the day while I catch the middle of MLB.tv‘s free game of the day, the Padres at the Twins.  Kind of a fitting afternoon game for a stay-at-home dad, Padres and Twins (I am a dad although I don’t have twins).

Traveling from MA to NY while the kids test our patience; So long social media

If you don’t want to read the whole thing, here’s a recap: kids are nuts and unpredictable and may or may not cause you to drink sometimes…and I’m signing off on social media for a week.

If you’d like to read the long form, here it is.

With Wifester’s maternity leave dwindling down to single digits, we decided it was about time to hit the road to see all the family. We spent a Monday and Tuesday on Buzzard’s Bay (located in Bourne, MA just before you cross over the Bourne Bridge) before making a trip to Martha’s Vineyard for a week (where we biked to and thoroughly enjoyed Bad Martha beer flights several times) and ultimately wound up on Long Island for a few days (where the Unit had a blast at the Long Island Children’s Museum).

beer flights at Bad Martha

beer flights at Bad Martha

the fam on the Flying Horses

family-ie on the Flying Horses Carousel, MV

Alas, we finally returned to our humble abode here in Connecticut. It was a long time coming and was quite a whirlwind but we made it with only a few hiccups.

For the most part, the kids maintained their sleep schedules and despite eating inordinate amounts of treats and snacks and ice cream while being spoiled by grandparents, they refused to gain any weight and continued their torrid pace of physical exertion.

Today marked the first full day back and I plan on wiping out the fridge of all the beer left in it. It’s been one of those days.

The New Guy, who is 11 weeks today, cried for the vast majority of the day despite sleeping in until 7:30 this morning. Upon waking up, he proceeded to greet me by peeing, pooping, and puking on me — all before the clock struck eight.

The Unit, who is in the midst of the peak of the terrible threes, refuses to listen and continues to hit and kick everything in sight all while proclaiming, “NO!,” to everything he’s asked.

The Unit building block towers

The Unit building block towers

A wicked thunderstorm just ripped through here, knocking out the internet and such a few times.

Also, in an effort to be more present with everything, I am turning off all cellular service besides text messaging and phone calls on my cell phone. I rarely use the computer other than to blog, so that’s still on the table, but every other form of social media is out for a week — at least. Texting and phone calls are still in play because I am not going totally Amish (who actually built the Bad Martha building), just making a concerted effort to spend more quality time with the family.

So if you follow me on Twitter or Instagram, there will be no action from my accounts.

fresh picked farm apple for The Unit

fresh picked farm apple for The Unit

biking to beer, not to keep fit

Wifester and me biking to beer, not to keep fit

 

But it’s just about time to start in with the beers in the fridge and hope tomorrow is better than today. It’s Monday but I’ve got hope.

Packing the car when you have kids is a geology and jigsaw puzzling lesson

Is there any easy way to pack for a trip of more than a night or two with a kid, or even better, two kids? In my experience(s), the answer is a resounding NO! Whether it be just one child, as it was for three years, or two, as it’s been for two months, it’s like a jigsaw puzzle trying to get the car ready to roll.

Our car is a compact SUV with ample room for storage in the back and behind the driver and passenger seats. Honestly, there is practically no place in the car I won’t try to store or stash something for the road trip ahead. There are layers upon layers of items in the way back but there is an art, at least for me.

If you’re familiar with geology and metamorphic rocks, chances are you’re a good car packer. Why metamorphic? Simple, these rocks are constantly transformed by temperature and pressure from layers above it/them. Basically, everything on the bottom had better be stable otherwise your rectangular duffel bag (or mine in this case) will wind up looking like a rectangular pancake after a few hours on the road. Everything you pack is basically a metamorphic rock.

Here’s my artistic interpretation of how to pack a car:

pack a car

The bottom layer, or inner core for you geology junkies, ranges from a Pack ‘n Play to the bag of clothes I packed for myself (which usually gets flattened) to Nolan’s little cot to a box of diapers if we had to stop to get some, as we did on our most recent excursion. Most of the time, the majority of this layer will remain intact. Except for my bag, but who really cares, it’s got two pairs of shorts, a few pairs (maybe) of underwear, socks, t-shirts, maybe a pair of jeans, toothpaste (not necessarily a toothbrush), deodorant, a pair of sneakers, and maybe a polo and/or pair of jeans.

The second layer — the outer core — contains such items as the kids’ bags packed with all their tiny human clothes and a folded up stroller. This layer remains (most of the time) one of the few constants in packing a car.

On top of that we have the third layer, the mantle, and this is where you ideally want to put the things you may need should one (or both) kids start screaming and/or you need to stop at a rest area. Maybe a lunchbox for the kids. Oh, and the Wifester’s stuff, so it maintains it’s shape (not her request, rather my decision). Oh, and the breast pump + bag combo, we CANNOT forget that liquid gold-producing contraption. The beach bag also goes here but can be used in the lower crust since it’s towels that will easily change into the shape of anything you place on top not to mention adding a nice soft layer for fragile items.

Once you’ve loaded the car with the “necessities,” it’s time to throw in the (mostly) random crap you forgot to pack and are scrambling to get together since you’ve already strapped the kids in the car and convinced your wife that everything is packed and you did not forget anything. This is what’s known as the crust — or the “oh crap” — layer. Stray diapers, wipes, the kids beach pail, a pair of flip-flops for the beach, a backpack with things you might “need” but will never even take out of the car, water bottles, and snacks.

Anything you can’t fit in the trunk-area, just throw it behind your seat. Also, make sure a baggy of snacks is readily available up front, a stash that will be for bribery or for us to secretly snack on while the kid(s) stare out the window, cry, sing to themselves, and/or ask you 1,273 questions.

Oh, and if you’re going somewhere formal, the garment bag goes all the way on top, above even the crust, in the perfect spot to block your view out the rear view mirror. I’ll refer to it as the block layer.

Drive safe.

Tattoos depicting tiny humans (my kids)

Last week, I went to get a new tattoo (wound up getting two) to commemorate the New Guy joining us in our journey to take over the world.

His name is loosely translated into “gravelly homestead,” so naturally a fort came to mind. The secondary tattoo has more to do with what we often call him – Grahambo. The homestead is on my left shin and Grahambo representation is on my left arm.

Don’t judge, others tend to. Just because I’m a SAHD and have tattoos doesn’t mean a cotton-pickin’ thing. Your skin will wind up just as wrinkly and saggy as mine, but the difference is mine will have different shades and hues of color.

Grahambo -- gravelly homestead, aka old fort (NOT the Alamo)

(l.) Grahambo; (r.) gravelly homestead, aka old fort (NOT the Alamo)

Last year, I finally got my tattoo for The Unit, a few years after the fact, but that’s irrelevant. One of the meanings of his name is “little chariot fighter,” or “little champion,” thus a tiny human in a chariot steering two horses. It’s located on the inner part of my left arm.

little chariot fighter

little chariot fighter (sorry for the graininess)

I have numerous tattoos but I don’t get them to show them off or talk about them (as I am here), but because it’s my way of signifying — albeit sometimes random — things that have happened in my life, things I feel or have felt, or things that I thought of on a whim. In fact, I try to keep them covered as much as I can.

Some people are really insensitive, misunderstood, or just plain ignorant when it comes to discussing tattoos with someone with tattoos. Some questions/comments I’ve been approached with include:

  • Q: “Did it hurt?” No, a needle injecting ink in your skin feels great.
  • Q: “I’m gonna get a sleeve…” No you’re not.
  • Q: “Do you have any more?” Yeah, probably.
  • Q: “How many do you have?” (usually from the guy who kept every single Solo cup at the keg party in HS)
  • Q: “You do know tattoos are permanent, right?” Yes Linds, I do.

I share on my blog because it has to do with parenting (right?) and being proud to raise two cool dudes. And because I know my blog only gets a few hits every day. Let’s step it up people!

Wifester, she just shakes her head, laughs, and pours another glass of wine. Her last comment regarding a tattoo (Grahambo), was, “You do know tattoos are permanent, right?” To which I responded, “So are kids, right?”

I digress, I’ll take it back to the kids. The Unit looks at his representation and knows its him and points to the horses and says, “Daddy, I steer dem!” One day/night, the New Guy and I will watch Rambo, look at my arm, and share a laugh. I hope he doesn’t turn out like John Rambo, in fact, I’d much rather him really enjoying a good marshmallow roast over an open fire.

OK, that’s good for tonight. Watching Wipeout on the Roku as Linds watches Real Housewives of New York (I think) on the computer. With both kids asleep — for now — we cheers’ed to drinking together at night yet again. As my man Eminem so eloquently stated in his song, “Square Dance,” — it feels so good to be back!

Goodnight haters.

The Wifester and the Real Housewives; SAHD thoughts

Unfortunately for the Wifester, it’s not looking like she’ll ever live the life portrayed by the Real Housewives of New York/Atlanta/Orange County/New Jersey but don’t get all, “Oh, you deadbeat, go get a job and let her become a housewife.”

There are more Housewives’ shows but the names elude me, but Linds, she’s a fine-tuned machine when it comes to keeping up with these TV jagaloons. Because we no longer have cable, we no longer gets Bravo, which is the network all those shows air on. We’ve subscribed to Hulu Plus (for $8/month) but unfortunately (for her) they don’t make the seasons available until the next one has begun, so she needs — and I emphasis the word NEEDS — to keep up-to-date on her Housewives. She’s gone so far as to compile a list she refers to that includes the particular show that’s currently on-air and the most recent episode numbers so she can go to Bravo.com and watch. It’s an addiction but there’s worse things out there.

Back to real life. Does she deserve a chance to stay at home and raise the boys? You bet your ass she does, she’s a great mother, an awesome wife, as caring and generous a person as I’ve ever met. However, the cards we’re playing involve me at home raising these two dudes — in August the true test will begin as she’ll head back to work. Now that we’re closer to her job, she’ll be able to see them more during the week. At our last stop, her commute was about 75 minutes each way so she missed a lot; at least now we’re 12-14 minutes from work so I can make impromptu and unannounced visits at random.

Do I enjoy staying home? Hell yes. Some days I want to get back out there but it usually fades when I calculate the cost of day care. I might look into a part-time thing nights and/or weekends so supplement some income, but it’s a blessing to be able to be a stay-at-home parent, let along a stay-at-home dad. When I used to be out with the dude (soon to be dudes), I got looks like, “What’s this guy doing, doesn’t he work?” No one ever actually said that to me, but the looks by some of these stay-at-home moms suggested that sentiment.

My response (would be): “You do you, don’t worry about me. I got this.”

I’m not on a mission to badmouth any one group or person but it really seems SAHDs don’t get enough credit and aren’t taken seriously. Just because I have a Y chromosome doesn’t mean I’m not capable of raising a kid. I can cook, too (thankfully, since Linds isn’t the most adept in the kitchen — pasta and cereal are her specialties).

Time to watch some of this NBA Draft crap so I can listen to these ESPN goons not named Jay Bilas spout off about inane bullshit. Don’t get me started on Bill Simmons, dude referenced his YouTube research of several players already drafted. Next thing you know he’ll learn to be a coach by reading a book or something.

It’s humid and I’m getting all worked up, time to cash out.