A Week In Review

Tonight I return to work after being off for 6 days. The best thing about being off was being able to spend time with my family. Naturally, I had my camera ready and caught many wonderful moments.

Wednesday

We were very minimal with the ornaments we put on the tree this year. Ella is all about the tree and the lights already. The special ones we did put up were more toward the top of the tree, while the “generic” ones were toward the bottom of the tree. Ella can reach over the gate that we have around the tree and gets to those. It was probably smart to keep the extra fragile ones in the box this year.

We did make sure to put AJ’s ornament close to Ella’s matching ornament from last year, though.

Wednesday, my brother sent a package to the kids with a few outfits from the Disney store. I am pretty sure that my kids first Disney trip will be accompanied by Uncle Chris! He sent Ella a Christmas Minnie Mouse, who she has been hugging on since she arrived.

My wife is a “Pinterest Mom.” She is always on there looking for things. She found a recipe for homemade Play-Doh. It was messier to make than to play with. It consisted of cake frosting and powdered sugar. Once it was made, Sam gave Ella a rolling pin and cookie cutters and they were playing with it. She certainly had fun.

Thanksgiving Day

Our family stayed home this year. With Covid numbers rising, we felt it best to just celebrate at home. A few years ago, I bought a silly turkey hat at the Christmas Tree Store. Ella took pictures in it last year, and naturally, I had to pull it out again to get more!

Last year’s picture is her in this same hat in front of the Christmas tree, too. AJ is just too small for the hat to fit him, but I had to get at least one of him in his “First Thanksgiving” shirt near it …

Once the turkey was in the oven, I sat down to watch the Detroit Lions lose another game. It seems like they always find ways to lose! It looked like they actually might win this one, but as usual, stupid penalties helped them add another “L” to their record.

Friday

I can say that in my entire life, I have only been Black Friday shopping once! That was enough. We spent the day relaxing at home on Friday. My wife went out briefly to run a couple errands, but no shopping was done!

We’ve been trying to get AJ as much “floor time” as we can. As I sat next to him on the floor, Ella came over and decided she was going to lay next to him. There was lots of laughter and giggling.

Saturday

I picked Dimitri up in the afternoon and he pretty much stayed in his room playing on the X-Box. He brought over some game called Halo. It’s one of those “kill the aliens” games. While he was doing that, I was watching the U of M/Ohio State game. As a Michigander, whether you are a Michigan State fan or U of M fan, you ALWAYS root for whoever is playing Ohio State.

I wasn’t really sure if the Wolverines were going to pull off a win, and there were many sports folks saying that Ohio State was probably going to win. I was happy to see Michigan walk away with the win. So was AJ, who celebrated on Ella’s U of M blanket!

Sunday

It snowed pretty much all day on Sunday. Dimitri usually stays with me until evening, but said he wanted to go home around 2:30 that afternoon. When I returned home, I noticed that the snow was perfect “Snowman making” snow. I grabbed Ella’s snow pants and got her dressed and we went outside.

She walked around the yard and wasn’t sure what to make of things. I made a snowball and started rolling it for the bottom of our snowman. She watched me and I tried to get her to help me. She was more interested in just sitting in the snow or laying in it. The snowman was never completed.

Instead, we walked around to the front of the house, where she sat and pointed out the colors of the oversized Christmas bulbs. She then returned to the back yard, where I grabbed the sled that Sam’s dad gave us. I placed her in it and pulled her around the yard. At first, she seemed confused by it, but by the middle of the ride, she was all smiles!

She eventually walked back to the trampoline, which was covered in snow, and wanted to jump on it. Why not!? She had a blast! I could see that her nose was red and I knew it was time to bring her in the house, but that was a challenge. She loves being outside! I eventually talked her into going to see mommy inside. I had so much fun with her outside! Hopefully, next snowfall, we’ll finish that snowman!

Monday

I had my physical Monday morning. It went sort of how I expected it would. I will probably blog about it in more detail separately.

The highlight of the entire day was close to bedtime. I was reading Ella some books, which as soon as I was finished with, she’d take them to mom to read. As I took this picture, and reflected on Thanksgiving, I realized just how lucky I am and how thankful I am for my family.

I hope that you and yours had a wonderful Thanksgiving!

A Holiday Tradition

I was introduced to Jack Benny as a kid. I guess the first time I saw him was on Saturday mornings watching cartoons. In 1959, Jack and some of the cast of his show provided voices to “themselves” as mice in a cartoon called The Mouse That Jack Built.

Jack, Mary Livingstone, and Rochester

My dad introduced my brother and I to many old radio shows, including the Jack Benny Show. For his birthday, I blogged a bit about Jack – you can read that here:

One of my favorite things to do as Christmas gets closer is listen to the Jack Benny Christmas shows. A running gag for some of these shows involved Jack going to the store to finish his Christmas shopping. The gag always revolved around the gift he’d buy for his announcer Don Wilson. Each year, Benny would buy a ridiculously cheap Christmas gift for Don Wilson, from a harried store clerk played by Mel Blanc (the voice of Bugs Bunny). Benny would then drive Blanc to insanity by exchanging the gift countless times throughout the episode. In the 1946 Christmas episode, for example, Benny buys shoelaces for Don, and is unable to make up his mind whether to give Wilson shoelaces with plastic tips or metal tips. After exchanging them repeatedly, Mel Blanc is heard screaming insanely, “Plastic tips! Metal tips! I can’t stand it anymore!”

A variation in 1948 was with an expensive wallet, but repeatedly changing the greeting card, prompting Blanc to shout, “I haven’t run into anyone like you in 20 years! Oh, why did the governor have to give me that pardon!?” The kicker at the end of the show comes when Jack realizes that he should have gotten Don a wallet for $1.98, whereupon the store clerk responds by committing suicide. Over the years, in the Christmas episodes, Benny bought and repeatedly exchanged cuff links (The engraving was the issue) , golf tees (wooden or celluloid), a box of dates (with nuts or without) , a paint set (water colors or oils), and a gopher trap (trap them alive or kill them). In later years, Benny would encounter Mel Blanc’s wife or the clerk’s psychiatrist at the store, and drive them crazy, as well.

The bit was so popular that when Jack moved his show to television, they adapted the “wallet” show for TV. It’s even funnier to watch, especially since Mel Blanc cracks Jack up on camera.

I can’t wait to go shopping with Jack …

Here is a link to the TV version ….

She’s Mad!

So this blog is basically a copy/paste from my wife’s Facebook page, but it is too funny NOT to share!

Ella watches Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood and in one particular episode there is a song they sing about being mad. In the episode there is a full version of the song (link below) but most of the time, they just sing the 10 seconds of “Mad! Mad! Mad! It helps to say your mad.”

On to my wife’s post:

Ella’s favorite thing to say now is “Momma makes me mad.”

It started as just “Mad! Mommy!” or “Mad! Daddy!” and it has evolved into the full sentence. The funny thing is that prior to today, she would just spout off that she was mad, without really having something to connect it to. Today, however, this phrase was spoken after specific events… Sam’s post continues:

Reasons I have made her mad just today…

  • Changed her diaper
  • Wouldn’t let her stand on the table
  • Told her she had to color on paper (not on the table, walls, or furniture)
  • Wouldn’t put the baby in the swing (he was finishing his bottle)
  • And multiple reasons I have no clue, because she wouldn’t tell me what I did

I have a feeling this phrase is going to be around for a very long time!

The Quiet/Loud Game

My daughter has a new “game” she plays with me. It makes me laugh and I love it.

Ever since she had her tube surgery, she is talking up a storm! Sometimes she is at the opposite end of the room and will for no reason just start repeating, “Hi, Dada!” “Hi, Mama!” over and over. We always respond with “Hi, baby!” “Hi, Boo!” or “Hi, Boo Boo!”

I’m not sure when the “game” started, but it was within the last week or so. If she crawls up in my lap she’ll snuggle up and watch TV with me. I will almost always whisper in her ear, “I love you.” This was probably what started it.

Now she will whisper, “Hi, Dada” and I whisper back “Hi, Boo!” Then she’ll say “Hi, Dada!” at a normal volume, to which I respond “Hi, Boo!” in a normal volume. The game is to see if I can follow her in whatever voice she uses. It’s like Simon says, to a degree.

Whisper. Whisper.

Loud. Loud.

Loud. Loud.

Loud. Loud.

Whisper. Whisper.

Whisper. Whisper.

Loud. Loud.

It goes on for about 5 minutes until she laughs and decides the game is over.

As silly as it sounds, I hope we keep playing this game for a while, and I hope I can save it on video so I can remember it forever….

Gearing Up For The Holidays

I feel like I haven’t really blogged about “life” lately. I kinda feel like I haven’t really even had a minute to sit down and write. Between wacky schedules at work and an even wackier sleep schedule, writing has been a challenge. So here are some highlights from the past couple weeks….

Right after Halloween, Sirius XM radio launched a bunch of their holiday channels and the Christmas music was readily available.

I took advantage of a rare 60 degree November day and put up the outside Christmas lights. I know, I know, people think I am rushing the season. The truth is, I don’t like putting them up in the cold. They have been up for a couple weeks now, and the only time I have turned them on is to make sure they looked ok.

The side porch takes the most lights. I always check the strands before stringing them up to make sure they work. For some reason, one of the strands had a cluster of lights in the middle that didn’t light up. Both ends lit up, but not the ones in the middle. I went through and tested bulbs, but couldn’t find the problem. So I put them up anyway! I just made sure the unlit portion of the lights was covered by lights I knew worked!

We don’t do much to the front porch, though I’d like to. I got razzed about how I didn’t get up and string lights on the roof by some friends. I’ve never been a fan of heights, so, these are the highest my lights will go. Besides, I only have a three step ladder!

Baby Milestone

AJ celebrated being one month old a week or so ago. It is amazing to come home from work and see just how different he looks to me after only one day! He is much more alert and his sister just loves him! He is starting to take notice of a lot of things around him. Recently he discovered the mobile on his swing.

Holiday Tradition

Every year, we take a trip up the Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland in Frankenmuth (“The World’s Largest Christmas Store”) and get an ornament for the Christmas tree that represents a big event from the past year. Sam and I have one for our engagement, our first Christmas as husband and wife, when Sam was pregnant with Ella, Ella’s first Christmas, and now we needed to go and get one for AJ’s first Christmas.

Obviously, life at our house is pretty crazy with two little ones. We had planned to all go to Bronner’s as a family day trip. AJ was napping and Sam suggested that Ella and I go, since we knew exactly what we wanted. There is an ornament that is exactly like Ella’s except it is blue for a baby boy.

Finding the ornament took all of 5 minutes. The line to get it personalized was long and we stood in line for almost 30 minutes (Thank goodness I had the PBS app on my phone, so Ella didn’t lose her mind waiting!). I had pictures of Ella’s ornament and how they did hers, and we wanted AJ’s to be done the same way. Ella and I walked around a little bit while they worked on the ornament. There are plenty of photo ops throughout the store and outside.

It was close to lunch time, so we snapped a couple pictures, picked up the ornament, and drove home. I hope to be able to take a drive up there one night when the lights are all lit up and grab a couple pictures.

Later that day, I took advantage of nap time and brought the tree up from downstairs. We’ve been trying to decide where to put it this year. We’ve moved everything around in our living room two or three times due to the addition of Ella toys or furniture, so it was unclear where it would go. There is a little nook in our living room where we had moved a lot of her toys, easel, toybox, etc…. We decided to find somewhere else for those things and that the tree should go there.

So, the tree is up and the lights are on it. However, we will decorate it this weekend or next weekend. I did have some help with the lights as I put it up …

…and, of course, little brother had to get into the act …

I’m excited for the holidays this year. Ella is at the perfect age for unwrapping presents! It is going to be a fun holiday season ….

Holy 500!

I was notified by Word Press that this blog hit a milestone!! Had I been paying attention, I would have made Blog #500 something a bit more special. Instead, my last blog (#500) was about how tired I am!

Reflecting

As I sat down to write Blog #501, I thought on how far this blog has come. I never started this blog to gain hundreds of followers, however, I have. Originally, I started the blog as a way to write down my feelings and thoughts as I went through some troubling times. Then I thought it would be a good place to write some memories down so my kids could look back and read them. It has evolved into a place where I can write about personal things, and not so personal things.

I am glad that the details of how my wife and I came to be together are here. I am also glad that I have detailed blogs about the the birth of my son and daughter. There are also many memories of my mom, so that my kids who never had the chance to meet her, will be able to read about her. I hope that they will be able to come here to read about the special people in my life – my wife, my kids, my parents, my grandparents, my teachers, my co-workers and mentors, and my friends.

It’s also fun to look back at the special “events” I took part in. Recently, I took part in a song draft, which allowed me to feature 10 great songs. There was a bit more pressure than just picking a song and writing about it. It was hard to pick just 10! Blogging about TV shows and movies as part of blogathons has been fun, as well. I’m looking forward to a TV show draft, similar to the song draft, coming soon.

What Have I Learned?

So, just what have I learned after 500 blogs?

1. It’s not easy!

I read somewhere that most people who start a blog quit writing after a month. I am glad that I have continued to write, although finding stuff to write about is not always easy. There are many days where I sit and have nothing to write about. In those moments, I turn to Daily Writing Prompts. Sometimes they will be helpful, but many of them are worthless.

Some days are easier than others. Many times a song will bring about a memory I can share. Other times a conversation will spawn something worth writing about. My kids are a constant source of writing material and funny stories and for that I am grateful. I love bragging about them.

The key for me is to just keep writing. I plan to do just that.

2. I’ve met some really cool friends

When I created my blog, I started to search for blogs about music and movies. I started following some of them and by doing so, found there many people who share similar likes with me. I began to comment on their posts and they commented on mine. By doing so, I have really gained some neat friendships with people I have never seen face to face. I’m thankful for each of them

3. I often wonder if I make a difference

I guess I hope that someone who goes through my blog will find an occasional “nugget” that they can use in their daily life. It’s not easy to put your life out on the internet for everyone to see, but if someone can learn something from the challenges I faced and the issues I worked through, I will be happy with that.

More recently, I have blogged a little bit more about my faith. I was always told to not discuss religion and politics. I follow a few blogs who share my beliefs and I appreciate them. I know that not everyone is going to share my beliefs and that is ok. That being said, I am also not going to be afraid to post more about it and am always happy to discuss it with others.

4. I really enjoy blogging

I’m not sure I could ever be a reporter or a writer where there were deadlines for articles. I enjoy sitting and writing about my passions, my experiences, my family, and my life. I love being able to write down things that I can go back and reread and relive those moments.

I have put quite a bit of time into this blog, and don’t make a dime off it (Although, I hear that there are many bloggers who DO make money off theirs)! It has never been about making money. It has never been about having a blog republished. It has never been about having millions of followers. This blog is my little spot on the internet to save my thoughts and share them.

How about your feedback?

What do you like best about this blog? What would you like to see more of? Would you ever consider being a guest blogger on my site? Tell me your thoughts. I appreciate you being here and reading my blog and hope to keep posting things you find interesting.

So what is next? 500+ plus blogs I hope and I am excited to continue sharing “me” with you!

Too early …

They are doing a big upgrade at work this week. Because of that, I’m on days for part of the week. In order to be here at 6am, I had to get up at 3am. I haven’t done that since I did a morning radio show on a daily basis!! At least when I did mornings, I only worked 15 minutes away. The hour and ten minute drive … in the dark … is very difficult to do!

Not only are you fighting to stay awake with a cup of coffee, windows down, and radio blaring, but it is the time of year when car/deer accidents are on the rise. Yesterday morning, I saw 3-4 deer just hanging out on the side of the road. I was just waiting for one to jump out in front of me. This morning on my way in, there were two places on the road where the remnants of some sort of animal got creamed by a car.

I’m back on nights tomorrow night, so I’ll have to switch back to midnight mode. I have a feeling that come Saturday, I’m going to be exhausted!

Place your bets …

It wasn’t too long ago that I remember seeing and hearing ads on TV and radio about gambling. The ads were all about getting help for a gambling addiction. They talked about people who couldn’t pay their bills because they had spent all their money on gambling. These ads, as I recall, were pretty powerful. They could be very emotional and were aimed at those who struggled with gambling.

Those ads seemed to have all but disappeared recently. Maybe it is because of the overabundance of Casino ads. Here in Michigan there are always ads on TV for the major casinos in the area. Many of them focus on the entertainment coming to their showrooms, but there are plenty of ads just promoting various games, free play, etc….

Within the last month, I cannot believe the number of ads that are on TV and radio now for sports betting. They are everywhere. You cannot watch a sporting event without seeing these ads. The ads are not limited to just TV and radio, either. There are billboards for it all along the expressways and public buses have ads slapped along the sides of them. “Your first bet is risk free!” “We’ll give you $1000 free when you place your bet!” There are so many of these enticing ads.

The celebrities are jumping on the bandwagon, too. They are staring in the ads. You can see Martin Lawrence for DraftKings; Ben Affleck, Shaquille O’Neal and Melvin Gregg for WynnBET; Jamie Foxx for BetMGM; and Jordan Spieth for FanDuel.Credit…. just to name a few. As often as they used to air those ads offering “help” for gamblers, it is now apparent that they want to take advantage of those who have a gambling problem.

The first time I ever stepped into a casino, it was because I was there to escort a contest winner to a backstage event. I got there early and brought a roll of quarters and nickels with me (this was before everything went on a card). I walked over to the slot machines and I was out of money in less than 20 minutes. I couldn’t believe how fast it went! I won nothing!!

At a sleep conference held at a casino, I woke up early one morning and walked through the gambling floor. There was a woman who was about 75 or 80 years old at the $5 or $10 slot machine. She must have hit the “spin” button 30 times in a span of 5 minutes. She was still there at that same machine when I came back from wherever I was going. All I could think of was how she was dropping $5 or $10 at a time. I couldn’t help but wonder just how much money she spent in the period of time I saw her.

I guess these new ads about gambling and sports betting got me to thinking. If one time it was a big enough problem to offer help to those with a gambling problem, what are these ads doing to those who are still suffering from gambling addiction? I’m guessing those new apps could care less – after all, they just want their (and your) money.

“I Miss Us”

Today, our baby boy is one month old. Ella turned 21 months old yesterday. Where did that time go?

As you can imagine, life at our house is constant chaos. It’s a whole new ball game with two under two. Now that I am back to work, Sam is getting the bulk of the chaos and she is exhausted. Tonight she posted this on her Facebook page:

“Keith is at work. Ella has her first cold and is extremely whiney and has cried the majority of the day. Andrew is in his ‘witching hour’ of the day. Cocomelon has been on repeat on the TV for the past two hours… Pretty sure this is a preview of what hell is like!”

While that is very funny – it really isn’t. I have never understood why both parents do not get leave after a baby is born. In some countries, the father and mother each get a full year off with their newborn. I’d be happy with a few months to help with mom’s sanity! There are so many pressures that mom is going through with just one baby, let alone a second or third child on top of that.

Breastfeeding is a sure way for a mother to snap! It is a constant need for the baby. Dad really can’t do anything until mom starts pumping, so until then – it’s all on mom. I felt so helpless. I watched Sam sit up in our bed utterly exhausted from no sleep. I tried to help by taking the baby to the couch in hopes that Sam would be able to sleep, but if the baby fussed, she heard him and couldn’t sleep.

We recently switched to all formula for him, which has allowed me to get up with him at night and feed him. Sam is finally able to sleep when I am home. However, for four nights a week, it is all her while I am at work. When I come home I try to help with breakfast and such , but then I have to go to bed for work that night. I try to set my alarm to get up and help, but some days I am just craving every second of sleep. I really am no help to her, which I hate.

Amongst all of those changes, there is the change between us. We long for a ‘date night,’ but really aren’t that comfortable going out to eat yet. We’re heading into the colder weather, so it makes it hard to even go for a walk outside. We are both craving that “us” time!

Sam sent me something via Facebook tonight. It really hits home. I had to walk away when I started reading it because I knew I would tear up. I wanted to share it here, not only for me, but for some of my friends who recently had babies who may be feeling the same things we are ….

This was on The Birds Papaya Facebook page:

I miss us.

Can I say that?

I think in a way and as I’ve always done, I romanticized the situation. I romanticized what a baby would mean for us.

How we would swoon, how much closer we would get. Being bonded forever. How you’d look at me through new eyes.

This all feels real and true, and yet the complete opposite. It doesn’t make sense sometimes.

We are both here.

We share a common goal.

We swoon and bond over this being.

But, I miss us.

I miss who I was before depression and a troubled pregnancy. I miss the energy I exuded. I miss not mumbling things under my breath (I’m sorry for that by the way).

I miss being the center of your attention, an impossibility with a little human who happens to be louder and more commanding than I am (go figure that that’s the part of me she reflects).

I wonder what parts of you that you miss.Or, do you just feel the same? (is it just me?)

Are we getting weaker or are we getting stronger? Perhaps both?

This is temporary, right?

What parts will last forever?

Why does nobody talk about how hard this is sometimes? Or just how weird it is?

Why do we just show how sweet it is, in the moments that are oh-so sweet?

Can it be both? I need it to be both.

I miss us.

But, I am proud of us.

Minute-by-minute figuring out what it is to be a couple with boundless energy and ambition transform into a couple that is tired and at capacity and yet leading with love…and some mumbled words.

Why is this not romance? Or did I just misunderstand it all, all along?

When you rub my back in the middle of the night knowing I’m struggling. When you get up at 5am with her so I may sleep a little longer. When you feed me while I feed her. When we carve out time in the chaos for us. When we just sneak a moment in the middle of it *air high five*.

When we just are doing the dang thing. All of us are. A family. Us, a family.

Remember when we were just coworkers with a crush? Look at us now.

My gosh. Look at us now.

Maybe I miss us, but… I love what we have found.

There is so much truth to that.

Thank you, Sam, for sending it. I completely feel the same way. We WILL find “us” again and along the way, we’ll enjoy what we have found together as a family.

For the record, my wife is pretty “right on” with the description of Cocomelon ….

…. or Little Baby Bum

URGH!!!

Reels – Another Annoyance

Many people have already left Facebook to venture over to other social media sites. This is due to censorship, “fact checking,” and so much more. I just can’t bring myself to leave Facebook. First of all, I have 12 years worth of memories on there. I have pictures, videos, and other random memories that I enjoy seeing. Second, many of my former radio and record friends are on there and it is one way I keep in touch with many of them. Next, many of my pastor friends, church friends, and people who share the same faith as me, are all on there. While I can watch many of their live streams on YouTube, I can also watch saved “live” sermons after they have been recorded on Facebook. I’m just not ready to leave it …

REELS

I don’t have a TikTok account, but almost everyone I know has one. Basically, it is a place for people to create stupid videos. It seems that Facebook and Instagram are trying to keep up with them, so they created their own “version” called “Reels.”

I hadn’t really noticed them when I am on Facebook from a laptop, however, when I am using the Facebook mobile app, they are very prominent in the news feed.

These stupid videos are much like the Snapchat “stories” I blogged about recently. Today’s reels included:

  • A gal snapping her finger and every time she is in a different outfit
  • A teenager lip synching to a bad rap song
  • Some dude golfing
  • Another dude golfing
  • A dash cam video of a truck being tipped over by the wind on a bridge
  • A large breasted model walking through a crowd of people while people took her picture
  • A guy eating cereal while milk came out his nose
  • A woman jumping up and down – and each time she hit the floor she had on a new pair of shoes
  • A few wild football plays
  • Animals caught on Ring doorbells
  • Pranks (so called) where it is obviously set up and everyone is in on it
  • People dancing to Brooks and Dunn’s Neon Moon

The above list was just from today’s occasional checks of Facebook. Some of the “reels” are actual TikTok videos.

I don’t get the appeal of these. My wife says that they are kind of addicting. I don’t know, every one I have actually watched was either boring or was a huge build up to …. nothing spectacular.

It is bad enough that when I scroll through my Facebook newsfeed, I rarely see anything from friends. There always seems to be some sponsored link to a product or story. Sometimes there is the “click bait” stories (“A man discovers something terrible in his closet,” “The last photo in this set will leave you in tears,” or “Chilling pictures from INSERT TRAGEDY HERE“) . All I want is to see what’s going on with my family and friends.

These Reels and Reel-y annoying!!