a sick household

We're getting our first experience with a sick baby.

We recently got back from  week long cruise of the Caribbean.  Twenty-one members of the family attended this cruise and we almost didn't go.  When the trip was planned, Turtle was still in utero, so needless to say we felt uncomfortable booking him on the trip.  After he was born, we decided against the trip because we thought, "Really?  An eight month old on a floating petri dish?"

Turns out he was just fine.

He even made a little trip into Cozumel, despite our initial promise to not leave the ship.

But somehow, on the last day of the trip, Mom caught strep throat.  Our little one, already getting over a slight cough, has been fine, but he's completely stuffed up and has been combating a runny nose and congestion and a very weepy eye.  (which freaks me out.)

I've spent a couple sleepless nights between the wife's heartbreaking cough and constantly monitoring Turtle's breathing - like his stuffy nose is going to prevent him from breathing at all...  I know it's not going to happen, but I still check.

Somehow I've managed to come out unscathed (knock wood) but the VanDijk house is definitely under the weather.

The Boy's Club

Here's an update on life in the Boy's Club.

The cloth diapering situation is interesting.  The actual diapering is easy.  There is, however, a funky dead shrimp smell. 

Yes, a dead shrimp smell.

It's from the diaper bin. 

I know.  It's gross.  We are doing this exactly as we have been taught in our diapering class and also on the bummies website.  The steps outlined are to prevent this, but the reality is that there has been a stink.

I am searching for a solution.

I have the Turtle on a routine.  We're getting into rhythms.  We are attached at the waist (quite literally) and everyone we meet finds him adorable and irresistible.

I have done little work.

Seriously.  I have done little work.  I have pages written down longhand and notes I've been able to scribble, but I need to get down to brass tacks.

Again, we're figuring it out.

I am tired, occasionally cranky and my own personal schedule is a bit wonky but we're figuring it out.

The Boy's Club is truly a moment to moment exercise.

LeBron James: The Teachable Moment

This whole circus around LeBron James has created a surprising teachable moment for my son. 

One one hand, James is right to take a pay cut and change teams to play with his best friends - two superstars in their own right - to try to win a championship.

On the other, he's a total ass for doing it the way he did it.

So, I will teach my son that it's worth taking less to follow your passion with people you love.  I make theatre and film with people I love.  It makes what you do easier and more enjoyable.

Also, there is no I in team.  Sometimes you have to sacrifice to succeed.  I don't think LeBron's pay cut is a huge pay cut... his paycheck could fund a small country.  However, taking less so you can put the best group together, taking less so you can put together the best product, is always worth it. 


There's also a way to do it.  There was a lack of humility in the narcissistic, selfish way he announced.  Michael Jordan announced he was returning to basketball with a fax to reporters that said, "I'm back."

That's the way you do it.

You make the decision and you inform the people involved and be done with it.  You handle your business with humility and professionalism.  The way LeBron handled this was a disgrace.  

And never refer to yourself in the third person.

The World Cup experience

I was going to write this post on our cloth diapering experiment (which is going well, by the way) but instead I was influenced to write about Turtle's first World Cup experience.

First let me say that I come from a futbal family.  My father was born in The Netherlands, a place I hope to go with him soon, and in our family we played soccer.  Unfortunately I didn't keep with it.  I took up baseball and basketball and eventually football.  Until recently I never thought about why.

Now, I'm a sports junkie.  ESPN is on first thing in the morning.  The worst thing ESPN did was change from repeating Sportscenter to live Sportcenters, because now I constantly think there's some breaking news I might miss and I just keep it on.  I was good with my hands, so I played goalie but eventually moved to sports where my manual dexterity could be put to better use. 

To my father's credit, he evolved right along with me, going from a top notch soccer coach to coaching baseball, basketball, coming to my football games and eventually traveling with my little brother all over the country with tennis racquets in tow. We went to Jazz games, Yankee games, Utah football games... I think my father discovering so many sports with us really influenced my pure love and appreciate for all sports.  I'm a sucker for a good curling match.

Soccer is not a hugely popular sport here in the states.  I'd like to take in a New York Red Bulls game and my old home town finally got a professional team, which is very good, after we moved:  Real Salt Lake.  But it's always been a second tier sport. 

I was talking to a friend as we sat in a crowded Omonia Restaurant in Queens, watching the Netherlands/Uruguay match - a room full of European immigrants and Southern and Central American immigrants - a lively bunch to watch a match with.  (Omonia always has soccer on the tv... always.)  We discussed the game and why it never took here in the U.S. 

We have too many options.

Soccer is a poor man's sport.  It requires a ball. 

That's it. 

A round ball.  You can make a goal out of a pair of shoes.

We did.  As kids we'd play barefoot in the back yard and we'd make a goal by placing a shoes on the ground to mark goal posts.  

My father always managed to score.  He was a young father, when I was a little kid at the height of my soccer playing years, he was only in his early thirties and I remember him having legs like Pele.  He'd flip the ball through his legs and with a magic little twist, he'd have the ball airborne and over my head, a little chip shot that would land softly behind me.

You only need a round ball. 

Here in America, there is another sport where you only need a round ball.  Basketball.

Once you have a hoop up, you have a game.

And hoops are everywhere.  (Thank you department of parks and recreation.)

And basketball is a game of instant gratification.  It's much easier to score and you score a lot.   You can rack up 100 points in a game.  And it's fast.  It's not as spread out as soccer.  It feeds our desire for a quicker pace. 

And soccer loses to that every time. 

And basketball is a gateway sport to baseball and football and hockey.  We have so many options it's almost overwhelming - and good!  Such a cornucopia of events to view and play!

The rest of the world has soccer (or futbal).

And they make it beautiful. 

I tried to describe it to my friends who don't understand the game this way:  Imagine your favorite baseball team is playing in the final game of the World Series.  Your team is down by three runs, the bases are loaded and your teams best home run hitter is at bat... the winning run is at the plate.  It's a full count:  three balls, two strikes...  Imagine that...  FOR NINETY MINUTES.

That's soccer.

So.  Every four years, I geek out, dress in orange and lose my mind a little.  My first experience with World Cup was Italy in 1990.  We were there on my senior trip.  We partied with German fans the night before the final and it was intoxicating.

I didn't go to a single match during the World Cup that took place here in the US and I regret not participating in that experience. 

This World Cup has been special because I've been able to experience it with my baby son.  We've watched almost every match together.   We have matching "Nederlands" and "Hoera Oranje" t-shirts.  I hold him and bottle feed him in the middle of a restaurant full of cheering fans.  There have been many phone calls to my father and it's been interesting that as my relationship with my father has grown even stronger since I became one, too, this thing that we enjoy sharing is happening at the same time.

Yesterday I called to remind him that the game was on.  He was in a Taco Bell drive through getting tacos to take home... he was leaving work to sit and actually watch an entire match - his Netherlands versus Uruguay. 

So here I am with my new son, participating in the thing that only comes around every 4 years but is special to me.  He won't remember it.  He'll only have the photos of it to look back on.  But if the Dutch win the final Sunday - a final they have not been in since 1978, when I was six years old running around with my Grandpa Gerrit in the backyard with a soccer ball and my little mesh soccer shirt - it will round out the most perfect few months of my life. 

blogger's block

I've been working on this post for weeks. 

The truth is I have little to report.  The turtle and I are in a routine and things are running smooth.  That's not to say I haven't had challenges.  I've had to remind myself several times to take a breath and all will be fine - he has very few needs right now and I am miraculously able to meet them all.

So, I have little to report.  He's brilliant.  He smiles and has this giggly, cooing, rolling laugh.  I don't really believe in angels much less a chorus of them floating above us, wings outstretched, but if I did, they'd sound like him... that laugh.

He's amazing. 

But I've been dry when it comes to writing here. 

Maybe it's that I've been doing a lot of work lately and after staring at a blank screen for hours, squeezing words from my veins, I just don't have anything left.  It's Hemingway's dreaded "blank page."  

Maybe it's that I've been watching my sister and her husband say their goodbyes as he fights cancer. 

The horror of leaving Angie and Turtle is unimaginable.  He finally succumbed to the disease yesterday.  He leaves behind a young son and my sister's three that he treated like they were his own. 

What they are going through makes my blogger's block seem petty.


But it's made me cherish every moment I get with my son.  

Daddy at Home - Day Four: Going Solo

Going solo is a bit misleading.  I am not solo, I'm taking a shift.  It's a solo shift, but it lasts about nine hours and then we're back to being a trio again. 

So, I'm not completely solo, but when most people get up and go to work, I begin the process of feeding and diapering a three month old.  (In this posting, we'll use his nickname, Turtle... or Dutch...)

I thought I knew how things would go down when the wife went back to work.  I'd probably hang out, feed Turtle, get in some X-Box, put him in his crib, get dinner started, bake some bread... it'll be easy.


The first day was exhausting.  I had no idea what his schedule was, no idea how much he ate at each feeding - we're breast feeding, which means he eats until he's full.  I had no idea.  And I've been around!  I've been here every day.  I've read countless books to prepare myself and still...  I was being treated to the same learning curve that my wife went through on her first solo day.  It's very different when you're working as a team.  Very different. 

He knew it was different as well.  I'm sure he could sense it. 

Which made him scream and cry.

"Where is my 24 hour buffet!?"

"She's at work earning money to keep you in this house with all these nice things.  You get me until 6."

...And cue the crying.

Feed him with what mom pumped.

Attempt to burp him.  (he does this very stiff legged, standing, leaning, arms flailing thing... and screams...  then he burps and feels fine.)

He falls asleep and I... lay here with him on my chest, helpless because every time I put him in his crib he cries.

But by day two, we had become old pros.  I had learned a few tricks.

1) Go to gym late at night and then shower in the evening.  Makes mornings more efficient.
2) Don't sweat the small stuff, like dishes.  They'll get done.
3) Thank God for World Cup Soccer!  I love watching it and he loves the lights and movement on the tv and the sound of the vuvuzela's, the buzzing white noise of a million futbal fans.  So we get all geared up in our orange and Dutch and I watch the Oranje and the US teams play. 

(How cool is it that my first month as a stay at home dad is during World Cup!)

4) Get out!  Seriously... get out.  Strap him in the mei tai and get out.  Take walks.  Explore.  Hit the market.
5)  VISIT MOM!  This one is very important.  We can easily take the train, get into the city and visit mom  at work where the 24 hour buffet will be open. 
6) Skype.  Call Mom, video chat, make sure she knows she's missed and is still needed.  Her voice alone soothes him. 
7) Poop comes from either formula or watching FOX news.  (I don't know... it's either an overabundance of shit or Sarah Palin's snarky voice...  I have not been able to figure it out.)
8) Poop is not something to freak out about.
9) Pee pee tee pees don't work if you've got a good solid stream... they fly right off.  It's hilarious.
10) If the Turtle falls asleep, let him sleep on you.  If you fall asleep, take it.  Your body needs it to keep up.
11)  Swoop him into bed.  If you try to lay him down slowly, his reflexes kick in and he flails and wakes himself.  Hold him firmly and swoop him in and he's fine. 
12) Read to him.  He finds your voice soothing and hilarious at the same time.
13)  Try to get one thing done each day... one non-baby related thing. I meant to write this blog posting on day one... but didn't.  However, I have today, so I'm done for the day!  Bring on the poop and soccer!
14)  Kids love the grocery store.  Lots of colors!
15)  Use that sling/mei tai/baby bjorn at home!  Go hands free.  (I now know four different carries for my mei tai... tummy to tummy (legs out and in), facing front, on the back (which he's too small for but will be ready for soon), and the side carry.  All are haaaaaandy... or haaaaaands free, as the case may be.
14)  Relax.  It's not as if these early months will influence the rest of his life... oh... wait... 

Uh oh.

My son, only 11 weeks old, repeated the words "uh oh" last night.  Five times he made the sounds with my wife and I and it was kind of a magical moment. 

As I watched the news - taking a break from our full series LOST marathon - I found myself saying "uh oh" a lot. 

I was once told that I would become much more conservative after I had kids. 

It was a lie.

I have become more progressive than ever.   I am angry at our backwards priorities, the useless culture war, the petty politics that get in the way of good policy, the winner take all game that is played out every day. 

I believe in a greater good for all of us.  That we all contribute to the society we get.  I believe that people should spend more time looking at their reality rather than stargazing, thinking "one day I will be a millionaire."  That's how most of us are duped to chanting for lower taxes for those at the top of the money pyramid - because one day that could be us. 

It won't be. 

I believe in living in this moment.  Life is a moment to moment exercise.  Looking too far ahead leads us to missing the very thing that is happening now.

I hope my son becomes a compassionate, fair person who not only believes in social justice, but demands it - fights for it.  I hope he is passionate about peace, but is realistic enough to know that some things are worth fighting for.  I hope he learns that compromising your truth, your principles, your core for a small victory means you do not have them to fall back upon during the big battles. 

I want to teach him that reason, facts, truth and knowledge will always trump ignorance, bluster and outright lies, no matter what the ratings of some morning shock jock turned comedian turned "cable news man" may say. 

What I really hope is that our age of greed and avarice will pass; that human beings, the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the earth that feeds and shelters us will become more important than corporate profits and the bottom line.  

I hope that this time where fifteen minutes of fame last years, ends; that our addiction to cele-bu-tants ends; that we again can find that communal, progressive spirit that celebrates the individual when he does something that contributes to the greatness of us all, not just because of how much money he makes, how many crap albums she's sold or whose sex tape is now making the rounds. 

I hope my son never has to stand in front of the tv watching the news, holding his son, saying, "Uh oh."

Babywearing: my view.

My wife and I are coordinating posts today.  Babywearing is an important topic and deserves more than a five minute "fashion" segment on the Today show that lacked substance and was dangerously irresponsible in it's paucity of information.   Rarely do I ask people to pass on a blog, but please, if you find anything below helpful, pass it along! 

My wife's blog is much more reasoned.  As usual, mine is a bit more bombastic.

Babywearing.  If you watch the Today Show you are now probably of a mind that baby's should never be worn for the first four months or they will suffocate and die.  You are also perfectly up to date on the most fashion forward way to coordinate your baby sling with your outfit! 

Babywearing is more than a way to keep your hands unburdened with your child.  It's not about you.  It's actually about your child... who is not a burden.

Dr. William Sears, noted pediatrician and author of the Sears Parenting Library, includes babywearing in his seven B's of attachement parenting.  You can find a month's worth of reading on the subject at http://www.askdrsears.com.

This is a serious subject and the viewing public would be better served with some information.  Rather than an editor from iVillage.com who comes on with a string of models, why not bring in a babywearing instructor from one of the local shops to demonstrate the best and safest ways to wear your baby.

I'm sorry, but a sales associate at Buy Buy Baby or Babies R'Us is not going to know the ins and outs of every carrier and, as their selection of carriers shows, that's certainly something they don't specialize in.  On our last trip to one of the big baby stores, I counted nearly 150 different strollers ranging in price from $30 to the pimped out Stokke at $1000.  There were five baby carriers.  They were all of the low bag sling type, exactly like the Infantino that was recalled. 

These bag slings ARE dangerous to young babies.  It's true they do not have the head support they need and can suffocate.  While these slings have a serious design flaw, as a parent you should be constantly in connection with your newborn.  Putting them in a sling is not an out of sight out of mind exercise.  There's no excuse for that.

But rather than copping out and advising you to never carry your baby, maybe they could tackle why these are unsafe and what kinds of carriers are safe for your baby and best for you - at all ages.

When the sling controversy first occurred, my wife and I were understandably upset.  We had been given slings as gifts and were anxious to use them.  They were low slings, though and we were unsure of their safety with a newborn.

A good sling should be worn high with a newborn and proper positioning is key.  But how?

I did a google search.  It took me five minutes to find the following and it gave me more information in less time than the entire Today Show segment.

A google search!  It's like iVillage and the Today show researched this by going through a catelogue.

Having worked ever so briefly in tv, I know how partnerships and branding work.  Bring out parents with kids in carriers, focus on the logo of the product.  We needed more.

Now, don't get me wrong, the slings they brought out were great!  I love the moby wrap.  We were persuaded to avoid it only because it is summer and 12 feet of fabric wrapped around you in August in New York City is... well... I'd rather be hit by a bus.

Full Disclosure:

We have a Baby Bjorn - it was a gift and we have not used it because it does not support his head as a newborn and he has to be old enough, or big enough, to put his feet out.   He will be soon.

We purchased the Mei Tai carrier that allowed us to carry him as a newborn.  It's almost like a kangaroo pouch, which is an entire parenting style - Kangarooing!  It promotes skin to skin contact with your baby, especially preemies.  My little man was born three weeks early and while technically not a preemie, he was darned close.  I can and have put him into the Mei Tai and we've walked around skin to skin.  His head is supported, he's in a position where his head is directly under mine and I am fully aware of his positioning at all times.  (I should add that he is with his mother, this morning, nursing in his Mei Tai.)

It's very similar to the Boba they showed on the segment but without all the bells an whistles and clasps and clamps and hooks and things...  It's just fabric that you tie. 

We also have the smaller version of the Kelty they had on the segment, the Kelty TC-2.0... TC as in Toddler Carrier.  The Today Show listed it as being usable "up to 50 pounds."  That's dangerously wrong. The instructions for the carrier specifically say, "warning!  do not use carrier with an infant weighing less than 16 pounds." 

We can't put him in it yet, however in about a year, look out... we'll be trekking in it everywhere.  (Thanks Justin and Lindsay!)

So, yes, we have some of the carriers they showed, but the point isn't the carrier - it's how you use them!   Let people know that they are safe for all babies.  Teach them.  How do you put the baby in there?  What's the safest way to carry them?  Where can I find resources like free babywearing classes

And stop spreading misinformation!

Almost all these infants were facing out in their carriers.  You can't carry them facing out until they have complete control of their heads and that may not happen until four to six months! 

In fact, every baby they showed on the Today Show was around 6 months or older.  Babies do not show up at your doorstep six months in.

Any bets out there on how many new parents are going to try putting their babies in one of these carriers that they rushed out and bought on the internet with no idea what they're doing - and put them in there facing out?  Any takers?

And it's not new parents' fault.  According to author Michael Levine."Having children makes you no more a parent than having a piano makes you a pianist." 

It's true.  You have to have a liscence to drive, but not to have a child.

We want - we need - information.  

It does nothing for the public good to have a parade of babies in cool, hip carriers when you still have not shown people how to use them.

Information is power.  Right?  But we are utterly powerless when the places we trust to spread information, to spread news, fail us.

Seriously, all it took was a google search. 

This goes by far too fast.

My son is now going on nine weeks.  Nine weeks.  It's gone by so fast.  His tiny little fingers are now longer and thicker.  His toes that once looked like potato bugs are bigger.  His cries, once easy to interpret, are getting more complex and musical.

And I find myself not writing about it. 

There's so much to cover:

Can we give him formula to supplement without feeling guilty?  If so, is there a way to do it without the nasty poop? 

We're co-sleeping... we don't care what anyone says, it's easier on us and on him... but when is the best time to really start crib training him? 

Why does he always wake up three minutes after going into his crib? 

Yes, mobiles are a miracle.

A baby smiles around two months. 

And it's glorious.

Pee on the wall (and ceiling, and floor and strategically on our clothes) is preferable to poop blowouts.
Spit up and drool are easy to clean.  

Tracking feedings and diaper changes is a good thing.

Grandparents are too far away. 

A Mei Tai carrier is a godsend.

We have to take better care of ourselves.  And we have know what we are eating and where it comes from because it also goes into him and studies have shown an increase in autism, childhood obesity and diabetes that are linked to the food we find on the shelves of our grocery store.  Little things help, like eating locally and buying organic food... or what our parents and grandparents called "food."

Schedules are good.   And totally impossible to keep.

Restaurants are surprisingly kind and understanding with babies.  It is possible to go to all you can eat sushi with an infant.  Once he turns two or three... we'll see.

There's so much that one blog can't possibly hold it all. 

I always have said that my career is a marathon.  So is parenting.  We learn five new things about him every hour.  We have ten breakdowns a day.  And we're doing really well.  


Tonight is the home opener for the New York Yankees.

Correction - the defending World Series Champion New York Yankees. 

I got an email from a friend offering me seats behind home plate for $100.

I turned them down and I realize the money is not the only reason.  It's true, $100 can buy a lot of diapers, but the experience would be entirely worth it.

No, that's not the only reason.

I'd really like to get home to see my boy.

I'd also like to get home to give my wife a break.  (Not that she needs or wants one.)

For as much as I'd love to go the game, I feel like I miss a lot while I'm away.  He changes so quickly right now.  I looked at photos and realized that he's already grown a great deal.  It's quite striking.

And I only want to go to the game with him.

I know, I know, he's only four weeks old.  But I looked at a photo of my friend with his baby at the Padres opening day and I want to do that.  I want him with me.  Even if he doesn't get it, doesn't know that he's somewhere special or that there is an event happening before him that makes our summer, I want him there.  Eventually he'll get it.  Eventually he'll know that Yankee Stadium is a special place.  That going to Rockies games with Grandma and Grandpa in Denver is a treat.  He'll crave the sounds of the park and a $10 hot dog.  (It is still Yankee Stadium.  They have to cover that ridiculous payroll somehow.)

Someone asked me why I'm a Yankee fan.  I'm not from New York originally, I didn't grow up in a baseball family.  I have no ties to the team.

My answer is always the same.  Lou Gehrig.  If you've never seen Pride of the Yankees, rent it.  Go to Netflix and stream it.  As a child Lou Gehrig, was my hero because of that movie.

Okay, Gary Cooper as Lou Gehrig...

Lou still stands out as the model for a perfect ball player, and a near perfect man.  So when I think of the Yankees I think of a line of great players and noble gentlemen from Lou to DiMaggio to Mantle to Mattingly to Jeter.    Recently I read an interview with Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens and he mentioned that he saw the 1932 World Series game in which Babe Ruth "called" his home run.  Lou came up to bat directly after Ruth and hit one of his own.

My first reaction was, "You got to see Lou play."

When I'm that age, I'm sure someone will remark, "You got to see Jeter play."

Yes I did.  With my son in his Derek Jeter t-shirt and Yankee hat.  Both of which he already has...  at four weeks old.

Explosive Poop!

In the middle of a diaper change, my wife was startled by a loud, "Ah, shit!"

It was me.

My son has, twice, had explosive poop episodes while I'm changing his diaper. 

It's not gross.  It's not strange.  Babies do little else.  They eat, they poop and they sleep.  We are armed with a stack of wash-cloths...  btw... new parents - think back to what people did before wet wipes.  Yeah.  A warm wet towel.  Your baby hates nothing more that an ice cold wet wipe on his/her ass.  And if you wasted money on a wet wipe "warmer"...  get off this blog.  I mean it.  Go.  No soup for you.  Get a few cheap washcloths (Ikea: 12 for $2) get warm, warm water - and wipe your babies bum.  Save a grundle of money.  How much is a grundle?  No idea, but it's a lot.  Save the wet wipes for the diaper bag.

Back to explosive poo.

Babies have a gastro-colic reflex.  It's what makes babies eat and poop simultaneously.  Thankfully, we outgrow this. 

Well, some of us outgrow it. 

So, he poops.  He doesn't necessarily wait to do it when the diaper is on.  Sometimes he does it on the changing table while dad yells out, "Ah, shit." 

But it's good poop. 

Good poop has been described as mustardy yellow - yellow/tan with hints of green... and seedy.

His has been a brilliant mustardy yellow.  And seedy.

Which leaves me one question - one that is "Ah, shit" worthy:  Since he's on a breast milk/formula liquid diet... where do the seeds come from?


Yeah.  38.  An obviously blind young woman who does know me actually thought I was 30.  I asked her if she really didn't see all my gray hair.

I'm hoping this child keeps me young.  I certainly don't feel 38.  In fact I do feel 30.

Is it clean living?  I don't know.  I spent a few years in my twenties abusing my body in so many ways.  It can't be "clean living." 

My body is like a roller coaster.  I've been a whopping 215lbs and then in a short three months dropped to a cut 175.  Within six months I'm back at a very puffy but strong 195, then skinny and a little soft and 180 pounds.  Why? Who knows.  Lately I've been sporting the slight pooch.  I'm back to working on it, kettlebell in hand, but it just happens.

So, it's certainly not anything to do with how I treat my body.

I would also venture a guess that my youthfulness has nothing to do with what I eat.  I do have a fairly firm rule that we only eat real food.  Nothing processed with stuff we can't pronounce.  Which is good.  But I can sum up my food philosophy in one fattening word:  butter.

So, it's not diet that keeps me perpetually 30.

I'm a bit of an insomniac, although that's working with the little one.

I don't smoke, so there's that.

I don't drink a lot and have not since I was about 22.  So that's good.

I don't drive but once every couple months, so there goes stress from road rage... but I do have to navigate the streets of the most stressful city in the country, so that might be even.

Maybe it's that I'm still just a kid.  I'm the oldest of three kids, but I maybe the youngest soul.

My occupation is to create plays. The word "play" is an integral part of what I do.  I play for a living.  So that must have something to do with it.

I can only hope that it lasts.  I can only hope that I can keep my youthful exuberance until he goes off to college.

And I have to keep working on other things, too...  I have to keep the knees healthy so I can get into a squat to catch for him as his Uncle Justin teaches him how to pitch.  I have to keep my back strong I can teach him how to post up and track rebounds.  I have to keep my heart healthy so I can keep up with him when Uncle Adam has him cross courting tennis balls at me.

And I have to keep myself from settling into the "adult" role too much, so I can dream with him, imagine with him and be open to play whenever the urge grabs us.

I only hope when I'm almost 56 and he goes off to college that I might look, and feel, around 45.

There's something to be said for having kids early.  You get to grow up with them. But having them later has it's blessings, too.  We feel ready, secure and surprisingly youthful.

lesson: Keep your eyes and ears open

There are a lot of things I want to teach my boy.  This is of them.  Keep your eyes and ears open!

I walked across Seventh Ave today, sans headphones.  I try not to wear them on my commute, unless I'm trying to drown something out.  I was privy to the best train conductor in the city on the V train today who is as entertaining as he is informative.  It's a treat to get on his train, so I was feeling particularly upbeat.

As I'm cruising across the street, taking it in, carrying my weekly latte (the coffee here at Le Showtime is horrid...) I step off the curb and I notice a lovely young woman so engrossed in her text-ing that she is completely oblivious to everything happening around her; traffic, other pedestrians zipping around her, a firetruck turning the corner... everything.

Nothing is so important.  No conversation is that important.

If it is... STOP.  Have the conversation.  Then move on.

The bubble of oblivion she'd created around herself cut her off from any interaction with another human being.

She probably got to work and immediately slipped into her cubicle and continued texting or im'd her bff about how she just couldn't seem to meet the right guy  OMG.  LMAO...  LOL.

Hello!  Look up!  He might be right in front of you!

I find myself running into friends on the street all the time.  We notice each other from up the street because we're active participants in the moment we're in. 

I've also heard from friends who say, "I was just there!  Why didn't I see you?"

"Were you on the phone/texting/im-ing?"


"That would be why."

So keep your eyes and ears open.

One week

I have been a father for one week. 

It seems like longer.  Seems like I've been doing it all my life.  Holding him is one of the great joys of my life.  He opened his eyes within the first hour, really opened his eyes and took in the world.  I'm amazed at how alert he is already. 

We are in the middle of a little experiment.  Since Angie is on maternity leave and her mother is here to help out, I went right back to work this week.  We thought it would be helpful for me to know what she's going to go through when she goes back to work and I stay at home with him.  My boss told me it was quite enlightened of us. 

Something odd happened this morning on the way to work.  As I walked to work today I realized how much I enjoy mornings in New York.  I stopped and grabbed a coffee, walking with the early morning work crowd on this crisp sun soaked spring morning and wondered how my days would soon change.  No more solo walks through midtown, skyscrapers towering over me.  Soon it will be me and a little one, bottle feedings, into the stroller and maybe heading to a cafe to write while he sleeps in his carrier.  All very suburban in our little enclave in Queens.  It's going to be a big change.  This little role reversal will make me appreciate these mornings but having had them, I can't wait to start spending my mornings with my little man. 

Day Four

What have we learned so far?

Labor and Delivery:  Stay flexible.  No matter what your birth plan, it's not going to matter.  When we walked in, water broken and no contractions, we expected to just come in and follow the birth plan.


We don't want to be tethered to the machines.  They tethered her to the machines. 

Can we not be tied to an IV the entire time?  Nope.  You're hooked to the IV and we're going to spill some blood on you when we do it.  Don't worry, it'll be yours.

We'd like our doctor there.  Sorry - she's not on call this evening and the doctor from the practice who is on call will never show up.

Do you have all our paperwork?  Nope.  He's come three weeks early - we're going to have to do all the blood tests again and while you're going through active labor and having contractions, we'll be asking you questions about your insurance.

Do we go through the phases of labor?  No.  Water breaks and straight to active rolling contractions.  Bummer.

No epi?  Not after four painful hours of laboring.  GIVE US THE EPI!

Trying not to vacuum?  No, he needs some help coming out.  He'll only be a cone head for a couple days.

What DID go as planned? 

No C-section.  Check.

Perfectly healthy and beautiful baby?  Check.

Healthy mother? Check.

In the end that's all that matters.  They're both healthy and he's active, alert and perfectly fantastic.

We've been amazed that as early as 8 hours old he was alert, eyes open and taking in the world.  He rolled over on his side by day three. 

We've also learned that Angie seems to be able to breast feed, which is a huge feat.  The two of them are champs at it. 

Formula as a supplement is also not a defeat.  It can lead to a restful night. 

And again, we've learned that people are so generous.  From Angie's employer, Hunter College, to my employer, Merlin Temps and Showtime, they've been fantastic.  Our neighbors who threw their own celebration... Not that they need a reason, but they made this one, and they have given us so much.  Our parents and families.  Our friends.  We can't wait for him to meet you all.

I've also learned that becoming a parent is intense.  I watched with amazement as my mother in-law held her first grandchild.  I listened as my mother gave me quick advice and recounted the story of my own birth, comparing notes with my mother in-law.  I spoke to my father and said, "I can't stop looking at him."   He just replied, "I know."   And the connection hit me.  The flowing stream that runs from my grandparents to my parents to me and now to my son.  How Angie's stream connected with mine and we can reach back through family stories of how we got here and can almost see where we are going.  I saw myself sitting with this beautiful child and the image of my father sitting with me came to me, as did the image of my grandfather sitting with my father, the story of him ice skating outside the window of the hospital in Holland waving to my grandmother and my newborn father - his own private celebration. 

There is a thread, a common humanity that connects us all and I've always known it.  Until this moment, I've never really felt it.  I'm looking into this little boys eyes and seeing my own and I've learned that it's a powerful thing.

Liam Christopher VanDijk

Thirty nine hours ago I woke up and went to work. 

It was a fairly normal day and I made a call to my wife to propose we have our annual birthday bash a little early.  We’ve always celebrated our birthdays together since they are a day apart.  We knew this year’s celebration would be tough with the wee one due April 7, a mere week from our birthdays. 

I should mention that our favorite place, the place we have dreams about, is BLT Steak.  Pop-overs and Porterhouses (or one Porterhouse shared…)

Now, when you go into labor there are things they ask you not to eat: red meat, cheese, tomatoes and citrus…  too hard to digest or too acidic.   So avoid them.

So I ask my wife if she wants to head to BLT Steak after work and have our little celebration early.  We waddle down to 57th Street and walk in, thinking we’d just sit at the bar. 

It’s packed.  We can get a table at 9.

I ask her what she thinks and she looks at me and says, “I just don’t think I’ll feel up to it tomorrow.” 

That’s called foreshadowing.

We waste some time in Borders and head to dinner at 9 pm. 

We relish our pop-overs with butter and sea salt.  I want to bathe in the duck liver mousse with port wine jelly… my wife not so big a fan of the duck liver.  No biggie, more for me…  We are dazzled by the hen of the woods mushrooms.  And of course, we slowly savor the perfectly crusted, melt in your mouth Porterhouse with a Gorgonzola cream sauce.  Of which we have leftovers that I’ll attack shortly.

As we look over desserts some patrons next to us notice Angie’s gigantic belly. 

“Order the pineapple.  It induces labor.” 

We all laugh. 

We take the subway home, pleased that we’ve had our last hurrah before becoming parents. 

We get home and I sift through the mail and pull out the 2010 Census.  “I’ll wait for him to be born before I fill this out.  Then I can put his date of birth on here.”

15 minutes later Angie jumps up off the couch.  She bee-lines toward the door. 



“You have to throw up?”


She looks suddenly flushed and then slips into the bathroom. 

“Oh no.”

She’s standing in a puddle of clear water. 

“Oh God.”

And it just kept coming.

We call the doctor and are told we should go to the hospital. 

It’s 11:45 pm.

We take our time, shower, grab our already packed bags and head out, ready for the long night.

She's having no contractions when we get to the hospital.  Within moments she's in full active labor with heavy consistent rolling contractions.

Four hours later she finally asks for an epidural.

Things calm down until around 8:30 when I pull out my trusty workhorse, the Canon G9... and it breaks.  Lens Error... won't even turn on.  (Insert expletive here.)

A quick run to Duane Reade for a disposable is a quick patch.

At 10:51, after much pushing and much hard work, on St. Paddy's day,  Liam Christopher VanDijk takes his first breath and is welcomed into the world three weeks earlier than expected.

21 inches, 7lbs 11 ounces.  (I previously wrote 10 lbs 11oz.  That would make him a giant. Sorry.  Blame it on my sleep deprived brain.)

Mother and child are doing fine.

Evidence is below... shot with the Canon PowerShot I bought for Angie... at 3:30 when we were moved to postpartum and the boy was being bathed and checked and the wife was napping.  Thank you Best Buy.

39 hours later, Dad is sitting with a celebratory shot and ready to finally get some sleep.

sorry... been a while... sorry.

I am a graduate of the baby... pre... something.

Our Lamaze teacher does not hate me.  I think the first week, she was frustrated that we had to re-jigger the calendar due to a storm.  She turned out to be lovely and the experience was so enlightening and informative.

I have to admit that I've been very frustrated with New York City and it's "Big snowstorms."  I've been expecting the fluffy white snow of my youth and instead have had to settle for this frozen rain that beats down on you from an extreme angle like it's attacking you.  This isn't snow.  It's an ice storm.  And I'm sorry, but 8 inches does not a blizzard make.
However... today! 

Today from my perch on the 17th floor of this big glass building, from the windows of a network-not-to-be-named-but-that-is-a-direct-competitor-of-HBO-and-their-big-monstrous-black-cube-on-42nd-Street...  I'm watching snow!  Real snow!  big puffy white snow floating down.  This is a snow storm!  The Hudson River blanketed.  10 inches in a few hours!


It's fitting.  I've been thinking of home a great deal.  Home where I grew up.  Maybe it's part of nesting, part of figuring out what it is I want for my son, my family.  Could we end up out west one day?


Will it be soon?

Who knows.

Can I teach my son those same "homespun" Western values here while he is also exposed to the richest spectrum of culture, art, food and opportunity?


Will he have an appreciation of small town/small city life while growing up in the biggest little city in the world?


Will he understand that he is part of a whole?  Will I be able to impart in him an understanding that if you are stronger, you have a responsibility to protect the weak, not exploit them?  Will I be able to teach him to seek out those with less and help them how he can?

Who knows.

Will be able to survive the first really nasty dirty diaper?

I hope so.

Three Cups of Tea

I just finished Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin.  Mortenson's work building schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan is inspiring and heroic.  The book is the first of two chronicling his journey from a wayward, altitude sick climber at the foot of K2 into a force of nature - working alone to raise money to build a single school in one of the poorest regions in the world, and eventually into the creator and director of the Central Asia Institute which has as of 2009, established 130 schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan, which provide (or have provided) education to over 51,000 students, with an emphasis on girls’ education.

Jumping headlong into fatherhood, I have questioned the kind of world in which we are bringing a child.  A world in which ignorance and hate are rewarded by talking heads; where the less you seem to know the more you are lauded as a "front runner" for a presidential run... for the presidency... of the United States... all of it.  I watch my television screen aghast that there are people who so readily believe any blatant lie told them despite the mountains of evidence to the contrary.  I wonder how, in an educated society such as ours, we've lost the ability to see the forest for the trees.  We are so deeply entrenched in our beliefs and it is stunting our growth mentally and psychologically and we have been overrun by a small group of very very very loud, hate spewing, xenophobic ideologues. 

And I am bringing a child into this.

But Mortenson's story gives me hope.  One person can make a difference.  One person can reach into the abyss of ignorance and fear - fear of "the other"- and change the entire world.

Mortenson was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize and lost to President Obama.  This was a grave mistake.  President Obama had not accomplished much to deserve the accolade in his first year, as he himself noted.  Greg Mortenson went quietly about his business of taking on religious fundamentalists a world away without firing a single shot.  He has empowered the people of the tribal regions of Afghanistan and Pakistan - people we only see on the evening news programs as "terrorists" and "the enemy" - and made them allies of us all.

He builds schools and he is changing an entire generation.

Having finished Three Cups of Tea, my hopes for my child remain the same, but my fears have abated.  I know that deep down, the concerns of a parent in New York are the same as the concerns of a parent in St. Louis, or Salt Lake City or San Diego, are the same concerns as a parent in Paris, or Moscow, or Kaampen...  or the Korphe village in Pakistan or the Wakhan Corridor in Afghanistan.

If you don't think one person can change the world, read this book.  If you don't think people halfway around the world have the same concerns, the same hopes, the same dreams for their children... read this book.  If you are a living, breathing human being on this planet... read this book.

Under attack

Month eight.

It has occurred to me that my wife's body is now under attack.  She's been a trooper and has not complained at all throughout her entire pregnancy, but lately she's been feeling it.  The boy is just big enough that when he kicks, we can see limbs.  When he rolls around, he moves organs.  When he stretches, he pushes her diaphragm and compresses her lungs and she finds herself unable to catch her breath.

All of this is painful when he's riding high.

So we play him music, we do our BabyPlus, and he moves down a little.

Then when Angie gets dressed to go to work, she says, "Can I officially stay home when my shirts sit high?  He's so low, that my shirt looks like a belly shirt."

This is the first time she's complained.  I think she's ready for him to be out and in the world.

I don't know how people do it...

I've started working a new gig and I'm not sure how people do it AND spend any kind of quality time with their families.  I know they do.  I'm just not sure how.  Get to work before 9am and don't leave until well after 7pm.  Maybe you get to grab something downstairs at a Cosi or deli that you then take back up to eat at your desk.  Take into consideration the commute and you get home around 7:30 or 8.  Throw together dinner and by the time Rachel Maddow signs off, the wife is asleep and the cat needs to be fed and I'm done.  We're out and in bed by 11pm.  That's 10 hours at work and three hours at home.

And that's not out of the norm.  I am not judging.  I'm just amazed. 

Now, there is part of me that says, "what are we doing?"  What we do has become the definition of who we are.  When we meet someone, we ask, "what do you do?" before we ask about their families, their lives...  It just seems a little odd. 

I don't know how people do it.

My wife

If you haven't read my wife's blog lately, you should.  The link is on my banner:  The Actor's Wife.

If you have read it, you'll see that she's written a couple times about me.  I think I'll return the favor.

Much of the fun of this pregnancy is watching her go through it.  Her style statement is Composed Grace and it fits her.  She has managed to find a way to make being pregnant very simple and very elegant.  We have not hand any major issues and the pregnancy has been going smoothly.  Lately our wee one has been kicking like crazy.  The other day we watched a foot poke against her skin again and again.  Last night she jolted upright around 4 a.m.  He kicked her hard in the ribs.  I laughed, saying, "of course he's kicking." 

She then put her hand on me, finding my lowest rib.



"Bottom one?"

"Yeah... Why?"

She then punched me.  "That's what it feels like."

That's the girl I married twelve and a half years ago.

She sits next to me and watches football.  She gets the joke.  She can keep box scores at a Yankees game, something I don't know how to do.  She can know what I'm thinking before I think it.  We can look at each other and have an entire conversation.  She is strong, smart and has allowed me to be a bit crazy with the whole baby thing.  She is willing to entertain any crazy idea I have, hence the reason she has a fanny pack style contraption making various heartbeat sounds strapped to her belly twice a day.

And she's been willing to be an actor's wife for twelve years.  That, in itself, deserves an award.

We have needs here...

I have not blogged in a little bit.  Feeling a little overwhelmed at the moment.  But there is one thing that has been bugging me.

I may be callous, but I'm feeling Haiti overload.  There are American's here who have no jobs, are homeless, children who will go to bed hungry tonight, people with serious diseases who have no access to health care, a government and politicians who are more interested in keeping score and winning some arbitrary numbers game - and there's a telethon on almost every single channel for Haiti.  They need help, sure, but there's no telethon with celebrities for people without health care, or to raise the billions that are being cut from American education budgets, or to help people who have lost their jobs.  We're being asked to give money.  What money?  We don't have any.  I can't look past the man sitting next to me, who rides the subway to stay out of a blizzard, and give what little I have to aid earthquake victims on an island thousands of miles away.

Give if you can, but please don't forget those aid organizations who are working just as hard to help the people in your neighborhood or city.  Their need is no less great.

Get here already!

I've been having a lot of fun with my wife's belly.  It hasn't been as much fun for her, but it's been a gas for me!

He's stretching.  A lot.  I saw a foot.  It's crazy.  Her entire stomach moves.

He stretches and is moving a lot lately and it's causing her a lot of pain.  I never thought of it, but when he kicks, he's kicking organs.  He stretches and he pushes on muscle and skin.  It's a tough gig carrying a kid. 

Several times my wife has said, "I wish you could just take him for a while."

I'm sure by around June, when she goes back to work and I rotate into stay-at-home dad mode, she'll be saying the opposite. 

I'll suddenly be the bad cop.  I get to be home doing all the poop clean up and chasing him around, keeping him from playing in the kitty litter or killing the cat and she can come home and bathe him, play with him, read to him - as I try to find an adult to talk to... to have an actual conversation longer than five words.  She'll be the good cop.

And I think that's okay. 

We're just ready for him to get here.


I'm knee deep in paint.  Re-painting our front room (a big dark blue wall was not a good idea in a light starved room), painting the kid's room, choosing colors, trekking to Home Depot, then waiting in line for paint, forgetting my wallet, trekking back in the cold, getting it, back to Home Depot, getting my paint, putting up color samples in 2x2 squares, rethinking our color schemes, trekking back to Home Depot, avoiding getting hit by a car, scrubbing the paint from my brushes... why won't it all come off...? 

The trick is to nest, paint and have the apartment clean before Angie comes home so she can relax and rest while I make dinner and brownies.

I kind of love it.

Yesterday we spent two hours looking at strollers.  Three of them.  We narrowed it down to three of them.  Two hours.  And we still don't know.  Each had a flaw.  Maybe we're too picky.  Who knows.

But the nesting is rather fun.

Home again, home again...

We're back.  After a much needed vacation, we're back.  I could use this post to write a screed about AirTran and their shoddy customer service, but I won't.  Instead, allow me to wish all of you a healthy and happy 2010 and to recap what I learned over the holiday.

First I learned that I love show shoeing.  The solitude suits me.  I also found out that no matter what happens or where I live, the mountains call to me.  There is something appealing to living in the granite embrace of the Rockies.  I would like for my child to experience that one day.

I would like to climb a fourteener.  (A peak above 14,000 feet.)  I think I may have passed my window on that one, but I'm sure my brother would be game for taking me and teaching me the ropes, so to speak. 

I would like my son to do it, or at least aspire to it. 

I learned that I still love to drive long mountain passes to loud music.  My wife doesn't mind it and apparently, from how much he kicked, my child likes it, too.

I learned that I really miss my family.  Both my own and my wife's.  Family is important.  I always say the most interesting stories are about the families we create, but the ones we're born into are pretty amazing.

I learned that an xbox 360 should be played in moderation...   just like wine, good beer and my mom's cooking...  An overdose of any of them will make me tired, drunk and very, very heavy.  (I reeeeeeally like my mother's cooking.  Where do you think I learned.)

I learned that making fresh pasta with my father is a gas.  Since it was our first time, you can imagine we were a little clumsy, but it worked out. 

I learned that even at six months pregnant, my wife still looks pretty hot in her show shoeing outfit - borrowed boots and parka and all. 

I learned that cats communicate better and with more complexity than we know.  Ours was upset, then disturbed, then demanded an explanation, then purred in a way I have never heard before.  All of this after we came home from two weeks away.  Thank you Vincent for taking great care of her.  I learned that you are a true friend.

I learned that the BCS is truly a disaster.  I think I already knew that.

I learned that there is nothing as spectacular as the first view of NYC from 25,000 feet.

I learned that there is no shortage of books on parenting...  I think I now own them all.  They do make wonderful Christmas gifts. 

I learned that my family really keeps secrets well.  Especially when it involves a surprise baby shower.

I learned that babies need a lot of stuff.  Stuff I'm still working on assembling.

I learned that in the end, my life is not about what I do, what I own... It's perfect with my wife next to me, head on my shoulder, our child growing inside her belly, kicking and stretching.

For 2010, we've got big things coming.   First up, PCP's Welcome Mat, then a new play to finish, scripts to write, perhaps my final performance on stage before taking a brief hiatus to enjoy the arrival of our first child in April.  

Then... who knows, but it'll be perfect.

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