Food. There have been a number of dramatic changes in relation to the food consumed in our household over the first year and change of Jackson’s life. In the beginning, things were pretty simple – he drank boob whiskey, Kate and I ate our normal food in relative peace and quiet as he slept in a bassinet on the floor next to our kitchen table. Grocery shopping was simple, there was a clear divide between Jackson Food and People Food, and everyone was happy (except maybe Jackson – there’s a good chance he longingly watched us eat, eagerly waiting for the day when he could eat real food – which may explain why he periodically throws food on the floor to this day as a way to punish us).
Even after he first started eating baby “food”, it was pretty far from actually being food. I remember when Jackson was first born and baby books referenced that the first food that he would eat would be “rice cereal”. In my mind, that was going to be Rice Krispies. So imagine my surprise when I saw the dry powder flakes mixed with milk concoction that was actually “rice cereal”. I affectionately named it “gruel”, a name which has stuck to this day.
As for traditional baby food? I know that it’s nothing but real fruits and vegetables pureed and canned – but it always grossed me out. You know those crazy parents who have to personally try any food before they give it to their child? I was the opposite of that. Kate would warm up food for him in the microwave and ask me to test it before feeding it to him. I would touch it with the back side of one of my fingers for temperature, then immediately wash that finger off in the sink before proceeding with my meal.
Fast forward to a few more months and Jackson starts eating food – for real. Not only does he start eating real food, but he starts eating good stuff. Avocados. Fresh fruits. Cheese. Skyline Chili.
You know how the experts always blame obesity in America on the how expensive fresh, healthy food is compared to cheap fake processed food? They are right. Given the quantity of food he consumes, you would never think that Jackson represented a full third of our grocery bill, but he totally does. If he (or my wife) had their way, the kid would eat about a pound of blueberries a week – but unfortunately for them, I do the grocery shopping. I love blueberries as much as the next guy, but there is no way I’m paying $3.99 for a small container of them. But don’t worry, I’m not replacing them with junk – but different types of fresh fruit. Cheap things like kiwis, strawberries, or pears.
I know what you’re thinking. Why don’t you just buy canned or frozen fruits to feed to Jackson? Well, apparently he only likes the finer things in life. Somehow he knows the difference between canned pears and fresh pears… and even with fresh pears, he’ll only eat them if he watches you cut it up in front of you – lest you try to trick him and sneak some canned fruit past him. It’s ridiculous – I swear he got this trait from his mother, who refuses to believe that something can be nice unless it’s expensive (such as her romantic Valentine’s Day gift of a vacuum cleaner).
Still, I do my best to spoil The Monk with good food that he likes, which means that all the sudden, I find myself eating his scraps of food instead of vice versa. The same guy who would have thrown up in his mouth over the thought of licking a finger that touched pureed baby food is now picking up scraps off his high chair tray, justifying it by saying “eh, he only had part of this pineapple in his mouth”. My how times have changed.
The Little Things. A person can learn a lot from a small child. They focus on the important things in life – eating, sleeping, and playing. As he’s grown from baby to toddler, Jackson has become infinitely more entertaining to play with. He’s almost like you’re crazy drunk friend from college – he’s a ton of fun to be around, always a little crazy… but if you don’t keep your eyes on him, there’s a good chance he’ll walk off a ledge and hurt himself. But one of the biggest things I’ve noticed about Jackson playing is how much he pays attention to the smallest details of his surroundings. Jackson can be playing in a playground full of other little kids, swings, slides, branches, leaves, and millions upon millions of pieces of mulch – and then all the sudden, he’ll see a single piece of mulch that he wants. He walks straight over to it with a purpose, picks it up, and proceeds to carry it around with him for the next hour or so. Granted, he’s just a young toddler – so he’ll periodically drop it while traversing the world around him – but even when he does, he realizes it, stops, goes back, and picks it back up... even if it’s laying among a pile of mulch that looks identical to me. Somehow he keeps track of it. For that afternoon, it’s his most prized possession, something that he’s responsible for, something that is critical he keeps with him. You know the expression “you can’t see the forest for the trees”? Well, Jackson can’t even see the trees because he’s so focused on the smallest piece of bark that’s on the ground in front of the trees – and there’s something very sweet and appropriate about that.
When walking around in the big outside world with your child, you really gain perspective on how little they really are. To see a two foot tall person walking down the street makes the cars look giant, the street look absurdly wide, and the world a place that’s too big to possibly ever explore. Jackson spent the better part of his first year of life inside our living room, kitchen, and his bedroom – so even to expand it to our yard has increased the world he knows ten-fold. Yet even though he’s out exploring the world, I don’t think he really understands how far it stretches and how much is left to explore – because even though he knows our street, he knows a few parks, and he knows a few islands in the Caribbean (spoiled!), when he’s there he spends his time focused on one piece of mulch, or one bird, or one swing set to climb up and down for two hours. He appreciates the little things in life – the simple things – and is just as happy playing with dirt as he would be seeing exotic animals at the zoo. It’s the little things in life that are important, and that can make you the happiest.
Freedom! Finally this month, I look forward to my first vacation since the birth of Jackson. What about the aforementioned Caribbean cruise that I took in the fall? Apparently you missed the Blog post about that adventure – but there was very little about traveling with a nine month old that I consider relaxing. That trip was all about survival. This one is going to be all about hanging out with my hot wife, along with a relaxing beach, gorging myself with ridiculous amounts of guacamole, and drinking all the booze served in coconuts that I can get my hands on.
Will I miss The Monk? I assume so - but I think it’s important for me to deliver on the threats I’ve been making for the past few weeks when he has misbehaved “if you throw that food on the floor, I’m going to go to Mexico without you!” Still, although I’m looking forward to some uninterrupted rest and relaxation, there is that nagging fear in the back of my mind about “what if something terrible happens to us while we’re gone?” After all, there’s still so much I have left to teach him about life. But just in case the worst case scenario happens, here is a listing of important life lessons I would like to pass along to my son. Someone else, please ensure that he eventually learns how to read and direct him to this Blog post at an appropriate time.
- Most of life’s most important lessons can be found in the lyrics of songs, themes of movies, and scripts of television shows. Pay attention to them.
- Do whatever makes you happy in life… as long as you can pay the bills. It’s cool to like reading, do it as much as you want in your free time... but most English majors end up living in their parents’ basements until they are 35.
- Turns out not where, but who you’re with that really matters. There’s a reason why most University of Dayton students, who have the ability to study abroad at their sister school in Hawaii, don’t do it. It’s because their friends aren’t there.
- When you’re young, get emotionally invested in sporting events. It’s better to have loved and lost than to be a lame fair weather fan.
- When you’re old, get emotionally invested in meals. A delicious plate of nachos will never break your heart.
- When it’s super nice outside, find every possible excuse to get outside. Living in Cincinnati, you’ll have plenty of time to study / clean / work when it’s really hot or really cold (the other 340 days of the year).
- Words of Wisdom from your Great Grandpa R: “You only have one goal in life – to save your soul.” Live a good life and root for Notre Dame football and you’ll have nothing to worry about.
- Words of Wisdom from your Grandpa R: “Keep smiling.” Don’t worry about little things and find ways to have fun wherever you go and you’ll have nothing to worry about (tip: bring the bathing suit along on business trips!)
- The key to living a comfortable life is to always live within your means and wear as many mesh shorts as possible.
- Live life with a relaxed purpose. Don’t be that guy who slowly walks everywhere. You’ve got important things to do – even if they are things like sitting on a porch, drinking a beer, and watching the world go by. Don't burn the day away.
With that, I think I’m covered for my trip. Here’s hoping I survive for next month’s post!