Squatch’s Summer Reading List

A little light reading to start off the day.

A little light reading to start off the day.

Howdy, Computer People! Squatch here—again—since Daddy can’t seem to get it together to run this place anymore. When you want stuff done right, you have to cry until it happens, y’know?

So I’m coming onto the bloggy-ma-jobby today to talk to you guys about reading. It’s super important, in case you didn’t know, and super fun. After cars, trucks, planes, trains, dinosaurs, applesauce, hamburgers, and swings, reading is my favorite thing!

And I’m sure, since Daddy tells me I’m a big computer celebrity, everyone in the computer is wondering what I like to read. It’s a good question, because aside from Mater, I’m the most interesting person I know. Why wouldn’t you want to know the books I like to read?

Maybe you can consider this Squatch’s Book Club—kind of like that lady on TV, only I don’t give out free stuff. This isn’t about my books that Daddy likes. All the books here come with the Squatch seal of approval, and if that’s not worth something, then you’re not worth knowing.

Wait, that was rude. Say you’re sorry.

Now, onto the Squatch book picks for the summer of whatever year this is.

Bear in Underwear

BIUbookThis book tops the list this year. I don’t know what it is about this one that I like so much. Maybe it’s the squishy cloth underwear on the front cover that are so much fun to touch. Maybe it’s that I can actually pronounce* all the words in the title. Maybe it’s the bright colors, which are always a big hit.

*[Daddy’s note]: Kind of. “Underwear” sounds like “uh-weh,” but we’re going to count it.

Whatever the reason, I can’t get enough of this book. I like it so much that Mommy and Daddy ripped off the design for my birthday invitations, and Gram said she’d make me a Bear in Underwear cake for my party. I don’t know if they’ve given out the Pulitzer for this year*, but this one is a sure-fire winner.

*[Daddy’s note]: It’s not eligible because A) it’s a picture book, B) it was published in 2010, and C) it’s about an anthropomorphic bear finding a backpack full of underwear and sharing it with his friends. Oops—spoiler alert.

The Little Blue Truck books

LBTbooksLittle Blue Truck is about a truck. So is Little Blue Truck Leads the Way. That makes them automatic winners. Throw in a gaggle of animals making noises and a bunch of other cars, also making noises, and you’ve got a couple contenders for Night-Night Book of the Year. (That’s a thing, right?*) I can—and do—have Mommy and Daddy read both of these books over and over and over. And over again, just to make sure they’ve picked up on all the nuances of plot and characterization.

*[Daddy’s note]: Nope.

The only downside to these books is that one of the lessons they’re trying to teach is about slowing down and taking turns. This flies in the face of everything I know about the world. It just doesn’t work that way. First of all, you have to go fast. Second, it’s always my turn. Always. But if you look past the pie-in-the-sky idealism here, they’re pretty good page-turners.

Dr. Seuss Bright and Early Board Books

SuessbooksThese books are a must own for every bookshelf. Of course, I’m talking about the original trilogy here—if you find anyone that says his favorite is The Foot Book, well, you just can’t trust anything else that comes out of his mouth. You have to read them back-to-back, three times over, in the proper order, too. First comes There’s a Wocket in my Pocket!, then Mr. Brown Can Moo! Can You?, and finally ABC.

Occasionally, you might run into the occasional person who says ABC should come first, because you have to learn the alphabet. But these people are nuts. If you read ABC first, you miss the setup of the zany creatures in Wocket, which helps establish the altered reality of the world. Mr. Brown helps ground the reader in a familiar setting, while ABC helps tie the two threads together into a satisfying conclusion. Duh.

Hippos Go Berserk

HGBbookWho doesn’t love hippos, honestly? And going berserk? C’mon! Put them together? Gold!

I’ve read this one so much that Daddy has it memorized. Sometimes, I like to sit on my stool in the bathroom with it while Daddy’s in the shower and he reads it to me. I don’t even have to flip the pages. THAT’S HOW GOOD IT IS!

The bad part about this book is that you can see all the plot twists coming once you see where she’s going with it. The hippos keep counting up and you know at some point, with that many hippos, they’re going to go berserk. Then it starts counting down and—well, I’m not going to spoil the ending for people who don’t understand basic plot formulas.

Tootle

TootlebookThis would probably be my No. 1 favorite all-time book, except for one thing: I have no idea what happens in it. Whenever Mommy or Daddy tell me to go pick out a book, this one’s my first go-to. Even when they try to hide it in the middle of all the Golden Books, I yank them all out till I find this one.

But I don’t ever actually want to read it. I just like to point out the choo-choos. Have you ever seen this book? SO MANY CHOO-CHOOS! We haven’t ever actually made it past the second page of the story. I mean, look at that cover—if that’s not the happiest friggin choo-choo you’ve ever seen, I’ll eat a whole Chipotle chicken taco and the little bag of chips that comes with it*.

*[Daddy’s note]: Don’t take that bet. He’ll do that anyway.

Machines and Colors

MachinesNColorsThey’re not the same book, but I lumped them together anyway because they’re both kind of plotless and more character-driven.

These are tried-and-true favorites that I keep going back to time and time again. I love machines, so that one’s kind of a no-brainer. I don’t think I can even count how many machines are in that book, but it’s a lot. And I’m learning my colors, so the other book really helps, too. I’m getting really good at them by now. (Pro tip: The answer’s always “yellow.”*)

*[Daddy’s note]: No, it’s not.

Bears on Chairs

BOCbookI’m going to be perfectly honest here—I included this book to throw Mommy a bone. She really likes reading me this one.

Not that I can blame her, mind you. I mean, it’s got bears, and that’s always a crowd pleaser. And it’s got chairs. I like chairs. And that Big Brown Bear is a riot. Plus, as a bonus, it rhymes. You can’t hate that.

It’s just all about sharing, which, as I’ve already established, is a little bit of a useless lesson. I can understand why Mommy likes that, though. She loves sharing. She almost always shares her dinner with me. And her cookies. And ice cream. And water from her Mommy cup. And anything else when I want it. She’s a sharer. It makes sense that this is her favorite book ever. Daddy never shares. I think he tried to bite me once when I tried sharing*. And he holds that fork like he’s going to stab a wildebeest with it. I like sharing with Mommy.

*[Daddy’s note]: This is probably almost certainly completely sort of untrue. I think. I get into kind of a fog when it’s mealtime, so I can’t be sure.

So there’s your reading assignment for the summer, computer people. Better get to it. Any suggestions for me? I’ll pass them along to my staff.

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& let the words begin

Finals week where I teach* was last week, which means I’m now on summer break. Also known as Dad Time. It’s another summer full of me and the Squatch, only this time he’s mobile and stir crazy. This could get interesting.

*Well, I should say “taught” now. I’m not going to be back there in the fall, but I can’t quite admit it to myself yet. Just let me have this, okay?

This crazy school year being over means three other things, though:

  1. More time to spend with you, the fine people of the Bloggy-verse.
  2. Working on the shift from being the one nobody’s noticing at the front of the class to one of the many in seats playing on Facebook. Or as it’s known more colloquially, from teacher to student.
  3. Reading. Lots and lots of reading.

I’m going to spend a couple of posts focusing on that third one (well, and the first one, obviously) because it’s summer and I’m about to go get all doctored in literature, so it just makes sense. And I don’t need to justify my reasons for posting this stuff anyway. It’s my party and I’ll talk about books if I want to.

WhenIFirstHeldYouA couple weeks ago, I got a package in the mail courtesy of Brian Gresko*, who I know from the DadBloggers Facebook group. It should be no surprise to you by this point in the post that inside was a book—one he edited, in fact, called When I First Held You. It’s an anthology of essays on fatherhood by a bunch of critically acclaimed authors. It came out yesterday, and now that grading’s done, I finally got a chance to read it.

*First, I’ll just say that Gresko is already pretty awesome in my book because his son’s name is Felix, and that’s my kid’s name. So you already know he’s got taste.

Probably my favorite book on fatherhood is by one of my favorite authors—Michael Chabon’s Manhood for Amateurs. It’s not entirely about being a dad, but it factors into large parts of the book, so I feel comfortable saying it’s about fatherhood. I find it interesting and strange to read what an author whose work I admire so much has to say about being a dad. When you come to enjoy an author’s work, frequently it’s because you’re drawn to something in that work you can identify with; somewhere inside your head, you’re saying, “Me too,” and “I get that,” and “That’s so true.” And often you don’t stop to think necessarily about that author as a person and about those other ways in which you also connect to them.

I’d read many of the authors in When I First Held You previously, and—like with Chabon’s book—I hadn’t really considered that other part of their lives, the part away from the keyboard full of peanut butter sandwiches and Target runs and squeezing little feet into little shoes. So I enjoyed that this book gave the chance to experience, particularly as someone who fancies himself in the same profession as these admittedly more successful gentlemen, that other side of the writing life—the one that doesn’t always show up on the pages of novels, at least not overtly.

Much in the way I do with those novels I go back to time and time again, I found myself doing the same internal agreement dance. When Lev Grossman says, “[T]here’s no point in holding things back. Babies don’t hold anything back. […] You can’t bullshit a baby,” I nod my head. When Ben Percy says, “Becoming a parent fundamentally changed my vision. I cannot help but see the world in sharp angles. I walk into a room and itemize the woodstove, the electrical socket, the scissors, the open window, the bottle of bleach—whatever can hurt. Everything’s a hazard,” my alligator brain answers back, “Me too.”

This book is full of moments like these, where the authors manage to pin down the myriad of quirks and joys and failures of being a parent. That might be one of the traps held in a book like this—these moments are incredibly beholden to the audience they’re reaching. To the childless, the essays in the book might feel a little self-indulgent or mundane. Talking about the existential crises of becoming a parent is fairly hard to pull off in a way that’s enjoyable to those who haven’t experienced it, and many of the authors in When I First Held You manage to do just that. But in the hands of a parent, these essays are a series of co-conspiratorial nods to the reader that cut right to the heart of what it means to be in the care of a little life-changing being. Poignant, engaging, and frequently on-the-nose, the essays in this book are well-crafted and thoughtful reflections on probably the most ubiquitous of life-changing experiences.

The one glaring knock on the anthology is the relative lack of diversity in the authors presented—of the 22 fathers, 18 are straight, white men, though there are some divorced guys in there to provide a little variation in perspective. This certainly isn’t a knock on the quality of the writing, which is largely great. With any anthology, there are certainly some entries that are stronger than others, though this one is full of such high caliber writers that it’s hard to find a true weak point in the writing itself.

I did enjoy the chance to learn new authors I might enjoy, especially in the light of seeing them as a dad first. My favorite was Ben Greenman’s “You Can’t Put Your Arms Around a Memory,” which tackles the very idea of what parenthood means and laments the myriad of things you won’t remember no matter how much you want to keep it all. I definitely appreciated the essays by Dennis Lehane and Ben Percy for both their resolute honesty and the way they changed the way I see those writers in my head.

Though When I First Held You is a book by dads, it’s certainly not exclusively for dads. Parents, regardless of genitalia, will identify with the men who wrote this book, their many worries and challenges, and—ultimately—the mixed bag of emotions that come along with the raising of children.

Next time, I’ll talk about books some more, but I’ll get Squatch’s help. Stay tuned.

& a review: moms telling it like it is

PeeAlone

I’m going to continue on with another post about cool stuff I got in the mail. Shut up, you love it.

A few weeks back, Kim Bongiorno of Let Me Start By Saying… sent me a copy of I Just Want to Pee Alone, a collection of motherhood essays by “some kick ass mom bloggers.” No, really, it says so right there on the cover.

I had to put off reading it till I wasn’t nipple deep in student papers, but that certainly didn’t stop Karli from picking it up and reading it when it got here. She then proceeded to read selections out loud to me, which seemed to be a good sign. She read me about half of Karen Alpert’s (from Baby Sideburns) essay on taking her family to Disney World, as well as bits and pieces from some other ones.

That seems like a good sign, right? My wife obviously thought it was a pretty funny book, but they didn’t send it to me to get my wife’s opinion, right? I mean, I’m sure the women who put it together would love to hear that she liked their book, but they sent it to me—a dad blogger—to get a dude’s opinion. They’ll just have to settle for me, though.

Now that school’s over, I finally got a chance to comb through it all during Squatch’s naps and while he was playing with knives his exersaucer toys. And I got to see what it was all about.

The book was put together by Jen from People I Want to Punch in the Throat, a KC-area blogger (represent!) and participant in the upcoming Kansas City Listen to Your Mother show this Saturday (buy tickets), also featuring Ashley Austrew (shout-out!) and some other ladies.

So, the question I would put to you is this: Do you like mom blogs? Or parenting blogs in general? Because that will probably affect your opinion of the book.

Why? Because it reads like a blog. Which, essentially, it is—albeit one that’s been collected, edited, and put out in a more tactile format (a la Angry Birds Star Wars). So if your morning is spent rasslin’ some rugrats and perusing your RSS feed full of blogs, then you’ll probably love this book.

That’s not to say you won’t like it if you’re not in love with the blog format. Because this book is pretty hilarious in its own right. With almost every anthology, you’re going to end up with a book that’s slightly inconsistent. That’s just to be expected with you have different authors for every entry. This one is no different, so I didn’t love every bit of the book. But the ones that were on were definitely on. Like Karen’s Disney World essay. And Nicole Leigh Shaw’s (from Ninja Mom) piece about the absurdity of measuring a parent’s worth by how many kids she (or he) has. Kim’s essay about getting a massage was pretty hysterical, and I found myself cringing along with her discomfort as I also have issues with strangers touching me (whether I may or may not be naked in that room with them).

As a dad, there were some in there I couldn’t exactly relate to because I didn’t have the requisite parts, but I certainly tried. I might have skipped ones like “The Tale of Two Vaginas” and “My Akward Period,” and I don’t think you should hold that against me, either. I’d expect a good deal of you to turn away if I happened to post something titled “About That Itch on my Left Testicle.”

Overall, it’s enjoyable, even for a dad. A great deal of it is relatable for any parent, and especially parents (like me) who find themselves responsible for the day-in, day-out childcare. Mother’s Day is coming up this Sunday, and if you want something for that special funny-lovin’ mom in your life, this book is probably perfect. If they don’t like funny, I can’t do anything for you. And if you’ve procrastinated long enough that you’re reading this on Saturday and just realizing that you haven’t bought your wife a present yet, don’t fret—there’s a Kindle version, too.


A quick reminder that I’m giving away some free toys, and you have till MIDNIGHT (CST) TONIGHT (MAY 8) to enter. All you gotta do is leave a comment on my May the Fourth post saying you want the Angry Birds Star Wars thing, and you’re entered to win it. Nothing else necessary. As of right now, I think there’s only three people entered, so your chances are pretty good. Seriously, you don’t want free stuff?

Maybe I just gotta stop posting stuff on the weekend. You guys have lives or something, I guess.

& a mediocre host

We made him put on his best get-up for the guests.

We made him put on his best get-up for the guests.

So I finally achieved a lifelong dream I never knew I had until the second I got the email from WordPress—I’ve been Freshly Pressed. Welcome to all of you who’ve come over because of it, and I hope you’ll stick around and see what the internet was made for read some of my other stuff. It’s pretty good, if I do say so myself. And for those few who’ve already recognized my greatness struggled through this crap since the beginning been reading this blog for a while, please be on your best behavior so you don’t scare away the guests. Don’t worry, I still love you just the same.

As a quick little follow up to the Freshly Pressed post, I should probably mention that the dog barfed up a whole bunch of that cake the other morning. I’ll save you the graphic visual, but let me paint a little word picture for you—think melting strawberry ice cream. With mystery chunks.

I figured a little orientation might be in order for those of you who care to take it. You might be wondering what a Squatch is and who the hell I am, so it couldn’t hurt to check those out. You might also want to “Like” me on the Facebook and “Follow” me on the Twitter because occasionally my nonsense spills over to those venues. And, if you really love irony, I’m on the Pinterest.

Once you’re all caught up, you’re welcome to peruse the archives over there on the right. It’s easy enough to find stuff. If you’re like me, however, and you don’t enjoy wading through mounds of turds to find the diamond, here’s some help finding the good’uns:

The very beginning of it all [12/23/11] and telling our parents [12/23/11]
Early grandparent antics [12/28/11]
Thinking about names [1/15/12] and Discussing Squatch’s real name [10/15/12]
I guess at Squatch’s gender [2/13/12] and I’m proven completely wrong [6/29/12]
Sleeping is an uncomfortable [3/17/12] dangerous business [3/20/12]
Getting impatient (an attempt at webcomics) [6/21/12]
Squatch’s birth story, as told by Squatch: Part 1/Part 2/Part 3/Part 4 [8/31/12-9/3/12]
First thoughts on actual parenthood [7/3/12]
I talk about picture books  [4/19/12], and again [3/26/13]
Shopping recommendations for baby showers [12/5/12]
I’ve griped about Pinterest (and other stuff) before [12/10/12]
Babies are boring [10/16/12]
Squatch’s first Christmas [12/30/12] and half-birthday [1/8/13]
Squatch tries rolling [10/26/12] and standing up [4/4/13] and getting sick [2/5/2013]
I turn 30 (presents still being accepted) [11/29/12]

If you like a lot of self-deprication and pictures of an adorable baby, you might like it around here. And if you like it around here, you might like checking out some of the other dad bloggers out there, which you can find in the Facebook Dad Bloggers page*. I don’t have a regular schedule of posting, but I try to post as often as my kid and job allow me to. If you stick around, I promise to try to work on almost getting better about it, maybe.

*If you’re a dad blogger yourself, you should join our FB group, if you haven’t already.

Thanks for coming by. Hope you enjoyed your stay, and take a goodie bag on the way out.

What? No goodie bags? Oops.

& a review: hats and thieves

You might remember from a while back that I had a new favorite children’s book. Changed my outlook on literature as I know it. If you haven’t read about it, go ahead and we’ll be here when you get back.

I also mentioned previously here that we started a Christmas tradition of giving Squatch (and any future kids we might have) a book on Christmas Eve. Here’s what we got him:

NotMyHat

Awwwwwwww, yeeeeeeeeeeah! It’s a sequel, Motherbitches! Okay, so maybe not a sequel, but definitely a related book. It has to do with hats and stealing, like the first one, but none of the original characters show up. There are several similarities, however.

With This is Not My Hat, we’re once again introduced to the idea of the stolen hat, only this time we’re following the thief instead of the victim. The perpetrator in this book is a little fish wearing a dapper bowler hat, which—if we’re paying attention—we’ve already gleaned is not his hat.

Suspect No. 1

Suspect No. 1

This tiny hat, as he is so quick to point out, fits him perfectly. This is why he stole it in the first place. This hat originally belonged to a much bigger fish on whom the hat looks small and silly. I find this to be absolutely believable, as I have known several people (not to be sexist, but most have been girls) who may or may not* liberate clothes from people when it looked better on them and silly on the person it belonged to. As such, this fish thief is a completely realistic character.

*But definitely did

The fish thief, however, is also a very stupid character, as I would not think it wise to take things when the victim looks like this:

This apparently is not the book where Squatch will learn that snitches get stitches and wind up in ditches like little bitches.

This apparently is not the book where Squatch will learn that snitches get stitches and wind up in ditches like little bitches.

Not to ruin the ending, but the thief gets eaten. Again. Which is awesome. I like that Squatch will learn that there are dire consequences to taking stuff that doesn’t belong to you. But it makes me wonder a few things about Jon Klassen.

I love these books. They’re probably my favorite of the ones that Squatch owns. But they make me sort of wonder a little bit about Klassen. Did he have issues with his hat being stolen a lot growing up? Are these some sort of revenge fantasy being played out in children’s books? Or does he just really just not like thieves? Because damn, dude, I thought getting a hand cut off was a harsh punishment for stealing.

I’ve become a big fan of Klassen’s work through these books. As far as I can tell, these are the only two he’s written himself, but he’s illustrated several others that I now want to go get, too. And I need this to hang up in my office, for sure.

I still end all Squatch’s story books with “and then they were eaten by a bear,” because I feel that definitely provides a feeling of closure to the plot arc. I toyed around with the idea of switching to “and then they were eaten by a big fish,” but let’s be honest. We know how things would end up in the wild.

As a wise man once told me, "Bears be bears."

As a wise man once told me, “Bears be bears.”

& the freak-down: the experience

The Freak-Down

27 Days

Karli wants me to read some of the books she’s been using to get prepared. There’s a good number of them. And, in general, they’re not too bad—pretty informative, helpful, and easy to understand.

The Happiest Baby on the Block will hopefully be a pretty helpful tool, and we’ll find out once Squatch gets here and we can try it out. It does not, however, work on cats. Cats do not like to be swaddled; they DEFINITELY don’t like being shushed.

A good book, unless you don’t have control over any of this stuff.

Books like The Birth Book, on the other hand, while helpful, got a little bit aggravating. Not because of the content exactly, but because of the circumstance we find ourselves in. See, books like this have chapters on helping you select your doctor to create the best “birth experience” possible.

I don’t know that I can speak for Karli, but I’ll try. I think she’d like to have a good “birth experience.” If it’s not a nightmare, I’m sure she’d appreciate that. We read these books and we like this idea of a good “birth experience.” The trouble is that a good “birth experience” seems to rely on your ability to have a choice of doctors. That, we do not have.

As a matter of fact, in the city of McAlester, the closest option to us for getting the baby out, there are exactly two options. At the beginning of this whole process, we asked around a little bit about them. What we learned is that one doctor has a penchant for C-sections, which Karli would very much like to avoid, so we went with the other doctor. And thus ended our search.

We didn’t get to find out about any of the other things that The Birth Book presents as options before choosing. What we’ve come to gain through stories of other people and through talking to the hospital staff is that options aren’t really on the table here.

It appears they do things one way here—drugged up, on your back, feet in the stirrups. Give that a few minutes, then it’s C-section time. And if you’re cool with that, then this place is for you. If that’s not how you want things to go down—if that’s not the “birth experience” you were hoping for—then you might be S.O.L., pal. And it appears we’re definitely in for some of that S.

More than facilitating this “birth experience,” the doctor we have here seems to be ruining it. Karli has little-to-no trust in him at this point in time, less than four weeks from doomsday the due date. At our appointment this morning, Karli learned that he forgot to tell her that she tested positive for a UTI back in December at her first appointment and that he forgot to give her the prescription she needed. Oops. Put that on top of his habit for saying things like “there’s traces of protein in your urine” without telling her what that means, if it’s good or bad, if she should be worried, and this guy is turning out to be more hinderance than help.

**UPDATE: Karli informed me that I forgot the most important part—that she found out about the UTI because she was supposed to get her Group B Strep test today. When the doctor was about to get all up in there, he said, “We don’t need to do the GSB test because she’s already tested positive for that.” It made Karli sit straight up with her dead-eye look on—the one I know means I did something stupid and I’m going to get yelled at—and she said, “I tested positive for what now?” That’s when the discussion came in about the UTI that she had apparently gotten a prescription for in December. During which Karli informed him that she’d remember having a UTI and having to take pills for it. After which he gave her the prescription. Seven. Months. Later.**

Luckily, Karli’s sister is a doctor, so she can call her to get a second opinion and explanations the doctor doesn’t provide after every appointment. His other patients probably aren’t so fortunate.

When we first started this little journey, I wondered why the waiting room always seemed to be filled with Medicare patients and teen moms and people too illiterate to read the condom directions, and we seemed to be the only people in there with “real” jobs. I wondered if the only people around here who got pregnant worked at the Taco Bell after school. I’ve now come to realize, through talking to people and observing, that the other people—the ones you see in What to Expect When You’re Expecting—drive the two hours to go to the doctor in Tulsa.

Oh well—you live, you learn. Guess we’ll have to focus less on the “experience” and more on the nice parting gift.