21st Century Dad
One Dad's Thoughts, Ideas, and Feelings.
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Goodbye Portnoy

July 23rd, 2008 . by 21st Century Dad

Some of you already know that Portnoy has not been doing well. At the vet’s recommendation, we were planning to have him put down after a few days, so we could say our goodbyes. Fortunately, he wasn’t in pain, just feeling “blah” all the time due to anemia. I was afraid that I would find him curled up in a dark and quiet corner of our house. My fears were confirmed on Tuesday.

Portnoy and his litter mates were abandoned at a construction site. One of our friends took them in and found new homes for each of them. Portnoy found his way into our home and our hearts in November of 2006.

Dream Theater - Greatest Hit (...and 21 other pretty cool songs)

Portnoy is named after Mike Portnoy, the drummer from Dream Theater. I have been a fan of the band for over 15 years, having seen them in concert multiple times. I have even met Portnoy’s namesake on a few occasions. He was always friendly and outgoing, just like the cat named after one of progressive rock’s greatest drummers.

Shortly after bringing Portnoy home, we arranged for a checkup with the vet. This is when we learned that he has the feline leukemia virus (FeLV). At first, we were admonished for taking such a cat in, but the vet fell in love with him too. We were told that his odds of surviving the first year were slim. He lived to be almost two years old.

Portnoy loved to groom himself

Portnoy loved to groom himself

Kittens are fast little buggers. They’re hard to catch. He seemed to teleport from one part of the room to another, so we called him “Teleportnoy.” We started appending names and words with “noy.”

  • While Renee was pregnant, I called her “Pregnoy.”
  • When Twilli would go on her serial breastfeeding binges, we’d call her the “Nursenoy.”
  • Portnoy started off as the smallest of the three cats, but grew to be quite large. Sometimes we called him “Biggernoy.”

Portnoy's ComplaintOne question we often got was, “does he complain a lot?” Most people know the title of the Philip Roth novel, “Portnoy’s Complaint,” but don’t know the story. It’s one of those quips that get diluted with repetition, just like the E.T. references I endured all through grade school. Those who actually know the story got a hearty laugh when I said, “no, he doesn’t complain, but we were sure to get him neutered.”

This is especially difficult for me since Portnoy is the first cat I’ve known since he was a little kitten. I never had pets growing up, but got introduced to James and Boo when I met Renee. I call them my “step-cats.”

Renee thought a kitten might allow Boo to call upon her maternal instincts. Instead, James took on the parent/mentor role with Portnoy and they became best buddies. James and Portnoy slept at the foot of our bed every night.

Portnoy enjoys his nap.

Portnoy enjoys his nap.

Portnoy will be missed. He was such a great cat.

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Has it Really Been 9 Months?

May 8th, 2008 . by 21st Century Dad

Twilli - then and nowRenee posted about Twilli reaching the 9 month mark today. We acknowledge this milestone on the 7th of each month.

Every expectant couple hears, “it goes by so fast.” Sometimes it’s followed by, “take lots of pictures.”

To commemorate the milestone, I used to set up the whole Strobist rig and dress her in a nice outfit. I haven’t done that this month… or last month. The number of photos I take of Twilli is on a downward trend. Maybe I just get a higher percentage of “keepers.”

Our video coverage has been spotty. It will have to step up soon. Twilli is quickly approaching the day she will take her first real steps. Just like we were ready with the “baby bag” during the last month of pregnancy, we must keep a video camera in a high state of readiness.

Sometimes I feel like I’ve neglected my family duty by not taking more photos. I have more digital imaging horsepower at my disposal than most of my peers. Now I realize I’d rather have a few great photos of my children than a bunch of mediocre ones.

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A New Father and a New Man

March 6th, 2008 . by 21st Century Dad

Every expectant father is told that it’s a profound, life-changing experience. I thought, “well, duh! Isn’t it obvious?” No matter how much you know and how forthcoming all your male friends are, there are still surprises. You can read The Expectant Father, scour the internet, and talk to every man you know with a child. Fatherhood is definitely one of those things you learn on the job.

Everyone knows you change. Some of those changes happen right away, as if switch was flipped. Other changes take longer.

Some changes happen immediately. This is the revolution.

  • You pay closer attention while driving. South Florida drivers are among the worst in the US!
  • Your routine is shattered. Everything you’re used to doing is suddenly different.
  • You feel this incredible rush of unconditional love for your child.

Other changes come gradually. This is evolution.

  • I’m becoming much more interested in health and wellness.
  • Making healthier choices when eating is much more important.
  • I’ve lost interest in caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol.
  • Anything risky (financial, personal, physical) is evaluated more carefully before engaging in it.
  • I’ve always had a passing interest in ecologically sound practices. That level of interest has increased.

There is an overall shift in your thinking, your attitude toward life, toward people, and toward the world. There are some choices that I never thought I would make:

  • We followed our friend Caroline’s advice to use a midwife. I always imagined a hospital birth. I’m so glad we chose natural childbirth instead. If you are expecting, I urge you to consider using a midwife.
  • Renee and I weren’t even aware of infant potty training until she stumbled across the concept after Twilli was born. Now we are semi-successful practitioners. We’re using about half as many diapers now.
  • Renee remembers when her brother was in cloth diapers. Those memories aren’t pleasant. Now that we are doing infant potty training (or elimination communication), it’s apparent why cloth diapers and IPT/EC go hand-in-hand.

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Taking Some of the Step out of the Stepchild

February 7th, 2008 . by 21st Century Dad

The Guitar Hero - 4Yesterday was the Au-Teen’s birthday. I can’t believe he’s 14! He’s been part of my life for over two years already. We got along great from the very beginning, but we’re still forging our relationship, getting to know each other, and growing closer.

He was living with his grandparents when I first met Renee, so there was an opportunity for us to behave like a childless couple for a little while. When Renee and I first realized we were in it for the long haul, I encouraged her to tell me as much as possible about him.

One day, Renee shared some key facts about Au-Teen. My response was, “I’ve known this kid all my life!” That’s when my doubts were cast aside. I knew this blended family thing could work.

Somehow I knew it was important to learn as much as I could. Being a step-parent has a new layer of difficulty. It’s like getting a new video game, chucking the manual aside, skipping the training mode or tutorials, and jumping in at the medium or difficult level.

I didn’t want to be the stereotypical stepfather. I spent a lifetime bucking stereotypes. Why stop here? When the plans were finalized to become a blended family, I was ecstatic. I knew I had to step up my own level of accountability. I would face the challenge of becoming a better man every day.

Renee and I spent almost a year together as a childless couple. We enjoyed the time immensely. At the end of May 2006, it was like she gave birth to a fully-grown 12 year old boy!

Most 12 year old boys have 4 years of life experience repeated 3 times. He is going to leave tasks half-completed or totally neglected. That’s what they do. He’s going to prefer video games and comic books to something an adult would consider more intellectually nourishing.

It wasn’t smooth sailing like I had hoped. The difficulties I have with Au-Teen aren’t unique to a stepchild. He’s a very normal and very healthy teenager. The almighty “T” is running through his veins. Playing the XBox ranks a little higher on his list than scooping the litter box.

We’ve both made conscious and unconscious efforts toward bonding with each other. I played the original Mortal Kombat before he was even born. Now he and I enjoy some virtual sparring. I did it when I was younger, and now I’m introducing it to him. He’s not much of a sports fan, but he does like hockey now. He couldn’t tell you too any player’s names except Olli Jokinen, but he never turns down an invitation to a Panthers game. He thought it was a big deal when I let him wear my jersey. Au-Teen has picked up the guitar and he’s progressing nicely. I want to believe that I had something to do with sparking his interest in it.

Renee is a full-blown advocate of attachment parenting. It places a lot of demands on her. Naturally, I end up taking care of many of Au-Teen’s needs. I drive him to karate class and Civil Air Patrol meetings. He gets free guitar lessons from me. Our music tastes cross over much more than it does with Renee’s. I remain the lone country fan in the house… I still have Twilli, heheheheh.

I’m playing catch-up. Renee had a 12 year head start on me. I’ve never questioned my decision to be in this relationship. Maybe that’s why it’s so infuriating when Au-Teen does something boneheaded. I’m stuck with the kid. I’m glad that I am. He’s not perfect, and neither am I. We’re getting along just fine, just like a father and his son.

Biracial Children and The Issues They Face

December 31st, 2007 . by admin

Growing up in South Florida, I had very little contact with other Asians. Being picked on for being Asian wasn’t exactly positive reinforcement. I ended up “whitewashed” as a result. I’ve encountered many people who didn’t know what to think because I didn’t fit some stereotype. The defenestration of preconceived notions happened regularly.

I’ve always been attracted to caucasian women. I never thought it was weird. It was just a matter of time before I ended up with a biracial child.

Knowing the probabilities, I still never gave much thought to the issues that interracial couples and their children face until now. After some research, I unearthed something shocking. Rob Schneider is part Filipino!

Yes, that is shocking, considering the criticism he’s received for negative portrayals of Asians and Pacific Islanders. But the real eye-opener for me was the story of Hines Ward and others like him.

I am not a fan of American football, so I knew nothing of Hines Ward. Despite this, I can assure you that my testosterone levels are high enough. For those of you who are in the same camp as I am, Hines Ward is a wide receiver for the Pittsburgh Steelers, and currently one of the league’s best at that position.

Hines Ward was born to a Korean mother and an African American father in Seoul, South Korea. The family left Korea due to the prejudice and discrimination endured by people of mixed ethnicity. Ward would not escape discrimination in America either.

One Superbowl title and MVP award later, Ward and his mother made a triumphant return to his homeland. Once shunned, they were given the red carpet treatment wherever they went. Throughout his visit, he arranged “hope sharing” meetings with multiracial Korean children and championed social change. He created the Hines Ward Helping Hands Foundation to help mixed-race children like himself.

The discrimination faced by hapas was a shock to me. I don’t have regular contact with other Koreans, so I wasn’t aware of this attitude. I socialize with an eclectic crowd that embraces diversity. The unconditional love I feel for my daughter and the warm reception she has received by all who have met her is such a stark contrast to the way hapas are treated in Korea.

I was taunted and teased throughout elementary school, but it was mild compared to what Hines Ward endured. Perhaps being “whitewashed” almost makes me a hapa by proxy. Through the Hines Ward Helping Hands Foundation (where is your website, dude?!?!), Pearl S. Buck International, and our own individual efforts, I have hope that Twilli will only have anecdotal knowledge of racial intolerance.

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