Mano!
Creative Commons License photo credit: c r z

My friend and former college roommate, Christian, posted a piece on his blog yesterday entitled ‘What Makes a Good Mother? Not Her Breasts’.  In this self-admitted ‘rant’, he talked about the recent formula recall by Simulac, enacted because some containers didn’t meet their quality standards (The manufacturer, Abbott, was concerned that beatles may have come in contact with the formula at one of their packaging plants).  Christian then segued into a discussion of breastfeeding vs. formula feeding.

Apparently, this is what you do when you want to incite your readers.

His normally quiet blog space was quickly descended upon by supporters of both views, and they quickly took to passionate defenses.  Luckily, in this debate, there was very little name-calling, and the discussion stayed pretty civil.  This is not always the case.

The whole thing reminded me of discussions with my wife shortly before the birth of the Monkeyling.  There were so many things to be decided before the birth of our son, and breastfeeding was just one more topic to broach.  I knew there were two camps of thought when it came to feeding our child – breastfeeding and formula-feeding.  Honestly, I knew from the beginning the approach we would take, so there wasn’t a lot for my wife and I to talk about on that subject; she would breastfeed our son, because it was the the best option for him.  We both did a lot of googling about breastfeeding and read lots of reports/accounts showing the myriad benefits to breastfeeding your baby.  Not just assumed benefits: ones with actual scientific evidence to support them.

Kids who are breastfed exclusively for their first six months of life are believed to have healthier immune systems, fewer health issues, more balanced behavior, and the ability to jump over buildings up to ten stories in height.  Okay, I may have made one of those up.  Breastfeeding also makes for smarter children, the studies showed (Sources: World Health Organization (WHO) and the US Center for Disease Control (CDC)).  Couple that evidence with our desires to raise our son as ‘naturally’ as possible – without chemicals and pills and drugs, etc. – the decision was as close to a no-brainer as there is.

And, luckily, our son took to the breast with very little difficulty.  He successfully breastfed from my wife for almost a year before he decided that he was done with it, and started refusing the breast.  It doesn’t take long for the milk to go away, then, so we had to move to formula for a while to supplement the regular food he was eating for a couple of months.

It was around that time that we were looking into supplemental nutrition, and figuring out how to make sure our little Monkeyling got all of the stuff he needed from what he was ingesting.  When doing this, I came across lots of accounts from mothers and fathers who hadn’t been able to breastfeed, and had to go alternate routes in order to feed their kids.  And it made me realize I had taken some things for granted: that my child would automatically want to take to the breast, and that my wife would be able to feed him without any trouble.

That discussion yesterday on Christian’s blog, as well as discussions I’ve had with my wife since, prompted me to write this little piece.  My wife wrote a piece about alternative options to breasfeeding for her chiropractic clinic.  It’s an interesting read that I recommend.

Now, I will give my stance on breastfeeding  (as a husband and as a dad of one breastfed child) and then I want to hear from you all in the comments with your thoughts, views, etc.  Just promise to leave the hateful name-calling and other vitriole at home.

Breastfeeding is natural.  After seeing first-hand how beautiful this practice is and how amazingly connected it made my wife feel to our son, I know we won’t go any other way with our future children, if possible.  The key words there are if possible.  Of course there may be something that will come up to make us re-think our approach.  Perhaps our next child will not like breastfeeding, or perhaps my wife will be physically unable to nurse the next time.  Nothing is ever set in stone.  And our job as parents is to react to those sort of situations and make the best of them.  But, if at all possible, we’re just far too happy with all the benefits that come along with breastfeeding our children.

I realize that not everyone will have the same luck we did when getting our son to breastfeed.  Some mothers experience so much pain and discomfort that they’re never able to get past it to nurse their children.  Other moms are “non-traditional”, by which I mean they adopted their child or are step-mothers or something along those lines, and have no breastmilk to give.  Obviously these mothers can still be amazing, wonderful mothers – breastfeeding is not the determining criteria of what makes a great mom.

What I find strange is this:  Most people consider breastfeeding to be the norm with their child.  You have a child, you breastfeed it, unless something else changes that plan.  But, the reality is that only 40% of children are exclusively breastfed from birth until age six (Source: WHO).  Forty percent!!  So, you have a majority of parents giving their children formula, but at the same time, they think they’re in the minority, and therefore feel a little guilty about doing so.  I think that guilt often finds it’s way out in the form of defensiveness and unease with the subject.  And that shouldn’t be the case!

I think a lot more parents can breastfeed than do.  I think there are a lot of people who choose formula for their child because it’s easier on their lifestyle.  It’s easier to make a bottle than it is to go through the breastfeeding process.  It’s easier to give a bottle than to have to pump the milk or be nearby so that if the child is hungry, they can gave them a feeding.  Breastfeeding and/or pumping milk interrupts work schedules and social schedules and is a difficult thing to do.  But, it’s still the natural thing to do…and is the best way to do it, if at all possible.

The other side of that, obviously, is the group of parents who have tried and want to breastfeed, but for whatever reason cannot.  And my heart goes out to them..it truly does.  It hurt me to hear about the guilt that Christian’s wife felt when she was unable to breastfeed her daughters.  It has to be a very difficult thing to hear your child crying and know you can’t provide for them in the way that you want to.  But, these are the people that formula was designed for.  When you can’t make the milk or the baby won’t take it despite repeated attempts at feeding, then formula is a wonderful fall-back.  We’re truly fortunate to be in a time where technology allows for us to care for our children like this.  (Christian wrote a follow-up post to his earlier piece, and I think it hammers home his points, which are all valid)

But I think more people use it to return to a lifestyle that’s more convenient for them.  And by doing so, I think they rob their children of some very important things.  Perhaps not intentionally and certainly not maliciously, but it happens.  And with some forethought and preparation, giving your child breastmilk as an alternative is often an option.  And, if possible, should be one more often.

Now for the important part:  what do YOU think of the debate?  Where do you land in it, and what is your reasoning?  Keep things civil and respectful, please, but I want to hear all of your thoughts on this polarizing subject.

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Golden Knights Kick Off OpenCamp Dallas

On August 27, 2010, in technology, by Ben

Tonight I went to the commencement party of the OpenCamp Dallas.  To say that it was a lot of fun would be taking something away from the experience.  The SouthWest’s first multi-platform web conference kicked off with a performance by the U.S. Army’s Golden Knights.

If you’re not familiar with the Golden Knights, don’t feel bad.  I was only somewhat acquainted with their background going into tonight’s performance.  After seeing their skills first hand, I have to say – it’s quite an experience!

I brought my Vado HD along for the ride, and took some video of the performance.  I hope you enjoy.  Here are the first two parts:
Part 1:

Part 2:

After the jumps, John Pozadzides (one of the big organizers behind OpenCamp Dallas) addressed the assembled crowd:

I talked with John a bit more privately after he addressed everyone as a group (sorry for the quality of video – it got dark pretty quickly, and I didn’t have a light source to help me out):

I also got a chance to speak with the beautiful and talented Cali Lewis while I was there. If you’re not familiar with Cali at all, she’s the talent and drive behind the popular GeekBrief.tv web series that ran for many years, and is now the host of GeekBeat.tv at Revision 3. She made a jump with the Golden Knights yesterday (August 26th if you’re keeping track for some reason), and shared her experience with me:

That’s all for now! Hope you enjoyed the video…I’ll keep you abreast of the fun new things I’m picking up this weekend on Twitter, at the very least. I might have another post before the end of the weekend, too. You never know.

 

Making Something Out of Nothing

On August 23, 2010, in friends, writing, by Ben

Circled words, arrows, spiral notebook
Creative Commons License photo credit: juliejordanscott

Last week, a fellow writer and all-around stand-up guy that I follow – Danny Evans – decided to start an ‘online support group’ of sorts.  This group would be comprised of writers who wanted to start writing more often and needed some support and encouragement.  Here’s how he put it:

Here’s what you need to do to participate:

  1. Decide that it’s finally time to stop talking about writing a book someday and actually do it.
  2. Leave a comment at the end of this post declaring yourself part of this writing group.
  3. Commit to writing 500 words per day, everyday.
  4. Log off and write 500 words, today.

Since I needed to get off my duff and actually do some writing, I promptly put my name in the comments field at the end of his article and decided to actually do something.  Of course, life got in the way immediately, and I wasn’t able to get in my 500 words that day.  But, I didn’t slack off or give up on the idea…I put in that time the next night.  And the night after that.  And the one after that.

That brings us to today:  my fourth consecutive night of putting 500 (or more) words to disk.  And, this is the first time I’ve dedicated some of my promised 500 words to a project outside of the one that I’ve unexpectedly begun.  I wanted to share with you a bit of my excitement.  I’m beginning a project that kind of came out of nowhere, and it’s exciting and exhilarating and daunting and scary, all at the same time.

I’ve begun my first novel.

I don’t want to give out too much so far, but there will come a time in the next few months that I’ll be sharing bits and pieces, at least.  I really like the story (or idea of one) that I have, and the goal of 500 words a day keeps me motivated to keep chopping away at it bit by bit.  I have an entire outline of the story completed, a couple of scenes already with a bit of meat in them, and 8 characters written…with an idea of how those characters will interact in the story.

This is further than I’ve ever gotten with the notion of writing a piece of fiction.  At least, further than I’ve gotten since my high school creative writing class back in Bangor, Maine.  Those days in Mrs. Christakos’ class were heady ones, for sure.  The inspiration rolled in from many sources: homegrown and those culled from my classmates.  The words went to paper pretty easily, and I didn’t trouble myself with the invented roadblocks I’ve discovered since.  There are times now that I’m able to re-capture that ease of writing.  Usually, they come after hockey games when there’s been a particularly compelling storyline, and I get to share it with other hockey fans.  And I have moments here and there with my personal writing as well…displayed here on this site (there are plenty of misses here, too, but I’m not going to get into all of that).

Now, I’m really excited to be writing some fiction again.

So, thanks very much Danny.  I appreciate the spur onward. I’m going to keep knocking on your website’s door, looking for that same kind of inspiration I used to get in creative writing class.  And I’ll be looking at my friends, some of whom have also been bitten by writing bugs, and taking from their examples.  And I’ll be looking deep inside myself and my imagination, where these new characters I’ve just met over the last few days live.  Getting to know them should be fun.  I’ll keep you all posted!

 

Me and my Little Monkey, just before his 1st birthday in August of 2008.

My son turned three this last weekend.  Three-years old.  I’ve caught myself thinking about those words a few times over the last couple of weeks.  Three years.  It seems like such a short period of time.  I mean, in the grand scheme of things, it really is a short period of time.  But it’s amazing what those fast-flying years can encompass.

Three years ago, we brought him back from the hospital.  He was tiny and frail, and I kept thinking I was going to hold him wrong or bend something the wrong way.  It was insane to think that my wife and I had been put in charge of this little human being.  Mostly, because it was ME (my wife would have done fine regardless).  I sometimes had tenuous control of my own life…and now I was one of the people entrusted with someone else’s?  That realization can do powerful things, I think.  It makes you think about what you want in life: what’s important and what you’re doing with yourself.  It makes you take the focus off of “you” and even your significant other, for a while at least, and realize that there’s something bigger now.

I made a promise to my son in those first couple of days he was in our house.  I promised that, no matter what happened in life, no matter how crazy it was in our house, I would be there for him.  It didn’t matter what he did that might anger or disappoint others, I would always be there for him.  Unconditionally.  I know, it’s pretty cheesy – I think a lot of parents think those thoughts and mean them – but I said it out loud to him.  I said it while holding and rocking him one night, trying to calm him when he was upset, and I meant every last syllable of the words I spoke.

As he gets older, he tries to test me on my resolve.  He does things for sheer spite, it seems at times.  He fights me and pushes me and makes me so angry I feel myself turning red.  But I’m never really angry at him; only his emotions and actions.  And he can turn that anger away quickly with a quick smile and a laugh, or a familiar phrase.  It’s amazing, really.

I’m beginning to realize that these early years of his truly are fleeting.  Three years.  In the grand scheme of things, it’s a drop in the bucket…but they fly by quickly.  So I’ll soak in the morning naps on the couch with him.  I’ll cherish the times he comes to me and asks don’t I want to go to his room and play legos?  I’ll hang on to the cute way he says certain things (“Is that a good idea?” after every idea he comes up with, for example).  I’ll savor the way he tells his mother that sometimes he just wants “Daddy Time”, and wants her to go away so we can hang out together.  I am hanging on to it all…because the last three years sometimes feel like a blur.  But they’re some of the best of my life.

Happy birthday, little monkey.

 

I’m Back!

On January 15, 2010, in epiphanies, by Ben

Stephen King’s book “On Writing” is one of my favorite pieces on the craft that I’ve read.  Not because it’s the best book on the subject, or because he’s come up with some new approach to the art that no one else has, or that he is able to distill his talent down into words and give you a formula for success.  To me, it was because it spoke to me the way I needed to be spoken to at the time.  There were two basic rules (and I’m paraphrasing horribly here, and you should really read the book if you’re curious about what he has to say, because I’m sure to mangle it just a bit).  The two basic rules are 1. Write, no matter what it’s about, and just make sure you do it regularly.  And, 2. A good writer is also a good reader.  You just can’t gain perspective or see how other people find success with words without consuming them yourself.

For the last year or so, I’ve poured myself pretty heavily into my hockey website.  I’m very proud of it and what’s become, and it’s allowed me to interact with the sport I love in a way I’ve missed since my days with the newspaper.  So, I’m really glad for the opportunities there.  But, it doesn’t allow me to express myself creatively very often.  In addition to the website, I’ve also written pretty heavily on Twitter and Facebook.  Both of these products are a great way to express my thoughts and insights, and share interesting web things.  But, they also tend to take away material for blog posts.

So, after trying to figure out how to reconcile the two, and still find material for blogging without resorting to e-mail prompts with suggestions about what to write about, I’ve gone back to the first of King’s rules I listed above – just write.  I’ll give that a shot and see where it leads me.  If you follow me on twitter and/or facebook, and find some of the stuff I put in here repetitive…well, sorry.  That’s just how it may be from time to time.  But, I will do my best to keep plenty of material (thoughts/stories/etc.) for here that I don’t post in other places – after all – it’s hard to truly tell a story on Twitter or Facebook.

 

A Small Life Update

On August 24, 2009, in family, friends, hockey, sports, by Ben

Nietzsche
Creative Commons License photo credit: Robert S. Donovan

Yet another site design.  I think it was needed this time, though.  The latest experiment with the site, allowing visitors to contribute and have it flow in a conversational kind of manner was mostly a flop.  At least for now.  I think I need to share a bit more and build up a rapport with you folks before that sort of effort will be truly successful.

So, aside from that, it’s been a busy summer at Casa del Monkey.  The Little Monkey’s birthday was just over a week ago, and we had a fun time throwing a party for him.  He celebrated it in style, of course.  I’ll try and get a couple of pictures up of that shortly.  This past weekend, we attended a party at a friend’s house, and that was really nice.  We have realized we don’t get out as much as we need to.

I’m slowly working my way through my “Summer Reading List”.  I asked my Facebook friends to submit 1 or 2 of their favorite books to me, and built a summer reading list around the submissions I received.  Well, it’s probably more aptly titled a “2009 Reading List”, because it’s going to take me at least until the end of the year to finish this, and probably into next year as well.  But, it’s been enjoyable reading thus far.  Currently, I’m reading Now I Can Die in Peace: How ESPN’s Sports Guy Found Salvation, with a Little Help from Nomar, Pedro, Shawshank, and the 2004 Red Sox. It’s a really great read.  I’d read Bill Simmons before, in ESPN’s magazine, I think, but I hadn’t really gotten a good dose of his work.  It’s really good reading, especially if you’re a sports fan from New England.  Which, HEY!  I am.

Aside from that, I’ve been working on the Other Website, which if you haven’t checked out, and you’re a fan of hockey, please do!  I think you’ll enjoy it.  We’re going to be rolling into hockey season in the next month or so, and things are really going to pick up there, I think.  I’m a strange mixture of nervous and excited.  Which feeling is prevailing depends on the day.

 

A Tall Drink of Water

On July 7, 2009, in family, work, by Ben

Summer nights - 170/365
Creative Commons License photo credit: tranchis

Just getting a chance to settle down after yet another very busy day. Sometimes it’s just wonderful to be able to sit down with a big mug of water, feel the A/C flowing over you, and catch your breath when the day has been “go, go, go!”  That’s where I’m at right now.

Things over at my other blog have been really busy.  But, it’s a busy I really enjoy.  Tasting some success in the blogosphere is very nice when you’ve been working at getting yourself out there for so long.  I thought that one day I might build my personal blog into something that would have lots of readers, but it turns out that my ‘hobby blog’ was what did it.  Either way, it’s very nice.  I’m getting the interactive communication that I was hoping I would, and learning lots of new ways to make it more successful.  So, if you haven’t gotten to look at it, please go take a look!

The day job is keeping me pretty busy when I’m not reporting on all things hockey.  Usually the summer is pretty quiet, as we had mostly supported the universities in the past, and their summer class enrollments are quite smaller than the Fall and Spring.  But, with referrals pouring in from Apple pretty regularly, we’re really keeping steady work in the shop.  It’s enjoyable, but makes me appreciate when I can relax and just have some time to myself, for sure.

Family life keeps me busy when I’m not occupied with those other things.  I love that, though.  I don’t get to spend enough time with my wife and son, really.  But, we grab the moments we can.  This last weekend was great; we sat at home, had family over on Saturday for a big cookout, and then spent Sunday doing absolutely nothing.  Other than enjoying each others’ company…which was wonderful.

 

Trying out a brand new theme on WordPress. I think I’m going to go with it and tweak it, to make it work how I want. But I saw it this weekend at WordCamp Dallas, and really liked it. What do you all think? It’s pretty interactive, so comment away and see how everything comes up in-line with this post. Thanks!

 

As You Wish…

On March 29, 2009, in movies, random, reminiscing, by Ben

princessbrideTonight, my wife and I decided to enjoy one of our favorite movies after the Little Monkey had gone to bed.  We put in the Princess Bride, and watched until we were both overcome with fatigue.  The decision to watch the movie  came about because of a random quote I had made the other day (as I’m known to do), and she says it’s been in her head ever since.

It has taken me back to the first time I watched the movie – gathered with some friends in my best friend’s bedroom, on the night Andre the Giant passed away.  I think I was one of the last to see the film, but then, I led a pretty sheltered movie-watching existence in my younger years.  I can honestly say it wasn’t my favorite movie after watching it, but it held the #2 spot very solidly.  #1 is, and always has been, Monty Python and the Holy Grail.  But, what is not to love about the Princess Bride?  As the grandpa says – “Fencing, fighting, torture, revenge, giants, monsters, chases, escapes, true love, miracles..”  It’s great stuff.  I fell in love with it immediately, and have treasured it ever since.  It’s one of those movies I will watch every few months, just because it’s always enjoyable.

A few of my favorite quotes:

  • Inigo:  Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.
  • Fezzik: You never said anything about killing anyone.
    Vizzini: I’ve hired you to help me start a war. It’s an prestigious line of work, with a long and glorious tradition.
    Fezzik: I just don’t think it’s right, killing an innocent girl.
    Vizzini: Am I going MAD, or did the word “think” escape your lips? You were not hired for your brains, you hippopotamic land mass.
    Inigo Montoya: I agree with Fezzik.
    Vizzini: Oh, the sot has spoken. What happens to her is not truly your concern. I will kill her. And remember this, never forget this: when I found you, you were so slobbering drunk, you couldn’t buy Brandy!
    [turning to Fezzik]
    Vizzini: And you: friendless, brainless, helpless, hopeless! Do you want me to send you back to where you were? Unemployed in Greenland!
  • [Vizzini has just cut the rope The Dread Pirate Roberts is climbing up]
    Vizzini: HE DIDN’T FALL? INCONCEIVABLE.
    Inigo Montoya: You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.
  • Inigo Montoya: Who are you?
    Westley: No one of consequence.
    Inigo Montoya: I must know…
    Westley: Get used to disappointment.
    Inigo Montoya: ‘kay.
  • Westley: Who are you? Are we enemies? Why am I on this wall? Where is Buttercup?
    Inigo Montoya: Let me ‘splain.
    [pause]
    Inigo Montoya: No, there is too much. Let me sum up. Buttercup is marry’ Humperdinck in a little less than half an hour. So all we have to do is get in, break up the wedding, steal the princess, make our escape… after I kill Count Rugen.
    Westley: That doesn’t leave much time for dilly-dallying.
    Fezzik: You just wiggled your finger. That’s wonderful.
    Westley: I’ve always been a quick healer.
  • Prince Humperdinck: First things first, to the death.
    Westley: No. To the pain.
    Prince Humperdinck: I don’t think I’m quite familiar with that phrase.
    Westley: I’ll explain and I’ll use small words so that you’ll be sure to understand, you warthog faced buffoon.
    Prince Humperdinck: That may be the first time in my life a man has dared insult me.
    Westley: It won’t be the last. To the pain means the first thing you will lose will be your feet below the ankles. Then your hands at the wrists. Next your nose.
    Prince Humperdinck: And then my tongue I suppose, I killed you too quickly the last time. A mistake I don’t mean to duplicate tonight.
    Westley: I wasn’t finished. The next thing you will lose will be your left eye followed by your right.
    Prince Humperdinck: And then my ears, I understand let’s get on with it.
    Westley: WRONG. Your ears you keep and I’ll tell you why. So that every shriek of every child at seeing your hideousness will be yours to cherish. Every babe that weeps at your approach, every woman who cries out, “Dear God! What is that thing,” will echo in your perfect ears. That is what to the pain means. It means I leave you in anguish, wallowing in freakish misery forever.
    Prince Humperdinck: I think your bluffing.
    Westley: It’s possible, Pig, I might be bluffing. It’s conceivable, you miserable, vomitous mass, that I’m only lying here because I lack the strength to stand. But, then again… perhaps I have the strength after all.
    [slowly rises and points sword directly at the prince]
    Westley: DROP… YOUR… SWORD!
    [mouth hanging open, drops sword to floor]

And…lastly, but certainly not leastly:

 

Back to the Cute

On February 16, 2009, in family, monkeyling, pictures, by Ben
I make this look *good*

I make this look *good*

The Little Monkey decided to help his mom out with the cooking last weekend, and I snapped off a few pictures, because…well…he looked like this.  Mrs. Monkey insists that he’s a big help in the kitchen, but I think she secretly just likes to see him covered in various ingredients.  Luckily, this time, it was pretty straight-forward-ly chocolate, which all comes off with a bit of water and cooperation from the child.  Which, as you might guess, is where I ran into difficulty.  Apparently he thought that chocolate was a good look for him, and I could just go climb a tree if I thought that I was going to come after him with a wash rag and change all of that.  After a small bit of chasing, and a rather one-sided conversation that involved me trying to convince him he’d be much happier without the layer of chocolate surrounding the lower half of his face, he allowed me to start the cleanup process.  Which, in itself, was pretty interesting.  During the course of feeding himself spoon after spoon of leftover chocolate cupcake batter (no eggs, so it was pretty harmless), he managed to lodge it in lots of fun places.

Did I get any on me?

Did I get any on me?

If you look closely, you can see a sizeable amount of the goop-like batter surrounding his right nostril.  You might be inclined to think that it stayed just on the outside of said nostril.  Those leaning towards that inclination would be wrong.  Oh, it was up there.  My guess is that he had the spoon there and inhaled…snorting chocolate at age 1.5….  Where did my parenting go wrong??

What’s truly funny is that he didn’t complain at all.  Apparently, it’s not an uncomfortable sensation, because he was pretty happy to go about his business consuming the chocolate if I’d just leave him alone.  But, being the parent, it’s my job to crush all happiness now, and so his bowl and spoon licking activities were at an end for the day.  But, they did make for some cute pictures.  Good to enjoy now, and possibly when he invites his date over to meet the parents one day in high school…  Nah, I wouldn’t do that.  That’s what “first bath” pictures are for.