Jace At 15 Months

My little Jace turned 15 months old yesterday. Since I’m a first time father I have no idea when you stop counting in months and adhere strictly to years, but 15 months sounds better than 1 year, 3 months or 1 & 1/3 years old.

At 15 months he’s walking great, and even starting to carry stuff around when he walks. He talks frequently, but the words are indistinguishable. We’ve been working on da-da (dad) and gaja (the Korean word for “let’s go”). But it all pretty much runs together. He also does high-fives, claps and does the Vegas version of goodbye, which looks a suspiciously like a guy waving “Stay” at a blackjack table more than a wave goodbye.

His 15-month checkup validated my fear that he is not growing as fast as he should be. He’s is 20 pounds, 1 ounce and 29 inches long. Those two measurements are good in relation to one another, but the bottom of the scale as far as his age. I am hoping for a growth spurt. His stature has proved to be a boon in the clothes department. His 9 month clothes lasted well into his 13 month and he still has room to grow into his 12 month clothes. I’m getting great value on the Iron Man, Batman and Superman shirts I bought for him at Target.

On the positive side, his cranium is huge just like his father’s large noggin.

Jace is starting to assert his dominion over his canine pal, Ace. He’s not afraid of wrestling for toys with him. He’s not afraid of tug-of-war. He’s not afraid of much of anything. He’s become a daredevil who seeks out things to crawl onto to get to higher things. He also has a penchant for turning around feet first to get down from things and dropping to his feet. He is still a monkey.

He goes to school (daycare) four half-days per week. He loves his school and his friends there. He never cries when I leave him and he often isn’t ready to leave when he’s picked up. He is a gentle soul who loves to be around other people.

Tomorrow, we go for the car seat upgrade. He’s getting a little too big for his original car seat, though I am thrilled it lasted him 15 months.

Jace is one-of-a-kind, and I am lucky he’s my son.

 

The Changes Keep Coming

The year 2014 will definitely be one of the biggest roller coasters of my life.

I started the year out intentionally unemployed, as I had taken a buyout from my dead end job at a previous company so I could get back to working as an entrepreneur. My ex-girlfriend was pregnant with my child. My new dog, Ace, was shredding everything he could get his teeth and claws on.

I was definitely embracing the lessons I learned in Jon Acuff book “Quitter” and the nine weeks of classes I took for Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University.

I even found this amazing inspiration video that I loved watching over and over.

I was setting myself up for a great year.


Pregnancy is hard on women, hard on couples. It is especially hard when the couple is not actually together. They are just two people having a child together.

To say those last seven months of pregnancy were challenging was a gross understatement. There were times when I was threatened that I would never see my child. That he wouldn’t have my last name. There were times when I thought we were going to have to go Family Court to settle things.

We were both at fault. She was going through the normal pregnancy feelings and emotions. I had taken a job working graveyard shift as a poker supervisor. I hadn’t worked graveyard since I was a night stocker at a Hy-Vee in Marshalltown Iowa in the late 1980s. The 1-9AM shift, the pregnancy stress and the baby preparations all contributed to me barely keeping it together emotionally.

I was so ready for this little guy to come out.

Jace and Ace hanging out together on the couch.
Jace and Ace hanging out together on the couch.

Then things went from bad to worse. Little Jace Allen Harberts spent 49 days in the NICU overcoming a few health problems. It was tortuous. Driving up to see him twice a day to spend maybe 30 minutes each time then trying to plow through an 8-hour graveyard shift with him on my mind every moment.


In the last quarter of the 2014 things have gotten better. Jace is healthy and happy. He is growing up to be a beautiful, strong boy.

My relationship with my son is great. He is going to be a great man. We struggle at times because a 45 year old man doesn’t have a clue what to do with a four-month old baby when he’s all alone and the kid is screaming. But I walk him around, I beg, I plead, I cry along sometimes and we make it through.

Jace learning to watch football like a pro. Laying on the couch in Daddy's spot.
Jace learning to watch football like a pro. Laying on the couch in Daddy’s spot.

I set a goal to get off the graveyard shift by the end of 2015. Then a job opened with two day shifts and three swing shifts the week before Thanksgiving. I jumped at the opportunity and got off graveyard more than a year ahead of schedule.

My social life is still absent. It would be nice to have that special someone to share my joy with my son and my dog, but it apparently isn’t in the cards right now.

It has been a roller coaster of a 2014. It turns out, however, I am having a great year.

 

 

 

 

What I’ve Learned So Far

Being a single dad is challenging. Diaper changes and feedings are relatively easy. In between diaper changes and feedings are not so easy. There is a lot of crying, a little screaming, a little pulling out of my quickly-graying hair. Babies cannot tell you what they want, but they can tell you they are upset. They are like little Congressmen.

What (I think) I have learned so far in no particular order:

How awesome is this little UNI Panthers shirt? He might get three wearings out of it before he is too big.
How awesome is this little UNI Panthers shirt? He might get three wearings out of it before he is too big.

Jace has really cool clothes. Logo t-shirts, jammies, little socks and hats and onesies. Unfortunately, these clothes last approximately 90 days before he is too big to wear them again. Baby clothes go from 0-3 months, 3-6 months, 6-9 months and 9 months-1 year. This kid will have four all new wardrobes by the time he is old enough to smash his hands into a cake to celebrate his first birthday.I still wear a windbreaker the youth basketball team I coached gave me in 1995.

Also, I think adults should get to wear onesies.

Diaper Genies make one long intestine of dirty diapers. My Diaper Genie was full…or at least it seemed full…or maybe I just had a few diapers jammed in the chute. Regardless, it felt full. I needed to change the bag for the first time. Diaper Genies are about two feet tall. As I pulled out the bag for the first time I discovered it holds about six feet worth of diapers.

Ace checks out the refuse of the Diaper Genie.
Ace checks out the refuse of the Diaper Genie.

The diapers wrap around in one long blue sack like a large intestine. Which is appropriate because they hold a lot of stuff that passes through the large intestine. I was so impressed by the length of the magical poopy bag I laid it out on the dining room floor. This also impressed the dog. Ace was infatuated by what the human race would refer to as waste, but the canine race would probably call food.

I picked up this giant sack of disposable diapers and tossed them in the garbage container in the garage. Ace used this exact moment to drop a deuce on the dining room floor where the sack had been moments earlier. I guess he was contributing to the cause.

Babies have terrible timing. Just as the Vikings are marching toward a game-clinching touchdown, Jace will wake up and cry. Right when you are considering whether to call off your whole stack with a nut flush draw in a game of online poker, Jace will be hungry. As you take your first bite of lunch, Jace will scream. He doesn’t mean to do it, but he doesn’t really care what you have going on. Nor should he.

When he doesn’t spend the night, I still fall asleep to “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.” Jace spends seven days per week at my house, and usually 1-2 nights. I work nights so he spends seven nights per week with his mother and 1-2 days. When he spends the night I put him in his crib with his lullaby relaxation machine. He had this in the NICU as a way to help him relax and fall asleep. I bought him one of these machines for his crib. It projects cartoon jungle animals on the ceiling while playing Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star, Mozart, white noise, a heartbeat, etc. When he is not spending the night, I still listen to it so I can fall asleep.

Babies are crazy expensive. I have great insurance, and so does his mom. Which is a good thing. Because having a baby is not cheap. I haven’t seen all the bills yet, but just the ones in dispute are more than $85,000. His NICU bill was routinely more than $2,500 per day. He could have stayed a week in a penthouse suite at Mandalay Bay for less than that.

Right after his release from the NICU he had to see the pediatrician for the first time. It was just a routine check-up and a few immunizations.

Here is the invoice:

jace_bill

Thankfully, the co-pay was considerably less than the $2917 for a 90-minute doctor visit and a little anti-cooties juice.

 

After all the things I’ve learned, I’ve also learned I still don’t know a damn thing. Babies are hard. Having one all by yourself 70 hours per week is really hard. The three of us — Jace, Ace and myself — are slowly figuring things out.

Just in time to wrap this up…Jace is stirring.

 

 

 

Boys’ Three-Day Weekend

The first ever boys’ three-day weekend for Chad, Jace and Ace is starting to wind down. Beginning Sunday night at 7PM and continuing until Wednesday at 5:30PM it has been eventful.

The highlights:

Jace went through a crapload whole bunch of diapers. I guess when you eat eight times per day you are going to do a few #1 and #2s. How the heck did people do this when all the diapers were cotton and had to be washed and dried over and over?

I did a few loads of laundry, and a few more and one more after that. My son went through three different shirts in one day because he is either a diva or a slob. I prefer diva. It makes more sense with the whole crying thing.

ace_jace_091514
Ace sneaks in for a little sniff and a kiss during Jace’s play time.

Ace the dog has gone from jealous to curious to downright loving. He has learned to stay back during feedings — no easy feat for a Jack Russell — and plant a few kisses during burping time. He even managed to hone in on play time with his brother.

Sometimes Jace covets sleep, sometimes he fights it. He decides those times, and there is no telling which time is up next.

There are lots of books and online reading materials for learning how to raise a baby. I know my ex-girlfriend has read lots of them and passed along texts and texts of information to me while I am taking care of Jace.

But a lot of this seems like common sense. Protect him at all times, change him when he needs it, be patient, don’t yell, keep the house relatively quiet, keep the bottles and nipples really clean.

Jace thinks Dad's house is his own personal spa. He's right.
Jace thinks Dad’s house is his own personal spa. He’s right.

My friend Jerry and his wife Mei came over to drop off a present and lend a little moral support. It’s always good to talk to people who have been down a road before. In this case, Jerry is probably the most no-nonsense friend I have. It’s calls ’em as he see ’em, and I felt better after listening to some of his advice.

I know there are going to be some times when I want to pull my hair out, but I also know I can do this.

Single dads, rock on!

 

Crazy Ace Starting To Figure Things Out

Taking me to the brink of complete craziness, Ace has made a remarkable comeback and is starting to figure things out.

Ace — or “Crazy” Ace, as he has been referred to since joining the clan — is a 15-month old Jack Russell terrier mix I adopted from Petsmart in Henderson, Nev., a few months ago. He is equal parts rambunctious and energetic, while sadly also showing signs of previous abuse and neglect. Jack Russell’s can be incredibly tough to train/control due to their high intelligence and abundance of energy. But to release one to the streets, like this little 16-pounder was, is just plain dumb.

Ace with his duck and frisbee. Unfortunately neither toy lasted more than 10 days.
Ace with his duck and frisbee. Unfortunately neither toy lasted more than 10 days.

After I adopted Ace we had some trying moments. Since he was turned out by a previous owner and then caged as a rescue, he was used to going potty wherever and whenever. No part of my house was safe for awhile. He also was incredibly good at tearing stuff up. In his first few weeks he destroyed a pair of Beats headphones (which cost more than his adoption), a backpack, two rugs, three door stops, so many toys I’ve lost count and a workbook for a class I was taking.

He has the agility of a cat. I have found him standing on my high kitchen table stealing a Kings Hawaiian roll and also on my desk. He bounces through the house like the combination of a roadrunner and a kangaroo. He loves to chase toys, the squeakier the better.

Ace doesn’t like to be kenneled up. Even though the ‘kennel’ in my house means two 10-foot hallways with all his toys and bowl of water while I go to work.

There are times when he has frustrated me beyond belief. I couldn’t get him to go in the kennel so I could go to work. By his thinking if he never went in the kennel I would never leave. When I would pick him up to carry him there, he would piddle on the couch/floor.

But just when I thought he might have to be re-homed to someone with more patience and more time, Ace started to show signs of figuring it all out.

It’s quite obvious that his original home was fraught with punishment and yelling. A dog as strong and brave as a Jack Russell should not roll over on his back, play dead and pee himself when he’s yelled at for a misdeed. It was a sad sight to see. I completely switched my training to no punishment at all. Even when he does something wrong like destroy two rugs and a roll of toilet paper in my hall bathroom I just tell him its okay. It was my fault for leaving the door open and tempting him.

Ace likes it when I am home with him.
Ace likes it when I am home with him.

This has led to a much more behaved dog. When it’s time to go to bed, he goes to the bedroom, walks into his bed, curls up and goes to sleep. When we go for a ride, he runs to the car and waits to get in. Then he stays in the back seat the entire time. When we complete a walk be getting back to our house he just walks up the driveway, turns onto the sidewalk and walks up to the front door.

Today we ran three errands. Not once when I got out of the truck to go into a store did he whine or cry. He simply kept and eye on the door and waited for my return.

I couldn’t be more proud of the dog Ace is becoming.

Make 2014 A Better Year

I have heard and overheard a number of people say recently, “2013 was the worst year of my life”, “I can’t wait for this year to be over”, “this has been a terrible year” or some variation of such.

I also feel this way. Personally, 2013 has been a terrible challenging year. Maybe its the 1-3 at the end of the year. That unlucky number 13. However, I came into 2013 expecting and hoping for a big year. It did not work out.

The lowlights:

Three different women broke up with me (on a positive note: three different women dated me!)

I completely bombed in the World Series of Poker. No cashes, finished 39th in the $2,000 qualifier to the Main Event when I needed a top 20 finish to get in. In one memorable live game I lasted three hands, losing $200 with Q-Q on a board of 6-4-6-2-4. I had raised preflop, my opponent called with 8-6 offsuit.

In October, my loyal German shepherd companion Pirate had to be put down 10 days shy of his 12th birthday.

I was told by my employer that if I didn’t shorten my vacation it would not be approved. This was a vacation to the Philippines I had been planning for six months. I caved, and shortened my vacation by seven days. It didn’t help, as my employer laid me off five days before I was to leave on vacation. (Another positive note: I went on vacation to Boracay and Manila in the Philippines).

Upon arriving in the Philippines my (ex) girlfriend informed me via text that I was going to be a first-time dad at age 44. Currently, me and the mom-to-be of my July 2014 baby are not in a relationship. (Obvious positive note: I’m going to be a father!).

As 2013 wraps up I am unemployed, without insurance and going to be a father.

I don’t want to come off as negative because I don’t feel that way. I know three-fourths of the world’s population lives on less than $2 per day while I live in a suburban house with a backyard and an in-ground pool.

A majority of the world walks, or rides animals/bicycles to get places. I drive a very nice car, which I love. I will probably have to sell it and find something more affordable and baby-friendly, but for now I am enjoying it.

I am generally healthy, though I could shed a few (ok, 40) pounds.

I am writing a blog on a nice Mac computer while watching a football game on a 55-inch TV.

I live in Las Vegas, my favorite city in the entire world.

My life isn’t that bad.

2014-Numbers-Happy-2014-Wallpaper-New-Year-ImageFor reasons good and bad, we all need to put 2013 behind us and look forward to a great 2014. There is no doubt I am finishing up the worst year of my life. But I am going to choose to be positive and move forward in 2014. We all need to try to make sure each new year is better than the year before. And we can do this by taking stock of ourselves and leaning on each other.

Here are a few ideas:

Read More/Watch Less. Yes, I am watching a football game while I am writing this. I like the noise more than I care about this bowl game. But I’ve also rediscovered the joy of turning off the television and embracing the written word this year. I’ve alway loved books, but I don’t take enough time to read. This year I tackled “Quitter” by Jon Acuff, Andy Andrews’ “The Traveler’s Gift” and “When The Mob Ran Vegas” by Steve Fischer. They were all excellent. I love great story-telling and thoughtful prose. Do you really need to know what the Kardashians are doing when there are so many great books unread?

Save More/Spend Less. I’ve always struggled with saving and budgeting. I like things too much. I’m an early adopter of new technologies. All of this has led to being a 44-year old man with not enough savings or retirement. No more. I know I can’t get a handle on my money without some professional help. I am turning that part of my life over to Dave Ramsey. I recently met a person who has completely reworked his finances over 18 months by following Dave’s plans. I am taking my first class next week and am looking forward to the journey.

Be Kind. Be Grateful. Each day be grateful for what you have and be kind to someone else. That positive energy is good for the heart and good for the soul. Say hello to a passing stranger. Smile while waiting in line at the post office. Tell a woman you love her shoes. Let someone who seems to be in a bigger hurry than you cut in front of you in line at the grocery store.

Be The CEO of You. I can’t take credit for relocating to Las Vegas or buying this great house if I don’t also take blame for being laid off. You are the CEO of you. Take all the credit for the great things you have your life. But take the blame when things are going South. Show some personal responsibility.

I read an article at Christmastime about consumers who were at odds with UPS for not delivering their Christmas presents on time. It seems UPS was overwhelmed by the amount of packages shipped and just didn’t get the job done despite extra shifts, extra planes and extra personnel. Consumers were taking to Twitter and to Facebook saying UPS ruined their Christmas. Christmas is not about material objects. It’s a religious holiday that is also celebrated by non-religious people as a season of giving — of presents, yes, but also of time, donations to charity and kindness to others. Therefore, UPS could not ruin Christmas. You ruined your own Christmas by believing the only thing that mattered was the timeliness of your gift delivery. Has anyone ever been mad about receiving a gift December 26th instead of the 25th?

We are all works in progress. I am far from perfect, and know I will never reach perfection. But I am going to keep trying to better, to be kinder, to save more and to grow my mind and strengthen my body. I hope you will, as well.

Good riddance, 2013. Happy New Year 2014.