Dude’s Guide to a 2-year-old and a 2-month-old

My two-year-old grandson has named me “dude”. That’s me. My wife and I (a.k.a. Mimi and Dude) have spent the past two weeks taking care of him and his two-month-old baby sister while his parents were away.

These past two weeks have been the hardest I have worked in a long time. In fact, one day I logged in over 9,000 steps and didn’t even leave the house. It was also an incredible experience in spite of how tired I am physically as I write this.

I have never had children of my own. When I met my wife, her three kids were already grown so I became an extra person in their lives. I am very blessed that they have all accepted me as part of their lives.

When the offer was made for us to babysit the grandkids, we both jumped at the chance. I didn’t think twice about taking the time off from work to do this. Now, for the first time, I have had the opportunity to help take care of the grand kids. I admit that I was scared. I only hoped I was up for the task. People that know me know that I am a planner and cautious so this babysitting adventure was a test for my comfort zones.

For the first time in my life, I have changed diapers, burped a baby and fed a toddler. All of this was new to me. I was a rookie going into this adventure in babysitting. I will be honest and tell you that I didn’t exactly know what I was getting into but my wife was experienced so I knew she would guide me through it. Through this experience I got a little insight of how I would have been as a father.

I will tell you that I have never been one to look down upon anyone who was a stay-at-home parent. I will defy anyone to say that it is not “real” work. I think it is the most important work a person could do. After these two weeks, I have even more respect for the parents. I don’t see how they do it. It is a whole different experience taking care of them versus coming up here for a visit.

I also saw my wife in “mommy mode”. She was in this mode from the moment we took over. We lost a lot of sleep and we were constantly on the move. She told me what to do and I did it. That’s what you do with you have two kids to take care of. There’s no time for romance or being sensitive. You just do it. You take care of things. If a toddler wants a fruit snack you do it. If the infant is crying you feed her. It’s teamwork.

I have been totally in awe of my wife during this time. I saw her even change diapers in the dark. Are you kidding me? I need every light on, lots of wipes and everything ready when I do it. This woman I married can change a diaper in the dark with NASCAR pit crew precision. Amazing. I have never seen anything like it. She’s good.

Speaking of changing diapers….I have to admit that I was a bit mortified when I came into this job. Okay, I was scared. It’s not something I want to be “good” at either. You know what I mean by that right? People like to tell you that you are “good” at chores that are unpleasant. Well, let me tell you that I am not “good” at changing diapers but I have done it and not afraid to do it after two weeks. I won’t be graphic about it but I can tell you I am not a fan of changing the messy diaper. I wanted those changes to be over as soon as possible. You just get it done. The quicker the better.

My wife has been really good at teaching me. I was a rookie going into this venture. She hasn’t laughed at my silly questions regarding child care either. Some of the questions I have posed to her were:

  • How many times a day do you have to change diapers?
  • Why do they have to take naps?
  • Why does an infant have to sleep so much?
  • How does a parent potty train a child?
  • What does it mean when an infant is crying?

Over the past two weeks, I have learned the answers to these questions. I now know why a toddler needs a nap. Believe me, I have come face-to-face on that reason. If you have never seen the effect of what happens when a toddler doesn’t have a nap, you really need to experience it first-hand to truly understand. And I thought dealing with my co-workers was traumatic.

Every day was something new. I never knew what role I was going to play or what I needed to do to entertain them. One day I was building a bridge, the next day I was chasing the toddler from one room to another. The toddler even says the cutest things. One day he said, “Dude needs a coffee.” I’m still laughing at that one.

I have also learned the skill of negotiating with a toddler. It much like a hostage negotiation.

“Okay, if you take one toy will you go downstairs?”

I have also never fed a child until now. They don’t simply sit down and eat. You have to remind them that they are eating. They have the attention span of a butterfly flittering here and there and then back to their plate. You also have to blow on their food to make sure it isn’t too hot. Yes, there’s a lot of little things you learn to do.

My primary duty has been to run errands, get supplies or pick up food for us. I have called my job “Hooper Eats”. It has been a daily task. I have to say that Target has some serious security when it comes to baby formula. When the parents put in an order, it was like getting past airport security to pick up the order. Be proud that your Target store has such tight national security on similac.

Over the past two weeks I have been exposed to children’s entertainment such as Bubble Guppies, PJ Mask and this dude named Blippi. I really don’t know exactly how to describe Blippi. He’s really beyond description. I’m sure I will have flashbacks for weeks to come in some form of PTSD of babysitting. Look him up. He’s a YouTube sensation. You won’t believe it.

As a rookie, I made a rookie mistake in getting too confident. Just when I thought to myself that “I got this” I quickly learned that I didn’t. After a few successful nights of putting the toddler to bed, one night I didn’t do so well. All of my negotiating techniques failed and I was having no success encouraging the little guy to go to bed. I had to call in my wife to be the closing. I felt like a starting pitcher who had been sent to the showers. It was a sharp reminder that I didn’t need to get over confident.

In the end, this was a very rewarding experience for me. Although I am physically exhausted, I am glad to have helped out. I don’t think I am a rookie at this now. Maybe I have even moved up to the Class A level but certainly not the Major Leagues.

These past two weeks have been a lot of work but it has also been very rewarding in bonding with the grandkids. I have learned a lot and have learned to appreciate what it takes to care for an infant and a toddler.


5 Ways To Deal With Lack of Planner People


I can’t begin to tell you the many times I have been forced into emergency situations because of the lack of planning of others.  This sign is funny because it doesn’t matter how many times people are reminded of it that there are still repeat offenders.  It’s pretty irritating.

I can’t really divulge any specific details but let me say I am a planner and I really don’t like working with people who don’t.  It drives me crazy yet I am still expected to bail people out.  It’s just like the times I have taken classes when the instructor waits a few extra minutes for people who can’t get there on time.  Seriously?  Why punish the people who do what they are supposed to do and are on time?  When I teach a class I don’t do that.  If you are late, you are late.  I’m not going to make people suffer who are there on time.

So back to this emergency thing.  There have been many days I thought I had my day planned out when someone calls, emails or walks into my office with their urgency which suddenly becomes my emergency.

Once I debated with a supervisor that the only way to teach the repeat offenders a lesson would be to not bail them out and stop enabling them.  I was overruled on the that debate and reminded about “customer service”.  Okay, I get the customer service thing but I do not agree with enabling those who are repeat offenders.  Somehow these folks need to learn a lesson right?  If you always bail them out then they will know they can always repeat their behavior and no one will tell them no.

I’m saying “no” a lot more these days.  Not for the sake of being mean but to simply keep order and balance in the work life.

Yes, we can quote that cute saying all we want but that doesn’t stop it from happening.  Co-workers want what they want when they want it and you become the necessary means to their end.  Sad, but true.  Go ahead and see how far it gets you quoting that saying.  You could wear the sign around your neck and it still wouldn’t do any good.  They would ask if you can put the sign down and get something out in FEDEX today.

So how can we deal with these people?

  1. Set Boundaries.  When I say this, you have to make it a boundary for everyone.  Don’t make allowance for your co-worker buddies.  Treat everyone the same.  You must also endure the fire of when someone challenges your boundaries.
  2. Talk to your supervisor.  Yeah, this one might not give you much success either but you need to let your supervisor know where you stand.  It’s best to give them a heads up than to have them dealing with the fallout.
  3. Negotiate with the person who necessitates the emergency.    Instead of talking to the person (which never works in my experience) offer options for them.  They will take it a lot better than saying no.  “No, I can’t do that for you but I can show you how to do it.”
  4. Ignore them.  Don’t answer their email or phone calls especially if you have other projects you are working on.  You know what I have found?  They will usually figure it out.
  5. Don’t apologize.  If you are enforcing your boundaries, do not apologize or be made to feel guilty.

I’m not saying to be mean and not to do your job but when it is ridiculous or totally off base, you need to stand up for yourself.  Don’t be the person that will cave in and agree to work the weekend simply because someone else was a slacker or didn’t plan.  They will never learn until they have to face it.

To me, it is a sign of disrespect to create an emergency on my part because of someone else’s lack of planning.  Everyone has a job they are doing and we should respect that.  Yes, legitimate emergencies come up but something has to be done with the repeat offenders who are always putting us in that situation.

If people need something done and you can’t do it, they will usually figure it out.


I’m Not Playing The Nickname Game


“No, Hooper with an H”

I can’t tell you how many times I have had to correct people about my name.  When I have had to tell someone my name they usually get it wrong and they interpret it as being “Cooper” or “Hopper”.  It’s frustrating but I’m used to it.   When I give my name at restaurants I usually give my first name because they always mess it up.

My name is Milton Hooper.

I have had this name all of my life.  My first name was given to me from my Pa-Pa, my mother’s dad.  His name was Milton.  So, with that I was called “Little Milton” around the family so there would be no confusion.  I’m sure most of my kinfolks on my mother’s side still know me as “Little Milton”.   Of course, most of them know absolutely nothing about me now.

Milton wasn’t a very common name growing up.  Of course, kids are mean.  I’ve been called “Milton the Monster”, “Uncle Miltie” and “Milton Bradley” among other names I won’t repeat.  I’m not sure why people have always felt the need to default my name to a nickname instead of my given name.   I honestly never call anyone a nickname unless that’s what they want to be called.  I’m not sure why that thoughtfulness isn’t reciprocated.

I usually have let people slide with calling me “Milt” or “Hoop”.  I don’t have a lot of issues with that really.  The problem comes when, as an adult, people want to tag me as “Miltie” or “Uncle Miltie”.   I will tell you point blank that I do not like it and I will not joke about it either. What’s the deal with that anyway?  Why do people think it’s okay to immediately jump to a nickname other than your real name.

I once had a co-worker who started yelling “Miltie” down the hallway when she needed something and when I didn’t answer she came to my office and asked if I had heard her.  I informed her that I did not answer to that name and that my name is Milton.  She was taken aback by it but this is MY name right?  What is this?  High School?

In my younger years I used to be afraid to nip this nickname thing and let people get away with it.  I don’t anymore.  I had another co-worker recently who had just been moved into an office near me and when I passed by he referred to me as “Uncle Miltie”.   I stopped and walked up to his desk and told him we weren’t going to do the nickname thing.  My name is Milton, not Uncle Miltie.  He looked at me as if I had offended HIM.  Are you kidding me?  I have a right to MY name don’t you think?

milton2Honestly I don’t understand the Miltie/Uncle Miltie thing.  I know it is supposed to be because of that past comedian Milton Berle but that’s not me and it doesn’t give anyone the right to nickname me that.  Okay, so you might think I’m being too sensitive about my name.  It’s not your name is it?  Why should people assume to hang a nickname on anyone?  For one thing, it is about showing respect to others.  Honestly, being called Miltie is condescending to me.  It puts me on the same level as being looked at as a child.  I take it as being disrespectful.

So what’s the deal with people giving nicknames anyway?

It is probably a subconscious thing that people what to feel as though they have some sort of ownership of you.  This nickname tag makes them feel special in some sort of way that they have tagged someone.  Endearing nicknames are sometimes motivated by admiration or love, although some condescending nicknames, even done innocently,  ultimately depersonalize people.  Purposefully mispronouncing someone’s name is an intentional statement of power, a disrespect that essentially said “you are not important enough for me to call you by your given name.” At some level, when people really matter to us, we do invest time and care in learning their name and in saying it correctly. So it makes sense that not learning and using their preferred name would suggest the opposite – that we don’t care enough to do so.

Hello…my name is Milton Hooper.

Don’t even get me started on my middle name.



Children’s Television Then And Now

childrenTVIf you have toddlers today you are probably aware that the options for viewing children’s television programs are more varied than they were in the past.  With YouTube and other sites, children now have more options than ever before.  Back in my day, it was mostly limited to whatever was on Public Television and early weekend mornings.  There were no DVD players, smart phones or any mobile device to view children’s programs away from the television set.

Back in my day some of the shows available to me were:

Captain Kangaroo

This was a show which ran for 30 years from 1955 to 1984.  The show featured Bob Keeshan as Captain Kangaroo who would tell stories, meet guests and interact with puppets.   Not really one of my most viewed personally.

Romper Room

This show targeted children five years old and younger.  The show ran from 1953 to 1994.  The hostess and her group of children on the show would feature 30-60 minutes of games, exercises, songs, story-telling and moral lessons accompanied by background music.  The most notable part of the show was at the end of the broadcast when the hostess would look through a “magic mirror”.  I remember watching this show and waiting for that “magic mirror” and hoping for my name to be called.

The Electric Company

This show ran from 1971 to 1977 and featured mostly sketch comedy to entertain and help elementary school children develop their grammar and reading skills.  The original cast included Morgan Freeman, Rita Moreno, Bill Cosby, Judy Graubart, Lee Chamberlain and Skip Hinnant.  One of my favorites mostly because they had Spiderman.  I liked it better than Sesame Street.

Sesame Street

This long-running show began in 1969 and combines live action, sketch comedy, animation and, of course, puppetry.  Sesame Street is the home of Bert and Ernie, Big Bird as well as the original show for the Muppets.  I watched the show because it was difficult to ignore the Muppets.

Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood

This show which included many puppets, characters and music.  The show featured Fred Rogers who would speak directly to the viewer about various issues, taking viewers on tours of factories, demonstrating experiments, crafts and music.  Rogers was known for his opening and closing songs such as “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?”.  I was not a fan.  Didn’t watch this show much.

sesameChildren’s entertainment is a lot different today.  It is no longer limited to public television or a major television network time slot.  Here are the top shows today:

  1. Sesame Street (PBS)
  2. Super Why (PBS)
  3. Team Umizoomi (Nick Jr.)
  4. The Wiggles (Treehouse TV)
  5. Dora the Explorer (Nick Jr.)
  6. Bubble Guppies (Nick Jr.)
  7. Sid the Science Kid (PBS)
  8. Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood (PBS)
  9. Caillou (PBS)
  10. Paw Patrol (Nick Jr.)

If you can’t wait for these shows to air and need something for your toddler now.  Here are the top picks on YouTube:

  1. Little Baby Bum
  2. Sesame Street
  3. Blippi
  4. Baby Einstein
  5. Story Bots
  6. Mother Goose Club
  7. PBS Kids
  8. AlphaBlocks
  9. Pancake Manor
  10. ToyLabTV

It’s really funny now to see how many options there are now.  And you think kids get bored NOW?  Yeah, when we were away from the television, we had to entertain ourselves.  Those long trips in the car were indeed long trips in the car.


I Ain’t Got No Grammar Problems

I have learned how both rewarding and difficult it is being a writer. Let me just say that it’s a good thing that I have a full time job. I won’t lie about it – there is a lot of competition out there so it is really important to write a good story and get lucky in getting a book published by a real publisher or finding an agent. Most traditional publishers won’t even look at a manuscript unless you have an agent. It can be pretty demanding trying to break in.

I have self-published two novels and a couple of short stories but my goal is to get published by a real publisher. That’s a problem. I have submitted my manuscripts to several publishers and agents only to be rejected for one reason or another. If you love rejection, you can get a lot of practice at it being a writer.

Most critiques are nothing more than a form letter while some can be brutal. I had one editor who ripped me with my use of the word “parsonage”. A lot of critiques are really purely subjective depending on the editor or what mood the person is when they read your manuscript.

One thing I do not understand is when they note some grammatical errors. In the name of Grammarly and Microsoft Word grammar checker you would thing that wouldn’t happen. Somehow it slips in their (see what I did THERE?).

The publishers that send me an email who WANT to publish my book are usually what some call “vanity presses”. These are people who will publish your book but the author has to pay the publisher.

This week I sent my book “Passing Toward The Prize” to a place called Christian Faith Publishing. I had seen their commercial on TV and decided to send them my manuscript to see what they would do with it. First, my manuscript went to their review board. Two days later I get a phone call that they loved it. Now, don’t take me wrong here. I wasn’t jumping up and down about it. Of course they loved it because they want my business right? The reviewer said there were a few minor grammatical errors. I mean, they’re not going to say it was perfect. It’s their job to find something to critique.

I agreed to let them send me the information on the next step in the process. I’m sure you can guess the next step was the details on what I would need to pay. In order to have them publish my book, they want $495 now and $295 per month for 10 months. Now I ask you – who can afford additional $295 in their budget? Not many people I know. Here I am an author who has never been published so how do they think I have the funds when I haven’t made any money yet? Self-publishing on Amazon hasn’t really made it rain. My 1099 from last year of $26.42 is painful reality of that.

So what does a writer/author like me do in dealing with these setbacks? The only way I know how – keep on writing and submitting. Will I ever “hit it big” or get published by a traditional publisher? I will. I mean you have to have goals. Even without a publisher or agent I am still a writer.

I probably should brush up on my grammar to. *wink*

Adjusting Your Own Attitude

Young Man Suffering For Depression

When I was growing up getting an attitude adjustment related to a belt. A trip to the “woodshed” usually fixed it. We never actually have a woodshed but you understand what I mean. I usually got my attitude adjusted fairly quickly.  It’s a little different now.  When you are an adult what do you do to adjust your own attitude? You can’t use the belt on yourself. Well, I suppose you could but I really wouldn’t want to know about all that.

Have you ever had those days that you were in an ill mood? We all have those times when we simply get in a bad mood.  It’s a challenge when you get in a funk and just need to find some way to shake it off?

And….if you are married or in a relationship, being in a bad mood can cause a lot of problems because if you are short or snappy, it will only make matters worse. Believe me, that’s not how you want this to go. Instead of a woodshed you end up in the dog house. Sometimes you will wish to have the woodshed.  When you are ill or moody, you risk some consequences you really don’t want to encounter as a collateral damage due to your mood.

So can you do anything to adjust your own attitude and shake yourself out of an ill mood? Here are seven things that might help:

  1. Own it. Be honest with yourself and don’t blame others for it. This is a huge step because some times we don’t want to admit that it is our fault.
  2. Take action. Don’t just sit around and mope about it. Doing nothing only makes it worse.
  3. Take a long hot shower or bath.  Sometimes the body needs something refreshing to wake it up.  If you really want the shock factor you might take a cold shower.
  4. Drink lots of water.  Water intake sometimes helps you with the physiological things going on in your body.  I don’t have any scientific facts here but I think it helps.
  5. Get some fresh air.  Don’t fall into the trap of just staying inside and parked on the sofa.  Get up and go outside – even if it is for a few minutes.  If it’s nice weather, go for a walk.
  6. Treat yourself.  When you are in an ill mood, it is probably a good excuse to spoil yourself.  Do whatever works for you.  People like to go shopping, eat their favorite food or go to a move.  I think you are allowed to do something for yourself to snap out of being in a funk.
  7. Exercise.  This one is hard because if you are in an ill mood then most likely you are definitely not in a mood for exercise but if you push through it and do something then you will increase the chances of pulling yourself out of a bad mood.

We all experiences times of being in a bad mood.  It happens.  That’s part of life.  The most frustrating part is usually we have no idea why we are in a funk or the source of our bad mood.  The important thing to do about it is to do something because sitting around and waiting for it to lift usually doesn’t get you out of it.  I call it one of those days that I have to “push through” and make an effort.  Don’t just surrender to it.  It is also a good idea to get away from social media because it’s a good chance that you will read something that will piss you off and add to the mood.

When I’m experiencing one of these times, I typically say that I’m getting on my own nerves.  The funny thing about that is that you can’t get away from yourself.  You are ALWAYS there.  You can’t get any alone time from yourself so you have to face up to this mood and do whatever works for you to get out of it.  So make the effort and do what you can to make the bad mood go away and enjoy your life.


What Can You Do?

Ever have one of those days where all you can do is shrug your shoulders at the junk that happens?

Well, for me it is physically painful to actually shrug my shoulders. Just a recurring issue that flares up sometimes. Not much I can do about it. What can you do about it?

What can you do when a driver rolls onto the Interstate and immediately proceeds to cross over three lanes without looking? You just apply your brakes and lay on the horn. They are apparently the only ones trying to get to work.

What can you do when you have pressed the elevator button yet the next person comes around you and presses it again? You give them a smile and say sweet things about them in your head.

What can you do when you hold the door open on the elevator for a couple of your coworkers, you say “good morning” and they never acknowledge your existence? When they get off and the doors are closed you say “You’re welcome”.

What can you do when people attempt to play chicken in the hallway? You stop and make them go around you.

What can you do when a coworker has worked over the weekend and has left some work for you? You add it to the list and wonder if that person has a life outside of the office.

What can you do about dreading Monday mornings? You get busy with work and before you know it the weekend will be here.

What can you do if your hair just looks crappy no matter what you do? Just take your fingers through it and let it do what it wants to do. You can regroup and try it again tomorrow.

What can you do if you are getting on your own nerves? Sorry, I have no answer for this one.

What can you do if you don’t want to eat what you brought for lunch? Duh, eat something else.

What can you do if you want some free entertainment during lunch? Go outside and watch things that happen in downtown Nashville on any given day especially if a pedal tavern passes by.

What can you do if you are looking for an idea for a blogpost for the day? Done. I’m making progress already.