Why Hello There Good Sir

2013-02-27 17.36.09I’m worse at this blogging thing lately than Wile E. Coyote was at catching the Road Runner. I am less reliable than a broken watch. Vinny is just a short couple months away from being here and I need to get these blog posts out so he doesn’t resent me down the road and become a crack head just to spite me.

I have been working feverishly on getting his room ready, as well as Ava’s ‘big girl’ room.  Thankfully my employer realized I would need a lot of time at home to prepare for the new baby so she decided to retire and close the company. I have all the time I need now. I have been spending my days hanging out with an 18 month old and hitting up story times and museums. There is nothing like being the only dad in a room full of moms at a story time, it’s like being a hair in the potato salad. Nobody is sure how you got there and they are all trying to figure out who you belong to.

Don’t worry about me. I am LOVING my time home with Ava as I wait for the right job to present itself. I see it as a blessing. If it was up to Michelle I wouldn’t go back at all. She says the house hasn’t run this smooth since it was just me and her. My buddy and I are also working on starting up our own marketing/branding agency, so the future is looking swell. (www.Flyfoxcreative.com if you want to check it out)

Enough about that, back to the kids. Ava is growing more beautiful  and intelligent by the day. It’s weird, we can actually talk with her now. Before she was just a less hairy version of a primate or something. She looked enough like a human, but really  all she did was eat, poop and make random sounds. Now she is like an actual human. We can talk with her and she answers. She figures things out by herself, sometimes too quickly. Michelle and I have to really, really watch what we do now because she imitates like a champ.

Ava also does the cutest thing on the face of the Earth. She very much want’s to meet her brother. She will run up and point to Michelle’s tummy and say, “baby”. She will then hug and kiss Michelle’s belly. It’s so cute and just want to take a bite out of her. I can’t stand it. Another disgustingly cute thing Ava does that melts my heart like ice cream in the desert is when I rock her to bed and she finishes her bottle. She will hand the bottle to me, put her hands on both sides of my head and then hug and kiss me before she lays her head down. It makes me want to grab a hammer and hit myself over the head with it. It’s so cute it should be illegal.

Ava got to see her brother earlier this week when we went for a 4D sonogram. As you can see above, the images are amazing. Many of his features remind me of Ava. His nose. His lips. His chin. Handsome little devil he is. With his mother’s looks and his father’s charm, I will warn you now, mothers lock up your daughters…..in 15-20 years.

Sitting there and seeing your baby as  they project it up on the wall is such a thrill. Then I look over at Michelle’s belly and I can’t believe how all of that handsomeness is contained in her baby bump. A true miracle. As you experience a pregnancy first hand, you really start to realize that there might be higher powers at work. It’s mind-boggling.

The sonogram verified three  important points. One, he is definitely a boy and is very healthy (knock on wood). Two, he has lots and lots of hair. Three, that discomfort Michelle was feeling where it felt like a foot was under her ribs was in fact Vinny’s foot under her ribs.

Just like Ava, we had them record his heartbeat and place it inside a cute stuffed animal, so every time you squeeze it, you hear the little man’s heart. As daddy says every time I hear little man’s heartbeat, “Strong like bull.”

I’m glad I’m having  a boy this time. Not because of any male ego thing, but just because it will be nice to know I now have a partner to help me kick the shit out of any boyfriends Ava decides to bring home.


Christmas Came Early

cake boyIt’s December 26th. Gifts are open. Bills are on their way. All that fancy wrapping paper is in trash bags on the curb. And our bellies are stuffed with dead animal meat and creamy, buttery goodies. I hope your Christmas was merry and bright.

The Viola’s Christmas was great…mostly. We each (Me, Michelle, and Ava) battled through nasty stomach bugs leading up to the jolly fat man’s day, but we made it through and enjoyed the day with family.

My best gift? Michelle found a site that publishes blogs in book form. So all the old blog posts from this site are now in a hardback edition, complete with all the photos. BEST. GIFT. EVER.

I must say that Christmas came early for us this year. As I briefly touched upon in the last post, Michelle and I threw our annual Christmas party where we unveiled the gender of little Baby V part deux. That party and moment was so fun and memorable, I feel it deserves more coverage.

It all started with Michelle. Being as creative as she is, she can’t do things like a normal person. So instead of just getting the sonogram and finding out what the sex of the baby is, she had to make an event out of it. I’m glad she did, but at the time I thought it was bullshit. I’m not great at waiting.

However, for the one millionth time in our relationship, I lost the argument and the plans were set in motion. We had the sonogram. The only thing we were told is that the baby looks very healthy. The nurse was great and very loyal to our plans. She didn’t even cave when I tried to bribe her to tell me the sex. I also bought a “Sonograms For Dummies” book before we went, but never got around to studying it….just like high school.

The sonogram nurse put the sex in two sealed envelopes where we were unable to read it even when we (read: I) held it up to the light. Why two envelopes you ask? It’s because Michelle is so thorough that she wanted a confirmation envelope to open once we cut into the reveal cake to make sure everything matched up.

After much searching for a bakery that would actually dye the cake batter (thanks again to Bethel Bakery) we handed one of the envelopes over to them. At this point the only ones who knew the sex were the sonogram nurse and the baker. That’s it. The worst part about all of this is that we had to wait nearly two weeks from having the sonogram to have the unveiling because of Michelle’s sister’s wedding. I said, “why not just have it before the wedding?”

Michelle gave some crappy answer about not wanting to take attention away from the bride. Screw that. I’ve been taking attention away from people my whole life. I can’t help it that I am a star and that I shine bright. Long story short, I lost another argument.

So Michelle’s sister got married (whoopee friggin’ do) and we had our almost-famous Christmas party the following weekend. With close friends and family around, the cake cutting anticipation was at a fever pitch.

Michelle was very paranoid about the cake. Leading up to the party she actually had dreams about the cake getting smashed or someone knocking it over. So when the party came and the cake was out, she politely told everyone that if someone did something to the cake, accidental or otherwise, they would have an ice pick jammed in their eye and she would cut out their heart with a rusty spoon. People didn’t laugh when she said this, you could hear the sociopathic tone in her voice.

The cake was safely perched upon a cake stand. Next to it was a fancy frame with texted that read, “What kind of baby did Michelle & Mike make. The only one who knows for sure is the cake.” Surrounding the cake were blue and pink cupcakes. Before we would cut the cake, everyone was to take a colored cupcake of what they thought the baby will be.

It must also be noted that it seems our guests made very merry this year. More than most other years. The volume of alcohol that was consumed was considerable. Also, very little food was left over as well. I didn’t have the heart to tell Michelle that studies have found that when threatened with their lives, people tend to eat and drink more.

As soon as the last person took the last bite of dinner, everyone had enough of waiting and wanted that damn cake cut. Me included. So, we went around the room with our video camera and got everyone’s prediction on film. They took their cupcakes and surrounded the table. With a terrible drumroll, ala the Christmas Vacation light scene, we cut the cake. Michelle cut into it, then I took another knife and cut the other side of the slice. We both took the cake server and slid it under, a brief dramatic pause, lift, and bright blue.

The room erupted in cheers, screams and applause. I never heard a cheer so loud and I have been to championship sporting games. It was all captured on video, which is something we will always treasure. It’s moments like this that make life great. Looking back on the video I see my dad is glowing with pride. I know this meant a lot to him. Although my sisters have boys, this one keeps the Viola family name going. He has a brother, but he has only girls.

Before the cheers die off, I am already popping a champaign bottle. I give a little speech that is heavy on the sap and we celebrate with a drink. Michelle toasts with Welch’s sparkling grape juice. I eat a piece of the cake and I realize it is the best tasting cake I ever had. We kiss Ava and tell her she is going to have a little brother. She rubs Michelle’s tummy.

After much debate that makes the NHL negotiations looks like a tea party, Michelle and I decide upon Vincent Peter Viola as his name. I came to the table with Santino. Michelle came to the table with divorce papers. We settled on Vincent. It was my number two, I can’t complain, plus my dad’s name is Peter Vincent, so it makes my pops happy.

Like I said, Christmas came early. All I ever wanted is a healthy baby. Honestly. I have no preference. I will admit I am glad I am having a boy who can potentially carry one the Viola name, but other than that, boys and girls are equal blessings. I will have Ava and Vinny hitting balls while the other fields. I will  be just as proud, if not more so, of watching Vinny playing an instrument in a recital instead of playing second base in a ballgame.

I have lots of hopes and dreams for my kids, but to start I just want them to have 10 fingers and toes.

This Blog and the Viola Name Marches On

gty_kotter_watn_3_mr_120815_sshI’m baaaaaaaaaaaaaack.

I’ve been gone a little while, but much like that high school crush you never quite got over, you have been wishing I would come back into your life. I’m back and better than ever. Consider this an early Christmas gift. I figured the cast of ‘Welcome Back, Kotter’ would be an appropriate image to welcome you back to.

Most of you know the good news by now. Michelle and I are pregnant again! We figured our lives weren’t complicated enough, so we went for the extra point and converted it on our first try. Thank you for the applause.

I must say Michelle and I form a great team for making babies. We are like chemistry lab partners in high school. We both know our roles. She does all the reading and studying. She does all the prep work, note taking, lab area clean-up and the majority of the work during the lab time. I show up just as things are starting, ask her what should I be doing and then leave before the bell rings. Then at the end of the semester when the experiments are concluded and the results are finalized, I show up and take equal credit for her hard work and labor.

One of the first things people told me after finding out Michelle was prego again is if i would start this blog again. The answer was, “yes…of course.” I was thinking down the road. I didn’t want Baby V part deux to come to me in 15 years asking why they didn’t have a blog and that Ava is favorite, yadda, yadda, yadda.

I figure I will have a bunch to write about. Even though we are currently raising, in my biased opinion, a future world superstar, I kinda think I forgot exactly what it takes to deal with a newborn. So I’m sure hilarity will ensue there.

Back to Baby V part deux.

This past weekend we had a gender reveal party. We went for the ultrasound in late November and figured we could have our annual Christmas party as the venue for the gender reveal. However, Michelle’s sister Danielle was selfishly getting married on December 7th (…a date which will live in infamy…”yeah, we get it Mike, we heard you the first time”…I got that a lot. Some people don’t enjoy bad jokes like I do) so we had to push our party back to the 15th.

Nearly three weeks we went without knowing the gender when we could have. Three weeks of looking at the sealed envelope and trying to justify to ourselves why it would be okay for us to look and not tell anyone. Three weeks of Michelle having dreams about what gender the cake said it would be. Each dream resulting in different outcomes and each dream getting her more and more emotional.

By the way, we revealed the gender with a colored cake. You would be surprised how hard it was to find a baker that was willing to color the cake batter and not just the middle icing layer. After several bakers, Bethel Bakery was willing to do it for us and they did a great job. Better than we ever imagined. I have to give them a shout out here.

The couple of days leading up to the party, Michelle had dreams of people knocking over the cake, eating the cake before we cut into it, Frasier eating the cake, and us cutting into the cake that had no coloring on the inside. As family and friends came into the house, Michelle warned that anyone who even looks at the cake in the wrong way would be handled with extreme prejudice. Everyone seemed to eat a little bit faster as to get to the cake that much quicker. All night predictions were being made. Boy. Girl. Girl. Boy. I only was hoping for a healthy baby. That’s all I want.

If you are still in the dark on what we are having, click here for the video. Some warning, things got a little loud. It sounds like we won the lottery or something….I guess we did.

cake boy

Ava Is Turning The Big Numero Uno

I started this blog a little over a year ago in June of 2011. Since then it seems as Ava grew, the frequency of my posts have dwindled.

Ava is turning one this weekend and there is one question that is at the forefront of my mind. Where the hell did the time go?

It turns out that being a dad was a lot more involved and hectic than I ever imagined. I knew it would be challenging, but man, oy vey! Balancing my career, family and just keeping up with things seems to get more difficult by the day. As you accomplish one thing, three more things get added to the “to-do” list. It’s a bitch, but it is a life I wouldn’t change for anything in the world.

Looking back over the past year is like looking back on a rollercoaster ride. It went fast. There were lots of peaks and valleys. I felt sick through some parts of it and people were vomiting. Though, it was also one of the most exhilarating experiences I ever had, and I want to do it again for some reason.

I have really been reflecting these past few weeks leading up to Ava’s first birthday. In doing so, I have realized that there are three important developments that I can take away from my first year of being a dad.

#1: Ava has made me realize things about life and the human condition that I never even thought about or could comprehend prior to her arrival.

Simply put…I love her so damn much. The connection you make with your children is unmistakable, unshakable and unbreakable. She can so easily make me happy. Just being in her presence puts me at ease. Her laugh is my favorite sound in the world. Her smile is a close second. Ava makes me feel important.

Being a father transforms you. When she arrived, I knew that any foolishness about me had to end. I needed to set an example for her. An example of what to expect out of the other gender. An example of how to deal with hardships and be strong. An example of how to treat others. I am still working on all of these too by the way.

It’s an amazing feeling valuing the life of someone else over your own. I can easily and truthfully say I would give my life to save hers. No doubt about it.

#2: Michelle has hit a whole new level of awesomeness.

My favorite pic of Michelle and Ava…well, one of my favorites.

Just when I thought I couldn’t love her any more than I already did, she went and had a baby. Mom-Michelle is just the bee’s knees. She is the butter to my bread. The peanut butter to my jelly. The cream in my Oreo. The giggle in my Jell-O.

Seeing her with Ava just knocks me out. She just does all the right things and makes it look easy, though I know it isn’t. I can’t tell you how good it feels knowing that with Michelle as her mommy, Ava will always be in good shape and life will be that much easier for her.

Seeing what a good mommy she is has made me love her infinitely more. I am so lucky to have a woman like her in my life. She just brings so much to the table. Now that we have Ava, Michelle and I have a new bond for life. We will always be connected through her, an unbreakable connection. That is family.

#3: I love being a dad.

Life is harder. I shouldn’t say it that way, but it is. There are new challenges on a daily basis, hell, almost an hourly basis. Money spends quicker. Nice things don’t stay nice. Sacrifices get made. What you want means nothing, it’s secondary. It’s tough. Real tough. There is no training or field manual that can help you. We consider Ava to be an easy baby, and she is hard as nails.

That being said, life is grand. I wouldn’t trade it for all the gold in Fort Knox or all the chocolate in Hershey, Pa. I am without a doubt a happier and more fulfilled person.

Things happen. They come up. They break down. They arise. They escalade. They get out of hand. They break loose. They blind side you. They are a pain in the ass.

But you know what? They come and go. They work themselves out. They have solutions. They aren’t the end of the world. They aren’t as bad as they seem. They are fixable. They are replaceable. They are what they are. And no matter what, I will always have my girls. Life happens, but Michelle and Ava will always be there for me. The love and support they give me is endless.

Frasier and Ava have always been best friends

Oh, and the good times. They are the best. They can’t be touched at all by the bad times. One good time is equal to like a 1,000 bad times. The are nuggets of gold. And it’s the little stuff too. Just making Ava laugh. Her giving me hugs and kisses. Her giving Frasier hugs and kisses. Watching her do things for the first time. Seeing her smile when I get home. It’s like magic how that can make me forget about all the stresses of the day. Something straight out of Harry Potter, simply magic.

Where did the time go?

Now that Ava is one, I look at other parents with new babies and think,”What happened? Where did the time go?”

I miss that stage when she was just a tiny infant that I could cradle in one arm. It’s amazing that as I look back at that stage in her life I easily forget about getting up every two hours at night and the constant 100 percent attention you have to give.

Ava now can sit up on my lap and climb all over me. She clings onto the side of my body when I carry her. She squirms and wiggles to be put down so she can crawl around. She can stand on her own. She can amuse herself. It’s both saddening and a relief to see her grow increasingly independent.

Time moves on and you just have to remember to enjoy today before it goes away too. Saturday is Ava’s party and it should be fun. Everything is planned to a “T” thanks to Michelle. Lots of cute decorations. Lots of food. Lots of family. (I invited my buddy Jack Daniels just incase I need his support if things get too hectic).

Her first birthday is one of many milestones I am looking forward to celebrating with her and as a family.

My two beauties!

As I look back, I can’t help but to also look forward. Taking her to ballet class. Going to the beach. Her first day of school. Having our first catch. Teaching her to swing a bat, shoot a hoop and to field a grounder. (God help me if she isn’t into some sort of sport)

Yep, life is good my friends. I have been truly blessed in life (As Pete Viola would say). I have learned to not sweat the small stuff, to stop and smell the roses and that Jack Daniels is better for headaches than Advil.

Where Has The Time Gone

It’s been a while since my last post. My apologies. Life moves fast and keeps me busy.

Ava’s over 10 months old now and her 1 year is rapidly approaching. I’ll save the “year in review” and ‘how my life has changed’ post for later, but I must say my life has never been better since Ava has arrived.

Michelle is on summer vacation and has started the party planning for Ava’s first. Thankfully she will be on summer break starting next week because planning this party will be a full-time job.

As for Ava, she is developing faster than ever. Most notably, she has been crawling, been pulling herself up to stand and she is feeding herself quite nicely. I was so pumped the day I made pasta with my homemade sauce and was able to give some to Ava to eat. Ava also has more teeth than most West Virginia inhabitants.

Eating my pasta for the first time is yet another step in her becoming an ‘official’ family member. Just as Catholicism has baptism, confession, holy communion and confirmation as ways to become officially accepted into the church, I have a similar process for becoming an official Viola family member.

So far Ava has been baptized in the ocean waters of the Outer Banks. She has confessed that she is a Pittsburgh sports fan when I took her to her first Pens game and wrapped her in a Terrible Towel mere hours after birth. And now she has had her first family communion when she ate my pasta.

As of late, Ava has also been developing a bit of a diva attitude. She has figured out that her mommy and daddy are able to be manipulated and has been training us for about two months now. Determined to curb this type of behavior, Michelle has declared this to be the summer of ‘Hard Knocks’ for Ava, determined to whip her into shape with tough love and stern parenting. My money is on Ava. Michelle is tough, but Ava is Ava after all.

It’s going to be a busy summer for them. Michelle has a bunch of activities lined up. Music classes. Dance classes. Reading activities. The works. Thus is the life of a child with a proper teacher as a parent.

Yesterday was Michelle’s last day of school for this school year. I took off to be with Ava for the day so she didn’t have to go to daycare. Ava has recently had an ear infection so she had a follow-up appointment that I took her to. The appointment was at 10:45. After getting Ava dressed, fed and bag packed, as well as making sure Frasier was taken care of, I was out the house by 10:20. More than enough time. But then I hit construction traffic. I pulled into the parking lot at 10:45. I went to get Ava out of her car seat and found that she pooped. This was to be expected. I prayed that she would hold off on pooping until after her appointment, but apparently God wasn’t listening to poop prayers that day and I imagine he instead turned his attention to other, be they slightly more important, worldly problems such as wars and illness.

Anyway, by the time Ava was changed I was running about 10 minutes behind. Ava’s doctor is located on Rt.19 in Mt.Lebanon in the uptown area. To try and make up time I carried Ava and started running to the doctor’s office. As I bolted down Rt.19 with Ava in my arms and a diaper bag around my shoulder, I couldn’t help but think of the other people looking at me and thinking that there may be the possibility that I kidnapped Ava from someone and was making my get-a-way.

That all for now. Good to be back. Talk to you later gators.

I’m Making Ava a Pirates Fan So Feel Free to Nominate Me For Worst Father Ever

What a weekend.

Once again we ran around like a band of traveling gypsies. Saturday Michelle and I took a little bit of an impromptu trip to McConnell’s Mills. A great spot about 45 minutes north of Pittsburgh. It has great hiking trails, covered bridges and runs along Slippery Rock Creek, which is more like a small river.

It is very scenic with beautiful views, landscapes and greenery. Trees, ferns, large rock faces, moss-covered boulders/rocks and assorted other forest plants set the scene. It is an ideal spot for anyone who enjoys the outdoors and likes to hike. Ferns are my favorite plant, so I’m like a pig in mud when I’m there because McConnell’s Mills has ferns like an episode of ‘Hoarders’ has cock roaches.

Ava isn’t quite ready for the advanced hiking trails just yet, so we had to stick to the beginner path. It was paved, which is to say it was relatively flat and had something that could be considered a non-dirt surface without roots sticking up and large rocks on the path.

Ava was in her glory though. She definitely is a fan of nature. She was in her stroller and never stopped pointing to plants, kicking her legs, clapping her hands,  laughing and giggling, looking in every direction. The only thing that Ava didn’t enjoy was when mommy tried to dip her toes in the water. Every time Michelle went to lower her feet in, Ava would curl her feet up like a turtle. Later she waved her finger at mommy to tell her, “No more of that!”

Someone who did enjoy the water was Frasier. If you thought we wouldn’t bring him then you haven’t been reading this blog close enough. Frasier tried jumping in the water every chance he had. Then he also felt the need to roll in the dirt and sand once he was out. I had to hose him down once we were home.

We ended our trip that day by having an awesome picnic at one of the many areas they have set-a-side up there. Once again, I highly recommend McConnell’s Mills for any family looking to enjoy the outdoors.

Not to be outdone by Saturday, we headed to the Pirates game on Sunday. Frasier had to stay home this time, though he was still recovering from the prior day’s activities and needed the rest. After fighting through marathon traffic and blocked roads, I had to park a few blocks from PNC Park, which I didn’t think was a real big deal until I had to carry Ava in 80+ degree heat. By the time we got to the park I was sweating like I just ran the marathon and my arm was numb.

I got us duckets in the Pirate Club level. This way we could step inside and watch the game if it got too hot, which we did a lot. Even though we put sun-block on Ava, it was just too hot sitting in the sun. We watched a few innings from our seats, but most the time was spent watching from a shaded balcony or inside the restaurant area. Which isn’t a bad way to watch the game either. Though the Pirates didn’t make it much of a game to watch anyway.

Most importantly, Ava got her ceramic Pirates pierogi bowl, which is worth the price of admission alone. Regardless of how the game turned out, there is nothing like that feeling of taking your kid to a ball game. Walking across the bridge with her. Seeing her take in the park and all its sights and sounds. It was all great and will only get better as she gets older.

We are headed back to PNC Park tonight to see the Buccos play the Nats. Hopefully the Pirates give us a better showing tonight. Either way Ava will be smiling and so will her parents.

Its All Happening At The Zoo

Second on my list of things I wanted to do with Ava, after taking her to her first Pens game, was take her to the zoo. We can now scratch that one off the list.

At nine months, Ava has reached the age where she is curious about pretty much everything and really likes to observe. The zoo is the perfect place to do just that.

It should be noted that this was actually our second time taking Ava to the zoo, however, the first was unsuccessful as it was St. Patrick’s Day weekend and the weather was perfect. Apparently everyone else had the same idea we had and went to the zoo too. I now know that if you are single, you stay in the city and drink on St. Paddy’s weekend. If you have a family, you go to the zoo. The traffic was lined across the bridge that leads over to the zoo. The parking lot had to have been full. There was no way we would have enjoyed ourselves with that crowd, so we ended up going to Phipps that day instead and had an equally great time.

So a couple weeks later I ended up taking a day off of work on a day Michelle already had off. It was also a nice day, a little chilly, but the sun was shining. We got there early and for the most part had the zoo to ourselves, except for a field trip or two. We let them go ahead, no biggie.

Our first stop when we got there was not to the polar bear exhibit. It was not to the lions, or the tigers, or the monkeys (thought I was going to say “bears” didn’t you?). Our first stop was right to the gift shop. For some reason, Ava makes us want to spend money. Everything just looks so damn cute on her. Hats. Sweatshirts. Sun glasses. All adorable to the point where we have no choice. Plus, she needs a keepsake from her first visits to places…that’s just the basics.

As we got moving through the zoo, it was a series of photo shoots. Ava in front of the elephants. Ava in front of the gorillas. Ava with mommy in front of the penguins. Ava with daddy in front of the penguins. Picture after picture after picture. Which is pretty much the norm for everywhere we go, or when we are at home. Let’s just say Ava is well documented.

As we went from exhibit to exhibit, Ava was loving the zoo. She loved pointing at the animals and clapping when she saw we were excited looking at them too. At the aquarium, her favorite part was when a shark would swim right up against the glass. Ava showing what a bad ass she is, had a great time slapping the glass as it swam by.

Her hands-down favorite exhibit though were the penguins. Her eyes were as big as saucers. As the penguins jumped in the water and swam by the glass Ava would clap and bounce in my arms. She would hug the glass trying to get to them. She would bob her head as she watched them waddle on land. Penguins have been a favorite of hers since she was first born. She had penguin stuffed animals and penguins books. This was her first time though seeing them for real, and it was awesome.

There is no doubt that we will be back there multiple times this summer. I am also thinking about making a summer trip to the Columbus zoo, which is one of the best in the world. Seeing Ava enjoy the same things I enjoyed as a kid (and still do) brings me so much joy and happiness. We have a bunch of pictures from this trip, but haven’t downloaded them off our camera yet. I will post them as soon as we do.

On the days between our zoo visits, Ava is held over by Frasier. He for sure acts like he belongs in a zoo sometimes.

Ava Is A Dancing Fool

Ava is just super fun right now. She is at a stage where she is able to start really learning things, as well as mimicking movements you show her.

Recently she has learned how to clap, how to wave, how to point, how to dance and sway, and how to bop. She is currently in training for peek-a-boo and blowing kisses. At times I feel bad “teaching” her these things because it feels very similar to when we taught Frasier his tricks. I think to myself, “Am I treating my daughter like my dog?”

It’s nearly the same process. Illustrate, repeat, reward. The only real difference is that Ava doesn’t get a jerky treat when she does something right…she gets a kiss instead. Which, knowing how pathetic and sensitive Frasier is, he would almost prefer a kiss over a jerky treat. Almost.

Something Ava started just doing on her own though is dancing. One day it just manifested itself. The first time she did the “Ava shuffle” was when we took her to her first Penguin game. She was sitting on one of our laps and music started to play over the speakers. We look over and Ava is swaying back and forth like Stevie Wonder. This was out of nowhere. Since then Ava will do her version of Flashdance any time she hears music. Ava has this robo-dog toy that sings and moves (click here for video). Sit her in front of that and she dances and kicks like a Rockette.

When she is not performing for us, she also likes to applaud. She will clap when you enter the room. She will give you a round of applause for making her bottle. She gives a roaring ovation when Frasier chases his toys. She gives a nice golf-clap when you change her diaper and she will give a rousing cheer after you read her a good story.

Most exciting is that she is starting to be able to make new sounds and use different letters. When she started to baby talk it was mostly sounds that started with D’s, T’s and L’s. Now she is making sounds that start with W’s, F’s and a bunch of others. A few times she has blurted out sounds that were close to words, but we aren’t counting those as first words quite yet. She also hasn’t quite found her M sounds either…sorry Mommy. Ava is only about 9 months old and it seems her first real words are just weeks away.

A look at the fangs on Ava-saurus Rex

Another new thing is when people want to hold Ava and she is in a certain carnivorous mood, Michelle and I have to issue warnings. What I mean by this is that Ava is a biter. One again, she is just a few days shy of being 9 months old and she has nearly a full set of teeth. Michelle has marks on her shoulder from the Ava-saurus Rex that make it look like she was mauled by a rabid guinea pig. It border line sadistic because after she bites into you and you yelp, she just looks at you, smiles, and gives a few claps. There is a look in her eye that says, “I can’t wait to do that again.”  If Ava starts to kill small animals when she gets older, I’m really going to have to worry. I really hope I’m not raising a modern-day Lizzy Borden.

As a father and husband I’m pretty lucky. When I walk in the house after work I am initially greeted by a 110 pound jumping chocolate lab. As I walk up the steps and round the corner into the living room I find my wife and daughter playing together. My wife gives me a smile and announces, “Daddy is home!”. My daughter starts to clap and giggle. Any bad day I might be having at that moment stops immediately.

Ava’s First Hockey Game

At eight months old Ava made it to her second professional sporting event.

The first time she was at a pro sporting event was last September when we took her to a Buccos game. She was about two and a half month old. Our seats were right on the visitors (Cincinnati Reds) dugout and Dusty Baker threw us a game ball after I yelled to him that is was Ava’s first game.

I don’t remember if we won or lost that game. It doesn’t matter. We had a great time as a family.

Fast forward about six months or so and Ava is headed for her first Pens game. I have been waiting for this moment since Michelle told me she was prego. I could have taken her to a game earlier in the season, but the dad in me waited for a game that would have warmer weather and longer light since we would have to walk and stand in line outside the arena.

Michelle did what she does best. Ava was dressed to the nines for the occasion. Needless to say I made sure she had the right gear. Michelle, the grandparents and her aunts make sure Ava has the cutest outfits. Baby Gap. Carters. Dresses. Flowers for her hair. Hats. All the things that make you want to pinch her cheeks.

What clothes are my responsibility? Pens gear, Steeler gear, Bucco gear and Pitt gear. NO PINK JERSEYS!!!!!! If the players don’t wear them, you don’t wear them. Nothing says “I’m a  serious sports fan” like a pink jersey with rhinestones. Not in my household.

All day I was like a kid before Christmas. I was looking forward to going to the game like Frasier looks forward to going to the dog park. When I got home and saw how cute Ava looked in her outfit I nearly fell down the steps. Look at those the pics below, can you blame me? I know I’m gushing…..but come on.

Once at the arena, Ava’s eyes never closed. Too much to look at and take it. Her head was on a swivel. The lights. The sounds. The people. The colors. Best part of it all…she watched the game, kinda. Well, she probably was watching the thingies (players) moving around fast on the ice down in front of her, but I’m not going to nit-pick. I’ll take that. She loved all the LED displays and the jumbotron. She loved looking through the crowd. Not once did she fuss or cry.

However, there was one moment where she teared up some. It was on the Pen’s third goal. I was afraid that when we scored, she would get jolted as everyone jumps up and screams while the goal horn blasts. I figured that sudden burst of sound and movement would scare her. It didn’t on the first two, but the third one got her. But after a quick kiss from mommy and daddy, everything was all better.

Also at the game with us was her Uncle Dave. Ava made sure to thank him for his gift of a Penguins stuffed puppy dog. She loves it…it looks like Frasier. She also seemed to be obsessed with his beard, so now I decided to get Ava a Chia-pet. Mommy and daddy also bought Ava a puck too to go with her baseball.

The attendance last night at the arena was announced at 18,588. A SRO sellout. I’m pretty sure that at least half those people let us know how cute Ava was. Michelle and I spent most of our time taking pictures and trying to get her on the jumbotron. Wasn’t much of a game to watch anyway. The Pens lost 5-3, and that makes it sound closer than what it was. Once again, doesn’t matter. We all had a great time.

We’ll get that win next time!

Top 10 Parenting Tips From The GodFather

The Godfather is the greatest movie ever made. It is a perfect movie. Law states that every guy has to watch it at least once.

Three hundred years from now, when people are living on the moon and illegal aliens (literally) are scattered across Earth, the captain of some star-ship is going to explain his battle strategy by saying, “I’m going to make him an offer he can’t refuse.”

I was watching The Godfather for the 3,066th time the other day and I realized that there is some great parenting wisdom hidden behind the bloodshed and Italian accents. below are the top 10 pieces of parenting advice I found in quotes from the movie:

10: “Leave the gun…..take the cannolis.” – Clemenza: If ever your daughter comes home with an undesirable, take him out back to threaten and/or harm him. Leave that ugliness out-back where no one can find it. Then, when he is “convinced it won’t work”, come back inside with some sweets or pastries to help break the good bad news to your daughter that her friend felt the need to keep his future open.

9: “The Corleone Family wants to buy me out? No, I buy you out, you don’t buy me out!” – Moe Green: Don’t let your kids think they can make the rules. You tell them what to do, they don’t tell you.

8: “In Sicily, women are more dangerous than shotguns.” – Calo: Teach your daughter to be tough and not to take crap from anyone, especially men. As her father, you should set an example for what a man should be. Have her set her expectations high and if a guy doesn’t meet them then she should have no problem axing him.

7: “Hey, listen, I want somebody good – and I mean very good – to plant that gun. I don’t want my brother coming out of that toilet with just his dick in his hands, alright?” – Sonny: Prepare your child for life. Don’t over shelter them. Let them learn their own lessons. Don’t be afraid to punish them. Show them how great the world and life can be, but let them know the flip-side of life’s coin as well. The world can be a tough place, so they may need a little grit themselves to battle through whatever obstacles come their way. Don’t send them into the world empty-handed. Help them try to be self-sufficient, confident, and aware. A little attitude doesn’t hurt either.

6: “My father made him an offer he couldn’t refuse.” – Michael: Of course this had to be on the list. Simply put, let the boyfriends and others know you care deeply for your daughter, and that their well-being is dependent on your daughter’s well-being.

5: “If there is trouble, I stay here to help you. For your father. For your father.”  – Enzo the Baker: Teach your children the importance of family, loyalty and respect. Teach them to help others and contribute to society, as there are so many that only take.

4: “It’s a Sicilian message. It means Luca Brasi sleeps with the fishes.” – Clemenza: Teach your kids that there are repercussions for their actions. They may temporarily hate you for their punishments, but it will inevitably lead to responsibility and character.

3: “I like to drink wine more than I used to…Anyway, I’m drinking more.” – Don Corleone: Kids will do that to you. Always have a bottle on hand.

2: “I never wanted this for you. I work my whole life, I don’t apologize, to take care of my family. And I refused to be a fool dancing on the strings held by all of those big shots. That’s my life, I don’t apologize for that. But I always thought that when it was your time, that you would be the one to hold the strings. Senator Corleone, Governor Corleone, something.” – Don Corleone: Do whatever you need to do to support your family. Work for your children so they have what they need to be successful in life. Sacrifice and set examples. Don’t be afraid to dream big for them in hopes they achieve great things. Let them go after their dreams. You will feel rewarded in their achievements. Regardless of what they end-up being or doing in life, if they grow to be healthy, smart, responsible, caring and happy people, then you did your job.

1: “A man who doesn’t spend time with his family can never be a real man.” – Don Corleone: No explanation needed.