Milestones – inch by inch

Little Guy and I have been making some significant strides in our lives – and not in one fell swoop either (We both celebrated with some bottles too!).  We’ve decided that it’s time to start moving, and for him that meant literally. . . moving.  For me it meant really focusing in on my Architect Registration Exam (ARE) that I mentioned in a previous post.

It took every second of screaming into the floor for him to realize that it’s actually ok to exist on your belly.  Likewise, I had been screaming into the “Structural Systems” study guides that have forever been my arch-nemesis.  But we both discovered that you have to take that first little step to get it all started (or in my case: to get started – again). 

Once he realized that you can go places on your belly, everything clicked into place.  Why reach for something when you can crawl there?  Why not roll there??  Why not sit up once you get there??!  It’s been amazing to see the little moves and the intricate coordination that has been developing over the past few weeks.  This Little Guy who at one point needed his mom and dad to hold his head up is now barrel rolling across the floor, laughing, drooling, and grunting the whole way.  Every day he’s one inch closer to finding his legs and running out the front door!

Little by little I’ve been studying for my last exam.  There are 7 of them and I had six down.  The last one is arguably the most difficult depending on an individual’s strengths.  It was very frustrating sometimes – looking at formulas to calculate bolt strengths and stresses within steel beams – knowing full well that I will never actually calculate these things in the “real world” (that’s why an entire profession called “Structural Engineering” exists)!  So, I took it like I knew I could handle it.  One little portion at a time I studied and perfected a piece of this puzzle until I felt comfortable enough to take the exam.

The day that he first crawled, we weren’t entirely sure that it actually happened.  I mean, he DID move in a direction, it WAS kind of a crawl, and he COULD actually repeat it.  After a while though it sunk in that this was really happening and that his efforts had paid off.  He was officially a “crawler” (something that I have since learned that some babies skip altogether). 

After I sat for my last exam, I walked out a little defeated.  “If I failed this exam”, I thought, “I don’t know what I will do.”  This wasn’t a moment of despair, it was just a realization that I had studied so much and so hard that – if I did fail – I literally didn’t know what else I would do to prepare.  About a billion weeks later, I heard from my wife who had just opened some interesting mail from the State Licensing Board.  Just like Little Guy, my efforts had paid off, and I am now an official Licensed Architect (well, once even MORE paperwork goes thru. . . . . ).

Little steps. . . big results.

 

Architecture/design products:

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When he started grasping items and lifting them, I immediately started thinking about buying him blocks to stack.  First of all, you would assume that finding blocks in the infinite array of stores available would be easy (ha).  When I did find blocks, they were wooden and painted – something that I originally thought was ideal.  I wanted a nice, classic, iconic set of blocks.

But not for a baby who has two new teeth.  After reading reviews on blocks (yes. . . . I actually read reviews on wooden blocks. . . . ), I ended up buying the “Squeeze & Stack Block Set” from Infantino.  I really like that he won’t end up with wood shards in his mouth and they are extremely easy to clean – soft, squeezable, and BPA free.  He absolutely loves them (and especially likes knocking down the towers that I try to construct in front of him. . . a true design critic at heart!).

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Design-A-Job

I don’t remember ever deciding that I wanted to be an Architect.  My father was a Masonry Contractor – mostly residential work – throughout my entire childhood, so there were always plenty of drawings around the house left over from finished projects.  Sometimes I would take the old drawings and sketch on top of them, experimenting with shapes of spaces or trying to imagine what the exterior of the house would look like.  I also constructed an entire Lego empire in our basement that grew exponentially with every passing birthday or Holiday.  Once everything was set up perfect, I would take it all down and reconstruct it – over and over and over.

Many years later when it became time to apply to Colleges, I had to decide what my major would be and without hesitation, I started applying to Architecture schools.  I don’t think anyone suggested Architecture.  I don’t remember anyone pushing design or aesthetics on me when I was growing up.  I just knew that this was what I wanted to do.

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On site at Frank Gehry’s Vontz Center for Molecular Studies at the University of Cincinnati in 1999

Of course I can’t help but wonder. . . what will my son “be” when he grows up.  So far – at 8 months old – his skill set seems to lack focus.  There is a very strong chance that he may be a competitive eater based on the amount of things he tries to put in his mouth on a daily basis.  Lately he’s been getting better at yelling, so maybe some sort of announcer or someone who alerts boats that they are about to hit the shore. . . because I think that’s a thing.  My path makes me realize that with some influences and opportunities in place, there’s a chance that you can help guide your children into a direction. . . or maybe the mere attempt at guiding them sends them off in a different direction. . . how would you ever know?

What I do know is that I want to show this Little Guy the world.  Despite the fact that I had no idea that I was going to be an Architect, I can still think back and appreciate the various places that my parents took me (or sent me) when I was growing up.  Our interpretation of our surroundings and environment absolutely influence the way we think about things when we’re older – even if we’re not designing those spaces ourselves.  My hope is that I can at least instill an appreciation of the built environment into him so that as he travels thru his life, he’s not just walking around in a world that he takes for granted, but appreciating and seeing that there is thoughtfulness and design in the things we pass by every day.  It was my parents who gave me the opportunity to start seeing these things in my life.  Before I was even out of high school, I had traveled to England, Spain, Morocco, and an array of cities across the US.  All of this gave me the confidence and the hunger to keep exploring and I ended up in internships in Chicago, Santa Monica, and NYC because I knew these were places that had something for me to experience. . . and it was great!  I hope that we can start to show him at an early age that there is . . . a lot. . . . to see.

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Architecture/Design products:

I know it’s really an obvious pick, but I cannot speak about my childhood and Architecture without talking about LEGOs!  However, specific to the topic, I will mention the LEGO Architect Series.  At the moment, these toys are my worst nightmare as each of the individual pieces will get their shot at being digested if I were to present this toy to my son.  But. . . this one might be more for me at any given time anyway. . . .

Design-A-Kid

I decided to name this blog “Design-A-Dad” because of the fact that I am a new Dad/Architect.  In my “day job”, I work at a firm that designs a lot of high-end retail, custom residential, and Urban Core revitalization projects.  I don’t want to come off as too egotistical, but it takes an amazing amount of talent and dedication to work as an Architect. . . . (ahem. . . ).  

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In all seriousness though, it does take a lot of coordination on a day to day basis, and rightfully so.  We are responsible for not only creating bad-assed environments. . . . (ahem. . . ), but also managing all of the parts and pieces leading up to the day that the over-sized ribbon gets cut and you hand the key to the front door over to the guy with the money (those things rarely happen, by the way).  There’s the understanding of the building code, managing consultants, interpreting Owner needs and requirements, and of course working with the Contractors to get it all finished.  There’s about 5,000 other pieces in there, but the point is it’s a lot. . . and it’s a tremendous amount of responsibility.

Hence the reason there are professional licensure requirements for the people who are willing to sign their name to the finished drawings.  You need this license BEFORE you can be responsible for the project.  You have to prove that you are ready. . . . .(I’m currently in the process of completing a series of 7 tests that make up the Architectural Registration Exam).  You can’t just say “I’m ready”.

So, you can see where this is going:  Once I realized that there are truly NO pre-requisites to becoming a dad, I became both confident and worried (confident that I could handle it. . . worried about the rest of the world).  There’s no license to be a dad.  There’s no test.  There’s no system in place to make sure you’re doing it right.

So, I started doing what I do at work: preparation, coordination, planning.  There are endless resources out there to find all of the answers I ever wanted – and then some.  It’s truly overwhelming for sure.  Read, read, read.  It was helpful to know that I was kind of not the only one who ever has – or ever will be – raising a kid, so there’s some comfort in numbers.  I very quickly learned to listen to everyone while not listening to anybody.  Everyone has a different way than the way you’re going to do it, but within the chaos of articles and forums and online encyclopedias, there are pieces of information that are obviously things you should pay attention to. . . I’ve compiled a few below (click for answers).

And so. . . there was yet another creation on the way.  This “project” had its own deadline, it’s own milestones to meet, and I could already feel the weight of my responsibility for its well being.

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Architecture/design products:

I haven’t purchased this product yet, but I plan to.  Perpetual Kid has a lot of interesting items, but one that I thought would be fun to have was the “Constructive Eating Plate and Utensils” – especially since Little Guy is currently experimenting with all sorts of “real food”.  Now I just have to fine tune my truck noises. . . . . I’m sure the contractors at my next project meeting would love to hear me practice. . . .

It’s DADurday™ !!

Our work scenarios result in a schedule juggle of sorts.  We are extremely fortunate to have my father-in-law (the self proclaimed “Manny”) willing to adjust his schedule twice a week to watch Little Guy.  My wife holds the fort down by herself 3 days a week, and Sunday is pretty much the only day we have all together.  That leaves today:  Dadurday!

This is guy day.  In the past 6 months since my wife has gone back to work part time, we’ve done some extremely manly stuff on Dadurday.  We’ve built a tree house, learned to ride motorcycles, tested various levels of hot peppers. . . you know. . . typical dad/baby activities.  It’s truly amazing how quickly he’s picked up cage-fighting!

. . . maybe not yet. . . but. . we do get to go on little missions that are intricately timed around eating, sleeping, having a fit, and spitting up all over the place. . . and of course we have to work around his schedule too. . . .

It actually ends up being very productive time.  In our Dadurday missions we’ve managed to open up a savings account for him (loves the change counting machine at the bank), we try to get the grocery shopping started (while learning colors and the names of vegetables), we purchase pallets of diapers and 55 gallon drums of formula from Sam’s Club, and we go explore new places like hardware stores just to “man it up” a little.  I used to see these “tasks” and “chores” as fairly annoying, but with some little hands to help, it actually ends up being a nice break from the rushing around.  Everything takes twice as long to do and there’s a lot of in and out of car seats and shopping carts, but when you start to accept that it’s not about knocking down chores and more about spending a little quality time, the pace of the whole day changes a bit.

All week long I look forward to today – and in between Dadurdays, I’m on the lookout for Architecturally related baby toys (not exactly a huge market).  Although he’s a little young, one of the first items I bought was Popville.

I’m always looking and have a list of Architectural based products that I’ll start infusing into my posts.  Until then:  Happy Dadurday!!