Technologically Classical

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As Little Guy continues to grow, I find myself in a constant mental struggle related to the type of interaction we impress upon him.  I’m drawn to the “Traditional” toys like blocks and other wooden toys.  I think of the stereotypical toys like the bubble lawn mower and the wooden puzzle and the rubber mallet work bench, and I imagine that he NEEDS these things in order to facilitate a proper childhood.  Who DOESN’T have green army men as they move past the beginning stages of school-age?

On the other hand, there is the constant beckoning of the modern toys:  The USB fed stuffed puppy dog, the baby friendly apps for my smartphone, and the endless array of computer screen based learning tools that would no doubt propel my non-walking child into the realm of tech-savvy computer genius by the age of 2.

The same “dilemma” exists in the Architectural profession.  There is a desirable image of “The Architect”, pencil in hand, roughing out a quick sketch/masterpiece that results in a frameable piece of art that can be hung on the wall after the project is finished.  On the other hand, as a profession, we’ve come to rely on the digital representation of space more and more.  There are less models and more computer rendered images; less freehand sketches and more hardline CAD drawings.  For good reason too:  it’s so much easier to update a 3D model than to rebuild a wooden one.

As with most of our lives. . . it’s all about balance.  I believe in the traditional/classic aspects of both the items in my child’s life as well as in Architectural representation (although I will admit that I don’t utilize these methods enough in my day to day).  I also cannot imagine turning away from the “new way” of doing things.  I feel as if I would be cheating Little Guy out of experience and knowledge of how the “new things” work.  He bangs on the keyboard and sees results.  He taps on my phone and sees it light up.  There’s no doubt that there is a new kind of learning happening here.  And the computer is absolutely the way to go with what I do day to day with design.  No doubt there are hours, no. . . days, saved with using these modern tools. . . but I crave the classic touch as well.

So, I imagine that as time passes, I’ll continue to attempt to blend these two worlds.  It may be the case that Little Guy is talking about how “they used to still make things out of wood when I was a kid”, or “I can’t believe that you used to have to plug things in”.  Until then, I’ll keep trying to be retro cool while also portraying my Mr. Tech persona.

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Please do not touch

Tonight we brought Little Guy to First Friday Scranton, the local monthly Art Walk.  It’s been a while since I’ve visited the event – unfortunate since I am a board member – but kind of acceptable since the arrival of my son.  It has certainly been a whirlwind, and finding time for ourselves has proven to be pretty challenging.

But now that he’s a bit older, we’re beginning to seek out things for him to experience.  It’s true that he’s in a stage where almost everything is absolutely amazing.  The other day there was some lint on the floor that proved to be one of the most incredible things in existence.  This was confirmed by the absolute fit that was thrown when I prevented the lint from being tasted. . . .

It’s true.  Everything is amazing.  I’ve been attributing this to the mere fact that he’s kind of new to certain experiences.  What else is he going to think?  Something in the refrigerator is COLD?!  That’s amazing!  Lights go on AND off?!  Say it isn’t so!  But. . . everything. . . is. . . amazing.

My thoughts drift immediately to some of the films of Charles and Ray Eames, particularly “Blacktop” and “Bread”.  If you want to dive further into what the focus of Charles & Ray were, check out “The design genius of Charles + Ray Eames”.  But none of this is the focus of my post.

In the film “Blacktop”, the focus is on the patterns of water and soap that flow across a blacktop lot while washing a childrens’ playground. . . yes, I am serious.  If you’re not in the “artistic” mood when you watch this, it can be one of the more ridiculous concepts you’ve ever thought you’d be watching.  When I first watched it, I was in the right mood.  You can very easily find beauty in the simplest of things if you know what you’re looking for.  The film “Bread”:  Take a guess.

So, back to this evening.  I can’t confirm that a 9 month old knows what he is looking for, but I do know that amazing things are happening every day right in front of his eyes.  I took him into a few venues today and “showed” him art.  He seemed captivated at times, bored and distracted at others.  Could it have been a reaction to what he perceived as “interesting” or “beautiful”?  Maybe.  He responded to the vivid, abstract, bold canvas, while he was easily distracted while looking at line drawings; a factor of the use of color, no doubt.  In all cases, he wanted to touch everything – probably wanted to eat it too.

I think back to my senior Architecture thesis which explored the possibility that your perception of art could be altered by the process of watching someone else experience that art.  All of that was wrapped into a design of the hypothetical Scranton Arts Center that explored the use of transparency to support the thesis.  11 years later, I literally saw this process in action as I held my son.  He looked at a painting, stuck his tongue out, and made a “pthwwwt” sound, to which the woman next to him replied “Ahhh, an art critic.  What’s he looking at?  Oh, I agree”.  Now, I know that he didn’t make her think that. . . but maybe he helped??  Thesis validated.

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Since the “Big Day” is fast approaching, we’re starting to think of ideas for Little Guy’s first birthday!  He was born around Halloween, so there’s lots of fun to come out of that, for sure.  Just today, my wife found an image of this cake though. . . . hmmmmmm.  I think we must do this.  Found at Interesting Engineering.

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!!

A shift in the Universe

“Having a baby changes everything”, they say.  Well, they’re very smart.  But, let’s back it up about 10 months (because if you even THINK about mentioning that pregnancy only lasts 9 months, someone who has been, is currently, or will be pregnant in the future. . . is going to hit you).  Actually, let’s back it up even further.

“I think we should have a baby.”

(cue record screech). . . .

Now, the concept of having a child in our lives did not come out of the blue by any means.  We agreed before we were even married that we would be enjoying the company of little ones in our lives.  There were just a few things that I wanted to get out of the way before we made the final commitment:

  • Pass all of my Architectural Registration Exams
  • Run another marathon – in less than 3 hours
  • Design and build our house – with my bare hands and no help
  • Learn to play the guitar – and start a band
  • Be 100% financially secure – to the point where I never have to work ever again

I started to realize that maybe my “life goals” were being a little inflated to the point of unacheivability. . . until we were “ready”.  So, either we wait for everything to be perfect, or we decide that we’re doing this. . . . THAT’S when everything changed.  The second we decided that we were ready (or. . . ready as we’ll ever be), I started evaluating every aspect of my life; really, really important things:

  • Do we have enough room for a baby (yes, how much room could a baby take up, 3 square feet?)
  • Am I ready to have a baby and do I really have to change diapers?
  • Should I work out more?
  • I’m kind of hungry.

It’s really easy to get distracted when such an overwhelming decision has just been made. 

So that was it.  I was going to be a dad and I was really excited about it. That may have actually been the moment when I became a dad: the second I started considering what it all meant, the second we stepped into this new territory.

And the journey began…

From “0 to Dad”

It was not that long ago that I was just another cool-guy Architect wandering the streets with my awesome new wife while we popped in and out of the trendy places in NYC.  Of course some of this could possibly be my own perceived awesomeness, but hey, there’s nothing wrong with a good self image.

Flash forward 2.8 seconds and I have an absurdly large diaper bag slung over my arm (jammed full of an exorbitant amount of diapers, extra clothes, burp cloths, more burp cloths, baby wipes, and more burp cloths – just in case we get stranded for a week somewhere and our baby decides to eat a lot of Mexican food).  I have a pocket full of pacifiers (because somehow, there is a 1 second window where you turn your head and a pacifier turns into a rocket).  There’s always 3 other things I have to bring as well; things that used to be easy to carry like a cup of coffee, my wallet, and a phone; that suddenly become impossible to keep track of and handle with any kind of dignity.  Oh and, where are my keys?

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Of course I am exaggerating a tiny bit.  Having our son last November was the absolute best thing that has happened to us in our entire lives – hands down.  And, it may sound like I’m setting myself up to be Superdad, but in actuality, without my wife, this whole effort would be hopeless.  She’s truly the glue, the support, & the never-ending machine that makes this all possible – and you can tell her I said that (please tell her that I said that).

There are times though when we look up for a second and ask each other “What. . . just. . . happened??”.  All of the sudden we need to be experts on infant nutrition, everything in the house is wet from saliva, and Babies R Us has decided to just make us a key so we can come and go as we please.  All of this while maintaining our careers, attempting to buy/build a house, and try to remain as awesome as we know we can be.

Advice?  Sure, I have advice.  Laughs?  Why not?  I’m hilarious.  My hope is that I can relay all of the amazing, confusing, uplifting, draining, and completely overwhelming moments of going from zero to Dad in 1 second flat.