dad from day one: The Due Date

Forty weeks.

Don’t ask me how, but all week my wife and I have had the theme song to the ‘80’s sitcom Mr. Belvedere stuck in our heads.  In the mindset of “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em”, we downloaded the song as our ringtones for when we call each other.  That has caused me to revisit some of my most favorite theme songs from these sitcoms that served as the backdrop of my childhood.  A very interesting trait that many of these TV shows had in common with each other (and accordingly, the lyrics to their theme songs) is that premise was that an outsider moved into the household, therefore throwing normalcy out of whack.  Which totally relates to what’s going through my head right now about our upcoming new addition, a baby boy. (In order to qualify, the sitcom had to actually start in the 1980’s; Diff’rent Strokes, Mork and Mindy, and The Facts of Life don’t qualify since since they premiered in the ’70’s.)

For example, here’s a sitcom that had it all, yet could have only existed in the 1980’s: An all-American family, laugh tracks, and an Alien puppet. Of course, I’m referring to Alf. While the song had no words (instead it sounded like what would happen if you pressed the “demo” button on a $200 Casio keyboard in 1988), the thought of a little creature running around the floor chasing cats loosely translates having a baby boy. For Family Matters, the intended outsider was Estelle Winslow who moved in with her son Carl’s family, though unexpectedly the true outsider instead became Steve Urkle (intended only as a guest star) instead a few episodes into the first season.

In Mr. Belvedere, a British butler moves in with an American family living in Philadelphia: “Sometimes things get turned around and no one’s spared… There’s a change in the status quo.  Preparing for our new arrival.  We might just live the good life yet…”


Another prime example is from one of my favorite sitcoms ever, which happens to have my favorite TV show theme song ever.  In Perfect Strangers, city slicker Larry Appleton is thrown for a curve when his distant cousin Balki moves from his mysterious Mediterranean village to live with Larry in Chicago: “Sometimes the world looks perfect- nothing to rearrange.  Sometimes you just get a feeling that you need some kind of change…”


In Full House, it was  Joey and Uncle Jesse who mixed things up by moving in with the Tanner family: “What ever happened to predictability?”

There was CBS’s version of Diff’rent Strokes: Webster.  As a kid, I actually liked Webster more than Arnold: “Til there was you…”


The next two sitcoms both premiered in 1984 and featured an Italian-American who moved into the household as a “manny”. Who’s the Boss? contains my 2nd favorite theme song ever and often caused me to believe that Tony Danza was my uncle: “You might awaken to a brand new life around the bend…”


Even though I never watched it, I know it was a big deal to a lot of people- Charles in Charge: “New boy in the neighborhood…”


You’re welcome… for being led into a world of nostalgia.  It’s pretty much a fact that you’ll be struggling to get one of those songs out of your head for the rest of the day.  So being such a sentimental guy as I am, I’ve been thinking about the current events that are going on right now.  That way I can tell Jack what was going on around the time he was born:

Interestingly, on November 5th, the movie Due Date hit theatres.  Daylight Savings was two days later; meaning that when it’s that time again to set back the clocks every year, it will almost be time for Jack’s birthday.  Conan O’Brien’s new show premiered this week (November 8th) and sure enough on last night’s episode during the monologue Conan pointed out that it was exactly nine months ago that his gig at The Tonight Show ended; so if because two people felt sad for Conan losing his job they decided to “get frisky” to be happy again, their child would be born this week.  Good call.

It will also be pretty neat that I will be able to show Jack the November 2010 issue of American Baby, in which in his birth was anticipated.  He is not making his debut unannounced; that’s for sure.  Today, November 11th, is not only Jack’s due date but it’s also my dad’s birthday, whose name is also Jack.  So even though he won’t have the same exact birthday as my dad, their birthdays will always be close.

Of all the pregnancy advice I’ve been given, the one thing no one warned me about is this: For first time moms, it’s normal and expected to not delivery until a full week after the due date.  So if you or your wife are approaching your due date, don’t do like I did and get all psyched, thinking the water is going to break at any moment.  Because then everyone is constantly asking for and expecting baby news, but sure enough, the baby is unaware of his due date.  He’s coming out when he’s good and ready.

I have to remind myself that my baby is not a Hot Pocket, with an exact predetermined time of two minutes in the microwave.  In fact, that would be pretty weird if he truly was born right near the due date.  We went to the doctor today.  Thank God, Baby Jack has still got a strong heartbeat and is in a good position.  He’s turned the correct way and everything.  But as far as when he gets here, I’m sure it will be the moment that I (and everyone else) least expects it.  He’s a sneaky little guy.

All pictures with the “JHP” logo were taken by Joe Hendricks Photography:

Blog- www.photojoeblog.com

Website- www.joehendricks.com




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dad from day one: Actor Turned Director

Twenty-nine weeks.

It took me 12 straight days to teach myself to solve the Rubik’s Cube; it was during this time that my wife and I found out we were going to have a baby.  Of course, we didn’t tell anyone until over a month later, but during my “learn to solve a Rubik’s Cube” phase, I had several people crack themselves up with this joke: “If you’ve got the time and patience to solve that thing, it’s time for you to have a kid!”  And they were right.  My instincts were making it obvious that like so many actors, the time eventually arrives when it’s time to dabble with directing.

(Cue the song “In My Life” by The Beatles as the proper soundtrack as you read the rest of this post.  It’s officially my favorite song ever.)

I can look back on my life with satisfaction, knowing that my accomplishments have outweighed my failures and regrets.  I have met all kinds of interesting people from all over the world (most of whom are facebook friends).  I understand the meaning of life.  I am solid in my beliefs on the afterlife.  I have married the woman I am meant to be with.  I can now solve the Rubik’s Cube in two minutes and twenty-five seconds.  And though this paragraph may resemble a goodbye letter to the world as I prepare for my life to come to an end like I’m 90 years old, I recognize that in some ways life as I know it will end, as it transforms into a new one.  A more meaningful one.  From “me” to “dad”.

On top of all this, I’m about a half a year away from turning 30, so yeah, I’d say it’s time for things to stop being about me so much and more about someone else.  I have been the protagonist, but soon I will become a full-time director.  All of life has prepared me to this new role.  The cynic could see it as circular reasoning- that you spend your youth learning how to become a responsible adult, and then once you do, you just do it all over again with modified little reruns of yourself running around.

But I would say the cynic is still under the assumption that life is all about him- that life either simply ends when he dies or that hopefully when he dies, he’s been “good enough to get to Heaven” or that at least Hell won’t be that bad, but instead just a big party where the temperature is slightly hotter than desired while Jimmy Buffett plays an eternal concert and the margaritas are never-ending.

If anything, I could see how raising a kid will be a redeeming and cleansing process, helping me to see how little I truly know, helping me to appreciate my family and childhood teachers more, helping me to straighten out my priorities even more, helping me to ultimately give more than I take.  I could see how this baby will ironically make me a better adult.  And how the humility of changing diapers is only a small part of this evolution of my life.

And yes, Baby Jack will probably already know how to solve a Rubik’s Cube before he gets to Kindergarten.

All pictures with the “JHP” logo were taken by Joe Hendricks Photography:

Blog- www.photojoeblog.com

Website- www.joehendricks.com

What Percentage of Your Day is Spent on Entertainment?

It’s not as simple as logging your TV and movie time: Entertainment is much more complicated, subtle, and encompassing than that.

When my sister was born in January of 1984 (I was about 2 ½) she gave me a Garfield stuffed animal as present.  I realize that the idea of a newborn baby giving her older brother a gift the day she is born may seem illogical, but my parents’ idea to keep me feeling special that day worked.  Because I didn’t question the rationale of my sister’s gift until high school.  That Garfield doll ended up being one of my favorite childhood toys.  I dressed him up in my dad’s whitey-tighties; they were Garfield’s diaper.

A major part of being a kid is being strung along by your parents.  It’s a constant, endless series of countless waiting rooms, strange places, and unfamiliar people.  But all I could really think of was eating, drinking, and peeing.  And when I checked all those activities off the list, that meant I must be bored.

So I needed something to entertain myself.  During the younger years, Garfield in my dad’s underwear did the trick.  I eventually graduated from the stuffed animal circuit to video games and action figures.  Then to playing guitar by the time I started junior high.  Evidently the worst thing in the world was to be bored.  So I always had someway to entertain myself.

*This explains the psychology behind Swiss Army SUV (Nick Shell’s Turtle Shell). Click that title to read more about it.

But I have to imagine that most people, like me, carry this idea of constantly entertaining themselves into adulthood, for the rest of their lives.  And as Ive learned by now, a tangible object isn’t necessary for entertainment- though something as subtle as checking for new text messages 33 times a day is a popular form of fighting subconscious boredom.

I learned as a child to use my imagination to daydream; while I still do that on an hourly basis, I’ve also made a habit of planning my future and coming up with ideas for my life.  And I figure I’m not the only one.  I figure that most people find some way to entertain themselves throughout the day, despite the busyness of life.  In between the busyness of life.  And during the busyness of life.  Even if it’s just while waiting in line, sitting at a red light, or zoning out at work (and often even not realizing we’re doing it).

Heckler-reader yells out: “Bahahaha…You just wait ‘til you have a baby, that’ll all change!”

Yes, life will change and my time will be spent in different ways and I will be functioning on less sleep.  But no matter how preoccupied I am with life and all its responsibilities and distractions, there are still moments throughout any day, even if it’s while I’m falling asleep, that I fill in those moments of fading consciousness with random thoughts like, “What was Grimace supposed to be, anyway?”

So how what percentage of my day is spent on entertainment?  It’s pretty much a trick question.  Because at least for me, my mind is constantly in entertainment mode.  Even when I’m asleep, dreaming.

Reading the Backs of Cereal Boxes for Entertainment

The childhood habit lives on in me today.

An important part of being a kid at the grocery store with your mom was getting to decide which goofy cereal to commit to that week.  My mom always let my sister and I each pick out our own box of cereal to enjoy for the next seven days, given that the first ingredient was not sugar.  Back then, in the late ‘80’s and early ‘90’s, the Major Three (Kellogg’s, General Mills, and Post) were all about competing with each other by seeing who could give the coolest toy in the bottom of the box.

But aside from the rainbow colored oat bits, unnecessary marshmallows, and the free sticky octopus toy that would cling to the wall when you threw it, there was still that entertaining back of the cereal box to look at.  Mazes, crossword puzzles, “can you find?…” pictures.  Enough entertainment to stay preoccupied to the point that you almost forget your brother or sister is sitting there just a few feet away trying to find Barney Rubble hiding behind a Stegosaurus on the back of the Fruity Pebbles box.

Because without the barriers of those boxes in front of us at the kitchen table, that meant that we might accidently look at each other, or purposely look at each other, to “bother” the other person.  As a kid, there were a plethora of ways to be annoyed by your sibling, and for some reason, being looked at was one of them.  I thought it was just my sister and I that had to read the backs of cereal boxes so we “wouldn’t have to look at each other”, but after recently walking down the cereal isle at Publix with my wife, revisiting our favorite childhood cereals, I learned it was the same way at her house.  So I can only assume this is an American phenomenon- an expected part of Saturday morning breakfasts.

Now as an adult, I still read the backs of my cereal boxes.  Learned habit, I’m sure.  I have to admit though, the back of the box of Shredded Wheat isn’t quite as fun as Lucky Charms always was.  And of course, no free prize at the bottom of the box either.

Picking Up Where We Left Off Last Time: Going Back to the Future After “To Be Continued”

The phrase “to be continued…” is a way of life for me.

In the summer of 1988 one of the things I remember most is watching reruns of The Incredible Hulk with my mom.  So many of the episodes ended with “to be continued…” flashed up on the screen.  For some reason, that really excited me.  Even to this day, if a TV show ends with that phrase I like it more than a regular episode.

Yes, closure is an important part of life.  But in my mind, the door is never really closed just because time separates me from another person.  (Obviously, I’m not including the given exception of ex-girlfriends. Instead, I’m referring to everyone else.) Childhood classmates and guys from my college dorm.  Anyone I’ve ever met in my life- I don’t forget them.  I may not remember many details about them- but at least in the smallest of ways, I remember them.

Therefore, something I have to remind myself of is this- my way of thinking and exceptionally good memory are not necessarily the norm.  Just because I can remember specific quotes from something someone said in 5th grade, it doesn’t mean they do, or necessarily even care.  The file folder in my head for that person reads “last seen: May 1998- to be continued…”  Theirs for me reads “last seen- sometime in high school- relationship terminated/cancelled”.

When I am reacquainted with a person I haven’t heard from in years or decades, I have this habit of immediately bringing up the first positive memory I have of that person.  For me, it’s like time never passed.  Interestingly, that’s how I think it will be after we die and are reunited with people in eternity.  Since time doesn’t really exist in the afterlife, we just pick up where we left off.

The Speed of Life: Trapped in a Time Machine

We are time traveling every moment of our lives.

Greek-American comedian Demetri Martin explains in his Comedy Central special “Person”, that he invented a time machine.  The problem is, it travels at the normal rate that time passes, so basically it’s just a cardboard box with “time machine” written on it with a permanent marker. 

So much of childhood is waiting for it to be time for something: trapped waiting for your parents to get off of work to pick you up from daycare or waiting for school to be over so you can go home or waiting to be old enough to do something your current age prevents you from doing.

And obviously, waiting is always a part of life.  Adulthood is no exception- waiting to graduate college, waiting to find the right person to marry, waiting for a good job, waiting for a promotion, waiting for enough money to get out of debt, waiting to pay off the house, waiting to retire.

And all this talk of all this waiting makes me think of one of my favorite songs from the famous Country band from my hometown, “I’m in a Hurry” by Alabama: “I’m in a hurry to get things done, though I try and try until life’s no fun.  All I really gotta do is live and die but I’m in a hurry and don’t know why.”  Ultimately, when we by default view each stage of life as just another one to be waited out, we miss quality moments and surprisingly meaningful stuff in between all the waiting: Like being trapped in a time machine that travels at the normal rate of time passing.

For a similar post by the same author, read Taking the Time to Stop and Smell the Play-Doh.

The Sussudio Effect: Why We Secretly Love the Mysteries of Life

Whether we will admit it or not, we like unexplained mysteries.

Do we really need an answer for everything?  Isn’t omniscience (the ability to know everything infinitely) a trait we reserve for God?  Could we handle the responsibility of having all the answers?  We like to think we want all the answers, but if we did, that would be a life without surprise, suspense, and ultimately, much excitement.

Much of the mystique we deal with revolves around our origin, purpose, and ending.  But even without all the big idea concepts like “why am I here?” and “what exactly happens the moment I die?,” both of which the element of ignorance is attached to, life is still full plenty of petty mysteries to think about.  Which at best, simply reflect the fact that mystery is a part of life.

Like the song “Sussidio” by Phil Collins.  It became a number one hit in July of 1985.  And though I wasn’t quite in pre-school yet at that point, the song has definitely kept a solid spot in the Soundtrack of My Life.  I can’t say that I like the saxophone-enhanced song just because of its feel-good vibes and groovy melody.  A big part of why I like the song is because of its quirkiness.  Because let’s face it, no one really knows what a “sussudio” is.

In recent years, thanks to Phil Collins’ interviews that have surfaced and have been referenced in Wikipedia, I have learned that Phil always did a lot of ad-lib and improvising in the studio.  He often would record the music to the song before he wrote the words, just making up random words and phrases to hold the place; then coming back later to replace the gibberish with actual lyrics.

“Sussudio” was a place-holding made-up word that he never came up with a replacement for.  And so it remained.  The word still doesn’t mean anything.  It’s not the name of a girl, as some have assumed.  It’s just a mysterious word.  You get to decide what it means.  Weird concept, but after all, the song did make it to the number one spot.

Why?  It’s a great catchy song.  And it’s mysterious.

I will deliberately bypass the way-too-obvious fact that LOST’s popularity is associated with its strategic and clever uses of mystique (LOST- Answering Questions that Were Left Unanswered) and instead close with the fact that we can spend a lifetime just unveiling the mysteries of the people closest to us in our lives.

It’s not like we sit down with our parents or spouses or best friends and interview them with a #2 pencil and steno pad about their childhood and see what we can learn about them that we didn’t know before.  Instead, we just wait for those random trigger words to show up in conversation, which prompt a story that we’ve never heard before about them before.

Sometimes when my wife and I are out at a restaurant, we (being “people watchers”) will notice an older couple sitting in silence, only really speaking to say predictable things like “How’s your steak?”  We want to be cooler than that when we’re older; we want to have cool stuff to talk about, even now.

There are so many hidden stories in each of us.  We can only try, in a lifetime, to extract them from each other.  Not that they all can be told even in one lifetime, we ourselves can’t remember them all.  Because unlike God, we mysteriously ended up without an omniscient memory.