Archive for February, 2010

Baby’s Best Friend?

February 23, 2010

We have a dog. His name is Atlas. He doesn’t always look like a wet zombie (left). In fact, he’s usually pretty cute (right), and has a sweater collection that would make that guy from What Not To Wear jealous.

For the last year and a half, Atlas has been our baby. He keeps us company, gets into trouble, cleans our plates, eats our used tissues–you know, all the good stuff.

Did I mention he sleeps in our bed? I know. If you don’t kennel a dog right away you’ll lose them forever. And maybe we missed our chance with Atlas. But, he was adopted from a shelter, had been neglected, and when we did force him into his kennel, there was clear anxiety. Poor guy! How could we make him go in that mean kennel.

What’s the point, Nils. There are several. If you can’t show a dog who’s boss, how do you expect to gain the respect of a human? A human with many more needs and quirks, and someone who’ll demand constant attention. And how do you prepare a dog, who doesn’t understand that that comfy bed is not for dogs, for the arrival of a tiny new friend?

I’m not really concerned about being able to train Blanche as we may have failed with Atlas. I have heard many moms say they couldn’t resist letting the baby sleep in their bed. I don’t know if this will happen with Kristie, but I suspect the inclination will be there. Atlas will learn to scoot over, whether he likes it or not. His time as baby is coming to an end.

So how will Atlas interact with Blanche? He is a very gentle dog, and LOVES kids. He does really well when he visits my preschool, and in the limited interactions he’s had with individual kids, he’s done very well. He is very curious, and not afraid to introduce himself to the little guys. Our neighbors are always surprised when he runs up to their little girl; their dogs ‘have learned their lesson,’ they say. We hope that Blanche won’t teach Atlas any painful lessons, but she probably will. But what if he becomes ferocious? What if, instead of his toy turtle, Atlas decides to pounce at Blanche’s face?

We’re fairly confident Atlas will be a good friend to Blanche. He mostly loves to sleep and cuddle, and we’ll have to monitor him closely at first, but once he’s used to her presence, we think they’ll get along just fine. It won’t hurt that she’ll be bigger than him in a matter of weeks.

We’ll always love Atlas, and he’ll always be our special dog. It’s sad to imagine having to demote him to second baby, but I’m guessing we’ll have no problem elevating Blanche to the highest post. One thing is certain, though. As long as Atlas helps clean fish, he’ll have a place in our home.


Emotional Preparation

February 19, 2010

Today was the first day in my three plus years teaching preschool that a child thoroughly broke me. I’ve been frustrated, steaming and vengeful, but never before had I been so soundly defeated by one child’s willful persistence. I had a good cry.

It’s not the child’s final explosion that pushes me over the edge. What gets me are the hours of carefully thought-out preparation that inevitably fail. We have an unfaltering resolve, my co-teachers and I, to give each child exactly the environment he/she needs to thrive. Today I spent an entire morning trying to prep one child for nap: making difficult concessions, loosening an already long leash and maintaining a patient attitude throughout a morning of physical and emotional torture. All this hard work resulted in an hour-long screamfest, complete with flailing legs, slapping fists and violent thrashes. It’s been the same story for weeks, despite the myriad of techniques and strategies we’ve tested. Failure on a daily basis, as it is in any job, is incredibly demoralizing. And today I finally cracked.

So what does this have to do with being a future daddy?

I imagine Blanche may break me down often. That thought is scary. As unfortunate as it is, it’s impossible as a teacher to black out thoughts of “I hope my kid doesn’t behave like this” or “If that were my kid, I’d…” But my experience with toddlers and preschoolers has given me quite a perspective: I don’t ever want my Blanche to be the kid that brings her teacher to tears. I’ll be happy to take those tears myself.

So what else? Kristie is always telling me to write something funny, which is what non-funny people tell funny people. Write something funny! Well sometimes I don’t have a lot of funny things to say. But imagine this scene: there I was this afternoon, at a St. Paul yarn and knitting shop, with a yarn sample taped to a post-it note of shopping instructions. No wool! The only man in sight, each other patron at least twice my age, I felt more out of place than I had in a long time. This from a man who spent five minutes in the feminine pads aisle at Target just a few weeks ago. One size fits all anyone? (These are the situations that arise when your wife is stuck on the couch.)

Well thank God for crafts. The only reason I was in this yarnery was because Kristie, amid this couch-ridden month, has begun crocheting and crafting again. Part of my Super Bowl Sunday this year featured a half hour and $50 at Jo Ann Fabrics, which I’m fairly certain fulfills my lifetime obligation. A couch, daytime TV and a pending baby girl are solid reasons to pick up hobbies, I guess, and Kristie has.

We know about the hats, but now the baby officially has a more extensive footwear collection than I. And the homemade bow/barrette collection is fun and impressive. This time-killing hobby has quickly become an obsession.

And one more decision has been made: despite the fabulous local Lindsey Vonn connections, after watching last night’s Olympics, Blanche will never be a competitive downhill skier.

A Bedrest Valentine’s

February 15, 2010

Can’t remember if I’ve mentioned it before, but Kristie’s been on bedrest for almost four weeks now. She had been on pelvic rest, which basically means be lazy, but when the contractions became too consistent too soon, bedrest it was. What does bedrest look like exactly?

Pajamas, garbage, food, dishes, craft project remains and general disarray greet me daily when I arrive home in the evening.

So, since we aren’t allowed to go out for Valentine’s Day (which is fine by me because I’m not a fan of the holiday), we do what we’ve been doing every night for the last month: have dinner (pizza for Valentine’s) and watch a movie (a romantic comedy concession tonight). I lit a candle, too.

Blanche Case Hoeger

February 12, 2010

First middle last. Blanche Case Hoeger. Since Kristie really wanted her last name to be a part of Blanche’s name, and we weren’t thrilled about the idea of mixing our last names into one new surname, we settled on Case as the middle name.

The last name, as we’ve read, was much trickier, but we compromised with Hoeger in the end. From here on out there will be many compromises I’m sure, and this was a name we both were happy with. It’s my dad’s last name, for clarification.

The deciding factors? Kristie didn’t want a hyphenated name, which I understand. She says it causes unnecessary problems at school, hospitals, airports, on applications, etc. It can be a nuisance. Trust me, having lived that life, I understand that. While I would argue my combo name became a source of pride and uniqueness, I can’t blame her for wanting Blanche to not have to deal with the confusion.

Then there are the aesthetic reasons. Blanche Hoeger (pronounced HAY-grr) sounds good (as does Blanche Lerdal (LAIR-dahl), but we tried to think further down the road than Blanche. We do want more kids, have names chosen, and Hoeger worked well with all the possibilities.

Could ‘Hoeger’ perhaps lead to more confusion? It’s possible, since Blanche’s last name will be completely different from either of ours. But whatever. Those who know her best will be family and friends, who are already aware that she came from a Hoeger-Lerdal and a Case. And people she meets in her life–friends and classmates–won’t know that her parents’ last names don’t match hers. They’ll know us as Nils and Kristie, Blanche’s super cool parents.

Blanche _______

February 11, 2010

By far the most common question we’ve gotten throughout this pregnancy has been ‘What’s her last name going to be?’ OK, it’s behind a few questions, such as, “Is she getting an epidural?” “Are you considering a home birth?” “Is Blanche going to be her name for real?”

And there are the generic pregnancy questions: “How is she feeling?” This one has been especially common since Kristie’s been on bedrest. I’m having a hard time coming up with new ways to answer it, but I try to keep it fresh. We’re way past “she’s hangin’ in there” and “she’s pretty bored.” Now I say things like “I started free Netflix trials in two different names.”

“When’s it due?” April 3. Next.

“Does she have any weird cravings?” Who am I to say any craving is weird? I eat green olives out of the can. But yeah, for a while she only wanted to drink margarita mix (virgin of course). She eats Smarties and Fun Dip all day long. She’ll never turn down a pizza. But there really haven’t been the ice cream binges or the cheeseburger buffets you hear about.

So, back to Blanche’s last name. We have a unique situation, though all name scenarios are becoming less and less rare. When my parents married, they kept their last names, leaving my brothers and I with a hyphenated one. It wasn’t unheard of when I was a kid, but it was a lifetime of explaining. These days, multiple last names, hyphenated or not, are quite common.

As a preschool teacher, I’ve seen it all when it comes to last name concoctions: dad’s name, mom’s name, both, a combination of each, or something altogether different. What’s different about our situation is that one of us already has two last names. And since Kristie wants her name to be part of our childrens’ names, that creates a quandry.

One of the issues is simply the way we view our names. Kristie, whose last name is Case, sees my last name as two names–my mom’s and my dad’s last. I see it as one. It’s my one last name, the only one I have. So where she sees three last names, I see only two: Hoeger-Lerdal and Case. With that said, we both agree that giving Blanche all three isn’t feasible.

So, we choose. Do we be traditional in our own untraditional way, and give our children my entire last name, Hoeger-Lerdal? Do we pick one of the two? If so, which one and why? Keep the father’s lineage intact? Honor the mother? Whichever one sounds better? Is easier to pronounce? Easier to text? To fill in bubble test sheets? First in the phone book? Better locker placement in high school? How do you decide? Do we take the simple, easy to pronounce name and go with Case? How much do we want our children to have a piece of us in their names?

At first, I was a bit apathetic. A name, while important in shaping one’s identity, is just a name. I would love Blanche no matter what her name ended up being. Then, I decided I did want my name as a part of hers. But only one of the two names. Between Hoeger and Lerdal, though, I could make no winning argument. Kristie was fine with this idea, provided that Blanche’s middle name be Case. So that was settled. But as her birth drew nearer, I started feeling like I wanted Blanche to have Hoeger-Lerdal as her last name. Kristie felt it would be confusing (because she sees it as two names) that a child would have two last names, and neither of them would be hers. Again, I don’t see it that way since it is my one last name. Blanche would too have one last name, not a combination. This is difficult to follow.

By the way, a combo hyphen last name was never considered. Hoeger-Case, Lerdal-Case, Case-Hoeger, Case-Lerdal, no thanks. Nor was a smashed version of the three, such as Hoeglerase or Caserdal, considered.

The options had been narrowed to three: Hoeger, Lerdal or Hoeger-Lerdal. So, what have we decided?

How about a cliffhanger? I’d love to hear some opinions on this topic. Which way would you go? What criteria would you use for your decision? How big of a deal is this? Post a response. I’ll tell you what we’ve chosen on…how about Friday?

How Many Hats Does a Baby Need?

February 7, 2010

This many? Seriously. I mean, I am a rookie at this, but nine pre-birth hats seems a bit excessive.

Blanche’s Shower

February 6, 2010

I tried to make the title of this post sound as close to a Lifetime original movie as possible. Like Angela’s Ashes or Flowers For Algernon; something like that. Why I don’t know.

First things first. I do not photograph well. That double chin you see so prominently at the top of your screen is much more discreet in real life. And the smile–well, it’s not as if I had just heard the funniest joke of the week; I was swept into a basement for a one-minute “head shot” photo shoot. How could any regular guy possibly ace that.

Second. Her name will be Blanche. Provided she actually comes out female. (We re-confirmed this on Tuesday, but I’ve heard every “my friend…” pregnancy story in the book, and confused gender stories aren’t that uncommon. If in fact this baby pops out with an unexpected extremity, either he’ll grow up with a major identity crisis or we’ve got multiple shower gifts for the next ten baby girls we know.

She’s going to be a girl, though, and her name is Blanche. Kristie is a) infatuated with old-fashioned names, b) determined not to pick an uber-popular en vogue name, and c) committed to choosing a name that means something to her. So, let’s cross our T’s.

Old-fashioned name. According to the very cool NameVoyager at, Blanche was the 53rd most popular name in the 1880’s. As you can see by the graph, its popularity has dwindled, which satisfies goal number 2. So of what importance is the name Blanche to our lives, you ask? No, none of us had a grandma, or great-grandma Blanche. Not a favorite aunt, best teacher, and NO! NOT AFTER THE GOLDEN GIRLS BLANCHE. (When revealing her name at a restaurant recently, the waitress responded, “Yeah! The slutty Golden Girl!” I assure you, this is not what we were after.

Kristie has been visiting Lake Blanche in northwest Minnesota every summer since birth, and her parents bought a cabin on the lake a few years ago. It’s one of our favorite places to be, and baby Blanche is in homage to that. There have been times where I personally have feared that being named after your mom’s favorite place in the world would be a difficult thing to live up to, but really, there’s no way a lake could possibly outshine our child. So no pressure.

I digress. The shower! This, I found out, is a HUGE deal to everyone involved. For this Sunday afternoon shower, I spent a full week prepping the house: sweeping, mopping, dusting (in places no human was meant to venture). Organizing, rearranging, sprucing. Buying candles, hanging curtains, replacing toilet paper. The first thing I’m telling Blanche upon birth is how much she needs to appreciate the work I put into her first party. She already owes me, and don’t think I’m not tallying.

The planners–friends, parents, siblings’ significants–treated this as if Blanche was actually here to see and judge their party planning capabilities. The food, drinks, decor, gifts, games, ambience. It all had to be perfect. I was happy to be stuck in the middle of it, but without any real responsibility. I found myself interpreting texts, fielding bizarre questions, documenting late-night baking sessions and trying to reassure everyone involved that their ideas were perfect. (While at the same time confirming that those ideas were whatever the questioning planner wanted to hear.) But you don’t want to hear me babble, you want to see pictures! With clever captions.

This is the GIANT cupcake. A stunning visual that I’m sure was also delicious. Sadly, after the smoke cleared, and when we tired of it as our dining room centerpiece, it was consumed only by our garbage can. Around it, you see regular-sized cupcakes decorated as animals. The one in the front is a bear. I think there are some fish there too, though I don’t really remember.



Kristie, sandwiched by friends Michelle and Mindy (left), and brothers’ girlfriends Tawny and Lana (right).



The moms: mine on the left, Kristie’s on the right, and me! Still with the double chin! Drat!




The happy shower committee. Great job ladies. Please plan the next one around a Vikings game again.

Baby Daddy Speaking

February 5, 2010

Alongside every hot mama there’s a stud daddy. And though our bellies don’t burst (they do inflate a bit) and our cravings aren’t as violent (still burgers and beer), we have a role in every pregnancy. As a first-time daddy-to-be, I’m riding a brand new roller coaster of uncertainty. So that’s the slant of this blog: insight, anecdotes and revelations from a naïve first-time father.

Enter me: Nils Hoeger-Lerdal, a 26 year-old preschool teacher whose world fell off its axis in July 2009 when that over-the-counter tester said yes indeed, you’re having a baby.

Did I cry? Yeah, I cried a little. Tears of which emotion I can’t quite pinpoint.

As a preschool teacher, and having spent a lot of time with infants and toddlers, I feel I have a head start on many first time fathers. I can change a diaper, am not afraid of vomit and have heard every variety of blood-curdling scream.

With that said, there’s still a massive amount of unknown, and I’ve learned at least a blog’s worth already. For example:

The factual: Once the baby comes out, guess what? The labor’s not over, and mom’s gotta keep pushin’ while you get to be the first one to hold the thing that’s been living inside HER for nine months.

The emotional: If you choose to participate in a month-long weight loss competition at work, don’t tell your wife how many pounds you lost this week. Especially if the only thing she’s been able to keep down is Carnation Instant Breakfast.

The preparatory: Instead of always passing along wild-haired girls to the female teachers, maybe it’s time to figure out how to assemble passable pigtails.

Yes, it’s a girl, and she’s coming in a matter of weeks.

Oh God.