The Coffee Table Safe Zone

Remember those carefree days when you could actually keep a cup of coffee or glass of water within normal reaching distance? Or when you could leave a bill out so you’d remember to send the check the next day? Man, those were good times. Of course, I didn’t realize it at the time, but after Lu started pulling herself up and examining the coffee table, things changed.

Since then, I’ve had an increasingly shrinking are I’ve dubbed the safe zone. As Lu so kindly demonstrated in the above photo, it’s basically an inch or two away from the kid’s arm span. As she’s gotten bigger the safe zone has shrunk and the danger zone only increased. The only real safe place is indicated on our table by those four coasters and the computer’s locale. I used to use a lap desk, but it’s bulk crossed over into the danger zone and gave her an easy handle to pull the computer towards her and smash the keys.

As you can see, she’ll never stop trying. I just hope she doesn’t have a freak arm growth spurt. I’ll really be in trouble then.


Drawing Inspiration From A Ten Month Old

I spend a lot of time watching Lucy and a lot of that time is spent in our living room. Like most living rooms, we have a coffee table–higher than most and fairly large, but stable–right in front of the couch. This is where I do most of my work during the day and really spend most of my day when not crawling around on the floor with her. This table has been one of Lu’s main cruising locales ever sense she could pull herself up.

She now zips around the table with relative ease, but every now and then she comes across a discarded blanket or sweatshirt that gets in her way. What really impresses me about this kid is how resilient she is. Some kids would hit these roadblocks and go play with another toy or just sit and cry. But Lu’s no quitter. She’ll shove, crawl and force her way to whatever she’s trying to get it no matter what. Sure, she gets frustrated and cries sometimes, but only after trying really hard to surpass her obstacle.

It’s pretty inspiring, actually. It’s like she doens’t know or understand the concept of “can’t.” To her mind, she can do anything, she just needs to figure out the best way to do it. I hope to become more like that as I continue to grow up, at the same time, I hope it’s the kind of thing she doesn’t grow out of. Stay strongheaded, Lu, just don’t remind me of this post when you’re 16 and trying to convince me to borrow the car.

Blog Lag

Sorry about the lack of posts lately. I’ve been finding it kind of difficult to come up with topics to write about even though Lucy’s developing all kinds of skills lately. She’s been using her hands a lot more and to greater effect, holding toys and sometimes picking them up after dropping them. She’s even working her legs in her new bouncer seat that she seems to love until she’s had too much and then she screams bloody murder. She also popped her first tooth through (bottom front right) and seems to be working on another. The rest of this week will still be pretty slow as I’ve got a lot of work to get done and then I’m heading down to cover the New York Comic Con Thursday through Saturday and probably going down again on Sunday with the family. So, I’ve decided that, next week will be when I really sit down and figure out what I want to do with this blog, what I’ll be writing about and get some solid posts and hopefully a few recurring ideas in the works to help things move forward. Wish me luck!

Insert Clever Hurricane Irene Title Here

I tend not to take news reports about weather too seriously. Heck, I rarely pay attention to the weather at all past looking out to see if it’s raining. So, I hadn’t heard about Hurricane Irene before Thursday of last week. My wife mentioned it to me. For some reason, when she said “hurricane” I heard “tornado.” After a beat or two, I was like “Wait, aren’t hurricanes just big rain storms?” She looked at me like I was slow, which I was being at the time, and we went on with our evening. To defend myself just for a moment, I’m from a place in Ohio where tornadoes are the norm. We don’t have hurricanes. I don’t know earthquakes, but I can automatically prep for a tornado after years of drills in grade school. Always make sure to have your English book with you, by the way. When I ran to the store on Thursday, my wife had me pick up some canned soup, so that was the first prep step. By Friday, people out of state were asking me about Irene and I didn’t really have any answers, so I turned the news on. I will say right away that watching the news all day–which wound up being two to three days–is a huge mistake. I recommend taking a break to watch a movie or some TV episodes. You will either get ridiculously over-worried or maddened by the awful repetition of segments and scenes shown over and over and over. I’d also recommend mixing up the stations you’re watching. We wound up on NBC for the better part of the weekend and by Sunday night my wife and I were both a bit punchy. “Why are they showing that stupid wedding clip again?!” and “Why won’t they let that guy out of the rain, already?!” were spouted out more than once by my wife and me.

Saturday wound up being prep day as the storm moved its way north. I’ll be honest, if I was just a single dude on my own, I’d probably get a few bottles of water, a lighter, a 24 pack of Coors Light and four or five 2 liters of soda. As I am married and have a kid, there was a lot more to do. We filled everything we could find up with water including a big circular plastic tub, an ice bucket and even a 2 liter I had just polished off. My wife wasn’t super happy with some of those, but I didn’t want to buy a ton of pitchers that we might never need again. They all hold water, what’s the difference? I also filled three pots and a tea pot with water and put them on the stove. I put the canned food across from the stove along with the can opener. Finally, I gathered all the light-casting things I could find from those button light discs you stick on walls and lighters to headlamps and matches. I felt pretty prepared. We thought about filling the tub with water in case we needed it for flushing the toilet, but didn’t get around to it. Thankfully we didn’t wind up needing any of that stuff.We were lucky. We weren’t in one of the danger zones. For those of you who don’t know, we live about an hour north and on the other side of the Hudson River from New York City. I was pretty sure that our area with it’s nearness to mountains and fairly high elevation would be good as far as flooding went, but there isn’t much you could do against the wind. We were one of the few people in our U-shaped condo courtyard to remove our pots from the patio. I made a mental note of each one and who they belonged to, so I could cause some trouble if one of them went through our window. That was my real concern, something going through the window. Not only would that be dangerous, but it would lead to even more headaches that I really want to deal with right now. Saturday night it got a little scary. It had been pretty dark all day as you can see in this pre-storm pic that we mentally titled “Baby’s First Hurricane.” As the darkness increased, so did the wind and the rain. It was intermittent for a while there, but the rain was pretty intense. At this point, our main concerns were the aforementioned window smashes–though the wind didn’t seem to get that powerful–and the potential for flooding in our building’s storage area. My wife went to bed–we switched sides so that I was sleeping near the window while here and the baby were on the other side–but I stayed up. It wasn’t terrible, but you never know when that one tree branch might snap loose or that jerk behind me who refused to clear off his patio’s flower pot and I’ve got glass all over me. It wasn’t exactly a peaceful night. I move around a lot in my sleep and I didn’t want to fall off the bed. Plus, around 3 or 4AM the wind aimed itself directly at our window along with pelting rain. Visions of shattering glass danced in my head, but luckily stayed there. Sunday morning was kind of eerie. It was still dark and there were a lot more leaves on the ground, but overall it didn’t look that different. Aside from the standing water in the courtyard. When the rain stopped, I went over to check the storage area and, of course, there were four or five inches of water outside the door. I couldn’t tell if water was inside the storage area itself, but investigating later showed me that there was in fact quite a bit of water in there. I haven’t actually ventured inside yet, but I’m hoping the pallets on the floor and shifting some things along kept everything mostly dry.  But, like I said, we’re lucky. I have friends whose finished basements were flooded and others whose entire backyard disappeared in a lake of brown water. All we lost was a weekend and maybe a little sanity. After all that news coverage and being cooped up in the house all weekend, my wife and I were a little punchy. Ah well, at least we were safe. I also want to say that people who are mad or disappointed that the storm wasn’t worse. I can understand this mentality to a certain extent. The news made a really big deal about all this for a very long time. Some people had to be evacuated. But, look. Think about it from the opposite side. What if everyone just laid back and didn’t do anything? What if the storm had been worse? What if it hadn’t taken that turn out to sea instead of moving further inland? I’d rather be inconvenienced than dead every day of the week. Now, who’s going to help me eat all this soup and drink all this water?

One Rough Day

I almost called this post “Worst. Day. Ever.” I decided against it not only because I realistically have had worse days (though not as a parent), but also because the Comic Book Guy Simpsons references are a little tired, aren’t they? Anyway, this post is not about today, but yesterday. As some of you might have seen, my wife commented on this post about our daughter’s nightly sleeping routine that Lucy had had pretty bad gas, which was probably why it took her so long to fall asleep. Yesterday, we woke up pretty normally and had a good run for an hour or so with lots of smiles and laughs coming from Lucy. It looked like it was going to be a good day.


As the title explains, it was rough. With the exception of a few exhausted naps and feedings, Lucy wound up screaming most of the day. At first I wasn’t sure what the deal was, but then I felt her stomach and it was pretty hard, a sure sign of gas pain. I gave her some anti-gas drops, which didn’t seem to do a whole lot. I tried leaning her forward, rubbing her tummy in a clockwise motion, walking her around, everything I could think of. The only thing that really seemed to distract her from her pain was me playing my acoustic guitar. She’s been enjoying that in general lately, but I think the loudness of the guitar caught her attention.

I’m sure this is something every parent has dealt with and I’m sure I’ll have to deal with it again, but it really is a singular experience. Usually when someone or something is screaming at you, you run away, scream back, punch them in the face or work it out and quell the screaming, none of which are appropriate ways of dealing with a sad baby. They’ll cry and cry and cry and can’t tell you why (sounds like a country song).

This is one of those parenting lessons, the bold-faced realization that, at least for now, your child is mostly a walled-off entity unto themselves. Sure, she’ll let you know when she’s hungry or happy or bored, sorta, but the nuances of human relationships aren’t there yet. She can’t tell me what’s up. Obviously, I knew that going in, but this was a pretty clear slap in the face from reality.

I guess it’s time to start studying up on those sign language flashcards.

Mail Bonding

I’ve been a fan of the mail for a long time. When I was a kid, my mom and dad got me one of those books that listed several different things you could send away and get either for free or for a couple bucks. I would generally stick to the free things because I’ve been cheap–let’s say frugal–since way back. Getting birthday or holiday cards or gifts from friends and family was also a high point. Later on I even got a pen pal or two, but I can’t remember anything about him or her.

Even now, I get jazzed about getting the mail, which lives in a big metal box along with everyone else’s mail in our condo complex until we free it. Part of the reason I like online shopping so much as well as trading comics via a website called Sequential Swap is because I still get really excited about getting the good mail. Sure there’s a lot of bills and junk, but the days I get something fun–or better yet one of my freelance checks!–is a good day.

Even with being super busy with work lately and only leaving the house for meals or doctor’s appointments, I still enjoy running out to the mailbox. With Lucy around now, I take that time to get both of us out of the house for a brief time, get a little sun and maybe even instill the same love of mail that I have in Lucy. If nothing else, it gives us a good airing out.

Welcome To Pop Poppa!

Hello and welcome to Pop Poppa. Some of you might know me from my blog where I talk about pretty much everything from movies and music to video games and television while others might actually know me or stumbled upon this new blog on accident. However it happened, I’m glad you’re here.

I guess I should say a little about myself. My name is TJ Dietsch, I’m a lifelong fan of pop culture and have found various ways to turn that into a career. Before all that, I went to school at a small liberal arts college (I’m sure that’s a shocker) in Delaware, Ohio called Ohio Wesleyan University where I met and eventually proposed to my future wife and also studied English (honestly, that’s in order of importance). A summer-after-junior-year internship with a comic book magazine called Wizard lead into a full time position in the research department the fall after I graduated. The job got me out to New York from Toledo, Ohio where I was raised by my parents. I worked at Wizard for a few years, doing some writing on the side and eventually working my way up to Associate Editor of Wizard‘s sister magazine ToyFare. Eventually Wizard went to a more freelance-based model and I got laid off, but that wound up setting me up for my current gig as a freelance writer which means I get to live the dream of working from home.

Keeping the pop culture theme going–what else would you expect from a site called Pop Poppa?–I’ve been getting paid to write about comics, toys, movies, TV shows, music, video games and a few other things ever since. The stay-at-home nature of the job laid the groundwork for me to stay home with our daughter now that my wife is going back to work (my fears of which I related here). I don’t know if I have anything particularly earth-shattering to say about the act of being a stay at home father, but I do hope that some of my stories and anecdotes are universal enough to make you chuckle. I also hope to get some reviews of baby/kid-related products, shows and movies going as soon as I have to immerse myself in them (Lucy’s only two months old right now, so we’re not yet to Dora or Wiggles territory yet). I also hope that readers will comment about their own experiences with what I’ve written about, even if opinions differ.

For now, feel free to scroll down and read some posts I have either re-purposed (copied) from UnitedMonkee or written and stockpiled fresh for this blog’s launch. I’m hoping to post at the very least once a day and hopefully more often as time and Lucy permit.