Friday, November 10, 2017

Junk Man

For the past few months, every Saturday, my son and I visit the Re-Store. It started when I was painting the unfinished basement. The Re-Store has all sorts of discounted paint and supplies and each Saturday I’d buy a gallon and go to work. Neither did I know that my kid would enjoy it so much, that he’d find the restore to be better than the toystore.

Now, they know my kid by name.

He sorts through the bins of junk, standing on his tippy toes, frowning with concentration as he searches for that extra special…something. A door hinge, an old light switch, electrical outlets, a few weeks ago we found a softball batter’s helmet. When something catches his eye he holds it up for the whole store to see. I have him take it to the front counter and haggle over a price. Usually something for a buck or two. It makes his day.

He has a name for everything. A piece of plumbing tube becomes a swatcher, a door stopper is a ploomer. His dresser is littered with finds—screws, nuts and bolts, springs. You can imagine just how thrilled his mom is about it. But most of the junk ends up in the basement, where we’ve cleaned out and set up his clubhouse under the stairs. He calls it his junk store, and offers to sell things back to me (at a hefty markup price).

We build things together, things that have no obvious use but—cue Hallmark music—are measured in the value we spent building them. We’ve built ladders out of pallets, birdhouses out of scraps of trim. We’ve built boxes out of decking planks and constructed ships out of cardboard boxes. Every secret agent needs his gadgets--even if they happen to be shelving brackets.

When I was his age I played with sticks and dug holes and played out fantasies. It's part of learning, creating, or whatever else makes me sound like someone with a firm grasp on child development. Whatever, he's inventing things in his head. He’s commanding spaceships comprised of rubber bands, oven knobs, and calculators. I love how he finds the most common gadgets, or jaggets, as he calls them, so fascinating.

It's fascinating to watch.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Pickle Snort and Other Troubles…

My son and I play this game where we hunt down monsters. The monsters might be at the end of dark hallway...or maybe between the bushes in the front yard...sometimes in the basement. Wherever they lurk it’s our job to draw them out. These guys have many names. Names like Slogwart or Zooglob, or Gloopity-Goo. Names not in the census. And boy do they get angry when we call them other names.

Other names like Pickle Snort, and Pea brain. Maybe Doggy Poo or Cat Breath. Whatever it takes to make a monster reveal himself so that we can zap him with our laser blasters.

Sounds like a good old time, right?

The only problem is that my kid is not yet five and apparently unable to differentiate when he’s supposed to turn off all the Gloopity-Goo talk.

The other day he said poop at school. And while poop is not the end of the world, it’s come to my attention that poop is on the words-not-to-say list at preschool.

So yeah, bad Dad. (Can we say bad?) But where my wife is good at teaching games, telling those soothing stories before bed and knowing just what to say to draw out long conversations about feelings to get the most out of every interaction with our child, I’m good at poop jokes. Slapstick. Running into walls.

She’s Baby Einstein. I’m Barnum and Bailey.

It’s what we do. We laugh and play and yeah, we make up words. We chase monsters and play secret agent spies and clown around. I don’t have a lesson plan, I have fun.

That being said, the other day, we’re eating breakfast and I look over and my kid calls me a poop butt, only he says it in such an affectionate way that… well I guess you just had to be there. Anyway, I go to reprimand him but he beats me to it. He says, “I know I can’t say that at school.”

I nodded. Because yeah, I know he can’t say it at school. And I need to be more thoughtful of our time together. But watching him make up monsters and land on the moon and tromp around our front yard to chase made up lifeforms around trees, well, I gotta say, things could be worse than a few “naughty” words.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

A Good Day for a Birthday...

Today isn't my first day trapped in a womb, but I've come to realize that I'm dying to get out.

Sure, it's warm and cozy, and yes, I'm getting fed on the regular. I’ve floated through the first two trimesters blissfully forming limbs and thoughts, blubbering along as my fingers materialized right before my eyes. Or maybe the eyes came first. Honestly, it's been madness. How am I to know?

I just want out.

Let me explain. There are two types of babies in this world: those who choose their birthdays and those whose birthdays choose them. And while it's been a nice ride, minus the jalapenos and the fatigue and morning sickness (my sincerest apologies), I am more than ready to do my own heavy lifting, thank you very much.

Two hundred and seventy-five days, give or take. Enough is enough. I know from previous adventures that there's nothing north but that buttery voice that rocks my world and rocks me to sleep, so I kick a flip and head south.

Yeah, I feel bad, okay? Especially when she says “oof,” and things go sideways as we tumble over. Trust me, I have no intentions of hurting her, and it sets me back a bit with all the moaning. But she's spent so much time bemoaning how I've wrecked her body that I figured, what does it matter in the end.

Wait. Another voice nearby. A familiar, oaf-like bellow that belongs to an utterly useless lifeform. Honey. Aside from constantly asking if everything is okay, Honey makes no major contributions to my well being. In my abundant spare time, I’ve made a mental image of Honey, with big droopy ears and panicked, wide eyes and thumbs where one should have ears. Honestly, I’d be thoroughly amazed if Honey can tie his own umbilical cord, and I have some serious doubts about Honey's emotional readiness for my homecoming.

Okay, things are happening. I get myself righted and plunge ahead. I’ll spare the details, because I’m not sure you honestly want to know what I have to go through here. Let’s just say that making a human—a particularly gorgeous one at that—is a lot like making a pie. There’s going to be a big mess left in the kitchen afterwards.

I know I'm getting my point across because it is complete chaos out there. Yelling and tripping and hysterics because that big dumb Honey is being a bonehead. At this point I'm thinking how if Honey isn't going to help out he can at least get out of the way. He's quite terrified, and I cannot properly convey just how thankful I am that I haven't been stuck with him for all these months.

Okay, now or never. I hunker down and get to work. Screams. Shrieks and sheer terror as it's all systems go here. Again, my apologies. My gracious host has been nothing but accompanying and maybe one day we can look back on this with nostalgia instead of nausea. But as of now? This is happening. How long did she plan on hauling me around, anyway? It's checkout time.

Just a we're getting somewhere, new voices emerge. A big commotion. The clatter of utensils. This cord's holding me back, because I can see! I can see daylight. I push onward, a bit surprised that it's s now a two way street. My host is pushing too, hard, and I'm somewhat offended. I'll have to remember to voice my concerns later. 

I fight through the goop and the mess and the glint of light becomes brighter and brighter and…

Oh goodness it's freezing! Go back! Go back! Retreat! What was I thinking? Now they're yanking at me, tugging on my soft, mushy head and jostling me silly. All I can make out are shadows and figures, more painful lights and then I realize one of the round orbs belongs to that deep voiced oaf. 

They've handed me to Honey!

No. I shriek. Oh boy do I shriek. And with all this room, I just go wild. Because my fate has been sealed. I've left the safety of my burrow only to be end up in these cold, cold, oafish hands. What is he doing, anyway?


Wait a minute. Oh, that’s nice. I know that voice. That lovely voice. I tilt my face up, blinking and sniffling as I make out a new blur. A sweet, angelic, very exhausted blur. Honey touches me again with his ice hands and I let him have it. But then I'm against her chest. Mom. Sweet mom is here.

And I am warm.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Float the Boat...

The other day we were playing outside when the sky went dark and the rain came pounding. It was a downpour, the kind that’s typical in Virginia after a day of high temps and humidity. Simon and I watched as gushing rapids washed down the curb, carrying leaves and sticks and whatever stood in its way. Suddenly, I had an idea.

I wanted to make a boat.

No, I didn’t want to go build an ark in the backyard. I wanted to take a sheet of paper and fold it into a boat and watch it float down the street. He was all about it. There was just one problem.

I didn’t know how to make a paper boat.

I knew how to make a paper airplane, but boats? Nope. I tried different folds, racing the clock as the sun threatened to return and the rainwater went from gush to trickle. I folded and creased, but all I came up with were wads of nothing. One after another, I hurried through one crumple to the next, using—ahem—an old manuscript I’d been saving to light our next fire pit. 

Nothing. I had nothing. We tried some lopsided catastrophe that turned out to be a much better submarine than boat. Paper submarines. I was great at those. 

The rain let up. Our floodwaters receded. My son lost interest.

Never again. I vowed to be prepared. The next day, on my lunch break. I Youtubed like a mother. I worked out the kinks (folds) and became a master boat builder. Okay, maybe a decent boat builder. Either way, people stopped by my desk to find a man making paper boats like a boss.

That’s right. I spent my lunch break making paper boats.

This may seem like the work of an idle man with plenty of time on his hands. But no, I want my kid to know certain things, Boy Scout stuff. Everything in The Dangerous Book For Boys. Both simple and complicated. Making a paper boat was one of those things.

So now we just need some rain, but in the meantime, we have a bathtub, so…