Sunday, December 21, 2014

Flash Fiction

Charlie over at Carrot Ranch hosts a weekly flash fiction challenge. This week's prompt is to write about a rare gem in 99 words, no more no less. Mine came to mind immediately:

My Magic Compass

I have this old compass. It’s dull and dented and the needle is stuck. On the back is a crinkled print of Indian Head Mountain, a fading sunset behind clouds hardly distinguishable from the peeling edges of the sticker.

To a collector it’s worthless, a trinket from a gift shop that found its way into my grandfather’s pocket. And yet, it works beautifully.

It navigates my own faded memory, back to when the needle aligned and the picture was clear. It points to those fuzzy moments etched in the wrinkles of my childhood. It’s magic, that compass, pure magic.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

I Haven't Seen It....

“Have you seen _____?”

“Um, no."

“What about_____? “

“Nope."

“Well, you must have caught_______the other night?”

Our empty expressions give us away. Because we haven’t seen it. Not at the theater, online, or even on cable. And not because we're one of those elitist I don’t watch tv types, because we most definitely are not. I remember the good old days spent on the couch, watching episode after episode of Dexter or Weeds. Or eating dinner while watching Jeopardy together, pop in a dvd. We were a couple of maniacs, I’ll tell you.
 
It's just that there's no time.

Most parents can relate to the time dilemma. Some with a whole herd of kids might even laugh. But still, we like to get stuff done, projects and things around the house. And nap time is our only chance. We're like a Home Depot commercial. Ready, set go! (but go quietly). When that kid is napping, it’s time to break out the shovel. I got posts dug in the backyard during one nap, fencing put up during another. We can paint, fix, clean, even break out the tools without a knee high helper constantly shouting, “My turn?”. On a good day we get a couple of hours, but usually it’s more like 60-90 minutes, so make the most of it.

Not that we don’t include the kid in our activities. Trust me, we do. You should see this kid with a leaf blower. It’s just that every once and a while we need to do things without such help. And we can’t waste it on television. Recently our cable bill went up so we downgraded to the limited basic channels, which consists of the major networks plus fifteen church channels with scary people yelling at us and trying to sell $100 bibles and four Home Shopping networks.

And the weirdest thing is, I don’t really miss it, I mean really, I survived college football season without ESPN. Amazing. We also cancelled NetFlix maybe a year ago, putting us dangerously close to falling off the grid all together.

But there’s always prime time, after the kid is asleep, right? Well, maybe we’re doing something seriously wrong here, but when our kid hits the crib at 8, we’re not far behind. Sure, I could stay up and party, watch Dancing with the cows or How to get away with Involuntary Manslaughter, but I’d only be paying the price the next morning when he’s up at 6am, or even earlier. So nighttime tv is out as well.

And, as much as twenty something me would moan at the thought, but maybe those non tv snobs are on to something? I mean, without the television, I’ve found that music can be wonderful. We go through a range of stations on Pandora. Some nights it’s jazz, and my wife and I can pretend we’re at a fancy restaurant. Other nights we listen to a little Jack Johnson or maybe some Ben Harper. We’re going to hold off on the DMX for now, but everything else is on the table.

Now when I watch television I’m so annoyed by Title Loan commercials or blaring car dealership ads. I must have been immune. I can’t take it, I’d rather listen to my kid and my wife, and maybe a little jazz music. Oh dear God, what has happened to me?



Monday, November 10, 2014

Thirty-Five Reasons Why I Love My Wife



I wanted to do something nice for my wife's birthday so I decided to post just a few reasons that I love her. Well, thrity five. But I didn't want to do the whole, she's smart, beautiful, and sexy stuff--which of course she is--I wanted my list to be more original. So here, in honor of her um, 29th birthday, I present......Thirty-Five reasons Why I love my wife...


1 She’s a Yankee.  With my southern charm and her love of Macintosh Apples, our son is destined for greatness…

2. She’s stubborn. Very stubborn. Being in foreclosure, the house we now live in took forever to land and I can't remember how many times I was ready to just say forget it. But she persisted. It dragged on for months and months but because of her it finally happened.
3 She’s not afraid to get her nails dirty.While she can be a girly girl, she can also get her nails dirty. She went into the house thing with a pick ax and sledge hammer. The girl is a workhorse, I came home last year when she was on winter break to find she’d tore and power sanded the faux wall paneling from the kitchen.

4. She’s good at decorating. I am not.

5. She’s patient. In a house with two dogs, a toddler and me, patience has never been more virtuous...or something. I have a tendency to be neurotic, and she has a tendency to laugh at me.
6. She’s my best friend. I can drink a beer with her and I can joke around. Well, mostly. Sometimes I'll show her a youtube clip and she'll give me the blankest of stares, but still...she's cool.

7. She doesn’t like sports. This one may be just me, but I secretly enjoy that she doesn't know a pick and roll or a post route. She  just picks the pretty team.

8. She’s short. I like short girls. Maybe because it's nice to be needed  (to reach something from the shelf).

9. She’s unintentionally funny. A long time ago, before we were married, my wife and I walked into restaurant to have a drink. Sitting at the bar were two guys who'd obviously spent some time in the gym. My wife strides right past them, tosses a quick glance there way and says, "Hey tight shirts" just like it's their names before turning to the bartender to order a drink. I kinda knew right then we were getting married.

Oh, and her dancing. Now that is good stuff.
10. She can drive a straight.

11. She gave birth to this fella. -->

12. She's an excellent mother. Goes without saying.

13. She loves dogs. This one may be the foundation of our relationship.

14. She doesn’t take me too seriously. Sometimes we get in fights--shocking, I know--and she’ll let me go off on a rant. (When I’m worked up I can have epic arguments, by myself. *Remember, neurotic?). Suddenly I'll notice her just looking at me, like, Are you finished? And I’ll be like, Yup.

15. She can cook. It was maybe on the third helping before she told me her lasagna was vegetarian.

16. She’s a little bit snobby. This is good because it keeps me from picking up stuff from the curb. And today only some of my clothes come from the Goodwill.

17. She’s supportive I’ve been seriously writing for four years now. And she’s never told me to stop, even when I’m being a freak.

18. She speaks her mind. Back to that tight shirts thing…

19. She thinks I’m smart. Got her fooled.

20. She loves the outdoors. Our ideal evening usually involves a fire pit out in the backyard. And usually she's the one starting the fire...

21. She’s outgoing. And then some. With me being the more introverted one, it's nice to have her balance things out.

22. She respects me. And I her. We can have a disagreement or even an argument. But that doesn’t mean we don’t like each other.

23. She’s a teacher. Okay, yeah, when we starting dating, I did like telling people that I was dating a kindergarten teacher. But now, as I watch her with our son, I’ve learned to use those little teaching moments too.

24. We can be kids together. Both of us enjoy kid books, movies, and taking notice of those everyday little things that make life so special.

25. We can be old folks together. And then sometimes we're in bed watching reruns at eight. Okay seven.

26. We can be lame together. See the above. No shame in our game.

27. She can be the hard ass. I kind of need to work on my stern Daddy voice, but in the meantime she’s holding things down…

28. She’s sentimental Remember that time....?

29. She’s getting better with age. Seriously

30. We’re in this together. And we both understand that. Sometimes we're like a well-oiled machine, as one of us will toss the dirty diaper over a shoulder and into the waiting hands of the other. Gross? Sweet? It's all a blur...

31. We have inside jokes. Again, years ago we were on a date, waiting in line at the movie theater and there was this guy in front of us wearing this horrendously short shirt over an equally horrendously long shirt. And to this day, when I’m getting dressed and the shirt feels a little, drafty, I’ll turn around and ask her if I have movie-theater-guy-shirt. The guy is famous in our house.

32. She didn’t marry me for my money. Of this I am 99% sure.

33. She didn’t marry me for my good looks. Of this I am 98% sure.

34. She didn't marry me for my car. I drove a 92 Honda when we met. Nice.

35. She married me for me.

So there. Just a few reasons I love my wife. We don’t have the perfect marriage, but I think the perfect marriage is imperfect. What my wife and I have a pretty good thing. One that I hope keeps on and on... So here’s to tight shirts, short shirts, and many more shirts to come…




Friday, November 7, 2014

Flash Fiction - Dad's Eyes

With the twins fed, bathed, and hopefully—oh please God—down for the night, I enter what was once my office. It’s been another one of those whirlwind evenings and I’m not really in the mood to clean up, but alas, I find my chair has been mistaken for a laundry basket. I turn on the lamp to more surprises. My antique desk is buried beneath the clutter of construction paper, crayons, magazines, and other arts and crafts.

I unearth my laptop, but in doing so I knock over a tube of glitter that falls to the floor like fairy dust. It just never ends. I sink into the chair of clothes and wait for it to boot up. From the sound of things, Ella is on the couch in the den watching The Biggest Loser. With the kids in bed we no longer have to play nice or even speak to each other.

The picture on the wall catches my attention. The one from my childhood home. Dad is pushing my sister and me on the swings, we’re maybe eight and five, all breeze and smiles. It’s my favorite picture of him even though I always notice how my dad’s eyes are set on Stacey, his boundless love captured forever in time. She always was Daddy’s little girl.

I log into facebook and start the mindless stroll through my feed, feeling my mind liquefy as I stare at the pictures of other people’s kids, plates of food, cars, selfies, skimming over the thoughts on the midterm election. Wait.

With a flick of my finger I scroll back to my sister’s throwback Thursday picture—the same photograph sitting in the frame on my wall. Only in her picture Dad is looking at me. Same soft eyes, same loving glance, but looking left, not right. I stand up and compare it to mine. Everything is the same, even the trails of her swirling blonde hair in the wind. But now, in the picture on my wall, Dad is looking directly out to me, reaching.
 My hand rattles as I punch Stacey’s name. It’s not until the third ring that I realize we haven’t spoken in nearly two years. Mom’s funeral.

“Eric?”

“Stacey, how are you?”

“I’m uh, good.”

A horrible silence falls between us. I squeeze the bridge of my nose, looking to the wall. I sit up straight. Dad is nodding in the picture. I think about popping a Xanax.

“You still there?”

“Yeah, sorry. Hey look, that picture, the one you posted of Dad. He’s looking at me. Did you see that?”

She sighs. “Um, yeah Eric, of course he is. You were always the favorite.”
I turn to my photo. Dad’s eyes are once again locked on Stacey. I can almost hear the squeak of the chain as he pushes us.

Higher!

“Eric, are you sure you’re okay?"

“Yes, uh, I don’t know. Hey, was Dad cross-eyed?”
 When she laughs it reminds me of those summer trips to the beach, when we were bored and I’d make up jokes trying to get a chuckle out of her. “No, I don’t remember him that way.

 “Me neither.”
 
This time the silence is warmer. With my foot I trace the glitter on the floor. In the other room a physical trainer screams about a weigh in. I think about the man I’ve become. Snapping at my wife, always in a rush to get away. When did I stop smiling?

“God I miss him, Stacey.”

“Me too.”I look back to the picture of my father, selfless and caring, enjoying a moment in the sun that he never could have known would mean so much to his two children. Or maybe he did. I don’t know. I just know that it’s my turn to do the pushing.

I decide to buy a swing set.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

First Hair Cut



After 633 days without a haircut, my kid was rocking some serious locks. On some days, it would curl up and look really cute and my wife and I couldn’t bear the thought of cutting it. Other days we would look at each other, both of us knowing that social services may be watching.
But we wanted to hold off until he was two. I don’t know why, but that was the plan. What was the rush anyway? It wasn’t like he had an impending job interview or something.

But last Sunday, for whatever reason, I said something about getting it cut and my wife finally relented. I’d been ready to just grab the scissors and a bowl and go to work, but my wife thought that might not be a good idea.  So we hopped in the car, heading for the mall. 

Being almost forty, I tried to remember the last time I got my haircut at the mall. Pretty sure it was in the eighties and I told the girl to cut the sides but leave the back long. The result was one pretty sweet mullet.

We strolled in to the first place. Okay, I strolled in. My wife started crying. Right then I knew we were in for an experience. And boy was it.

The really nice girl took our name. The other girls looked at my son and did that Awwwe thing. He just nibbled away at his goldfish, clueless as to what was coming. So were we. 

When our name was called the light poppy music skipped to a halt, replaced by the sinister moan of an organ. Then, from the dark recesses of the store emerged a figure...

The Butcher.

She came for us slowly, cloaked in black. Her steps clicked like a timer as she set her eyes on my poor little son. She ran her broom across the floor, a deep scowl etched in her face as she nodded for us to put the boy in the chair. For reasons I'll never know, I did as she asked. We flinched as she slung a cape over his tiny shoulders. Then, with the first hint of a smile, she ran a finger across her weapons scissors.

There he sat, like a lamb for the slaughter. The Butcher began her work, speaking in tongues--a horrid mixture of baby talk and scolding. I looked at my wife. What had we done? 

Look, I get it, I can see how it could be frustrating to get a little toddler in the chair who won’t sit still. That being said, when you hit him with the blast of hot air from the blow dryer and he jumps like it’s a flame thrower, you may not want to do it again. And again.

But The Butcher pressed on, only stopping to moan or sigh because the  small child in her chair was, you know, moving around. She even got a little stern, grimacing and sighing, all the while hacking away with the sheers. It was a bad, bad time.

Finally my wife waved her hand. She’d had enough. She took the kid and muttered something to the effect of YOU BETTER NOT TIP HER. I didn’t. Frankly I was surprised they charged us..

The Butcher stuffed the clippings into a happy Baby’s First Haircut envelope. We pretended nothing happened. I thanked her….awkwardly…for just…you know…okay bye.

We hit the mall in search of another salon, my wife marching like a storm trooper shaking her head. People pointed and laughed at the kid with the funny haircut.

Then, like a shining beacon we found hope. We entered another salon. After a few gasps at the sight of our child, (somebody mentioned that pets were't allowed), they promised to help the best that they could. The next girl was llike and angel. She spoke in soft tones. She was friendly. She had this refreshing habit of smiling. And Simon behaved, for the most part. He sat and she worked her magic and the result is that after two haircuts and thirty bucks, he looks like a boy. 

I still say the bowl would have worked. Because for me it was just hair, I didn't get it. But to my wife it was so much more. With the crying and all, she was clinging to that hair like a memory of her baby. But he’s no longer our baby, he’s a little boy. 

Great, now I’m crying…





Thursday, October 23, 2014

Moments Not Posted...


We’re sitting at a stoplight, somewhere along the rural countryside. My small family is on its way to the pumpkin patch and the day is gorgeous. Fall is in full swing, to my right is a breathtaking view of the mountains, littered with colorful foliage and crisp blue ridges.

Also breathtaking is my son’s epic fit in the back seat, littered with ear twisting screams that make you question the day you ever even thought about being a parent. It appears that he’s unhappy with something back there in first class and he’s letting the surrounding county know about it. He tugs on his car seat strap, his face smushed up and maroon as the maple leaves with determination.

Too tight, too tight. Then to his shoe, too tight, too tight.

I try to soothe him but he only shakes his head, his long hair swinging because my wife won't budge on the haircut issue. 


I turn back to the steering wheel, trying to ride it out, wondering how other parents are able to get their children in a car for family trips. They always look so happy in the facebook pictures, everyone laughing, singing songs and enjoying life like a gum commercial the whole way across the countryside.

The light turns green and we’re off. My wife talks our son down from the ledge. A mile later he is giggling and happy. So teeters the life of a toddler.

The trip itself was worth the screaming. We arrived at the pumpkin patch and corn maize, settled just beneath the Blue Ridge Mountains, just as a rather low flying plane circled above (and by low flying I mean that the pilot had some jelly in his mustache). Like most toddlers, my kid is all about planes right now, so that was just an added bonus (at least when I realized that no, he wasn't going to crash).

We pet some farm animals, went on a tractor ride, and of course did the pumpkin picking. It was pretty amazing watching him interact with other kids, and both my wife and I noticed a bit of shyness coming from our normally gregarious little guy.

Next was the corn maize. We didn't last long, and instead meandered around for a bit, taking pictures and running into some friends. Between all the lifting--kid and pumpkins--my arms are still a little sore. All part of the experience, I suppose. Overall it was a great time. Just those two fits on the way up and back. But those moments are just part of the game, so I’m told.

We get lots of warnings these days, from friends and family. And not all of them pertain to the kid, some of it is for us. People tell us not to lose focus of our marriage, which, after having leftovers last night, the sound of the vacuum serenading us as we watched our son play on the floor, I guess I can see how romance can take a back seat.

But I wouldn’t change a thing about my home life. My little family is imperfect and wonderful. I can sacrifice things that don’t matter. I can deal with missing a football game because my kid wants to play or getting up at the crack of dawn because our little rooster is roosting. And just when I think it’s too much, that I just want some time to myself or I'm sulking with worry about things in the world that can't be changed, that's when I hear it. The pitter patter of a barefeet hit the floor. 

I look up to find a bare naked toddler barreling down the hallway, having busted loose from the clutches of his Mom's lotion hands. I bend down, holding out my arms. He scoots down the hall, beaming and squealing, glancing back to his room before giggling with glee from his narrow escape from clothes. He hits me in stride, falling into me for a hug and then looking to me with gratitude. 

Thank you Daddy.

At the other end of the hall is his Mom. My wife, my closest friend and the woman who accepts me for all my faults. She hears all my worrying and deals with my own irrational stoplight temper tantrums and ugly moments that I don’t post on facebook.

Yep, this is my life, I think, smiling and hugging my son. And yep, it's all worth it...


Thursday, October 9, 2014

Guy Time

Just me and the dude yesterday. I picked him up after work as my wife had PTA meetings after school. 

Let’s see, with the rain we were stuck inside, but that's okay, we made do. There was some vacuuming, some playing in the car, some Curious George, and some climbing on the couch. And then there was hockey, sort of…

For those of you out there unfamiliar with naked hockey, it’s something to behold. Maybe not the Miracle on ice, considering it was on the hardwood floors of our hallway, but it was right up there.
This was a one man game, as my son, stripped and bare and just before bath time, grabbed his stick—er, hockey stick, and with a strike, he drilled the puck down the hallway. And naked or not, he’s got quite the slap shot.

He’s a kid with little to hide, he’s out there bearing it all for the world, or for me and the dogs, to see. It’s impressive, his hand eye coordination, his determination, his refusal to wear a diaper.

The only thing he had to fear was the dog’s nose finding his rear, and that was more of just a mere distraction. After a quick intermission (a bath), he was right out in the hallway looking for that puck again.

I called it a game when he stopped, dropped the stick and just started peeing on the floor without so much as an “Uh-Oh” That’s when it was time for a diaper. Luckily, Mom came home from her PTA meeting shortly after and order was restored.

After getting him all ready for bed, he snuggled his head on her chest, and right before my eyes Daddy's naked madman hockey player became Mommy's little boy. Then he slept through the night, or until 6 am, which these days is like an extended check out at our house...

Good People


From the Good News Network:

The Utah Jazz signed 5 year old JP Gibson, who is suffering from leukemia, to a one-day contract and brought him on the court to play with the big boys.




Friday, September 26, 2014

Wild Nights

I really thought my days of waking up in strange places were long gone, but when I found myself blinking and disoriented in the still dark hours this morning, the bed hard and cool and wait, this is the floor--I realized that maybe I was just regressing...

I’ve been hearing a lot about this sleep regression thing, and it appears we’ve hit this little stage right square in the mouth. For the past couple of nights my son wakes up, rattles his cage--uh, crib, like a pint-sized gorilla and then calls out Mommy Mommy Mommy! with a sense of urgency usually reserved for boogymen and snack refills. And not that I'm counting, but I've noticed that there is only the occassional Daddy thrown in the mix. Like a 13:1 ratio.

Maybe because my wife brought him in to the bed the other night, where he settled in happily. And I am genuinely amazed at just how much of a queen size bed can a 30 inch kid can occupy. I was kicked in the ribs by little toddler feet until just about fifteen minutes before I have to get up for work. Of course by then he was sound asleep.

But everyone says not to go down this road, putting the kid in the bed. I really don’t see the harm in doing so occasionally but then again I also don’t see the harm in having Fruit Loops for dinner. So anyway, last night, we put him to bed—his bed, and everything was normal. He only got about two Mommy’s in before he was out cold, (or warm, he had a blanket). Then, without even a tiny morsel of shame, my wife and I climbed into bed just before nine.

I fell into a deep, wonderful sleep—until about11:06 pm, when Mommy Mommy Mommy cranked up like an overplayed Pharrell song that did not at all reflect how I felt at the moment.

We gave it a minute. By Mommy #58 I rolled over. By Mommy #88 I peeled off the covers. By Mommy #128, I cursed the stubbornness gene that this Mommy of his passed on to her child. Then, I grabbed a pillow and blanket and did what needed to be done. I camped out.

Lying on the floor, with only a knotty layer of sea grass between my ribs and the hardwood, I thought, well, this isn’t so bad. And it wasn’t. Until I woke at two am, my neck feeling like a cork screw. Then I slunk off for the memory foam.

Nope

He heard me, one measly creak of the planks and he sat up like my dog when he sees a squirrel. And then…. Mommy!

Mommy? Seriously kid? Not to be petty here but do you see who’s lying on the floor, camped out like it’s Black Friday or something?  

I fell back to my bed of sea grass, sticking a hand through the slats of my son's crib, comforting him until he fell into a deep, coma like sleep. In the other room I could hear the dog cutting logs and dreaming of squirrells from the plush confines of his dog bed. Everybody had a place to sleep, and I guess I’d found mine.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Small Wonders...

I have no idea how many times in my adult life that I’ve walked out the door, straight to the car, turned the key and sped up the road….to work or to the grocery store or anywhere else. We all do, and it’s no big deal, right?

Well with a kid just shy of 20 months old that journey to the car is a big deal. Everything in the world is a big deal.

Birds become amazing creatures that have wings and soar through the sky. Planes too, only bigger and make humming noises as they push through the clouds. A cat crossing the street is and event. Flowers, leaves…..Rocks! Everything is so cool!

It’s humbling to see the world through my son’s eyes. Just the other day I watched him watch the crows pecking and cawing in the front yard. He was completely captivated by something that normally I would just walk past without even registering. But for him, such wonder! I held him up to the window, his eyes wide and enrapt with the crows. When they finally moved on he started waving, whispering “Bye Bye” as they flew to the next yard. Made my day.

A simple trip out to the yard is like a jaunt through a theme park. There’s so much to discover. The other day we played with twigs and sticks for nearly twenty minutes. Then it was the ants, quite the show they put on. Caterpillars, worms, even stinkbugs are all characters in this great wide open show called the world. Oh, and he really really like butterflies. Those get the brightest smiles.

He likes walks down the street. Those aren’t quite as fun for me, but that’s because I become a secret service agent--scanning the road ahead for cars, stray dogs, maybe even an errant tumbleweed. Who knows what may be lurking?

He points to cars, he loves the trucks. He squeals and mimics and just takes it all in. He never wants to go back inside. And he never ceases to surprise me with all the new words he knows. But he's not the only one learning, he's teaching me to relearn all of the things that as a "grown up" I take for granted. Like walking in a puddle at the end of a street, or blowing the seeds off of a dandelion. The curl of grass under my bare feet, mud on my toes. Hearing the birds sing their songs.

So maybe that’s why the posts here are less frequent, because we’re just having too much fun...

Friday, September 5, 2014

Oopsie!

Recently my son found my wife's childhood Cabbage Patch Kid and took to cuddling it and carrying it around the house. Now, as our neigbors could tell you, he's pretty comfortable with himself, and I'm not the kind of dad who would worry about my son playing with dolls so we thought it was cute. Well, until... 

A few days ago I was changing his diaper and all hell is breaking loose. It was a mess, and I had to do something. He was flailing around like one of those used car lot balloons and I just knew I’m going to end up with poop on my hands or on him or both. Just the other night I lost focus and he pooped on the floor. But back to the trenches, in a blur of urine and tears, I picked up this thing, this naked doll, just to distract him, anthything to help me survive. So I go to pick it up and when I did I accidently bumped its little plastic head against the bed rail.

Thump.

Simon stops flailing and starts giggling. I giggle too, and then—being the mature adult that I am—I repeat the head bump, only this time putting a little muscle into it.

Thump Thump!

More giggling. Mom is a safe distance away in the kitchen. I fix the diaper up on Simon and then add a few sound effects to the head bumping. The next thing I know we’re beating the stuffing out of that doll and laughing hysterically.

No harm no foul, right?

Wrong. Because the very next day we’re on the floor playing and Simon eyes the doll. This time Mom’s in the room, getting caught up on school work. Simon takes the doll, flashes me a little smile and then starts thumping the baby’s little head against the wall.

Thwack! Thwack! Thwack!

Then a picture falls on the floor and I hop up and make sure everyone’s okay. My wife looked at me and said, "I wonder where he got that idea?"

I shrugged, because he’s too little to have friends down the street who I can blame it on and I was a little too stunned for words.

The moral of this lesson is that I really need to watch my mouth and my actions around this little sponge of ours. 



Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Hey...I'm A Real Live Parent!

First let me start by saying I've completely become that parent who used to annoy me so much. You know the ones. Big goofs who overly dote on their kid?




Check. Or how about the ones who post their kid's finger paintings? 




Check. What about the ones who take pictures of every. Little. Thing?





Check. Check. And to whom do I make out the check?

And now with the new school year upon us, my wife, the teacher, the maker of dinners and tamer of wild men and boys, was busy last night meeting parents and kids. Yes, it's that time again. Time to usher in another wonderful first week of school. (Okay, I put a spin on that, her classroom is currently without air conditioning and twelve hour days are kind of a bummer.) But never to fear. As  I'm the do-it-all kind of parent that I claim to be, I was up for the task, and came out to pick up our son after work. 

I entered the school to a circus of animated kids and exhausted parents roaming the halls. I nodded to administrators and teachers, all of whom seemed a little bewildered at the thought of another whole year of school. Making my way through the debris of checklists and guidlines, I found my son tucked away from the disarray and thankfully out of harm's way.

Simon was in Mommy's classroom, content and quiet, coloring at the table while parents filled out forms at the desk. Oh, and when I say coloring, I mean tattooing himself with Crayola markers, both arms were inked up to the elbow. But then he looked up and smiled, I felt my knees get a little weak when he let go with a big old "Daaadeee!"

You know those parents who really, really can't believe how fast their kid is growing up? 

Check.

It was Daddy to the rescue. And with Mom up to her eyeballs with parents and forms and, well, chaos, I scooped up the kid and we got out of dodge. 

First stop was the grocery store, where I we got just the necessities. Bread and Ice Cream. Okay we got apples too, but I quickly realized that we needed to hurry. I tried keeping him in the cart, but he wanted out and let the whole store know about it. And I don’t have little tricks or snacks in my purse to keep him occupied. I don’t even have a purse.

At home, we got busy with manly activities. Well, after we did the dishes--his idea. If my kid loves two things, it’s a vacuum and the sink. Well, maybe three things, because you should have seen his little face light up when he assisted me with some small projects around the house, fixing those rickety old chairs in the dining room—which involved the drill.

Playing around the house, things were moving quickly. It was already dinnertime. I took the easy route. PB & J, and then sat back and watched him destroy it, nearly losing a finger in the process. As he ate, I thought back to those times when it was just my dad and me. Cue flashback music...

When my dad was in charge of dinner, it usually involved grilled cheese and the fire alarm. He could also do eggs, sorta, just nothing fancy. But what I enjoyed most during those times was the great conversations we’d have over dessert. 

I’m kidding, we just stuffed our faces.

But I do remember how Dad fixed dessert, vanilla ice cream with hot chocolate syrup. Popping the can open, (yes, can), he'd warm it on the stove. Then we’d sit down at the table with our two bowls of vanilla ice cream, and drizzle the steaming Hershey’s syrup over our heaping mounds of ice cream. Sugary madness.

And that's what I had in mind when I grabbed the plastic container of syrup and nuked it for thirty seconds. (Don’t worry, he just had plain old vanilla). And for the next five minutes, the house settled into a delicious, lip-smacking silence. 



The rest of the night was standard fare—vacuum time, a little outside time, then bath time. We had a lot of fun, and I realized that at some point I have become a real, live parent. And that just about blows my mind. 

After bath, I got the little guy all cleaned up and in pajamas, snuggling up on me as we read Curious George until Mom came home and scooped him up for herself. I handed him over with a smile, because I'd held the fort down and every thing was running on schedule. At least until this morning, when my wife noticed that the kitchen was covered in chocolate.


Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Captain Chaos...

According to the school calendar, summer is just about over. And so tomorrow, my wife heads back to the classroom to prepare for another wave of children arriving on Monday. I’ll be taking Thursday and Friday off from work to substitute parent at the house.

kid with cereal bowl
"Teaching Moment"
I need to mentally prepare for this time with him. While it seems effortless--watching my wife parent, she's already been warned that there is a chance that she may come home and find me in tucked into a tight ball, rocking in the corner of the room, finger-paint and yogurt in my hair as the dogs and the kid take full reign over the house.

I’m kidding, sorta. But it is true that my wife is the better parent. Yes, I know how that sounds, but it's the truth. Maybe it’s her teaching background, but she’s better with all the structure and calm. She plans out little activities, each piece of the day carved into neat blocks, always ready to jump in with a "teaching moment". With me, it's anarchy.

I try to watch her, to learn some of the tricks. Like when he gets sidetracked, trying to climb into the fridge or the dog food under the cabinet (don’t judge), she’ll just announce happily that we’re, “all done now!”, and he’ll actually do what she wants him to do. It’s like she speaks in a way that he understands. I speak….clown.

He’s pretty much talking now. With his bench mark at 15-20 words, he’s easily at thirty, maybe more if you count those gurgling sounds he makes when her runs. He’s a lot of fun, and he’s still trying to find his voice— like this morning when I almost had him saying ET phone home. We’ll get there.

But he’s got quite the temper on him, and sometimes I panic. Of course, my wife knows how to coax him out of a fit. Just the other night, I had to get him out of the car, and he let the world know that he wasn’t happy about it. He kicked and screamed, thrashing and flailing as his face went cartoon-devil-red and his tear ducts were all systems go. I looked at my wife. While I’m not completely useless, this was one doozy of a tantrum.

Then my wife calmly left the room, only to return with Patrick the monkey. She handed our son the monkey and I watched as he wrapped a chubby arm around Patrick and then his thumb found his mouth. I sat on the floor, watching as she rocked him back to a normal human being.

I can make him laugh. But she can calm his world.

But my poor wife, last night after putting him to sleep, she walked in the room and fell on the bed. “I’m going to miss him,” she said with moist eyes, and I thought about how she’s spent every single day with him over the summer. How he clings to her sometimes and they go on grocery shopping trips and she lets him carry around a balloon and he sees the dog food and starts barking. Her little pieces of the day with him are getting smaller.

But back to me.  With the end of summer comes another year of school. And beginning next week, I’ll have to get up nearly an hour earlier only to strap him in the car and haul him off to day care. It’s weird to think how I was just carrying him around everywhere in his car seat and now he has to walk or run wherever he goes. Man, I guess we have our moments, too.

After all, it’s not a competition, and even if it was, he’s clearly the winner. Besides, like I tell my wife, I'm doing the best with what I have. And I’ve got a whole bunch of love for that kid.

But still, wish me luck...

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Itchy...


Chiggers, Red bugs, scrub-itch, berry bugs, harvest mites. That’s what I got going on right now. Being that I’m in the woods nearly every day--wearing shorts and ankle socks because I’m an idiot who doesn’t learn from past mistakes--it seems every summer I find myself scraping away at my ankles and behind my knees, driven to the brink of madness by the little red bumps and vowing to find a remedy that works.

Here, from Wikipedia:

After returning from a chigger-infested area, launder the field clothes in soapy, hot water. As soon as possible, take a good hot bath or shower and soap repeatedly. The chiggers may be dislodged, but you will still have the stylostomes, causing the severe itch. Scratching deep to remove stylostomes can cause secondary infections. For temporary relief of itching, apply ointments of benzocaine, hydrocortisone, calamine lotion, New Skin, After Bite, or others recommended by your pharmacist or medical doctor. Some use Vaseline, cold cream, baby oil, or fingernail polish. 


I noticed that there is nothing in the above about lopping off your feet with a chainsaw. Perhaps I’ll add that as a public service. And as bad as it is while typing this, it's even worse at night while lying in bed, fantasizing about hair brush bristles, the sharp teeth of keys, rubbing my legs against flakes of rusty metal, anything, ANYTHING to stop the madness. Miserable and out of my senses with itch syndrome (it’s a thing, right?), my condition only worsened by all of the salt in the bed.

Salt? You ask? Well let’s back up to the real embarrassing part, when I got home from work yesterday and fell to the floor, stripping my clothes and tearing into my skin like I was wearing an invisible straight jacket. I jumped on the computer and bravely Googled Chiggers. Why was this brave? Well, because only the day before I saw a red mark on my son and freaked out, thinking it was Ring Worm. It wasn’t, so you can stop thinking my family is a bunch of lepers. But what did happen was that I clicked images and I will never, ever be the same, because I was treated to the twisted, hairy recesses of Google's servers, and it’s a place that I don’t want to visit again if I can help it. Moving on.

Only this time Google led me to a new treatment, a household procedure that gave me a glimmer of hope: Vicks vapor rub, mixed with salt. Now we're in business, I thought, and that night after a shower, as my wife sat on the couch, I spread myself on the living room floor and basted my arms, legs, and uh, other regions with a salty concoction of Vick’s Vapor Rub and iodized salt. Oh I was a turkey all right. My poor wife, I can’t imagine the bemoaning regret that must have barreled through her head at that moment, because I think her lips were moving, silently repeating our wedding vows like a chant or a spell. I wasn’t in a position to see her.

Now, just in case you ever find yourself wanting to take a fire rake to your shins, let me tell you that the Vapor Rub Mix is not the way to go. Last year I went with diluted bleach, only I don’t think I diluted it enough and the burn was nearly as bad as the itching. Then there’s nail polish, but that’s too time consuming.

And then there’s science. I read today, while scratching at my ankles and after spending my life in the south, I found this on Medicine Net:

Many home remedies for chigger bites are based upon the incorrect belief that chiggers burrow into and remain in the skin. Nail polish, alcohol, and bleach have been applied to the bites to attempt to “suffocate” or kill the chiggers. But because the chiggers are not present in the skin, these methods are not effective.

So there, I'll wait it out with self-control and cortizone. Because I don't need to baste myself with Vick’s Vapor Rub on the living room floor to make my wife scramble her brain trying to remember why she married me. Nope, I can do that on my own.







Monday, August 4, 2014

The Case For The Only Child...



“When are you having another one?”


We get this question a lot, and usually it’s not referring to another round of cocktails. It should be phrased, when are you going to do this all over again? And for the past year (I’m just going to assume people were joking when they said it the first six months), our answer has been steadfast. We’re not.

It seems that this is the wrong answer, or at least an unpopular one, because when I say it I'm usually met with a scoff or surprise followed by the standard, You can’t just have one!

But see, you can. You can have just one kid. You can have no kids. In fact, some people shouldn't have kidsThey should stick to the meth cooking and the paint huffing and just avoid the whole child rearing all together. And then again, some people are in a place where they can have five or six, maybe they have farmland that needs plowing. 

My point is that every one's situation is different. Everyone does not need to have X amount of kids. I don’t buy into the whole without-siblings-the-kid-will-grow-up-sad-and-lonely-or-socially-awkward argument. Trust me, I have a brother, two sisters, and I’m a freak. 

That being said, I’m not totally against having another child. My mind could change. (Mind changing, how radical!) But my wife and I have discussed having another kid and we remain around 80/20 against it. Okay 70/30. Sure, there are traps, sometimes I'll come across a little outfit that my son has outgrown, or maybe a toy with a song that transports me back to those sleepless nights of rocking him to sleep in the chair and my memory paints this nice, fuzzy glaze over what in fact were some seriously trying times.

And I see the nostalgia hit my wife too, like over the weekend. We were driving out to see my Aunt and Grandmother and I watched her take more than a fleeting glance at the minivans on the road. I gripped the wheel nervously on the only recently paid for Subaru, while she ogled those vans from front to back, pausing to appreciate those sleek sliding doors before moving to the self-closing hatches. 

But still, why push it? We got lucky with this guy, he’s healthy and fun, and with only the occasional bouts with lunacy. And what about Dad? I’ve got one last year left in my thirties, all the more reason not to flood my house with screaming babies. I’m finally at the age where I love sleep. Rosy memories aside, we have finally established a schedule and some very fragile quiet time. Why would we go messing with this? I could go on and on with reasons, but I just looked at a baby picture of my kid and drained myself of testosterone.

So one it is. He has dogs, and he can always make friends with those other crumb crunchers at daycare. And he has me. I'm a good buddy, I mean, not to brag but I’ve been told on several occasions that I’m highly skilled at being childish. Also, as though not having to compete for my attention wasn’t enough, there will be more money to go around without another drooling mouth at the table. At least if my wife can stop thinking about fifty shades of grey minivans.

And yet, when the house is quiet, like last night when I went to check on my little dude and found him sleeping peacefully on his side--not screaming at the top of his lungs or trying to scale the dinner chair to the table like a shirtless Sir Edmund Hillary--and I listened to his raspy little breaths, overcome with a near crippling love that made me blink a lot and I thought, Well maybe, maybe there is enough of this love to go around. But then I crawled into bed and my wife was already asleep and preseason football was on and I got really comfortable and thought, Do I really want to sacrifice this again?


Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Year Three of She Still Hasn't Dumped Me...

It’s nice to know you have someone in your corner, someone who sees you at your worst, like that bathroom mirror just before you notice it and strike a pose out of habit. You know the pose, sucking in, chin jutted out, making that ducky face. Just me? Okay then.  But through it all, I have my wife—even if she is making fun of me most of the time.

Today marks year three in our marriage. And things are better than I could have imagined. First of all, we’re still together, no small feat because I’m not easy to live with. I’m neurotic, childish, self-conscious, not to mention impulsive. And then I have my faults…

But despite it all our marriage is humming along. Today won’t be the most romantic evening in the world, as I still leave dishes in the sink and she still leaves hair in the drain. But hey, it's real life, not a romantic comedy. What we do have is a healthy son, our own health, and a home to live in, and all of that is pretty romantic in itself. I can add the comedy, intentional or not. 

My wife and I don’t do big, extravagant gifts, but we do us pretty well. So here’s to years four, and five, and fifty. Hopefully the 45 in between will run smoothly as well...

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Growing, Growing, Gone...

Today, my kid is a year and a half old. Wow. I would say the time has flown by, because it has, but then again it feels like my life has always been this way. Everything about being a dad feels normal and natural and I couldn’t imagine life any other way. This was not always the case...

Nope, whatever progress I’ve made in the being a parent department has come despite my kicking and screaming. After all, you don’t just wake up this refined, there were a few bumps along the way.

Not too long ago, I couldn’t handle toys strewn across the living room and down the hallway, screeching babies, or eating breakfast over the sink. I squimed at just the thought of changing diapers or washing butts. I was the guy who didn’t want to hold your baby.  

That guy is long gone. Today, I’m battle tested and ready. I've wiped away drool with my finger, gone to work only to find urp on my shirt, slobber and snot on my sleeves. I've been on the wrong end of a diaper change, and lived to type about it. Yes, I’d say I’ve come a long way.

When she was pregnant, I remember my wife trying to prep me for Dad duty, sneaking in little tidbits of information about what was ahead. Usually I’d just nod and laugh, telling her not to talk while Dexter was on while at the same time trying to hide the panic building in my thoughts. Dexter was scary, but having a kid was horrifying.

Those long, self-serving days, when I could only focus on one thing at a time, like shoveling food in my own mouth or watching television. Television. Good one, watching six or seven sitcoms druing the week. Six or seven! About the equivalent to how many minutes of tv we now watch over the course of an entire day now.

So my son’s not the only one growing here. It's a team effort. The other day I’d just gotten home from work and run the dogs around the woods and we were all in the kitchen. My wife had been doing some laminating job for school and there were shreds of paper all over the house. Simon and I sat on the floor, tossing the white strips of paper in the air and I watched him giggle and squeal as the streams of paper fell on his head.. And just in that little moment, I knew that everything I needed in the world was right there

Corny? Maybe, but honest. My life has changed so much in the past ten years, five years, and it was hurled into a different world a year and a half ago. But it's a world I like, and the best part is that it’s only getting better…



Friday, July 18, 2014

A Vacation Day...


With my wife and kid back home, I took a vacation day from work to catch up with my two favorite people. It was weird being off on a Wednesday, and the day itself started out like a Saturday, morphed into a Sunday, and then bounced back to hump day by evening. Not a bad deal.

The day was perfect from the moment I woke up. The sun was already out and the birds were singing an enchanting little...okay it wasn't much different. But as I lay in bed, listening to my son talking in his room, at least until I noticed my wife watching me stare at the ceiling grinning like a goofball. Everybody was happy to be home.

After breakfast, and some much needed vacuum time, we set out for some guy time at the park. I left my phone at home. We were flying under the radar. No pictures or social media. Just two guys roaming the world (or a three mile radius of our house, but you get the idea).
 
We started at the nature trails. I pushed Simon along in the stroller, but I could tell he wanted out, so instead we packed it up and tried the nearby school. That way I could let him roam around and play on the swing set and in those portable toilets he loves so much. 

And what a great idea that was--the school, I was kidding about the toilets--because as fate would have it, we pulled up to find a hot air balloon hovering right there in the football field.

Yeah, what timing. A big, fat, colorful balloon was just sitting there, waiting for us as we got out of the car. Kids were laughing and cheering along on the track like they were at a parade. It was a parenting jackpot.
 
I reached for my phone, but then remembered we were off the grid, which was good because instead I just watched the reflection of the balloon in the gleam of his wide open eyes. We never made it near the field because he was content to just stand there and stare. The balloon was anchored down with ropes and only going up a few feet for rides in the basket. But to him it may as well been a rocket launch.
 
After a while, we did end up going to the park where we slid the slides and ran around and he pointed out every morsel of trash. Later that afternoon, we went for a neighborhood walk and then took a family trip to the grocery store. 
 
Was it Disney Land? Nah. Sea World? Nope. The carnival? Only if you count the one inside my head. But it was exactly what this dad needed.
 
The day was perfect. I mean sure, it wasn’t without some fits and tantrums and a few tears. But we got through it. And while I don’t have the greatest job in the world, I am fortunate to have those days to take off, because time can be the greatest gift of all. 
 
Okay, enough clich├ęs. But I'm thinking that taking vacation days to be with my son sounds like a really good idea. Because looking back, I’ll remember his face watching that balloon. And that I was there, and I was trying. And that a four day work week isn't too shabby...