Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Thoughts on Family Travel...

Holiday travel. Every year I say never again. Yet every year I find my hands on the wheel. Sure, getting away is fun. Seeing family is great.  But the getting there, that is tough sledding.

It starts with a three year old. Not easy, right? Add two dogs, one on each side of the little guy and now we’re getting close. Okay stuff the car to the gills and then pretend that you abhor being confined to a seat for more than a half hour or so. 

Now we’re cooking.

I'm sure that some of you out there drive all the time, and you may like nothing more than hitting the open road at full speed. Well, God bless you for it. Me? No, not my thing. I-81, with its steep inclines and trucks and constant road construction? I’d rather chew on a rusty wad of steel wool. 

My whole family was packed into that car. The only thing missing was a jar around my neck with our two little goldfish. One wrong move, me or the other guy and well...it’s more than my nerves can take. That’s why I chug along at a paltry 68-72 mph. I pass cops with a smile. The Fast and the Furious? I’m not what would be considered the ideal demographic.

Our journey began in Virginia and ended in the North Country, a mere 50 miles from the Canadian border. All in all it was something to the tune of 26 hours in that car with stops at the downtown Hilton in Scranton, Pa, both there and back. And By the way, those good people at the Hilton are top notch, and I highly recommend their hotel if you’re travelling with pets. Last time up  I chose a roadside motel to save a buck with the expected results.

But nope, this time we spent the extra money and got fancy. Two queen beds meant one for mother and child and one for man and dogs. It's funny because I used to leave a hotel room in a daze. A fog of cigarette smoke hanging and a string of beer cans strewn along the floor. Now it's Goldfish crumbs and baby wipes. 

Times change.

Dogs. Boy was that something. After the first time they flat out refused to get back in that elevator. A fool-me-once sort of deal. So then it was three flights of stairs whenever I had to let them out or in. Other than that they were well behaved. Even Mason, our neurotic husky mix did okay. A few pants and some trembling at times when traffic got hairy, but hey, the same went for me.

The kid. He did great too. Minimal napping and maximum discomfort, and yet he handled most of it like a champ. At one point, there was us, in the empty hotel lobby/bar, drinking a draft and trying to de-frazzle ourselves while our kid played with his tractor on the floor. Sure, there were those times on the road, when he’d yank at his car seat belt while shouting, “Get me out of here!” Then again, I did the same thing.

On the way home—which became the longest effing trip home since trips and homes and roadside mowing was invented—we hit a snag in traffic and came to a lurching halt on the interstate. My son, awake but weary, piped up from the back.

“We’re going home?”

“Yes son.”

“We’re going home really slow?”

“Yep.”

Home. There’s nothing better. Walking into that familiar place, with its smells and sounds and comforts. With its absence of traffic and lurking dangers. Where the dogs sleep without worry and snore through the night. Where the stress melts away. Where my kid isn’t tying a leash to the hotel chair or eating with a plastic spoon. Where there are no elevators or parking garages or check out times. Home. Where all is well.



Happy Holidays.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Are You Happy?

“Are you happy, Daddy?”

This is the newest question in our house. Whenever I tell my son not to do something, like, say not to throw his food. He’ll stop mid-throw, sort of tilt his head at me, and then,

“Are you happy, Daddy?”

“I am, bud. And well played by the way.”

Then, fifty percent of the time at least, bread takes flight.

But I am happy. Happy that he’s happy. Mostly, I mean there's always the occassional crushing blow for an almost three-year-old: Bedtimes, bath time, words that end with time and don't begin with play. Maybe when he can’t have a cookie, but overall, yes, he’s happy. So I’m happy.

His newest activity is riding a bike around the house. And by around I don’t mean literally, but more through the house. Down the hallway, into the kitchen, peddling away down the living room and making a hairpin turn back around again. And the imagination this kid has, the other day he fell, and got all sorts of upset because he dropped the imaginary cookies he was bringing to me.

Sometimes it can be hard to keep track of what's going on. I mean, it can be alligators roaming the living room, a lion down the hallway. The bike mysteriously “smokes” and has to be repaired. Oh, and anything can become a lawn mower.

The other day all of this was happening, nearly simultaneously, when I looked at my wife.

Can you believe this? We have a three year old.

Almost three at least, and man the house is jumping, with the alligators and all. My wife and I were thinking about calling an exterminator, but our son spotted us talking, like adults, and came to a skidding halt on the bike.

“Are you happy Mommy? Are you happy Daddy?”


“Yes son, we’re happy.”

Friday, November 20, 2015

In Here, Out There

Part of being a parent—besides vacuuming up Goldfish cracker crumbs—is creating a safe place for a child. 

No. Matter. What.

Not quite three, my son is blissfully unaware of the news. And by news I mean all the crummy things happening in the world. He knows our house. His books. Toys. A couple of cartoons. Entirely too much about lawn mowing. And now he's discovered chocolate, so, life is good.

But when I turn on the television, ready to flip on Curious George but then pause because something in the news has caught my attention--maybe a headline about another mass shooting, or a bombing or a protest, could be a manhunt or kidnapping, wreck, hostage, drowning, fire, flood or famine--he’ll call to me, with wondering eyes that beg to know what I’m doing. Then I remember. The cartoon.

Recently I came across a speech from years ago. Reagan, addressing the country before we bombed Libya. It was posted it on Facebook for some political reason or another, but I found myself remembering that speech. More specifically, remembering the exact moment.

I was a kid, in our basement of our little house.The good old 1980's, back when the world was great. At least for me. My parents had bills and worries and the world had crime and injustice. But for me, everything was GI Joe and Knight Rider. The Cosby Show, Family Ties and the like. Our house was my refuge from school, the world....you know, Out There.

But in our basement that night--with Reagan, going on about those strikes on Libya to oust Gadhafi from power and how the middle east was in turmoil--a big old chunk of Out There cut right into my regularly scheduled programming. And it was a little bit scary.

Who knew the world was such a mess? Not me. Not then. I was surrounded by love and music. Allowed to be a kid, to do goofy kid things and build forts or complain about a tear in my parachute pants. How I needed a new pair of sneakers.


But that Reagan moment sticks out because of that brief glimpse of out there all over my parents' faces. Silent and glued to the television, just for a second, just like me when I hear about things going on out there now. 
I was safe because my parents made sure of it.


In Here.

Now it’s my turn. Even though things move quicker now—at least the news does. But it's my job to create In Here, and let Out There come later. He'll get plenty of it later...




Wednesday, November 11, 2015

The Boot Search

For the past two weeks there’s been nothing but the talk of boots in our house. Not just any boots. The little boots I left on the roof of the car after we got pictures done. The pictures that were taken at a farm off of a winding, unmarked road.

Before bed. “Daddy left my boots on the car.”

Upon waking up. “Daddy, I want my boots.”

Mom’s gotten in on the action too. “We should go look for them."

"I wouldn’t know where to start. Besides, they were $14.99 at Sam’s Club.

"But they aren’t in stock now, and all the other boots are expensive."

My wife knows how I work. And she knows that the mere mention of expensive—set to the backdrop of my son’s pouting was enough to do the trick. So Saturday, he and I loaded up in the car and went on a frivolous boot search.

He was still in his pajamas. Although he was wearing his rain boots. Lucky for me I hadn’t left those up on the roof or there would have been hell to pay. Honestly, I was only going to search so that I could say that we’d searched. It was drizzling and wet. A gray morning that was better suited for sleeping in. Yet I was going to comb the side of the country road for boots.

Like I was saying, the farm is about 20 miles away. Tall grass and fencing on either side. Cows. Horse poop. Did I mention it was raining? Okay, good.

We pulled into the driveway. I handed my son a baggie of oldish to occupy him while I roamed the side of the road. He was still buckled in his car seat and content to nibble while did things you just have to do when you're a dad.

Sprite bottles. Fast food. Wrappers, beer cans. I glanced back to the car, safely tucked away at the entrance to the farm. 

A few more steps. About to give up when, a boot! Sticking out of the tall grass. My eyes lit up. “No effing way.”

A car sped past. I turned to see our own car, getting small in the distance. Not good. I needed to hurry up and find the other boot. Energy drinks. Coffee cups. Man, people really like to litter. But there was no time for high horses or soap boxes....I needed the other shoe.

And then there it was. The other boot. I picked it up and turned around. Sprinted to the car, elated that I would be able to get to sleep guilt free tonight. I slowed down, tapped on the windo to to the car. My son’s face lit up like Christmas morning.

My boots!”


Then he went right back to the goldfish. 

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

So We Did The Pictures Thing...


Since our kid was born, grandparents and others have been after us about pictures. 

Apparently the law states that parents are required to have professional pictures of your family or else be forced to hear about it at every family gathering.

One would have thought from the cluster of photos that my wife and I have posted online would have been sufficient, but nope. Pictures. Fancy real ones, too.

So we did it. On a Friday evening at that. After school and work, we got all dressed up, even as the temps were in the seventies. It was sweaters and flannels for us.

It was a crap shoot to say the least. A two-year-old’s patience is neither predictable nor negotiable. So after full day at school, he was carted home, wiped clean, dressed up, then hauled out to the farm for pictures. This required extra Goldfish crackers to pull off, especially when Daddy made a few wrong turns.

But we arrived more or less on time, and our photographer, Sherri Conrad, led the way.

We started out great, with Simon cheesing for the camera, all smiles and laughter. Then he wanted to "mow the grass" out in the field. A few snaps later and he was really looking for a tractor. Then he was a mess. 

Sometimes, on those ultra-rare occasions when my son puts his meltdowns on public display, I try to assure the people watching that he never does this. Nuh-uh, not our little guy. Oh, he never does that either. He never hits or screams at the top of his lungs. But after a few snaps of the camera, as it was going on six o’clock, his usual dinnertime, he was not having it with the pictures.

Sherri, mother of two kids, is a seasoned pro. Still, I wasn’t sure if this was going to work out.

"You just want one you can frame," she said. I smiled at my wife. Oh we could frame it all right. Him hoisted over my shoulder, kicking and screaming and demanding a tractor. A stream of drool cascading down my neck. We could hang it right over the fireplace.

But she worked her magic, and I have to say, the pictures turned out great. 





Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Kind of a Jerk...

I love my kid just as any parent should. He’s a charming, good looking guy. He's got a great sense of humor, which uh, I mean, how could he not? Yep, he's a good kid, sometimes, even polite. All in all it seems we’ve done s something right with our little gentleman. 

But sometimes, behind closed doors. Beyond the world of Facebook and it’s perfect little pictures. The little snot can be kind of, uh…jerk.


I know I know, how awful of me to say. But hang on. Hear me out. He’s going on three, and I’m guessing this isn’t exactly ground breaking behavior. Pottery breaking yes, but I don’t think he’s the first toddler to get his diaper in a bunch because he’s up past his bedtime.

I'm just being honest, because the writing is on the wall. Literally, wiped on in a smear of milk as he takes his sippy cup and uses it like a magic marker. 

The guy can be a real jerk sometimes.

Just calling it what it is. Think about it. If I, now forty years old, came over to your house and demanded pretzels and like any good host you offer pretzels but didn’t adhere to my rigid, pretzel prep criteria: letting me stick my grubby little hand in the bag for two fistfuls of broken pretzel pieces. 

Unknowingly, you’ve thrown a kink into the Rain Man—like sequence. So I just flop down on the floor, kicking my legs and exalting my displeasure. Maybe take a swipe at your dog.

You probably wouldn’t invite me back over, huh?

But this is how he reacts. Sometimes. The other day he finished his yogurt and hurled the container at the dogs. Jerk Butt. He knows better, and I told him, in my dad voice—that he is not to throw yogurt containers/dishes/sporks/pumpkins from the table.

The next day, he finished his yogurt, wiped his mouth, and then presented the container to me.

“Here Daddy.”

“Great job, son.”

And that’s how it goes these days. One step forward, one flop and flail back.

Like this morning, when he woke up and reached out to me for a snuggle. He laid his frizzy head on my chest, his little pajama footie feet dangling. Great stuff right there, even if five minutes later, when Mom came around, he told me, "You go away, Daddy."

Jerk.

Oh, see those blocks all stacked up? Not on my watch.

Nice flowers, they look so pretty, crushed in my fist.

I see it took you fifteen minutes to piece together my train tracks. Derailment only takes seconds

Oatmeal? Motor boat time! 

Again, not that my kid is a complete jerk. Just sometimes. But we’re getting there. My wife says that it’s normal. I hope so. Because when he wants to the guy can be a complete charmer. People stop in the grocery store to tell us how well-mannered our child is. I look down, stifle a chuckle.

Yeah, he is.




Friday, October 2, 2015

Marathon Man

As any good distance runner would tell you, it’s all about the journey.

Or maybe they wouldn’t. I could’ve just plucked that out of thin air. But on the eve of The Virginia Ten Miler, which passes right by our street, my son was all set to run his own race.

The Amazing Mile is a kids race downtown. And the Amazing Quarter Mile is the grueling test of endurance that kicks it all off. When we signed our kid up a few months back, I knew I had to get serious about training. We built up his stamina, running laps around the house after bathtime under the pretense that it was an innocent game of chase.

But oh no my friend. It was all about the training. We slogged through the sessions, chasing the dogs, training on the hill in the woods behind our house, in the backyard. He took his race seriously, or once again, maybe he didn’t. Maybe he just likes to run because he’s two and all. Something like that.

The rains came hard on the big day. Not that our little runner cared. He had his eye on the prize, or at least on a bag of pretzels, it’s tough to say. He wasn’t going to let a little rain dampen his spirits. , rain or no rain, he was ready to rip and run.

There was a nice turnout. Kid’s hopping all over the place. Big kids. Four and five year olds all over the place, huffing and spitting. I pulled my little guy to the side. “You okay, Champ?”

He stomped in a puddle. I took that as yes.

After some group photos—the flash of the bulbs cracking like a storm. (Well, mostly phones and tablets, but you get my drift). I could see my guy was shaken up. This was his first race, so he wasn’t used to all the media types hanging around. I knew I was going to have to get him focused.

He has this little nervous tick where he licks his lips. And he was looking like a lizard out there. The crowd was a bit overwhelming for him. I realized our mistake. We’d been training in the wilderness. Just the two of us and the dogs. I hadn’t prepared him for such a hostile environment. The crowd was getting to him. As a trainer it was my job to get my horse back on track.

“Hey, let’s take a walk.”

We ducked the crowd, heading for the little mounds near the parking lot, on the grass. The familiarity of grass and mud seemed to soothe his jumpy nerves. He laughed and smiled and took the hills. 

Then we heard the National Anthem. Go time.

He was running with Mom, a tactic I hadn’t prepped for but we were winging it now. The whole night seemed to be full of surprises. So I went and found a spot to cheer.

The race got underway and I feared he was going to be trampled. Kids pushing and kicking their way to the front. A redhead blasted by at breakneck speed. But I wasn’t worried. The ones that come out flailing usually burn out the quickest. We had a whole quarter mile marathon to run here so let him tire out.

Through the bodies I saw them. My wife and little guy chugging along. He had a look of complete determination on his cute little face, and I knew my training had done him well. I waved to them. He stopped and waved back. Mom and son pushed on, trudging through the elements in a test of endurance.

A quarter mile is a battle of wills. You have to want it, and as I saw my team round the bend and head down the home stretch, I swelled with pride.

They made it. He didn’t win. It didn’t matter. It was fun. He enjoyed himself. I picked up my champion, wet with rain, sweat, tears…that is rain on his butt, right?





Friday, September 25, 2015

The New Routine

The routine. Parents, you can relate. Every morning it’s the same thing. Get the kid up. Get kid fed. Dress kid. Get kid to school.

But there's a new wrinkle in this routine. (Well, more of the same from the last post). But usually by the time we pull up to daycare, my little guy is all about his Daddy. Hugging and clinging to me, that big, lovable smile on his face that brightens my day. I take him to his little classroom, give him another hug and kiss, then head to work.

But something transpires between the time I drop him off and the time I see him again. When I leave him he’s or fuzzy little guy, when I see him again in the evening he’s um, not a big fan.

If you’ve ever seen the movie 50 First Dates, it’s kind of what I’m dealing with here. I have to start from scratch every evening. He makes me earn it. Because my kid—the same one who's hugging me when I drop him off—doesn’t want me around when he comes home. Nope. He wants me away. Far, far away. 

We’re talking restraining order away.

At first I suspected foul play. I thought maybe my wife was throwing me under the bus on the way home. You know, nothing obvious, just some subtle jabs to keep her spot secure. But then I realized that I wasn’t being rational. If I’m going to stay ahead of my two year old I need to remain rational

Hmm. Could it be that I’m the drop off guy, thus the one responsible for making him leave home when he could be watching Curious George on the couch. Light bulb time. Maybe there's something to that. 

But it hurts all the same.

Here I am rushing out to the driveway, picture it in slow motion, arms spread, ready to take the little bundle in my arms when--record scratching across the soundtrack--he waves me away.

 "Get away Daddy.”

Ouch.

Dinner is more of the same. But I've got material and, slowly, he warms up to me. (I've got an endless arsenal of slapstick comedy at my disposal, if all else fails I can just run into the doorway, respect be damned.

A little smile peeks out and I've got him. He's all mine until bedtime, or breakfast the nest morning. 

But tomorrow is Saturday, so there's hope. No hauling the little bugger off to school. 

I'll keep you posted.


Monday, September 14, 2015

The Slide...

“Go away Daddy.”

Not only is it rude, it hurts some. I slump off to the darkness, resigned to eat my cereal alone. My kid welcomes his mother to the table for breakfast. She asks why he doesn’t want me around.

Something about elephants. I laugh, overplaying my hand. He shoots me daggers when I try to sneak back in, sweeping his hand towards my chair.

“No.”

We remind him to use his manners.

“No thank you.”

Okay, that backfired. But trying to reason with a two-year-old can be like trying to reason with a two-year-old. Trust me, I’ve tried. But this morning he was particularly serious. The kid means business.

Of course I know that the pendulum swings to and fro, that tonight it might be me who he wants. But that doesn’t make the bitter pill of rejection any easier to swallow.

And he has been a little under the weather recently, so maybe he’s only trying to keep me well. Yeah, I think that’s it. The little booger is so worried about getting me sick that he’s sacrificing being around me in an effort to keep me from getting sick. I like it. Thanks son.

Sure, he has that connection with his mom, you know, being that he used to live in there and all. But I’ve pushed that kid over fifty miles on that plastic John Deere mower, so that should count for something, right?

Oh but what's the use with excuses. It’s not just at home where I’m getting shunned. Yesterday I took the little fella out to Grandma and Papa’s house. I’d only just gotten him out of the car when my own flesh and blood bailed on me, basically leaping out of my arms and towards the riding mower waiting for him out in the yard. And to make matters worse, Papa had gone and put a horn on the tractor for effect. Hear that? That’s the sound of me free-falling down the favorite people list.

Poor Dad.


Maybe I’ll take up a hobby. Going to need to do something with all this free time on my hands….sigh…

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

The Day I Learned...

  
I can’t say I was shocked. Surprised, yes. Sweaty? Very. But not shocked.

It was evening, back in the day of few responsibilities. When I look back on this life-changing encounter with my wife, it’s boggling to think of all the free time. Floating around, there for the taking…Okay, sorry, where were we? Surprised. Right.

I’d just come back from basketball and stumbled upon an extremely frazzled woman sitting at the edge of the couch. Upon further inspection I noticed that that woman was my wife. She told me to sit down, then after some fidgeting, “Wait, take a shower first.”

I shot her a look. Something was up. Did she get a raise? No, as a public school teacher that line of thinking falls squarely in the joke category. And she wasn’t exactly smiling. So I took a shower, my mind racing with possibilities of what was coming. My wife isn’t prone to getting worked up. She’s not a fidgeter. That's my department. She’s the even in our keel, so to see her all red faced and breathing funny it had to be good. Or bad. It could be bad...

“Okay, what?” I asked, my physique shimmering in the glow of dusk. Whatever, this is my depiction, here. My wife pointed to the couch. 

"Sit.”

I sat.

“So….” She gave me a look. Like I was missing something. I sorted through my thoughts. I really gotta get my jump shot back on track.

“I’m pregnant.”

Wait. “Huh?"

More staring.

“Are you sure?"

More staring, this time with a look I've since deciphered to mean: You're an idiot. 

“Yep.”

Elation. A thrill of joy I will never forget. A family. This is great. Although we have/had that Jamaica trip planned, but…A Kid!

The reason I wasn’t shocked was because a few months prior we’d passed by the nearby CVS. My wife had mentioned that she needed to refill her birth control. I’ll never forget sitting at that light. Turn left and get the pills. Go straight and pull the goalie.

The light turned green and I plunged ahead, thus sacking the goalie. Man, such a rebel. But honestly I didn’t feel that rebellious. I was thirty-six and I don’t know how else to put this but I really didn’t think my stuff worked. We went about our business. Trying but not trying. The last thing I wanted to do was tell the world, “Hey guess what? We’re trying to have a baby!”

So on that couch I was less than shocked but more than surprised. And that euphoria that hit when she told me she was pregnant? Well, it lasted through most of that initial embrace. Goosebumps hit like a pad of bristles under my skin. My mind flooded with the happiest happy I’ve ever experienced in my life until that point.

Then it was gone.

An immense fear followed. It engulfed me like an itchy wool cloak of uncertainty. A human. A real, walking talking, pooping human. My human. I would be responsible for seeing that it was fed and clothed and didn’t like soccer (I’m kidding, he can like soccer). On top of that I had to raise it so that it wouldn’t grow up and be a serial killer. And then, after being sure that my well-fed, clothed, moderate-to-decently-raised human wasn't a career criminal, I had to hope and pray he wouldn't cross paths with a serial killer. Phew. It's not easy living in this mind of mine.

“Are you okay?”

I nodded. What in the hell was I thinking? That goalie had been the only thing keeping my fragile mind at ease. Now I was freefalling. This wasn’t like picking out a dog. Where you go to the kennel and pick out that cute little mutt. I was great with dogs. Throw the stick and the fetch the stick. This was different.

That week was a blur. Me. A father. How would this work? Everything was about to change. Alternating voices controlled my thoughts.

Everyone has kids. It’s part of life. No big deal. HUGE DEAL. YOUR KID IS GOING TO BE A BABY FRANKENSTEIN. WHAT IN THE HELL WERE YOU THINKING? YOU CAN HARDLY TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF!!!

And since that day, this has been the ongoing struggle...

I told my friends (Ha, I had friends!). Had a few guys over and we had some beers. I broke out the news. At that point my joy in becoming a dad overpowered my anxiety. But not for long. Something happened to me. 

Up until then I thought panic attacks were something the paper bag companies came up with to spike sales. But it was no joke, I’d wake up sweating, my pulse racing and my breaths light. I'd bolt out of bed, pacing, swearing it was the big one. 

Then it happened again. Wake up, bolt upright. Shortness of breath, cold feet. Sweating. It happened so frequently that I finally saw a doctor. A few test and he assured that everything was fine. Calm down.

I calmed. I quit smoking. I watched my sugar intake.. I went a little crazy and started drinking organic apple cider vinegar. (I’d read that it helped, sorta).

Again, my doctor assured me I was fine. He told me not to come back for two years. He refused to be facebook buddies with me. He pointed from his heart to his head and said, "I’m not so sure the problem is here, but here.”

I babystepped my way out of his office, officially labeled a headcase by a physician. My wife laughed out loud.

The next few months were peaceful. We planned. I started a blog to document my craziness. I found out we were having a boy. I was still scared but I had no choice but to answer the call. We were going to have a family.

And now here we are...



Friday, September 4, 2015

Schooled

The temperatures are still in the nineties, but fall is in the air. Maybe it’s that compost pumpkin we have growing out in the backyard. Could be that it’s football season. Or that my wife is back at school and my son has started his new school.

His school. I scoffed at first, thinking they were just dressing it up, calling it an early learning center because it sounds better than “daycare.” You know, like how you call a nursing home "assisted living". I knew what was going on.

But then I came to orientation. Yes orientation. But it really is something. I’m still getting over the whole thumb imprint scanner that checks him in. The little knee high water fountains. The little town setting of the classrooms. There's a library and a chef. This is a little different from the daycare of my youth, where I still remember playtime ending when the woman stubbed out her cigarette. 

Yep, it's definitely pretty sweet, this place, with plenty of smiling faces around. If it’s all a cover to hide a daycare fight club going on in the back, it's a sleek and snazzy operation--I haven’t been able to prove a thing yet. In fact, I have to admit, (and this may sound familiar), that my wife was right about the whole thing. It’s organized and neat and I’ve even hung back and peeked in through the window like a real creeper. 

They offered me a chair.

But so far it looks like this place checks out. Even when I linger around it doesn't seem to bother the teachers. Unfazed, they offered to let me come in for story time. (On further thought, I'm thinking she might have meant that I should actually read the story than sit and listen Billy Madison style).

But things are good with our little guy. It took him a few weeks to get going, but now he’s off and running. At dinner he tells us about his new friends. In the car he sings new songs. He's even getting his left from his right. Letters, numbers, all that stuff. I think were on the cusp of Algebra. He’s turning into an actual little kid right before our eyes.

I guess it’s worth the organs I’ll have to donate to keep him in there. But so far so good.



Friday, August 28, 2015

That Time I Played Big Daddy Kane At First Presbyterian Church...


I’ve mentioned before how my dad was a radio deejay in the eighties. So growing up, I never had to buy music, just pick through the freebies. I was usually first to get new music, sometimes months before it ever hit the airwaves. 

Another benefit was tagging along with dad for his gigs. On the weekends, I'd help him set up and sometimes join him as he spun the tunes at wedding receptions, reunions, middle school dances, and a little bit of everything else.

On one particular Saturday I joined Dad for a little youth group dance at a church over in the really nice part of town. We pulled in the parking lot, Dad's big old radio van screaming for attention as we pulled around to the basement of the First Presbyterian church, just down the road from the country club.

I knew the drill well, and as Dad hauled out the equipment I lugged in the tapes, cd’s, and the big old crates full of records.  Even entering my teenage years I still looked up to my dad, and I always liked being his trusty sidekick. 

We got all set up and things got under way. This was the late eighties, so the big names—U2, Whitney Houston, INXS—were going strong. The kids were around my age and doing what all kids do at dances—drinking soda and avoiding the dance floor until that first brave soul ventured into no man's land. Usually a group of girls would wade out, then the boys would follow and do something stupid. As a seasoned roadie, I’d seen it all before.

I found my seat behind Dad as things got humming along, and once the dancing got going, he cued up a cd, then turned to me to take over for a spell. He’d only recently let me man the controls for a song or two so that he could step away for a smoke or to hit the bathroom. I nodded earnestly, ready to step in. Taylor Dayne was blaring and he motioned to the other cd player to let me know the next song was ready to go.

I took my place at the controls, peeking over the knobs and buttons and feeling all big-time behind the ones and twos. DJ Pete was in the building! I checked what Dad had on deck and frowned. Something lame like Tiffany or Richard Marx. Not on my watch. A quick look over my shoulder. 

I knew what that party needed.

At thirteen, I was really into rap music. Okay, from eight until about right now I’ve really been into rap music. And in 1988 (or today for that matter), there was no better rapper than Big Daddy Kane.

Taylor Dayne was wrapping up. Kids were hopping around, laughing and giggling and having a grand old youth group time. With a push of the button I slipped in a worn cassette tape and grinned. 

Now, if you’ve never heard a Taylor Dayne song blend into Big Daddy Kane, well, then I suppose you just haven’t lived. Tell it To My Heart screeched to a halt as I hit play, slid the cross-fader to the right, then cranked up the volume.  R-A-W ripped through the speakers like a fire alarm.

Keep in mind that this was nearly thirty years ago, and rap music wasn't nearly as mainstream as it is today. And most rap back then was pretty lyrical, so Kane was saying a lot. I nodded along, as he tore through the track, feeling the bass rumbling my seat. Now we’ve got ourselves a party, I thought. While I’m not from the streets or anything, I’m certainly not from the country club either, and Big Daddy Kane was what was in every Walkman and boom box from the bus stop to the basketball court at the park, so I was just playing what people wanted to hear.

But when I looked up I saw a wall of blank faces. No dancing. Everyone stood there, arms crossed, gawking at me like Marty Mcfly after he went all Eddie Van Halen on the guitar. Meanwhile Big Daddy Kane was still going hard in the church basement.

Dad rushed in and righted the ship. He tossed in something tame. I don’t remember, Bryan Adams maybe. Demoted, I ripped off my headphones in defeat and skulked back to the shadows. Eventually things got back on track. Kids danced, parents breathed, the giggling resumed. Dad turned back to me and shook his head and laughed.

My bad.






Sunday, August 23, 2015

Sick Day


It happened again. Just like last year. My wife goes back to school and my kid heads back to child care. Where he caught a cold. During the first week. Again.

I came to the rescue, entering his little classroom during “free time” (basically when kids are free to run amuck). My mission was no cakewalk. I stepped over and around the knee-high critters, dodging germs and fighting my way through a whirl of little bodies.  Then I found my kid, eyes closed and pitiful, snuggled up in a bean bag chair with his thumb stuck in his mouth.

I touched his knee. He brightened up when he saw me. I scooped him up and he latched on to my neck and nodded to the teachers. Poor guy. On the way out he nuzzled his warm head into my neck. “I missed you Daddy.”

Some Motrin and snuggle time and little dude seemed to be coming out of his spell. We lounged the rest of the day, vegging out and eating cereal while watching Curious George on the couch. Mom came home that evening and I puffed out my chest with a sniff. That’s right, I’ve got things under control.

By the next morning things were good again. He was chipper and alive and looked to be as good as new. He had to stay out so I’d already called in work, so I took advantage, mapping out a day for us to enjoy.

We’d hit the children’s museum, maybe catch a ball game or et out. We could sing Twist and Shout in a parade! Yeah, so the day I had in mind may have been similar to Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. But still, the morning was beautiful and we all the time to enjoy it. Although my perfect day and reality were bound for a collision.

 Because I pictured the day like this….







Instead it was more like this...





I had a feeling things were going awry when my car wouldn’t start. I’d let him play in it during the morning and killed the battery. No problem. My neighbor bailed us out with a jump so we were on our way, off for some fun. We set off into the morning warmth, ready for anything. But only an hour into our adventure he looked up at me and said that he was ready to go home. 

No ball games. No parades. No trying to reset the mileage on Dad's Ferrari. Sure buddy.

So we went home. And whatever bug he’d caught had a good hold on his temperament. He through a fit. No, he became possessed by germ demons. He was miserable. Inconsolable. He kicked the dogs and slapped at me. None of this was in my plans.

Nothing was according to plan. But itwasn’t about me. It was about a little boy with a cold who needed me.  He was tired. So I tried to get him down for a nap. And tried…

Nothing worked. In an instant he flipped from jolly old boy to scare-a-priest-with-my-demon-screams raging. This was supposed to be nap time. A reprieve from duty. This day was turning out to be work. I rocked and rolled. I read him books. I hugged him as he went ape sh$3, wiping his nose and clawing at the pillow. Oh boy.

Finally I got him in his room and down for his name. For maybe twenty minutes. Then came the screams.  I offered him a snack. We took it easy for a while. I gave him medicine. He got his second wind. 

We did a few activities in the basement. We painted a planter I'd built. We tinkered, then we waited for Mom to come home. And waited. He grew impatient. I got flustered.

I love my son. He’s the greatest. But on days like that he was so much work. I believe Mr. T put it best.  Parenting is hard damn work. Wasn't him? Well someone said it...

But there are rewards.

I didn’t have that big day I’d planned, but looking back there were so manly little moments. Like when I helped him out of the car, and with his grubby little hand in mine he said, “I’m having a fun day, Daddy.”

He didn't need adventure, just a shoulder to snot on. And there were also several great moments, even with my ears still ringing from those heavy-metal screams.  My heart is still warm from that little I love you Daddy I got while we snuggled on the couch. Hey, I'm a good snuggler, who knew?

He's feeling better now. But I think I caught whatever he had. Just like last year...

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Gender Bender

I recently read in the news how Target's new gender-neutral sections is causing an uproar. Kids across our country are doomed because they won't know what toys to choose. Adults won't know what toys to buy. Boys will get bras. Girls will get jockstraps. The world as we know it is coming to an unlabeled end.

Like most people I know, I find the whole thing to be kind of funny.

When I was two or three my older sister wanted a little sister but instead had me--a dude. So she dressed me up and named me Debbie. Or Gail. I don’t remember. But I sipped tea and played house and pretty much did as she asked. Maybe that’s why I’m so sensitive and understanding. A perfect man, really. Later I returned the favor by dressing up my little sister in karate outfits adorned with hulking plastic bowie knives or as the mission dictated, a sub-machine gun.

Everyone lived.
Gender neutral kitchen set

These days, My two-and-a-half-year-old boy likes to “cook”. He helps out in the kitchen with the dishes or rinsing off the grapes. Over the summer our neighbor brought over her kitchen set, something that would have been in what was formerly the “Girls” section. It has a stove, and oven, a sink and a refrigerator. Here’s a picture of it--->

It even has plastic fruits and veggies with velcro insides so they can be sliced with a plastic knife. But then, take a look at what I found on the counter.

My son likes both the kitchen and the chainsaw. (He uses it to slice the avocados). Am I shocked? No. Actually I think he's a genius for that chainsaw avocado thing. Besides, I’m told that I used to raid my sisters My Little Pony village with my GI Joes, so I guess this gender bending of the toys runs in the family.

Like when my wife was painting her toenails and my son decided that he wanted to paint his toenails as well. So she did, and now we have a chainsaw-toting, veggie slicing, glittery-toenail toddler running around the house.

And all is well.

If there’s a point to this it's that it doesn’t matter. Kids should be able to play and play freely. There are enough rules in the world already. Relax and let them have fun.