Sunday, September 3, 2017

Pickle Snort and Other Troubles…



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

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

Sounds like a good old time, right?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Flash Fiction...Birthday or Bust...

Today wasn’t my first day trapped in a womb but the first day I realized I was dying to get out.

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

I just wanted out.

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

Two hundred and seventy-five days, give or take. Enough was enough. I knew there was nothing north but that buttery voice that rocked my world and rocked me to sleep, so I did a flip and headed south.

Yeah, I felt bad. Especially when she “oofed” and things went sideways as we tumbled over. I had no intentions of hurting her, and it set me back a bit with the moaning. But I’d heard time and time again, her bemoaning how I’d wrecked her body. So what did it matter in the end.

I heard another voice nearby. A familiar, oaf-like voice that belonged to an utterly useless lifeform. Honey. Aside from constantly asking if everything was okay, Honey made no major contributions to my well being. In my abundant spare time, I’d made a mental image of Honey with big droopy ears and wide eyes and maybe even thumbs where ears should go. Honestly, I’d be amazed if he could tie his own umbilical cord, so I doubted Honey was ready for what I had to offer.

Okay, things were happening. I got myself right again and plunged ahead. I’ll spare you the details, because I’m not sure you want to know what I had to go through. Let’s just say making a human—a particularly gorgeous one at that—is a lot like making a pie. There’s going to be a big mess left in the kitchen afterwards.

I knew I was getting my point across because it was complete chaos out there. Yelling and tripping and hysterics because the big oaf was being a bonehead. At this point I was of the thinking that if Honey wasn't going to help he could at least get out of the way. He was quite terrified, and I cannot properly convey just how thankful I am that I wasn’t stuck with him for all those months.

Okay, now or never. I hunkered down and got to work. Screams. Shrieks and sheer terror as I plunged ahead. Again, I felt terrible, my gracious host had been nothing but accompanying and maybe one day I’d look back with nostalgia instead of nausea. But this was happening. How long did she plan on hauling me around, anyway? It was checkout time.

Just a we were getting somewhere, new voices emerged. A big commotion. The clatter of utensils. The cord was holding me back, even as I saw daylight. I pushed ahead, surprised that it was now a two way street because my host was pushing too. I won't lie, I was somewhat offended, but there would be plenty of time to voice my concerns later. 


I fought through the goop and the mess and the glint of light got brighter and brighter and…

Oh goodness it was freezing! Go back! Go back! Retreat! What was I thinking? They started yanking at me, tugging on my still soft head and jostling me silly. My fate was sealed as I saw shadows and figures, more lights and then I realized one of the round orbs was that deep voiced oaf. 


They handed me to Honey!

No. I shrieked and went wild. All because I’d left the safety of my burrow to be handled by these cold, oafish hands. What was he doing?

Wait…

Wait a minute. Oh, that’s nice. I knew that voice. That lovely voice. I looked up, blinking and sniffling as I saw a blur. A sweet, angelic, very exhausted blur. Honey touched me again with his ice hands and I let him have it.

Then I was against her chest. Mom. Sweet mom was here.

And I was warm.




Friday, August 25, 2017

Float the Boat...

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

I wanted to make a boat.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Wednesday, May 24, 2017

If Monkeys Could Talk

*The following story is fiction. Mostly fiction...

My kid has this stuffed monkey. He sleeps with it every night. He found him at Walmart, my wife was shopping with him one day and took a wrong turn down the toy aisle. That’s a bad move, the toy aisle. Rookie mistake.

Our son threw a whopper of a fit over this monkey and Mom broke down. I didn’t see much special about him—the monkey, my kid is plenty special—he has a pull tail that plays a nursey rhyme I recognize but can’t name.

My son and this monkey. He takes it everywhere. Bathroom. Daycare. To the store. This monkey travels. The other night it had snowed, and the next day the sun warmed things up so that the streets shined black with salt and chemicals. My son was hopping over a curb when, splat, he dropped he monkey face down in a tar black puddle of grime. The kid was devastated. Crying about Patrick the monkey as I cleaned him up some with a Clorox wipe and fix him. But the wipes only managed to smear his face and belly and the more I wiped the more he smeared until he looked like a coal miner with a beard.

That was the worst. My wife was working late and it was just me and the kid and Patrick—my kid named the monkey Patrick—and I got this situation under control and stepped out into the living room. I was whipped from the trauma of parenting, and I was about to crack a well-deserved beer and turn on the game when I felt a draft. 

That’s when I saw it.

Patrick’s tail. The window as shut but I knew that tail anywhere. I leaped up and snatched the monkey, knowing I’d just seen him in bed before lights out.

He was cold in my hand. I looked to the hallway, then back to the monkey. Something swatted my hand away. “What the hell you think you’re doing?”

I’m pretty sure I screamed. Okay so I screamed, but Patrick was talking, with an Irish accent no less.
“Hey,” he whistled. “You don’t want to get involved. Let me go, okay?”

I rubbed my eyes and he was still there. “Let you go, where?”

“Anywhere,” he said, wiping at his cheek. Maybe it was remnants of today’s mishap, but he was trembling, terrified. This monkey had been to hell and back. “This gig, it’s too much. I need to bail.”

“Bail?”

“You gonna sit here and repeat everything I say?”

“No, I just…”

“I can’t do it. Look at me. I used to have fur, this coat with a sheen to it. I played a lullaby and my smile drove the girls crazy. I was the only male monkey on the shelf. Then that lunatic son of yours comes along.” 

“He’s hardly a luna—”

“Look at me!”

I did. I saw his matted fur and deranged eyes. His tail hanging to the floor like an old rope. Today’s chemical bath hadn’t done him any favors, and that smile he spoke of was torn clean off at the edges.

“You see now?”

“Well,” I shrugged.

“Pull my tail.”

The sounds warbled out of a box that was visible through his threadbare skin and lost stuffing. The song was drunk, but the monkey thirsty.

“Now go pour that drink.”

I started to get up. “Beer?”

“Bourbon.”

We set up at the table. Patrick drank bourbon like a champ. He wiped his face and began the story of how he was assembled in Mexico by a woman with strong hands and few teeth. How he came across the border on a box truck with a bobble doll named Sheila. “Sheila,” he said, his faded eyes mustering a glow. “She was something, kid. Really something.”

“Mexico?”

“Born and raised, Chico,” he said, knocking back another shot.

“But the name, the accent, the,,,"

“Drinking? Is that what you want to say? Try soaking up a few pounds of drool, get dropped in the toilet, see what it does for your sobriety, okay?”

“Okay, Patrick.”

“Okay, he mimicked. “And the dogs. Jesus, that pooch took my ear off.”

“We sewed it back on, Patrick.”

He set out his glass. I filled it to the top.

---

We talked it out. Patrick and I are all right these days. I look out for the guy. Bought a cute female monkey for my son. We look our for each other. Patrick tells me all the silly things my son said or did. And every now and then when the house is quiet we share a drink at the table.



Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Rolling...

Well, we’re off. Up and rolling on two wheels.

My little boy is riding a bike. And it’s somewhat of a shock, because I thought it would be summer before we were ready to take the training wheels off. But we have bigger kids in the neighborhood, and so our little man is inspired.
Good Luck! 

A few weeks back, we took him to a nice, soft rubber track at the nearby middle school. The idea here was to let him get the feel of being up on two wheels, see what it was all about. He made it maybe two times around, before my hand cramped up from being vice-gripped the backseat for support. At one point I managed to let go for roughly a nanosecond until he began to wobble in the turbulence.

It wasn’t long before he was done with it and wanted those training wheels back on. But it was about what I expected. 

Fast-forward to Friday, when I picked him up early from daycare. We had nothing but time. The sun was out and so we took the old trainers off again. It was completely a spur of the moment thing, because he’d been chasing the bigger kids up and down the street, watching them on their big mountain bikes, asking me about gears and kickstands and reflectors and handbrakes. The kid is thorough, is what I’m saying.

Anyway, he was up for giving it another try, so this time we headed down to the end of the street, to a small access road that was once gravel is now overgrown with grass. Or padding, as I saw it.

Actually, it was our neighbor's idea, he was out and saw us coming (my wife insisted on buying our son a bright yellow "bee" helmet complete with wings and eyes so we're sort of hard to miss) and suggested giving it a go down the hill. Again, I wasn’t expecting much, maybe a few feet of wobbling before crashing. But the little guy blew my mind. 

He got his legs going and peddling and made it ten, then twenty feet before veering into the higher grass where the bike teetered over like a feather on a pillow. 

This...was genius.

We did it again, then again and again and again, until the whole neighborhood was cheering him on. He was chugging along, ten, then twenty, then fifty yards as got the hang of it, even to the point where I was comfortable enough to let him go and stand back, basking in parental pride as he peddled along and stopped (sometimes more gracefully than others) to dismount without falling at all. 

It was pretty amazing. Really. Maybe one of the biggest moments as a parent. I can’t explain it, and no, I'm not going to be that dad, pushing him and all. But he was ready to ride, and it was infectious watching him get the hang of it. Yeah, I got into it.  

Now we've been back a few times, and yesterday he even rode the whole way home on the street. Sure, we've had a few spills and crashes. He gets frustrated at times. But he’s only four, and it’s a great start. 

Part of me feels useful too, because hey, I'm a product of the eighties, and this stuff is right up my alley. I've dusted off my bike and we cruise down the street. Me and the neighborhood kids have formed a biker gang. We do wheelies and call out to each other when a car's coming. I give my kid pointers, teach him to keep his eyes on what’s ahead, both hands on the wheel, his feet on the pedals. You know, do as I say, not as I do.

Let the good times roll. 


Thursday, April 20, 2017

Laces Out

Somewhere along the way, my four-year-old son developed a shoe fetish.

It started with laces. See, all the older kids down the street have shoes with laces, so well, Simon wanted laces. Never mind that he can’t tie them up (he has me for that), or that they’re a size too big and every time he starts to run I picture him smacking his face on the street, all the cool kids are doing it so he needed to get on board.

We have a pair of hand-me-downs “lace shoes” from his cousin, and well, my kid made a compelling argument as to why he should have them. So for a week he’s worn these boats around the house, stopping every six to eight steps so that I can alternately tie his shoes.

Then he wanted his old shoes, back, the sandal types from last summer. So he crammed his foot into those. After that he wore his water shoes to school. Then his Ninja Turtle shoes because they light up. My kid's like the Kanye of shoes, scoping out anyone who walks by, checking out their gear, seeing what kind of kicks they’re rocking. This from a kid who demanded to be barefoot his first three years.  

But it’s not about the shoes. It’s that he wants to grow up. And it’s killing me.

He watches these older kids, cruising up the street, on their bikes, right outside of the house. Then he runs in and puts his little bumblebee helmet on and races off on his training wheels to catch them. I chase after him, wishing the kids would stop and talk to him. But he’s unperturbed. He’s determined. They ignore him and he just pedals harder.

You’ve got to admire that kind of persistence. 



Friday, April 7, 2017

Healthy Kids and Conversations

We’ve hit that stage where you never quite know what our kid is going to say or how he's going to say it. One minute he's talking about the pros and cons of purchasing a Blu Ray player and the next minute he's boggled at how in the wold a bunny can hide Easter eggs. 

Funnier still is watching his adult-like gestures while having the most kid conversations.

Speaking of conversations, yesterday, we were riding our bikes in the basement—I’m clocking some miles these days, one circle at a time in our unfinished 1,500-square foot basement—when he motioned for me to pull over.

I did as I was told and he waved me closer. “Come here, Daddy. Let’s have a conversation about our bikes.”

He sat back, not unlike a traffic cop, looking over my bike. “You’re bike has two wheels, mine has four,” he said, looking down to his training wheels. “That means my bike is faster.”

Or the other night when he bonked his head on his bed frame and popped right up, as though he knew we were worried about him.  “I’m okay,” he announced. “I have a special head.”

He does have a special head. He does keep me cracking up. And not only is he funny as heck, he’s strong willed, which is a nice way of calling him stubborn as a mule. 

Last weekend we joined some friends for the Healthy Kids Running Series, which is basically a footrace for kids. Both my wife and I figured he’d be better suited for this kind of thing next year, but once he heard “race” he was all over it.

Our kid is still a napper. It’s phasing out, but without an hour or so of shuteye to knock the edge off, you'll find yourself dealing with Damien from The Omen. We didn’t. At 2:30, thumb in mouth, we headed over to the park. 

The yawns were deep, engulfing things by the time we eased into the parking lot and made our way to the registration. We were early, and they were still lining the field with cones. By then, little Usain Bolt’s eye lids were getting heavier by the breath. Sure enough, by race time, he looked like this:



My mother-in-law thought he might see the other kids lining up and follow. But again, back to that mule thing. But he rallied, and just barely. My wife got him up to the starting line, looking a little Weekend At Bernie's-ish and swaying some by that point. And I almost pulled the plug. 

I felt like I was pushing him. When hell, if he wanted to plop back down and have another look at the sky, that was just fine by me. But he didn't. The whistle sounded and off they went. All but one. 

At some point he got the memo. And I've never felt so bad and been so proud as he finally got it in gear and finished dead last, but first in my heart. He finished. And I couldn’t have cared less where he placed. And we left, and went home and he picked up his sword and fought some trees. It was great. 

Maybe it’s because I was never involved in sports until I was nine or ten and it was my idea, but I don’t feel the need to make him do organized activities. He’s four after all, which to me means he should be doing this:




Healthy Kids is great. And I think he'll enjoy it more in a few years, but if he doesn't, that’s great too. Every one is different. And enjoys different things. 

My kid has a special head after all. He enjoys having “conversations”

Friday, March 10, 2017

Hey Poop! Greetings from a Four Year-Old


The four-year-old is often described as bossy and argumentative, who often tests your boundaries with unacceptable behavior…The child intentionally uses language that is upsetting to the parent. 

Try not to overreact.

"Hey Poop," my son deadpans in the morning. "Daddy's a poop!" he shouts when I won't cave to his demands for a late night snack. "Goodnight poop," he murmurs just before bed. 

Endearing, isn’t it? And completely normal if I’m to believe the doctor’s office.

The only problem here is that instructing me not to overreact is like telling a bear to roller skate. Now, you might be thinking, I saw a bear on TV roller skate once, they can be trained. But you’d be missing the point.

My wife and I are under the delusion think that maybe since our son can’t say poop at school (apparently, they are overreacting), he’s just getting his fix at home. In those few hours between getting home and going to bed. I mean, there’s a lot of missed “poop calling” opportunities in any given day. And besides, it's mostly just Dad getting uh, pooped on. 

Well, and that nice cashier at Lowe’s. 

Maybe our neighbor.

The UPS guy. 

The plummer. But you can't really blame him there.

The way I see it, it's a term of endearment. A nickname. And even my wife puts up with it. And she never overreacts. 

So I thought.

Lately, I’ve noticed something about her and this kid of ours. Normally a rational woman—my wife is a teacher, a molder of young minds, she has a degree in children’s studies and years of experience dealing with the deviancy inner workings of young minds. And yet I've seen her completely abandon everything she's learned when it involves our son. 

A mother to the core, she looks at our kid and sees the cutest, sweetest, most thoughtful human being in the world. Like the other night, our thoughtful son mooned me and she lauded his flexibility.

And that's fine. I'm glad she's got his back. And I get what the doctor’s office is saying. If we make a big deal out of of poop talk It only makes it that much more tempting. And he could be saying worse, you know?

The flip side is that I’m a human punching bag. My son calls me poop. Or sometimes pee. I kiss him and the first thing he does is wipe his cheek. And I while I've spent a few hundred words making it sound like he’s a monster, he’s not. He is sweet. He’s awfully cute. And he can be thoughtful, in a boy and his father type of way.

Yesterday. I was outside trying to fix his bamboo tee pee (Dad you said pee!). We’d just returned from a walk and it was nice out and we'd had a good time together when he had to go, you know, poop. So he was in the bathroom, taking care of business when, from the open window I hear,

“Dad?”

“Yes bud?”

“I love you.”

My kid, up there pooping, felt the need to tell me he loved me. It was pretty special...


Monday, February 27, 2017

Go Fly A Kite


That’s what I did. Me and my son, we took off to a field up the street from our house. And while this might sound like nothing special, certainly nothing to write a blog about. It was. It was remarkable. 

No really, it was.

For one, he was in a great mood, patient, and ready to listen. And just as importantly, so was I. I made a point to talk to him and explain what we were doing. And when a soft breeze picked up to a gust and sent that fighter jet kite up in the sky, it was perfect.

I wasn’t expecting it to work out so well. As a parent, many—maybe most—ideas are picture perfect in our heads but not in execution. So very many times I’ve had the biggest, best idea, picturing it in that grainy footage that is my own childhood memories, only to have it crash and burn.

It never had a chance in the first place, because it was competing with nostalgia.

But this kite. That sucker just hung up in the sky, like something out of a pharmaceutical commercial. I handed the spool of string to my kid, slow and cautious at first, then realizing he had things under control I actually sat back, hands off and lying on the grass while he did the flying. I couldn’t have smiled harder. Really. It reminded me of this day...

Again, I know this day wasn't historic. But it was. Even when after a while he got bored with it and took off his rubber boots and went running down the field. I wound up the string and chased after him. We played games involving a soccer net, no ball, and two chairs. And it was perfect. I would post pictures, but you know what, I didn’t have my phone.

Like I said, it was perfect. 

Friday, January 27, 2017

Kindle Scout

Hey guys, I'm not big on self promotion, but I wrote a book and launched a Kindle Scout campaign. Please check it out if you have time, and if you like what you read, please nominate!


https://kindlescout.amazon.com/p/2BQM8D78OS7QZ
This is a story I started writing over a year ago. I quit several times, thinking, what am I doing? I can't write about that? From a teenage girl's perspective. But I kept hearing her voice in my head, so I kept on writing. This is the result. 

Anyway, here's the blurb, and here's the link.


After her mother’s death, sixteen-year-old Chloe Vanderbrooke is picking up the pieces and moving in with her Uncle Robbie and his wife, Glenda. Left cynical and self-destructive, she fully expects life to suck, but she’s hardly prepared for it to unravel completely.

It begins when Glenda’s younger brother, Andrew, arrives. With his laid-back smile and easy going charm, Andrew seems much younger than twenty-eight. He’s fun, flirty, and Chloe is thrilled to talk to someone who offers more to the conversation than the dreaded, “Are you okay?” But when he kisses her, it’s all wrong. 

After the kiss, Andrew isn't so charming, but sketchy. He lurks around the house, stalks her at school, but it isn’t until Chloe finally confronts him that she finds out just what kind of monster he is. Her aunt and uncle are too absorbed with their own crumbling marriage to notice that Chloe’s skipping school, avoiding dinner, and even contemplating suicide.

Chloe knows she should tell someone about the rape. But that person is gone. Not only that, she’s ashamed of the kiss, tormented by victimhood, and struggling to keep her counselor, teachers, and her friends in the dark. What she really wants is revenge. Fueled by a rage that’s been simmering since her mother’s death, Chloe discovers that Andrew is not the only one capable of violence.  


Thanks!

https://kindlescout.amazon.com/p/2BQM8D78OS7QZ



Monday, January 9, 2017

Duped

I’ve got this weird wallet in my back pocket. It’s bulky, synthetic leather, the kind of thing you'd give to a kid along with expired cards and old driver’s licenses because he keeps going through your wallet. 

Wait that’s right. I traded my wallet.

Somehow, over a snowed-in weekend of playing in the yard and playing in the house, my son managed to convince me to trade my wallet for the aforementioned pleather wallet he got for Christmas.

“I like yours, Daddy.”

My old wallet, six or seven, maybe even ten years old, was in fact, due to be replaced. But I never saw this coming--getting duped by a kid still two weeks shy of his fourth birthday. I found him standing on a chair at my dresser, rifling through my credit cards. (This is becoming more and more common as of late, these little nest of treasures popping up around the house. A spoon maybe, with some paperclips, my social security card, a shoe lace). Fearing that he’d clean me out, that I'd go to pay bills and find myself with nothing but hotel key and a swiped-out Panera Bread card, I asked if he wanted to swap wallets.

Nothing permanent, just you know, what else was there to do? It was ten degrees outside, and maybe my mind was still jarred from all the cold. But when my son’s eyes went wide. He started up with that flashdance hopping, Yes, yes, yes!. Now well, here I am, typing out this post while sitting lopsided, a big fat wad of awkward in my back pocket.

The kid is good. And I know where he gets it. I'm told his mom once nearly convinced an uncle to give her his pet cat. And not just that, the kid is immune to the usual trade back tricks. I tried everything, pretending I got the better end of the deal, looking over the new wallet, “Man, this sure is a cool wallet. Nice and shiny and brand new. I’m sure glad I got rid of that worn out, ratty old thing.”

He only stared down at my wallet in his hands, nothing but pleasure in his eyes. 

“Yeah, me too.”