Thursday, August 29, 2013


I was playing with my son the other night when suddenly he came down and bashed my head like a professional wrestler.  I jolted upright to make sure he was okay, and he was, it didn’t appear to bother him at all. But then I noticed a red bump on his forehead. Of course I panicked, like only a first time parent can.  I called for my wife, she said he was fine.  But still, what if I hurt him?  I spent the rest of the evening watching him like a hawk, and the little bump receded, unlike my worries.
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He’s been knocking his head around more and more lately.  I heard him hit the crib railing the other night, the doorframe in his jumper last week, and then Dad’s big old cranium last night.  I may need to get him a helmet, just like my father did for me.

I was maybe 8 when my dad bought my first football helmet at the flea market.  It was blue with a plastic facemask and bore the scars of many game day clashes. I can still remember the head lice wearing it everywhere I went, head butting trees in the yard and ramming the walls of the house like a billy goat. Sleeping was difficult, as the pesky facemask made turning over a chore.  But it was so much fun, and it wasn’t even football season.  As a matter of fact I wasn’t even playing football then.  Hmmm, now that I think about it—riding my bike, my skateboard, go-carts, my mini bike—I went nowhere without that helmet. And it came in handy at the dentist office.  Later on, after my head became too big, it became a desk lamp. But for a summer, I stuffed my big old noggin into that helmet and went about my business, flopping around the yard in shorts, a t-shirt, and, wait a minute….

I must have looked like an idiot wearing football helmet around the neighborhood.  I’m picturing myself prancing up and down the street, my mullet peeking out of the back, swaying in the wind as the neighbor’s sipped evening coffee, shaking their heads and saying things like, It’s a shame about that poor boy…

This explains a lot. I was only a soiled bed sheet away from being chained to a tree. Okay, no helmet for my son.  I’ll just have to be extremely careful when we horseplay.  No tossing him through the air from couch to couch until he’s at least 5.  Just like my dad did with me…Oh. Things are really starting to add up here. 

Just so you know my little guy is doing just fine.  It seems he’s inherited his dad’s thick skull.  I’m going to have to get used to some bumps and bruises along the way, just as my dad encountered with me.  At least until he bought that leash for the tree.  It all makes sense now.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Sounds of the Night

My son's breaths are sound, his eyes are closed.  All that remains is my withdrawal from the now tranquil confines of my son's room.  But this is no small feat, as my retreat requires the agility a of a trapeze artist and the stealthiness of a ninja, knowing that one errant step can set of a chain of events that will tilt the house from its peaceful balance and catapult the hush of the night into a rupturing calamity of chaos. I take my first timid step towards his door, careful not to release my guard and risk tossing waking the 20 lb sleeping ball of cute tucked away in the crib.  

Pitfalls await, positioned in the shadows and poised to strike. I must keep my composure and discipline. I've learned from experience that failing to abide could prove disastrous

But tonight I am bushed. My steps are heavy and tired, and before I have time to react I'm ambushed as my foot kicks an object across the floor and I’m bombarded by haunting wails of laughing children.  It is mocking and menacing, the laughter, and I freeze mid stride, holding my position as the wooden planks moan in the dark.  A wedge of moonlight provides my only source of guidance.  I hear the peaceful stirring of crickets in the woods and I long to simply climb in bed and lay a head to a pillow, just as I did not too long ago.

I take a shaky breath and proceed, and my second step lends hope, a soft, muted stride towards my escape.  My confidence bounds as I tread forward, within reach of the door, where freedom and rest await me, where dreams roam and meander without fear of being snatched and lost forever in the screams and wails.  I'm almost there...

A crash rattles the room. I jerk my head in horror, as shrieking monkeys spring to life, spraying light and cackling as I fumble about trying to disarm him. How many of these freakin' toys sing? I turn back, fully expecting to pay for my carelessness.  Somehow all is clear. I turn to the door and continue, knowing there won’t be another chance.

I implore a new tactic, one that involves speed and haste.  I bolt, slipping through the doorway and hightailing it for the bed, stubbing my tow as I dive and take cover.  I land awkwardly as the dog bites my leg.  My wife stirs.  She doesn't ask why I dove into bed,  but rather why I'm holding a severed monkey's head. I mumble something about the things I can't unsee.  After my debriefing I lie in bed, my nerves only beginning to settle. I wipe the cold sweat from my forehead, catching my breath.  Mission accomplished.  I turn over, close my eyes, and hear a wail from across the hall... 

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Dad's Not Too Bright...

Being that I’m the glue that holds together our small family, I was home with Simon yesterday while Mom spent the day at the pool.  The weather was clear and pleasant, so as we hung outside on the carport, Simon swiveled and bounced in his saucer.  That’s when I noticed, after mowing the lawn that morning—back to that glue thing— that pesky tree branch sitting on the power line.  It had been bothering me for a while, so  with Simon content, I snatched my handsaw and added yet another chore to my epic list of Saturday chores.

The branch was about as thick as my arm, in other words, it didn’t take long for me to saw right through it.  But like most of my brilliant ideas, there was a slight hitch.  The limb it came down directly on the power line, you know, the whole reason I was up in the tree with a handsaw cutting it down. Crap. I peeked over at Simon, and noticed a not too subtle smirk on his little face.  Yeah Yeah, I know. Mom said that would happen.  I assessed the situation, much like a caveman would consider a fork, and then decided I needed the ladder.

Having already watched his dad scale the tree with a saw to hack away near a live power line, my son now looked on as his father returned to the power line on an aluminum ladder.  As I reached out for the branch, thoughts flashed through my head, of my son at school, bragging about how his father was the recipient of a Darwin Award.  I wrangled the branch off of the line and tossed it to the ground.  Problem solved.  I glanced over at my smiling son cheering me on, and then hopped off the ladder and dusted myself off.  Picking him up from his saucer, father and son admired our handiwork and he squealed his approval. And then it was time for some fatherly advice. Don’t tell mom…

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Ear Infection

sleeping baby with nukMaybe it was pops rapping, or being back at daycare, but our little guy has come down with an ear infection.  The other day we noticed a waxy buildup around his left ear.  It was swollen and red and bothered him when changing. Now, for second and third time parents this may seem like run of the mill stuff.  But for me it was time to sound the alarm and call the doctor.

He wasn’t fussy or running a fever, the guy's a trooper. Even when he’s not feeling well he’s all smiles and giggles.  We thought he might be teething, but just to be sure we made the appointment to get it checked out. The next day I left work and drove to the doctor’s office where I hadn’t been since his first check up when he was three days old.  (I was, uh, busy when he had to get his shots).  I looked left and then right, perplexed by the well waiting and sick waiting doors at the entrance.  After some deliberating, I took a breath and pushed through the sick waiting to find my wife and son waving me in, not something I want to make a regular occurrence. 

While waiting to be called in, little Simon took in the sights. The colorful fish tank, the train making its rounds high above his head, the other kids, and then back to the train making its rounds, he bounced and giggled with each passing, smiling from ear to ear.  Ceiling fans may have met their match…

I was relieved when the doctor, a basketball buddy of mine, looked him over and said it was in fact and infection but should clear up in a few days, handing me a prescription and reassuring what must have been two very distressed parents.  Okay, maybe just one distressed parent, and one wide-eyed, neurotic, hyper-imaginative lunatic who was the subject of pointing and head shaking in the waiting room. 

Simon’s doing better already, laughing and cooing and making dad smile. Overall, I’d say we’ve had a good run in the wellness department, so I shouldn't complain.  But that doesn’t make his discomfort any easier. If I’ve learned anything in my seven months as a parent, it’s that there is nothing worse than seeing your child in pain. Being a parent has introduced me to so many new feelings, not the least of which being the fear of walking through those sick waiting doors...

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Monkey Business...

I think my son going to be a big fan of comedy. Or at least laughing. And let's be honest, a laughing baby is much more enjoyable than a crying baby. He’s already got loads of personality. Walking into his room in the mornings and seeing that little head pop up with a great big smile is the perfect start to my day, and I can’t help but to smile myself. When he sees his mom, and her boobs, he bounces and flails, his eyes light up and he squeals with delight. Coming home from work, I rush in to see that smile again, and from there I jump through hoops to keep this guy laughing. (Amazon is running a sweet deal on hula hoops this week...I hear).

At night I 'm like a medieval jester performing for the king. I dance and I duck, I peek and I boo. I sing and I rap, I fling and I tap, (dammit Dr. Suess!). I shake and shuffle for that smile and go all out for that laugh. I’m the hardest working man in monkey business. And it’s so worth it.

He’s a big fan of our two dogs, they keep him howling with laughter. Their licking and silliness is quite possibly the funniest thing he’s ever encountered. Well, besides maybe ceiling fans. The kid is enamored by the fans. I’m guessing most babies like ceiling fans; they go around and get their attention. But “get” doesn’t apply for our son. He becomes hypnotized, bouncing and pointing, laughing with glee. Taking the kid to the lighting and fan section at Lowes is like a trip to the amusement park. 

Let’s see, what else. Diaper changes are funny to him. But that may be because dad gags when he finds unpleasant surprises in there. And some of his toys are funny, especially when tossed into the ceiling fan. (Don’t tell mom!) He has many to choose from. Hand me down toys, large toys, small toys, he has intricate toys designed and engineered to stimulate our baby’s development. He has toys designed to enhance his intelligence. But as much as he likes his toys, they can only entertain him for so long.  And then it's time for his go to toy--the water bottle. It works every time. When I pick up a half empty water bottle I become Richard Pryor. I shake it and he’s in stitches, especially if when I forget to put the cap on the bottle...

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Playing Dress Up

When I was around two years old, my older sister decided that she didn't want a brother, and that she was going to do something about it. Dragging me to her room, I was put in a dress. My nails were painted and my hair was pulled into a pigtail. I’m sure I fought the good fight, but she was my older and much wiser, not to mention bigger, sister.

We played a game.  She was Debbie and I was Gail, at least I think I was Gail, I can’t remember, the years of extensive therapy have blurred the details.  We’d sit at her play table, in her pink room, chatting about the day’s events over imaginary tea. I remember the tea being an awfully bland brew that required many additional imaginary sugars.  Not important, anyway, I quickly learned that Debbie was a major busy body, and we passed the afternoon gossiping about the haps in the neighborhood—Billy’s new big wheel. That brat Mary, with all her Barbies.  Old man Buster next door. We'd shoot the breeze and I'd forget that I was wearing floral patterns (this was the seventies). Imagine my poor dad’s surprise when he arrived home from work to find his only son dressed in drag.

Eventually my sister realized that I wasn’t girl. Perhaps it was the way I could chuck a teacup across the room, or that I actually ate mud pies.  Either way, after a while she lost interest and Debbie and Gail parted ways.  It was for the better, Debbie always was kind of a snob.

A few years later, my younger sister would pay the price for my older sister’s gender bending.  There was no tea, no dress, and no mercy. I dressed her up as a ninja warrior, putting my young understudy through rigorous training sessions that were eerily similar to the montages in Rocky III.  After deeming her fit for service, she was promoted to full-time ball getter, chasing down errant passes and runaway basketballs at full speed.  She took her job seriously, no lost balls on her watch.  She was the perfect sidekick.  At home my GI Joe's would saddle up My little Ponies and attack the village.  The Smurfs never knew what hit them.  Cabbage patch kids were subjected to grotesque mutilations while Pound Puppies were trained to attack and maul.  Her room became the sight of countless massacres. I may have been over compensating,luckily it seems that I didn’t do any permanent damage.

Today I feel that I am a sensitive guy, comfortable in manliness and without the need to be macho.  And I have only my older sister to blame thank. But there are some lingering effects of her little tea parties, as every once and a while I can hear the voice of my old  friend Gail in the back of my head.  (You’re not really going to wear that are you?   You should probably eat a salad today. Would you just look at that sunset?  Sometimes I'm flipping through the channels and linger just a little bit too long on The Princess Bride en route to the big game. Things started to add up: I don’t mind chick flicks, I’ve read Cosmopolitan magazine, (in my defense the Ask Cosmo section is inadvertently hilarious), I have Hall & Oates Greatest Hits in my Itunes library.  Today I said the word cute. 

I thought I had lost Gail with my baby teeth, but it seems she’s still rattling around in there, an old spinster buried deep in the depths of a belching, scratching, foot stinking, stained t-shirt wearing middle-aged football fan.  Two sugars please…

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Curb Appeal...

For the most part, the houses in our neighborhood are well maintained with trimmed lawns, newer roofs, and decorative landscapes.  Every evening, as the summer heat yields to cooler temperatures, the mowers crank and the war against nature wages.  On the weekends it's more of the same as gardens are weeded, hedges are hedged, and projects are tackled. 

But like most streets without gates and guards, there is that one eyesore that stands out from the rest. There's no mower grumbling into the night, as the grass is usually somewhere between ankle and knee deep. Decorations from past holidays are strewn across the yard.  I'm pretty sure the scarf in the tree belonged to last winter's snowman. The shutters are sun faded and crooked, spindles are broken and missing from the once decorative railing, and the front door could use a coat of paint, before being replaced.  My wife has mentioned entering them to be on the HGTV show Curb Appeal, so you may see it for yourself pretty soon. 

The house may not win any beauty awards, but as a neighbor, I’ve seen plenty of moments that make me look across the street and smile.  Whether it’s when their daughter sings freely from the porch, serenading the evening with song. Or in the fall you can see the glow of a fire pit and hear the two younger boys squealing with delight.  Sometimes grandma joins them on walks down the street, the boys roaming and skipping, finding the extraordinary in the ordinary.  Ooh, look at the kitty cat!   I find myself looking up as they point to a bird in the sky. They skip along, and wonder aloud, openly, about all things that pop into their creative heads.  When it rains we can hear them in the yard, arms outstretched, drenched and dripping as they catch the drops with their tongues.

There’s no rushing, they seem content to let the time pass them, together, and I think it’s something special.  While so many people get consumed with the hectic lives they’ve created for themselves, they really do stop and smell the roses.  I mean hey, it’s not like they’re trimming them.  But seriously, too often I find myself rushing from one errand to the next without thought or taking a second to appreciate what is going on around me. 

Now I’m not going sell my lawn mower anytime soon, or walk past a Christmas wreath hanging on my door in mid-March.  It’s just not my style.  But I do want my son to stop and wonder sometimes without having to worry about being late for some event or that practice that we’ll all forget about when the next one comes along. I want my son to go on a walk with dad.  I want him to point up to the sky.  I want him to just wonder…