Monday, November 25, 2013

A Happy Fool

I’m chasing a half naked baby across the floor with a diaper in my hand and trying to figure out how to get it on him while he makes strides towards my phone. He’s a like a little piglet and as soon as I set him down he’s off.  He scampers towards whatever he’s not supposed to get into.  And he's fast, blink your eyes and you only have a slug trail to follow.
My palm narrowly misses the soiled diaper I stripped off of his bum moments ago when I thought that this would be a routine diaper change.  But I'm still gagging from the smell. I talk and sing through the stinging tears in my eyes, saying things that I never, ever, under no foreseeable circumstance would have imagined myself saying.

And my voice. Who is that? Not that I used to sound like Mr. T or anything, but now it's s a mix of Bozo and Barney, maybe some Mr. Rogers sprinkled in.  Or what Mr. Rogers might sound like with a hunk of poop on his thumb. 

Then I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror. I’m on all fours, wearing 9-12 month old pants on my head with the legs dangling over my face.  I look like a jester.  Welcome to parenthood.

I turn away and pull myself together, wrangling up my son. Eventually I get a diaper wrapped around his waist. A little crooked but it will have to do. I take the pants off of my head--they used to keep him entertained and facing me, so I would…you know what? Just forget it. The diaper is changed and that's what matters.

I was once told that once you have kids that life becomes like the movie groundhog day. For me at least, things couldn’t be further from the truth. Sure, we stay on a schedule with bath times and bedtimes, dinner and the like, but every day he does something new, something ordinary and miniscule that blows me away. So if I have to wear pants on my head and talk in high pitched voices so be it. After all, I’ve spent most of my life making a fool of myself, why stop now?

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

My Dog Got Stuck In A Tree...

My dog Mason weasels his way into many of my posts.  He's trouble, pure and simple. And although he’s come a long way since we first brought him home, yesterday proved that he still has a lot of growing up to do.

I was rushing out of the house after work to get him down on the trails so that he could burn off some energy.  I have to run this dog. If he doesn’t run we all pay dearly. His boundless energy needs to be exorcised, or rather he needs exercise.  You get the point.

The woods behind our house border a public natural area consisting of wooded acres of doggy paradise.  There's trails and large rocks, and a winding creek with ducks, deer and various other critters. I usually try to let him run off leash on our side of the woods, but at dusk that can be hit or miss.  More hit for him and  more miss for me.

Anyway. Mason bolted out of the gate, his blue eyes scanning the woods for movement. Hopping along, he stopped, froze, and then cocked his head--all troublesome signs. But I didn’t know how much trouble until I blinked and my forty pound husky/terrier/demon mutt vanished.

I gave chase, following his white-tipped tail in the midst of naked trees and graying dusk. He galloped along, twigs snapping and leaves crunching as he howled and whined in hot pursuit. Bruce, my older and much better behaved dog, jogged in the general direction of the fuss but didn’t put much effort into the endeavor. I cursed under my breath and got in my workout. *Chasing this dog is far more beneficial and cheaper than any gym membership, I highly recommend a neurotic, hyper, idiot dog to anyone looking to get in shape.

At the bottom of the hill, I was surprised to find him still hanging around. Usually, when he chases a deer he disappears for an hour at a time five or ten minutes.  But there he was, barking at something in the wreckage of trees near the creek. A few summers ago, we got hit by a pretty severe storm that left a pile of massive Oaks--their roots still holding mounds of dirt--scattered about on the hillside, tangled and stacked and providing excellent hiding places for small animals.

Mason hopped up on a fallen tree. That’s odd I thought, as though this dog ever does anything that could be considered normal. But then he crossed to another tree and began climbing like a Billy Goat towards what I then saw was a black cat at the top of the tree.

My first thought was Does this stuff happen to anyone else?

At around twenty or thirty feet up in the entanglement of trees, he looked up towards the black cat and then down at me.  His little way of saying, Ruh-Roh!

On the right we have a rudimentary scale, showing how he measures on the 1 to Crazytrain chart. As you can see he's at the top of his class... 

I didn’t bring my phone so there are no pictures of my afflicted dog actually in the tree.  You’ll just have to take my word for it. 

I stood with my hand on my hip, looking at my idiot dog stuck in a tree. I think Bruce even rolled his eyes.

There were no options here. I was going up. I balanced myself, walking along the beam of a tree trunk leading to the nest of dead trees while shaking my head and wondering if I could actually explain breaking a leg getting my dog out of a tree. I began my ascent, having to swing like Tarzan to the next tree. I swung around and hoisted myself upright, straddling the trunk and shimmying towards my dog. Who was stuck. In a tree.

He looked happy to see me but I think his main concern was still that pesky cat. As I neared him, I held out my hand, still unsure how we were going to do this. Mason was a little spooked at this point, panting wildly and circling his perch. Come on boy. Come on Mason. Come down from the tree...

At last he took a cautious step towards me.  He stuck out a paw, tapping and testing before strenuously gripping the bark of the tree.  Baby steps down the tree with the dog.  I held his neck as we began our descent, me testing limbs for support and Mason inching towards me. Finally, as we neared a height that might only sprain instead of break or maim, I scooped him up and set him down on the first tree laying on the ground. He hopped away, shook off the fear and then without thanks to the guy who just went up there and got him down, commenced to bark at the cat.

Click! I clasped the leash around his scrawny little neck and then looked up and wished the cat good luck. (He was gone when we returned so I think he made it.  Besides, he was laughing at us anyway).

I tugged on Mason's leash, looking around to see if anyone had witnessed the daring display of idiocracy that had just taken place, and then pulled my dog along the trail and I walked him in the dark, like a normal dog.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

My Son's World...

On my way to work today, I heard on the radio that there had been a shooting at the off campus college dorms across the street from where I work.  Sure enough, pulling onto the street, police cars and forensic units were on the scene, halting traffic as driver slowed and gawked at what looked like the set of CSI in our quiet town.

As the details emerged, it appeared that a student had been shot by campus security.  Details were scarce, but it was a tragic event by all accounts.  

And then, only an hour up the road, I read that a state senator had suffered stab wounds to his face and abdomen.  Again, not much was being reported, but later it was revealed his son had taken his own life with a self-inflicted gunshot.

The world is a violent place, but today it just so happened to be a little more violent in my neck of the woods.  After work, I came home and enjoyed my son’s giggle, but after dinner the news again caught my eye.  This time the report was on a new teenage fad called the knock out game.  It seems teenagers are walking around slugging unsuspecting victims—men and women at random.

And with that I'd had enough, I turned the television off.  I already struggle with what seems to be an increasingly violent world, or at least more broadcasted world.  Just two years ago, none of this would have bothered me.  Sure, I would have shook my head and felt bad for the victims, but it wasn’t something I dwelled on.  Everything changed the day that my wife told me she was pregnant.  Now I worry, I worry for my son and the world he will live in.  A world that seems to be getting increasingly unstable. 

Parenting is now an elective, and the children of those who don’t wish to parent will become parents themselves.  And then what?  

I don’t mean to be all doom and gloom here.  I’m normally a pretty lighthearted guy.  But sometimes it gets to me and I get discouraged because I feel there is nothing I can do.

But then I think of the little stories and sights that get lost in the shuffle of punches and gunshots.  Like that little old man who sits at the edge of the road on my way home and waves to traffic. I think of those selfless kids over the summer who set up a lemonade stand and donated the profits to the humane society. There's the teenage Dairy Queen worker who watched a customer in line pocket a twenty dropped by a blind patron.  After refusing to serve the thief, he went into his own wallet to reimburse the victim.  This is the world I want my son to live in.

It reminds me of the words of a good friend when he had just become and dad.  When I asked him if he was worried about violence, politics, the middle east, or even another Rocky movie, he shook his head and smiled.

He said that while he couldn’t control the world and all of the craziness in it, could do his part in his house.  He could raise his son the best he knew how, to teach him to be polite and courteous, to do the right thing.  And to show him love and affection. 

On days like this I need these words more than I ever thought.  Because that’s what I have to do, raise my son the best way I know how, so that when he leaves the safety of these walls, he will know that he is loved.  And maybe that’s all it takes, is to feel loved.


Saturday, November 16, 2013


Please forgive me, I’ve been out of the loop. I have a baby at home and I don’t get out much.  So the following may seem like the ramblings of someone who’s out of touch with the world.  You see, I live in Babyland.  I go to work, come home, walk my dogs and entertain a few guests. 

My point is I don’t get out much.

So with my mother in law visiting, my wife and I took full advantage over the weekend by  heading out for a Saturday afternoon matinee and dinner.  We arrived at the theater, which is at the mall.  Oh joy. I stepped up to the window and asked for two tickets.

“I’m sorry Ma’am, did you say $25?  Oh, I get it. No, I’m not paying for that busload of kids behind me.  I’m merely paying for myself and this pretty little lady.”

12.50 X 2 = Next time we’re going to Redbox.

Luckily I had a gift card, a birthday gift from 2 months ago to the day.  I figured it would easily pay for a movie, popcorn, a drink, and some candy if needed. 

“Would you like me to dispose of this card since there’s nothing left?”

I shrugged, taking my 3D hipster glasses and limping into the theatre, still reeling over the cost of an afternoon feature.  I’m not some old timer who talks about an ice box and a nickel picture show.  But $25?  This movie better be good.  I wanted to see Captain John Phillips but it was sold out. Instead, we saw Gravity, and after paying the price of admission I could feel every bit of it pulling my slumped shoulders towards the ground.

Because we go to the movies once a year, we decided to get popcorn and a soda.  Why not? It was only our mortgage on the line.

“For 50 cents more we can wheel out a handtruck and cart out a five gallon bucket of Cherry Coke to your seat.”

“Sure, and a medium popcorn.”

A bubbly smile. “For only a buck extra we can fit you with an IV tube and pump delicious butter gravy into your veins until the end of the feature.”

You’ve got to be kidding me.

We got our tubes and handtruck, and entered the theater to enjoy the movie.  And it was good, the cinematography was amazing, although at times I got a little board with Sandra Bulluck talking to herself. But I guess the plot wasn’t the point.  It took some getting used to, but at times it felt like I was around in space, with a whole lot of Cherry Coke at my side.

After the movie we were missing our kid.  It’s okay, we know we're lame.  We checked in at home and found out the little dude was doing just fine.  Off to dinner.  Walking in to the restaurant, I began to remember the world after dark.  You see I spent my twenties in bars, and have pretty much had my fill of young people wearing fashionable clothes.  People who leave the house when I’m getting in bed.  People who would rather scowl than smile, because it’s so much cooler.   I had the sudden urge to be at home, to play with my son until he went to bed, then get into pajamas and—okay, I had to get a grip.

We sat at the bar and waited for our friends, trying to pretend we wanted to be there but we kept talking about  Simon.  What if he missed us?  Even worse, what if he didn’t?

Had our friends, Kerri and Todd not showed up, the evening could have been a dud.  We would have either cried into our beers and showed pictures of our son to everyone before being politely asked to leave, or gone home early and defeated the whole purpose of our night out.  Luckily they showed. Parents of a 6 and 3 year old, our friends are two seasoned vets who wouldn’t let us get away with our sappy new parent crap.  They would call us out and tell us to put a sock in it.  With some valuable free time they sure as hell weren’t going to listen to us go on about our toothless kid.

We settled in, and for an hour or so I fell into the conversation.  We ate some pizza, downed a couple of beers, and shared some laughs.  For a moment there, I even quit singing the wiggle song in my head.  By the time we got our checks I felt refreshed, stepping outside with our to-go boxes in hand and smiles on our faces as we strolled under the moonlit clouds towards the parking lot.  The air was cool and full of freedom as there were no strollers or grubby little waist high hands to hold.  And then it happened.  Todd pulled out the keys.

“Watch this.”

He pressed a button and the van lit up as the side doors simultaneously opened and the hatch popped.  My first thoughts were Kitt from Knight Rider. I nodded my head in approval and felt my mouth fall open.

“That’s so cool!”

The girls giggled at us.  Here we were, two fathers, getting excited over a mini van, I never thought the day would come.  I looked over to my wife and caught certain look in her eyes.  I would like to say it was the look of respect and love, and maybe even a spark of desire. 

Or maybe she was just smirking at how domesticated I’ve become….

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Our first party...

On Saturday my wife and I took Simon to his first birthday party. Not his party, but a friend’s little girl who was turning three. Now Simon’s only 9 months, and last time I checked he’s a boy...both of these facts are a relief to me...

The party was at a place called Romp and Roll, basically a padded jungle gym that was a cross between a psyche ward and gymnastics center. Oh-freaking-boy, I thought when I was told we were doing this. My daddy terror alert paranoia spiked to severe, with thoughts of Simon getting popcorned into the air by a cannonballing kid. What can I say? My anxiety is creative, as are my verbs.

We walked in and were told to take our shoes off. Wouldn’t you know it I hadn’t I prepared. Now on top of being worried about kid foot fungus finding its way to Simon’s mouth, I just so happened to be wearing a crummy pair of socks that were a little thin in the heal. It was laundry day. When everyone arrived, we were invited into some sort of clubhouse, passing under a four foot door where we sat down and were given a refresher in courtesy and manners. One little girl didn’t get the memo. More on her later.

I sat there, all Billy Madison style as we all acknowledged the birthday girl and waited for the pleasant sing songy woman in the tie dyed shirt to open the curtain. Seriously, she milked this curtain thing until I could hardly contain myself. Just let us in already! We—I mean they, want to play. Rules, rules and more rules. We get it, no pushing or shoving.

Finally, just before I staged a coup, the curtain parted and we stormed the padded playground. I took a breath, this was it, the first time I’d been thrown into the fire. I stood with my son in my arms.  A cautious, perhaps borderline panicky dad of a 9 month old—it was time to sink or swim.

Leaving the slug trail..

My wife motioned for me to put him down. I widened my stance, looked around, and then set my fearless little guy on the mat. And there in the midst of the storm of knees and elbows, as kids flew and flailed past us with a total disregard to crawling babies, he just began laughing. He climbed the padded blocks, chewed on the mat, and left what was called a “slug trail” of drool as he crawled around from one attraction to the next, his father’s shadow hovering over him every step of the way.

I loosened up and had a good time. I even agreed to get in the bouncy house with Simon and Mom, which he loved of course. But you wanna know the best part? With everything going on, all the colors and pads and music and kids flying around the room. Guess what he saw and made an immediate bee line towards? The basketball goal. Yep, he saw those balls bouncing and flying towards the rim and he started right for it. It was the highlight of my day.

Oh, and back to that little girl. Or should I say that little menace. I had my eye on her, as she broke in line to get in the jumpy house, stole the bouncer Simon had worked so hard to crawl over to, and when she ate her pizza, she looked up to me with a look that basically said, “Yeah, and what are you going to do about it?” Well played Blondie, but guess who’s not invited to Simon’s first party? Yeah, feel the burn.

We left early, little Simon was well overdue for a nap and was getting overwhelmed. Overall, it was a great time, even if we were only there for an hour. I have a lot of parenting to do before I’m ready for big parties, that’s for sure, but it was a well needed glimpse into what’s in store.

Sunday, November 10, 2013


On the trails I came across this large family.  Let's see, there was Mom, Dad, big brother, little brother, little sister, and two puppies.  It was a mess.  This platoon moved at the blinding pace of maybe 10 yards per hour, the parents’ heads swiveling, on the look out for wayward kids lagging behind the posse, everyone talking at the same time, answering questions and saying things like, Don't eat that! No, not in the creek!  No throwing rocks, and the like.

I had my two dogs, roaming around off leash like a responsible pet owner, and as my older more well behaved dog introduced himself, sniffing and circling, the oldest child kept a watchful eye out for danger.  But then came Mason, my husky mix, galloping towards this tentative situation with all of the finesse of a steam engine.  The boys, maybe 6 and 4, panicked, their dogs were puppies after all.  I assured them that Mason was friendly and that his growling was only his way of playing.  I’m a dad now, and I have a soft spot for kids, especially younger ones scared for their dogs.

Leashes tangled as we tried to coral our respective pets.  I was able to get a hand on Mason’s collar—no small feat, and then the dad went to wrangle up the puppy, calling after him, or in this case….her. Sweetie, Sweetie, come here Sweetie! 
I spun around, perhaps a little too quickly, at the guy calling for….Sweetie, the dog.  I tried not to make a big deal out of the situation, no one else seemed to pay it any mind.  But we all know that little girl named that dog and I left thankful that I have a boy.  I came away from that quick encounter thinking about that guy.  What a good Dad, unashamed and proud to have a dog named Sweetie.  I can picture him taking his fair share of ribbing when the guys come over to watch the ball game.  "Hang on guys, I gotta let Sweetie out to potty."
I give him all the credit in the world, and I hope that dog grows up to be an 80lb beast who sleeps beside that little girls bed and dares anyone to say anything about his name.  Or maybe I'm looking just a little too far into this....