Saturday, January 25, 2014

The Diaper Derby...

About a month ago, I entered Simon into a fun little event called the Diaper Derby at the University of Virginia.  The derby, as it’s called, takes place during half time at the basketball games.  It’s a race from the foul line to half court, with the winner taking home a $529 Virginia 529 college savings plan voucher.

John Paul Jones Arena
I was surprised to take the call that we’d been selected.  To be honest I thought they might as well give us the cash.  I’ve seen my guy crawl, the dudes like a gazelle…or more like a bull really, but they’re pretty fast too.

As we made the one hour drive to Charlottesville, I was content to smile to myself. A sort of reposed, cocky grin, because I knew it was in the bag.  At 12 months old, Simon was just sliding through the 6-12 month deadline.  I’d asked the girl on the phone if this was okay.  She said sure, as long as he wasn’t walking. Suckers...I almost felt bad for the other parents. The only thing I was worried about was that Simon would jump up and take his first steps right there on the court, sprinting to the finish line like a track star and voiding his college savings... 

So you could say I was confident, perhaps overly confident as we'd spent the previous evening working on his Richard Sherman-like post-race speech.  I’m the best crawler in the game!!!!  He's getting there.
We arrived at will call, picking up our much sought after and yet complimentary tickets. Virginia was playing Virginia Tech and the game was sold out. I held my breath.  How would Simon do with the crowd?  With over 15,000 in attendance I was scared he'd get out there and start melting down right there in front of---hey, Simon?  I turned to find him and Mom chatting up the door guys before we even made it through the turnstile.

Okay, let’s find our seats.  But before all that there’s a couple things you should know: 
  1. I've always been terrified of people.  Especially if the people were watching me. (Drunken karaoke notwithstanding.)  I've gotten better, but still, I'd probably never leave the house but to go to work, play basketball and walk my dogs if it weren't for my wife's dragging...
  2. My wife and my dad are probably the two most outgoing people I've ever met in my life.  They're the kind of people who are comfortable in a TSA checkpoint on Labor Day weekend.  More people to meet...

Okay, carrying Simon, we hiked up the bleachers to our seats in the high altitude section and it was quickly evident that he had the Mom and Grandpa gene--not the Daddy freak-out gene.  Because he wasted no time pointing and howling and finding friends.  We sat down and settled in.  Simon took it in and loved it, spinning around and charming the couple behind us.  He turned it on and they melted in his hand, which he promptly used to point at them.  Daddy smiled nervously.   
<----Seriously, look at that.  I'm holding that kid like he's the last life vest on the Titanic.  But Simon was into it, clapping and cheering and I'm pretty sure he even heckled some opposing fans.  Then, with six minutes before halftime, we descended the stairs to make our way to the race. Simon left with two fans in section Q tucked firmly in his corner.

Race time.  We met the other parents and babies just before halftime.  I kept having to tell my wife to stop saying "the completion."  But inside I knew, I knew this was a cake walk….crawl….whatever.  We got this.
The other babies were tiny, Simon looked like he drove there in comparison.  Anyway, blah blah blah, we went through the rules.  Then we headed down to the tunnel. 

As a sports fan, and a longtime UVa fan, heading down to the court was special.  As happy I am to have a kid, because of course I love him, I kissed his head for granting me the opportunity to get down to the court. 

Diaper Derby
But I could tell something was off.  It was like Secretariat’s first time at the track. The lights, the buzzers, the cheering crowd wasn’t bothering him, it was distracting him.  He stared off to the giant scoreboard, attracted to its high definition like a fly zapper.  I shot his mother a look of concern.  We were in trouble…

A deep breath.  I even made a few preemptory jokes to another Dad out of guilt because Simon was so much bigger than the other babies, something about how his girl had the advantage because boys get distracted so easily.  Oh what a visionary...

We exited the bowels of the arena like gladiators.  Well, parents coddling their spoiled rotten babies, carrying phones and cameras and diaper bags, but still, like gladiators.

Suddenly it was go time.  They rolled out the Va. 529 banners.  Mom took her place at the finish line—a planned strategy that hurt Dad’s ego but in the end was necessary.  Who would he crawl to?  Ouch.

A well-manicured lady fired up the crowd, a blur of faces and orange, and then we were off……and then we were off……..and then we were off…..Simon wouldn’t budge, that damned scoreboard had sucked him in and wouldn’t release its grip on his stare.  In his defense, it was really, really cool.

“Simon, go to Mommy.  Go Simon, go!”

Nothing.  I pointed and yelled and coaxed but my son just sat in the starting position like Husain Bolt posing for a marble statue.  Meanwhile, the little ankle biter to my right was off, halfway there already, probably because her Dad had left the staring position and walked beside her, baiting her with puffs or some other illegal contraband.  But we weren’t cheating.  We didn't need to because we're fast.

And then Simon started.  For a minute I just knew he'd only given her a head start, you know, to make it fair like we’d discussed. He took a beautiful stride and I thought he was going to give the sold-out crowd a show to remember.  But no.

He turned around, plopping down on his rump right there on the hardwood and looked at Daddy, those big blue eyes reflecting the scoreboard above.  Yeah son, it's pretty cool isn't it? 

Man I love that dude.

We gathered our free swag bag and headed for the stairs.  I’d discovered new parenting territory, I didn’t care about winning.  I cared that he enjoyed the game, that we'd had a family day.  That even though his mother mistakenly wore a maroon jacket, which, combined with my orange UVa shirt perfectly composed the arch rivals’ team colors, it was okay.  When we were leaving a lady at the door told me how beautiful my son was.  Oh yeah, and Virginia won big, 65-45 in a game that was never close.

What a day... 

So what happened when we got home?  Well, we greeted the dogs, unloaded the Trader Joe’s groceries and Mom's wine--which as I drink now isn't that bad.  Then we set the little dude on the floor and he immediately scorched up the hallway, crawling faster than most Volkswagens can coast before turning around with that lovable gleam in his eyes and giggled that little giggle that makes it all worthwhile.
What a winner.


Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Today's Moments Are Tomorrow's Memories...

As a dad I have some lofty goals when it comes to raising my son.  Let’s see.  Keep him off of meth, out of the emergency room, and in school.  Oh and out of jail. Okay, there, that’s a good start. Perhaps off the meth thing and the out of jail thing go hand in hand, but I really want to hammer that one home.  Moving on..

So I was on the way to work the other morning and thinking about memories.  Everyone has childhood memories, no matter how great or painful, or in my case embarrassing they are. Hopefully the good outweighs the bad and no serious damage occurred.  But then my brain continued to roam and dream and come up with ridiculousness and I thought, I’m kind of the maker of my kid’s memories.

Not that I’m so self-centered as to think that every memory will involve me.  Actually I don’t want that. Who needs that kind of pressure?  But still, most of his childhood memories, whenever they start, will involve his mother and me.
So that means everything I say, do, how I react, will all be recorded in his little black box in his mind. And one day, when my son looks back on his amazing life and all of the things he accomplished because of/despite his father, he’ll sit down to write his memoir.  And I want to look good in this thing.  I mean, not play myself in the movie adaptation good, but not Joe Jackson bad...

That means…
Let’s say I make a habit of getting wasted on the weekends.  Well, my son’s memoir could include the following passage:  Dad called me over to him and I forced myself, with timid steps riddled with fear, towards the familiar aroma of George Dickel and smoke.   See what I mean? 
Or he could go into his hatred of sports.  And then, in the tell all book he drops this little gem about dear old Dad…

It was during halftime of our little league game.  Dad had been taunting the officials and threatening the coaches for most of the morning when another parent asked him to knock it off.  What happened next would render the game pointless and the field bloody…
Let me go ahead and note here that I haven’t been a fight since I was 14 and don’t make a habit of drinking bourbon, so I think I’m safe with either of those scenarios.  But you get the point.

As a memory maker, or at least shaper, I have to show self-control and discipline.  I have to watch my language and from what my wife says, even my expressions. It sounds so easy until I’m sitting behind a tractor trailer stuck in traffic and late for work while I’m carting the little sponge in the backseat…. But I’m working on it. Let’s turn the page of this little memoir…
Dad’s laughter bounced off of the walls, filling our home with the warmth and joyous gift of happiness that I’d come to love.  He once nursed a butterfly to health with dental floss and toothpicks...
Okay, a stretch maybe, as I haven't done the butterfly thing yet. But at least I’m not knifing people at the mall.  Or doing meth. (reading this you might think that I have a thing against meth). In all seriousness, I'll probably fall somewhere in between.  But whatever he does remember, I hope there are more smiles than tears, and I hope he knows that I cared and that I tried.  Because I do and I will.
I smell a best seller. 

Monday, January 20, 2014

Party Time...

The night before my son’s first birthday party he was puking his little guts out. We’re talking a mixture of sour milk and—okay, well maybe the ingredients aren’t crucial, but the point is that our little guy was sick at the worst possible time.

On the morning of his party, he seemed to be doing better. He had some color and was keeping food down. So the party went on as planned. A few friends and family with kids cancelled to be safe which meant more cupcakes for me. And the dogs. Mason stole three cupcakes and a half of a cheeseburger.

At one, Simon still doesn’t understand the concept of gifts. I’m mean, you could wrap a bottle and he’d be thrilled. But he received some great gifts nonetheless. Like this

So year one has been a success. We have four teeth, well three and a half. We like to wave, point, say Mama and Dadda, and have recently discovered what makes us a boy. He likes the real phones and not the fake ones, and the sleeping in his own crib? Well, we have our good nights and the bad. No complaints here. We’re healthy and loud and keep things around the house interesting.

For Dad, this first year has been one of a long winding learning curve, one that he's--me, I'm doing the third person thing here--still trying to get the hang of but with each day he’s feeling more comfortable in his role of Dad.  We're learning together here.

So much has happened in this first year, but I fell like things are really just beginning. The personality on our little guy, he's one funny dude. And we're just getting started.  I remember people always telling me, wait until they start crawling or wait until they start talking. They said it like it was a bad thing.  Well, I look forward to the walking stage, the running stage, the screaming stage, all of it. Bring it on. Let the good times roll.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

No Playing Ball In The House

No playing ball in the house, we’ve all heard this before.  I have.  It seems like once a day during summer as a kid and to this day I can still hear a chorus of this sentence echoing in my head. Spoken by parents, teachers, aunts, and a slew of babysitters, the no playing ball in the house movement gained momentum and was strictly enforced. Now, the NPBITH rule is back to haunt me, even as little footballs and basketballs litter our house from one end to the other.  But these days I have one thing going for me--I'm an adult.  Well adult-size anyway, and if I want to play ball in the house that's exactly what I'll do.  When Mom's gone of course...

And that's just what happened the other day when Mom stayed late for parent/teacher meetings and Dad was left in charge of house and child.  It was only a matter of time before a ball was picked up and playing commenced.

It all started harmlessly enough.  Just rolling the ball back and forth on the floor with my son. Then we moved on and took a few shots on the goal.  I picked Simon up so he could dunk it.  After a while he lost interest, but not me, I was just getting warmed up.  I tossed the ball off of the wall. 
No, that’s not a Dr. Seuss line, but instead the spark that ignited the fire.

“Okay Simon, watch Daddy bounce the ball off of the wall near the window all the way into the goal.”

I slung the ball at the wall and with a ping it shot across the room, just missing the goal by an inch.  Maybe a foot, but close enough to where I wasn’t going to stop until I made the shot.

Again, Ping!  This time even closer.  Simon looked at me with a grin.  And who was I to deprive this kid of some fun?  So I slung the ball a few more times and….
The ball bounced off the wall....swish!  Dad raised his hands in victory. What a shot. And that should have been the end of it.  But no, bolstered by my amazing shot I raised the difficulty level, my eyes darting to the corners of the room, gauging angles and calculating distances.  With Simon looking on I zipped the ball over the door jam but instead hit the corner of the door and the little basketball became an orange blur of destruction, ricocheting like a comet where it crashed onto the dresser and knocked the Ferrous Sulfate dropper (my son doesn’t have a chemistry set, just low iron), into the air and onto the rug with a splash...

Uh oh.

Simon looked at me with wide blue eyes that mirrored my own.  Crap kid, I thought, you’re not even old enough for me to blame this on yet. 

I wiped up what I could, dabbing the affected area with diaper wipes in hopes to hide the evidence.  But the thing about Ferrous Sulfate is that you cant’ see it until it dries.
So I guess the whole no playing ball in the house rule is there for a reason. Who Knew? Not that we learned anything here.  Well, I did learn that I can make some really cool trick shots on that goal…and that maybe we should get a darker rug.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

The Discovery

My son has made a major discovery in his little life. And it’s one that, as a guy, I should have seen coming. That’s right, he’s found his guy parts and as it’s become the source of some serious entertainment for him while seriously hindering his waving exercises.

It all started when I was giving him a bath the other evening. We were playing along and I was doing all sorts of goofy dad stuff that I thought he was enjoying due to the giggles and smiles coming my way.  Ever the fool, I ramped up my antics, happy to be the inspiration for such joy, but I soon I realized that the whooping and hollering had little to do with me and more to do with.... WAIT A MINUTE....I whisked away the bubbles and found his chubby arm stuck down there between his legs.  Say goodbye to innocence....He’d found it and wasn’t giving it up.

Later, I began Google searching when babies find there, you know, junk. But then I thought of what the internet might round up and I quickly nixed that idea. Instead I asked a coworker. “Oh yeah, this is just the beginning,” she said with a laugh. “Wait till he really starts tugging on it. I thought Ricky was going to yank his clean off.” Now I don’t know Ricky, or his strength, but right now Simon seems to be satisfied with just knowing its there. 

Like my wife said, it’s just the beginning of a life long relationship. Next thing I know he'll be locking his door or asking why we never knock...

Saturday, January 4, 2014


Yesterday we said goodbye to our cat Punky.  It was unexpected and way too soon. He was only a month shy of 8 years old, and always the third wheel in a house full of dogs.  I’ve never been big on cats, but for a dog person, Punky was the cat to have.

Orange Housecat
Punky The Cat
A few days ago we took him to the vet where he was diagnosed with Renal Kidney failure.  We gave him a few days, hoping and praying for a miracle, but it he never responded to treatment.  So with our options exhausted, we decided enough was enough.

I met my wife at the clinic, where I opened the door to the small office to find her in the small room kneeled over our old friend.  She looked up as I entered, her eyes brimming with tears as she stoked his chin.

“He’s purring.”
The rest was awful. It’s the worst part of owning a pet, the heartbreak of outliving them. And now our house will be a little gloomier for a while, and as I pack up his food and bowl and treats, I’ll say a prayer for our old friend.  The dogs already seem to be missing him, my wife is in tears.  I'm just glad little Simon is too young to understand.  So here’s to the only cat I’ll ever own.  He was a great one. 

Rest in peace, Punky.