Friday, May 23, 2014

Patrick The Monkey

Like most kids, my son loves monkeys. He's got monkeys on his clothes, monkeys in his books, monkey bath toys. He even has his own stuffed monkey, which to my chagrin is named Patrick (more on that in a second). It's funny because since he was born we've been offering up all sorts of sacrificial stuffed animals, wondering which one he’d bond with. Okay, that sounds dramatic, but we gave him all sorts of animals and he never cared one way or another. Then one day at the store with his mom she said he just latched onto this monkey and wouldn't let go. Since then they've been inseparable. Which is fine, but…

Well, a few weeks ago we drove out to the Safari Park for Mother’s Day. We had a great time, all three of us, but there was one moment in particular that stands out. Oh, you mean like a great family bonding moment, you ask?

Not exactly.

We were passing by the monkey cage, and I was pretty excited because what’s more fun than a bunch of monkey’s swinging around a giant cage? If you’d asked me just before we arrived at the monkey cage, I would have said nothing at all, nothing beats monkeys swinging around in cages.

So there we were, with a few other families having a Q & A with one of the staff members.  I crouched down to Simon, pointing and laughing at the monkeys doing their thing. His little face lit up and I felt like a great dad because he was getting a kick out of the whole deal while I made funnies and teased, cracking jokes to the other adults about how my kid was kind of a monkey himself at this point in his life.

Being such a comedian, I didn’t notice that one of the monkeys, a Mini-Kong sort named Patrick, was all sorts of worked up. Maybe he didn't like my material, because he started barking and swaying, clutching the cage and showing off a fine set of pearly whites. The staff member leaned towards us, all smiles and professionalism, telling me that uh, well, he was upset with me.

We find that Patrick doesn’t like certain men.

I laughed, smacking my knee. Good stuff, that's rich, lady. But then I looked at my wife and noticed everyone staring at me. And then, as if he hadn't gotten his point across, this guy starts beating his chest, snarling and glaring directly at me. He was really making a scene, hooting and hollering, doing everything short of pointing and challenging me to a loser leave town match. I looked back to the worker.

Oh, you mean men as in me?

Very good,  she nodded. I stood up, blushing and took a few steps back. Patrick grasped his cage and continued barking while my son mimicked him.

 Hoo Hoo Haw Haw. Eek Eeeek Eeeek!!!

Great, my son was literally and figuratively looking up to a monkey. Everyone stared right at me. I’m not the kind of guy who likes having enemies. I like to be liked. I whispered to my wife, I wonder why he doesn’t like me?

My wife put a finger to her chin in thought. Hmm, tall and gangly, with disproportionally long arms….I don’t know why he doesn’t like Daddy, Simon…

With that, we turned and walked, my kid still mimicking his new best friend, upset and confused with why we were leaving the monkeys. Meanwhile, Patrick continued to go ape sh---uh berserk until I was out of sight, leaving the crowd pointing and talking about the guy the monkey didn’t like.

We moved on to the giraffes, where I had much better luck.

So now Simon’s little stuffed monkey has been named Patrick, as a reminder of some closed minded monkey who felt threatened. Now sure, the flip side is that how would you feel if you lived in a cage and people gawked at you all day. Well that's not my fault now is it, Patrick. You know, this has me thinking, I need to make another trip up to that park for a heart to heart with old Patrick. I mean, surely there must be some way we can work out our differences, right?

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Our Toddler

Last Friday, my wife and I both took a half day off from work and enjoyed a rare lunchtime date. It was nice, eating without dogs and kids, we hadn’t been out to eat, just the two of us, in months. Afterwards we set off to pick up our son. Arriving at his sitter’s house, I walked around to the back where I found him sitting with a circle of 2 and three year olds, playing with blocks. I stopped and watched him before getting to the door. His face held a look of concentration, eyeing the blocks with one in his hand, he sat still, with the other kids. He looked so….grown up.

Mr. Big
I was happy and proud, sitting there with the bigger kids, but at the same time it was kind of sad. Like we’d moved on to the next stage, the one I’d looked so forward to since the day he was born.

Back then I couldn’t wait until he was old enough to tag along and do stuff. I'm the type of person that can never enjoy a moment because I'm thinking about what's next. But with this, I can wait. This is painfully different. I’m not ready for these rapid changes. It's fun and all, but there's no rewind button. I'll never have today back, only the memory.

And that's what's crazy about this parenting thing. Every day there’s something new. A sound or a gesture. He understands so much. He plays by himself, his little brain computing and organizing in it’s own little way. He runs, he laughs, and he sleeps. He’s so much fun to be around, uh, for the most part. Don't get me wrong, it's not all roses, this dude can throw an epic fit.

But that's okay, it's all age appropriate, as my wife says. Unlike my love of Cocoa Puffs which is apparently not age appropriate. 

Another age appropriate change is how he's now noticing everything around him. The other night he clung to me when it was bath time. He clung to me, his thumb stuck firmly in his mouth. It's what my wife has dubbed, a huggle. A huggle is part hug, part snuggle, or a mini cuddle that usually comes in handy after a fall or bump—just enough to get him through the moment and then he’s off, back at it again. It sucks that huggles are age appropriate for him and not me, right? Dad, next time I see you, you're getting a damn huggle.

But back to my kid in the window. When he saw me and his face lit up, especially when he also noticed that Mom was right behind me. Then it was nearly too much for him to handle. He placed a chubby wrist on the floor, propped himself up, and made a dash for the door in an overloaded state of euphoria. Inside, I scooped him up, squeezing and him tight while kissing his chubby cheeks. That moment was great. He was so happy and little and perfect. Now if time will just slow down a little bit, everything will be alright.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014


With two dogs and a 15 month old kid, it goes without saying that my house is neither quiet nor neat. Barks, shrieks, squeals, laughter, crying and all other sorts of noises go bump in the night, and then things get really lively in the morning. But the mess and noise and dog hair doesn’t bother me. I’m a natural mess maker and well, come to think of it, I don’t always use my indoor voice either.

But when company arrives, my wife and I try to act normal, even if the dogs and the kid don’t want to play along. Such was the case on Friday, when an inspector arrived to look at waterproofing our unfinished basement.

He arrived at 5:15, just when things are really getting festive at our house. The dogs expect a walk, the kid expects a snack, and my wife expected her hair to fall out after a week of SOL testing.

Enter inspector guy.

We introduced ourselves and took a walk around the perimeter of the house, giving my wife some time to get the little one situated. I’d already been proactive, placing Mason, our neurotic husky, out back, and left Bruce, our well behaved lab, our to greet our guest.  Jerry obliged, scratching Bruce on the chin as we entered the house.  He was a nice guy, real laid back, which would come in handy when Bruce licked him in the face.

Also a family man, Jerry waved off our apologies for the FEMA like conditions of our house after a full workweek. After checking some cracks upstairs, we all trudged downstairs. Everybody.  Man, woman, child and dog. I was impressed, my wife usually leaves the unfinished basement to me and the spiders and my projection television and my sports posters that may or may not have at one time hung up in my living room.

Jerry pointed out trouble spots and took some measurements. Up until that point, I’d always loved our large, spacious, unfinished basement. But as he explained the finer points of foundation repair and waterproofing, instead of paying attention I could only think how much money this large basement was going to cost to fix, and then one day, finish.

We opened up the backdoor and Mason was ready to pounce, weaseling his way inside, greeting Jerry with a furious round of sniffing and jumping. Jerry didn’t seem to mind though, getting through his inspection with professionalism and humor. At least he tried.

“So, uh, you can understand that when a house is built, it…”

He retracted his tape measure and stared at the wall, perplexed. I looked at my wife and then back to the dumbfounded estimator. I spun around, feeling old Lionel’s stare on the back of my neck. My wife explained to him that she used to have a crush on the Endless Love singer and a friend who worked in a record store... so uh, what were you saying?

A smirk broke across his face, as if to say what kind of man would put a 40" by 40" cardboard cutout of Lionel Richie with a speech bubble that reads, Hello, is it me you’re looking for? in his man cave?

Me Jerry, I would. I did.

Back to work. Upstairs, Jerry showed us a video, answered some questions and then turned the screen to me like a high stakes poker game as he revealed the price for waterproofing.

Ouch. But we knew it wouldn’t be cheap. My wife, still frazzled from her work, week disappeared into the kitchen only to return with a glass of wine. I swear, she could have her own sitcom.

Then it was another video. I my hands in front of my face like how my sister used to watch scary movies, peeking through my fingers all punch drunk and numb, reeling from the dizzying numbers he’d shown me earlier. Simon was unfazed, stripped down to his diaper, eating spaghetti while laughing and pointing at Jerry who played along.

Then the video stopped and we got the full estimate. My wife took a sip of her wine. I thought about life with one kidney. Mason jumped up on the table to eat some dinner.

We thanked Jerry for his time, letting him get back to his family. It was working on seven o’clock, and I’d seen enough videos and numbers for a lifetime. We told him we’d be in touch, he said goodbye and made his escape with unanswered questions about Lionel Richie and my manhood.

So that’s it. Bad news? Yeah, but then again we have our health and each other.  Oh yeah and that lovable baby of ours. I guess this is the part where I make a cheesy metaphor about the foundation of our house and love. But I'm not going to do that. 

Instead, I'll use it to point out how sometimes you don’t know how odd, peculiar, strange, freakish, great your family is until your sitting at your dinner table with a stranger, watching instructional videos on his computer while your shirtless, marinara-stained son is barking like a dog and your frazzled wife is sipping wine. Only then can you fully appreciate what you’ve done with your life. And I must have done something right.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

The Early Birds...

At some point over the years, as I aged and matured and acquired a taste for vegetables, I started waking up earlier and earlier in the morning.  Even before we had a baby the writing was on the wall. In fact, I think we only had a kid so that we'd have an excuse not to go out on the weekends.
But last Sunday things got a little ridiculous. We were up before seven like always, I was in the living room, sipping coffee when, I noticed some dog hair on the couch. And then even more underneath the couch. Suddenly I was up, ready to take on the day. My wife’s face lit up as I dragged in the vacuum (trust me, I know how lame this sounds) and just like that we were cleaning. Like, really cleaning. I lifted the couch up and she vacuumed underneath it.
But that wasn’t all. Our son got in on the action, and then my wife appeared with the mop, all excited and crazy eyed. I moved some plants outside. Things got out of control. We were a pot of coffee short of grabbing the sledge hammer and opening up the wall. Then we took a deep breath.
It was 7:30 AM
While the rest of the neighborhood slept peacefully, our living room was turned upside down while our son yelled in attempt to mimic the sound of the vacuum cleaner, a very high pitched, ear piercing vacuum cleaner.
I never imagined such circumstances. I plant things. I buy stain. Thinking about buying a rain barrel really gets my juices flowing. Our house rises with the sun, lunchtime often feels like suppertime, and by evening time, the morning seems like yesterday. We start off strong, all of us, but after dinner, by 8 o’clock our house starts gearing down. You can feel it. Even the dogs take their spots, and a yawning competition ensues.
Boring? Sure, for some. But I like things the way they are. There was a time when I would go to bed at 6am, sometimes not at all. I was young and restless and blah blah blah. I’d sleep until noon and do it all again. These days if I want to see the sunrise, I don’t have to stay up for it. I can just go outside and watch it with my family.