Wednesday, December 5, 2012

All time flows downstream

One minute I'm fishing rocks out of my daughter's mouth while I weed the garden, the next I'm the last man on the block without his Christmas lights up, again.  Sure, time flies when you're having fun. But when exactly did time travel become a real thing? And when did fun really just mean crossing things off the to-do-list?

One minute I'm admiring my chemically treated green lawn, the next I'm contemplating dumping the piles of leaves in the lake like they're the dead body of a mob snitch. Yard work is less fun when it gets dark early, your wife is taking a final exam, your toddler develops a resistance to bedtime, and leaf pick up is at 6:30 Friday morning.

You see foliage, I see late-night raking.
One minute I'm watching the sun go down with the kiddo on the back deck, the next I'm stuck at work while the grandparents take her trick-or-treating.  If you're new to the I have kids game and want to know what age a child successfully computes the whole wait, I get candy from strangers thing, the answer is two years old. Additionally, the answer to how many consecutive weeks will the kid scream I WANNA TRICKA-TWEATING while driving through your neighborhood is two and a half. Eighteen days. Enjoy.


Excuse me ma'am, you can't park that horsey here.
One minute I'm driving almost five hours to the in-laws for Thanksgiving with Mrs. I Don't Want To Be In A Car Seat After Mile Marker 60, the next I'm losing to a toddler in bowling.  It's hereditary (from her mother's side), but still. The witnessing of my offspring wielding a six pound bowling ball like she was an extra in King Pin ,while high-fiving her gloating mother was a tad embarrassing.  If there's one thing I've learned, it's never get involved in a land war in Asia and never, ever bowl against Midwesterners when there's money or pride on the line.

One minute I'm coordinating family dinner plans with the wife like we're getting ready to invade Europe, the next she's actually in Europe. The wife has a great job. A great career (and a supportive husband.) But, her travel schedule would make a Def Leppard roadie homesick. Fortunately, she has enough sense to keep the old man happy with exotic food and boozes when she gets home. 

If you look just above the top of my wife's pretty head, you notice St. Basil's Cathedral, as in Russia. As in freaking Russia.
So you never know where you will be one minute to the next. But you'll be somewhere and a camera comes in real handy.





Thursday, September 27, 2012

Oh, the places you'll go!

Four years. Not what most would consider a significant chunk of time, unless you're a U.S. President, Olympic gymnast, or perhaps a dog. But long enough time for me to forget most of what the good pastor was saying that afternoon.

I just can't really recall much of what they said to me or what I said in return. It wasn't that I didn't care or was indifferent towards the matter. Perhaps it was nerves or the guzzled Red Bull and vodka handed to me by my almost brother-in-law moments before.

I do remember the feeling of hundreds of eyes burning into my skull as I considered the possibility that my fly was in fact, down.  It wasn't.  I remember reciting her name in my head over and over so as not to screw that part up.  So of course, I couldn't remember my own name. I remember wondering what blunt object the Maid of Honor would choose to bludgeon to death the world's most incapable DJ. It was either public shame or an extension cord, I don't know. I was rushed off for six thousand more pictures.

It's the moment we walked down the dirt, pine-needled path together, arm-in-arm, that I do remember. Like it was yesterday. The sight of her groomed toes peeking out from wedge shoes. The contrast of white against the green and yellowing aspen leaves. The sweet smell of her hair, and the BBQ spread. 

Somewhere during those first steps, and in countless ones since, the words of a great Doctor came to mind.

You're off to Great Places!
Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting,
So... get on your way!” 

That mountain may include a secluded hot springs on your honeymoon in the pitch black of night, with no flashlight and naked strangers, but whatever. You put your faith in someone and keep going.

"You will come to a place where the streets are not marked.
Some windows are lighted. But mostly they're darked.
A place you could sprain both your elbow and chin!
Do you dare to stay out? Do you dare to go in?
How much can you lose? How much can you win?"

We moved to Minnesota in December - proof I'd follow her anywhere. Regardless of the physics of minus 32 degree weather.

"And when you're alone there's a very good chance
you'll meet things that scare you right out of your pants.
There are some, down the road between hither and yon,
that can scare you so much you won't want to go on.” 

Like the thought of having to be single and date again.

"So be sure when you step,
Step with care and great tact.
And remember that life's
A Great Balancing Act.
Just never forget to be dexterous and deft.
And never mix up your right foot with your left."

Full-time jobs. Graduate schools. Two mortgages. Joint checking accounts. Joint phone chargers. A child. A dog. Date nights at the grocery store. Knowing someone else's favorite flavor and what goes in the dryer and what doesn't.  Yeah, that's deft.

"And will you succeed?
Yes! You will, indeed!
(98 and 3/4 percent guaranteed.)"
     - Dr. Seuss, Oh, the place you'll go!

Thanks Dr. Seuss, for all the wise words and favorable odds.

And thank you, babe. I'm in love with you.



Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Things that go squish in the night

It has been almost a month since I last wrote here.  Sorry. I might be a little lazy these days. Or maybe between the pesky full time job, the missus's ridiculous work/travel/grad school regimen, or the increasingly destructive toddler that demands food, attention and a full time custodian pretty much daily now, I might be a tad busy.

I should also probably mention we're in the process of getting a new roof and kitchen ceiling and if you happen to work in the insurance, banking, construction sales, or general contractor business I have probably spoken to stalked you and we are no longer friends.  And then there's our hero dog that saved us from certain doom recently by bravely slaying a wild animal (mouse) just feet from our back door. Now that he's tasted blood and pride, when he's not demanding to go out for the 489th time that day to run a security sweep, he stares out the windows like twelve year old boy looking for an errant boob on a Mediterranean beach (speaking from experience.) This dog has survived traffic, ingestion of enough sharp objects to fill a tool box, near hangings, surgery, a wife with thin patience, and more "this time, we're really getting rid of him" threats than I can count. But I'm fairly certain it will be a massive aortic rupture caused by a small rodent taunting him from outside that will finally do him in.

Back in May, the wife, on a rare school break, emerged from behind her laptop and textbooks and accompanied me on my weekend routine through greater suburbia.  Her ghostly pale skin aside, it was good to have the extra set of hands along. And the adult company too I suppose. We ended up in the local furniture store in search of a bed for our freakishly fast growing toddler.  Her dimensions and burgeoning physical abilities telling us that the crib was becoming obsolete and this was a purchase I didn't want to handle alone. 

The new bed sat in the garage for four months. Mostly because we were too chicken to set it up and deal with the ensuing carnage.  Mostly, I'm the chicken.  I wake up if the dog farts at 2 a.m: the thought of a little person with a knack for finding pens and lotions wandering around my house in the middle of the night sends me straight to hard booze.

For a few weeks we refused to accept reality as our daughter's screams sent us into to her room every few nights. Hearing the familiar stuck daddy, stuck!, I would walk in to find her straddling the crib rail with both legs like she's on the balance beam from Hell. Thanks, Olympics!

The final straw came on a Friday night, of course.  Both legs over the railing this time, her rear firmly balanced on the rail and instead of the normal terror-filled look, her sheepish grin said "I got this. Watch." 

So from Friday night, we went from this:




To this by Saturday morning:




To this three weeks later:


The first few nights were the worst, but as expected. Since then, it's been mostly calm with the occasional skirmish turning into a full blown battle.  Or some nights, when it's quiet and the dad-sense tells you to check on her anyways, you may find her standing in the dark with what was a full tub of ointment a few minutes earlier. You may then find yourself Googling things like Vaseline, hair, carpet, removal and homemade Xanax instead of doing other things, like writing a blog post.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Married with children

Occasionally, as I have mentioned before, the wife and I muster enough energy and petty cash to sneak out of the house for few hours.  I know what you're thinking; with two full-time jobs, a mortgage, a weedy yard, a leaky roof, an attention-dependent, partially house trained mutt, a 2.25 year old Toddlersaurus Rex (who's completely unhousebroken) and a grad-school program that's turned your wife into a Chinese Olympian, why would you ever want to leave the house?

So color us crazy. If you don't get your jollies from walking past a restaurant peering through the glass at child-less couples actually savoring a meal without the thousand-yard stare, then you probably aren't a member of the married with children club. If you're out some night and happen to see a couple walking zombie-like, partially overdressed but perhaps one is accidentally wearing the shoes he uses to mow the lawn with with an Elmo sticker on the seat of his pants, just remember, they're people too. And it's rude to stare.

If that same couple should end up at the same hip, trendy night spot (or Chili's) at the same time as you, let them go ahead.  They're probably here thirty minutes later than they wanted to be and the thirteen year old that's at home texting, watching their TV and ideally keeping the kid from needing poison control is getting paid by the hour.

If you happen to be the employee responsible for waiting on said couple this night, keep in mind smugness, eye rolling, and a general display of impatience will negatively impact your tip.  They get to experience this treatment at home, don't expect them to pay extra for it somewhere else.

Yes, the wife will need a full sixteen minutes to peruse the drink menu so there's really no need to ask us if we've decided every thirty seconds. It's our first time out in awhile so we really have no idea what we want and we'll likely end up ordering your gourmet fish sticks and mac 'n' cheese anyways. Boring, yes. But those leftovers are a toddler-approved microwaved meal for tomorrow. Which means we'll be needing the boxes, so don't look all incredulously when we ask for them when we order.

And if you see that couple, quietly picking through their meals, seldom talking, frequently checking their phones for texts, don't feel for them. They're probably happier than you can imagine.

And please, stop staring.



 





Monday, August 6, 2012

Toddler Report Card, Episode One

Every afternoon our daughter's daycare provides a "report card" on how the day went. Mundane stuff mostly: diapering schedule, breakfast and lunch fare, naptimes, bring diapers, your check bounced, etc. During the vampire phase, they showed the daily scoreboard of bites and attempts.

It's the "Teacher's Comments" section on the back side that we pay the most attention too. As she moves up to different classes and new teachers, we've learned quite a bit about our little girl. Occasionally there are gems here worth sharing. And since I've been told sharing is good and I have this blog thingy...  Why didn't I think of this during the "blowout" phase?!?

"She had a really fun day! She flew to Russia with Mrs. Becky, where she drove a sleigh with jingle bells and did a parachute dance :)"

Huh. That's one helluva day.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

A Day of Firsts

It's Monday but it felt great getting up today. You know the feeling where you wake up already excited for something but it takes a few minutes (or coffees) to figure out why?

It's the same feeling the morning after I got my first bike, my first car, my first kiss from girl. Something big just happened and I feel different.  In the pre-dawn fog the feeling hits you instantly and like a hangover, you start your day off with question - what the hell happened yesterday?

Usually the answer is something similar to Oh, no. Why? Were there witnesses? But not today.  I actually wanted witnesses and brought the evidence and the rare positive attitude to work today.

A couple of things happened yesterday that were firsts that we won't soon forget. 

It was little girl's first ice cream cone. 


She was annoyed with the interruption

Yes, it's just ice cream. No, it is not her first time eating ice cream.  Yes, you may have had to be there, but this is my story.

She was already excited. She can't tie her shoes yet, but she can deduce from the shiny pictures and mammoth-sized freezer, that Dairy Queen does in fact have ice cream. 

She held the cone with both hands.  Eyes wide but cautious.  When her mom's hands let go, they didn't come back. It was hers and she was on her own.

Mom didn't say it but I knew this was special to her. A moment she's quietly coveted since we started calling her mom. A first she won't soon let go.

Later that evening, dad and daughter walked the path to the pond behind the house. The new pole dad bought weeks ago finally unsheathed and in hand.  She'd seen the bigger boys fishing for things before, down by the playground. She stood close by as one reeled in a flopping, fishy-smelling catch and unleashed a jaw-dropping smile. She begged to stay as we headed home. Dad couldn't hide the smile, he's dreamt of watching her catch her first fish and knew it was time.
 
I told her where we were going and why. She squealed and ran for the door as toddlers do, shoes in hand. I took this as an endorsement of the plan. 

She walked hands in her pockets. Her signal that she doesn't want to hold your hand so don't even ask.  Stopping occasionally to smell flowers, pick up sticks, and other nature lessons, we arrived at quiet spot I had picked out for just this moment.

She wanted to play more with the worms at first. The writhing small things in her hand leaving more awe than shock. With the first cast, I put the rod in her hands and offered my own as support, but she didn't want them. She didn't need them.

**INSERT JAWS MUSIC**

It was over fast, almost too fast. The bobber bobbed, the line taught, we reeled. Her eyes wide as the weight of the line proved a mystery until her prize cleared the railing.

Fish daddy! Fish. I got id!

We're going to need a bigger boat.

She was beaming. I tired to get a photo of her face, but she couldn't take her eyes off her first fish.

It was a first for me too. The best one so far.

Friday, July 13, 2012

O Target! My Target!

They say the dots are lost souls.

I'm watching the items pass by, each with a ding and an accompanying eye twitch as the charges incrementally increase. My plastic's already out, and mind zeroing on which bag should have been doubled-up that wasn't, lest I have another accident in the parking lot.  It's all muscle memory at this point, like breathing or changing a diaper.

I'm at Target. Again.

Amid the fog of scanner-gun radiation and the red and white glare bouncing off the white-tiled flooring, my senses are dulled.  Their extensive market research and focus-grouping likely told them this is the ideal shopping stimuli to part suburbia from their wages. That, and the eight-gallon drums of trail mix an the end of every aisle. In this mind-altered state, I only pick up a few bits of the orders barked by the clearly agitated mother towards several kids I can only assume are under her care. 

No! You can't do that!....I won't....No!....Wait here... As she storms into the bathroom, the kids collapse on the door like bugs on a screen door.

Sigh. Is that going to be me? I ponder the question as Flo informs me of the damages.

The receipt's fine print says - Congratulations!  You just spent more today than you've put away in the college fund this month. Would you like more info on our cashier-training program?

I'm here once a week on average. I don't love it. I don't hate it. I don't make well thought out plans before I go. It's just a store providing the majority of the things I find myself needing on a regular basis. And by myself, I really mean for my (oft out of town for work, staying up all night studying for grad school) bride and our two year old who's stuck squarely in the difficult to please / wants everything phase. 

That's just a phase, right?

Since I'm the designated hunter-gather for our clan and there's one a mile from the house, another five minutes from my office, and a common landmark throughout our suburban landscape, I'm here often in search of our most pressing needs and wares. I manage to sneak in the occasional caffeine hit at the internal Starbucks and maybe some light fondling of the shiny High Def televisions in the electronics aisle, just to ensure the testosterone keeps flowing. But that's between us.

With the scheduling demands of my full-time job plus cooking, bath time life guarding, yard upkeep, dog walking, general household item repair, and toddler wrangling, my trips are usually relegated to the weekends. These trips are what we jokingly (mostly) refer to as my "free" time. 

A weekend family excursion upcoming, the need for sunscreen, toddler-sanctioned snacks, bug spray, first aid, and floaties brings me in for a mid-week visit. I stand out. The weekend melting pot crowd of suburbanites missing as I'm the lone male sans red shirt in the entire store. 

I hit the parking lot squinting into the blinding glare of natural light while retracing my steps to remember where I parked.

Is this the door I came into?

Is that the cart deposit station I was four cars down from or was it the one one row over?

Is that the red mini-van I parked opposite from or is that red mini-van on the other side?

Wait, what car did I drive today?

That Chipotle wasn't there when I came in???

The ninety-five degree weather numbs my already dulled senses as I pick an aisle and hope. I imagine the Donner Party having a similar feeling when they said let's try this way!

Don't Kevin. Keep it in your mouth. That's the most important thing you can do right now! THE most important thing.

I recognize the bathroom mother's voice behind me as I stuff my goods into the trunk. (Wait, is that a metaphor? Let's move on.) I turn to see her and her flock heading to their own vehicle. Kevin, a tennish boy has lagged behind and stands motionless fewer than two cart lengths behind me.  He's half bent over and appears to have just spat on the pavement.

Uh-oh.

I turn to return my cart while trying not to stare.  I know what's coming. We've all been ther...

That thought interrupted by the distinctive sound of what I would guesstimate as a couple of Coke cans worth of vomit hitting the super-heated asphalt directly between me and the car.  Cereal by the looks of it.  That's definitely milk.  Yup. Cereal.

The aroma hits me almost instantly in the humid air.  Leaving the carnage behind, Mother hasn't broken her stride. Her weathered eyes fixated on finding her own vehicle.  The other children following her lead as if they're afraid to break ranks and get left behind. She says to no one in particular, so much for that..

Was she talking to me? Wait, is that going to be me someday?  Will the great bulls eye finally numb me to the point of forcing my own children to march on, vomit or not? Will one day I not find my car and wander to off to the edge (of the parking lot)?

I resist the urge to breathe as I shut the door. Both the acrid smell lingering in my nostrils and the three thousand degree air inside force my larynx shut just in case.

My mind instinctively shifts to did I get everything? mode. I exhale.

See you this weekend Target. 

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The middle ages.

It doesn’t feel like it. I don’t really look like it, unless the wife is lying to me.  I don’t act like it and go out of my way not to.  I still weigh in at my senior year (high school) weight.  I have yet to need anything rhyming with Niagara or other newfangled pharmaceutical product designed to let someone live a better, yet side effect-riddled life.   Last week I even bought a new pair of Nike’s the teenage shoe jockey assured me were the ones to have.

Then today, like a freight train full of rhinoceroses coming out of nowhere and running you over, I turned thirty-six years old. Thirty-six? Holy shit.
Somewhere in my early-twenties while cloaked in immortality, smugness, and taught skin, I saw this milestone as the fixed point of no return. The birthday I was officially old.  Telling myself that by then; you’re half way done dude.  So get to it.

Me and my stupid ultimatums. 
I spent the past few years, maybe longer, frantically racing to beat the time limit like a contestant on reality cooking show.  Did I get there? 
Nope.
But also, yes.
As I sit in my non-corner office overlooking the trailer park amid the constant dim of interstate traffic, next to coworkers two-thirds my age, while half-assing completely unfullfilling work, I realize the dream of being a proverbial real-world rock star or at least upper middle management might have set sail without me.  I suspect this is how a career-stripper might feel about their chosen path, except with more emails and less meth and daddy issues.

Like a once new car that is starting to shows its miles, shit is starting to break down. In the past two years alone I have been to doctor more times than in the past twenty combined. My ears need a hair cut while the DMZ between my hairline and forehead is rapidly advancing north. Random things ache at non-random moments and a sore throat immediately triggers fear of a tumor. A routine grocery run now includes lingering in the pharmacy aisle with genuine interest like I'm shopping for clothes.

Does this guy look 36? Okay, ignore the gray beard, diaper bag, camera, child, and mock smile. Now?
Not quite having reached get off my damn lawn status, I am  however definitely entered into slow down when driving down my street fist waving territory.

But I don't feel old.

Funny thing is I actually feel kinda' good. Like even better now than ten years ago.

And here's why:

I'm genuinely smiling this time because it's the wife's turn to change her diaper.
Somewhere along the way, I ended up getting married and have managed to keep the happily in the proper context. Add a little fate, some strong DNA (and some questionable birth control practices) and I became a dad to a kick ass kid.

And on days when the working world threatens to stab my soul yet again, I get to come home to something better.  A world of first steps, words, high-fives and a hot wife to share it all with.

And just the right kind of cake on your birthday.

Chocolate + Peanut Butter + Pie for a cake = Happy Husband
I get so warm and fuzzy I don't mind sharing, even with dirty little hands.

Pie for dinner = Happy toddler. Followed by sleepy toddler.
Then when your birthday present consists of a homemade gift certificate of shooting, drinking, meat-eating, hoteling with the wife, plus a free babysitter, you know you've made it.

So here I am, thirty-six years later. It may already be halftime, but I am well ahead.



read to be read at yeahwrite.me


Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Once more unto the breach, dear daughter, once more.

The battle rages.  The daughter and I are at odds but at an impasse. She sits in her trench and I in mine. Not over the cell phone bill, going to the mall, boys, or internet privileges.  She’s just north of two - that stuff is a good 28 years and several anti-depressant prescriptions (for dad) away.

It’s her new developmental milestone that’s causing the inter-familial tensions. It was an innocent thing when it first started, almost cute even. But the seriousness never really sunk in, nor the implications if things went further.  We purposefully didn’t think about it, telling ourselves it wasn’t really happening. Like we do with the leaky dishwasher.
The first strike was the worst, inflicting the parents the most damage both physical and psychological. The door slowly opened with a toddler standing quietly in the dark with that timid look that signals even a dimwitted parent, something has going terribly wrong.   

It was the smell that struck me first. That all too familiar smell of trouble, the kind of trouble that involves wipes and clothing changes for everyone involved.  But my chest tightened as it was our bedroom she was in.  Thinking she’s almost ready for a real bed, we had let her test out ours (which we had never done before) after an especially fitful evening in her crib.
She had removed her clothes and diaper. Again. A new trend that has become a near-every night ordeal causing general misery for everyone involved. Not content with just taking a dump in mommy and daddy’s bed, she felt the need to apparently sort through her offering barehanded, with both hands.  Her face looked like she had just returned from begging for bread on the streets of Calcutta. But it was our bed that suffered the worst, forcing a Woman Called Mom and me onto the sofas for the evening. Their innocence stolen, the pillows will never be the same.

Now the bedtime routine has turned into the bedtime routine from hell.  The constant diaper removals and ensuing threat of biological warfare force us to listen to the baby monitor with the same tension as if we’re on a destroyer and listening to the sonar for enemy subs.  Losing focus or trying to sneak in a quick minute in front of the tube can have disastrous consequences.  And it can last for hours.

She’ll do this anywhere from 2 to 10 times a night.  Sometimes she’ll cry softly as a warning, sometimes she’s silent but most likely, she’s diaper-less with a hair-trigger, ready to fire.  Mid-day naps over the weekend are no exception. I found this out the hard way this past one as a dead monitor battery failed to alert me in time the screaming child upstairs. I knew what I would find before I entered but the sight of a larger number two-er laying in the crib was unsettling nonetheless.  The diaper lay six feet away, spotless and reusable. 

Sure I can now change crib sheets faster than a NASCAR pit crew changing tires but this has got to stop. 

We’ve tried different pajamas but that doesn’t help. She’s Houdini with anything involving buttons or zippers. I thought about duct tape but am certain she’ll just fashion that into a rope to lower herself out of the crib, or something worse.  We’ve tried potty-training but she hasn't taken to it yet.  I’m strongly considering a metal grated floor like you find at the pet store or a tarp.

I pray the war will be over soon.  Both sides are getting weary of the fight and attrition is taking its toll.  Just last night I arrived with a thousand-yard stare minutes too late as a diaper-less child stood despondently in her crib amid the acrid smell of yet another accident. Only this time, the diaper was in her hands, with her offering still completely contained, held out as if to say truce.

God I hope so. Metal grates are expensive.    





   

Sunday, June 3, 2012

The Red Menace

 
I was raised to loathe the Russians. Nothing personal. Just mostly that Communism thing from a few years back. It didn't help that I once lived in a place with nothing but a few stop signs between angry Russian tanks and me and my G.I. Joes. Add in some fatherly-mandated reading of Animal Farm and a worn out VHS tape of Red Dawn and you had the perfect storm for Commie hatin'.

Yes, the Iron Curtain is gone, but the lessons learned still resonate today.

No, I'm not a spy or some other interesting agent of national security.

I'm just dad. And I like ice cream.

Hungry before dinner, I find myself staring into the pantry. The shelves covered in various dried goods, non-perishables, and a few assorted snack items that may offer some relief and sustenance before I make dinner. As I mentally scroll through the limited options, that voice only I can hear kicks in again.

No, not that. There's only one left. She needs them for a snack.

Not that one either. Same deal.

Nope…

You're joking right? She'll smell it from a mile away and will end up confiscating it.

Panicking, I grab a stale piece of bread and shove the entire fold into my hole at once. Hoping I can get it down before she finds out while not choking to death in the process.

What is this, Russia? The voice grumbles, out loud this time.

Shhhh. She'll hear you.

On mental-legs already exhausted from a day at the mines, I begin the family meal. My directives are simple. The meal must be done soon, relatively healthy, and of course not rejected by a two year old with a sensitive palate and swift temper. Once again, I bypass the exotic spices and accoutrement's of meals once made, for the bland and un-offending. I don't want to spend tonight scrubbing food off floors, again.

I recall the almost empty ice cream, hidden deep in the freezer, to be savored in the dead of the night once the guards kid passes out. I drift farther back to memories of earlier entire meals of chicken wings and brownies. Luxuries, once enjoyed before the Secret Police patrolled my home.

Mine! The all too familiar declaration stops me in my thoughts.

No mom-ma.

Mine. Mine. Mine.
   

The angelic voice of our beloved daughter carries well now that she's mastering speech. The commotion signals the wife is fighting her own skirmish in the bedroom. I dare not intervene.
The emergence of a confident toddler in the kitchen holding a cell phone and travel mug indicate the battle is over.

Mine. She says through narrowed eyes.

I present myself for inspection while holding my breath that she doesn't notice any evidence of my bread theft. Mid-hug, I scan the room for clues of my earlier crime from the corner of my eye. But she knows.

She always knows.

Wanna snack.

Breh.

There is no bread honey. Wait for dinner

Breh. Mine.

Busted. Like a mother's embrace after you missed curfew, there's no hiding your sins from a toddler.

The dinner routine unfolds like always. Parents scrapping to feed themselves while appeasing the unappreciative toddler with the primest cuts. Everything must be shared but some get more than others. The conversation is tense but measured, the adults eager to not mention any key words that could incite suspicion.

Eye-cree-em.

Damn. My heart sinks as I shoot the wife a look. Still wounded and demoralized from the earlier battle of the bedroom her eyes say it all.

Give it to her.

Yup. Eye-cree-em. Moh. The little one endorses the plan. She doesn't add – or else. But it's implied. Countless nights of pain and suffering have taught us to choose our battles.

So there, at my sticky dining room table, I watch helplessly as my offspring plows through the last of the chocolate peanut butter. It hits me hard. The realization that my deepest fears of the Red Menace from my youth have materialized. My own little Animal Farm unfolding right here at my kitchen table.

Sorry, our kitchen table.

All animals are created equal, but some are more equal than others. - Animal Farm

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Two Years Ago

Two years ago I was in a hospital.  I hadn't really thought about it that way, only reminded of it today by the wife who called, ironically, as I was leaving a hospital.

Two years ago tomorrow I was now called dad. Having earned the title after twenty-plus hours of labor watching, female anatomy lesssons, ice-chip fetching, three shifts of nurses, and enough McDonalds to maim a professional hot dog eater.  The wife went through some stuff as well I suppose. But it must not have been that bad given she already wants to do it all again.

Two years ago I wheeled the wife and our new plus-one out the hospital door into the world, unbelievably without a trained professional in tow.  A stiff breeze and the door slamming shut followed like it was a movie.  The combustion of pride and fear kicking in the daddying instincts, I check, re-check, and goddammit, I better check again, the car seat straps. A four mile drive home becomes a white-knuckled journey strewn with deadly threats and a couple stops just to make sure everyone is still breathing.

Two years ago I had never defrosted a bag of breast milk, fished a baby-turd out of the tub, extracted a LEGO from a toilet, or had a pacifier fall out of my pocket at work. I had never taught someone their first word or caught them after their first ever step. I had never taken a kid to the zoo or sniffed a butt to see just how dirty it was.

Two years ago I didn't know it was possible for time to pass even faster. 

Two years ago I hadn't thought about what a two year old should get for their birthday. A fancy talking doll, over-the-top swing set, pony, IPhone - all things that crossed my mind.  For probably the last time, the concept of birthdays for her is still undiscovered. But cake, shredding paper and gathering more things to call mine are definitely not. The folder for Birthday #2 anxiously awaits its fulfillment of jpg.s and videos.

So if anyone out there is listening and knows someone, could you ask them to slow things the hell down? A gift idea for birthday number three wouldn't hurt either.









Monday, April 30, 2012

The Forces of Nature and Living with Girls

Except for my mother, I grew up in a house full of dudes, even the pets. With two brothers and a steady roster of dogs, that's a lot of sticks and berries. So naturally us boys only learned the necessary life skills – meat eating, yard mowing, shaving, snake handling – from the old man.

Our poor saintly mother found the inner strength to pretend-smile at our "developments."

Hey look, hair!

It was a one-dimensional existence, void of any feminine panache. Her skills in accessorizing and hair beret-ing useless, she focused on teaching us to clean, feed, and clothe ourselves respectfully. Admittedly all skills I find myself employing to this day.

But learning about living with girls? Maybe, but we must not have been paying attention. 

This mattered little to me in my boy-hood. They were occasionally fun things to pick on as long as you didn't touch them, ever. They cried a lot. In class, on the playground, at the mall, seemingly everywhere you found girls, you found one crying. I don't know why, I didn't care. They were real but strange creatures from a far away land, like something you see at a zoo. My only knowledge stemmed from the tales of others that had encountered one and lived to tell about it.

But, like a salmon making its amorous trek upstream, or a college-age reveler at spring break, nature began its inevitable course. 

With cracked-voice, Drakkar cologne,  and faded jeans, I soon found myself beginning my instinct-driven swim upriver.

The ensuing years were messy.  The good girls proved mostly elusive, the bad ones unfortunately not elusive enough.


Not all that long ago I found myself still on my own, patiently waiting for the right girl. I assumed this was a better strategy than stalking and driving a window-less van. But that was up for debate.

I was young, passably smart, and of reasonable physical proportions.

But I lacked this guy's flair.


Trying a different approach, I bought a house. I painted, adorned the walls with things other than fluorescent signs, and kept the bathrooms clean; all things that would make my mother proud.

So I basically took this guy's approach to mate-attraction.

A dull boy, he gathers bright shiny objects to lure, er, attract a mate.

And it worked.

But then she moved in.

And things changed. And I started to learn what it's like to live with girls.

For the record my beautiful intelligent bride has defied the common stereotypes associated with female cohabitation and the anti-feminine smear campaign of my youth. She's not the monster my playground running-mates made her out to be. She doesn't hog the remote. She didn't show up with a dumpster for my things when she moved in. She hasn't Craigslisted my Play Station. In fact, she's the one who bought it. She doesn't demand a clean ship. To my knowledge, I haven't contracted any of her germs.

Still our union is not without a few problems challenges. Simple things are now far more complex and confusing. No longer is laundry white vs. colors. It's a scientific process of sorting, washing, and drying according to the strictest of guidelines. Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned over a shrunken cardigan. 

New rules went into effect in other places as well. Blankets at night had to be shared, and by shared I mean surrendered, at any moment regardless of any rational blanket-coverage ratio. 

With a second opinion now only an arm's length away, I've found out I am not always right. Quite the opposite. 

At any given moment you could stroll through our house and find either a wet towel on the floor, a bra under a sofa cushion, or a toilet paper roll with no toilet paper. At least three days a week, it would be all three.

There's the cuddling and let's do something fun together moments that you know have exactly 0.0000034% chance of sex later.

But nothing is more illustrative of female cohabitation than what they do in, and to the bathroom. 

Each morning our shared bathroom looks as if a dozen girls just used to it prep for prom. A 3000 degree hair straightener is a daily hazard overcome just to brush my teeth. Strange things hang to dry from the shower rod that I am not allowed to touch.

Two years ago now I became a member of the minority-sex in the house for the first time ever.

No longer the cute, sweet-smelling infant of last year, our daughter has moved on to the fun stage where she starts to master motor skills while developing her "personality." Fun of course if you enjoy stroke-inducing tantrums and having forks flung at your face regularly.

She and mom now join forces as part of the morning routine to do unspeakable things. The two year old channels her inner teenage-girlness and compulsively combs hair while screaming at no one in particular. If I'm lucky, she'll drown various daddy-toiletries in the toilet. All while mom tries her best to make herself corporate-looking without tripping over a spilled box of tampons or permanently branding someone with one of her hair beautifying tools.

No, we did not have an earthquake.  Just two girls in a bathroom...














Seriously. Not. An. Earthquake.



Failing to heed the warnings signs, I try to intervene some mornings but this usually gets the door slammed in my face. Occasionally someone cries. Not sure which one is doing either, but certain they're taking turns.

In a last ditch effort to provide some assistance to the morning routine, I dress the kid to head out the door for the day. I pick something without Elmo on it with confidence, because, you know, she's only two. My outfits makes the cut some days. Others, I see her later in something different.

Her shirt got dirty so I had to change it.

Right.

Sometimes she asks me to fix the little one's hair. She's clearly mocking me as I have zero idea what to do with a girl's hair. There's the pony tail and the non-pony tail. That's all I know. I don't help much with this making more crying exponentially more likely.

At that point, staring at a MC Escher-like scene of feminine hygiene products, wet towels, lotions, and strewn LEGO it hits me. I live with girls.

Two of them. How did this happen?

I am not prepared for this. I sure as hell have no idea what I am doing. But it does explain all the pink.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Cruel Summer

It’s almost summer.  As the white, brown, and grey gives way to the green, changes are a happening.  Good changes, mostly.  There’s walks to be had, balls to be tossed, swings to be swung, but the yard doesn’t mow itself and that leaky roof just loves all that rain.  A winter’s worth of landscaping-to-do’s now require real effort, and Visa.

The kiddo changes too, way to fast. Faster than I can record, photograph, write down, or just remember.   I had grand plans to document her successful pacifier withdrawal or solo-sleeping in a big-girl bed but these all happened overnight. Literally.
Last summer’s back yard adventures entailed sitting in the grass, touching bugs, thieving tomatoes from the garden.  Now we side walk chalk or sprint for the neighbor’s swing, without holding daddy’s hand. 

Words are now words.  They mean things. Chide (outside), book (book), malk (milk), go (let’s get in the car and get out of here), poop (dirty diaper, wet diaper, improperly affixed diaper, get this damn diaper off me!). 

The tantrums now come without warning.  They’re triggered by the wrong food, the right food presented incorrectly, fatigue, acts of North Korean aggression, a slight change in air temperature. Anything, really.  They leave her parents with only questions.

Why?

Please, stop?
What the hell???

We are soon to cross the invisible threshold of twenty four months and into the terrible twos.[Insert spooky music] They say the tantrums are worse there. The air is colder. Food loses its taste. Your things become more broke and more lost.  Horrible things happen involving permanent markers and dog rectums.  For the record, I think we’re already there. At least I hope.

Car seats used to face backwards.  The occasional cries or tossed shoe the only reminder baby’s on board.  Now we face front, with cup holders.  She’s now a passenger chiming in on the choice of route or vehicle speed, or a dog passed by, not unlike her mother. 

The rearview mirror has an added role. 

What are you thinking little girl?  Your eyes now show thoughts and dad is dying to know what they are.

And there's the dancing. Boy, does she dance and no longer just the reflexive movements to the theme for Elmo’s World, but to actual music. First was the miming of dad’s antics to hair-metal: Def Leppard, Poison.  You squealed with delight as we air-drummed. Now, you dance to your own tunes.  Today’s was “Cruel Summer”*.  A peak in the rear view showed more than just the freaking adorable head-bobbing and hip-shaking.  There was a real little girl back there, who’s busy growing up way too fast.

I’m ready for this summer. I’ll take the bad to get to the good and there will be a whole mess of good. But I won’t lie, I’m already looking forward to next summer too.


* “Cruel Summer” by Banarama. A timeless classic that you have undoubtedly shaken your own hip at one point. Don't lie! Or you remember it as pivotal theme music to The Karate Kid. But I honestly have no idea what bananas, a fake Boss Hog from the Dukes of Hazard, and a Mack truck have to do with summer.  Regardless, we’ll being dancing to it tonight.

Enjoy.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Dating the Wife

Three and a half years ago on a quiet mountainside in Colorado, the missus and I held hands and did the whole matrimony thing in front of a few friends, family, and some freeloaders who heard about the open bar.

This was it. The ultimate reward for my courtship and bright plumage displays over the past two years had paid off in salvation from a life of loneliness, bookmarking Dateacougar.com, and being that sketchy old guy. Okay, so the last one is still kinda' an issue. Twas a fantastic, yet nerve-racking day. Whenever I have to make human eye-contact while using the words forever, death and I do in a sentence while wearing a rented outfit that some teenager likely befouled at his high school prom, it tends to put me a tad on edge. So much so I may have even mumbled the wrong name during the vows. My name that is...Yes, I did that. Let's move on.

Dating as the boyfriend, fiancee, and then husband was fun. A lot of fun. Dating turned into something else for the first time. It wasn't dating anymore, it was hanging out with your best friend, but with a great benefits package.





A movie and dinner on a Tuesday. A concert on a Wednesday. A three day weekend on a moment's notice. Toes dipped in both oceans. Even a Monster Truck show. She laughed at my jokes. I told her she was hot. We were both sincere. At least I think she was.

Sure, there were some duds. She still considers our first date the worst first date she ever had (I dispute this). Our first out of town trip together was less than romantic. Unless you consider lots and lots of vomit romantic. We learned from it, and by that, I mean we never spoke of these times again.

Legally bound, the magic continued. Growing even more exhilarating as I could look down at the stain on my shirt and mismatched socks with relief and confidence, knowing wait,
she has to go home with me, it's the law!

Without having to say it, we both want that spark to always be there. The wife, the cerebral one, always calculating, thinking three moves ahead, wants to protect her marriage like she would an investment. Me, I'm driven to not be the flopping, writhing fish out of water, as this is what I would now be without her. At least I'd smell just as bad. We make a great team.

Then this happened:


If you have one of these you know what it does to your dating agenda. If you don't, consider yourself warned.

Don't get me wrong, this little girl was/is the best thing I've ever done. But, she does present some challenges when it comes to spending quality time with momma, especially now that she can open doors.

Like any average parents and we are definitely average, we're slaves to the path of least resistance with our little bundle of joy. We spend most of our together time at home like shut-ins, minus the cats but with the same mess. Weeknights are hand-to-hand combat through dinners, bath, bed time, etc. Weekends are spent running necessary-only errands or occasionally family outings to some 'fun' place where projectile throwing, tantrums, and fouled diapers are socially acceptable. This typically means either the zoo or Target. Neither affords us much time to discuss the latest political debate or celebrity gossip while perusing a drink menu. Sweatpants have replaced short skirts and the clean underwear everyday rule has been relaxed.

Staring down the proverbial barrel at the end of our once fulfilling social life, we are determined to persevere. I couldn't tell you the last movie I went to or the last time I was away from home past midnight. But we still find time to date. The definition of dating may have changed a bit but we take advantage of every opportunity to be alone like it will be our last. We try force ourselves to get out a couple times a month if only for a few hours. Just us. Like we were before we were momma and dadda. Sure we constantly check the phone for a 911 text from the sitter, or from the kid demanding ransom in exchange for the sitter's life. The daddying instincts never shut down as I still jump hearing glass break or instinctively move that steak knife away from the edge where prying little hands can't reach it. Maybe its only a few hours together on the couch at night before we pass out. Maybe its just coffee while we wait for a parent-teacher conference at daycare. Maybe it's a few drinks at the bar before some buzzed shopping and make out session in the detergent aisle at the grocery store while the mother in law is watching the kid.

Whatever it is, take what you can get.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Hey Ice Cube, Today Wasn't That Good of A Day.

I don't know but today seems kinda odd….

6:15 a.m. I awake to the annoying reverberation of but one of my seemingly infinite bosses. The alarm yells louder and louder until I submit. Despite the record breaking temps the past few days I held fast against turning on the A.C. because, it's March. Seemed like a logical idea last night but I quickly regret as the sheets and I are now stuck together.

The shuffling of feet in the darkness stimulates another member of management as the dog initiates his first whine of the day. It won't be his last. Lest I forget his failure to evolve opposing thumbs keeps him for letting himself outside, because that's different than yesterday.

I shower, quickly. Timing is everything this morning. The wife is gone: on her first leg of three (vacation, work, and work) trips that will keep her on the road nearly the whole week. Waking the kid up now means a toddler pulling the shower curtain down (again) mid-shower while the dog takes a squat in the living room (again).

No barking from the dogs…

6:45 a.m. Coffee in hand. Dressed. Dog doing his business, outside. I take in the tranquility of the lake, the cool damp morning breeze, the vibrant sounds of spring creatures prepping for the whole animal romance thing. It's going to be a good…Oh, look at that. The dog got off the leash again and there he goes.

And momma cooked a breakfast with no hog..

7:05 a.m. Fast forward twenty minutes and I'm wet again. This time in sweat and white-hot anger. After chasing after what might as well be a cheetah and averting the judging stares of bath-robed neighbors, the dog comes back. I contemplate a drive to a nice "farm" in the country before work but realize the little bastard will probably find his way back, probably with a string of dead kittens and dug up flower beds in his wake, while leading the cops straight to me. Next time…

I enter little girl's room to find said little girl erect, furrowed of brow and with a look of disgust squarely aimed at yours truly. Hell hath no fury like a toddler not immediately serviced upon waking. I re-run the morning's game plan in my head. We're already behind. Breakfast (day-care feeds her too so this is just pre-breakfast) consists of milk and banana. To save time I put cut up banana in a bowl and let her free range while I pack her things for the day. I return to find an upside down bowl, a cross-armed kid and what looks like a banana stepped on a landmine all over the newly scrubbed floor. I stifle the scream under my breath while trying not to pass out.

Had to stop at a red light
Looking in my mirror not a jacker in sight
And everything is alright

8:30 a.m. We arrive at daycare. The ride spent mostly in silence as even though she's not quite two, the daughter seemed to recognize the dangers of upsetting the driver in heavy traffic even more. She was kind enough to keep the screaming to a minimum. Daycare drop offs are always bittersweet. She seems to enjoy it for the most part but saying goodbye sucks.

8:35 a.m. Gathering myself back in the car, I see I left my work bag with my lap top at home. Great.  

9:15 a.m. After a trip back home, I finally get to work, late by normal standards but then I don't really care much. I'll spare you the details. Let's just say I did some things to make more bosses a bunch of money I'll never see while working on my new book, If I Did It, Confessions of an Alleged Office Refrigerator Lunch Thief.

4:55 p.m. Under the rock-solid alibi of I have to drive across town to get to daycare before it closes excuse, I leave early and arrive to find the little girl tackle me with joy and open arms like we just won the Super Bowl. Best part of the day hands down.

Drove her to the pad and I'm coasting…

6:00 p.m. We get home, the little girl seeming to remember the morning tension and again stays quite on the ride home. Of course the dog forges judging by the pile of number two-ness he left for me in the corner. What, you couldn't remember to do that on your little jog this morning?

Day care claimed the girl refused lunch today. A semi-common excuse we get when they serve something even a hungry toddler wouldn't eat or the whole class riots and they move on to something less messy. I had a ticking bomb on my hands here so dinner was rushed to threat level red.

7:15 p.m. Dinner's over and we begin the wind down procedures for putting an over-stimulated toddler down for the night. After a steady stream of book readings and she goes down. Blissfully easy given the day we've had.

7:35 p.m. A spectacular thunderstorm arrives with enough rain to prove the hole in the roof the roofer claimed was fixed, was in fact not fixed. Tupperware and towels cover the floor as I watch water drip from the light fixtures.

I was glad everything had worked out…

8:15 p.m. The monitor erupts with red lights and louder than usual screaming. I investigate to find her pant-less, diaper-less and in tears. The upset stomach thing from the past few days had triggered a monster of a diaper rash, irritated again by the apparent removal of everything below the waste. We rock, the tears and heaving gradually subsiding as the sweat on both our brows pools together. I say a silent prayer - thank you for not letting her poop just now.

Drunk as hell but not throwing up…

9:15 p.m. Several stiff drinks later, I sit still and reflect on this day and realize what will undoubtedly be a mean cold tomorrow is brewing in my throat and chest. Wonderful.  I check in with the wife to reconfirm she still intends to return and, as she always does, offers some sage perspective on the current state of affairs, a lot could get worse, we could all have a rash on our ass.

Yes. So there's that. Hoping tomorrow is better and ass-rash free.

I got say it was a good day
Hey, wait a minute fool!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The Politics of Poop

Ah, let's see. Blueberries, oranges, definitely tomatoes and the remnants of last night's Mexican take out, I think to myself. The dry heaves and held breath long replaced with a smile and idle conversation as this father and his offspring ritual repeats itself for the untold time. I don't even flinch as a stray tomato seed ends up tangled in forearm hair as I set her down, the urge to swear and bathe in Clorox.

Just another Saturday morning. Or a Tuesday night.

I change diapers. Lots of them. I've changed them in restaurants, cars, airports, indoors and out. I've seen every kind of load possible. It's gotten on me. Sometimes in me, as her motor skills development occasionally takes me by surprise. Now it's a reflexive action with no thought or judgments. A fluid motion of toddler wrangling, wiping and diaper affixing. If I had kept score, I would be in the lead for most changes in our household.

Do I still yearn for a pat on the head or a cookie (read: beer) from the wife for an especially wicked blow-out she avoided? Sure.

Have I texted my wife a photo of a dirty diaper after she sent me pic of the steak she was eating at a swanky business dinner? Check.

Do I care when a major diaper factory ** cough, Huggies, cough ** - assumes dads wouldn't touch a dirty diaper unless there wasn't a woman within 50 miles as a gimmick to sell more diapers? Yea…no. Not really.

Is it stereotyping, a tad insensitive and a way beyond inaccurate portrayal of me and a whole mess of other dads? Sure. You're dang right it gets my competitive juices going when someone assumes I don't know that difference between formula and butt cream. But offended at diaper commercials I am not. Sorry, I just can't get there. As a long time proponent for full disarmament of the PC Police, spare me the cries of foul.

I'm guessing little care about the pick-up truck commercials with dude-only drivers in dirty jeans, hauling something heavy, meeting up with other dudes, to do dude stuff, with a country song sung by a dude. No? Don't women buy trucks too? Or do they just sit in the passenger's seat? I'm so confused.

Digging back to the few classes of Bisiness 101 I made it to, I can remember one tidbit that seems to come into play here. I recall that businesses use advertising and marketing gimmicks to entice consumers to purchase goods and services. They spend mucho dinero on shiny logos, focus groups, and catchy jingles that all serve to produce a dollar more than they put into it. That's called making a profit. If you piss off a few to get to the many, and their Master Cards, then screw it. Look, my lemonade stand was foreclosed on as a kid, but even I know using your brand and advertising dollars to make everyone happy and impact social change along the way isn't profitable, unless, you know, it makes you a bigger profit.

The Big Diaper industry is recession-proof. It's probably near nuclear armageddon-proof. It will likely prove to be good-dads-take-to-social-media-uproar-for-justice-proof as well. Just saying.

Yeah, it chafes my sleep deprived, toddler lovin' hide to no end when I see some dad drop his jaw as I break out the diaper bag at Home Depot. Yes, I want to challenge the nosy lady in the parking lot at Target to a Diaper-Off when she offers unsolicited advice. Shut your hole. I know what I'm doing.

I do what I do for my family. My wife. My daughter. Occasionally our my stupid dog. Little else matters or than playing the roles I need to make sure everyone wins. I want my wife to have the best job she can while knowing her husband isn't going to complain about diapers. I want my daughter to grow up knowing right from wrong and what a good man is supposed to be. She won't likely find that on TV or from some corporation's ad campaign and if she does, then I've failed. She'll have to learn from the best role model I can find. Me.

Disclosure: We are a Pampers family and I don't actually buy the diapers.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

The Toddler Cleaning Companion

I don't know how some parents do it. I really don't. No, I'm not talking about the parents of a six month old that knows his letters and colors already, in French. Nor the ones that magically get their kid sleep trained in one easy evening and already know what side of the plate the fork goes. You're just weird, congrats.

What astounds me more are the moms and dads that go through this whole parenting thing without a little help, especially when it comes to food and the toddler. For me at least, the greatest test of baby will and daddy patience most often occurs at meal time. Nothing gets the blood pressure bubbling like an intentionally spilled cup of milk or half-masticated banana thrown across a freshly scrubbed wood floor. And nothing upsets our little angel more than the offering of the wrong piece of toast that is clearly next to the piece that she really wants. The ensuing mess would nauseate a buzzard. Know what I mean? So why go through this alone when help is available.

I invested in a Toddler Cleaning Companion (TCC) some years ago, long before I signed up for the dad gig. Turns out it works just as well for a bachelor pad lifestyle as it does for the family circus. Doritos and spilled beer can ruin a rug as bad as squished fruit and curdled milk.
 
I got a used one. Some shell out big bucks for designer brands or imports. You can get them for free. Hell, I've seen them on the side of the road. Though I can't recommend those models if you've got kids or nice things.


I went with a low-mileage brown and white model, designed by the Germans but with a few minor glitches.




Has all-weather capabilities.  



I see other parents without a TCC and I stare in disbelief as they meticulously hunt every last stray Cheerio on the floor like they're lost contacts. People, there's a better way.

Would you rather pick up that piece of milk-infused bread with your bare hands or let the TCC handle it?


  
You expect me to clean this up all by myself? Did we lose a war?


     
Unlike an expensive appliance, you never have to turn your TCC on and it doesn't run on batteries. It's always ready.

 Wait, you do this yourself?


That crumb will be gone before it hits the floor.



    

Another vacuuming job I didn't have to do.

  

That's why I have the TCC and I would encourage every toddler owner to as well.

Some maintenance is required to keep your TCC running smooth, but it's minor.

Again, just a glitch or two.

 

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

A Warning to Blake


A child-related ritual began last night that's sure to repeat itself over the next decade. That is unless the PC Police get their way and redo February 14th as Platonic Friend and Non-Offensive Greeting Card Exchange day, but I digress. Because our daycare provider must have a thing for extreme sports, they decided to throw a Valentines Day party for ten two year olds. I'd rather take my chances with a creaky bridge in a third world country and a questionably-tied bungee cord around my ankles.

The wife insisted the kid and I ‘help’ with getting her cards ready for the party.


Her contribution was to put stickers on the cards.  My contribution was to remove the stickers from her mouth. The wife wrote nice things in her best girly handwriting.  Go team.
Ten kids, ten cards, ten bags of organic, sugar free fruit snacks, easy enough.  Each card got a sticker. That is, all but one. 

His name is Blake.  The name alone makes me cringe. Blake? In my mind I picture a beach-blonde surfer wannabe with the IQ of a conch shell standing at the front door with his hand-me-down Euro car leaking oil on my driveway. 

Blake’s card got three stickers.


“Whoa, Blake gets three stickers?”
“Yea.”

“Who the hell is Blake?

“Blake’s cute, he shared his Teddy Grahams with her yesterday.” The wife chimes in.

Fabulous.
Blake, if you’re reading this, listen up. I’m watching you. This is my daughter and I am that dad.  Before you get any crazy ideas and want to start sharing your monster trucks and making googly-eyes at naptime, just know you are going to have to get through me first.  So when you get this three-stickered Valentine’s Day card with the little monkeys on it, just say thanks and nothing more. Put your hands back in your little OshKoshes, go talk to someone else and take your long blonde hair with you. And this conversation never happened. M’kay?

In unrelated news, anyone want to sign my Platonic Friend Day petition?

Thursday, February 9, 2012

It was just a game....

Last night it happened.  After thirty plus years of watching, cheering, praying, and loathing for my team, they did it.  They did the unthinkable, the unbelievable, the - I will never see that happen in my lifetime moment because it’s impossible - happened. This was not a good thing. 

                                                           sadly, this was not the game...

A better script for the agony of defeat could not have been written. If you would have seen this happen in a movie, you would cringe and remind yourself it’s not real. It’s just a movie, one that Quentin Tarantino would find a little too gory. But it wasn’t. It’s still too painful to recount the details but the plot was simple, yet cruel. The stakes could not have been higher.  Two centuries-long rivals square off. Your team is at home and starts off poorly only to regain momentum and take a large enough lead for most of the game the outcome seems in hand.  The crowd is electric, even the announcers seem to be on your side. But only then in the waning moments, a few bad breaks, a blown call and the stage is set for the unthinkable ending.


3…2…1…It goes in. We lose. 


For those who follow such things, it was the night of February 8th, 2012. I am a Carolina fan and I hate Duke.  My heart still feels like a half-eaten peach that’s been rolled across the floor of a public restroom. So yeah, I’m doing not so great today.
                                                   Nor was this the scene afterwards...

Please understand I’m no fair-weather fan. This fandom isn’t based on popularity, the color of the uniforms or they’re just the good guys in the rivalry against one of the most detested teams in all of sports (See #2).  I’m a fan because I went to school there. So did my parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, friends, neighbors.  It’s in my blood. Like a vampire, I’m stuck with it for eternity. It’s my existence and my curse.  One of my earliest memories in life is of my own blessed, loving mother cursing, cheering, and throwing toys at the television during a game. I watched, frozen with fear and intoxication over what could cause such passion. I was hooked.


I married outside my religion with my lovely wife, a mid-westerner from a school that’s mostly known for being just a good school, so the pious following of Carolina Basketball was a new and bewildering experience for her.  She took it well, even when a tough loss sends me stomping out the door to play in traffic or go virtually speechless for days.  Her birthday comes around this time and more than one romantic dinner has been spent in choppy silence as I mash my steak into a thousand pieces and swear the couple behind us is gloating over my loss.  So yeah, this game was kind of a big deal.

Two years ago, this sporting disaster sends me into fast-food-binging, hard-liquor-drinking, vow of silence funk of epic proportions, lasting  days, maybe weeks. Something probably gets broken and the dog chooses the crate over being in the same room with me.  I avoid anything with a screen or an internet connection to keep my eyes from having to relive this nightmare again. In the waning moments of last night’s game, as the tension in my chest built and the bile rose to the back of my mouth. I knew. This was going to end badly but a voice I had never heard before chimed me - it’s just a game dude.


My daughter is almost two.  We’ve already dressed her on more than one occasion in little Carolina fan outfits and temporary tattoos. The first thing I bought when I heard I got one past the goalie was a Onesie depicting Carolina’s greatness over its most hated rival.  I already dream of walking her around campus on her first visit, showing her my old dorm like my dad did with me. I picture us watching games together in the comingyears, cheering for the same team, sharing the excitement and nerves of an upcoming game.  Maybe one day she chooses another team and that’s okay. But for now, it’s her legacy too. And I know this dad-daughter bonding moment will be about much more than a rivalry or even sports. I’ve got a job to do. To teach her the lessons I want her to learn, to be the person I hope she will be, I will have to change.  


So last night I watched and I sat as all that is evil in the (sports) world celebrated while an icy hand reached deep inside and ripped out an unhealthy amount of soul. There were no tears. No slamming of doors or anxiety-ridden pets. I may have wandered the house in a stupor searching for something, anything to focus on other than this, but no ledges were mounted. They’re no empty vodka bottles this morning and I didn’t fall off the glue-sniffing wagon. (Kidding!  I’m a whiskey man.) I checked on our sleeping daughter, told her goodnight and went to bed.

Don’t get me wrong, today sucks. Like any loss, especially one to the team that shall not be mentioned, it’s been taken personally. I still have the painful residual feeling of rejection, like I was just dumped, on my birthday, for my best friend. But that little girl made me smile this morning and it made me forget about the game. 
Until I clicked ont he wrong website this morning. It’s fast food for lunch today, right after I cancel the cable.   



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