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, 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.