31 December 2007
While most of us are sitting by the fire, eating week old ginger bread cookies, Trout is climbing the tallest peak in South America. I searched for some comparison to his activity and mine, but alas, besides us both being human, right handed and neither of us speaks Farsi....the comparison pretty much stops there.
He is scaling the highest mountain outside of the Himalayas, is raising money to fight non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma to honor his father, is making his friends and family very proud and, oh yeah lest I forget, he is elevating the human race along the way.
If you have never done it, climbing a challenging peak is a wondrous, confidence building and soul enriching experience. It is the classic Man versus Nature competition. But for sure, it is not for everyone. For those without the predilection or understanding of why someone would attempt such a feat, I doubt I ever could adequately explain it.
George Mallory, the English Explorer who in 1923 was preparing for an attempt to summit the world's highest peak (Everest in between Nepal and Tibet) was asked by a probing reporter: "Why?" A worthy question indeed since a successful summit of the 29,029 foot Everest was not documented until Sir Edmund Hillary and his Sherpa Tenzing Norgay accomplished it in 1953, a full 30 years after Mallory tried. Mallory famously replied to the reporter: "because it is there."
Wow. So, what are you doing this week?
In Trout's home state, there was a nifty newspaper feature on him and his mission today. It is a good read with pictures and an interview. (click the link to be magically transported there)
While you are on-line, why not skip on over to his site, Climb For a Cure at www.ClimbForACure.org and check it out? If so inspired (duh, like, who wouldn't be?), the site has easy instructions on how to start out the year with a nice fat tax deductible donation to the Lymphoma Research Foundation. In addition, the Climb for a Cure site, along with some interesting back story, a link to the Lymphoma Foundation, Trout and his climbing partner, Mark, have a blog that will be called in via Satellite phone (talk about embracing technology!), plus they sell some awfully darn cool t-shirts to commemorate their expedition. It's almost like being on the mountain with them, but with more oxygen.
What a great way to redeem ourselves from the excesses of the holiday's eh?
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30 December 2007
Because he is barely 2 months old, he still poops himself and his eyes still roll around in his head when he wakes up too abruptly. That's why.
Thankfully, there are charts and systems in place to monitor the development of our children. In theory, when we see the 7 year old undressing his mother in order to breast feed or the 4 year old playing Rachmaninoff on the piano with perfection, we know those activities do not fall into statistical norms. And that is supposed to make us feel better, unless of course it is our 7 year old looking for a little nip, that is.
Of course in our kinder, gentler world, the charts list the notable accomplishments and milestones of our children broken down into Mastered, Emerging and Advanced skills. And if our child doesn't fit into one of those, there are plenty of disclaimers present that protect our fragile parental ego's from learning that little Timmy is a dunce because he is 6 months old and still can't roll over by himself.
Milestone charts also create that other special breed of lovable parent (not): the boastful, 'my Gertrude exceeds all statistical measures for greatness and will someday pull a Leona Helmsley on your butt' type.
Then there are the other, unwritten measures of public opinion. And aren't those just precious (not)? "You mean, Baby Samantha isn't sitting up by herself yet? Hmmmmmm." The look is complete with the Marcus Welby MD wannabe, feigned look of concern over the top of their spectacles and the follow-up..."if it were me....." comment at the tip of their tongue.
We all are guilty to some degree right? Part of our free society is the freedom and encouragement to rise, to try, to succeed against all challenges. That includes ALL challenges and the result is that we are an inherently competitive society.
We want to have the smartest baby, the best looking gal (sorry dudes, I already won!), the biggest bank account, the best presents, the biggest ..... well, you get the idea.
Yesterday the New England Patriots won their last regular season game to end 16-0, a feat that hasn't been accomplished since 1972. Among people that knew about that run at repeating history, I challenge you find very many that didn't come down on one side or another of the challenge. Either they wanted the Patriots to win and finish undefeated, or they wanted them to lose because their unquestioned dominance on the field was, well, dominating.
It is difficult to resist our society's and our own nature. By the way, did I share that Ethan pooped the length of his changing table?
I bet that puts his sphincter in the 99th percentile...
29 December 2007
For example, before Christmas we were all in pursuit of an Ethan-with-Santa picture at a fancy hotel. Instead of parking where most sensible people park, I chose to park in an adjacent, further away but mostly empty parking garage. FIFO (First In First Out, baby!) was the plan.
After I parked, Emily noticed the numbered spaces and suggested we park in the parking space that was numbered the same as our house number so that we could remember where we parked. Oh that Emily the Pre-Planner! Never mind that we were one vehicle out of maybe only 20 spread out over probably 1000 empty spaces. Nonetheless, I played along. While Tonya and Ethan loitered a few spaces away, I let Emily hop into my lap and we turned it into a brief driving lesson to drive from 1 empty space to another empty space that shared our house number, perhaps 12 feet away. To aid Emily's vision, I rolled the window down just in time to hear my bride warn Ethan "Beware Ethan, with your Daddy, everything has to turn into a 15 hour lesson". I plead guilty, except I am getting better at the lessons not taking quite 15 hours.
So later, as is a conditioned response, I found a reason - and I can always find a reason by the way - to dive into a safety 'talk' about several traffic accidents I investigated in a previous life where people turned their steering wheel while they were waiting to turn. In each instance, they were rear ended, which instead of knocking the vehicle straight ahead, it knocked them in the direction of their wheels, which was sideways into oncoming traffic. The result was usually a terrible, terrible accident. One of the stories that didn't end in a fatality ended with one of the accident victims becoming a vegetable due to their injuries.
"A Vegetable?" shrieked Emily. "What kind of Vegetable?" My story, woven together with stories from my past, current examples and future warnings and admonishments was single-handedly obliterated by my use of a word that Emily found humor in because she did not understand it in the context of my story. And of course, whether she meant to or not, a humorous response can also be like a life raft being dropped into a person drowning in a turbulent ocean full of lectures and lessons. Hmmm....come to think of it, that is exactly what she was doing.
And therein lies one of the pleasantries of a free society. We get to tune in to the lessons we like, such as how to drive a truck, yet we can tune out of a conversation that begins to bore us, like hearing about the tragedy of compression trauma. Imagine that. Yet we all do the same things as supposedly adult learners. We only retain a paltry 25% of what we are taught. So if my calculations are right, the takeaway from today's post will look something like this:
...Ethan was Santa this year....I make my family walk great distances from our house because I am too cheap and impatient to park close to the action....it took 15 hours to teach Emily how to park my truck....don't turn your wheels until it is time to turn, otherwise you'll turn into a vegetable...in which Emily thinks vegetables are funny and ...... now, what were we talking about again?
28 December 2007
Does that mean one person is wrong? Well, perhaps. Or maybe it is one of the principle differences between men and women? Let's explore shall we?
When I drive, I tend to notice things. Lots of things. Like bumper stickers, expired inspection tags, people and anomalies on the side of the road, the other motorist's under inflated tire, and the mis-addressed letter in the closed mailbox we just passed at 25 miles an hour.
My bride, my life partner, my sweetie, my honey, my soul mate, my love of my life? Not so much. She notices some things I'm sure (I hope) like red lights, emergency vehicle lights in the rear view mirror and I have on good authority the 'Sale' banners at Dillards Department Store. But, if a naked man covered in $100 dollar bills and neon lights was running along side our vehicle yelling in Farsi, he would surely get run over before he ever got noticed.
So during our routine marital banter the other day following a 'how could you not see that?' moment, I happen to mention that "I would love to see the world through her eyes". But not knowing when to stop, I had to add the disclaimer: "but only for an hour, because I don't think I could tolerate more than that because of my need to be aware of my surroundings." Oopsy.
If you can imagine, my seemingly well intended remark did not go over too well. Open mouth. Insert foot. I tried to cover it up by suggesting that the downside of me looking through her eyes was really being burdened with having to look at me. No dice. And I spent the next 4 hours being quizzed about every inane thing in our environment with "did you see THAT? Huh? Huh? Did you, Mr. Smart Aleck?
We all have those sentences we would take back if we could right?
I had a dreadful example (among many) that happened years ago at a party. I ended up in a conversation with a woman who was the date of a good friend of mine. As is party protocol it seems, I asked her where she worked in which she replied with the name of a major airline. Well, I knew enough to keep the attention focused on the other person and not ourselves, but I definitely did not remember to not judge a book by its cover. So I asked: "how do you like being a flight attendant"? And the moment those words left my mouth I knew I was in for it. Too bad my male intuition was running a sentence late that night. It turned out that she was the principle economist/load master/fuel buyer type for the airline that determined how much fuel to buy company wide, how much went into each plane so they had enough to get to their destination, but not so much that it needlessly weighed the plane down. You get the idea.
She apparently did not like flight attendants very much anyway and my chauvinistic comment sure didn't help. My, if looks could kill. My friend and her broke up. And that airline filed bankruptcy. And thousands of hard working people lost their jobs. See? We should be more careful what we say.
And why we are at it, we should be careful to not run over the naked man covered in money and neon.
27 December 2007
When Emily was going into 1st Grade, she had to go get her cornucopia of vaccinations as part of her back to school regime that year. I was told that when she was younger that her dislike of shots culminated into petechial hemorrhaging in her eyes. Those are the red spots in your eyes that people get when they are being strangled. So suffice to say that Emily did...not...like...shots.
So since we know that childhood vaccinations do not have to be so dastardly, we thought that Emily would better served if she had a different response to shots. After all, no where is it written that we have to cry when we get vaccinated, right?
Ivan Pavlov became famous for his experiments of Conditional Responses back in 1890 in which he was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1904. Americans mostly know his work in reference to the "Pavlov's Dog's" where he demonstrated where dog's would drool (response) after being presented their food (reinforcement) along with the sound of a bell (stimulus). After repeated trials, Pavlov would ring the bell, and the dog's would drool, even without the presence of the food. As simplistic as that experiment sounds, it provided the world with a basis of research and theory, and ultimately science on the laws of behavior that we all use and are subject to now.
But I digress...
Emily did not have an alternative response when she got her shots as a kid, so she went with the one that usually works for kids, crying their ever lovin' head off. So in the run up to the new round of shots, we started a routine where we would give her a shot with our finger (stimulus), which was of course harmless and asked her to start laughing (response) as vigorously as she could. Then we all grinned and high-fived (reinforcement). We did this early and often.
When the day came, Emily stood in the conga line of kids who, one after the other, grimaced, then cried when they got their shots....until Emily got in the chair. The tech gave her the shot and as he leaned back to avoid the ubiquitous, thrashing, crying kid, he looked up with shock as 6 year old Emily sat there laughing her head off. He said that in the hundred of shots he gives every day, he had never, ever seen such a response. Why? Again, nowhere is it written that we must cry when we get a shot. We do what we are conditioned to do, right or wrong, good and bad.
So as pleased as we are with how that process turned out with Emily, we got to start anew with young Ethan. And it is going to be a rolling start letmetellya'.
At his 2 month check up, he got 4 needle sticks. Ethan cried bloody murder. Tonya cried. And I stood by with nothing more productive than to tell Ethan to 'Cowboy Up, Young Buckaroo!', to which he of course ignored through his screams. I can only imagine the nurse (aka dispenser of the shots) writing in her own blog somewhere about the most recent yahoo father who tried to change the tried and true tradition of willing his infant son to be brave of character when he doesn't even know he has 2 hands yet.
I wonder if Pavlov also had another, lesser known experiment that looked like this: crying baby (stimulus) + bravado filled father overcome with ineptness to help either son or wife (response) = knowledge and perspective that some lessons are better left for another day (reinforcement).
26 December 2007
There is no greater observation deck on society than an airport during a busy holiday.
At it's basic level, it is great sport to watch and wager (tip: wager with an infant, you'll usually win) on which traveler's are departing from the local area to go visit...or are they returning from whence they came? Ah, it is a shame they restrict non-ticketed passengers from seeing more of the action.
Yes, today we were back at the airport. The lines were extraordinary and the people's reactions were quite entertaining. Here are few standouts:
Sheepish: Ethan and I watched as hundreds upon hundreds of folks entered the airport and pushed past that annoying line of people with bags that were blocking their way - what could they be doing there? - only to find out that the line they were rude to was the very line they had to go stand in. In their haste, they failed to recognize that they could not just walk up to the counter; they had to endure the long, snakelike line of people that was filled mostly with other, indignant, sheepish people that did the same thing.
Pompous: Arrrgg, my least favorite. Their scowls and upturned noses say it all: "Lines and carrying my own bags are for other people." "Can't you see that I am (pretty, rich, wearing blue...whatever) and that I deserve to go first?" People are not born this way, but they sure find a way to grow into their entitled state of mind. It is a sad day too when people allow it by actually caving in to their demands.
All-That-And-A-Bag-Of-Chips: Normally I playfully mock this type, but the day after Christmas is a fun time to see what Santa brought people. To me, what a person chooses to display (new clothes, new toys, etc.) right after Christmas is a window into the personal tastes of that person. Perhaps that is why I don't wear anything so obviously new right after Christmas. The kids with the logo hoodies, the 20-somethings with the new mp3 players and cell phones, the women with the crispy new purses and sweaters and the grandparents with the new ball cap and sweat suits. If you take time to notice, the newness and the recipients reaction to them, it is pretty obvious, and enjoyable. Hopefully, they gave something as special as they apparently received.
Grateful: Some folks were aglow, and my guess it was not due to the eggnog or gifts as much as the opportunity to be around their family during the holiday (or in fairness, maybe they were grateful that they finally go to go home??). In either case, they bore a comfortable, appreciative look like a baby who just got burped.
Intrepid: There was a young man who I recognized as a US Marine in the line today. He was not dressed in uniform, but he carried himself like many Marines and Former Marines (there are no ex-Marines I am told) I know and his nap sack carried his name and USMC insignia. Plus there was his look: Anticipatory, Proud and Appreciative of what he has. He was going back to the theatre of war, I'm certain of it. I don't suspect too many other people detected this Marine's presence or if they did perhaps, they were too busy to give him any special attention. Nonetheless, he accepted my nod of acknowledgement and appreciation. Good for him that he was able to see family and friends over the holiday before going back to work. Hopefully he will be home to enjoy next Christmas too.
In this world it is not what we take up, but what we give
up, that makes us rich.- Henry Ward Beecher
While all of this happening, we often take for granted that there are also thousands of men and women who did not get a chance to blink during the holidays. Spill apple cider in your lap while driving and wipe out a telephone pole? Your local Police, Fire and/or Rescue Personnel will be at your side in mere minutes to render aid. Additionally, the military employs an all volunteer armed force all over the world, including of course in war zones. Wars don't take naps and theirs is a rodeo that does not stop. And neither does the worry and loneliness for many military families that spent this holiday without connecting to their US Serviceman or woman.
So in between the leftover pie, recycling the boxes and wrapping paper and sneaking a ride down the driveway on little Joey's new skateboard, why not take a moment to thank publicly or privately the people that make our lifestyle so indulgent?
Because for us, the rodeo is an option. For them, it is part of the job.
25 December 2007
Ever notice that the people with the least means seem to give gifts with the most meaning?
Yet year after year we - the global "we" - seem to find it an almost irresistible draw to acquire more and more gifts so that our fake tree looks abundant like a Hallmark card. The power of Gifting over Giving is all around us....and few can find immunity. Can you relate? I can.
I hearken back to the story of the woman and man, hopelessly in love. A romance for the ages. The man had a majestic pocket watch but no chain with which to tether it. The woman had the most divine, long hair that flowed past her waist, but did not have a suitable brush with which to manage it. For Christmas, he secretly sold his pocket watch in order to buy her the most beautiful pearl handled brush he could find. Separately, she secretly cut off her gorgeous hair and sold it to a wig maker so she could afford a handsome and sturdy gold chain for her lover's watch. Their love was in the right place, but their desire to Gift instead of Give left them both a bit heart broken.
I will be the first to admit to the intoxicating effects of a great gift. Partly because of the person and the thought behind it, but partly because of the gift too. It is the nature of the beast, and we all play a part in feeding the beast.
When I look over the pile of gifts that were exchanged today, and squint my eyes little from the glare of the season (!), what I really see is Abundance. Not in gifts, but in a family near and far that I love and that loves me back. This has been a special year for us and among other things to be thankful for, the joy of having a new baby is a breathtaking experience.
We have abundance and indulgence this year...and I hope that we never, ever confuse the two... or fail to pick the pursuit of Abundance over the pursuit of Indulgence if forced to choose.
I aspire to someday have the fortitude to give a single, meaningful, non-US-trade-deficit-contributing gift to my family members...
Until then, like most Americans... I am going to go play with all my new toys...
24 December 2007
As I have opined before, having a stepchild is a unique experience and I have found that even the most well meaning folks don't fully understand or appreciate the uniqueness of being involved as a step parent until, well, they are a step parent themselves.
Certainly one of the features of living with a child that you did not actively participate in bringing into this world is the apparent lack of common DNA between step parent and step child. After all, even when you create a wonderful blend like cookies and cream, you can still taste the cookies and the cream.
So with all of that said, I am the most taken aback by the number of things that crop in Emily's repertoire that seem to favor her dear old step dad, moi. We have even been told that we look alike, in which we just giggle to ourselves.
One trait that that drives her mom nuts is Emily's sophomoric sense of humor that Tonya claims she gets from me. Emily and I can - and do - together or individually find a joke over the simplest of things and laugh our heads off. Tonya's eyes roll.
Her teacher's tell me that Emily has developed a penchant for creative writing and poetry also, two things that I enjoy; and what an honor if she decides to expand upon that talent in her life.
Because of my work, I have been fed - and therefore I have adopted - a steady diet of Pre-Planning. Tonya and Emily enjoy telling their friends and family about our family vacations where I present them with a binder that outlines our trip, our stops, our budget, our activities, and a back-up plan for each. I sleep like a baby. They both roll their eyes.
So this Christmas, you can see the irony - and my hidden joy - when yesterday Emily presented me and Tonya a printed Pre-Plan for Christmas morning. It includes a seating chart, a radio call system from her room to our room, a camera/video plan, a list of responsibilities, name tags, a staging area for presents, trash removal plan, a bow recycling plan and a badge (signed by the AHJ -Agency Having Jurisdiction: - us, her parents!) anointing herself as the "Official Christmas Gift Deliverrerrrr". No way could I make this up.
A printed seating chart for Christmas morning, with a trash removal plan? What more could a proud papa ask for? I am getting choked up just thinking about it!
23 December 2007
Occasionally, when he starts coo-ing, crying or spitting up, he gets my attention. Then my gaze breaks so I can spring into action. Then I go back to drooling over this little booger.
Tonya and I made a miracle. It started with a piece of me and a piece of her, then split like a GE Stock Split until he had all of his faculties; heart, lungs, family jewels, etc. Science can explain all of that, but it is still a miracle to me.
And that little miracle started out looking like a little Drunken Irishman.
I have been told by many, many people how much Ethan looks like me. As a Dad, what a great compliment. Unfortunately, I reply sheepishly, I don't see any resemblance. Really. We have some baby pictures of me and I do agree that there is a resemblance between the baby in the picture reported as me and Ethan. But the problem is that I don't see any resemblance between me as a baby and me as an adult so the comparison is moot. When I eventually see a resemblance or see signs of his inherited brilliance (remember, it's my story!), I am sure I will be even more smitten if that's possible.
Newborns have a decidedly non-human quality about them. And not that is not bad...it is just different.
My approach to newborns is inherited too because to my family growing up, other people's newborns also tended to look like little alien life forms. And so I certainly did not expect anything different from my own child. In fact, for 9 months we joked that we were having an Alien Baby (the space invader kind, not the foreign visitor kind) on the assumption that he would come out looking like a beautiful, special, one-of-a-kind, first class Alien. I was right of course and it was still a hopeless love affair from the get go.
Now that he is over 2 months old, he looks like a little Michelin Man with rolls of baby fat and cheeks that rival the king chipmunk of Chimpmunkville.
How funny that we label our children who can't defend themselves yet, huh?
I am not alone either apparently. I overheard this doozy from a store clerk the other day about one of her lovely children at birth: Spider Monkey covered in Cool-Aid.
The woman who told me that added that her son - the aforementioned Spider Monkey - was born via C-Section and it took her a few days to recover. When she finally was able to unite with her son and her husband (now ex!), she discovered that her son was officially named on the birth certificate in her absence by her now ex-husband with a name that was particularly offensive to the woman. A thrown vase ensued. I can only imagine the vibe that occurs whenever she uses her now older son's name.
I assume we all labor over naming our kids to insure that it's doesn't rhyme with gayrod or fink or that their initials don't get abbreviated to something obscene.
If Ethan Michael M. ever finds displeasure with his name and resents us for it, at least we can tell him that it was better than his various descriptions as an infant.....
22 December 2007
Did you know that there are nearly 7000 established languages in the world. And that does not account the lesser documented languages and their dialects such as:
- language between a parent and an infant
- language (non verbal) between a doubtful parent and a mischievous teen
- language between idiots, that only fellow idiots understand
- language using one's hands, such as in traffic to, you know, signal another driver
- language between spouses to signal "hey, let's blow this taco stand", when they have overstayed a party
Needless to say, the mere fact that we are able to communicate at all is a miracle, much less understand each other.
Some miscommunication occurs as a tendency to trip over our words, like in my earlier post titled "P for Hours" (click the title to be transported there). Make sure to read Jeff's story in the comment section ... funny stuff!
Some miscommunication occurs because we are speaking one one level, like adult-with-common-sense-speaking-clearly and the listener is listening in another level, like idiot-who-does-not-comprehend-common-sense-or-clarity. Why, if I had a dollar for every time.....
Some miscommunication occurs because one of us speaks in a complete sentence and another listens in a fragment. I read somewhere that students, including adult learners, only absorb a meager 25% of what we teach. Depressing, really. A common example this time of year would be:
It doesn't take a linguist or learning specialist to tell us which part of the sentence gets latched onto and which part gets ignored like yesterday's news.
Out of the thousands of languages, guess where English falls in terms of numbers of people who speak it? If you picked 3rd, then give yourself a dictionary and a pat on the back. Over 300 million mouths presumably know how to say finger lickin' good in English. But that is nothing compared to Mandarin Chinese (nearly 900 million people!), followed by Spanish (also over 300 million, with most of those now presumably in or headed to the United States).
So these holidays, when you are yelling for cousin Shmelvin's buddy who came up with him from Snake Eye, Tennessee to pass the Sweet Potato Casserole, keep in mind that he may think you are actually trying to flirt with him.
Communication can be soooo fragile.
21 December 2007
It was (ornament) balls to the wall at Emily and Tonya's school and we were invited.
First, Ethan was serenaded with Christmas Carols by a class of 2nd graders who were in her music class when we visited. I had forgotten that Ethan is already known by his nickname around those parts so he was initially greeted with a rousing salutation of "Hello Ethan Thunder Pants!" when we walked in. How sweet. Of course, I got him so lathered up about going to a party, he was fast asleep by the time we got there and he slept through the whole thing.
That is, until we got up to 6th Grade floor and joined the oh-so-cool 6th graders in their festivities. They were already in full 'sugar mortis' and having a baby in the room was like, well, Christmas to some of them. They could not hold him and then pass him around like a cheap date fast enough. And for this I am grateful: a) I brought an industrial sized bottle of hand gel and b) it was not someones birthday, as the frenzy of the event might have resulted in him being mistaken for a pinata.
It is an interesting social exercise to see people's reaction to baby's. To be sure, everybody has one (a reaction, crazy, not a baby!). Some are blase, some are hands off and some are baby mongers. I have encountered all of them and I think it is great. Especially when we can see it coming.
Tonight at another party we saw some good friends who have a little 2.5 year old boy who is all boy and very curious. His mom was holding Ethan and her little boy could not get enough of Ethan. He wanted to hold him, play with him and, we think, eat his fingers. Actually, there was a sense of awe and playfulness that he had that young kids seem to have but older kids and certainly adults sometimes lose. It was really neat to see how genuinely interested this boy was. For a second he reminded me of me when I first encountered Stretch Armstrong.
As a dog handler, I have travelled through many airports among lots and lots of people while in transit with my K9 partner. There I have noticed a similar social dynamic exists; people are either dog mongers, hands off or cautious, bordering on dis-interested.
I wonder if the same people that want to pet my dog would also want to hold my child? Or if the same person who glances away when they see a baby coo-ing at them would do the same if a dog were giving them the "I am adorable, give me cookie" gaze?
And lastly, I wonder if you let a pack of wild dog's loose in the school during the school's collective Christmas parties ... if you would be able to tell the wild kids apart from the wild dogs?
20 December 2007
It is hardly a big deal though, it is just the first time this season that we are all going in 3 different directions. Ethan doesn't get afforded his own direction yet. He is tethered to OWB/B (One With Breast or Bottle).
Tonya was off surreptitiously shopping for who knows what. She won't fall for any of my guilt trips designed to solicit clues any more, but if I were a bettin' man, I'd say cologne is on the list.
There is nary a chance this gifting/giving season will be like some in the past.
- We weren't in a financial, uh, marriage with our hospital to reimburse them for their excellent care of Tonya and Ethan for those oh so many days and nights.
- We do not (or do we? hmmm...) have any live animals to hide and to mute until Christmas morning.
Did you know that the word hospital is derived from the same Latin word, hospes, as did host, hotel and hospitality? Neat huh? Now go have some fun at your next holiday party and ask your party host for a bedpan and a gown that ties in back and let the fun begin.
But I digress...
You still think diamonds are a girls best friend? Fuggetaboutit, try live Rats. Sure, they don't go too well with a cocktail dress, but to see a little girl's eye's light up when she sees the little whiskers, the beady little eyes, the long, scaly tail....well, it is just priceless.
A few years ago, Emily did the research and wanted a rat, badly. Better than gerbils, hamsters, rabbits and Tasmanian Devils she said. We corroborated the research and sure enough, rats are cleaner, bite less and are more social than the other fur balls mentioned. Who knew?
Christmas Rat #1 was Sweetie Pie. Not a sweetie pie, but that was her name, Sweetie Pie. SP, as her monogrammed holiday stocking read, was gentle, playful and was actually a good little pet as far as rats go. Being the voracious researchers we are, by the time we made the move to find a rat, the available pet rat population in our metro area around Christmas time had diminished considerably (people have to feed snakes too, apparently!). So around town we go on Operation Vermin; and Sweetie Pie was eventually found, alone in a cage at a faraway store, with a gimp foot. That gimp foot became her calling card and is part of what made her endearing. She didn't know she had a gimp foot, until it eventually developed an infection that quickly took her life.
Dying is a very dull, dreary affair. And my advice to you is to have nothing whatever to do with it. - W. Somerset Maugham
The memorial service and subsequent backyard burial was, well, Sweet.
Here's to Sweetie Pie,
One heck of a rat;
So sweet & so special,
She was all of that!
She made us laugh,
She even made us think;
She was pretty to look at,
But boy did she stink!
There's never been a better rat,
And it was hard to say goodbye;
But happier memories are ahead,
So here's to Sweetie Pie!
Christmas Rat #2 was Squeaky Pie. Partly because she barked....no, silly, because she squeaked like a rusty wagon wheel and partly because I refused to buy new Christmas stockings for the fireplace every year; so the miniature stocking with "SP" was Emily's only option. Poor Squeakers only made it a month. Respiratory distress. Sudden onset.
We thought she had blockage so there we all were huddled on the bed, Emily having the come-a-parts, as we tried gallantly to fish the unknown object out of the rat's non-cooperative, squeaking mouth. No luck. So I ran to the Internet for a quick search and lo and behold....there are people that develop entire websites about vermin, I mean, Rat First Aid. Add those people to the same party with the bed pan and the spiked eggnog and then Katie bar the door! A funkified Rat Heimlich (yes, it's true) that was more like a trapeze act was deployed with no success. Then, the Rat People said...if all else fails, perform a modified CPR on the rat and - ready for this? - Suck The Object Out...
Folks, I may not be the best Dad; but it can never, ever be said that I do not love my kids. I sucked that rat's face. And sucked and sucked and sucked. Nothing but rat spit came out. And poor Squeaky died anyway. What a rat purgatory that must have been to have your last clear vision to be a grown man's mouth puckering-up over your whiskered schnoz.
Maybe we all need some spiked eggnog now.
[If you have friends, besides those at the humane society, that would find some enjoyment in the above tail :), click the below email icon and forward this entire post to the recipients of your choice.]
19 December 2007
Yikes. Sound familiar? And of course it is often an isolated story from Winslow Arizona ("and such a fine sight to see...") where a horny toad got mixed up in the green bean casserole and little Susy's parents fed the video of the deceased lizard to the media before suing everyone this side of Hogsnart.
Well, I saw something a little different on the news the other day...
First, the back story: a couple of months ago a bright, popular college student gave a deceptively nice guy a ride from a convenience store in the middle of the night near her college. A few days later, her burned, mutilated body was located by searchers in a ditch. Bad guy ran to Mexico. The police caught him and are presumably explaining the finer workings of our criminal justice system, including the sterility of the lethal injection (so he doesn't get an infection of course). Horrific on many levels and as I mentioned previously, be assured that the fine officers who worked on that case day and night are changed in some way by yet another instance of inhuman treatment of others.
Well, the parents of that murdered co-ed were grateful to the dedicated law enforcement effort that solved their daughter's murder, as I am sure most of us would be.
These parents though took it a step further. They hosted a very public ceremony and publicly thanked each and every officer and US marshal that worked on their daughter's case. The grieving parents designed and passed out custom made coins (like challenge coins in the military) with their daughter's name and an inspirational message on it for the officer's to carry with them as a reminder of their dedication when things got tough. They also summoned the news camera's with the stated goal to publicly honor, congratulate and thank the men and women who worked on their case. No grandstanding by the parents, no obvious hidden agenda, no pandering for favors and no political stump speeches. Just honest to goodness thanks - on a gloriously grand scale - for those who did what is often a thankless job.
Wow. How often do we see that? Even better, how often do we do that?
It is hard to throw a penny anymore without hitting someone that operates under the disguise of selfless service...yet really swims in a self congratulatory, ego-maniacal delusion. It is more common that we think. It is therefore especially refreshing to see an example of what appears to be real service and real thanks.
If you know someone that does that too, why not do something special for them? Maybe it will catch on....
We will return to the prepubescent humor tomorrow, okay?
18 December 2007
Picture this. I say to Ethan, "Good heavens, Son, what is that smell?" I check his diaper and it is clean as a dia..., well it is at least non-poopified at the moment. And then he spits up as if to spite me. Then we proceed to the usual suspects; a dog with a guilty look. They are terrible liars aren't they? Well, they are outside enjoying some dog time, a safe distance away from being framed for anything.
Trash can? Nope, emptied today. Emily's closet? Probably not...that smell is usually a little more pronounced plus it comes with its own cloud. Maybe a barnyard animal urinated on me when I wasn't looking?
You think I am kidding. Once upon a time we were searching a barnyard for a lost boy who was later found deceased, an innocent victim of another monster boyfriend to the child's mother..... Well, the barnyard had goats with cute little beards. How cute with the little beards and how cute that they like to rub up against us. It was not until later that I learned that the goats, all males, whizzed on their own beards and then rubbed their beards on stuff to mark their territory. Like dogs, only sneakier. Bad, bad goats. Boy did I stink that day. A bad day all around.
My second urine interlude is about fox pee. Seriously folks, go to your lawn & garden store and smell this stuff...you will never, ever be the same. Emily and I do it sometimes just to be gross while the clerks just roll their eyes. Then we laugh about how in tarnation the fox pee people actually harvest the fox pee. We envision a game of drawing straws, with the loser taking a Dixie Cup, and hopefully a steady hand (!), into the habitat to collect their sample. Sounds like a great episode for "Dirty Jobs" on Discovery.
But I digress...
So my inner voice says, "man, I hope that is not ME that stinks!" So I do the male two-step sniff test: smell my breath in my hand and then sniff each arm pit. I pass inspection. I did after all just shower - with soap AND water this time - for goodness sake.
So being the clue conscious guy that I am, I started to wonder why a) Ethan's eye's watered when he got near me b) the dog's sniffed me and then wanted to immediately go back outside in the fresh air c) Emily begged to go into her room to do her homework (she has immunity from her closet I guess) and d) Tonya gave me look #73458, you know the one guys: "I love you dear, but part of me misses the days when you took better care of your hygiene in order to impress me and to promote intimacy."
So, alone and ostracized by my very own family (whimper, whimper), I reconstruct my day piece by miserable piece to figure out what I ate or touched that created such a funkified odor.
Ah ha! My cologne! I recently pulled the suspect bottle out of the back-fill basket and it had turned as rancid as an 1000 year old duck egg.
You hear about the blond that went to the doctor complaining that her whole body hurt wherever she touched it? The doctor could not duplicate her pain so the doctor asked her to demonstrate. The blond touched her forefinger on her knee and yelled "ow!", then touched her forefinger on her shoulder and again an "ow!". After a few more similar touches, the doctor announced the problem: her forefinger was broken. Duh.
So, the moral of the story is...if it smells like a gladiator's armpits everywhere around you, wherever you are then to be on the safe side, either don a tunic, a sword and a shield and call yourself Spartacus...or go take a shower.
|Lay it on me:|
17 December 2007
Nope. Just an "Open for 24 Hours" sign with the "O", "en", and "24" missing. Never let it be said that my family can not entertain itself.
Cheap entertainment I tell ya. We can giggle and guffaw for, well, minutes at least, over a few well placed, burned out light bulbs.
But wait, there's more!
Spoon-er-ism ; (spōō'nə-rĭz'əm) ; A reversal of sounds in two words, with humorous effect. Spoonerisms were named after William Spooner, an English clergyman and scholar of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. In one spoonerism attributed to him, he meant “May I show you to another seat?” but said, “May I sew you to another sheet?”
These are mostly funny to Emily because spoonerisms seem to occur most often, and are detected the most often, when Tonya or I are in mid lecture.
I am often reminded of this one, circa 2005:
"Emily! Enbrage your Gain!"
Of course I was nearly in full rigor at the time and my command of the situation was well, commanding (hey, it's my story). That is, until my above unfortunate spoonerism. Emily, who was dutifully taking the load of, uh, wisdom from me at the time, could not contain her chuckle. And of course neither could Tonya, who was trying not to spray Diet Coke from her nose. And after 7 month's, 3 weeks, 4 days and 17 hours of licking my pathetic wounds of my masterpiece lecture being sabotaged by a *#$*%^# spoonerism, I got to where I couldn't contain my chuckle either.
I hope ol' Bill Spooner got beat up by the bike racks for inventing such a dastardly piece of verbiage.
And now you know why my blog is in editable, written form instead of in some Live format.
Here's wishing that you and yours are having your own feap chun.
16 December 2007
It has been a couple of years since we sent one out even though they were usually well received, plus we greatly enjoy the letters we receive from our friends. Right or wrong, it is often the only way we know what the hap's are with our friends that we don't communicate with that often throughout the year.
Another advantage about yearly family status letters is that the we get to tell the story. I first learned the value of this when Former President Reagan left office. He said goodbye from the oval office and addressed the nation with his list of notable accomplishments. Absent on his national telecast of course were the more controversial events in his presidency such as the Iran-Contra Affair. Entering an age of greater political awareness at that time, I followed the debate and criticism of his 'sanitized' farewell. It was noted by my father that it was Reagan's farewell story and he earned the right to tell it as he pleased. Touche.
So if ever send it out, the recipients of this year's letter will hear about our family vacation, the birth of our son and the death of our stalwart K9. Here is a partial list of our Iran-Contra-esque items that will probably not make the cut to be in our annual story:
- Ethan puking milk up my nose because I was jostling him after eating while holding him over my face.
- Me (aka Captain Pre-Plan) running out of gas on a busy highway after bickering with Tonya about something, then having to eat crow when I call her back begging for help.
- Losing my marbles with a bunch of 'tweens who came to a soccer tourney to goof off instead of compete.
- Tonya's ear's plugging up aka “pluhgdb ubd” 23 hours every day for 8 months due to pregnancy rhinitis (gosh, I never thought we would live long enough to joke about that!)
- Our garage door having to be replaced because gravity and continuous electrical current wins over an 11 year old's wish for the door to magically return to its track by pressing the button 78 thousand times. Ever see aluminum crumple like paper?
- Eating a 1000-year-old duck egg at a Halloween Party because I thought it would be a good illustration to Emily about the importance of expanding our comfort zone (who wasn't even there at the time it turns out). Yuck.
15 December 2007
Tonya is a great role model for Emily because Tonya is never intimidated by a mixed assortment of fixin's. She can enter a cupboard that mere mortals would agree as being barren and emerge 30 minutes later with a James Beard Foundation award winner. Amazing, and yummy.
Back to Emily. She loves pancakes. It's her thing. And it's our thing to encourage her to gain experience in the things that she loves. Which brings us to ground zero, our kitchen, at 0900 this morning.
The distant and under-developed cousin to the more popular pancake.
And boy, did she make a mess.
Of course, therein lies an opportunity as a parent to nurture, encourage, coach and inspire our kids to learn, to develop and to never quit. Right?
Or we could laugh hysterically at the dog-dookie morsels stuck to the pan.
Well, being the equality based opportunists we are, we did both.
It is said that Thomas Edison himself attempted to make a functioning light bulb 1000 times before finally constructing a design that could maintain illumination. When asked how he could possibly have maintained a positive outlook in the face of such consistent failure he replied..."I did not fail 1000 times to make a light bulb, I succeeded in finding 1000 ways to not make a light bulb."
Today Emily has very much made her family and her long heritage of family chef's proud. And I bet not one of them has ever succeeded in that unique way to learn how not to make pancakes.
Oh, and I also bet I know how Spencer's developed the prototype for fake dog dookie.
14 December 2007
The first shopping mall in the US was opened in Duluth Minnesota in 1915 and since then we haven't looked back. The United States, home of capitalism, leads the world in retail space. It is estimated that there is over 20 square feet of retail space for every person in America. Wow. The Swedes are a distant second with only 3 square feet allotted per person. And the money that flows into the retailer's pockets that occupy that retail space? How about $4.2 Trillion dollars per year, or 12 thousand smackers per person. Now you know how they can afford all those fancy lighting displays.
You would think that with that much money flowing in support of our free enterprise economy, that people would be in a better mood. Or not.
We did note a few smiles though:
Smile #1: The teenage parking attendant smiled as I approached to ask where in the heck the NowayamIsquealing boutique's (thought you would catch me, eh?) entrance was. What? A teenager actually smile at a dude with a kid? Right. Turns out his smile was actually directed at the passel of teenage girls standing behind me. No wonder that parking flow was a disorganized zoo.
Smile #2: A grandmother with her grandchild who saw me standing patiently outside the family bathroom waiting for a door to open (I was there when she went in to 1 of the 3 family rooms and was still there waiting when she came out). "They're all open, honey, you just go in and get what you need." Her smile was one of pity, followed closely by a smirk that seemed to say "holy cow....tell me that guy didn't procreate". I am sure I looked like the chicken in the arcade game waiting for the corn kernel to signal me to go in the door.Smile #3: The nice lady in the Notgonnatellyou store (nice try!) smiled. She was quite friendly and she listened patiently as I bragged about Ethan's helper status and his resiliency to the cold, the wet and the nasty...and oh yeah, the inclement weather too. She was a mother or grandmother too and she seemed pleased that Ethan didn't have bird poop on him or other bad Daddy evidence. She smiled as she helped me, and even carried my selections to the counter for me. Of course now that I think about, she was probably just guarding against me slipping something into Ethan's stroller and making a stroll, I mean a run, for it. So, a smile of skepticism perhaps.
Smile #4: Another parking attendant. This guy was older, dressed like an elf and was standing outside in the cold rain. He was trying his best to help the mass of shoppers enter and exit the parking lots without getting squished like a grape by a runaway SUV. And even though he maintained a spring in his step and a cheer in his voice, he was ignored by the haute couture crowd like it was a sport. I smiled at him, because anybody that does a job that involves a high incidence of arrogant humps and that requires wearing a funny hat, definitely deserves a smile. And he smiled back, with a knowing and appreciative grin. Hopefully he is somewhere warm, dry and with some decent humans around him tonight. Perhaps he will be laughing about the pitiful human condition that is rude to a guy whose sole job was to make their shopping easier and safer, and they instead rush by so they can pander to the other "have's" over a latte and posture over who has the pricier handbag. What a world.
What have you done to increase the level of human happiness today?
But the last - and very best - laugh was Ethan's as he let out his first gut busting giggle today.
The smile that Ethan gave me could have powered that mall's entire lighting display.
13 December 2007
I had a dog that in his early days, he and I were urban pioneers; living the single, downtown lifestyle. We would spend our evenings exploring the nooks and crannies of the mean streets of our large metropolis, off lead (yep, both of us!). Well, he discovered the panoply of items that are available at homeless encampments, including, yes, their bathroom, as austere as it was. So there lay the foundation for a lifetime of fascination and dare I say wanderlust for finding and dining on the fecal matter of homeless people. I'll let that sink in for a moment.
So, in his later, more dignified life, he had a job that rivalled many college graduates: he was trained and deployed regularly as a human remains recovery dog. And he was exceptionally successful at it too. Since I promised to keep it PG rated around here, I won't go into the R-Rated explanation of what happens to decomposing humans, but suffice to say, what is not attached very well on the inside is often, uh, jettisoned to the outside. Anyway, every working dog has issues...some we can live with, some we can't. Thankfully, he and I managed, despite his inner yearning for ... the poop.
But I digress.... (and, you ask, how can I possibly digress from THAT this time??)
We actually do feed our dogs believe it or not. But, like kids, they need activity to calm the busy mind and they need gooey stuff to be out of arms/paws reach. Our pups have not received much attention since Ethan busted out of his Mom and into our hearts. In fact, they have not had much interaction with us since the little booger tried to get out the first time. They each have reacted a little differently. Unlike humans, who are usually jockeying for some position of advantage, dog's are content with a place. Any place. Just as long as it is consistent and well communicated. We human types should be so lucky.
Our omega dog, Sierra, is a pet in the truest sense of the word. Very compliant, very eager to please, and obviously very interested in the Jelly inside Ethan's diaper. As long as she has a place on the bottom of our family's hierarchy, she is happy; genuinely happy. Our other dog, whom Emily nicknamed 'The Moo', is a little more ambitious. She waited a long time to earn the top dog spot in our hierarchy and when our beloved Boomer died, she slid right in with a glint in her eye. Her level of frustration with Ethan's arrival was a little greater until she learned that Ethan is and will be higher than her in the family food chain. Dang-nabbit! you can almost hear her say. Oh sure, she is happy that she has a place, just not happy that she is back to playing second fiddle again. Lucky for us, all she wants is EFOTRBB (Endless Fetching of the Red Bouncing Ball). But like an addict, for her there is never enough E to the FOTRBB.
If I wouldn't have stopped her today, 'The Moo' would have secreted herself in the boxes inside the UPS Truck and gone home with the treat-dispensing driver. She made the effort too, hopping around in the back of the truck on the boxes like the circus monkey I think she secretly wants to be.
Speaking of circus monkey's, I am reminded on many occasions the similarities between dogs and humans. And those who are just learning about me are probably horrified at that seemingly half baked notion. Those that know me, on the other hand, know that my observations and comparisons are well informed. And so it is.
We can learn a lot from dogs (uh oh, here's come that long soliloquy of pop psychology!). Besides the unconditional love, patience (above exceptions granted), low expectations and loyalty, dog's are present. They are in the moment. The only time their eyes glass over is when there is a pork loin on the counter. They are always in the here and now. If you have ever had a dog that you have bonded to, then you know.
Since there are 60 million dogs in the US spread out among 65% of US households, I surmise that a lot of you know the benefits of a dog in the family. So statistically, if you don't have a dog, then your neighbor does. Not all dogs, or people, are so lucky though.
Of the millions of dogs housed in shelters across the United States, over half of them are destroyed each year due to overpopulation. Common overpopulation epidemics are caused by parents buying cute puppies for their kids that grow up to be unmanageable heathens that must be relegated to the back yard. And the dogs must be banished from the family home too. :) Surely we can improve upon our gift giving.
K9 overpopulation is a sad state of affairs any way you look at it. Especially so for the dog on the business end of the lethal injection because he was brought into a world that wouldn't give him a home.
So Sierra's diaper shenanigans were part of what makes her a special, albeit occasionally scorned, part of our family. Note to self: I should remember to keep Sierra out of that room since feeding meat tenderizer to Ethan so his poop is undesirable to the dogs probably won't get by Tonya's eagle eye, or nose.
And finally, if you happen to receive a precocious lab that answers to 'The Moo' delivered by UPS, please send her back. Tell her I promise to play with her more tomorrow.
12 December 2007
Well, kind of. I debated breastfeeding in the estrogen ocean known as iVillage.com. Yikes.
So, how 'bout them Cowboys? (he says trying to regain his confident, manly swagger).
Actually, it wasn't too bad. I learned a lot, gained even more respect for what mothers do for the little peeps among us and was reminded how darn lucky I am to have a wife who works with me on being a parent instead of claws my eyes out. Some of the women were writing from prison, I'm sure of it.
What the bleepity bleep (to Emily: how's that?) was I thinking you ask? Well, when I was a young man, I learned a valuable, lasting lesson. By reading Cosmo and Glamour, I could learn a heck of alot more about those beguiling women folk than if I read GQ or Field & Stream. It was a bit of an epiphany for my testosterone laden 20 year old, uh, brain and women started to make a whole lot more sense to me then. Some might say I married my first wife for her Cosmo and Glamour collection, but alas, she ended up having her eye on another guy's Fields & Streams instead. We live. We learn. So I later was in the right place at the right time and entered into my relationship with Tonya Terrific with every ounce of luck, determination, commitment, love and handbag advice than those novice GQ readers would ever have. What a lucky duck I am.
But I digress....
iVillage and the like are parenting water holes. Once I get the hang of it, I will be able to learn more real life parenting tips than in a week of Sunday's using other data gathering methods. And with a newborn, I have some catching up to do. Perhaps too, there are some future Daddios Daily Dose readers there. Wouldn't that pump up the fun?
Here are some excerpts from my visit on a couple of boards in the village today:
"I'm not sure of your point"
"I'm trying to see things your way, but I can't get my head up my butt"
"It's refreshing to see a dad's voice around here!"
"You are right and we are all wrong, where have you been all of of our lives?" (Okay, so I embellished that last one...give a guy a dream will ya?)
Maybe I should plan my day more carefully next time. I promised Tonya that I would keep a light schedule this week so that Ethan and I could get into a rhythm. So in the absence of a plan other than to jive with Ethan, I allowed myself to be washed adrift in the sea of estrogen. Perhaps I shouldn't have taken her so literally?
So what does a man debate a bunch of experienced mom's about breastfeeding and parenting on an on-line message board? Well, apparently not very much. Here are my takeaways:
- There are apparently 7 year olds in Australia that still breastfeed. (The original point of debate. Not whether there should be 7 year olds or breastfeeding down under, but whether a 7 year should still be breastfeeding at age 7).
- There are, in the US, only about 17% of mothers that breastfeed beyond one year, and only about 6% continue beyond 18 months, as of 2003. (Thanks Toni).
- Those 6% are collectively lying in wait on iVillage, like lionesses in the Serengeti that haven't eaten since last month, for a man to suggest that long term breastfeeding might promote dependency in kids.
- There is a concept called Child Wed Leaning, where presumably children in 3rd world countries get married on the side of a steep mountain. Wait, this just in....the nuevo concept is actually Child Led Weaning. Oh, that makes much more sense. No wonder they were offended!
So in conclusion: breasts are good, breast milk is very good and for today's safety message, remember to take your water wings with you if you go swimming in the ocean without a lifeguard.