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Monday, December 29, 2008

Christmas is Important.

In lieu of getting some video and pics up for your perusal yesterday, El Comodoro was shocked, shocked to learn that he had amassed 93 GB of data on his 93-point-whatever GB hard drive. So no videos were uploaded, no pictures were scrubbed and posted. Sue me. The immense fun of archiving old, yet somehow important data to DVDs was had for about 3 wonderful hours. You're ticked. I'm tired. We're even.

Jackbaby had a terrible night last night. The Captain has gotten the sniffles and a little cough. Too much ruthless pillaging, not enough nap time, if you ask me. And not to be outdone, Her Majesty feels terrible, too. I always knew this day would come, and that I should blow town when it did. But I managed to resist the impulse, though, and tried to help out as much as possible. Which, OK, wasn't much at all, but you're not surprised by that. Neither am I.

I had the best Christmas in memory. The house wasn't (and isn't) completely unpacked, and was barely decorated, but we had ourselves a grand old time. And the feast. Wowwy, the feast. Her Majesty really excelled on this one. The only description I can give is Macedonian, since we did some basic Greek, with some curry. Alexander himself never ate so well. Oh, and the 2nd Annual Rhubarb Pie showed up. Serviceable, but I need practice.

The highlight of Christmas morning was Jack in his new Rainforest Jumperoo. I said in the past that the Baby Einstein Playmat is the nuclear option in baby pacification. I stand by that, but now clarify that the playmat is a nuclear option. It's the A-bomb (primitive yet effective) with the jumperoo being equivalent to the H-bomb (far more complex, and exponentially more powerful). So we set the Skipper in this thing, and the look on his face is just inexplicable. And hilarious. I think my comment was that he looked like he was doing integral calculus. And then the jumping started. And the lights. And the insane music. And the wheels-off animal noises. The kid looked like he was at a rave. I'm telling you, some quality video was captured. For at least AN HOUR he's partying like it's 1999. We get I think two more hour-long sessions in on Christmas Day, and we pour the exhausted baby into his crib. What a show.

I think we were pretty indifferent about, well, Christmas Past. It was nice, but it was just us. And First Mate Belle, of course. Now it's almost like the new found pressure makes it even more fun... knowing that some little person is depending on you to provide them with happy memories. Or at a minimum, non-traumatic ones! So I'm all-in next time. Dinners, decorations, the aforementioned Griswold-type illumination (pending approval from H.M.), you name it, yours truly is bringing serious game in 2009, LORD willing. And speaking of Him, I've rediscovered the significance of Christmas in a religious sense, something that, fascinatingly, isn't popular in some necks of the CofC woods. Without exploring that theological issue (you're welcome), I'll say simply thank God for the Lord Jesus and his appearing, that gives hope where there wasn't any! Gosh, I love Christmastime.

Really, 2008 has given some perspective on the importance of family traditions in general. As great as this country is (and it is phenomenally great, don't kid yourself with the now fashionable America-loathing), we're evolving into a country without traditions. Since no holiday seems especially important, nothing is really expected in celebration of it. I'm changing that insofar as I'm able. My family will know roughly what to expect on Christmas Day, on Thanksgiving and on the Fourth. Maybe a bland point for most, but try missing or almost missing a few big holidays. Not cool. We're still in negotiations on National Day of the Cowboy (July 26th) and Love Litigating Lawyers Day (August 31st).

The Top Brass came down on Friday/Saturday, and brought Captain Jack a haul of booty to line his coffers, along with First Mate Belle, back from shore leave! Jack loves his many new books especially, one of which even plays sounds from the Malay rainforest. I don't know if you've ever sailed near the Malay rainforest before, but there is some wacky stuff going down over there. I think some of los animales play brass instruments.

Monday, December 22, 2008

A Festivus for the Rest of Us

Merry Christmas! Or "Happy Christmas" as my wonderful Irish neighbor says. I've just offended a small grumpy percentage of you that consider yourselves progressive intellectuals. More precisely, I've probably only offended you by possibly offending some nebulous other group, which is really even more comical. Now get up and dust yourselves off so we can start.

"There had to be another way!"
This year, the normal Christmas activities are pretty much out the window for the House of Comodoro. The wheels have officially come off. Instead of shopping for inane gifts, fighting like children for parking spaces down at Highland Village, or visiting the emergency room after accidents related to Griswoldy lighting, we were moving. Yeppers, there's nothing that says Christmas like bleaching out your refrigerator and putting in shelf-liner.

"I find tinsel distracting."
So we've gone kinda Festivus. Just making the holiday up as we go. We have a few nice rituals, starting with the The Scattered Boxes. And there's the Cursing of the Previous Movers. And the Screeching Baby Singalong (It sounds exactly like this). And most important of all, don't forget the Naked Christmas Tree. Ornaments? Ornaments?! We don't need no steenking ornaments!

The Airing of the Grievances
You should know, I'm hurt. The skipper is both disappointed and furious. NO QUESTIONS from our illustrious readers. Fine. Be that way. Not even any comments. Great horny toads, you people are a tough crowd. You're splashing for a lashing, is all I can say. Be ye warned!

And now, The Feats of Strength!
I've been instructed to tell you that Captain Jack was such a good, sweet little baby on move day. He napped off and on all day long below decks of Home Port 2.0, letting the crew go about their many labors. He also looked great in his new Christmas outfit at church, and visited El Tiempo to show it off. The Cap'n even got outfitted with a new reindeer touque when we were out shopping in the friz-eez-zin' cold yesterday. Seriously, it was actually good and cold. Windy, too. Don't hassle me, you northern-climes types.

I ran across some interesting factoids in a Men's Health magazine survey. By the by, that's one heckuva magazine for the average male. Need a shoulder-friendly gym exercise? Want to improve your slap shot (one of my favorites)? Which tie goes with what shirt? The best thing to eat for breakfast? What to get your lady for her birthday? Thou shalt be enlightened. Oh yeah, the survey. Behold:
If you have children, have they brought you more joy or less joy than you had expected?
71% More joy
7% Less joy (Ouch.)
22% About what I expected

Is having children more or less work than you expected?
57% More work
9% Less work (Either very pessimistic folks or bad parents)
34% About what I expected

How has having children affected your marriage?
46% Improved it
18% Worsened it (Colic?)
36% No change (Complete liars or the downright unobservant)
-Men's Health, January/February 2009 (emphasis and snarky parentheticals added)
I'm still hung up on the "Less joy" crowd. What did these people expect? Levitation?!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Independently Verified: The Perfect Baby

Our wonderful yet fearsome ship's doctor, Dr. P (a.k.a The Tigress, if you'll remember) has struck again. First off, Jack suffered another prickly experience at his most recent checkup, the first of which was graphically described a few weeks ago. I'm told Her Majesty was far better prepared this time and held herself together pretty well. Your correspondent luckily missed the traumatic event as he was on assignment in another part of Port of Houston. Dr. P is quite the fan of our little El Guapo, who uses a plethora of moves to impress the ladies. She declared him "THE PERFECT BABY!" Eat your heart out, Lord Nelson.

Final stats at 17 weeks were 14 lbs. 7 oz. (42nd percentile), 26 1/2 inches long (94th percentile - we're in talks with several NBA teams now) and 41.25 cm head circumference (25th percentile).

Next, Majesty finally obeyed the previously discussed flu-shot mandate (after refusing my offer of a draught of lime juice and quinine bark). Shockingly, Thursday night H.M. turned ill from the blasted thing.

So with that in mind, Thursday night basically went down like this for unhelpful dad: DEAD SLEEP... can you get me a blanket... DEAD SLEEP... get me a spit up diaper... DEAD SLEEP... Would you burp him... DEAD SLEEP... change him... DEAD SLEEP... get him to go to sleep... DEAD SLEEP... walk with him around the freezing apartment for an hour... DEAD SLEEP... give him some Baby Tylenol... DEAD SLEEP... 4:45 alarm... There are other details I can't divulge, as I'm constrained by our mission statement (see at right). Needless to say no punishing workout got done that morning.

Had a massive tailwind propelling HMS Tahoe as we went up to do the Texas family Christmas/Thanksgiving in Fruitvale. Behold the wonder of Google Street View! Had a really nice time with the Top Brass and assorted Family People, showing Jack off to whoever would look at him and listen to us. First Mate Belle had such a great time that she requested extended shore leave (granted) and is still up there at Camp W. It's just as well she's away while we move into Home Port 2.o/The House of Many Colors this week. We experienced an equally massive headwind with choppy seas for travel back to Port of Houston yesterday, but a nice trip all the same.

In other news, Jack now loves to "fly" around the apartment a'la Superman and has an annoying habit of suddenly trying to leap out of one's arms. In fact, his preferred method of riding around is to lean out away from you at near-horizontal staring straight down towards the abyss. He takes special enjoyment in going out on our fourth-story balcony (third if you're Britishly inclined) for the view from the crow's nest.

All this enjoyment of heights, free climbing and danger makes me wonder if I've got a future Airborne Ranger or Navy SEAL on my hands. Or maybe just a ne'er-do-well participant in the X-Games.

I'm remiss in posting pics, but hope to remedy that this week. Ah! Forgot to mention that as a new feature on CJMP, the Captain answers YOUR questions. Yes, friends and neighbors, you heard correctly, the skipper will opine on any topic! So uh, fire away and give us some uh, cannon fodder for future posts. No question is too big or too small. What brand of diapers wins Jack's ringing endorsement? What does he expect from the building tension in the Middle East? What REALLY goes on aboard a tall ship? You only have to ask, and it's FREE - unlike that 5 cent hack Lucy van Pelt.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Up Against the Wall Stay-At-Home Mother

Captain Jack must be listening to too much Jerry Jeff Walker and/or Ray Wylie Hubbard (and probably other dudes with three handles) in his cabin. He commanded the Order of the Day to be an ill-conceived, constrained writing tribute to his hard working momma, Her Majesty, who's imperial...ish...ness is, uh, way cool. I should note here that writer's block has struck the crew with force. I digress.

So in the interest of bad writing, I think it's time to introduce the dreaded acrostic to CJMP. Used by the talent-impaired for millennia, it was just a matter of time before yours truly had to stoop to this level. I know, I'll be dumber in the execution, and you'll be dumber in the reading, but I'm working with wet powder here, and the grim knowledge that no one besides one Ryan Gentry, Esq. will appreciate this.
ATTENTION ALL HANDS: THE FOLLOWING IS A TRIBUTE TO MY LOVELY MOTHER, NURSEMAID, CAREGIVER AND CONSTANT SLAVE. LISTEN UP OR FACE THE LASH!
H is for Heroine. Daddy slipped me a piece of eight to throw in this one.
E is for "Ewww!" when I plaster spit up all over Mommy.
R is for Rigging. I'm four months old, cut me a break.
M is for Milk. Or Mommy. Nah, I'm sticking with Milk.
A is for Mommy's Arms that I pretty much try to injure and fatigue 24 hours a day.
J stands for Jolly Roger and Jack Needs Changing.
E is for Egregious Stay-At-Home-Mom Work Schedule.
S is for Stressed out mommy.
T is for T-Bird. Uncle Ryan, you're welcome.
Y is for Yellow, the wonderful color of spit up...
BACK TO YOUR SWABBING, ETC. THAT IS ALL. -J.M.W., CAPT.
Aw, sing it for Mama! That's funny, now I can't seem to remember my way home from the cinnabar mines. Hmmm.

In local news, Jack is using his hands to grasp just about any item possible, and then pulling said items into his mouth a'la the Death Star. He refuses to nap on weekdays, poring over charts and taking sights with the sextant, quite grumpy as he fritters away the time finding north on the compass. Again. On weekends, however, the skipper can be persuaded by a certain member of the crew to nap all the time, not just on the night watch. And in between barking orders as to the way the sails should be set to his satisfaction, he will on occasion join the crew in a round of Christmas carols. Really. It's hilarious.

Well, look on the bright side. There's nowhere for this blog to go but up, now. I hope.

Monday, December 1, 2008

#18

Back in the good old days when Dave Matthews Band was cranking out songs like a nickel jukebox, every once in a good while they would cut a song that for whatever reason they gave a number in place of a title. Maybe it was lack of creativity, maybe it was understated humor, but whatever it was, it was cool. If Heinz 57 could get away with it, why not them? And why not me? I give you, dear readers, #18.

I could regale you with the near-Olympic distances the Captain has reached in his projectile spitup fits. But I won't. I could tell of the Captain's (and crew's) withering hatred of I-10's construction zones and the infernal French clogging them. But that's old news. I could clue you into how cute the little guy is when he gets to cooing like a pigeon on morphine. Yawn. I did, in fact, retrieve the entire Court from the Port of Mobile yesterday after having a very nice Thanksgiving with Our People over at the Admiralty. But I pretty much retrieve them every weekend, it seems. Or there's the one where a member the crew makes an absolute fool of himself at an engagement party for Jack's Uncle Jay using a lamp, a rug, and a MUCH shorter-than-anticipated cord (you fill in the rest). Fun and interesting? Sure it is.

But what sticks in my mind about the past week was something odd. You're shocked, I know. The background is that I'm a closet fan of radio and TV evangelists (I think I inherited this trait from my dad). Some are really good, with excellent, Biblical points and honey-smooth voices, and some are the ones with the ridiculous-at-any-point-in-American-history accents with equally ridiculous theology. Well, I happened on the tail-end of a sermon on the wireless set of HMS Tahoe while seriously clipping along a little east of Port of Houston.

So this guy's lesson was on the 127th Psalm, a psalm I had overlooked for a long time (I'll use KJV since that's what he preached out of and it's gorgeous in this passage):

Lo, children are an heritage of the LORD: and the fruit of the womb is his reward. As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of the youth. Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them: they shall not be ashamed, but they shall speak with the enemies in the gate.

His best point, and this dude had many fine ones, was in exploring the metaphor of kids as arrows. When do you aim an arrow? When it's in your hand. Duh, right? But think about that. A lot of parents are trying to aim when the arrow is already in flight. Too late, dad. Too late, mom. Arrows can go places where even the mighty man cannot. They can go or be sent places parents can't go. Talk to people we can't talk to. Do things that we can't do, for good or ill. They can even deal with enemies. Well, of course this is powerful weaponry we're talking about, right? It's a scary thing to me; not only the admonition to "aim" Jack correctly, but knowing that there's a moment coming when I won't be able to anymore. An arrow leaves the string in a hurry.

Having a quiver full of arrows in ancient times was the culmination of many tens, maybe even hundreds of hours of design and hard work. If you've ever taken the time to learn how to build arrows, like I have (and yes I had a lot of free time growing up) you realize how painstaking the process is. Finding the perfect raw arrow shaft, bending it with steam if necessary, getting the sinew or fiber into a workable state, making a point, fletching the arrow, all these things are hugely time-intensive. So you don't just go lobbing these masterfully constructed things just anywhere, and you invest a lot in their preservation and repair.

I kept coming back to that - realizing the immense value of what I have in my hand. For now.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Of Bilge Water and Franksgiving

A quick post this morning for all Captain Jack aficionados:

On Friday, yours truly took a half day at the Hard Labor Camp to ferry the skipper, Her Majesty, and first mate Belle (and their accoutrements, which filled about 175% of the cargo hold) over to the Port of Mobile by way of New Orleans in HMS Tahoe. JackBaby was a good sport for most of the ride, which, as is customary, was plagued with 5 knot traffic in no less than 4 spots. Don't get me started on the infernal French and their sticky marzipan hands crowding the sea lanes. The Cap'n, irritable by that time, was nigh on to lighting up the eight-inch guns to make a path through the rabble.

We arrived late to New Orleans, where I was hastily sent off to get changed into a full dress uniform for Uncle Jay's First Annual Bachelor Party. All of his very best people were there (of course), including brothers, cousins, friends, current and future in-laws, well wishers and hangers-on of all sorts and stripes. Meanwhile Her Majesty was trying to weasel out of the grim task of sailing Jack on to The Admiralty in Mobile by herself. It was a risky move, but I shoehorned her into it anyway. I'm told that Jack went all-in Hiroshima about 30 minutes out from port. Another instance of jerky E.C. dodging a major catastrophe.

I got the story last night of Jack springing a leak in church while Bebe was holding him. I reckon his stuffing box leaked and the bilge pumps somehow failed. Everything in sight ended up dripping wet. I'll bet the preacher was glad the pulpit was on higher ground. Jack's blatant disregard for church surroundings continues to concern me. I head back towards Port of Mobile on Wednesday to meet up with the family for Thanksgiving. Or Franksgiving, since we seem to be reliving the New Deal these days.

In local news, the renovation in Port of Houston is almost finished. Her Majesty and Jack were very pleased last night with the news of Home Port 2.0's new coat of super slime-resistant antifouling marine paint. We're now considering the title The House of Many Colors. Ask Melanie about the closets.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

The Rookie

Plague and pestilence! Your correspondent is ill, Her Majesty is exhausted, and the Captain is a bit snotty (literally, not socially). Dr. P, our ship's doctor, had scared the bejeebers out of us with menacing statistics about infant mortality from influenza. She ordered that the crew be inoculated immediately, and yours truly was the first to succumb. I mean comply. Did I mention that the crew dubbed her The Tigress? You don't go mouthing off to tigresses or you end up sliced extra rare on a banana leaf. But the blasted shot got me sick, I'm sure of it. Stupid modern medicine. Give me quinine and leeches any old day. Next time I'll be properly bled like a rational person. If I get the Cap'n sick, it'll be better if I don't recover at all...

The skipper has been quite well this week apart from dodging virulent germs from me in a constant game of immunological Frogger. The fleet actually had a very auspicious weekend, entertaining both the Top Brass AND the Admiralty at the same time. Top that, Spanish Armada! Jack was handed around so often between the grandparents the whole thing ended up looking like a squaredance. Or maybe a hootnanny. You get the idea.

On Saturday night, the crew was given their liberty to go ashore in dress uniforms for the Medina Children's Home Benefit Dinner. I'm not exactly an old hand at the charity circuit, but I'm told it's customary to have a well-known speaker, well, speak.

Her Majesty and I were very happy indeed to have landed ourselves in front of Jim Morris. No, not the singer for The Doors. If you saw the great movie, The Rookie, that's Jim Morris. He's the smalltown baseball coach that lost a bet to his high school team and ended up a relief pitcher for the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. Rays. Devils. Or whatever they call themselves these days.

Some neato highlights: After a major shoulder surgery sent him packing from an undistinguished turn in the minors, and by his own admission, 50 pounds of gut later, Jim found himself trying out in front of a real, live big league scout. When asked if he wanted to warm up, he responded, "To embarrass myself? I don't need to warm up!" His first pitch was clocked at 94 mph. At one point, he ends up throwing 12 consecutive 98 mph pitches as a crowd gathers around the 2 radar guns at the plate. He's signed to a Major League contract in a matter of days.

OK, I get you. How does this relate to Jack? Since I'm learning this whole fatherhood gig, I'm not shy about stealing good ideas. And I think I found a good one. Jim's basic topic had to do with a person's dreams and things or people that prevent them from being fulfilled (he calls these "dream killers"). Long story short, his point was that when he was trying like crazy to fulfill his own dream, playing baseball, he was doing that for himself. It was all about him and it fell apart when his arm did. But ironically, after he gave that dream up completely, when it was long dead, something happened. He accidentally used it as collateral on a bet to motivate his high school kids. So the lesson was, when he chose to serve others, his dream was given to him.

I'm not arguing for, and I don't think he would argue for a quid pro quo, that we should somehow try to deftly engineer our own successes by involving others out of false charity. But his is an awfully powerful object lesson for how you should use your life. Do you use it for your own gain? Should it be used for the profit of others? Is doing the latter really a better way of doing the former? Jesus said it better, of course: "But many that are first shall be last; and the last first."

It was a lot of stuff to think about over the dessert course.

Monday, November 10, 2008

The Bye Week

Even the mighty Jack takes a bye week. Just basic developmental stuff to report, and while very cool, and darn fun to watch, it doesn't generate much copy. The reactive smiling and cooing (yes, great captains of men coo) that Jack's able to do now makes the 27 times he spits up on you worth it. For the family as a whole, this week's most memorable non-Jack item was picking out paint colors for Home Port 2.0. Sal-ute to all you interior decorator types out there. That job gave the crew tired-head in the extreme.

I find myself learning some arcane bit of information, having never seen or heard it before, and then every day thereafter finding mention of it everywhere. I assume we filter and ignore things that are unfamiliar. Suddenly, when they're not unfamiliar anymore, they pop up constantly. At least, so goes my theory. Along those lines, some random thoughts on fatherhood from E.C., since I'm noticing a heckuva lot more instances and portrayals of fatherhood:

I flipped across Guess Who's Coming to Dinner yesterday. Of particular interest to this neofather was a scene in which Sydney Poitier's on-screen dad gives him a legendary tongue lashing. The old man, evidently a former golf-caddy, has tallied up the distance over which he carried golf bags to provide for his son: 75,000 miles. Sydney's well-articulated, angry response is something along the lines of, "I don't owe you anything, because you did what you were supposed to do!" He pours gasoline on the fire with, "You've got to get off my back. GET OFF MY BACK!" Again, I'm paraphrasing, but he finishes with a reassuring, but resolved "You are my father, and I am your son. I love you. Always have. And I always will. But you see yourself as a colored [sic] man. I see myself as a man."

It made me think a lot about the possible mistake of seeing this fatherhood gig as an investment, or a pension plan. So many times it's presented that way, joked about that way. I should be a good father to Jack, a great father, even, because I'm supposed to be. Not because I'm building up parental capital with him to use at some future time. One hopes Jack will respect me for being a good dad, and value my advice. But even if he doesn't, it was still my job to be a good father. Period.

Another thought, here. I'm trying to understand that Jack will see himself as a different kind of man than I see myself as. He won't be constrained by some of the bonds that hold me. For better or worse, he'll have his own to deal with. Wrapping my brain around that is probably impossible at this early stage.

For lack of a better term, GWCTD is a mother of a film. And not just for the hot-button 1967 subject matter. Spencer Tracy's monologue at the very end is worth seeing on its own, the last golden nugget of a golden career (he died just 17 days after filming).

Gosh, I feel like a really rotten film critic. Enjoy your week - I'll be in the shower washing this off.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Featuring... The Human Pincushion!

In proportionate terms... imagine getting jabbed in your thigh with a two foot long needle. Three times. That's exactly what happened yesterday to our hero, again, speaking proportionately, here. The Captain roared with furious anger, ordering the thorough lashing and immediate execution of every man jack present. To add insult to injury, he was compelled to drink the very nasty and technically-named Polio Goo Part One. In the same vein (sorry, couldn't resist) he discovered cherry flavored baby Tylenol was quite nice, and then passed out. What a day. The skipper has been cranky ever since. Her Majesty is still teary-eyed. We'll keep you, dear reader, posted on all these goings on.

This Sunday, a few of our very best people came over for a little get together to quietly celebrate my rapid aging/decline. It seems truly fitting that I tore my hamstring about an hour before the soiree. Jack snoozed inconsiderately in his cabin during most of the festivities. Being a powerful and feared Captain of men can make one a bit rusty with one's manners, it would seem.

Oh, back to the details. The current standings improve to: 3 months old, 25" long (85th percentile, thank YOU Mendelian Genetics!) and 13.3 lbs (50th percentile) and 40 cm head circumference (25th percentile) if memory serves. I apologize for mixing metric and English, but welcome to the United States. Just be thankful I didn't give everything in knots and leagues.

I'll have to leave it there for now, as I slowly remember the happenings of this past week. Ah - almost forgot: Your Captain duly presented his voter registration card (thank you, ACORN!) and did his duty. Now go do yours for King and Country. -E.C.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Early Edition

I'm as mad as, well...

El Comodoro, dear readers, is hacked off this morning. We're talking Peter Finch mad, here. The 'roided up nerfball that opens up the gym decided to skip work today, and left us sucker madrugadores, as they say, out in the cold. The little man standing outside that I talked to had it right: "Lazy people!"

Alright, enough of the Captain's general staff's issues and on to the Captain himself. Uncle Mike, who's wife is working on providing Jack a bosom's mate, came over to inaugurate the longest unsupervised stretch without mommy ever. It was no sweat, however, since E.C. and Mike are parenting naturals, and yours truly is also incredibly lucky, as we discussed last week. Lots of chit-chat, a bit of Casino Royale, and whammo, Her Majesty arrived to bail the Cap'n outta daycare. We're a well-oiled, finely tuned machine around here.

The Top Brass showed up on Saturday for a quick visit and spot inspection of the Fleet. We had some lunch and some birthday pie, and it was a fine day for all of that. El Comodoro got a replacement for his favorite book-on-tape, Robinson Crusoe. The old copy had been listened to so many times that a tape or two was worn out. Now we have a new one to recite poor Robin's predicament to Jack also. I neglected to mention Jack until now because he was asleep below decks for all but 30 minutes of the visit. So much for respecting your elders.

Saturday night we suited Jack up in exceedingly festive Halloween garb, and got HMS Tahoe underway for a short cruise to Humble for a pumpkin-carving party. The Skipper directed the crew to carve the Jolly Roger, of all things, into the side of one ill-fated pumpkin. Essentially an advertisement for piracy and lawlessness (the Captain prefers the term privateering for fun and profit), the pumpkin now is on prominent display near 16th Street and Shepherd. It's a long story. But the crew enjoyed themselves, with one in particular getting all hopped up on candy corn. He doesn't get out much.

...and I'm not going to take this anymore!

Sunday morning came early for the revelers, and Jack groggily decided he'd like to dress in his baseball attire (see pic) in honor of the World Series. He grew weary of the very good lesson by our token Londoner, and retired to the nursery. Then, when all was quiet, and in blatant disregard for the solemnity of his surroundings, he decided to strike, El Tiempoing Melanie again, exactly 1 week after the last attack. I suggested that he go forward after church, but he was shockingly unrepentant. The kid needs some religion, if he could ever stay awake during the sermon. Pray that he turns from his evil ways!

Jack has found his fists this week, and is reaching, and grabbing, and punching. I don't see this ending well for the crew.

Monday, October 20, 2008

El Tiempoed



All Melanie wanted to do was to have lunch with her long lost friends. But Jack had other plans. Sinister plans.

The Captain's party graced El Tiempo for brunch on Sunday with nuestros amigos. Her Majesty was feeding Jack in the stern of HMS Tahoe while the rest of us settled in to the beginnings of a great luncheon on one of my favorite patios in Houston. Looking back, I did notice that they were taking their sweet time about it. But being the completely bumbling and insensitive jerk that I am cursed to walk this earth as, I had some more chips.

Meanwhile, back at the ship, Jack had managed to hose down the hold, himself, his peacoat and H.M. with gobs of poopy. And spitup. Did I mention poopy? Y'know that scene from The Exorcist? You're with me now. I could berate you with the gory, and I mean gory details my lovely wife bravely endured, but that would be in violation of our new Mission Statement. Gosh, from witnessing (and smelling) the aftermath, I'll wager it was horrendous. Glad I was swilling fresh-squeezed OJ and being overly chatty while all that was going down! I think parenting is half prayer, half caffeine, and half blind luck. And 3/8ths conflict avoidance. El Comodoro really dodged a bullet on this one.

The day was GORGEOUS. And in Houston, Texas, you treasure all 6 of those days above all others in the year. We high tailed it with the prevailing winds over to the semi-former neighborhood and took a walk at the park.

El Capitan continues to grow, and is smiling and laughing more. He's wreaking havoc on the fleet's lower backs by taking on even more ballast. Jack holds his head up for ridiculous spans, but looks a bit like the bobblehead in the car in front of you. And now a brief announcement from Jack:

ATTENTION ALL HANDS: SIGNAL FLAGS OF THANKS SHALL NOW BE DISPLAYED FOR ALL HANDS INVOLVED IN GIVING CAPTAIN'S AWESOME AND APPROPRIATELY THEMED AQUATIC SWING. AWESOMENESS IS BEYOND IMAGINATION. AFOREMENTIONED HANDS ALSO SERIOUSLY AWESOME. THAT IS ALL. -JMW, CAPTAIN

More next week, everybody.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

General Quarters

I promised someone a more positive post this week. But more positive doesn't mean it can't be weird! Maybe this will give you a little flavor of our lives in the past week or so.

And you may find yourself in another part of the world.
I hastily sailed myself back over to the Port of Mobile last Friday, where I found Her Majesty and the Captain diverting themselves by playing croquet, singing The Wheels on the Bus and hanging mutineers. They were very pleased at my report on the goings on at Home Port, which were significant, let me just tell you. It was decided to sail back to Houston on Sunday, and we had a very VERY favorable wind to speed the Chevy Longboat towards home. When he was awake, Jack was a trooper, and seemed not too bothered to be dragged all over the southern United States by his refugee parents.

Ah, I almost forgot an announcement I was instructed to pass along:
ATTENTION ON DECK. THE CAPTAIN HAS RETURNED TO HOME PORT. THAT IS ALL.

You may find yourself living in a shotgun shack.
Well, he got darned close to Home Port, at least. We finally knuckled under and rented an apartment down on Washington that is quite literally, on the other side of the tracks. More properly, it's on the other side of other side of the tracks. It's a nice enough place, but the train horn will just about deafen you if you're lucky enough to be outside as one of the 1,862 daily freight trains pass. It's not to be missed. I worry that Jack will now grow up to be a hobo. Or a train robber. Or a train-robbing hobo.

And you may tell yourself, "This is not my beautiful house!"
Melanie took pretty well the shock of seeing her semi-former home trashed to high heaven, considering part of it's ripped down to the studs and soaked in Clorox. We did what we could to prepare for the movers, and after they removed the furnishings to the cargo hold, we're all set to renovate. I think.

And you may ask yourself, "Well, how did I get here?"
Even though we're a bit dazed now, there's at least the awesomeness (you heard me) of seeing Jack much more alert now, and smiling lots more. I don't really ask him the reason for his jocularity, I just go with it. Because I don't want to know. Actually, because I already know.

And you may find yourself behind the wheel of a large automobile.
Jack LOVES his BOB hansom, and turns downright narcoleptic when he gets pushed around all over creation. Incidentally, if you find yourself moving into apartments/dorm rooms, you pre-children folks would do well to borrow one of these things. It's awfully handy, and way cleaner than a pack mule.

And you may ask yourself, "How do I work this?"
Another of the Captain's favorite activities is a good hard kick workout on the Baby Einstein playmat. I had never been exposed to the playmat phenomenon before, but these things are, well, genius (but you knew that from the name). Imagine if you had a big soft comforter, with all kinds of animals or shapes colorfully illustrated on it, and 2 crossbars with plush animals and toys and rattles hanging from it. It plays music, flashes lights, and it probably makes a good cup of coffee. I mean, this is the nuclear option in baby diversionary tactics. Best 15 bucks ever spent on resale, hands down. So the baby's job is to lie there and be entertained. And exercise. And learn cognitive skills. I guess it's equivalent to watching opera on a treadmill. While we're on the subject, Jack is into toys far more than when his absentee father last saw him. Stuffed puppy dogs, giraffes, monkeys, and ducks are all included in the faux-menagerie we've started.

Into the blue again, after the money's gone.
I can't describe how glad I am to have the family all within the same state line again. So I won't. But it's good. Really good.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Running off the map



In days of yore, before all of this GPS foolishness, sailors would carry maps, sometimes hand-drawn ones, to help navigate the oceans as they knew them. There's an obvious problem here, if you happened to stray somewhere your map didn't illustrate. You sailed right off the edge, if you will. I'm sure this wasn't an everyday occurrence, but I'll bet it was significant when it did happen.

I've gone off the map, and gosh I feel low. Lost and adrift. Without a compass, to continue the analogy. I miss Melanie. I miss my JackBaby. I even miss smelly, shedding, neurotic First Mate Belle. In lieu of updated pictures, which I don't have, I post this one, courtesy of Jay's iPhone. Between this imposed-singleness, insurance hassles, remodeling, my day gig, and Townes Van Zandt songs, I'm not going to make it for long. That's it - I'm officially putting out the call! · · ·— — — · · ·— — — · · ·— — — · · ·— — — · · ·

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Stormbraining. Brainstorming. Whatever.


I traveled back to Mobile on Friday past where I gave the Captain and Her Majesty a full and complete report of my activities and observations whilst marooned. They are well, and approved of my supervision of the tree removal at home port. They were, however, none too pleased with the lack of progress in procuring an insurance adjuster (neither was I, to tell you the truth).

Jack has grown! In the 10 days or so that I had been away he was a bit heftier than I remembered. He must have been dipping into the ship’s stores overmuch. Don’t tell him I said that. Really. I also heard this week that the Captain had made his first official foray in his new hansom. It'll have to work until we can acquire a Lipizzaner stallion. Uh, yeah. Anyway, Melanie paraded him around her parents' neighborhood to show the locals our fine example of infant humanity. Early reports are saying he enjoyed himself immensely, at least when he was conscious during the ride. It's so tiring to be master of all you survey.

Back to Houston on Monday. It was very tough leaving my newly-organized family behind, but somebody's got to line the coffers. I had a good long time on I-10 and a beautiful day to muse the national goings-on, and hit the Talk Radio circuit with gusto. In light of what I do for a living, it was a heckuva day. A $700 billion with a ‘buh’ bailout, a near 800-point drop in the Dow, LIBOR popping, the commercial paper market grinding to a halt, and a partridge in a pear tree.

If you aren’t a financial-type, and don’t know (or care to know) a yield curve from a yield sign, I hear ya. But what’s happening, I’ll have you know, is historic. So let's say you build houses. One day you drive up to a job site, and the guys have run out of nails. They need more. But you can’t get more. Actually, you discover that you’re fresh out of not only nails, but everything made of metal. Everyone is. The stores don't have it. It’s nowhere to be found. That’s what it was like Monday, on some level. An essential tool or resource, in this case credit, was scarce. Word of the day: spooky.

I continue to be amazed, and daunted, about how complex this world is. By extension, I wonder how to tell Jack about all that when it’s time. I was talking to someone recently that I think has great wisdom. I really don’t know them that well, but do I know enough to know when to shut up and listen to somebody that’s wiser than me. Do they understand every nuance of what’s going on in the world and why? Nope. But what I found astounding was that they understood enough about themselves that it didn't matter. Maybe that’s the answer: knowing just enough, and being at peace with that. On the other hand, I'm pretty darn sure this person knows a whole lot about their faith, about God, Jesus, and all them ‘postles. It's something to think about, in terms of parenting, anyway.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Marooned!

Marooned here some six days now, amongst the storm's rubble. The Captain and Her Majesty are anchored in Mobile Bay at last word. I returned to Houston to assess the damage and salvage what I could on Wednesday the 17th. About half of the first floor had been soaked in water, with most items in the master bedroom still drenched (and pretty stinky). So much for the curled deck planks (kicking ourselves for not heeding the Captain's suggestion to use only teak). All the wet bedclothes, rugs, mattress, books, papers, blankets, throws, pillows, pictureframes, et cetera went into the yard to add some redneck appeal to the place. It was pretty swanky.

It was hard work under the infernal tropical sun, and I developed an ague which has plagued me ever since. On Saturday the Top Brass showed up and my dad even brought his big Stihl with the logging bar (that's [STEEL] for the lumberjack newbies out there). Mom swabbed the decking, which was pretty gross by that time, with loads of Pine Sol. Fun all around!

There was minimal damage to the second floor, apart from the shattered sheetrock from the impact of the pine. Thankfully Cap'n Jack's quarters are pristine. Boy, would he be cranky if that weren't the case (his Painter's Mate would probably be even moreso, since he just finished that room).

No insurance adjuster yet, and still no power. That flintlock with the one shot is looking pretty fine, now...

Monday, September 15, 2008

The Most Polite Hurricane Ever

Jack's home port is Houston proper (travel to the sea is a major hassle during rush hour, let me tell you). That said, the weather report early last week saying Hurricane Ike was headed to Mexico or South Texas wasn't that earth shattering. But darn it if every time we checked the path the thing had moved north. By Wednesday evening, the track was locked in precisely to our back porch. There was talk of it strengthening to Cat-4. The crew was, well, concerned.

The Captain took immediate action: we set upon all the ship's stores we could find, loaded up the crew's chests in the Chevy longboat, and lashed everything down for riding out a storm. By Thursday mid-morning, we pulled anchor and set all sails before the wind in haste (after fighting light traffic to get to the seashore, of course). It was a right fine morning to be sure, although it was exceeding hot and sticky. We ran full sail until we neared the town of le baton rouge or "Red Stick" that the abominable French occupy. By that time, many others (probably French, by the salty look of them) were fleeing the coming storm with their pastries and cigarettes, and a voyage that should have taken 8 hours turned into a little over 12. The Captain had charted out to Mobile, and really held it together until about 15 minutes before we arrived. All heck broke loose as I guess the stress of the long passage finally got to him.

Back in Houston, the brunt of the storm ended up passing right over the house during the early morning hours on Saturday. We lost two large trees, one trashing the fence, the other of which now rests on the house itself. A few things here to note: First, and most important, everyone's safe. Secondly, from what we hear, the pine didn't slice through the roof. So it could be much, much worse. Many of our neighbors weren't as fortunate. Thanks to our neighbors Kay and Edwin for their eyewitness accounts. The power is still out from our latest information. We'll head back towards home when that's fixed.

One odd story, this from the neighbors - it seems dozens of "storm tourists" are very enamored with our house, driving by and taking pictures and video of the damage. Ah to be there to either extract a piece of eight or two (for the Captain's piggy bank) or brandish a cutlass, I can't decide. Gory pictures to come!

Also: I got a call late Friday night, and the voice on the other end wanted to know if we had evacuated. I explained that I had, and asked who was on the line.
"This is Ike."
"The Hurricane?" I asked.
"Yeah I just wanted to know if you had evacuated, I'm here in Montrose and wanted to check in with as many people as I can. I'm a little drunk, and we're all here having a good time here. Where are you?"
"That's funny, I was just running from you. But we're well out of your reach now, sorry."
"But where are you? Not in Houston?"
"Mobile, Alabama," I said.
"Oh, well yeah, that's good - and you're right, that's pretty far out of the way. OK, I need to check on some more people, be safe!"

For a hurricane that caused billions in damage, I do have so say that I didn't expect it to be that polite. Or for it to give courtesy calls. Or for it to party in Montrose. It goes to show that we have a long, long way to go in hurricane research.

Monday, September 8, 2008

The Two Things


If you were raised in certain parts of Texas, there were two things: Church, and the Dallas Cowboys. Not to say that there weren't other subjects to dominate your time (my unnatural obsession with ice hockey comes to mind). But we're talking about institutions. Cultural touchstones. Things that everyone from bank presidents to 9 year-olds take part in equally, and with as much enthusiasm.

I'm proud to announce that Jack notched firsts in both, and all in one day. First he sailed over to church about five after ten, which isn't shabby for a four-week old. Mom got all his nice clothes on, about the baby equivalent of black-tie, and sensing this, Jack spit up all over them. We then strapped him in the car seat, a bit damp from the wet washcloth treatment from the spit up incident, and we were off to Memorial CofC. Getting a newborn into the car seat is fairly easy, you just pour them in, and strap their little NASCAR harness on. Getting them out is WAY more involved, and reminds me of handling a comatose octopus. Now I know what the rink operations dude for the Red Wings must feel like during playoff season.

Once in the pew, Jack immediately falls asleep, arms out rail-straight, and doesn't move for at least an hour. Not one whit. Insert humor about the effects of David's (very good) sermon here.

On to the secular part of our show, the Dallas Cowboys. I've been taking a lot of heat down here from Texans' fans for my particular football allegiance. This was a shock to me, since I was under the impression the Texans were an imaginary football team. I mean, who knew? Drawing particular ire has been the passing on of this affiliation to my son. Tough cookies, people, he's a Cowboys fan under Rule of Fandom #4, Inheritance of Team Affiliation from a Parent. Jack, although very pleased at the severe drumming of the Cleveland Browns, was pretty fussy during the game over a few dropped passes and an uncalled roughing the passer perpetrated upon Tony Romo, Jack's favorite Cowboy. Cowboys win 28-10, Romo with 320 YDS, 1 TD, 1 INT, Jack with 2 DD (Dirty Diapers), 2 SU (spit ups), 1 DF (duck fit).

This week Jack has ordered signal flags displayed thanking the following visitors on board: Nick and Teresa, Jason and Valerie, my work buddy Jim Konte and also Meredith and Rosemary. I hope I haven't forgotten anyone, as the Captain has threatened me with forty lashes if so.

Finishing out the week of firsts, Jack had his first bottle feeding (you shouldda heard THAT burp), and then hit the couch a lot with dad for first screenings of Star Wars, Dirty Harry, Apocalypse Now and Magnum Force, interspersed with speeches from the RNC. Hoo-ah!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Thoughts from the Gipper


A wonderful thought popped into my head today as I heard an old song, one from my days in Europe. I think it was on the requisite cheesy video chronicling the semester. I don’t know what awaits Jack in his brand new life, but I know at least some of what he’ll see will be astounding. It will change his life. I’m beyond excited for him. I’m thinking specifically of faraway places he’ll read about in dull history books that don’t and can’t do them justice.

I read a quote yesterday from Ronald Reagan where he said "Each generation goes further than the generation preceding it because it stands on the shoulders of that generation. You will have opportunities beyond anything we've ever known."

I hope Jack will get to all the places his old man did, and even more. Places even further afield, and even more stunning than the ones I’ve seen. Anyway, it was a striking thought to me, and one that all parents must have sometime or other.

Monday, August 25, 2008

A Merit Badge In Swaddling

I'm discovering as my sprog (I learned a new word today) grows up past the 2 week mark, that parenthood must be inversely related to blogging. Or sending out pictures. Or doing much if anything. So the blog is still devoid of pictures and video of my very handsome progeny. But not for long! Probably.

Jack has rebounded from his very questionable crash diet and is now putting on weight nicely. He's eating a ton, and going through Pampers like water. The sheer number of tiny clothes and swaddling blankets we had before he arrived seemed ridiculous. Over the top. But this child goes through more laundry than a grown person. I must have missed this in the briefing. But he's a good, calm kid, with a very laid-back spirit. I like him already.

Melanie & Bebe (the Queen Mum) have taken one for the team by sleeping upstairs occasionally with the Captain. There for a few weeks, I was getting enough migraines that I considered a long drop with a short stop.

All is well, and going along with the naval theme, I'd say we're in a following sea.

Oh, and an unpaid plug for the best book (okay, the only book) I've read on neo-fatherhood: Be Prepared: A Practical Handbook for New Dads. You know the old Cub Scout manuals you used to dig through for merit badge ideas? They strangely illustrated knot-tying in black and white and maybe one or two unnatural colors, with everyone dressed in plaid? This is a very helpful parody of those, only sorry to say, no merit badges. Read it and be ye illuminated!

Friday, August 15, 2008

"The World is Changed."

Jack is upon us! We had quite the time getting him here. I'll try to make this brief, but the last week has been one of the fullest I've ever lived. Sharing its twists and turns is like trying to do a book report on the Bible. I told someone that I've never gone that quickly from complete terror to just plain fun. We're talking Russian Roulette ups and downs, here.

My caveat is that I'm certainly not going to report every event precisely, so cut me some slack. Melanie had been laboring for a few days at home with extreme amounts of pain, especially back pain. I've never seen the woman in that degree of anguish. Days of it. Her contractions were almost never ending (5-6 minutes each) with not much rest between. For the uninitiated out there, your garden variety contraction is something like 45 to 90 seconds long. But she wasn't progressing in labor (i.e. dilating) at all, and was almost exhausted from the long contractions, extreme back pain, nausea and 48+ hours without sleep.

Trip #1 to the hospital yielded some Demerol and Phenergan (anti-nausea) to get her some rest and perhaps get normal contractions started. No such luck, and we were back at the hospital at 8am sharp on Sunday August 10th. In the meantime, Melanie's extremities had swollen to ridiculous sizes (your correspondent attempted to document this phenomenon in digital glory, but was expressly forbidden by Her Majesty; so much for the First Amendment). Swelling isn't of course uncommon during labor, but it was a sinister piece of the puzzle, as we found out later.

The plot thickens when we sit essentially all day in triage waiting for a room with a bed that's not designed for coercing information from prisoners. We slowly begin to get test results back, and nothing's really conclusive until about 5pm or so. The doctor (not our doctor, who's on vacation - I had to laugh at the Knocked Up script playing out, here) then very politely but seriously uses the following phrases in rapid succession, Ich kiddeth ye nat: elevated uric acid, dangerous creatinine levels, renal failure, possible placental abruption, bleed out, dead baby in 2 minutes, emergency C-section, toxemia.

So that's a little tough to swallow. I think my hands went cold. But the decision was pretty clear, although the situation is almost exactly what we preferred not to do in childbirth. But then again, the decision’s not really up to us.

I make the calls to the parents which were far more difficult than I had expected. If you haven't tried dropping the phrases above on a mom regarding her daughter, uh, keep it that way. I also call Debbie, our doula, (that's a birth coach/helper/right hand woman) who gives me a very calm explanation of what's going to go down in the next hour.

Meanwhile, Melanie's getting some excruciating things done to her which I won't elaborate on (you're welcome). Debbie arrived about that time to give us some idea of what we were up against. And we then wheel on down to the OR and get Melanie a spinal (a procedure that still gives me the jim-jams). Thankfully they don't let me in there. I put all these blue paper scrubs on, and am sitting in a mostly empty hallway making smalltalk with the nurses (to plug Memorial Hermann, these people have a racket on exceptionally nice people). The surreal just overtakes me and I make sure to profusely apologize to the nurses if I pass out on them. We’re sitting right next to the big stainless scrub sinks. It's downright unnerving watching people wash their hands before they cut your wife open.

We have a wonderful generic European anesthesiologist (my guess is French or Italian - think every Bond villain from the 60s) with the most outrageous accent. He welcomes me with a flourish to the OR, saying, "Sir, here is your chair, make yourself comfortable, relax! In 5 minutes you'll be a father." I'm not relaxing, thank you very much. He congratulated me no less than 4 times in his very affable Euro way.

And before I know it, I see little hands in a touchdown pose sticking out of Melanie's tummy, as the doctors pull and grab a bit too violently. And we're off to get cleaned up and then back to mom, and then to the warming table, really a glorified hot dog lamp sans the greasy rollers. Official stats on Jack came in at 6 lbs. 15 oz., 20 1/4 inches long, born at 6:10PM August 10th, 2008.

And I'm a dad.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Endless Pregame Coverage

Melanie (you may address her as Your Majesty) is quite uncomfortable these days. Her back hurts, she's swelling, she's hitting the bathroom every 27 seconds or so, and because of carry-on luggage restrictions, can't eat more than 2 bites at a sitting. It's good times over here, I'm telling you.

But praise the LORD the official bedrest Rx is over and done, and that's a very good thing for all involved. Preparations are made, bags are packed, cigars are bought.

This past weekend, Bebe (Melanie's mom) was taken away from us by force. Alas! After only a month of caring for us, she finally reached her wits' end and had to blow town.

All is well with the Captain, he's continuing to grow and kick the living daylights out of his mother. We may have quite the soccer phenom on our hands (or mixed martial arts champion, you really just never know).

Friday, August 1, 2008

Setting Sails, Jibs, and all that Rot

So this is going to be a inarticulate, rambling, very incompetent stab into the blogging world, to record the uh, voyages of my son-to-be, Captain Jack himself. I hope you enjoy it. It's a bit like watching a car wreck about to happen, don't you think?

You will no doubt be thoroughly entertained by my foray into parenting, or just plain horrified... or both.