.

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Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Mobile in Mobile

We're blogging on location here in Mobile, AL today.  Habatcha.  But our presence is entirely inconsequential, since everyone's completely focused on the big title game between Alabama and Texas.  I told my in-laws that my head is about to explode trying to figure out the rooting rules (e.g. Supporting a Texas team is usually mandatory versus out-of-state opponents).  They responded threateningly with, "You know where your loyalty lies."  The discussion kinda fizzled after that.  A real headline from the Mobile Press-Register yesterday:

Favorite hats?  Special chairs?  Houndstooth panties?  What's your Bama ritual?*
This is serious.

I continue my (temporary) unemployment, proving every single day that I'm worthless without a schedule.  I've been trying to rest my fuzzy brain and blind eyes from these infernal compuscreens.  So no post Monday.  I'm nigh on to abandoning the 'official' Monday posting schedule, since I've blown through those for 3 or 4 weeks.  I know nothing of the news, have no real bones to pick, and have little to post about.  But on to the crumbs I do have.

We continue to buy every set of baby clothes in sight, since Jack seems to literally outgrow everything in a single week.  Our last foray to the store lasted us for about a month.  Really.  He's talking a TON, with new words coming from everywhere.  He displays all sorts of new talents, some of which we've taught him, some of which we can only wonder at the origins of.  Was that proper anglais?  Probably ain't.  Twasn't.  Anyway, I get up there one morning, and Jack starts flapping his fingers, thumbs interlocked, hands crossed...  like a butterfly.  There's just no telling.

As with all little kids, the frightening malleability of Jack's mind is shocking.  I was carrying him one day, and well, I spit.  I spit, alright?  Immediately, I hear the little sponge on my arm going "Puh!  Puh!  Puh!"  I shudder at all the little bad habits of mine that will come to light over the next few years.  Like I've noted before, parenting seems to be the most potent of motivations.  Motivation for improving oneself.  Motivation for improving the relationship between hubby and wifey-wife.  For religion.  For one's health.  For finances.  For fixing things we can't fathom yet.  For changing habits we cannot change now.

Like not spitting.**

*For more entertainment, be sure to read the waaaaay over-the-top society column on the left side of the Houndstooth Knickers article.  You're welcome.
**I don't HAVE a problem! 

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Hi-yo, Silver, Away!

A fiery horse with the speed of light, a cloud of dust, and a hearty "Hi-yo, Silver!", The Lone Ranger
This blog is tardy.  I'm sorry.  We've been traveling.  But fear not, you won't miss a single thing (gee, lucky you).  The crumpled brown napkin beside me contains my blog notes for the week.  Really.

In no particular order:

Texas Burger
I have a new favorite burger joint.  Like those real estate folks say, location, location, location.  Texas Burger in Madisonville, Texas is great because it lies at the exact place where gas gauges tip to more empty than full, and bladders do the opposite.  And they have chocolate Blue Bell shakes.  And good cheeseburgers.  And their fries are silly good.  We hit the place coming and going from Fruitvale.  And Jack got to display his newest grown up trick:  Dipping his french fries in ketchup.

Now, no heckling from the peanut gallery about feeding our kid healthy food.  We eat more quinoa than the Incans, and Jack's favorite food is broccoli, so back off.  When you're road tripping, all bets are off.  And it's about the only time I ever just stride up to a register and demand ice cream from a total stranger.  Oh yeah, the ketchup.  For one so young, Jack has a very evolved routine for the consumption of the red stuff:

(1) Grasp french fry by the extreme end with the right hand.
(2) Do your dipping with gusto.
(3) Switch the fry to the left hand.
(4) Suck all the ketchup off the fry without damaging it.
(5) Bite off some of the fry.  If there's fry left over, switch hands and return to step 2.  If not, go to Step 6.
(6) Repeat step 1.

It's like a Japanese tea ceremony.

Anyway, after the crew's insulin shot into the ionosphere, and then crashed to earth like a firey meteor, we arrived in Fruitvale for Christmas with the Top Brass.  It was great to be up in the hometown.  And Jack got about every toy they would sell my mom, including two (!) LARGE stuffed horses.  That whinny.  Jack's still debating between naming them Scarto and Argento, or Waylon and Willie...

I even got to pop off the Glock Blunderbuss 51 times.  But who's counting?  While I'm making an old quart oil bottle pay for it's many crimes, Majesty is in the house talking to Jack:

H.M.:  What does daddy's gun say?
JMW, Capt.:  BOOM! (laughing)
H.M.:  What does daddy's gun say?
JMW, Capt.:  BOOM! (more laughing)

Before we went out to Fruitvale, we met our great friends Jody and Tonya and their kiddos in Sulphur Springs, TX.  We even got to eat afterward at a true diamond-in-the-rough restaurant, San Remo.  Real-deal Italians made their way (I only shudder at how) to North Texas and found it in their hearts to make me the finest veal piccata I have ever eaten.  Seriously, this happened.  The butter and white wine sauce, the capers, the veal pounded just so and browned properly...  I get a little emotional just talking about it.  And Jack got his first taste of (again, road trip, so the wheels are off)... wait for it...  TIRIMISU.  Check this out:


My man looks like some sort of cartoon character.


Oh, Tonya's grandma cracked me up when she exclaimed, "Boy she [Jack] sure is pretty.  That's the first time I got a good look at her!"


"She gets a lot of that, ma'am.  And thanks."


Neither of us bother to correct people anymore.  And this happens daily  Don't mind the blue, the trains, or the baseballs, people.  But then I think, these are the very same people that didn't realize they cut me off on 610 this morning.

Oh, and on a related note, many of you will be relieved that we got Jack a haircut last week.  It ah, didn't go as well as the first time.  Anyway, you can see his eyes now.  We were starting to get a lot of "Aw, his hair matches daddy's!" comments.  Dang right it does, sister!  I'm trying to look as much like this kid as I can, as fast as I can.  Wouldn't you?!

Okay, gotta run.  I'm tired.  Almost like this.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Of Unemployment, Wattage, and the Wawah

Your correspondent woke up today with little idea what to do with himself.  (Temporary) unemployment is nice.  Don't let anyone tell you different.  Except for daytime TV.  That stinks.  I've been expecting Dr. Drake Ramoray at any moment.

We took Jack (along with our buddies Nick, Teresa and Lyla) to Lights in the Heights a few days back, and it was every bit as neat as I remembered.  Okay, okay, I get you.  Christmas lights, big deal.   But this is basically two streets' worth of neighborhood block party.  No cars allowed.  The crowd, like Houston itself, is eclectic.  Cowboy hats strung with battery powered lights, bagpipers, a guy on that motorized cooler thingy they sell at Bass Pro, Goths, Dickensian carolers, rickshaws, everything.  And bands.  Lots of bands.  One year there was this en fuego Zydeco band.  And the lights are ridiculous.  A house two years ago hauled in sand for "Christmas on the Beach."  I drove by six months later and still could see sand in their grass.  A guy (with the house to match) wears a Blackhawks jersey with GRISWOLD across the back.  Lyla and the Skipper rode in the wagon; he kept taking off her hat and she kept untying his shoes.  Whatever.  Oh, I'll spare you the one about me parking next to the haunted house with the crepe myrtles cut like punji sticks.  My leg is still black and green.

We were doing some shopping a few days back and popped into our go-to parking lot in this too-tony little shopping area.*  A big permanent arbor has been built in and around the parking spaces.  And they had set up a nice little farmers' market complete with a string quartet.  And people were slinging collard greens, goat's milk, tallow honey, and all manner of things delicious.  One booth was even hawking Indian food.  It's like they let me plan this thing!

Oh, and there were the goats.  We were pointed over towards two week-old baby goats, being tended by an 8ish year old boy in an odd gray woolen coat.  Jack pretty much crawled in the bucket with the flop-eared things.  The kid then struck up a conversation with us.  The flop-eared kids (next to the talkative kid, and our curious kid) were still being bottle-fed.  One was nameless and was going for 25 clams.  The other, Jefferson Davis (not kidding) was on offer for FIVE HUNDRED BUCKS.  About the time I decided that the overzealous kid added a zero, I notice the large brass buttons on the jacket, marked "CSA."  I then get an earful that Lincoln was a rat and that Jeff Davis was the greater man.

A lady behind me wryly added, "Uh huh.  The South will rise again, honey."


*  This is the one where Majesty witnessed the full-length mink coat on a 70-degree day last year. 

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Achtung! Schnee!

Love In the Time of Cholera

If you've got a weak stomach, turn back now.  You'll need to Lysol your PC after even reading this post.  We've been sick.  Yes, again.  The entire crew was sloppy sick with the cholera, the malaria, the yellow fever, the boxer's knuckle, the grippe, the turf toe and the ague.  All at once.  Thar be vomit on the sails.  Thar be poopy on the poop deck.  OH, THE HUMANITY!  And everyone's drawing straws as to who's going to have to swab out the head.

Our bacterial cruelty knows no bounds; we even got the Babysitter's Mate sick.  On Monday, I had the distinction of being the only adult that could walk, so I got to weakly drone, "No Jack.  Get down from there.  You're going to fall.  Don't touch the stove.  Don't climb on it either.  Why do you have to unplug the tree?  Why do you hate Christmas?!"  He didn't feel that great, either.  After turning his nose upward at sequential dinner choices of (a) Jell-O, (b) Yogurt, (c) Toast, and perennial favorite (d) Scrambled Eggs, he went for (e) None of the Above.  I gave up and tossed the kid in bed after administering some milk.  He slept all night.  I did too.  So no blogging done that day.  But we did get in screenings of The Jungle Book and Live Free or Die Hard.  Sue me.  Oh, you should see Jack when the Elephant Patrol shows up.  He swings his arm up in the air like a trunk.  It's a riot. 

And I don't have pictures of us this week.  Because you don't want to see us.  No, really.  Going to try to spruce up this place with some much needed pics and video during my time off before heading to Greener Pastures Capital.

Achtung!  Schnee!
Thanks to my old high school buddy Lance, my itsty-bitsy German vocabulary includes the phrase, "Achtung! Schnee!"  I'm told it means, "Attention!  Snow!"  Which isn't terribly useful, but it does come in handy in those situations where you need to alert people to, y'know, snow.  And holy yellow snow, Batman, it actually came in handy in Houston last week!  Get a load of this action:


That's REAL SNOW falling, friends and neighbors.  Honest!  I can't tell you how many dozens of tropical plants are dying in this picture.  But it's a lot.  Oh, I heard that it's the first time that measurable snowfall has been recorded in Port of Houston in consecutive years.

It's that darn global warming, that's what it is.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Thank You, God

“…the grey rain-curtain turned all to silver glass and was rolled back, and he beheld white shores and beyond them a far green country under a swift sunrise.” -Tolkien
If you haven't read the charming little children's book, Thank You, God, put it on your to-read list.  It'll take you about 3 minutes, and is proof that a simple rhyme for kids can even be a meaningful prayer for us grownups.  Anyway, let me tell you why El Comodoro is particularly thankful this week.

By the grace of God Almighty, I am leaving the toxic red ore of the Cinnabar Mines behind.  I signed up at Greener Pastures Capital, LP as their Chief Factotum.  And I am happy.  Happy and profoundly relieved.  Almost as relieved as when I left the soulless, devil-worshiping pagans at my first real job.  I don't think Faust himself would cut a deal with those guys.  On that cold, sunny December day, I walked down Ross Avenue and felt as if a Volkswagen had been lifted off me.  But that's another story.

In practical terms, with unemployment heading north of 10% (and over 17% by some measures), all this is welcome news.  And not just because my mortgage gets paid for another month, either.  Greener Pastures has the potential of being quite literally the perfect place for me.  Perfect.  I probably just jinxed it.

So, you see why I thought it strikingly appropriate that Thanksgiving fell when it did.  My thoughts are usually more coherent during times like this, so I apologize for this being so fragmented.  There's been so much going on, with every issue seemingly of great import to our family.
 
Over the past many months, I've asked God for wisdom to know the right path to take.  I've asked that He would lead our family to the right place (and that we'd recognize it when we saw it!).  I think about the working of God's Will (a.k.a. Providence) a lot.  To me, it's an incredibly interesting subject.  For further reading, see my ill-fated little essay on Robinson Crusoe.  And if you really want to tangle your mind, dig into determinism versus free will.  And watch this.  And go read this.  And this.

But after this wonderful thing has happened, at precisely the right time, I find it harder and harder to be articulate in my thanks to God.  How many times can you say thank you?  How many ways?  I struggle with that.  And I feel like praying with Roget's Thesaurus.  Would that even help?

Maybe just trying to be grateful is the answer.  Living your life well, gratefully.

I am certainly grateful.  And happy.  I think I said that already.  But first things first.  Tomorrow the mercury-laden dust flies down at the mines.

Thank you, God.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Nursery Rhyme Crime

This weekend, the crew has been 40 kinds of hither and yon over the great state of Texas.  We caught my family's Thanksmas, basically a portmanteau where there's brisket.  It was great in a lot of ways to get to see Our People once again.  And also my Uncle's cows [MUH!] were immensely popular with the Captain.  It was quite muddy up there, and HMS Tahoe looks like it's been wrestling in a two-piece bikini.

On the road, Jack (not Kerouac) and his fabulous mood eventually deteriorates.  So we do what just about everybody does:  We toss what dignity we have left and switch over to the CD of children's songs*.  I was VERY impressed as the frighteningly perky lady on the CD covered The Drunken Sailor (you'll recognize this one from the chorus, Way hay and up she rises, early in the morning!).  But I guess little kids can't sing sea shanteys about (sloshed) salty seafaring sailors, so it morphed into What do you do with a silly sailor?  I guess that's fine, but it kinda lacks the genuine imitation rum flavor.  Needless to say they didn't make the drunk drink bilge water, either.

The CD's next unexpected break from tradition came from Dry Bones (Dem bones, dem bones, dem dry bones...).  Substituted for "Hear the word of the Lord!" was, "These are the bones you know."  Hmmm.  Being who I am, I didn't really think of the original being remotely, in any way shape or form objectionable, but considering today's climate, it's not surprising. It does make one wonder if anybody gave much thought to the story itself being inconveniently, ah, Biblical.
Really Peppy Recording Artist:  Hey I know, let's sing that Delta Rhythm Boys' song about Ezekiel's vision.  It's catchy.  And it's even on the Rain Man soundtrack!
Less than Peppy Producer:  Well, yeah, that Bible thingy's great for song ideas and all, but better scrub all the God stuff out of it.
In just about every nursery rhyme where something goes awry, be it breaking crowns or whatever, this lady sings a saccharine new verse.  In Sing a Song of Sixpence, the poor maid gets a much nicer ending, with the blackbird only sitting on her nose.

So let's review.  Children's songs shouldn't reference such questionable subjects as:
1.  God
2.  Drunken Sailors
3.  Disease
4.  Animal Attacks**
I don't know what to think about this.  But it annoys me.  It's kind of like why I don't buy abridged books, and why I roll my eyes at Looney Tunes edits and Tom and Jerry overdubs.  Must everything be watered down?

Even with nursery rhymes, I want the straight dope.

*That would be Disc 3, in between No Line on the Horizon and The Black Keys' Magic Potion.
**Accidents involving large talking eggs are okay.

Monday, November 16, 2009

An Ode to Respiration


I've got a big paper sack full of nothin' today.

I told a friend a few days ago that I didn't expect to tangle with the psilent "P" pso psoon (no, not psychotherapy, although there's persuasive evidence that's needed around here).  No, pneumonia was our phlegmy little problem this week.  And as you can see above, the Skipper got to smoke out on probably my favorite drug, albuterol.


When your lungs are en fuego, and you feel like you want to  cry like a little girl die, albuterol can resurrect.  So our hero ended up looking like an extra from the last 5 minutes of a Die Hard film.  As it happened, the little guy thought we were trying to murder him on the first few breathing treatments.  But after that, he was all smiles.  Not that you can tell from the (creatively) fish-faced mask he's sporting.

Oh yeah, throw in a double ear infection, too.  Y'know, I got some sass yesterday at church for using this term, rather than simply "ear infection".    Is there some other preferred term I'm not hip to, here?  Surely there's a more elegant way to say "an ear infection in each of my child's two ears rather than only one infection in one ear and not the other"?

Since the sprog's ears are all stopped up with candlewax and sawdust, he SHOUTS EVERYTHING.  AND IT'S LOUD.  And he's annoying us with his use of an ear trumpet.  It's weird.



Anyway,  Jack's been stir crazy all week.  When he's not trotting around in circles, he's sitting atop his mountain of toys, reading (see pic).  I'm calling it Mount Doom Mount Toy*.



I post this last pic for a few reasons.  First, the much-discussed Led Zeppelin shirt finally arrived from Hong Kong or Kuala Lumpur or whereever.  And I'm insanely jealous.  Second, I think the shocked look is pretty indicative of what Jack thinks about our wacky brand of parenting.  As in, "Dad bought me WHAT?"  And last, behold the stunning amount of hair on this child.  I hear that the gals in the church nursery routinely put his hair up in a topknot, samurai style.

The kid's got bushido, so I'm fine with that.

*Incidentally, we keep having to turn away little people that want to destroy some sort of ring under it.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Dearly Beloved? An Ideas Piece

We took Jack to a wedding this weekend.  We didn't really want to drag His Royal Snottiness with us, but for a lot of reasons the little skunk went along anyway.  About 5 minutes into the ceremony, I realized I was going to be THAT guy whose kid talks over the wedding video.  The Skipper kept fixating on two words, both appropriate to the circumstances:  BABUH [Bible] and DADA [Esteemed Father and Breadwinner].  In a church, with so many Bibles to prompt him, the former is understandable.  But Melanie and I worried that the latter would distract the groom.  I mean, one thing at a time, right?  When you're trying to get yourself married, fatherhood isn't exactly on your mind.  Unless you're this dude I know that got something worked out on the Honeymoon.  Yeah.

So I pulled Jack's card about 10 minutes into the formalities.  We went to an empty classroom and entertained ourselves with a rolling swivel chair, a plastic waste bin and 2 pew Bibles (BABUH!).  But before we walked out, the one thing I got to see was the father of the bride abruptly kidnapping the mic.  Now this sort of thing makes me terribly uncomfortable, as I wasn't sure if this was planned/authorized or not.  And for everyone involved, there's just tremendous possible downside with blood kin plus an open mic, memorialized on DVD for eternity.

The blessing was heartfelt.  That's for sure.  But let me run this one by you.  I'm paraphrasing the man, but this was the gist:  "A father's love can never match a mother's love.  It can never be as great."

I know what the guy was driving at. A wedding, like the Brandenburg Gate, is the place for soaring rhetoric.  But I wondered a lot about his statement.  And I wondered if other people wondered about it, too.  As it happened, on the drive to the reception, Majesty asked without my prompting, "So do you agree that a father's love can never be as great as a mother's love?"

We talked it over, and I distilled my position.  If both mother and father are willing to brutally kill for and die for a child, at that magnitude aren't we splitting hairs over who's love might be greater?  "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends*" (John 15:13, KJV).  Jesus gives no other seeding guidelines once you get into the Life Laying Down Madness tourney bracket.

Maybe it's unrelated, but I bristle at the fashionable, and oh-so-commonplace trashing of dads, and men in general.  At least at the societal level, we've generally accepted that dads are less involved, less loving, less committed, less communicative, less anything.  Moms are held up as the zenith of care and nurture.**

It's everywhere, even spilling over into our Bible class yesterday.  Men were (facetiously?) declared to be "too dumb" to be understanding (read:  loving) in their marriages.  The gals were quick to giggle at an axiom.  The guys were quick to chuckle and embrace it as a shield.  Think about it.  If one isn't physically capable, then one can avoid all blame for the inadequacy.  Johnny's a C-student, and is rewarded for a B.  Billy is an A-student, and is grounded for making the same B.  It's not about outcomes.  It's about expectations.  If men are, by definition, these silent, football watching, emotionally stunted, unloving slobs that respect no one but their HDTV provider, then women shouldn't waste time getting angry at them.

But for men, that's a cop-out.  And it's a lie.

One more thought on the motherlove versus fatherlove cage match.  Children react differently to each parent, usually depending on age.  Little ones love mommy like no other person in the universe.  And sons starting their own adult lives can find great wisdom and connection with their old dad, as they audition for the role of man, husband, and father.  These relationships are different, and from the child's perspective, they probably do favor mom.  But from the parent's side, I can't score which is more or less powerful, or loving.  And I can't accept being thrown under some assumed cliché.

Am I off base here?

*I'm equating "friends" and "children" here, which is probably a safe jump.
 **This may do much to explain the single-mom as adequate craze, but that's another discussion.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Smashing Pumpkins

The World is a Vampire
I picked up an ague this weekend and was stranded belowdecks watching The Silence of the Lambs and Night of the Living Dead. Between Snuggie and Seat Strap adverts, there was one that featured a "celebrity" telling of her baby's conversation with a "spirit" while in her crib. Which is, I'm 99.9998% certain, a bunch of hooey*.

But spirits aside, darn it if I'm not absolutely convinced of toddlers' supernatural knowledge of electronics. The phenomenon to date:

1. Toddlers know whether electronics work or not. Old remotes or phones given as toys are NOT as fun as the real things, which are coveted, stolen, and end up in the Coffee Table Drawer Viking Hoard for safe keeping.
2. Toddlers can resurrect non- functioning electronics, to wit, my car clicker (essentially an abacus with cuneiform markings). I can stand 2 feet from the car, threatening it with violence, angrily clicking like mad, with no result. Jack grabs my keys yesterday, and in the detached garage, 75 feet away, my trunk opens.
3. A complex series of locks and menus, thought to be childproof, is no match for the ingenuity (or plain dumb luck) of the toddler. This weekend, in full view of my visiting family, Jack grabs the remote and buys ON-DEMAND P0RN. Yes, you read that right. Excerpts from that conversation:
H.M.: Morgan! Jack just bought a movie!
(the movie ah, flashes, on the screen behind me)
E.C.: Really?! You're kidding. Well, are we watching something good?
Uncle Carrol: Oh, it looked pretty good...
Tell Me I'm the Only One!
We took the JACK-o-lantern (it's a costume and a pun!) on a brief trickertreatn' tour of the neighborhood on Halloween. Mosquitoes the size of hummingbirds cut the night a little short, I'm sorry to say.

I've posted some pics from the Trunk or Treat, as described on last week's post. Note the wagon fully loaded with incredulous-looking Jacks in (identical) Halloween garb. As with their names, the matching costumes weren't planned. Which really ramps up the comedy even more, I think.


 
Despite All My Rage, I'm Still Just a [Dad] in a Cage
It's the little things that make a neighborhood great. And it's also the culmination of little things that can irreparably sour one. So, to the blurry little thug that kicked in my PERFECTLY carved pumpkin, I hope you thanked God yesterday in Mass that my IR cam couldn't ID you properly. I can only hope (wrongly, I know) that you choked on your ill-deserved candy. Someday, when you're sitting in County, staring down the barrel of an aggravated assault rap, you'll look back and know this moment was where you began to go terribly wrong. (Around here, y'know, we'd just lash you to the mast and let the gulls pick at you for a week. Problem solved.)

A pox upon you and your house, you little slimeball.

* Sorry for shocking some of you. Don't even ask me about Santa Claus or where veal comes from. I now pronounce you a Grown Up.

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Sunday, October 25, 2009

Here a Buh! There a Buh!

And now for a predictably seasonal offering, if I may distract from you finishing your Evel Knievel costume.

I was talking to an older dad the other day, something I don't get to do often. As the radio droned, the conversation wandered to music; what we liked, what our parents liked. It then made a left turn into the unexpected: avoiding the moment that alienates you from your son.

With Jack so young, this isn't yet something I've experienced. But I knew exactly what the man was talking about. He told me that when he was 15, he shared some of "his" music with his father, a guitar player. The response was simply a dismissive, "I don't like the guitar in that." And in Older Dad's words, "That was it." It wasn't the entire war, for sure, but rather the last shot fired in it. The hard-to-describe affinity between father and son was at best, forever changed. At worst, it was broken.

The relationships between parents and children (between all of us, really) are so very fragile. And if you're paying attention, that little fact will scare the candy corn right out of you.

As I've discussed before, aiming a kid in the right direction is arguably the main goal of parenting. But in that discussion I assumed that naturally we'd all try to "aim" them well. A disturbing little tidbit I hadn't really thought of? That a father might even re-make the same mistake with his son... intentionally. As wholesome or hosed up as your particular childhood may have been, that's your yardstick. That's normal. With perhaps a bit of variation, we try to impose our own flavor of weird on ourselves, and on our kids, for good or ill. I'll spare you the obvious pop-psychology moment here.

You worry as a parent. It's a significant chunk of the job description. But I generally find myself worrying about the external. Things like horrific illnesses, car crashes, vampires, the living dead, kidnappers, vengeful mommies mummies, schoolyard bullies, werewolves, serial killers, the draft, poisoned candy and sports injuries. I never really thought to worry about myself, or about my past. As Pogo said, "We have met the enemy, and he is us."

All this has been swirling around in my head for a week or so. I fear estranging Jack more than most of the ugly list above (except for the living dead). Not because those things are more likely to occur - they're probably not - but because I'm not sure I'll see the moment coming beforehand. I've said what I've said, and I see the bumper sticker of an awful moment as it rolls away from me. That's truly terrifying.

The news is not all bad. I did get some great take-away advice from Older Dad, which I'll share. Older Dad told his son recently, "Son, when you're 45 and your kid tries to talk you into [activity X], say yes." The son grinned and nodded. So there's hope for a future son.*

Notes from the week:
I. We took Jack to Old MacDonald's Farm on Saturday. Really, that's the name, I couldn't make this stuff up. It billed itself as a Pumpkin Patch (if you're not familiar, basically a photo op with squash). However, OMF was really more petting zoo, with El Capitan identifying Emus, llamas, bantam chickens, a horse, ducks and a calf as FMB. I mean, I guess a calf kinda looks like a dog...

II.
We sauntered over to Trunk or Treat at church last night. The problem was that in some neighborhoods (ours) you wouldn't really want to let your kids just wander around trickertreatin'. In other neighborhoods, the guards wouldn't let us through the solid marble doric columns. The solution is as simple as it is ingenious: circle your cars in the church lot, pop the hatches, and sling candy like it's a controlled substance.

III.
Jack has decreed that every object is a telephone. Everything gets held, not to his ear, but to the back of his neck (it's complicated) while he blurts, "Oh!" [Hello]. Yesterday, he decides that his snack is a phone, and I thought, "What a goofy kid, food isn't a phone. Duh." The food?
An apple. NOW who's the idiot?
*I'm setting my alarm for 2021 right now.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Misty Mountain Hop

By my calculations, it is now Wednesday Thursday. So my apologies to anyone that expected the usual Monday post. Electronic communication of just about any sort was out of the question then, as you'll soon see.

Mixing a travelogue with pictures can quickly turn into that 6 hour slideshow from your aunt's trip to Iowa to tour cornfields. So I'll try to keep this as short as possible. A dude I work with at the Cinnabar Mines is fond of quoting George Bernard Shaw: "I'm sorry this letter is so long, I didn't have time to make it shorter."

We flew up to Tennessee and drove into the Great Smoky Mountains. I'll spare you the generic TSA/airport-with-kids hassle story, and say only that Jack was a trooper, and was fabulously behaved on all 4 flights, even to the point of being complimented several times by strangers. I just smiled and kept our own secrets: (1) boucoups of women that Jack could make eyes at and (2) Cheerios. El Capitan is so painfully predictable.

I had worked myself back into passable shape in the 8 weeks prior to the mountains by climbing up and down the mainmast rigging over to the crow's nest. Dying on a remote trail with a child strapped to my back isn't the way this crewmember plans on snuffing it. I'm more of a high-speed car chase/police shootout man, myself. And I carted our hero up and down every ridge, hill, incline and mountain imaginable. My personal favorite was rock hopping him across a stream that featured me balancing on one leg between steps. When he wasn't fast asleep, Jack giggled uncontrollably, loving every millisecond of being outside.

On Day 1 and Day 3 we did two family hikes with all 11 of us. But Jack was completely happy, and is officially tough as nails. Jack LOVED the pack elephant ride through the mountains, and I got violently sore nice and loose for the longer hikes on Day 2 and Day 4. While everyone else watched that ubiquitous American Football on Day 2, Melanie's Mr. Uncle Jesse and I were the only ones insane adventurous enough to go out for a 4ish? mile hike up Road Prong Trail. The trail used to be the main road through the area, but is now one of the least traveled trails in the entire park. It's reportedly the path Hernando de Soto came up in the 1500s. There was a good bit of snow near the top of the trail, where we ate at the coldest lunch counter ever, underneath twin evergreens.

Day 4 was the real killer pièce de résistance, where Mr. Uncle Jay, Mr. Cousin Nathaniel and Mr. Uncle Jesse (and yours truly) hiked 15-16 miles up Snake Den Ridge, up a connector to the AT and Mt. Guyot. I can mark #467 - Hike on the Appalachian Trail off my Bucket List. We drank from a real live mountain stream, got to somewhere around 6,600 feet, saw wreckage from an F-4 Phantom, took naps in the sun (surrounded by snow), and saw an Ursus americanus. Really. It was NEATO. My knees didn't think so. Day 4 was also Monday. Little known fact about Great Smoky Mountains National Park: No Blogging Allowed.

In the prescient words of Mr. Cousin Elijah, "This would be so much fun if it wasn't so unenjoyable." My thoughts exactly. If you can get past your aching, wet, blistered, and possibly bloody feet, it's the best time you've ever had.

Highlights:
(1) The Ice Baby Cometh. We very nearly froze the Skipper to death in the rain and low 40 degree temps. We are now well acquainted with anti-babyfreezing measures. Cape Horn, look out!
(2) Jack & Emily: THE CRUSH CONTINUES. Shameful.
(3) At 14 months, the Captain has now logged more flight hours than I had at age 21.
(4) Our Hero decided to start the vacation with the flu/croup and teething (yes, even more teeth). He was completely happy anyway.
(5) Jack called Belle the entire time. Pretty sure sound doesn't carry that far. I explained this, as I usually do, to little effect.
(6) The affinity with climbing and high places continues. Jack was on every table, chair or air hockey (!) table in sight.
(7) I want to issue an official apology to the lady in 20F. Look, if there was a way to lock the tray table and window shade, I would've done it. So I appreciate your 134 separate displays of patience. He's manic, but quiet. Count your blessings. We do.

Note: COMING SOON - I got some RIGHTEOUS pics, so go check them out in the link in the sidebar!


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Sunday, October 11, 2009

The Houston Curse

Real Clear Politics
The poll results are in. Six of you decided to get your hands dirty and get involved in the legislative process. But we have a tie! You couldn't decide between "Arguably funny and/or inappropriate Jack story" and "Pithy n' preachy Bible analogy". As it happens, I have neither preachy nor pithy today, so I'll try to post that soon. So 'arguably funny' it is, and this one is certainly arguable. So let it be written, so let it be done.

Reverse the Curse!
I sit here waiting for the DVR to rack up enough minutes to make watching the NFL tolerable (love ya, Mannings, but sheesh). I know, I'll tell you the one about the Houston Curse. Have I mentioned the Curse before? Like Arthur Conan Doyle's Baskervilles, snakes or the pre-2004 Bahston Red Sawx, some are destined to carry a terrible curse for (most of) eternity. We Comodoros are of that happy few.
The Houston Curse as we've come to know it has been there to kick us in the shins since early 2007. Everything from a 17,000 lb pine tree trunk over the house, a broken leg, temporary renal failure, and a hedge fund blowup have been evidence of its cruel wake.

However we started out, the crew is downright superstitious now. And we dread the curse's awful rumblings yet again, poised to strike at what we hold most dear: our vacation.

Exhibit A
So I walked in to Her Majesty lying on the kitchen floor this week. Now look, parents contort themselves in any number of ways to keep their children entertained, and that's no big deal. So that's what I thought of the situation until Majesty informed me that she in fact, couldn't get up (insert LifeCall joke here). So the rest of the evening was spent with me bearhugging her while she took 3 inch babysteps around the house. She torpedoed some big-boy painkillers and was off to seepy-seep.

CRASH. That was the sound that catapulted me out of bed at about 1am, heart pounding, the thought flashing through my mind of waking Mr. Glock up, too. Not necessary. H.M. had decided to pass out and land on the bathroom scales. I discovered this when I stepped on her in my haste. Excerpts from the conversation:
HM: I'm on the floor!
EC: Yes, I know.
HM: I passed out!
EC: Ya think?!
(EC drags her across room)
HM: I think I passed out. I passed out.
EC: Uh huh.
Crisis averted. Yay me. Until 3am, when we do it all over again. Excerpts from that conversation:
HM: I feel fine. I feel fine. I feel fine. I feel fine.
EC: You're going to pass out.
*collapses*
HM: OK, did I pass out?
EC: Yep.
(more reviving, even more dragging)
HM: Going... Going... (collapses again)
EC: Gone!
I almost passed out, myself. From laughter. Like this:

Exhibit B
Not to be outdone, Jack gets sick last night and gets me up either 4 or 5 times (I'm the dad-on-call for weekends). In no particular order, I walk in the room to find Jack: (1) turned 180 degrees from starting position yelling to himself, completely asleep; (2) sitting in his bed, left arm through his PJ collar, sleeve hanging limp, saying BEH! [Belle] BEH! BEH! BEH! BEH! BEH! BEH! BEH! BEH! BEH!; (3) standing in his crib yelling DOH! Dadadadadadadadadadada BEH! and (4) sitting there weeping, looking like Job in sackcloth and ashes, scraping himself with potsherds.

I administer Benadryl (Trip #2) for the HUGE insect bite. Long story, but a wreath of garlic and some holy water is the next stage of treatment. Trip #3 involved Motrin. So the kid was probably good and hung over this morning. Majesty finally succeeds in putting him down for good with the Nuclear Option*. After several attempts, she wakes me up at 3ish in the upstairs chair I've fallen into.

Y'know, it strikes me as ironic (and somewhat disturbing) that giving meds falls to people out of thier gourds that might or might not be fully conscious. But we're in charge, baby!

So you can imagine this little guy in glow-in-the-dark skeleton pajamas (see pic) covered in bug bites, with the worst smokers' cough imaginable. Flanked by Majesty, who's spine looks like a scrawled question mark. Followed by the snoring guy in the chair with a pharmacy piled up in his lap. Maybe we should apply for international recognition.

Anyway, all this bodes ill for the First Official Get on a Plane Family Vacation. Ill, I tell you. The crew is now avoiding cracks in sidewalks, ladders, and black cats. And they're trading the ship's plate for incredible numbers of rabbit's feet and framed shamrocks. I've had the same socks on for 2 weeks. You can't imagine the smell.

As an added bonus, enjoy the video of the Skipper and a very recalcitrant FMB below.

UPDATE: Flash! The Curse has gotten wind of this post, and H.M.'s crown fell off (no not that one, the other one). She's now at the dentista getting re-coronated. I hear it's quite a spectacle.

*a.k.a. breastfeeding, the sleep-inducing atomic weapon.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Outsourcing Creativity

Today was cardio day in my pre-vacation workout regime*. I dragged myself out of bed, somehow pulled on the workout gear, and locked up as I left the house. I then unlocked the door and went right back to bed. Maybe there can't be complete success without abject failure. Beats the daylights out of me as to what to write about this week. Darn it, I want to hear the will of the people! OK, let me have it. How to do that, you ask? Well, I've put up a new poll, so make sure you go make your nasty little opinion count. One funny thing. As you may or may not know about Majesty, she's very particular about how things go down with the Captain. He is dressed in a particular way (usually involves smocking and white shoes). She feeds him in a semi-crunchy granola people-type way. H.M. doesn't cotton to the trendy. At all. Ever. So I did NOT expect her to endorse Squeaker Sneakers. I'm thinking you can figure out what those are contextually. The Skipper is a RIOT to watch in them. Video to come. So now we're just blithering idiots who hang around all day making baby noises and watching Jack squeaksqueaksqueaksqueaksqueaksqueak all around the house. For those contemplating the glories of parenthood, this is pretty much how it plays out: Ah yes! The ship's crack team of investigative reporters have located exclusive hidden camera footage of the Captain's trip to the Houston Children's Museum. As we discussed last week, it's really more multi-million dollar play room than museum. I expected exhibits featuring Napoleon, Alexander and Marcus Aurelius as kids. Kind of like Muppet Babies except with ruthless world leaders. Anyhoo, the video quality is poor (OK, actually the video itself is extremely poor, too). And the camera angle probably came from the continuing, umm, debate between Her Majesty and yours truly about the green and red camcorder lights (although, yes, red is the "stop" color, it means you ARE, in fact, recording). On the video, I think if you listen VERY closely, you can hear someone giving us illegal tax advice.  
*Really just a precautionary measure before Little Monster rides on my back (thereby turning my spine into powder) in the Great Smoky Mountains.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Please Stand By

El Comodoro, Ladies and Gentlemen, has been sitting at the Cinnabar Mines tweedling his thumbs, drinking dodgy-tasting coffee and reading George Will's* latest column, hard copy. More after the jump.

OK, we're back. The A/C in our usually polar server room blew a sprocket over the weekend, so for a few hours this morning I was reduced to using a ribbon typewriter and buying War Bonds. It makes for somewhat difficult blogging, I can tell you. But that's not your problem, it be all mine, mon.

We went over to the Houston Children's Museum on Saturday. It was GREAT to get out of the house. And I've got to give some high praise to that place. It's awesome. The bottom floor's main attraction is "Kidtropolis," a city where there are kid-sized, Lysol-wiped versions of daily fixtures: a grocery store, a bank, city hall, the police station, a vet, a diner, whatever. I found it interesting that both the bank and city hall were deserted. There were no bankers or politicians-to-be in Kidtropolis that day. Probably all on biz trips to China or junkets to Maui, respectively.

Jack was still a bit too young for this particular flavor of crazy, so we headed up to the second floor, which is more tot-friendly. Squeezed into about the area of a tennis court, neato stuff is everywhere, including a get-inside truck with a working dashboard, a 3'x3' Lite-Brite with pegs the size of sidewalk chalk, ramps, big foam blocks, and toy car sets. It's like the Marine Corps built a boot camp obstacle course for the under-three crowd.

The Skip's favorite by a wide margin was the little working door that opens to a mirror**. Kudos to whoever thought up combining two of his favorite things: cabinetry and vanity. Jack trained his maniacal (and a little OCD) focus on opening and closing the door. I kid you not, we had to tear him away after probably 50 times. There was a line.

Don't have time to go into details, but The Masked Tooter strikes again (twice!) at church last night. Sheesh.

*Reading GW without a dictionary nearby is like gunfighting with a butter knife.

** The truck was also immensely popular, as you can see from the pics.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Violation of Rink Policy

I haven't set foot... er, skate on an ice rink since February, when during a hockey game, a 260 lb. thug decided to earhole me into November 2027. In the 13 minutes it took for my head to roll back to my body, a thought occurred to me.
I've got to quit this nonsense.
And I did. But Saturday, thanks to my great neighbor/enabler, Bob, I was back on the rink, if only for a light skate. With no thugs. Or out-of-body experiences.

And the Captain did his first turn on the ice with old dad! People, it was great. The cold breeze in our faces, gliding along effortlessly, with the red and blue stripes falling behind us. I cherished all 3 seconds of it.

SIRPUTTHECHILDDOWN! THECHILDMUSTBEONTHEICE! PUTTHECHILDDOWNNOW! SIR! IMMEDIATELY! ONTHEICE! PUTTHECHILDDOWN! NOW!
It's really a great way to end a beautiful memory, isn't it? I thought so, too. The more-latitude-than-longitude, frizzy haired skateguard Cindy Lauper trampled that moment to death. Y'know, for about a millisecond, I thought, "We can outrun this gal for at least 20 minutes while they get the guys with tasers, right?"

Oooooooh, we are CRIMINAL!

Yes, OK, it was slightly risky. Slightly. No, I probably shouldn't have done it. Did I think the lady allowing sugar-high kids to play full contact ice-rugby would go all Nurse Ratched on me? Nah. But it makes sense.

Interpersonal inhibitions go to zero when there are children involved. Yelling, screaming, ordering, rudeness, anything's acceptable. There's a kid screaming in Wal-Mart? Threaten mom, or worse. Think someone's environmentally "irresponsible" by having lots of kids? Call them a "breeder" and give them an earful about carbon. See a pregnant lady at the pharmacy with a herd of little ones? Give her the hard time she so richly deserves. Tell her about this thing called birth control. Have we lost all our civility? Our couth?

Guess I should have told Ms. Lauper (and her whistle) I was the only guy to ever take off his skate and try to stab somebody. That's couth, right?

Condensing some other news of our great and illustrious Captain of men:
1. Outfitted Jack for football season with Cowboys and Crimson Tide t-shirts
2. Outfitted Jack for hockey season with Dallas Stars t-shirt (MODANO on the back)
3. Jack's looking around the house calling "Beh!" for Belle. Even at church. Fruitlessly explained that FMB doesn't "do" church.
4. Hit REI for a no-fooling-around backpack baby carrier. Think elephant harness, here.
5. What is WITH Tony Romo?
Gotta run. Adios, amigo.

Monday, September 14, 2009

There's a DAY for That?

Today We Salute You, Mister...
There are phenomena in this world that are beyond explanation. To wit, every 19th of September is hallowed by being International Talk Like a Pirate Day. Yes, friends and neighbors, you read that right.

I'll wager you didn't know there was an International Talk Like a Pirate Day. Me either. But, ohhhhh, there is. The ship's Research Department was really enthused about this one. They dug up obscure links. Glossaries. Books. Excruciating how-to's. Too-embarrassing-to-watch YouTube instructional videos, bantering about with flimsy coined terms, like "Pirattitude." To yours truly, these links represent concrete proof that there are some ultrastrange folk about, adrift on veritable oceans of strangeness.

Wait, You're Serious?
Don't believe me? Watch this!



Truth be told, the Captain and crew can barely understand these people. Maybe it's their regional dialect, we're just not sure.

So this coming Saturday, when you find yourself parked in front of the 84" HDABCXYZTV, watching Pro League Over-35 Iranian Lacrosse, lift your iced tea (for these purposes, that's grog) and give 'em a muted, ever-so-quiet ARRRRRRGH!

'Cause, y'know, people will talk. And not like Pirates, either. About you. And not in a good way.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Stairway to Heavin'

Labor Day. It's Jack's 1st 2nd official holiday. I can't for the life of me remember what we did last Labor Day, other than changing diapers, staring holes through our newborn, and absolutely not expecting a direct hit from the 3rd most costly hurricane in US history.

I got to play the role John Lennon so eloquently described as "househusband" today, while my sugar mama went and scraped up some legal tender. I think the Cap'n and I watched about 6 SportsCenturys and a Maria Bartiromo roundtable on the healthcare debate. Distillation: Walter Payton was the MAN.

Jack waived off his morning nap, and was in there pretty much throttling Barack the Bear when I barged in. Yep, the bear's name is Barack (Barry for short). Look, he ran as this polished centrist but went nutsy hard left as soon as he hit the nursery. There's nothing I can do. Betcha didn't know there are terms for teddy bears, huh? Just to keep things straight, the bear pictured above is Mr. Clancy, our boatswain. He runs a tight ship, and has great posture as you can see from the pic.

The wifey got home and since her back muscles were holding her spine at knifepoint, she decided to do that crazy hippie yoga, yo. I joined her. You heard me. I'm in negotiations with a nasty flareup of plantar fasciitis (think terrorism for your feet) and it's about all I can do on my aerobic day. Back off, dude.

The Skipper has been a funny guy lately, with my favorite being the one with Jack and the stairs. Unsupervised for a good solid 4 seconds, Majesty hears the trademark "No no no!" and turns to see Jack at the top of the stairs. I know, trust but verify. Fine. Here's proof he can go the distance:

Happy now?

Jack also packed it off to Friendship School this past week. It's like a pre-preschool. So if your kid flunks out here, they've got to go to preschool on a football scholarship. Although I still maintain the name makes us sound like Quakers. But that's cool. Jack LOVES it. He parades around in a wagon, waving at everyone that will look his way, and spent his first nap time (very much awake) trying to give sleeping kids his sippy cup. Y'know, I felt a little guilty unleashing him on those kind folks at the school.

And then the guilt passed and we did it anyway.

Monday, August 31, 2009

The Seven Year Twitch

Today I have been married to the only woman on the planet that would have me most wonderful woman on earth for seven (7!) years.

My standard line for such occasions is to ask, "Can you imagine what that woman has been through?" But seriously, can you?! Roughly 2,555 days of completely legal and binding marital entrapment with yours truly have had to have taken their toll.

Sure, the first 365 days are typically your Omaha Beach scenario, with war and carnage everywhere. Fine. But that still leaves 2,190 for cleaning up the hedgerows.

Happy anniversary, Babe. Your Purple (and black, and blue) Heart is in the mail. Love ya, dude.*

Now that I think about it, at this point, Jacob was still strawbossing for Laban and was about to be hornswoggled into marrying two (count'em, two) wives. And after his seven years, that dude in The Seven Year Itch was having to endure the sight of Marilyn's levitating dress. I guess things could be a lot worse.

H.M. successfully coordinated childcare for 60+ kids at the church marriage seminar this weekend. She's exhausted. The catch, here, was that neither she, nor her bumbling assistant (giveya 3 guesses) got much of any marriage advice. Ironical, huh?!

In other news, Jack now helps end our nightly prayers with "Amen." He tries to beat me to the punch, so I really have to nail my "'NJesus'nameweprayAMEN" before he gets his little "Amuh" out. IN YOUR FACE, BABY!

*Can we negotiate speaking terms, now?

Note:
A special thanks this week to Cake Wrecks (and I suppose The Office) for the cake above.