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...

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.

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.

(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.
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.