Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Novennial

Nine years, or about one quarter of my life ago today, I was married to the ever wonderful and beautiful Majesty.  And so for the years since we made it legal, we've been trying to make it good.  And that ain't always easy, folks.

The good part comes slowly in little things, in fits and starts.  You make glacial progress toward it.  Oddly, growth happens when you decide to grow up.  When you realize that things don't revolve around you and your ease.  Am I there yet?  Nah, not by a longshot.  But maybe on the day of our 18th Anniversary, G0d willing, I'll be closer than I am now.

Anyway, as I keep pointing out, never has a more painfully average man snagged himself a better woman.  I'm glad you're here to share this little slice of the universe, babe.

Now to figure out the logistics behind getting a pregnant girl an illicit shipment of sushi...

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Fahvuh’s Day or In Which I Make A Very Big Announcement

If you can slog through this mess, I promise there’s a payoff.  I think.  This is a story about when an ordinary day suddenly turns interesting.

On a Sunday a while back, I had to stand up and say a few words during communion in our early service.  It happened to be FAHVUH’S DAY, as Jack puts it.  I’d been up too late trying to organize my thoughts.  I usually do my rehearsing/rehashing out loud while floating in the pool, but it was already past 10.  I had run a good bit Saturday morning, so I ended up stretching out some tired muscles on the bedroom floor.  And by this time, some tired neurons, too.

Next day, I dragged myself out of bed and made my way through my warmup and finally over to the gym.  My head wasn’t exactly clear, but it was plenty clear enough to dread proving myself a complete fool to 400 people.  The workout ground itself out, ticktocking from monotony to enjoyment and back again.  They do that.

My pre-workout shot of chocolate milk had used up Jack’s 2 percent.  So I careened over to HEB in my rickshaw of a car, and headed back to the milk case.  There was one other person in the aisle, obviously an athlete of some stripe, his cart already about a third full even that early in the morning.

Back to the house to nuke the leftover half-caf homemade espresso in a mason jar and down the last of the Peanut Butter Captain Crunch.  I know, I know - truly the Breakfast of Champions everywhere.

I threw on my standard not-trying-too-hard Suit-No-Tie… but I really was trying a little harder than normal, so I actually shaved.  We were late.  I flew over to the church building and just made the little informal meeting of those who would serve during the morning’s worship.  The song before communion was Alas and Did My Savior Bleed.  Alas.  Bleed.  Got it.

Apparently my bit went over okay; people were very kind in their reactions.  I’m not well known at the church, and am rusty at that sort of thing, anyway.  My voice gets this odd quaver in it now.

We finished up with Bible class, me in the phenomenal Romans class taught by my all-time favorite preacher, a man truly gifted in simplifying (and then relating) complex theology.  Majesty had rolled her aaaaaalmost healed sprained ankle again while teaching the little tribe of three year olds (+Jack “I Play A Three Year Old On TV”).  Back to the big black orthopedic walking boot for her.  We slowly edged out to the truck, The Dude in tow.

Majesty had the keys, and hopped in the driver’s side.  But I almost always drive.  Y’know, because I’m pretty much insufferable as a passenger.  Hey, it’s no secret.  I look at her, and before I get a chance to protest, she says, “My foot hurts, and I’m going to let you out at the store to get some milk.”


“I already got milk.  I already got it.”  HA!  TAKE THAT.  TAKE THAT, WOMAN!

She sputtered (obviously shocked that I could’ve been so responsibly thoughtful, like, ever) and then said words I will not forget:

“Then you can get some orange juice.  And a pregnancy test.”

I just grinned like an idiot, stunned, halfway in the passenger seat, halfway out.  I don’t even remember what I said – I think I just managed a big, dumb, “Okay!”

She said later that she hadn’t told me beforehand because she didn’t want to spook me for my communion talk, which I really appreciate.  I don’t want to imagine the sweaty, blathering, giggling result otherwise.

H.M. also said that she didn’t plan to tell me in a parking lot.  It just happened.  But I couldn’t - and still can’t - imagine a better way to be told:  “Hey, get some Tropicana.  No pulp.  And I’m pretty sure you’re going to be a father.  So remember, the big picture here is NO PULP.”

I have learned at least two things from all this.  First, sometimes Father’s Day is meant to be taken literally.  Second, I think there’s something fishy going on with those big black orthopedic boots.  Seriously.  We found out about Jack when I was waddling around in one of those things after a leg break.  Anybody know how we can get immediate government funding for a study?  We’ll all be RICH.  Rich, I tell you.

Anyway, watch yourselves out there.  One minute you’re limping to your physical therapy appointment, the next you’re digging the Pack ‘N Play out of the attic, down 250 grand plus college.

In truth, I had learned this part already, but the OJ/Fatherhood announcement was a pointed reminder that my timetables, plans, and absolutely surefire knowledge of the future are all pretty much a bunch of smoke and guesses and worthless nonsense.  But anybody with any sense knows that.

I have so many things swirling around in my head now.  And as you’d imagine, I’ve got plenty to write about, too.  I have too many questions.  But most importantly, I have thanks, praise and adoration for God in my heart for answering prayers.  We would covet your prayers as well.  (And your large cash donations.  There's that.)

So it's Round 2, then.  Ding, ding.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

A Birthday Post

"I'm horseback riding like Daddy!"
We've been super busy.  As you may remember, the crew basically split up the continental U.S. between us, with Majestad and Jack taking the East, leaving me with the West.  It's like Risk.  Worldwide domination, here we come.

I jumped on a plane the morning of Jack's third birthday, and sang Happy Birthday to him in the middle of coach.  The older couple sitting next to me said they thought about joining in.  Told them the entertainment was free with the price of admission.

So Jack-san is TWEE YEAWS OWLD.  He told me so when I picked them up at the airport.  Which just bakes my noodle all the way through.  Time, whatever else you think about it, is difficult to take in.  I mean, to comprehend.  To have a fundamental grasp of.  It drags on, then arbitrarily speeds past with only the memory of it as fading proof.  As I (uh, rapidly) age, the moments pile up; I can't hope to reliably record the library of stuff and thoughts and images and laughter.  Such is being a parent.  Heck, such is being.

You do what you can.  So happy birthday, my boy.  Many happy returns.  I'm more amazed at you with each passing day.

This could be Mars for all I know.
It's really a cruel thing to take a Houston area resident and stick them in the Pac Northwest during August.  And it's not because of the pristine summer weather up there.  The cruel part is when you take away the pristine weather.  I've got to tell you, after stepping off my return flight and walking up the jetway in Houston, it took me a half hour to come up with compelling reasons why I live in this brutal climate (answers were "Mexican Food," followed closely by "Driving Fast" and "Because My Wife Is Always Cold").

I went running up there one morning.  It was 52 degrees.  High temp at home that day?  102 degrees.  The misery heat index in Texas hovered right around the melting point of aluminum.  Running in Washington was like running on another planet.  The only drawback is that they have quadriceps burning, soul crushing hills.  Big ones.  And lots of 'em.  Anyway, it was the second time I had been up there for this particular conference, and we were right on the Columbia River Gorge.  I cheated death on this year's horseback ride (saw a BWACK BEAW!) and also survived the whitewater rafting trip (someone's gotta do it).  Oh yeah, there was a conference thingy in the middle somewhere.  Right.  Good grief, I love my job.

During the week, H.M. sent me a steady stream of texts and pictures to give me my occasional absentee dad fix.  Examples:

Okay, I have to tell you about the monkey.  Uncle Blake has this old toy monkey that is pretty ferocious looking.  It's about a foot high and walks around menacingly on battery power.  Jack was TERRIFIED of it.  Absolutely terrified.  Coincidentally, The Dude also has a bad habit of running up to Uncle Blake's room when nobody's watching to jam on Blake's guitar.

So before I left Mobile a few weeks ago, I had a chance to do what all loving, caring, patient fathers dream of doing:  getting even with the chilrun.  I wandered into Blake's room one day and stood the toy monkey up slightly behind a corner as you enter the room.  I put it precisely where a little boy would come face to face with it.  In a dark room, no less.  I congratulated myself on my (evil) ingenuity and went my merry way.

The next day, we're upstairs getting dressed for something or other, and I see Jack venture quietly toward the room.  He goes in.  I then hear "AHH AHH AHHHHH AHH AHHHHHHH!!!!!" and see Jack shoot out of there like he's on fire, arms flapping, the works.  I was crumpled on the floor, about to asphyxiate.  H.M. didn't exactly, ah, approve.

But total victory is sweet, indeed.  Sweet but brief.  I got a text after I left town from Majesty that said "He's overcome his fear."  She had attached a picture of Jack reaching out and barely touching the monkey's nose.  Reminded me of E.T.  But with a monkey.  And without the glowing finger.  Okay, it's nothing like E.T. at all, so just drop it.

And conquering fear naturally leads into... dental work.  That's right, ladies and gentlemen, that's my kid flossing the monkey's teeth.

I didn't even bother trying to tell Jack the monkey needed to floss because it had been eating little boys whole.  That monkey's lost his touch.  Totally.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

No News Is Boring News

I've been over here in Texas batching it and watching the plants on the patio bake.  It's riveting.  I left Majesty and The Dude in Alabama.  Or put another way, I was expelled from the state without my family.  To earn that daily bread stuff.

So I'm running the usual playbook:  watching more TV than I've seen in probably the last 12 months combined, reading and rereading books, staying up too late, playing that rock and roll music too loud, and eating an arterially dangerous sequence of identical meals (chorizo, potato and egg tacos).  The whole place smells strongly of coffee, cumin and fresh tortillas.

I hate when the family is out of town.  When I've got some huge fixerupper project going, it's tolerable.  Being both busy - and then incredibly tired - is a great antidote for the quiet of an empty house.  But with no projects to speak of, and 110+ degree heat indices, I'm starting to feel like a dog locked up in the hall bathroom.  At least there's Skype.  Thank goodness for that.

I think Majestad is going to come home to some scratched up baseboards and chewed chairlegs.

Tick tock.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Of Babies, Rainbows and Low Country Boil

This past weekend we hauled everything over to Mobile to catch Baby Nolan's birfday.

I'm officially a real-deal, legit UNCLE now.  (I'll be signing autographs in the lobby afterward.)  Baby and mommy and daddy are all okay, and everybody has the requisite number of toes and fingers and ears and nostrils and whatever, last I checked.  Was a very good time.  Some observations:

Traditions are good.  And odd traditions are even better.  Bebe and Poppa have this great custom of trolling for blueberry pancakes (or is it waffles?) every time they have a grandbaby.  I'm told I actually witnessed the first installment of this back in 2008, but I have absolutely no memory of it.  None.  I mean, zero.  How messed up was I?!  Anyway, seeing Bebe crush a full on, buttered up slab of blueberry deliciousness is like watching a star go supernova:  it's just not something you see everyday.

Celebratory dinners are relative.  Before we left the hospital on Tuesday night, the staff brought in the "celebratory meal" for the new padres.  The choices were either a piece of fried fish or a sandwich, and let's just face it, nobody celebrates with cold cuts.  Doesn't happen.  Anyway, the fried fishyfish and hushpuppies actually looked pretty darn good.  (Okay, I was still too distracted by the electric blue frosting on the Celebratory Cupcakes to notice much else.)  After a long while, everybody started talking about how good it sounded to go get fried fish or heck, just fried something-er-other, period.  Enter Wintzell's Oyster House down on Dauphin Street.

Somehow I've been patrolling Mobile for almost 13 years without shoehorning myself into Wintzell's.  This is the place where certain (anonymous) members of the family tauntingly email me pictures of huge fresh oyster platters.  Total cheap shot.  Anyway, we proceeded to annihilate one of the all-time best family dinners, well, ever.  Crab claws.  Buttered bread.  Fresh oysters.  Low country boil.  Gumbo.  Shrimp and grits.  Bread pudding.  (Lotsa) bourbon sauce.  It was stupid good.  Stupid, I tell you.  Jack notched firsts in several categories.

Explaining how to eat crab claws to a two year old can be complex.

No, these aren't all about eating.  Okay, okay, here you go.

Baby experiences are dependent on a huge array of variables.  (See?  Not about food.)  The difference in cities/cultures/doctors/hospitals is insane.  Not to trash on Mobile at all - I'm sure it's fairly typical of places its size - but I was very glad we had Jack in a larger city.  It just fit us conservahippies better.  Mobile makes Houston look like - and I can't believe I'm making this comparison - San Francisco.  Hilarious example:  A (Mobile) doctor actually told Jay and Emily, "Don't bring a doula [with you to the hospital]."  Er, yeah.  Right, doc.  Then you'll know what a digitus tertius is. 

The State of Louisiana shuts down Interstate highways arbitrarily, and too often.  Maybe it's the Cajun/English language barrier.  "ONE LANE?!  No, you idiots!  I said TRES BIEN!"

Almost forgot:  Jack saw his first rainbow just after starting the drive to Alabama.  And no, it hasn't rained a lot here.  Check it out!

We're approaching Jack's third birthday.  Stay tuned for all sorts of frosting-slathered details.  Majesty asked him what he wanted for his birthday this year.  With a big smile he said simply, "A big red birfday cake!"  Simple (and permanently staining) pleasures, I guess.

And on an administrative note, we've officially hit our third year of CJMP.  You poor, poor people.  Well, heck, you've hung in there this long...

What's a few more wasted years?