Friday, July 15, 2011

Garage sales and T-Ball tales

Nothing like a month off from blogging to clear the mind.  Where has the time gone?  Goodness, I guess we've been busy.  This morning I thought, I should really write a blog entry, it's been a good week or two...", and sign in to see that it's actually been 32 days.   Oopsie!  So much for regaling you with a summer play-by-play. 

We've finished T-Ball for the summer (more about that later), and are now in the heart of summer;  those precious few weeks in the middle where Old School feels like a distant memory in the rearview mirror and New School has yet to break the upcoming horizon.  It's the time of year that feels like it couldn't get here fast enough and yet will end too soon.

So what have we done to get ourselves to this point?

At the Boy's insistence, we hosted a garage sale the last weekend of June.  His ingenious idea was to sell all of his old toys in order to get new toys.  I tried in vain to explain to him the economic principals of depreciation and inflation, but he would have none of it.  I finally relented, and we held a two day sale.  Mom and Dad got rid of lots of stuff, which was good.  Before the sale started, I handed the Boy an empty box, and requested that he bring it downstairs to his playroom and fill it with toys he'd like to sell.  After a half hour of concentrated deliberation, here is what he came back upstairs with:

I realize it's hard to see what's in the box, so I've conveniently compiled a complete inventory:

1.  Slinky, broken (1)
2.  Bead track, small (1)

That's it.  A half hour's work.  I asked him what he was planning on buying with all his money that he was almost certain to rake in.  Completely ignoring my obvious sarcasm, he proceeded to list off about 400 dollars worth of Legos, a new bike, and "something nice for mom, a necklace maybe".  Perhaps they teach realism in Kindergarten.  Or basic math? 

After the sale, the most impressive use of time was definitely Grammy and Grandpa Camp.  Which was pretty much the most amazing thing ever.  The Fam and I packed the gills of the AstroVan and headed to Crosslake where the Duluth cousins and aunties and uncles and grands were waiting.  After spending 3 wonderful days hanging out with everyone (all 11 of us), the middle generation went home, leaving the Boy and his cousins to the care of their elders, my parents. 

For five days!!!!  Five days without mom and dad, 3 hours away from home!  It.  Was.  Glorious

And I'm sure he had fun too. 

That was the week of the 4th.  Since his return, he has mostly disappeared each day into NeighborBoy's house or backyard.   Every Boy needs a NeighborBoy; one that sees eye to eye and likes the same things.  They have matching Big Wheels and matching Helmets and never seem to tire of each other's company or bicker, which is pretty impressive for 5 year olds.  If they ever move away, we might just follow them.

And T-ball twice a week, culminating this past Wednesday with a "game", all kids adorned in matching T-shirts. 

So glad T-ball is over. 

Not because he's horrible at it (which he is), or because the ice cream truck drove through the parking lot every single practice tormenting the players (which it did), or because a couple of the other kids thought the object of the game was to steal the bat and cut in line (which they did).  I'm glad it's over because the "coaches" really never did anything about any of these issues.  Didn't help the Boy get better (he wasn't loud and rowdy and therefore got no attention), didn't stop the hogs from stealing the bats.   Basically they had no personality, and by all appearances, had no interest in being T-ball coaches. 

Not that I could do better, mind you.  But I didn't sign up to do it for that very reason.  I realize they were just a couple of college girls, probably making 6 bucks an hour, but it would have been nice to have at least some level of enthusiasm, even if forced.  Oh well.   

And so, on we go!  Further into the summer - supposed to be ridiculously hot and humid this week.  Not looking forward to that.  But still enjoying the summer for what it is - endless days of no calendars, no schedules, no bosses (and no money as a result).

It won't be long before we begin prepping for kindergarten, and also for the arrival of The Girl (tm), expected the last week of September.  (have I mentioned that here yet?  Can't remember, but the Boy is having a sister, much to our surprise and growing excitement).  That's a whole 'nuther entry.  Or perhaps a whole 'nuther blog?   The Girl (tm).   Hmm. 

Off to play, have a great day!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

T-ball begins!

I can definitely tell that summer is in full swing.  Although only 10 days since the last day of school, it already seems like a distant memory, routine wise, to get up and hustle the Boy into presentable clothes and shuttle him through rush-hour traffic over to Roseville. 

With the Breadwinner's job winding down for the summer, and with me gainfully unemployed, we are simply - home.  All the time.  Home home home.  And loving every minute of it.

Our day usually begins with the sound of the Boy climbing the stairs from his basement lair and crawling into bed between us, whispering Good Morning.  Not a bad start.  At least, not a bad start when it's 8:30 or 9:00 instead of 5:30 or 6:00.   We slowly exit to the kitchen to share an unpaced breakfast followed by morning news and a cartoon or two.  Our biggest decision to make before Noon is whether or not we're going to get dressed for the day or stay in Jammies. 

Not a bad gig.

The Boy's afternoons have mostly been filled with the highly entertaining and conveniently located NeighborBoy - in and out of both houses, both sandboxes, and up and down both driveways on the bikes. 

Hours of uninterrupted fun.  And I'm sure he's having a good time as well.  (ba-dum-ching!) 

In fact, he's over there right now, allowing me enough time to jot down a few thoughts here.  For three people with no obligatory attendance required anywhere, we've sure been busy!  Swimming lessons have drawn to a close, he made it through all of them (and loved it toward the end, go figure).  Now, the T-Ball lessons have begun.  Yesterday evening was the first.

If you've never seen the Chevy Chase movie Funny Farm, I recommend it.  Towards the end of the film, when Chevy and his wife decide they want to move away from the crazy small town they've grown to hate after moving there from the big city, they bribe all the horrible neighbors and townsfolk to act extra kind and normal, and well, Norman Rockwellian.  That manufactured, artificial old-fashioned Americana wholesomeness is what they use to trick someone into buying their house so they can leave. 

I experienced the real version yesterday at the local ballpark.  Teams playing on every field.  Perfect temperature and humidity level.  Giant playground full of happy children.  Families picnicking on the green grass with genuine checkerboard blankets.  Grandparents holding hands; soccer games and volleyball games and footballs flying around.  Every inch of Commons Park in use, but nothing crowded.  Nothing fake.  Real people.

And as iconic as it gets for an American summer in the suburbs:  T-Ball practice.  Those of you that have parented a child through T-Ball do not need me to explain how ridiculously ridiculous it is to watch 4-6 year olds attempt to catch a baseball-like object with a baseball mitt.  It just doesn't happen, other than phenoms like the one I know named Isaac.  And when these (normal) kids throw the ball - goodness.  The arm is willing, hurling the ball forward, only to see the ball betray the hand's grip at the last minute and fling itself sideways against all laws of physics. 

The Boy loved it, although completely incompetent.  He's at least ignorant of his incompetence.  I won't tell him.  Just lots of high-fives and try-agains from me, thankyouverymuch.

Oh, but the Funny Farm scene wasn't done.  Just as practice was starting, the local Senior Brass Band arrived for a practice session/impromptu concert in preparation for the upcoming Town Parade.  Not even kidding.  Couldn't make it up.  For all of T-Ball practice, we were serenaded from across the field with "Stars and Stripes Forever" and "Marine's Hymn" and "You're a Grand Ol' Flag" and "My Country Tis of Thee" and "Beauty and the Beast theme song".   Yeah, the last one surprised me too. 


Anywho, at the end of this first day of practice, the very proud team of newfound pre-K friends got to each submit an idea (if they wanted to) for their team name.  Of course, the Boy would find a way to make it awkward.  His pronouncement, in a loud enough voice to be heard over the band, was "The White Twins". 

Yes, folks.  He wanted his team to be called the White Twins.  This very multi-ethnic group of 8 children, of which the Boy was one of 3 white kids. 

His T-Ball instructor stared at me. 

I was of course able to very quickly explain the root of his seemingly inappropriate suggestion - you see, the Minnesota Twins wear white jerseys on weekends.  The Boy, slowly getting more interested in baseball but not understanding the game very well, asked me one time "Which team do you want to win dad?" while it was on TV.  I said, "The team wearing white.  They're the Twins.  We like the Twins." 

The White Twins. 

The Boy's team is named the Diamonds, the only other suggestion offered, after a not-so-close vote.

And admit it, you have the Beauty and the Beast song stuck in your head too.  Heh.   "Tale as old as tiiime..."

Friday, June 3, 2011

So it begins...

Summer, that is. 

Earlier this morning the Boy shipped off for his last day of pre-school, a thundery and sticky morning that, once the clouds break, is expected to be a scorcher.  Very appropriate weather to kick-off his vacation season before Kindergarten swings into action in September. 

Last night, Mom and I, along with the full Quartet of Grandparents, watched him graduate in full pomp - the white cap and gown, hair freshly cut, the "dressy pants" underneath. (which took 10 minutes of coaxing to get him changed out of his Army shorts).

And there they were, sixteen jittery 5.5 year olds singing lovely little songs (most with obligatory hand motions) and informing their captive audience what they will be when they grow up.  And considering the circumstances, they did fantastic - a true testament to the amazing teachers.  You see, the whole time, these mature and discerning youngins were within eyesight of a cookie buffet.  There were Paparazzi levels of flashbulbs snapping and video cameras rolling from every corner, and a multi-generational audience beaming from ear to ear at their every twitch and stutter.  But there they stood, hardly ever playing with the cap tassels, nobody wiping boogers on their neighbors or giving random shout outs to their respective families.  (you've all heard the "that's my dad!!!" or "I see grandma!!!" during a Christmas concert, right?)

I'm not sure how the teachers and staff pulled that off, but I want in on the secret.

Really, I shouldn't be surprised though.  From the beginning - when his primary teacher actually came out to our house to meet the Boy two years ago so he would recognize someone on his first day - to today's end, we've been nothing short of amazed at the adults that - on purpose! - spend their entire day surrounded by walking and babbling germ factories.  And love it.  And smile at every child, every morning, regardless of that child's escapades the day before.  Constantly having their personal space invaded by impromptu (and food-encrusted) hugs, sore necks and backs from walking with eyes cast down toward their miniature audience, always stooping to hear the whispered voices or separate the boys before things get serious.  Blessed with the gifts of Short Memory and Second Chance and Quick Smile, all with a gymnast's dexterity.  Wowsers.  I'm not sure how much any of them get paid, but I'm positive it should be more. 

And the Boy.  Ah, this Boy of mine.  At age 3, "visiting" his school for the first time, lip trembling at the noise 20+  kids make when in a room together - more kids than he had ever seen at once.  Such a little guy, still wearing the "I might not remember to stop playing and go potty" underwear.  Barely speaking above a whisper.   And now - confident.  Bold.  Active and smart.  Brave, and excited for Kindergarten.  What a transformation, one that I'm positive couldn't have happened without the gentle, reliable, constant and positive prodding of this group of caring adults. 

So, for this group, the ones that are able to convince 5 year olds that standing still and staying quiet is actually a good idea once and a while, and for the last 2 years have helped the Boy grow into a fine young man, some shout outs from a thankful parent are necessary.

First there's Sandy L, who for what seemed like the entire first year, was the name we used to coax our fearful little 3.5 year old into the van.  "Hurry up, we can't be late, Sandy's waiting for you!"  In the Boy's eyes, she was the safe zone, the comfortable and caring eyes and voice.  If nothing else was right in his school world, Sandy was right.

For the second year, with confidence starting to build, it was all about Marcia.  She was, after all, the one with the food.  "Hurry up, we can't be late, Marcia's waiting for you!", and into the van he'd go, wondering which two cereals he'd get to choose from that morning. 

And no matter who greeted him in the morning - Sandi H or Midge or Ericka or Bev or Adam or a student teacher, it was always a smile and always a greeting by name, and a genuine pleasure in seeing the Boy again.  And throughout the day, simple kindness - naptime with Holly and music with Sonja included, and the same each afternoon at good-bye, sometimes by the same person from earlier that morning, somehow still smiling. 

All wonderful people. Saints.  Ah, but there's one more.  Last but most certainly not least,  what would this Boy be without his Carrie?  Other than Mom and I and maybe a handful of relatives, I don't know that any other adult "gets" our Boy like Carrie does.  She totally knows him and adores his quirky little mind.  That isn't something they teach in Early Childhood education classes, it's just who Carrie is, and we could not have been more fortunate to have her as his primary teacher.  I'm going to miss the notes detailing his daily achievements and/or adventures.  And I'll miss the conferences where we share a group laugh over the peculiar ways the Boy views his world.  Just the thought that someone else delights in him is flat out astounding.  She has definitely set a very high bar for his upcoming teachers and has wildly exceeded even our most unrealistic expectations. 

And so, now summer begins.  I'm sure we'll figure out together, this Boy and I, how to fill our days.  And I'm sure I'll be filling the blogosphere with details of our adventures.   And next fall when Kindergarten starts, I know it will be fine and fun, with a whole new set of memories and things to love and good teachers and new friends. 

But for today, the last day, a huge shout out THANK YOU to everyone at NWC CDC.  You will be greatly missed.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

A whirlwind of activity

I realized this morning that I hadn't written an entry here in a couple of weeks.  Time is flying by; it's amazing how busy we've been, and even more amazing how normal and un-write-about-it-worthy (is there a word for that?) the activities have all been.  Just.  Normal.  Life.

Of course, "normal" is a subjective term.  Everything with the Boy is defined by adventure.  Like watching him run a race or throw a frisbee.  He has the same level of coordination and muscle command as a Muppet, sans muppeteer.  I've literally seen him fall over while just standing somewhere.  No movement.  Simply Thump.

And I suppose it isn't normal that our property, amongst others, was hit by a tornado on Sunday. 

Not like super mega North Minneapolis-Tuscaloosa-Joplin HIT hit.  Just grazed.  But getting grazed by a tornado is, in my humble opinion, about as fun as getting grazed by a Great White shark.  Nice to meet you, nature.  Please swim away now.

I admit I've always been a storm junkie - watching the radar with giddy anticipation, hoping for Big Thunder, and historically I've been visibly disappointed when a storm drifts north or south of us.  (truthfully, it's because my house could use new siding and I don't have any money other than my insurance policy to pay for it).  When the sirens do blare for Anoka County, you could usually find me standing in the backyard watching for some good spinning action in the clouds.  I've sent pictures to local news stations even.  So dorky.

But no more.  At least for a spell while my memory fades, I'll be joining the saner members of society in our collective basements and storm shelters. 

I did take some pictures.  Here's one: 

The super annoying thing was that my vehicles were blocked in my garage, meaning I couldn't go drive around the neighborhood to see how everyone else fared, which is pretty much my super most favorite thing to do after a storm.  Grumble grumble.

In Boy news, he has just over a week to go before pre-school graduation and ensuing summer vacation.  He really has no concept of this, even though we've tried to explain what "graduation" means and even though he has visited his new Kindergarten for next fall.  I imagine him realizing sometime in August that he hasn't been to school in a while and asking when he's going back.  We'll deal with the "never again" conversation then, I guess.

Friday, May 6, 2011

The best part of spring

I don't remember if I've mentioned this on this particular blog or not, but I have to say that my favorite thing about spring isn't the warming weather, or greening trees, or blooming gardens or thunderstorms or end of school or start of Twins baseball (although that one's a close second). 

By far, my most favorite part of spring is seeing, popping up in ditches along busy intersections and stapled to heavily acupunctured utility poles, the first of the garage sale signs. 

Oh, how I love garage sales.  Estate sales.  Rummage sales.  Yard sales.  Call them what you want, I heart them, in an unhealthy way.  I've been known to kill an entire sunny Thursday driving slowly through residential neighborhoods as if on mountain switchbacks.

Admittedly, it's a bizarre spring custom.  The whole premise, really.  Take everything out of your house or shed that you no longer want, and, instead of throwing it away like a normal person, affixing 10¢ and 3/$1.00 stickers to it and leaving it out on your driveway for your neighbors to sift through.  Even if someone actually buys something, you've only earned a buck or two for your efforts.  Crazy persons do this.  And, bonus, now all your neighbors know that you, a crazy person, once collected Beanie Babies or ceramic M&M characters.  On one hand, you no longer collect them (hence the sale), but apparently you still hold an entirely too high opinion of them with prices that would make Trump blush and labels like Vintidge collectables (sic) and you brake it you buy it

And don't get me started about last spring's extremely elderly couple in a modest Roseville rambler pawning off an enormous lifetime collection of "vintidge" Penthouse magazines.  That's why we have recycle bins, folks. (And if you're wondering, I didn't buy anything, but in fact left quickly and silently, refusing to make eye contact lest I burst out laughing, wondering who's idea it was to finally sell them - his or hers?)

Yesterday, the Boy and I hit up some garage sales in the NE suburbs of Fridley, Blaine and Coon Rapids.  

I'll start by saying that I'm pretty sure I'm not one of those crazy dads that is trying to live his life vicariously through his Boy.  I wanted to play baseball forever; I honestly won't care if he hates it after he tries T-ball this summer.  I love swimming, he hates it.  No mind.  We'll find things he likes. 

However, I admit I was nervous bringing him to garage sales.  This is the One Thing that I want him to love as much as me.  But what if he refuses to get out of the car?  What if he doesn't even get the premise?  What if he's done after one house?  Oh, the humanity....

Thankfully, he's a chip off the old block sale (ba-dum-dum-ching).  He couldn't get enough, running up each driveway to search for the toy section.  Chatting up the old ladies (he calls them "grandfriends" thanks to pre-school).  Toward the end, after seeing how things work, he was even bold enough to ask questions like How much do you want for this? and  do you know if all the pieces are here? 

I. could. not. be. happier. 

I actually had to coax him back home after I had my fill (and it was getting close to rush hour traffic).  He selected a new puzzle, a really cool marble race thingie (click on it to see it) and a toy truck, all total under 5 bucks, and was hungry for more.

Luckily, he was also hungry for food, so we worked our way home to enjoy our treasures over dinner. 

There is a strong likelihood that this will become our regular Thursday activity.  Take that, sports lessons.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011


Another adventurous weekend has come to an end.  With the Boy's school closed for the extended Easter weekend, we made the most of our time together, culminating in a camping trip on Monday night.  The Boy had never been camping before, and with the weather a balmy and sunny mid-60s, he and I decided last minute that it would be the perfect day to give it a go.

So, we made our plans.  We began by making a list of everything we'd need to survive the adventure.  My list included the tent, two flashlights, sleeping bags and extra blankets.  His list consisted of marshmallows. 

We were set! 

After our lists were complete, we packed up and loaded our gear and eventually set out on our hike toward the campsite.  We trekked together for a good jaunt, ending up at the far western edge of (drumroll) the backyard.  Whew! 

The Boy picked out a good flat spot under the stars and near the marshmallow cooking pit.  After staking down the tent (and returning to home-base for other necessary supplies including the DVD player, games, books, and Cheetos), we cooked up some hot dogs and sugary confections.  Camp-on-the-Highway was open for business!  Our nutritious meal digesting, we spent the wee hours of the late evening playing Chutes and Ladders, watching movies and eating junk food until drifting off to sleep around 10:30.  Or at least he did some drifting.

Being ever the victim of Murphy and his Law, Monday night was also the night that the neighbors to the south (and invited guests) decided to open up their backyard gazebo- and sand volleyball pit - for the first time this year and have a raucous party.  Until 2 in the morning.  On a Monday night.  Do these people not have jobs?  Of all the...not that the Boy heard any of it, though.  Only those of us with 35 year old backs trying to sleep on the hard ground took notice. 

And, it wouldn't be camping without an overnight rain storm.  Literally 5 minutes after I heard the last of the rowdy neighbors stumble toward their house to sleep off all that they had imbibed, thinking that I could finally get some shut-eye, the wind began to howl and the rain began its plunking and spattering against the tent fabric. 


When we awoke the next morning (and by "awoke" I mean he awoke, I was still just laying there watching it get slightly lighter outside, sigh)- with the temperature hovering around the freezing point and the tent doing a below-average job of keeping the rain out - we made a break for homebase, abandoning our water-absorbent gear to the mercy of the elements. 

Overall, we had an outstanding fun time - definitely something he'll remember.  He was extremely proud of himself for staying outside for the whole night and wants to do it again.  Which is Excellent.  My favorite part?  Walking the 50 or so feet back to the house and taking a hot shower and getting the coffee pot going. 

Ah, camping. 

I confess that the neighbors were lucky it was still raining at 7:00 am when we headed indoors.  While lying there listening to them clank beer bottles around and play midnight volleyball under their bleeping floodlight with music blaring, I was secretly plotting revenge from the other side of the fence.  Amongst my sinisterly less-than-appropriate fantasies involving a chainsaw and/or gasoline and matches to burn down their gazebo, I had settled on doing some spring yard work with my extremely loud leaf-blower near their bedroom windows.  Had it only stopped raining. 

So, here's some pictures of the past few days, starting with a couple of obligatory Easter shots.  I hope your weekend was equally memorable!

The Boy had a wonderful Easter with his cousins in Northfield on Sunday.  Definitely one of the highlights for the adventurous lot was discovering the storm drain in Grandma's backyard and all of its inherent echo-iness.

It's universal for 5 year olds that during an Egg Hunt you are required to stop after each find and take inventory.  And then eat inventory.

Before the camping trip on Monday, the Boy decided he wanted to eat at the driveway-drive-thru.  I'm not to proud to flip pretend burgers and serve them out the living room window...would you like fries with that? 

And on to camping!  Here's to you, oh mighty campfire!  Thank you for your ability to melt things.

And here's the finished set-up.  I'd like to believe we were perched on a cliff side, deep into the heart of the northwoods.  Here we are,  just off the trail, after a long day backpacking our gear and rations in.  Please ignore the evidence to the contrary, namely the woodpile.....the well manicured lawn....the chain link fence with highway views....the orange power cord entering the tent....nothing to see here....

Definitely my kind of camping.  We're really roughing it here -  I mean, seriously - look how small that screen is!  We can hardly see it! 

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Sunrise, Sunset

So, it snowed last night.  Silly Minnesota.  About 2 inches of the white stuff flocked the trees overnight, and now with the mid-morning wind picking up and warming the air, it looks like Snowmageddon, with giant white clumps leaving their tree roosts and hurling themselves toward the unsuspecting ground. 

Snowbombs.  Awesome.

The Boy was equally unhappy with the weather this morning.  His exact comment as he climbed the stairs from his basement domain and caught a glimpse of the trees and yard:  "What?  No-ooo.  No no no.  This can NOT be happening again.  (one second pause, then turn to face kitchen) Can I have strawberries for breakfast or are those a dessert?"

And so the snow plops to the ground, melting on contact with anything previously sun-warmed.  It's supposed to rain in the next few hours/overnight.  Winter's last gasp.  It will all be over soon, and while the winter every year seems to drag on forever while in the middle of it, really it did go by fast on reflection. 

Speaking of fast, The Boy is nearing the end of Year Two of his pre-school.  How is that even possible?  It wasn't that long ago that we brought our trembling little 3 year old to the school for a visit, his tiny body fighting back tears brought on just by sitting on the floor with these strange new faces for "morning meeting", and me and the missus just standing there shell-shocked about how old he was getting.  Now, he's a 5+ year old, his confidence and courage booming, (sometimes to an aggravating fault) and we're drawing the pre-school chapter to a close in only a few short weeks. 

And I suppose that'll be good.  Let one school build him up, and then ship him off to a new one to rejoin the trembling newcomers.  I know we'll look back at this transition - and then the next from Kindergartner to grade-schooler, and then the next....and wonder at how fast things seem to move, like April snow plopping from the trees.  His mom's family has a tradition of singing "Sunrise, Sunset" to each other at milestones like this, I can hear them now...

The Boy finished his strawberries and begrudgingly put on his winter coat and hat, lamenting that he "was just wearing shorts and flip flops last week!".  He seemed to know that this new snow didn't stand a chance against the looming summer, announcing that he wasn't even going to bother making a snowman at school because it would melt before he got it finished. 

He's so right.

Monday, April 11, 2011

File under Drown, Attempt Not To

For a significant portion of my early grade school years, my family lived up over the hills of Duluth in a rural area called Pike Lake, cleverly named as such because, well, there was a lake in the middle of it.  Called Pike.  Genius, that.  We didn't live on the lake - no, no.  That was reserved (in my elementary eyes) for the uber-rich and uber-lucky, like professional hockey players and Italians that sold frozen pizzas.  Seriously.

And both Grandmas and Grandpas.  The nice thing about having both Grandmas and Grandpas living on the lake's northside, besides being able to tell all my friends that both my Grandmas and Grandpas lived on the lake's northside, was that I had free access to the beaches pretty much every day of every summer that wasn't a thunderstorm.  I remember when I learned how to swim, around the Boy's age.

I didn't have much choice in the matter.  When you "grow up on the lake", you learn how to swim in the following series of steps: 
Step One:  Get in the water.  And do it quickly, because your cousins, including some of the younger ones, already did, and you don't want to look Chicken.
Step Two:  Don't drown.
That's it.  Congratulations, you're a swimmer!  No instructors.  No lifeguards or Life Vests or Kickboards or Lane Dividers.  You just jump in.  Sink or swim.  (Or more literally - sink and then swim).  

Honestly, not until I was an adult, having moved to the safely-lit suburbs of an Urban Cultural Center, did I discover that people actually paid other people to teach them how to swim.  In chlorine!  With strangers!  And you had to shower first!  With strangers!  In a locker room!


So, anyway, the Boy, being an Urbanly Cultured lad, had his first "swimming lesson" back on Saturday.  A "rite of passage", my wife calls it.  An exercise to be labelled and filed under Drown, Attempt Not To.

And I will say, he composed himself very well, given the situation.  First, I'll start by saying he absolutely loves the water; has a blast whenever he goes "swimming" with his cousins in the Shoreview pool or his cousins in Duluth.  He even loves the Log Flume at the MegaSuperHugeAndUnnecessaryMall in Bloomington.  But even at his young age of (as he calls it) "halfway past five", I saw that he could sense just how unnatural and contrived a "swimming lesson" can be.  He was very unhappy about the whole experience, this Boy that loves water, and I'm just hoping we aren't ruining future visits to water parks for him. 

And I'll say in his defense, while sitting just beyond the Splash Zone,  the whole environment bordered on surreal.  I would've hated it too.

Where to begin.  Hmm.  Oh, how about the instructor?  I have never - NEVER - heard a voice like hers.  The closest comparison I can think of is Alvin - of chipmunk fame - after sucking the life out of a helium balloon.   I imagined dogs in the neighborhood barking at the wind, picking out phrases of hers that were beyond human capacity to actually hear.  It was all vowels, the consonants completely lost, tied up in knots in the back of her tightly pinched larynx.  Maybe that helps the kids focus or something. 

Like when they hear helium-Alvin say:  "o-HAY!  Nah ley's AH foh AHN ow ACKS!!!" (translation:  OK, now let's all float on our backs!), the students are so intensely focused on NOT allowing their ear drums to burst that they forget to splash each other in the eyes for a moment.  Excellent teaching strategy, I suppose, to keep the kids' fingers in their ears.

And add to that, the parent next to me.  Poor guy.  I'll start by saying that he's probably a good guy.  Pays his Taxes.  Drives the Speed Limit.  And definitely a Dedicated Dad.  He's here, after all, sacrificing his Saturday morning watching his boy or girl Not Drown.  But the book he's reading to pass the time?  I kid you not - it's called How to Read a Book.


How to Read a Book?  A book called HOW to READ a BOOK?  The irony-meter in my head had mercury busting through the top like a cartoon.  So.  Many.  Jokes. 

Like I wonder if they have an audio version?  With a bonus disc called "How to Listen to a Narrator"?

Or, Did he know to start on the left and move his eyes toward the right?  I'll bet there's a helpful navigation on the last page that says "If you are reading this, and you haven't read anything else to this point, you've started in the wrong place.  Please close this book, flip it over, and then re-open it again from the other side."

Or those helpful hand diagrams near the top of the first few pages that illustrate how to grab the corner, and in a gentle sweeping motion, pull Page One to the left, thereby uncovering Page Two?  Ha ha!!!

I have more.

But I won't.  Go there.

Back to swimming.  The Boy survived (both in the physical Not Drown sense, and in the emotional I Need to Get Through This Somehow Without a Complete Nuclear Meltdown into a Nervous Puddle of Brain Mush Like I'm Sure Will Also Occur the First Time I Want to Ask a Girl on a Date or Ask Dad for the Car Keys or Have to Give a Speech in 3rd Grade About Squirrel Habitats or President Eisenhower or Why I Love Minnesota sense), and did all of his proper kicking and back-floating and get-face-wetting. 

Once he was away from all the other kids, safely with Dad on the way to the locker room to reclaim his civilian clothes, he lost his composure, melting into sorrow about how NOT fun that was.  I couldn't help but agree.  After re-dressing, (I won't even START to describe the anxiety I felt, returning for the first time in 20 years to a boys' locker room), we soothed his nerves with a surprise trip to get ice cream.

Sigh.  Only 5 more weeks to go.  I'm going to need some Dairy Queen coupons if you have any.

Oh, and the guy was actually highlighting things!  I can hardly stand it!  Must! Make! Fun! Of!

Heh.  Highlighting must have been in Chapter One of the book, titled "How to Look Serious When Reading".  I imagine there exists a  paragraph that kindly warns purchasers that reading an ironic book in public could lead to ridicule from strangers.  It continues:  
"Therefore, we strongly recommend that if you are reading a book called How To Read a Book, in a public place, that you carefully color with (the attached) bright yellow marker.  This is called Collegiate Highlighting.  To achieve the desired effect of Not Looking Like a Complete Imbecile, be sure to highlight whole sentences, starting with the first sentence of each new paragraph you encounter and also anything that's printed really dark.  This is called bolding. (highlight this)  We recommend you also have a pencil handy to write small incoherent notes to yourself in the narrow white space to the left and right of the big clumps of words.  These are called margins. (highlight this)..." 

OK, I'll stop.  Just too easy. 

Have a great Monday everyone!  Don't drown.  Or at least attempt not to.

Friday, April 1, 2011

This is the Big One!

So, as many of you kind readers know, I've been a stay-at-home dad since last September.  Of course, that's just my ego-protective way of saying "unemployed", but still, it's been a grand adventure waiting for the Next Big Thing. 

And today I get to announce, with my wife's reluctant permission, the Next Big Thing for our family.  Yesterday, I was offered a position at a start-up company.  The pay is decent, not great.  The benefits are shady, but they are at least...existent.  

The only drawback is that the position is located just outside Anchorage, Alaska.

So, with excited hearts and a healthy dose of concern, we are packing up the family and heading North!  I truly believe it is Murphy's law that is driving us up the Alaskan Highway, what with all my complaining about the cold and snow.  Thankfully, we'll have housing paid for us - a small place, one bedroom and a kitchenette in the cabin.  Our nearest neighbor for this little adventure in the mountains, I've been told, is about 20 miles to the south. 

We leave mid-May after they have the road cleared.  We have a whirlwind of things to do before then - sell or rent the house and cars (the only road into our place requires an ATV or Jeep), get a Jeep, and arrange for storage and/or sell off all our furniture in order to downsize into the 350 sq ft cabin. 

Oh, and my wife is having triplets we just found out at our ultrasound appointment last Tuesday. 

Oh, and it's April First, which makes me realize I've got lots of packing to do! 

Or not. :-)

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Strong-arm parenting is so 1950s

Look how strong I am, Dad!

I learned a while ago that this particular sentence warrants immediate attention.  Regardless of the tie-score- and-under-a-minute-to-play of one's March Madness bracket busting game.  Regardless of the food burning on the stove.  Or phone ringing or bathroom beckoning.  If you here this sentence, as the Parent of a 5-year old Boy, you pay attention. 

This particular time, yesterday, the Boy had managed to lift a wooden end table and was holding it upside-down over his head.  Standing on the couch.  His biceps were quivering.

Wow, that's pretty strong, I said in as even a tone as I could muster while very nonchalantly RACING over to him to save him from imminent blood-letting.  I took the table from his hands, much to his chagrin. 

I wanted to put it down myself, he harrumphed. 

Sorry, Boy, it was too big, it would've crashed.

No it wouldn't.

You don't know that.  You don't know that it wouldn't have crashed.

Yes I do know it.  I know everything.


Everything!  You don't have to tell me anything else ever again!  I know everything!

And with this proclamation, we've apparently entered the teenage years.  He knows everything now, my job is done!  I'd always heard that you learn everything you need to know in kindergarten, which he doesn't start until fall. 

He's so advanced. 

Stomping from the room, he also added I'll worry about me, you worry about you.  For one incredibly tempting moment, I thought about saying "see ya in a couple hours then" and leaving in the van.

I didn't.

Speaking of stomping, I still don't have my car back from the mechanic yet.  Two weeks ago today I dropped that blessed car off to fix an electrical problem.  A week ago today, I wrote that I thought it would be done, and then the mechanic called to say it was done.  Before I could leave my house to walk there and pick it up, they'd called again to let me know they couldn't get it started.  Again.  Three (or more) attempted solutions later, they still cannot figure out what's causing it to short out.  Other than being a 17 year old Oldsmobile, I don't know what it could be either, so there it sits. 

If I was strong enough to lift it over my head, I'd drop it in a ravine.


Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Curse you, Perry the Platypus!

In Minneapolis today, the second day of spring with flood warnings on full throttle, we have a winter storm.  Cold and blustery, heavy and wet snow, treacherous roads.  Feel free to thank me, because I caused it. 

Not with wizardry, but with the Law of Murphy.  You see, I mistakenly brought the family Astrovan through the car wash on Monday.  This is something I rarely do, not liking to spend the money, preferring to use the hose in the driveway.  So, in the winter, I'll usually watch a weather forecast first, to be sure the roads will stay dry long enough to justify the 7 or 8 bucks needed to wash the salty grime off the White Wonder.  I'm pretty sure this storm would have stayed north had I not sprung for the Deluxe+Undercarriage.

Also contributing to the stormy weather, it's Picture Day at the Boy's pre-school, the annual newly-pressed-and-collared-shirt and the What-can-the-boy-eat-for-breakfast-that-won't-leak-down-his-chin Rite of Passage day, to be memorialized in scrapbooks and on grandmotherly walls for decades to come.  

Someday in the distant future, the Boy's wife will look at today's picture in the orange polo and spiky, gooped-up hair and see just how cute her darling husband was as a 5 year old.  What she won't know is that the winds were gusting to 20 knots with swirling wet snow.  Only on picture day. 

But anyway, that's not what I wanted to blog about this week.  I'll leave the SNOMG's for facebook, as I'm sure your newsfeed is filling up as fast as mine with harrowing adventures and pinings for warmer weather and empty promises to move south. 

This week, I decided on what I was going to 'give up' for Lent.  I haven't typically observed any fasting rituals (hence the present waistline, I suppose), probably because I'm usually still sulking over a too recently failed New Year's Resolution.  But this year, I decided to stop swearing.  I don't swear all that much, but recently I've noticed that when something isn't going my way (for example, the mere presence of another vehicle on the highway in MY lane....a slow computer....exercise) I've been muttering curses to the wind.  Which doesn't help, just makes me more miserable.  So, last Wednesday, I decided not to swear anymore.

Enter Murphy.

It wasn't even an hour after I committed this to myself quietly that my car wouldn't start.  At the library.  With no cell phone. 

And then after 20 minutes of threatening the scrapyard,  it finally started.  But wouldn't stay running.  Unless I kept the engine revving.  Like at 3000 rpm.  So, I began my trip to the mechanic, only a mile or so down the road from the library, revving in neutral like a teenager at every stoplight and popping it into Drive when it turned green. 

Enter Murphy. 

This time, he manifested himself as a Spring Lake Park police officer with no sense of humor as to why I was barreling through his quiet neighborhoods, engine screaming.   He asked me to turn off the engine, of course.  I could actually see the mechanic's parking lot a block away.   I was able to convince him to let me keep it revved up, in neutral. 

After collecting my violation along with a brochure titled "You've Received a Citation in Anoka County - What's Next?" I proceeded to the mechanic.  I know them on a first name basis, unfortunately. 

"What's Next" is right.  Ah, Murphy, there you are. 

They didn't have time to look at it right away.  I didn't have a coat on, or gloves, or a hat, but walked home a mile because I don't have a cell phone to call anyone.

Fast forward a week, and they still have the car.  I finally got a diagnosis yesterday (they had been working at it, but couldn't figure out what was wrong with it), and Murphy, cleverly disguised as a broken catalytic converter, is charging me around 500 bucks to get it road worthy again.

Murphy?  Is that you?

Yes.  Yes it is.  My prediction is that the Olds will be done today.  Why will it be done today?  Because my plan has been to walk the 1.6 miles to pick it up while the Boy and my wife are navigating their separate workdays and not returning home until after 5, when of course the shop closes.  Couldn't be worse weather.

But anyway, as far as small victories go, I haven't been cursing through any of these trifles.  Just inconveniences, I tell myself.  Having the best day ever.  

Okay, so maybe one or two slips here and there - mostly during the "Ab Ripper" part of the P90X program. (if you've done their banana roll/superman, you have my pity)  But overall, my mood has improved as a result of Lent, I swear.  

I mean, I don't swear.

(If you find yourself wondering what the title of this entry is referencing along with some of my cleverly pilfered phrasing, you NEED to watch Phineas and Ferb on the Disney channel.  Brilliantly insightful comedy for all ages.  You can click on this sentence to get acquainted.)

Monday, March 14, 2011

A humbling week

About two years ago, I was mesmerized by an infomercial for the P90X exercise system.  If you've heard of it, you know that it is - to put it nicely - rigorous.  (click here if you don't know what it is).  I actually watched the whole 1/2 hour sales pitch.  Two years later, with lots of time on my hands while the Boy is at school 3 days a week, I finally pulled the trigger and purchased the set of 13 1-hour long exercise DVDs.  I started the program last Wednesday. 

Today, I cannot lift my arms above my shoulders.  Which makes me angry.  But I suppose that means it's working?  Yeah, angry angry swear at the ceiling working.   I knew I was out of shape - have been my whole life - but come ON.  It's very humbling.

I think that's been the theme for this last week - humbling.  Everything happening in Japan is making me feel very small.  Humbling.  Learning that the 2 year old daughter of close friends is beginning chemotherapy today for newly diagnosed Leukemia.  Extremely humbling.  And watching my wife fight through nausea, picking up an extra class to teach and working through most of her 'spring break' is humbling. 

Oh, nausea?  I should probably explain that.  The Boy is about to have his universe rocked from it's self-centered axis this October, as he will become a big brother to the growing baby inside Mommy.  It's fascinating to watch him try to comprehend how exactly that happens.  When we announced our pregnancy to him last week, using pictures and diagrams from the Pregnancy Week by Week book, he had some Very. Specific. Questions.  Here are some of the gems he's shared with me and/or my wife at bedtime over the last couple of days:

Why does he have a power cord?  What is he plugged into?

How does he climb up to drink from your milkbags?  Do all mommies have milkbags?

Is he going to want to play with some of my toys?  Because I can probably pick some that he won't break.

What does he do all day in there? 

Is he cold because he's naked?

How can he be as small as a grape?  That's not even possible.

I don't want to be a brother.  I told you already, I want to be an astronaut.

How will you know when he's ready to come out? (quickly followed by the dreaded:  WHERE does he come out?)

I'm sure over the next several months, there will be several other observations and questions from the brilliant mind of the Boy, so I'll be sure to share them here (unless they get uniquely inappropriate for a general audience, of course :-) 

Also in the next several months, our parenting roles will likely switch, with my wife staying home with the newborn and me returning to the commuter's paradise known as "a real job."  So if you know of anything....

Monday, March 7, 2011

Winter is dumb.

I don't remember what my yard looks like without snow.  I'm sitting here, staring out the window into my frozen backyard.  Hating it.   Another 3-6" tomorrow?  Hating it.

The Boy, in keeping with his Mini-Me persona, hates winter too.  Doesn't like to be out in the snow - odd for an otherwise active little boy I suppose.  Others may call it odd, I call it intelligent.  Winter sports are inherently, well, dumb. 

Skiing?  Shyah right. Who's the first dolt that thought of that one? 

"Hey Bob, I got an idea, eh?  Why don't you strap these slippery sticks to your feet and slide down this here mountain?"  

"Sure, sounds like fun.  But how will I not end up killing myself, eh?"

 "Um, bend your knees?"  

"Ah, OK then.  But what if I'm falling sideways?" 

"Here - take these fishing spears with you.  That-ought-a-do-er." 

"Gee, thanks!  See you at the boooooootttttoooooooooommmmmmmm!!!"

Ice skating is equally inane, another stroke of frozen-brained genius.  Having trouble standing up on the ice?  How 'bout standing on these knife blades, that should help!  Seriously.  And when that got boring, they started carrying wooden sticks around and hitting a frozen cowpie at each other.  Called it hockey. 

Or how about that conversation for the first attempt at luge?

"Larry, come here."

"Yes, Barry?"

"I want you to lay down on your back on this plank."

"What for, Barry?"

"I made an ice chute for you to slide down this mountain."

"Sounds fun!  Lay down like this?"

"No, on your back.  And feet first."

"But I can't see where I'm going."

"That's okay Larry.  Just steer with your feet."

"Ah, thanks Barry.  Off we go, then."

I won't even mention ski JUMPING, but I'm definitely convinced the inventors of these 'sports' were orthopedic surgeons. 

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Library Day

The Boy and I visited one of the Anoka County libraries yesterday afternoon, mostly to kill time between meals.  (And it's a wholesome, educational place blah yadda blah.  That too, of course).   I will say he selected some interesting books to borrow for the next week or two.  He is currently very interested in Ice Cream, Auto Mechanics, and the light bulb, and he has found books on each topic.  I don't know which is more surprising - that someone would be willing to pay someone to write a book about a light bulb, or that someone would be willing to write it at all.  But I guess I'm glad they did, the Boy loves it.

Anyway, to get to my main beef today - what's the deal with the librarians in the children's section?  Did they ever like kids?  Maybe at one point they loved children, but that has long since disappeared, it seems, swallowed up by their greater love of silence and order.  While sitting with the Boy on a miniature chair at a miniature table feeling a bit Jolly White Giant-ish, I couldn't help but overhear the two librarian women as they very obviously and rather boldly discussed the behavioral faults of what they perceived to be a troublesome foursome of 8 year old girls that were giggling.  While reading a book.  And sitting.

Oh, the humanity. 

And here, sitting at their reference desk throne are these two stereotypes - mousy faces, unexercised bodies, graying hair pulled into a way-too-tight ponytail/bun that they probably never remove even for shampooing, large-rimmed glasses, floral blouses, thrift store slacks, actually scoffing - scoffing! - at the girls' nerve to (gasp!) make sound.  While reading. 

I almost said something.  It's not like they were playing hopscotch.  Or tag.  Or arson.  But I enjoy confrontation about as much as snowmen enjoy 4th of July, and so instead, I chose to passive-aggressively talk to the Boy louder.  It was loud enough where the Boy actually told me to talk softer "because it's the library, Dad".  Which of course I've said to him hundreds of times, witlessly indoctrinating him while young because after all, everyone knows it's The #1 Rule of the Library, which they probably teach in Library College on the first day of the intro class, So You Want to Be a Librarian 101. 

I'm sure the intro class has a textbook (which you probably can't check out because I'm sure it's classified as a reference book), with Chapter One titled How to Act Superior to the Cretins that Have the Audacity to Enter Your Dust Filled Kingdom, Even Though They Paid For It All With Their Tax Dollars, and Chapter Two:  The Art of Effective Shushing.  In it will be a picture of a disheveled marm of a woman completely overrun by young, boisterous readers because she, alas,  has not learned the proper "Eye of Condescension" technique.  The caption warns:  "Loudness breeds stupidity" or "Hitler Laughed at Picture Books.  Will you?"

I will no longer heed this particular rule, written or unwritten.   For the children.

Chapter Three, I'm positive, warns of parents like me.  I bet I end up with a mysterious 25 cent fine on my library account just for writing this. 

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

OJ Simpson was a terrific running back, turns out

I completely lack the DNA that others possess that allows them to throw out old things.  There, I said it.  I'm not ashamed.

I'm not a hoarder, mind you.  I don't save empty Happy Meal boxes or plastic wrap, and I'm not secretly raising a family of possums in the garden shed or have engineless cars parked in my yard or anything that would make me a star on The Learning Channel or A&E.   But I've proven, mostly to myself because no one else cares, that things have value way past their expiration dates.  I'm not talking about the hamburger in the bottom drawer of the fridge - that has an expiration date for a very good hospital avoiding reason.  I'm talking about the 1978 World Book Encyclopedia set that I've kept from childhood.  Going against my better judgment, I almost threw all 26 volumes out when we reorganized some book shelves a few weeks ago.  So glad I didn't. 

Boxed up and awaiting disposal in the garage, the Boy discovered them, and once again they are worth their weight in gold embossed page edges.  In the last 3 days, while recovering from the final stages of his strep-throat induced penicillin regiment, he has spent hours perusing S, P, and T.  Some favorites include Skeleton, Skull, Texas, Platypus, Snail, Turtle, Snake and Turbine.  The grainy 1970s black-and-white photography doesn't faze him one bit. 

For me, reading over his shoulder as he flips pages one by one has been excellent fun as well - catching excerpts about the latest technologies in Television (a total of 68 channels are available for TV broadcasting!) and the commentary about the edgy new show All in the Family, and how Television technology is just now starting to spread into developing places like Asia.  Another glimpse reminded me that OJ Simpson was a revered athlete and not just a Saturday Night Live spoof.   And the article called Satellite is about moons.  Heh. 

My favorite article has to be the one about the "personal snow plow" that "homeowners use to keep their driveways clear of snow in industrial regions within northern climates like Canada".  The picture (which has a really groovy mid-70s Olds Toronado parked in the background) is nearly identical to the Personal Snow Plow (apparently they weren't called snowblowers yet) that I once again have fully functioning thanks to a benevolent and mechanically apt friend.  After this weekend's cloud vomit, I'm glad I didn't throw that out either.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Valentine's day? Meh.

I'm confident in my conspiratorial mind that Valentine's Day was made up by someone in Minnesota to coax hugs from their friends just to stay warm and/or feel better about themselves while staring at snowbanks that refuse to melt.  Or by Hallmark, to get them through until Mother's Day without having to layoff cardmakers. 

When I was a kid, I hated it. (scared of girls)  When I was a teenager, I dreaded it. (acne, and still a little bit scared of girls)  When I was finally courageous enough to be dating, I tolerated it, and now that I'm married, I completely ignore it and/or make fun of it every year.  Thankfully, I married the perfect woman and I'm keeping her forever, because she also happens to find this particular holiday to be overly commercialized tripe. (Right, honey?  Honey?) 

Ah, silent agreement, my old friend.

This year, my Valentine's Day - or as I like to call it, February 14th - will be spent trying desperately not to catch Strep from my home-from-school-until-Wednesday, penicillin avoidant Boy.  We have lots of stimulating activities planned, the majority of them involving the remote.  

And, because his current Phineas and Ferb episode is only 25 minutes long, I'll keep this short. 


Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Because I said so

The Boy had his annual vision and hearing screening last week. 

Not surprisingly, he passed his vision test.  Surprisingly, he also passed his hearing test.  I say surprisingly because I could've sworn he was having hearing problems.  Perhaps it's only for certain words and phrases, like "O, it's time for bed" or "O, you need to clean up the Legos".  In fact, I'd like them to redo the hearing test, but instead of fun little chirping bird noises,  I want to record a few sentences of my own voice and play those in his ears.  Do they make hearing aids that only amplify parental instructions?

Basically, the conversation many evenings goes something like this:

O, you need to clean up the Legos.



O?  You need to clean up the Legos.

O?  You need to clean up the Legos.  O?  Hello?  HELLLOOOO!!!

I heard you Dad.

You heard me?


What did I say?


Yes.  What.  What did I say?

I heard you.

I heard you say you heard me.  But what did I ask you?

(Long pause) 

I dunno.

I said you need to clean up the Legos......O?  O?  (he has returned to Legos)


What dad?

You need to clean up the Legos.


Legos.  Clean them.  Up.

I'm playing with them.

I. Know. That. But. You. Need. To. Clean. Them.        Up.

Dad, why is your face red?  And why is that funny vein sticking out of your forehead?   Oh my, is it pulsating?  Are you having chest constrictions?  Maybe you should go lie down for a while, Dad.  I'll stay out of your way and just clean up my Legos quietly.  Do you want me to make you some tea?  It has ginseng.  I'm concerned about your stress level, Dad; is there anything I can do to help your evening go smoother?

Okay, so he doesn't say that.  If only.  What he actually says, without looking up, is the most dreaded question of all: 


Fingernails, chalkboard.  Chalkboard, fingernails.  Ah, apologies - I see you've already met.

Don't ask me why.  I don't need to give you a reason why.  I've asked you to do it, and you need to do it.

But why do I need to?

Because I said so. 

As soon as these particular 4 words escaped my lips, I knew with absolute certainty that history repeats itself, that all parents hate to be asked WHY, and that all instances of WHY will ultimately, eventually, end with those 4 words.  I don't know how or when we decided universally as parents that kids should do something for no other reason other than because we said they should.  But we have.  Sometimes we have good reasons not to give reasons, I suppose, like "why do you and mommy sleep in the same bed?" for example.  Even so, to a 5 year old, these 4 words make no sense.  Especially for a very literal 5 year old, like the Boy, who actually had a logical and frank, albeit grammatically incorrect, response:

Yes, dad.  I know you SAID it.  But WHY did you said it?

I didn't have a response.  Because it's bedtime.  Because I'm tired of stepping on them.  Because the house is on fire.  Because if you don't I'll go crazy with hysterical and exhausted laughter and the asylum workers won't be able to snap me out of it until your college graduation ceremony.  Because because because.  It wouldn't matter what I said next, because he would simply reply with "why" again.  And so I stare, dumbly.

And, of course, throughout the entire exchange, he hasn't looked up from his Legos.  He has successfully added 4-5 minutes to his playtime.  Mission complete, and sensing that he's probably gotten away with as much as he can for one night,  he starts to clean with the drama level of someone who's been asked to amputate his own leg.

Parenting tip:  Remind yourself constantly that your children are not evil and they will eventually do what you ask them to do.  Tell yourself that they are freight trains; they take time to slow to a stop and more time to get going the other direction.  Not evil.  Just freight trains.  Doing this should keep you out of the psyche ward.  Because I said so.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Things in the Ceiling

One of the Boy's frequent, and perhaps most unusual, stalling techniques at bedtime is to request that we look at things in the ceiling.  The first time he made this request, I almost made him an appointment with a neurologist.  Or an eye doctor.  Or an exorcist.  It went something like this:

Dad, can we look at things in the ceiling?

Um, what?

Can we look at things in the ceiling.

What does that mean?

It means you lay down next to me and we'll see funny things.

Okay?  (proceed to lay down on my back next to him in a stargazing pose)

What do you see, Dad?

Well, I see the ceiling fan. 

No, no, no.  You're doing it wrong.  That's just something that's here already, what do you SEE?

I don't get it.  What do YOU see?

I see a fire engine.


Right there. (points at a random spot on the dimly lit ceiling)

Right there?  Right there is a fire engine? 

Yes.  And next to it is a rainbow.  And a robot that's eating chickenuggets. (he says this very matter-of-factly, not a hint of chuckle in his voice)

You see all that?

Yes!  Don't you see it? (asks incredulously)

Um.  Sure.  Yes.  I see it.  Right there next to the pink dinosaur blowing bubbles.

There isn't a pink dinosaur.

There isn't?

No, dad.  I don't see that.  No bubbles either. 

So, let me make sure I have this right.  You see a fire engine, a rainbow and a chicken-eating robot, but I don't see a dinosaur blowing bubbles?

Not a chicken eating a robot, Dad, a robot eating chickenuggets!  (he laughs.  I don't have the language or patience to explain to him hyphenated-adjective usage.  Or gerunds.)

I don't think I'm playing this right, Bud.


Nothing.  What else do you see?


Sparkles?  What kind of sparkles?

Those kind over there (points again at a different blank white location)

Oh.  Those kind.  What else?


You see eyes?  What kind of eyes?

Tree frog eyes.  Look, they're red.  And they're glowing like flashlights.

Wait, what?  You see glowing red eyes in the ceiling? 


That's disturbing.

What's destervent?



Nevermind.  Is there a tree frog, or just the eyes?

Just the eyes. 

Honey, that's creepy.  I don't want to see glowing red eyes in this or any other ceiling.  What else do you see?

(He stares at the blank canvas for another 10 or 15 seconds) That's it. 

Well, okay then.  That was, um, fun.  Good night?

Good night, Dad.

We've played this game, off and on, for the last year or so, and it has become my favorite (he'll only play it if he thinks of it, not if I request it).  As his language develops, the images in his ceiling-world are getting much more elaborate (And he hasn't seen any more glowing eyes.  In fact, he rarely repeats objects)   Last night, over by the heat vent,  he saw a dentist wearing yellow pants and holding a stethoscope.  He was talking to a police officer that was wearing glasses and eating chocolate yogurt.  The gray Lego castle (over by the closet door) was perilously close to collapsing because of the giant butterfly that was sitting on it and Mars was spinning backwards because it got bumped by Mercury. 

Parenting Tip:  A 5-year old's brain doesn't contain logic or consequence, only imagination and adventure.  Assuming the environment is safe, just go with it!  It's a trip worth taking.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

More things I've learned since Monday

Two days ago, I wrote the top 15 things that I had learned as a parent of a 5 year old.  I also said that I would probably learn new things the next day.  I did.  Here are 6 more things I've learned since Monday evening.  How's your week going? 

6.  Throwing or giving away unused or outgrown toys is always done in secret, after bedtime, quickly and discreetly.  Toys are never ever left in the garage awaiting disposal day.

5.  Helium-filled balloons are very good bribe material.

4.  Dining room tables look better covered with Nemo stickers.

3.  Murphy's Law of Nocturnal Impalement:  the more angles, ridges, points and/or breakable parts an item has, the higher the likelihood of finding it with your feet in the dark.  For example, stuffed animals and blankets are never stepped on in the dark.  Legos, transformers and matchbox cars are always stepped on in the dark. 

2.  Shots hurt.  I know for sure this one is true because I was informed of this fact 912 times yesterday.

1.  Murphy's Law of Pediatric Appointment Uncomfortable Silence Event (or PAUSE):  the closer a child is to their annual check-up, the higher the likelihood that he or she will incur visible bruises and/or lacerations from face-planting during play time.  Inevitably, when the doctor asks the child, "How did you get that bruise on your forehead?" the child will PAUSE for an uncomfortable 5 seconds, and then answer "I don't want to talk about it" and then the doctor will look at you, Dad,  for another uncomfortable 5 seconds of PAUSE, which you'll attempt to fill by explaining that he dove into his bed, all by himself, missing the pillow by a good two feet, and headbutted his shelf, and then you'll chuckle nervously and ramble on about how you tried to catch him but he lunged too fast, hoping the doctor will chuckle too and shake her head in that understanding "kids are so funny that way" way and move on to the reflex test.  

My goodness, it's only Wednesday. 

Monday, January 24, 2011

Top 15 things I didn't know before I was a parent

Every day,  it seems I discover a new rule of life that I would've never learned were I not a parent.  Here are the top 15 things I've learned so far.  I'm sure they'll change tomorrow.

15.  When one food touches another food on a dinner plate, both are automatically inedible.

14.  When a food sample touches the floor, however, it is still edible.  The amount of elapsed time on the floor before a food becomes inedible is directly proportional to the amount of sugar in said sample.  The more sugar, the more time allowed. 

13.  It's never too early for candy.

12.  Everything looks better with crayon. 

11.  Tantrums that involve Mariah Carey-esque shrieking are an effective and time-saving method of getting one's way in a pinch.  Useful basically whenever anyone dares utter the word "no." 

10.  Going down to the basement with only your feet touching the stairs is boring. 

9.  Other people's shirts are a completely normal and very convenient place to wipe off one's hands or nose.

8.  Everything within reach is inherently crushable.   

7.  Most common household items are transformable into guns.  Or swords.  Or rockets.  Or exploders.

6.  TV is more fun to watch upside down.

5.  Strategically applied Bandaids make everything feel better including tummy aches, headaches, sore muscles and internal bruising.

4. Vomit can and will defy gravity.  Newly purchased or hard-to-clean items are magnetically attracted to flying vomit.

3. The best place to stand when someone else is on the phone is between that person's legs.  Sitting on his or her feet is an acceptable substitute.

2. If one can climb onto it, one can jump off of it, without fear of injury or consequence.

And the #1 thing I've learned since becoming a parent?

1.  My parents were right.  Every time.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011


Dad, let's play Smackface.

Um, what? 


What's Smackface?

These were the last meaningful words between the Boy and I last night.  My plea for clarification warranted no verbal answer, apparently.  Looking back, I suppose I walked right into it.  As The Parent,  it was really my fault that his lip was bleeding after he abruptly headbutted my chest. 

I know what you were thinking.  That Smackface would perhaps be a board game, right?


Although, you probably thought that maybe he had reached up and smacked my face.  I bet you would've never guessed that Smackface means he was planning on Smacking his own Face into my unsuspecting chest as he stood on his bed.  Sometimes I just don't understand how his little genius works.  I said nothing to him after he reeled backwards, but my eyes, I'm sure, said What the H Were You Thinking??  After we finished icing his lip in silence, he went to bed, likely thinking the same thing.

Other than his baffling act of self-punishment, it has been a rather uneventful January week.  I blame the weather.  I heard somewhere - probably the 4 minutes of local news I caught between cartoon viewings - that, according to Science, yesterday the 17th was the saddest day of the entire 2011 calendar year.  There are apparently highly educated scientists that got paid to figure this out - a combination of coldness and heighth of the sun in the sky and length of day and distance from Christmas, all culminating in a perfect storm called "the third Monday of January really sucks."  Not even kidding.  There actually exists research that says the 16th is kind of sad, but nothing compared to the forlorn wasteland known as the 17th.  And today, the 18th?  Well, according to Science, we're all starting to feel approximately 24 hours better about life.  I suppose. That's good.  Hooray.

Thank you, Science. 

It needs to be said that the study proclaims June 17th the happiest day of the year.  Seeing as that is close to Father's Day and also my wedding anniversary, I'm pretty sure I'm obligated to agree.

But alas - in staying on the topic of Smackface - back to January.  Even though I'm now several hours happier than I was scientifically allowed to be yesterday, it's still too cold outside to do anything productive like "Get the Mail" or "Inhale" or "Live", so we're mostly hibernating. 

Although, I did I read an article last week (summarized as the "top ten ideas for indoor fun in Minnesota when you're in denial about your true desire to live somewhere other than the barren tundra,") and it listed all sorts of interesting things to do in order to help convince yourself to not just pack some sandwiches and point the van south.  

The Boy and I bundled up and ventured out last Thursday to one of these ideas - the Minnesota Children's Museum in St Paul.  We spent the day with several other runny-nosed toddlers and pre-schoolers pretending to be ants and construction workers and thunderclouds and bus drivers and boat operators.  We even got to pet a live rat.  (Don't know why I felt compelled to clarify that it was a live rat - as if there usually exists an option to pet a dead one except on special days).  All in all, it was a very fun day and I'm super glad we went. The Boy is the perfect age for this particular museum; any younger and he wouldn't "get" the activities, any older and he would find them to be pretty lame.  But at age 5, he squealed with delight at every display of oversized adventure we discovered. 

Here he is, crawling through the giant ant farm.  Notice the extra creepy ant head staring at him. 


And, here again, hard at work organizing the wall-mounted bead track.  This was my favorite part, because it lasted a half hour and had a couch next to it. 

And finally, a picture of his hand and others actually touching a rat.  This led to a conversation about why this particular 'mouse' got to be fed and petted and loved while the mice at home were ruthlessly hunted, killed and tossed into the garbage on a regular basis.  Okay, so he didn't use those words exactly.  But he was definitely perplexed. 

And thus goes winter for the Boy and his family.  If anyone has other ideas for fun (and dirt cheap) things to do this time of year that don't involve parkas (or bleeding), I'm all ears. 

Parenting tip:  Don't play games called Smackface.  Or Punchgut or Kickshin or Burnhouse or Throwknife or Windowsmash or any other combination of violence and sharpness for that matter.  5 year old boys will want to try it.  Just don't do it.  You'll end up playing Doctor next.  I'm positive there's a research study that explains why if you don't believe me. 

Monday, January 10, 2011

The Great Migration...

Or, How I Emotionally Scarred My Child Right Before Kissing Him Goodnight
Or, Sometimes It's Pretty Much Okay to Lie to Your Kid When Necessary to Induce Sleep

One of the Boy's main objectives once he turned 5 last month was to take over the basement.  His vision for the Land of O was all-inclusive.  He insisted on getting started, so this weekend, we succumbed to the challenge and began to move some serious furniture. 

The guest room formerly known as Katie's room?  That's now his bedroom.  The computer office is now his Lego construction desk.  The custom library with built in shelves is the new toyroom.  Everything that was for "growing-ups" is in the process of being moved upstairs so that he can reign supreme on his new kingdom.  All the shelves that formerly housed scholarly readings and Grisham novels and CD cases now hold marble tracks and train tracks and car packs and block sacks and his semi Mack and other knick knacks.  (Can you tell we've been reading a lot of Fox in Socks lately? My mouth hurts just thinking about it)

Saturday night was his first night sleeping downstairs.  He did great!  Never a peep out of him, no late night wanderings upstairs, no calls in the dark.  He awoke Sunday refreshed and excited about his day.  Night #2 was last night, and it was a completely different story.  He arrived in our upstairs bedroom around 3:30am.  He couldn't sleep anymore downstairs, he had a nightmare he said, and wanted to climb into our bed.  We obliged this time - because I'm pretty sure it was my fault. 

He won't tell us what his nightmare was - just that he had had one.  But I already know what it was. 

With the new room fully furnished and right next door to the furnace, I decided naively that bedtime was an excellent time to review his fire escape route out his egress window (first, you move this stick, then you unlock this latch, then you slide the window open, then you climb out the window, then you climb up out of the window well into that snowbank there...then....).  Even as I was explaining his new strategy, using my breeziest voice possible, I could see the distance between his room and his parents' room sinking in as the number of steps in the process toward unburned freedom added up.  Let's practice, my stupidity suggested.  He moved the stick.  He undid the latch.  He couldn't slide the window - too heavy.  Mild panic.  (for both of us).  Try again, push from over here I encouraged.  He was able to open the window, but was now doubting his self-sufficiency, and I imagine he was questioning the wisdom of his request for the basement empire. 

He did fall asleep around 9 last night, but he was clutching his flashlight (which was turned on) and with his slipper shoes right next to his bed (he was worried his feet would get cold if he had to walk to the neighbor's house in his bare feet).  Before I could leave the room, he needed several reassurances that the house was not, in fact, going to spontaneously combust.

Where will you meet me once I'm outside?

Right outside your window.  Or, at Matthew's house - look - see?  His house is right there outside your window.

Okay.  Will I hear the siren?


Will it wake me up?


Will you rescue me?


What if you can't?

That's why we're talking about the window.

Oh.  Can't I just go up the stairs?

Probably can.  But we're talking about the window too. As an option.

But I'd rather go up the stairs.

Me too.  Actually, I'd rather not have a fire at all.  We probably won't ever have one.

Ever?  Dad, have you ever seen a real fire?

This was the questions I was dreading.  Thankfully, my brain screamed lie lie lie lie before I could say the truth, which is Actually, I've seen two, son - one where Great Grandma B's house burned to the ground and everyone narrowly escaped by jumping out the second story window and one when I was about your age when the furnace/chimney down in the basement started on fire while we were all sleeping.  Instead, I said as sincerely as I could muster: 


After a long pause with him staring at my eyes, (and my brain screaming Hold your ground!  Hold your ground!), he accepted this answer, and laid his head down on his pillow, embracing his flashlight. 

I can't help but wonder if last night will come up with his therapist as an adult.

Parenting tip:
Sunny and warm summer mornings are an excellent time to talk about escaping house fires with 5 year olds.  Basically, anytime other than Right Before We Leave You Down Here Alone in the Dark and Quiet Basement is a good time.  Live and learn.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Back to Normal

It's Monday morning, and it's 2011, and the pre-school has reopened its doors.  Life is back to normal now that the Boy, grog in his eyes, returns to his teachers' care three days a week and my days are freed up to tackle the laundry and sweep the floors and vacuum the rug and run the errands without a suckerfish attached to my leg. 

I mean that nicely. 

Since switching careers from a 9-5 desk job to a 24-hr a day "home business," I've enjoyed being able to spend hours on end watching Go, Diego, Go! and building Train City (which, incidentally, only seems to get built on top of exploding minefields and never makes it to sundown.  I imagine the Lego sized city-planner-men writhing with spastic grief as their newly minted empire comes crashing down around them - destroyed by the same hands that had helped craft it mere hours earlier.  If they had knees, I'm sure they'd be on them, wallowing.)

These lengthy school vacations make me miss routine.  We had a wonderful Christmas season, but my 34.5 year old back cannot tolerate air mattresses and guest beds like it used to.  This year, our trio did the traveling - first to Duluth for an all inclusive, 3-day 2-night stay at Uncle Pete's B&B, where I added 38 pounds to my waistline and shriveled a good percentage of my liver with Guinness and/or Baileys, and then on to Northfield the next day, where we were entertained (and terrorized) by a daycare-sized and -aged cohort of cousins.  The Boy has eight cousins on this, his mother's side, and at age 5, he is the second oldest of the 9.  The aspirin craving adults walk around Grandma's house with eyes cast down, lest they step on a toddler. 

But now the holidays are over, the Christmas tree cruelly tossed to the curb awaiting its Walter's Recycling woodchipper destiny, the Boy in school and the routine restored. 

His most time consuming routine is definitely Bedtime.  As is true with most 5 year old boys, Bedtime is to be avoided at all costs, as it certainly means the end of the world is nigh and if one falls asleep, surely the sun will not rise again in the East. 

And so, motivated to save mankind from imminent destruction in his mind, he has mastered the Stall.  His strategy for rescuing the world?  Hugs.  And more water, please.  And I need to go to the bathroom.  And OneMoreSnack?  And WheresMyBear and LetsTalkAboutOurDay and ReadMeaStory?  Eventually, he succumbs to his eyelids' demands and drifts to sleep, snuggled in with a cornucopia of animals and Transformers and blankets. 

It's good to be back to normal - I'm off to clean the carnage that once was Train City.