Monday, November 30, 2009

Christmas Tree Tetris

When you are single putting up the Christmas Tree isn't a problem, because honestly there's really no need for one. I never had a tree during my bachelor days and if ever I was missing the Christmas spirit I would simply go visit my parents. Within minutes I'd be reminded of the "joys" of the holidays thanks to some well placed snide remarks from my stepfather and in moments I'd be on my way enjoying my freedom feeling thankful all the while. Once I got married putting up the tree may have not been the most fun experience in the world, it quickly began to take on new meaning as a series of first ornaments began to be collected.

One from our honeymoon (we were married at Christmas time), one with the anniversary of our first date engraved on it, several others representing various favorite childhood characters. The next thing you know we had to have two trees. The white lit silver tree with the shiny ornaments and glitter covered icicles that faces the street for all the world to see....and the "tacky" tree covered in a million blinking colored lights and along with every ornament from E.T to the Tasmanian Devil. This one of course is every one's favorite because though it may not shine and sparkle like the one facing the street, it's covered with the most memories and mementos of our childhood. Then suddenly you have kids and trimming the tree takes on a whole new meaning.

When a child looks at a Christmas tree they don't see memories of times gone by, they see a thousand toys just begging to be touched. And as you know what goes up must come down. Never was this saying more true than when putting up a Christmas tree in a house filled with wild children. Quickly every parent realizes that every year one ornament must be sacrificed so that the child can feel the quilt of breaking their mother's favorite piece thus stopping all further contact with the tree for that year . We also learn that when it comes to decorating it's all about product placement. Height Plus Heart Equals Happiness. What this means is that instead of scattering ornaments around the tree at random where they can be picked off by any toddler that decides to crawl by, the tree needs to be decorated by importance from top to bottom. Remember that kitty cat your mom gave you as a housewarming gift? Top of the tree. How about that plastic Humpty-Dumpty sitting on a wall? Bottom of the tree. That Miss Piggy ornament your wife has had since she was three? Top of the tree. The light bulb penguin your grandma gave you last Christmas instead of the Ipod you wanted? Bottom of the tree.

First time parents need only look around their house at all the things that are kept on shelves, mantles, and in the top of cabinets to understand that when it comes to kids out of reach is always the best bet when talking keepsakes. The Christmas tree while it may seem like a beautiful work of art that only a Grinch would want to destroy, is actually an open invitation for chaos that your child just can't help but RSVP to. In order to defeat the foe that is grabby hands, remember to attack them at their weakness....they are only 2 1/2 feet tall.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Sick Thoughts

"Don't worry Daddy, I will take care of you", that's when I knew things had really gotten as bad as I felt they were. Any parent will tell you that raising a child requires a dose of patience, a pinch of luck, and a heap of will power. No parent is perfect and no child is a cookie cutter copy of another. If you don't believe me just take a peek at the Self-help section at your local bookstore and you'll see a plethora of How-To's dedicated to the topic of figuring out how to keep some type of sanity while living in the asylum. Being a dad is tough enough when things are going good, when you get sick sometimes will power is all you've got. Thank God for Mommies. I can't imagine what things would be like if I didn't have somebody to pick up this week when I'm obviously falling behind.

Nobody wants their child to be sick, but at least when it happens Mommy and Daddy can still keep the ship on course. Everything from work to laundry to sleep is put aside at a moment's notice so that all efforts can be focused on getting junior well again. When the coin flip lands on the wrong side and it's the parents that get sacked with a case of the downers, that's when a parent's job really begins. Like zombies with some Mystical Being forcing every step and lurch, we are bent on making sure our little ones are not affected or infected by our misfortune. Wearing surgical masks and sweat pants, baseball caps and our comfy jacket, soccer games are still witnessed, homework is still assisted, and birthday parties are still orchestrated. Leaving us crumpled up in a heap afterward as our family is put to bed with smiles on their faces.

Even as I write this I can't help but stare at the clock and count the hours left until the school bell rings in the beginning of the second shift. My head trying to do complex calculations revolving around how many hours have passed since I last took my cough medicine and can another dose be had before I'm on duty again. Worrying all the while that I've done what the doc insists can't be done by passing this plague on to the rest of my brood. Simultaneously planning dinner and staving off nausea as I lay the ground chuck out to defrost. It's not about me though. What keeps me going...what keeps every sick parent motivated when they feel their worst, is the feeling we get from knowing that their family is safe and taken care of. And honestly that may be better medicine than anything the doctor can prescribe.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

To Kill A Fly

There's probably more than a thousand ways to kill a fly. If you really think about it I'd guess you'd agree that the possibilities are limitless when it comes getting rid of the pesky things. All that buzzing around your face, constantly trying to land on your head. At first you try to ignore them. Eventually when swatting them away with your hand isn't enough you begin to look for the heavy artillery. A rolled up newspaper. A fly-swatter. A shoe. A paperback book. I've seen some self proclaimed animal lovers catch the fly in a mid-air, open a nearby door, and release the bug just so it can swoop back inside before the door even closes.

As I said for those with a vivid imagination the ways to end the misery brought on by these flying pests could very well be infinite. Today it seems that Fred may have found his own unique way of taking care of the common house fly. All it requires is a full bladder and the ability to hula. Of course it helps to have a momma as nice as the one he has to come behind and wipe up all the pee off the walls, floor, and ceiling, but it's been several hours now and the fly is yet to make a repeat appearance.

Grand Education

This past week a buddy of mine was telling me about the great lengths his father is going to so that his little boy knows how much he loves him. Recently Grandpa moved away because of work and apparently the little guy figured out a creative way to keep in touch. It seems that every couple of weeks the grandson has been writing messages on tiny scraps of paper, rolling them up, and placing them in bottles. Whenever his mom is out he asks to make a special stop so that he can toss the bottle into the nearby river. His reasoning was that since he lived by a river and his grandpa also lived by a river, that eventually the message would make it's way to his favorite pal. Now knowing that water never travels upstream, every time Grandpa paid a visit he made sure to bring back an empty bottle similar to the original. According to my friend's dad the way he saw it was that though he may not know the exact words used....the message was loud and clear.

When I heard this I couldn't help but think of my two grandfathers and how they each have shown their love to me time and time again. Whether it was teaching me how to build the perfect ramp for my matchbox cars, or showing me just the right way to shoot a jump shot, or crawling under that old rusted up car and teaching me the joys of fixing a car with your own two hands; they've always made time for me. And while I've learned a lot I think the most important lesson learned was that family time isn't just watching a movie together or playing some random board game, it also means incorporating your children and grandchildren into your daily routine.

This past weekend the sun was out, the sky was clear, and there were leaves all over my yard. It looked like my Saturday would at least for the most part involve a rake in my hand. As I was making my way up and down the yard getting my path made towards the curb, I looked up and saw my son staring from the screen door. It was then that I thought about all those bottles floating down the river filled with tiny scraps of paper and decided I could use a hand. It may have taken longer and we may have left a few scattered about, but those leaves got done eventually and who knows maybe Fred learned a few things too.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Sick Thoughts

Lucy is sick today and Fred is coming off a case of bronchitis. He's at home on Tuesdays and Thursdays so I took a vacation day to make sure she gets better and he stays that way. In between washing a couple loads of clothes, cooking dinner, and 8 episodes of Scooby Doo; I had time to think about things.
  1. If you start a book in the Summer and you're still reading it in it still considered a Summer read? Am I wrong to want to put it down until the weather changes again?

  2. Do I really like Curb Your Enthusiasm or do I just like seeing Jerry Seinfeld every week again?

  3. If you break a light bulb how many years of bad light bulb luck do you get? A month ago I dropped one while digging through the laundry room. Since then I've replaced the hall light twice, the patio light, the light over the stove, and a couple lamps. Yesterday the tail light in my car went out. I've had that car three years and never a problem. This is the second bulb since Sept. Do I have seven years of this to look forward to?

  4. How come 3 yr-olds think the word TOOT is so funny? They use it so much it's like I've got a tiny Toot Smurf running around the house. "Dad I want some iced toot to drink!" "I'm toot. Can you bring my pillow so I can go to toot?" "The suns out! Can I go play in the back-toot?"

  5. How many more loads of laundry am I going to wash before I mess something up of my wife's? Not that I want to mess anything up. It's just not my thing and as careful as I'm trying to be I just know a tragic event is coming.

  6. I think I'm addicted to tiny boxes of Nerds. I'm thinking about filling my briefcase up with them and hauling a pound of them off to work. Is there a support group for Nerds addiction?

  7. Is anybody reading my posts at Daddy Outpost? I can't track the stats, so I need comments.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Board Out Of My Mind!!

Like most parents before Santa decides on what toys are delivered a debate is held to see just what toys Jr. is ready for and which ones may be over his, her, or our heads. As much of a no-brainer as this may seem (after all a toddler isn't ready for a dirt bike) it's actually a task that requires a lot of thought. Every board game, doll house, and Lego set comes with a suggest age range that the toy is geared towards. The key word here is range as in the youngest age that should understand how the product works to the oldest age that shouldn't look at you like you are mentally challenged because you just bought a 10 yr old a pack of Play-doh. This is why it's important to know where your child is developmentally so that Santa doesn't waste his time making toys that your kids have already grown out of. One thing to remember is that they can always age up, but they will never age down.

Just this week we opened up Chutes and Ladders for the first time. This the same game of Chutes and Ladders that sat neatly wrapped under our tree around this time a year ago. In our defense we knew that at almost three years old son Fred wasn't quite there, but the idea was that we'd start stocking up on classic games that he would be ready to play as the year went on. Candy Land, Memory, Hi-Ho Cherry-O, and Elefun also got delivered last Christmas. Several of these were a huge hit right off the bat..... others have mysteriously disappeared. The games aren't missing because Fred wasn't old enough or smart enough to play, but more so because he doesn't feel the need to comply with some unknown persons idea of how he should play the game that was given to him.

As I mentioned this week I got the idea that a good ole round of Chutes and Ladders would be the perfect way to spend a Tuesday night. For those who have forgotten the basics; you get a board with 100 squares, a spinner, and 4 characters. Ladders take you up, Chutes bring you down, and 3 yr olds don't care about anything else other than this. A typical game may take you 15 minutes. Our game lasted 45. It could have gone on all night, but after putting up with Fred switching characters three times, constantly taking turns that weren't his, riding every chute and ladder regardless of what square he was on, and attempting to play the game upside-down while hanging off the edge of the couch....his mother and I finally admitted defeat.

The lesson to be learned of course is that when consulting with Santa on what would make the perfect Christmas gift it's important to also remember that regardless of what is given, everyone including Mom and Dad should be old enough and be prepared to be patient enough to play with it.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Will The Swine Flu Turn You Into A Grinch This Christmas?

Now that we are past Halloween it's just a matter of weeks before the real festivities start ala Thanksgiving and Christmas. In a typical year people would already be planning out their menus, making reservations to attend the countless string of office parties, and anxiously awaiting all the time that will be spent with family members from all over the country. Unfortunately this really isn't what you would call a typical year is it? As sad as it may seem Swine Flu hysteria has taken over the country and even those that didn't give a thought to canceling Halloween are now contemplating alternate means of ringing in the New Year.

According to the New York Times "In offices, churches, hospitals, college dorms and schools — and even at yoga classes and in apple orchards — the fear of swine flu is turning age-old rituals on their head. What used to be O.K. is not anymore, as the flu has ushered in new standards of etiquette that can be, in turns, mundane, absurd and heartbreaking." As the dad of a 3 1/2 year-old and the husband of very pregnant wife, I can say that anytime my family goes out in the public the thought of canceling because of the swine flu enters my mind. I know some will accuse me of overreacting, but as they say better safe than sorry right? Yes it means we may miss the occasional birthday party or church service, but the way I look at it is that since I obviously can't trust others who are sick to stay home than the responsibility falls onto myself to ensure my family is not exposed.

When it comes to the Swine Flu how far is too far? Certainly we shouldn't cancel Thanksgiving and even Santa himself couldn't stop the retail stores from ushering in Christmas. Still though I'm not so sure I won't be doing some extra recognisance work this year before attending the latest round of Greedy Santa. I'll try to make it casual "So who's coming?" and keep myself flexible "As far as I know we will be there". I'll ask questions at the first sign of a cough or sneeze, "Wow that sounds rough. Have you gone to the Dr. yet?". I'll be vigilante "So is your son/daughter feeling better today?" And what happens when the inevitable does happen and we end up sharing the night with somebody who is sick? I'll secretly set the alarm on my phone to go off and fake an emergency.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Halloween 2009

This year we went Trick or Treating door to door for the first time. Fred had a blast running from house to house with all his best friends. Afterward we settled in for some hot soup and toasted cheese sandwiches. Plus this morning the Great Pumpkin even paid him a visit and brought a Little Foot sleeping buddy. What a great Halloween.