Month: May 2009

What do you do when…

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image About every 30…seconds, I come across a situation with my kids that I am completely unprepared for. There’s no rhyme or reason to it to–one minute you’re skating through life patting yourself on the back for having remembered to pack snacks, drinks and extra diapers, and the next thing you know, they’ve pooped all over themselves and you forgot to bring an extra shirt.

That’s the way it is. It happened again this weekend, and in perhaps one of the worst places…

As I’ve blogged before, CareerMom and I are in a constant search for the perfect church. She’s a reformed Catholic (what does that mean, “Reformed”?) and I’m a doubting Pentacostal. What this means to us is that we’re looking for a medium-sized church with progressive music and members who won’t notice, or make a big fuss, if we happen to miss a Sunday (or um…two) in a row because we wanted to get up and actually enjoy our Sunday morning rather than creating a HUGE scene while trying to get both ourselves and our kids ready and off to children’s church where there will be wailing and gnashing of teeth at having left them at the hands of yet another bunch of strangers.

So sue me if we’d rather relax at home.

Anyway, there’s a church near our house that looked promising. It’s one of those “Harvest” churches, which in my experience, means it branched off a really large Pentecostal church at some time in the past and is in the process of growing into a new one. Typically, these churches start out by renting office space in strip malls on the weekends until they can gen up enough members (who tithe) to build out their own building. Well, this church is already in the “We own our own building” phase and it looked really nice. Their Web site looked good, if perhaps a bit vague on the details. But I announced to CareerMom that I wanted to try it, so this Sunday we did the deed and showed up on time, with good looking boys in tow.

First impressions as we walk in:

  • “Hmmm, lots of people from different cultures. That’s cool. Lots of young people too. The music should be good.”
  • “Honey, no one else here has their kids with them.”
    “I know,”
    says CareerMom, “but I’m not leaving them at the childcare facility. Plus, if we hate it, they make a good excuse to leave.”
  • “Oooh, it looked a LOT bigger on the outside. Not…sure…I’m gonna…like this. Too many people…!”
  • “Holy crap that music is LOUD! Is this a Pearl Jam concert or church?” (I look over at CareerMom who’s holding MLE and she gives me a winning smile, but I can see the tenseness in her face)
  • “OMG! That dude behind us is REALLY getting into it. OK seriously, I’m into praising God and all, but when you start hollering at the top of your lungs and hopping up and down like Little Bunny Foo-Foo–well, thats’ when I start getting worried!”

By this point, both boys are sitting there on the pew with their fingers in their ears because the music is so loud and Evil Knieval is behind us doing his stunt show for Jesus and I can tell already that I hate it.

But then, I notice the “Little Person” in the row behind us. Aw crap!

I casually look down at the boys and MLI has noticed him, but is politely not staring. Not so with MLE. MLE has completely turned around and crawled up on the pew–thanks to the help of the “Little Man”–and is leaning against the back of the pew staring the man down like he just stole his lollipop!

Whaddya do?

God Bless the Little Man though. He gave MLI a big smile and put out his hand for a “Gimme five,” which MLE promptly smacked, and with that, the two of them became best friends. Oh, MLE still stared, but it was more of a, “Hey man, let’s play” kind of look rather than a, “Hey man, didn’t I see you in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory?” kind of way.

In this instance, my lack of reaction turned out to be the best thing to do. That way, I didn’t make a big fuss and embarrass anyone (mostly myself), and the boys learned a valuable lesson about different people.

When we got to the car–about 15 minute later after CareerMom left with the boys who both still had their fingers in their ears, and after I made a seemingly casual, “Oh, let me go check on my family” departure–MLI’s first question was about the man and I explained his condition as best I could with little or no medical knowledge to back it up. He seemed good with it. I was proud of both the boys, but I am left with a feeling of discontent that perhaps the man thought the reason we left was because of him. No, the reason we left was because the church was too crazy for us. I feel bad about that and I hope he didn’t take offense.

I completely give people with with his condition props for getting out in a world that is certainly not geared for people their size and as much as I get annoyed at the media and they way they treat men, I’m sure it REALLY drives him crazy.

So, “Little Dude” if there’s a chance in heaven you’re reading this…I apologize if our leaving made you feel bad in any way. You seemed really cool!

Flawless Victory!

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image If I had a gold brick for every time I have said, “Boy, I can’t wait until the boys are old enough to (insert the “to do” action here)”, I’d have enough gold bricks to at least build the P&P dogs a blinged out doghouse worthy of something from “Pimp my Crib.” But I’ve discovered something over the five years that I’ve had kids, during which time I have uttered the above phrase more times than I can count–“You never quite reach the point that you were hoping you’d reach.”

Nope; it doesn’t matter what you wished for…what you hoped your kids would one day be able to do…when that day comes, the reality is a sad, sad version of what you’d hoped.

Shall I explain?

Potty training — MLI developed chronic constipation at the age of 1.5 years. He’s been on low doses of Miralax since then. How many times I prayed that he’d normalize and be able to use the bathroom myself, I can’t tell you, but it was a lot. When he finally did become potty trained, it wasn’t quite the bar mitzvah I had envisioned. Rather than getting all jiggy with it, I discovered that I still had to wipe him. What a crock!

More?

Mobility — When MLE was born, I counted down the days to when he was old enough to run around with his brother so that the two of them could play together and MAYBE give CareerMom and me some peace and quiet for a few moments each day. He started walking on his own around 10 months. Today, he doesn’t walk anywhere–he runs–usually while holding one of his older brother’s toys while the two of them run screaming like banshees until one or both of them take a tumble and smack their heads up against something hard and wooden. So, not only do we not get any peace and quiet, but we also have to console each of them multiple times daily for boo-boos they got while doing things they weren’t supposed to be doing in the first place.

Which brings me to what made me think of this whole topic–Video Games. Ah, the father-son Shangri-La, the video game years are. What dad doesn’t dream of spending hours with his son sitting in front of the Playstation, X-box or Wii, playing today’s hottest video games while mom goes out and does her own thing, not caring that her kids aren’t outside playing. I’ll admit…I couldn’t wait until MLI was old enough to play the Wii with me. Over the course of my lifetime I have owned a Commodore 64, a TI-99-4a, an Atari, a Playstation, Nintendo and now a Wii and I have spent literally hundreds of hours trying my best to beat games like “Zelda,” “Castlevania,” “Mortal Kombat” and the like.

Last year I bought a Wii for Christmas and since then, MLI has learned how to play, sort of. First, I picked up Mario Galaxy, but the topsty turvy, playing upside down while needing to jump to the right was just too much for a brain that was still developing, to say nothing of MLI. So then I picked up Lego Star Wars and again, at first I thought it was too much for him.  He was a brick at first, not being used to using both hands to do two different things; but, five-year-old brains are like sponges and he quickly picked it up. But there’s a problem; he doesn’t get the concept of a puzzle, or an adventure. He approaches a video game like a 16 year old boy approaches sex…something to be dispatched and conquered as quickly as possible. There’s no time to look around or to try to find all the little “treasures” embedded in the toy. No sir, it’s all about getting to the end as quickly as possible!

This annoys the ever-lovin’ crap outta me for a couple of reasons. For one, video games are expensive and blowing through them like he wants to, means that we go through a video game quicker than…well…again with the 16 year old male and sex, which also means he wants to buy a new one every month (and they ain’t cheap!). Secondly, I like to look around the game. I want to enjoy the experience and see what took a dozen developers the better part of two years to create. To me, that’s half the fun.

MLI couldn’t care less…that is…until he gets stuck and can’t figure out the puzzle that’s required before he’s allowed to move on in the game and then he suddenly wants daddy’s expertise. Pshaw!

So parents, take it from me–Wishes are like a box of chocolates…

If this van’s a rockin…

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image There are few childhood things I lament the loss of more than the freedom to move around in the car. I grew up in the 70s when vans were all the rage. And these weren’t the vans like we have today–all captains chairs and entertainment systems–no, these vans had two captain’s chairs up front, perhaps one more row of them in the middle and then usually some kind of open area in the back.

I remember our custom shag-wagon like it was yesterday! It was a Chevy of course, and it was shaped much like the Scooby Doo mobile, except it had a beautiful ocean motif painted on the side. The whole van was done in blues and each side displayed an airbrushed image of a sailboat on a stormy sea. On the inside, there were two rows of captain’s chairs and then in the back was a raised shagging-platform–perfect for extracurricular activities–that was carpeted of course, where we kids used to sit and play games, read books and generally move around during trips. There was also a built-in cooler for drinks, but I remember that it never seemed to work right. As the times marched inexorably on, the vans became more refined–the back area giving away to a third bench row–but the general ability to move around unseen by prying eyes remained. The windows were darkened and had shutters or drapes on them and you could literally walk from the front to the back to grab a drink from the cooler, or just stretch your legs if dad refused to make a pit stop so he could “make up some time.”

What do kids do today on trips? They remain tightly fastened in their little car seats, safely protected from errant drivers and from generally being able to do anything else but stare out the windows and whine about being strapped into their seats. If they drop something…tough doo-doo because they’re so strapped in that they can’t bend over in to the floorboard to pick it up. Want to take a nap? Oh, I’m sorry–you’ll have to just lay your head over to the side and pray that you don’t get a crick in your neck from the odd motion.

Oh I know that car seats save lives and all, but crikey! When you’re doing 70mph (ok, maybe 80) on a lonely bit of highway in the middle of nowhere Georgia or Alabama, is there any harm in letting the little boogers waller around a bit? I say no!

What cracks me up though, is that now vehicles are going to need to get 35 MPG by 2016, which means cars will be what…smaller right? It’s probably a good time to invest in companies that make roof-top carriers for cars! I swear whoever it is running the bunch that develops these safety standards has obviously never taken a long trip with kids!

I wanna make, a memory…

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image When I was young, and I’m talking about pre-teen years here, I spent a good number of my weekends on Dauphin Island, AL. These were “visitation weekends” with my dad’s first wife (AKA: Adopted mom) and her boyfriend, whom we all affectionately called “Bucky.” Most of the time, my brother was not with us because he was usually incarcerated, I mean, um, somewhere else for the time being and so I was usually by myself.

At the time, my mother lived in a tiny bungalow that they had renovated. It had no central heat nor A/C, and in the winter, we all huddled around a small gas heater for warmth, and in the summer, we sweltered under ceiling fans. If we got lucky, every now and then a cool breeze from my mom’s room a/c would waft up into the loft where we slept. To this day, I cannot sleep hot and I suspect this has a lot to do with it (or so my the-rapist says)

Now, Bucky was/is an interesting fellow. Personally, he’s always been friendly to me and frankly, he probably put up with more than a lot of guys would. Of course, he also benefited from living off the alimony my dad was paying my mom at the time, but the point is, the guy isn’t dumb. He never said much, but what he did say was usually peppered with dry wit and one of the main things I remember about him, was his singing drinking songs to us during the long car rides from Mobile over to the Island. Despite being a functioning near-alcoholic at night, during the day, he retrofits nuclear power plants with computerized systems. Pretty impressive for a guy whom my dad’s second wife called, “One of the biggest drug dealers on the east coast.” She got this secondhand from a neighbor. Whatever.

I dunno. What I DO know, is that most weekends when I was at the Island, I would wake up at the butt-crack of dawn, tippy-toe out the door (sometimes, if I was feeling magnanimous, I would turn the coffee pot on as I left), walk about three blocks down the street to the 7-11 where I purchased a small container of bait shrimp. Or, if he opened early enough, I’d go into “Patronas'” seafood shop and purchase $1 worth of bait shrimp. Mr. Patronas was a great big (fat) guy who ran a pier-side seafood warehouse. Literally, the scrimp boats would pull up to his pier and sell him all their cargo. So, the man had some seriously fresh stuff. Most of the times that I went into his place, it was dark and he could be found sitting in a butcher’s smock on a bar stool watching TV while his crew scurried around. The place was all stainless steel and ice and he employed standing fans at either side of the room to push the smell around so that it wasn’t overwhelming after coming in from the Alabama heat. He was never outwardly friendly, but I seemed to notice that whenever he got me my shimp himself, I always seemed to come out better.
(On a side note, later, I went to school with his nephew and he and I ended up being best friends, though I didn’t know about the relation until much later. This is coincidental considering I went to school probably 60 miles from the Island.)

But the great thing about Mr. Patronas’ seafood shop was that he’d toss all his crap seafood off the pier into the water.

SHA-ZAM! Instant fishing buffet!

So there I stood, many a weekend, with my little fishing pole and my bait shrimp catching whatever it was that came to feed off the smorgasbord of junk seafood on the ocean floor. Most times, I’d catch little 6-8″ catfish, but often I’d catch crab, sunfish and the occasional something I couldn’t identify. But most times it was catfish. Over the years, I developed a tried and true method of getting the catfish off the hook without getting poked by their little poisonous fins (the fins wouldn’t hurt you, but they stung like hell and then itched for hours later). What I’d do is, let out a little bit of line and let the catfish dangle. Then, I’d start winding him up like a slingshot…just let the little feller whirl there on the end of my fishing pole and then I’d SMACK, hit him against the water! Usually, it took two smacks to stun the catfish so that I could take him off the hook without him wriggling around.

It was good times. In fact, it was the only thing I looked forward to on my visitation weekends. It’s also probably one of the only real things I miss about my old stomping grounds. We don’t have much fishing here in Atlanta, and certainly no salt-water fishing. So, I must say I’m looking forward to that aspect of this beach trip this weekend. We’ll be staying at a condo that’s right next to a marina with piers going out a bit into the bay. I’m hoping to impart some of my fishing enthusiasm on MLI and maybe even MLE if we can keep him from jumping in while we’re not looking.

Making memories–that’s what vacations are all about right? I’m going to try and keep that in mind for the 8 hours that we’re in the car on Saturday!

Well it’s summertime and weather is fine…

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I think I’ve taken this whole, “Only post when you feel like it thing” too far. I mean, I haven’t posted in what, two weeks?
But seriously, we’re slowly moving into Summer, which means routine, which means BORING! Already, I’m dreading the heat. I’m dreading having to drag down to the pool and spend an hour and a half holding a splashy youngster while alternately worrying about my love handles. I’m dreading the kids wanting to go do fun things like the water park, and my wanting so badly to tell them no because I know that, during the summer, the water parks in and around Atlanta are inundated with fairly disgusting people who, rather than spending money on vitamins and fluoride rinse, instead spend it on Big Macs and theme park tickets.

I’m dreading all of the many “to do” lists I have and no time to do them.

I’m dreading needing to go visit family in various places, but not wanting to pack the car up with kids again.

imageOh, I’m definitely dreading our upcoming beach trip this weekend! We’re heading down to Orange Beach, AL to stay at the Fabulous “Phoenix onthe Bay” condos. Yep, 377 miles of youth-oriented goodness…and then back again.

Yes ladies and gentlemen, it’s my quarterly depression! I swear it’s like I have “the PMS” or something. Have I ever mentioned that I have serious issues living in the moment. Yeah. I can’t ever seem to immerse myself in “the now” because I can’t stop thinking about the consequences later.
For instance:

  • “This cake is yummy, but I’d better not have too much or I’ll have to exercise extra hard later”

OR

  • “Man, I’d really like to go golfing today, but that means that when I get back, and I’m dog-tired, CareerMom will want to get out of the house and I’ll have to play with the kids.”

OR

  • “It would sure be nice to sit on the back porch and drink a glass of wine and watch the bats, but then it’ll be late when I come to bed and I really need some time to just lay there before falling asleep.”

OR (and this is perhaps the worst one ever, or the best depending on how you look at it)

  • “Sweetheart, if you’re having second thoughts about our engagement, I totally understand. I know being in college is supposed to be one of the best times of your life and, I don’t want to take that away from you. Wait…what? You want to break up? What tha…!

 

I know, idiotic right? That’s me in all my screwed up glory and God Bless CareerMom for living with it. But with all the depressing news, I’d like to take a moment and mention a couple of positives:

  1. My sister, who had a cyst on her ovaries (I’m pretty sure that’s right, but if not, trust me, I’ll get corrected) had a healthy baby boy early yesterday morning. Both mom and baby Ryan are fine. Woot! I’m an uncle again! (or am I a “half-uncle” since she is my half-sister?) Damn!
  2. Pre-K is almost out for the summer, which means that once it’s over, we’re moving the boys to their new summer camp/daycare location that is much, much closer to home! Yaaaay!
  3. MLE has pee-peed on the potty this week. Hey, that IS a big deal. When you start cleaning poopy diapers that are as nasty as anything an adult would do, you get excited over these little milestones!
  4. I still have a job!
  5. I still have my relative health AND God still loves me and my family

There. How’d I do? Did I balance out all the negativity?

Whatever happened to plain old gum?

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image After the makeup soccer game this past Saturday, I was trying to make a quick escape so I could get some things done around the house and still have time to be a dad, when, as I was packing up the car, the coach of the team asked if we wanted to go grab some pizza for lunch with his family.

*sigh*

And I say *sigh* for many reasons here:

  1. It was early. Like…11:15 a.m. and I had just eaten a protein bar, the kids had just had the post-game snack. Who was hungry?
  2. I felt bad for the coach because he got suckered into coaching when he thought he was just going to be an assistant. His daughter, who was on the team, spent most of her season sulking and walking around the field with pouty lips and crossed arms. I felt bad for the guy. He claimed he mostly wanted to get a beer. (Before noon?)
  3. The kids had already had pizza three times in the last 3 days
  4. The beach is coming up and the last thing I want is pizza!

But…I folded and off we went. Once there, the kids all sat at a little table to the side while we adults took the big table and talked. We all kept one eye on our kids while discussing careers, how each couple met…the usual. After a while, I noticed the kids all eyeballing the little gum and toy vending machines in the back of the pizza parlor and before long, MLE came over and said, “Daddy gum?”

Knowing that I actually had a couple of $1 dollar bills in my wallet for a change, I went back and made change and gave each child 50 cents for the vending machines.

The other couple’s little girl got a green slimy snake

MLE got a green slimy space alien

MLI got a gold-plated keychain with an Uzi attached.

AN UZI? WTH?

In what world is this OK? And, knowing these tiny little pieces of crap come from China, who is approving this junk?

Uzi aside, what does a gumball machine dispenser need to dispense gold BLING for?

Un-friggin-believable.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m about as “pro-gun rights” as a person can be and not have a hidden safe full of them in his closet, but I draw the line at giving kids guns, unless it’s MY kid and MY gun and we’re learning about gun safety.

Anyway, I let him keep it, knowing that full well in the next few days he’d lose it and I’d find it and accidentally drop it in the recycle bin.

But, the meal wasn’t a total waste. Before we left, I noticed MLI was in the back still doing something. So, I went back there and he was playing a car racing game while another little boy lay on the floor pushing the gas pedal for him. Confused as to where he got the money to play the game, I asked MLI about it and he told me the little boy gave it to him.

So wait…lemme get this straight…the little boy gives you HIS money to play a game AND he gets stuck laying on the dirty floor pushing the gas pedal while you play?

Wow! Pretty impressive. I’m considering changing his name to “MLM” — My Little Manipulator.