Archive for the ‘Parenting’ Category

Cayden is the exact same length as our bathtub.

This may not seem like a news worthy revelation to most- but to me it was a undeniable sign that my boys are growing up.  But why the bathtub? 

It wasn’t too long ago that both of the “man-beast” insisted that they bathe together.  It was also mandated that a vast array of toys (both aquatic and non-aquatic) would accompany them to the point that the weight of the toys would push the water table to the lip of the tub.

I hate bathtub toys.  

Especially, squeaky, plastic fish that suck up a quart of bath water every time you squeeze their obnoxious neon colored bodies.  Something you may not know- It only takes a week for mold to grow inside squeaky plastic fish.  Something else you may not know- my kids liked sucking the moldy water out of their bath toys almost as much as they liked squirting me in the face with moldy water.

Why else would I hate bath toys?  I guess the big reason is my kids never quite figured out how to put them away- and of course I never quite caught on to their inability to properly stow hard plastic action figures and pointy sailed water craft.  It’s not that I didn’t think about it on occasion.  It’s just that those occasions normally occurred at 5am when I was trying to quietly jump into the shower before going to work.  I can recall several extremely unhappy mornings tweezing G.I. Joe accessories from my feet praying for the day when my kids would be old enough to safely take a shower.

That day is here- they shower like little men.

Except when they’re sick- which Cayden currently is.

Cayden’s the same length as our tub.

He can’t swim laps anymore.

Nor does he desire a rubber Nemo filled to the brim with moldy lukewarm bath water.

He’ll still let me wash his hair and scrub his back- but only if he has a strategically placed wash cloth covering his man-parts (burgeoning humility?)

I still have the bathtub toys- I guess it’s probably safe to throw them out.

Funny, I couldn’t wait for this day to get here, now I’m not so sure I’m ready to let go.

If only I had a nickel for every time I’ve said that…

Last weekend I had some alone time with Cayden and as a special treat I took him to get his first Slurpee. I figured what could be the harm- I loved those things as a kid. So I walked him through the door and stood him right in front of the machine that put 7/11 on the map. I even allowed him to pick out the flavor and the size just to make it an extra special event- you can probably see where this is going. Cayden chose a 48 ounce Mountain Dew Slurpee- again what could be the harm, right?

I know all of the mega-parents out there who spend hours reading labels for artificial sweeteners and whose children’s lips have never touched a carbonated beverage are probably choking on their organic carrot sticks right about now. But my generation ate green M&M’s, Pop Rocks and drank from the life giving spring known as the Coke-a-Cola bottling company. My generation lived without fear and trusted that the FDA was doing their job and wouldn’t dream of placing dangerous items on our grocer’s shelves. Of course that was before the realization that just about everything on the menu causes cancer, hair loss, melanoma’s (I love the way that word sounds), dwarfism, joint pain or erectile dysfunction. Who would have known? I guess that’s the curse of advances in medical science- we’ve learned that every thing we enjoy will cause irreversible harm and will most likely kill us. How’s that for a pleasant thought?

Regardless of the Surgeon General’s warning against the evils of Slurpees I went ahead and dropped a $1.99 on the counter, slapped my boy on the back and said “suck it down buddy you only live once“. Now, I don’t know if Mountain Dew Slurpees cause any of the heinous afflictions that I listed above, but I do know that if you suck down 48 ounces of ice without taking a breath you’ll likely throw yourself into a coma. I know this as fact but I got so wrapped up in thumbing my nose at society, a society that seems hell bent on sucking the fun out of life, that I forget to provide Cayden any guidance on moderation. Tragically, Cayden did exactly as I instructed and in 5.2 seconds he had completely drained the entire thing- 48 ounces of frozen Mountain Dew. I started questioning the strategy of my mini-rebellion.

For a minute no one said a word. The clerk witnessed the entire thing and stood ready to call for a life flight if required. I prepared to rush Cayden to the bathroom where I figured I could thaw his head with the assistance of the hot air hand blower located in the men’s room. Then he moved. Cayden lowered the cup, licked his lips and smiled. I allowed myself a brief glimmer of hope- maybe Cayden doesn’t have a human brain, maybe he was born with several extra layers of skull insulation, maybe the slurpee wasn’t that cold to begin with? Cayden’s delayed facial expression dashed all of my irrational hopes.

His eye’s slammed shut, his teeth gnashed together and his little hands curled up into fist. Then Cayden made this god awful “Whooooooooooo” sound that frightened the rest of 7/11’s patrons so badly that they dropped their Nacho’s and Big Gulps and rushed for the door. I’m not sure how long the “Brain Freeze” lasted- time kind of stood still. But I knew it finally passed when Cayden was able to tell me who he was, where he was and his mother’s name- “Mom”.

Did the experience scar him? I’m not certain it did, but when we picked up Mack later in the day Cayden was quick to tell him that “Mountain Dew Slurpees aren’t good- next time I’m getting a coke one.” Maybe there was some permanent “Brain Freeze” damage after all.

BTW, I would caution anyone who reads this about providing your 40lb child with 7-zillion grams of caffeine (about the same amount contained in a 48 ounce Mountain Dew Slurpee). I don’t think Cayden slept for three days and I’m certain his mouth didn’t stop running for twice that amount of time.

Batter Up…

May 2, 2009
 
 

Baseball is in full swing for both of our boys. This is Mack’s second year of baseball but first year of kid pitch. Cayden’s brand new to the sport so he’s cutting his teeth in T-Ball. Connie and I, being the supportive parents that we are, have all ready reprogrammed our weekly routine to support this endeavor. It’s not easy, especially during the school year but we’re making it happen.

We‘ve been going at it a few weeks now so I figured it might be time to provide an update on their progress. Let me start with T-Ball, after all in the world of baseball this is where it all begins.

T-Ball- I’m pretty sure that the only reason Cayden is even remotely aware that he’s playing baseball is because we make him put on a uniform. At his current developmental stage concepts such as competition and winning are abstract at best. What mostly interest Cayden are the bugs and flowers you can find in center field and the collection of miscellaneous grown-ups sitting near the baseline yelling at his fellow bug collectors to pay attention. Cayden is also extremely fascinated by the stitching on the inside of his glove. I know this because I often see him with his face inside the pocket as if he just caught a human head.

I’m sure it’s irritating for my son when an occasional baseball rolls by, interrupting what ever daydream he is currently fixated on. But he handles the interruption quite well- he simply gets out of the way and continues on with his mental journey. I don’t get upset with him- I can still recall Mack’s first two years of soccer when all he wanted to do was fly around the field pretending to be an airplane. Strangely his flight pattern never coincided with the path of the ball- go figure. The best thing about T-Ball is the kids get to interact with these amazing people called coaches who have three times the level of patience of a normal human being. Where they found these saintly parents is beyond me, but I‘m certain they weren‘t recruited from the 0530 metro platform crowd. Also no one ever loses in T-Ball. Everyone plays, every scores and at the end of the year every one gets a big honking trophy. Some parents complain that this method of organized sports won’t teach their kids one of life’s most valuable lessons i.e. if you suck someone is going to kick your ass and take all the rewards- but I’m fine with it. Let my kid learn those lessons a little further down the road- let them play, let them win, and let them all be champions for just a little while. All in all, a great experience for my kid. He’s learning some fundamentals (most likely by osmosis), meeting some new kids and with a little luck he should be pulling down a 7-figure salary right about the time I retire from my second career.

Mack on the other hand is in his second year of baseball- the 8-9 year old kid pitch league. Kid pitch is an entirely different sport than T-ball- these kids are actually in it to win it. I am amazed at the amount of development that occurs in just a couple of years. The pitching piece is a little crazy- you can count on a batter taking one to the grill at least once an inning- but those kids are tougher than a pair of woodpecker lips and shrug it off like nothing happened. Mack is focused and truly enjoys competing. I’m pretty proud of his ability on the field and the level of sportsmanship that he displays regardless of whether they win or lose. The biggest draw for Mack however is not the sport itself, it’s the fact that he gets to wear an athletic supporter and cup. Even before the season began he was pestering us to get him one, so Connie finally gave and made the purchase- I didn‘t know they had them that small- who would have known? Mack‘s enamored with his grape helmet- so much so that the minute he got home from the sporting goods store he threw it on and asked Cayden to test it‘s tensile strength by beating on it vigorously with both fist- mind you, while he wore it. He then asked Cayden to kick his junk repeatedly with, and without, shoes on. I finally stepped in and called a halt to the testing just as Cayden was about to head butt Mack’s groin- it was just slightly too creepy for me to allow. The trouble with this whole scenario is that once Cayden starts something he‘s hard to shut down. In fact for the next several days he would ambush Mack and smash his crotch to see if the cup could withstand the assault. Problem is after the first 24 hours of wear Mack placed it with the rest of his uniform and went unprotected while not on the field. More than once Cayden brought the poor guy to his knees.

The cup has become the centerpiece of Mack’s baseball experience this season for more reasons than just Cayden‘s research methodology. For instance, a few night ago while I was standing around flapping my face with a bunch of other parents Mack approached me with his hands crammed down the front of his pants. The group of parents I was talking to stopped what they were doing to watch what was happening. Mack reached in and with a good solid tug released the cup from it’s secured location and brought it out into the daylight. He then asked me to hold it for him for the remainder of the practice. I’m not squeamish- but I felt that holding my son’s sweaty cup for 4-more innings of baseball was a bit much. It’s kind of like having your elderly Auntie ask you to put her upper bridge in your front breast pocket for safe keeping- not going to happen. Undeterred by my response, Mack placed his water bottle on the ground and then put his nasty old hard hat right down on top of the nozzle. The other parents (I think there was about 6 of them) watched the whole thing unfold. They didn’t say anything but I could tell they were wondering if I was going to let my kid continue to use the bottle that the cup was resting on. I ended up giving him mine and spending the rest of the game walking around with his cup in my hand. Funny I didn’t shake a single hand after that- word sure does travel fast. Since then the cup has been lost about a dozen times and has replaced Mack’s baseball hat as the item we scramble to find before games and practices. You would be amazed where that thing turns up- next to the TV remote, kitchen counter, bathroom cabinet- I even found it on my work bench one time. I told Mack I’m going to staple it to his crotch so he won’t lose track of it- he thought that was cool.

Well that’s the baseball update. We have games tomorrow starting at 9 am- promises to be interesting because we have team pictures first. I should probably polish Mack’s cup he’ll probably want to wear it on the outside of his uniform- man that kid is strange.

Corpsman Up!!!!

March 28, 2009

Here’s a fact- little boys get hurt.  I know this because I was once a little boy and I have all of the cool scars to prove it.  Most of my childhood injuries were a result of doing stupid things- they didn’t seem stupid at the time but then again I was the kid who believed new tennis shoes made you run faster and if outfitted in the right pair of under-roos I could achieve flight- I guess stupid is relative.

But this post isn’t about preventing my kids from doing stupid things. I don’t dedicate myself to impossible causes there are too many cards stacked against me- they’re boys, they’re high energy and most importantly they crawled to shore from the Groah family gene pool.  Every male in my family tree has been pieced back together more than once- it’s highly probable that my boys will be no different. 

Some of you may think that I’m being fatalistic but truth be told injuries are a fact of life when you’re a Groah-man.  The flip-side of that is Groah-men down play the extent of their injuries to avoid going to the hospital for emergency care.  So if you’re unfortunate enough to be a Groah-woman you have to be extremely vigilant for the tell tale signs of catastrophic injury.  When I was growing up you knew my Dad was in trouble when he yelled for you to bring him a role of paper towels and a beer.  When this request was levied my Mom would immediately run to the scene to render aid- which my father would most likely refuse.  For instance, I once saw my Dad care for two completely mangled fingers with 6-paper towels and a couple of Pabst Blue Ribbons.  He continued to work on my sisters ’76 Thunderbird (with a claw hammer) even though his hand looked as if it fell into a taffy puller.  You heard me correctly he was working on her car with a claw hammer- but as stated I’m not here to prevent stupid things from happening- my focus is on what to do after the injury has occurred.

My boy’s inherited the Groah family curse and get injured frequently enough to assure me that yes they are my sons.  They haven’t quite developed the injury denile mechanism yet so they don’t feel compelled to mask the extent of their wounds- but I am sure with time that facet of our DNA will blossom as well.  

Now, since I grew up in an enviroment where injuries were common place- combined with the nature of my current profession- I’ve earned the title of resident paramedic.  I don’t think many injuries happened in Connie’s childhood home, they were all to busy studying, playing varsity sports and prepping for college.  So I’m the man when the call for ”MEDIC UP!” is sounded.  Here is some advice if you too have been given this prestigious position within your family.  I’ll use last Friday night to help illustrate my points.

The alarm was sounded at 1900 hours (7 pm for you civilian folks).  Mack ran up from the basement with a look of terror on his face and announced “Dad, Cayden’s hurt really bad”.  This is never a good sign.  If the injury is benign Mack doesn’t bother to tell us- he normally cares for his brother on his own.  Granted Macks medical repertoire is mostly comprised of repeated pleas ”to be quiet so Mom and Dad don’t punish us”- but Friday night went beyond his medical training so he sought out my services.  I rushed down the basement stairs to survey the damage.  On my way down I listened to the pitch of  Cayden’s screams.  I can tell the difference between tears of anger, frustration, hurt feelings, fear and ER worthy injuries.  By the time I made it down the stairs I knew he was truly hurt.  I got to his side.  Cay was laying on the floor holding the back of his head and I could tell by the amount of blood that he would be needing some stitches. At this point the best thing I could do is calm him down.  So I spoke to him softly and asked him about where it hurt and what happened.  “Well Dad, take a look at where the blood is gushing out of my scalp- that’s a good place to start ass-wipe”.  He didn’t really say that, but judging by the moment of lucidity that I witnessed after I posed the question he was definitely thinking it.  Point being, the last thing my boys need when they’re scared is for me to lose my composure- to do so would send them into utter panic.  I scooped him up and rushed him to the kitchen.  Connie was standing by, with a wash cloth and an ice pack.   I cleaned the area around the cut and continued to talk to Cayden.  At this stage in the care giving process I’ll throw in some jokes to see if I can get the victim to smile- if I can get them to giggle I know that it’s mostly fear causing the tears and not the injury itself.  Within moments Cayden was laughing and asking for his Nintendo.  That’s a good sign.

Some other hints, try to keep them from looking at the blood flow, lots of blood scares the shit out of them so keep it mopped up as best as possible.  It’s also helpful to keep their siblings from offering commentary as you tend the wound.  Mack, likes to say things like “Holy Cow!  Look at all that blood- Dad is Cayden dieing?” this of course sends Cayden’s anxiety level through the roof and all the work I did to calm his ass down is now out the window. 

As I triaged the wound Connie went to retrieve our meager stock of medical supplies.  I asked her for gause and a bandage to hold it in place for the trip to the ER.  She produced the gause but no joy on the bandage.  I had to improvise so I asked Connie for an old pair of pantie hoes- strange look, but she ran to get me a pair.  When she returned I had her cut off one of the legs.  I placed the gauze on the wound and then slid the pantie hoe over Cayden’s head to hold it in place.  This worked extremely well- so if you don’t have an Ace Bandage handy keep it in mind.  Cayden was pleased with the head gear- he said it made him look like a ninja, especially when he pulled it down to his lips.

Wound tended, I broke the news to Cayden that we would have to go to the hospital- instant fear.  First question, “am I getting shots?”.  Always answer ”NO” to this question- even if you know you’re seven years behind on the kid’s immunizations and it’s likely that they are going to get every shot in the inventory.  If you tell your kids that shots are even a remote possibility you’ll add an additional 30 minutes to your hospital commute- all of which will be spent begging and pleading for them to get in the car.  In  cases involving emergency care little white lies are sometimes necessary.

So I managed to get the boys to the ER.  Mack wanted to go with to provide moral support and I didn’t have the heart to tell him no.  So the three Groah men hung out at the emergency room watching Sponge Bob Square Pants from the comfort of an automated hospital gurney for the remainder of our exciting Friday evening.  I wonder how many generations of Groah’s have done the exact same thing over the years?  My guess is I am not the first.

BTW- Cayden toughed out the three stitches like a true hard-ass.  Not a single tear while the sewed him back up- the kid is John Wayne incarnate, I’m so proud.

One last bit of  advice.  Purchase a nice sharp pair of cuticle scissors and a good pair of tweezers and keep them with your medical stuff.  It’s a lot more convenient to pluck the stitches out yourself than having to sit in a waiting room for hours to have your doctor do it.  I’m Hella proficient at this- must be all the practice I get.

Final note- In the time it took me to write this post Mack had his own accident requiring ER care, I’ll blog about that later- pretty funny stuff- no stitches this time they used glue.

The Groah’s have been sick a lot this winter. If my calculations are correct atleast one of us has been sick for the past 9 weeks. I was the most recent victim of the funk, starting last Friday. I’m happy to report that a week later I‘m finally starting to get over it. It’s times like these I feel really fortunate to be a Marine. Little known fact, Marines get sick- they’re just not allowed to act sick. It’s a really strange cultural norm. Even though it defies all logic getting sick does not earn you a single ounce of empathy in my line of work. So what ever you do, don‘t tell anyone- just go to work and act as if you feel fantastic. Your fellow Marines don’t care that you just brought a horrendous case of pink eye, influenza or black plague to work. What they’re more concerned with is that you demonstrated enough intestinal fortitude to walk through the door in the first place. Who cares if just infected every person in a 20-square mile radius- it only matters that you made the effort to do so.

This philosophy may be confusing to those of you who have never been in the Marine Corps but it makes perfect sense to those of us who have. Here is why- when you’re deployed to a foreign land and expected to interact with the indigenous population (who most likely harbor serious resentment towards you) it doesn‘t matter how you‘re feeling that day. Just like “no crying in baseball“- there are no sick days when you’re deployed, so you drive on. This attitude becomes so ingrained that it’s almost impossible to shut it off, and the next thing you know your pulling out your own I.V. so you won’t be late to work. For instance I recall one time when I was pretending not to have a god-awful case of exploding buttocks (that’s what Connie and I call diarrhea) and had to get to work. Work is a good hour and change away and when I timed how often my butt “blew-up” I knew it would be a hazardous commute. But I also knew that the Marine Corps probably wouldn’t survive if the “Shane” didn’t make it into work that day. So I sucked it up (not literally that would be friggin gross) and drove on. When I got home from work and Connie asked me why I risked it I told her- “Well, I figured if I shit my pants on the way to work then that’s the Marine Corps telling me to stay home- but I didn’t so obviously the Corps must have needed me today“. She says that‘s stupid- I call it MOTIVATED.

I tell you all of that to get to the point of how this mentality screws with my family (non-Marines). When they are sick or hurt they have no obligation to pretend that they’re feeling well. My boys let us know of every ache and pain, real or imagined, in amazingly vivid detail. Furthermore, if Mack or Cayden become ill they want the drugs that correspond to the affliction. They got this from Connie. One of the amazing things that Connie brought to our marriage was her extensive knowledge of over the counter medications. Until our union I had no idea that different medicines were designed to treat different symptoms- expectorants, decongestants, etcetera. There is even a medicine which helps reduce flatulence- I think it’s called “Beano” or “Gas-X“. Regardless of the name I don’t think the kids are taking it- they love every noise emanating from their butts and would never agree to willingly silence it. The point being, who would have thought that every thing that ailed you had a corresponding magic pill? When I was growing up you had two possible treatment plans when you didn‘t feel well. First and foremost my Mom would demand that you accomplish a bowel movement- until that magic happened you didn’t get any other type of medical care. For instance, when I was 13 I broke my arm and she made me poop before going to the emergency room- do you know how hard it is to wipe your ass with a broken arm? If you accomplished step one and were not completely cured she would break out the Tylenol (the only medication in my childhood home). But the thing is step one usually worked (except for broken bones) amazingly well- so when my boys complain about not feeling well they go straight to the crapper.

Back to how my mentality screws up my family. Since I’ve been groomed to act well even on my death bed my family has no idea when I’m ill and potentially contagious with some exotic funk. I’m basically a 200 pound germ meandering through our home infecting all who have the misfortune of coming in contact with me. I don’t mean any harm. I am not purposefully trying to spread whatever I have contracted it’s just that after 21-years of pretending that I’m not sick I’ve kind of come to believe it. Connie and the boys, however are not Marines and thus fallible to all those illnesses which I pretend bounce right off my impenetrable Marine immune system. So at the end of the day I’m probably the reason that my family has gone through almost three consecutive months of feeling like shit.

The way I look at it I can either admit my weaknesses and allow myself to act sick when in fact I am- thus providing a red flag to not to kiss Dad or drink from his water glass. Or, the rest of the family can enlist and earn their impenetrability the hard way. I’ll let you know what I come up with.

Into the Wild…

February 7, 2009

Okay, I’m not sure how I can work this into a post that makes any sense because my head is buzzing with so many random smart ass remarks that I feel like I am about to explode. A few weeks ago the Groah family was searching for some exciting weekend fun that wouldn’t crush our meager savings. We take this “national state of economic emergency-thingy” very seriously so we’ve cut back on a lot of unnecessary spending- BTW it sucks. Spending money is a damn good time.

Anyway, we decided to take the kids to the hillbilly mecca known as Bass Pro Shop. If you’re currently reading this while wearing a camouflage bathrobe by the light of your deer antler reading lamp I apologize- I’m not trying to offend.

If you’re unfamiliar with Bass Pro Shop, you’re really missing out. This place is about a million square feet of camouflage, tree stands, fishing poles, guns, knives and taxidermied wildlife- things that make Mack’s heart flutter with excitement. Mack believes that the only things our home is missing are a couple of animal heads hung from our dining room wall and a smoked glass gun cabinet in our kitchen- so Bass Pro is the perfect place to improve our home decor.

But I digress. I like Bass Pro and best of all there is no cost for admission- it’s like a free amusement park for rednecks. So when we went a couple of weeks ago, I brought our camera to capture some precious moments of two boys set free in “Man-Land”.

Photo #1- “The Wild”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mack is posing in front of an extremely authentic depiction of a moose’s natural habitat painstakingly created by Bass Pro wildlife engineers. Atleast I think that’s what the sign to Mack’s left told us. Just a couple of novice observations. In what wildlife dimension did moose and skunks share such close quarters?  They are far from related- I don’t think they travel in herds or share similar migratory patterns and I’m positive they can’t procreate (physically impossible). Not to judge, but if they did travel together and sensed danger and the ”fight or flight” mechanism kicked in, wouldn’t the skunk’s far shorter legs make it impossible to keep up with his friend the moose? Maybe the skunk rides the moose to safety, but then the question is how does the skunk get on top of an 8-foot tall moose?

My interpretation could be misguided. It could be that moose feed primarily on squat, stinky rodents (like this skunk for instance) and the intent of this scene is to show the moose about to swoop down and capture his prey. That’s some scary shit isn’t it? A giant, 9-zillion pound carnivorous moose running around eating skunks- sounds like a Stephen King book plot.

All of this could potentially make sense if it wasn’t for the hum of fluorescent lights and the giant climbing wall in the right hand side of the picture. If you include those two minor details, it appears that the moose and skunk are patiently standing in line for their opportunity to engage in some trendy, extreme sports activity.

Photo:  “The size of your paws is not directly linked to the size of anything else”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is a giant man-eating grizzly bear, also standing in his natural habitat- which apparently is located among the Underarmour leggings and wildlife-themed embroidered sweatshirts.

I decided to feed my youngest to the bear just for fun. I know he is a man-eater but between meals he would probably appreciate a small, low-carb snack. Initially Cayden was terrified, but then we both noticed something that made us giggle (refer to below photo for explanation)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The bear was enormous except for one little appendage- his man-parts. No wonder the bear is angry, he must get teased mercilessly in the wildlife locker room after he hits the gym. Can you imagine the feelings of inadequacy? If I was him I wouldn’t go rearing up on my haunches unless I was wearing some panties. But maybe it works to his advantage during the hunt. He raises up, his victim gets one look at his junk, starts to giggle, and then while rolling on the ground in fits of laughter, is mauled to death by the bear with ease.

I wonder, if the bear could speak “horse” would he go to the horse for advice- maybe a couple of exercises or some supplement suggestions to help him with his little problem?

Sorry if you consider this a bit vulgar or inappropriate- but it’s kind of like watching monkeys throw poop at the zoo- you shouldn’t laugh but you can’t help yourself.

By the way, for the men out there, if your spouse tell’s you that you’re hung like a grizzly bear, it’s not a compliment.

Photo: “I’m crazy about fishing”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My boys are crazy about fishing.  Even more so now that they know for a fact that fish larger than the lures in their tackle boxes exist in real life. Mack stood in front of this display for 20-minutes trying to hatch a plan to break in after the store closed for a little one-on-one angling time. All that Cayden wanted to do was to go for a swim and befriend the 70-pound catfish lurking toward the bottom of the tank.

Well I have to wrap this up. I just heard Mack fire Cayden from their band- AGAIN. That makes six firings in the last hour between the two of them. So as I head down to the basement to engage in contract negotiations, I’ll leave you with this:  Bass Pro Shops is a fun, free, Sunday afternoon activity for boys and girls alike- so turn off the TV, gather your survival gear, and make the trek. While you’re there, don’t forget to pay your respects to “Tiny” the man-eating grizzly- just try not to stare- he is very self conscious.

 

Lessons learned…

February 4, 2009
I decided to sit here tonight and try to capture some words of advice for my guys- you know the type of stuff you learn as an adult that you wished that someone would have clued you into earlier in life. This is by no means an all inclusive list, just a reminder of a few lessons that I should teach them along the way. Forgive me for the ones that are a bit cliché, but they do provide some valuable insight. I’ll be adding more as I go, so if you have a favorite lesson that you would like to contribute please feel free.

Find that boy in your class who has no friends and become his first.

Ladies first, even though some will say it is sexist- be a gentlemen anyway.

Never buy a magazine subscription from someone selling them door to door.

Respect your elders- they know a lot more about life than you and they’ll willingly share if they think you’re worth it.

Remember your mom’s birthday- call her from wherever you are just to let her know that she’s special enough to commit to memory.

Treat women as equals- there’s no such thing as the weaker sex.

You’re never stuck- you always have choices.

Don’t settle for anything less than the love of your life.

Never judge a book by it’s cover- it’s what’s inside that makes the story.

Money cannot buy happiness- so choose a profession that allows you time with your family.

Start saving 50% of everything you make- by the time your old enough to have a real job it will be second nature.

Own a pet and recognize the significance of having another living creature completely dependent on you for everything- with luck, you’ll see this again.

When you have your own kids, match every “No” with a “Yes”.

Mayonnaise is not an instrument. (the boys will understand this one)

You will never be too old, too big or too cool to kiss your old man.

Take a nap as often as you can- the clock is ticking on this privilege and you’re going to regret not taking advantage of it sooner than you think.

Play a team sport but never use the letter “I” to describe accomplishments made on the field- use the word “we” instead.

Algebra sucks- do not seek help from your father when you take this course in high school. Go to your mother instead.

Tell your brother how much he means to you- have no regrets at the end off your life regarding this relationship.

Unplug your life and read a book.

Don’t be afraid to voice your opinion in the face of opposition- be courageous.

Brush your teeth at least twice a day and floss while you’re at it- dental care is friggin’ expensive.

Become a dentist; they make a lot of money.

By the way “friggin’” is a dirty word unless you’re a former Marine Drill Instructor- so don’t use it.

Make sure you vote- I fought for that right and can’t stand people who are too lazy to exercise the privilege.

They say life is tough, but even tougher when you’re stupid- work hard in school.

Never let another person speak poorly of your brother. There is no greater bond than the one you share with him- so honor it accordingly.

Speaking of your brother create a special handshake, build a tree fort or a share a secret- 20-years from now you’ll revisit these things over a beer at Christmas or during a random cell phone call.

If you never try because you’re afraid to fail, you’ll never succeed.

When overwhelmed with work, do the hardest task first.

When you use the bathroom, flush the damn toilet.

Stand and place your hand over your heart when you hear the national anthem- don‘t be ashamed if you’re moved to tears, it was designed to stir emotion.

Never bad mouth a friend over email- the next inbox that it will find will be his.

It’s okay if you get choked up while watching a movie or a particularly touching commercial- if you’re embarrassed, tell people you have allergies.

Saying you’re sorry doesn’t hurt and it‘s completely free- additionally, the quicker you say it the more likely you are to repair the damage.

When you make a mistake “man-up” and claim it- it’s the quickest way to earn a person’s respect or lose a job, it really could go either way.

Try to remove the word “hate” from your vocabulary. While your at it, remove the word “cute” as well- I can’t stand that word.

Remember me for what I tried to be your entire life- a role model, a loving father and your biggest ally- forgive me for those times when I failed to achieve any of the three.

We have survived another Christmas, but sadly most of the kid’s gifts did not. Every year I am amazed at how quickly my kids can put their new toys and gizmos out of commission, and this year was no different. Twenty four hours after the unwrapping frenzy I am left with (6) detached action figure limbs, (1) broken antenna for a remote controlled ATV, a torn power cord for the Wii “Rock Band” drum set, and a Tupperware bowl full of miscellaneous parts to games, puzzles and who-knows-what else. My kids rampaged their presents like a troop of angry vikings pillaging a European hamlet.

 

But, I really can’t be mad at them- after all they’re little boys and little boys play rough. I can, however, harbor some animosity toward the toy manufacturers who swindled me out of a butt-load of cash this season. If you’re going to put a toy on the market for kids ages 5-9, it should be designed to withstand some hard play. If the manufacturer’s intent was for the toy to remain in the protective packaging then they should be required to place a bright red warning label on the box that reads “For visual amusement only, playing with object will result in breakage followed by floods of tears and hours of haphazard repair work undertaken by owner’s father”. As an aside, if these jokers paid as much attention to how these things were built as they do to how they are held in place in the package the damn things would be indestructible. I had three pair of wire snips and a cutting torch all going at once trying to liberate G.I. Joe from his carton this Christmas- it was such a pain in the ass that I almost abandoned him.

 

Surprisingly, one of the few gifts that has survived unscathed is the toy that I was almost certain wouldn’t make it five minutes. Both of the guys got Air Hogg helicopters from Connie’s mom and dad. If you’ve never seen these things, they’re made from some type of space age Styrofoam. They are tiny and have several extremely fragile moving parts. They remind me of an antique Hummel clown figurine only not as robust looking.

 

But Mack and Cayden love them. They charge them up, open the throttle full bore (because that’s how my kids roll) and send them climbing to the ceiling at warp speed. When they reach the ceiling- which takes all of a milli-second- they hit hard enough to shock the motor sending them crashing to the floor. Amazingly, these things take the abuse quite well- which is good because the guys keep this drill up for 20 minutes at a pop. I am patiently waiting for the call of “Dad Up” when these things finally become inoperable. They’re so tiny that there is absolutely no way that my kielbasa fingers will be able to repair them. Then what will I do?

 

The other big hit this season was all of the Wii accessories and games that Santa, with the aid of the grandparents, produced this year.  Even I was coaxed into playing several rounds of Guitar Hero which is highly unusual because the last game I played was “Pong” on an original Atari circa 1978. 

 

If you don’t own a Wii yet, or had the luxury of playing with one, you should- the thing is unbelievable. My kids can play every sport ever invented from the comfort of our basement. They can also fish, hunt, throw darts, box, balance our checkbook and solve world hunger- accomplishing them all while still wearing their jammies. It’s only a matter of time before the folks at the Wii factory run out of fun activities, however, and have to resort to making games out of the mundane. Could you imagine Wii “House Work” or Wii “Dental Hygiene”? I don’t think it’s too far out of the realm of possibilities. Remember you heard it here first- if they end up coming to market I want my cut. Someone also gave us a Wii “Fit” to help shed the inevitable weight gain that accompanies playing sports with nothing more than your thumb and forefinger, but I’m sad to report that one hasn’t been opened yet.

 

The Wii is a good piece of gear and I will miss it when my kids finally end up destroying it. If this sounds pessimistic that was my intent. I believe I’ve all ready determined how they are going to kill it. Cayden is the assassin and his method of execution is simple yet effective. He will lick each of the game discs while consuming large quantities of “Crunch and Munch” and then feed said game disc into the console. The Wii, unable to decode the foreign substances (corn syrup/popcorn/caramel), will then plummet into sensory overload and crash. I think he got his methodology from watching Mission Impossible III.

 

So, as I wait for the smell of a smoldering motherboard to come wafting up from our basement, I’ll jot down a few gift ideas for the boys for next Christmas. 

 

Block of wood- check

Bag of gravel- check

Comb (they say unbreakable right on the spine)- check

 

If you have any suggestions please let me know, the list of things that my boys can’t destroy is a bit meager… 

 

 

 

Fluidity…

December 29, 2008

I wrote this several years ago with the intent of one day writing a parenting book for Marine Corps dads so some of the vernacular is a bit militant, but put that aside. If you’re a parent, you’ll recognize what I am talking about and hopefully you’ll be able to smile at what I am describing.

 

Fluidity:

In the Marine Corps, fluidity means seamless transition, smooth flow of ideas, concepts and execution; it means something entirely different to parents. The human body is supposedly made up of 75% water or something crazy like that. If that figure is correct then I would venture to say that my children are 99% bodily fluids and 1% miscellaneous other stuff. My guys are made of saliva, snot, urine, poop, ear wax, and a couple of substances for which I haven’t gotten results back from the lab yet. I’m thinking that around the time puberty hits they’ll solidify and become solid matter, but for now they’re more ameba-like than human. This is one of those strange parenting tidbits that no one warns you about during pregnancy. Baby books don’t do the topic justice either. I did a lot of reading prior to Mack’s arrival and I didn’t find a single accurate portrayal of the amount of time I would spend elbows deep in baby goo. Most literature makes this aspect of parenting sound quaint- a fun little jaunt through baby’s world of bodily fluids, “When baby teethes there may be a slight increase in saliva- lovingly dab with a soft, clean cloth”.  Bull shit, after baby’s first day at home there won’t be a soft, clean cloth in the house, to include the clothes on your back and the cushions on your couch. You want to see a new parent’s eyes light up? Show them a cloth diaper fresh from the dryer- they’ll be willing to fight you for it. Back to fluidity.

 

The largest organ in an infant’s body is the saliva gland. I can’t prove it, but from my experiences I can make this statement with a degree of confidence. For this reason I spent my first 5 years as a father sporting a cloth diaper over my shoulder. Cloth diapers are extremely versatile and necessary pieces of baby raising gear. In the old days, before the advent of disposable brands, these things were the gold standard. People actually used them on their children’s butts- unbelievable. When they were dirty, they flushed the lumpy stuff down the toilet and threw the diaper into the washing machine. Even today some parents prefer them as they are more environmentally sound, i.e. they don’t tax our landfills. I think this is a noble gesture and I completely support protecting the earth, but like many parents, sleep deprivation got the best of me and I chose the more convenient option. I just didn’t have the energy to dedicate to the process of reusing diapers. I am a horrible person, but then again so are the 6 billion other people currently killing our planet with disposables, so at least I’m not going to burn in hell alone. What was I talking about? That’s right, spit.

 

Whenever I picked up one of the boys, I would do a quick wipe down so that they wouldn’t slide out of my arms and scurry under the couch. This may sound like an embellishment but my kids could produce a gallon of spit in less than 5 minutes. This was unnerving to me. I had never come in contact with any living organism that had this capability. I guess if you examine the animal kingdom you can find some similarities- porcupines have quills, skunks have odor, blow fish swell, my kids salivate. Most creatures are weak and vulnerable at birth so it makes sense that God provided a defensive mechanism- look at the poison dart frog, one lick and you’re a goner. Granted saliva is not nearly as sexy as razor sharp quills or deadly poison, but it can be fairly effective against an unsuspecting first time parent.

 

For those of you who have yet to experience the pleasure of a child in the throws of teething, let me develop a couple of scenarios that illustrate what I’m talking about.

Scenario #1-  While interfacing with the child, the parent raises him/her into the air and babbles incoherently in the infant’s native tongue. I can’t think of a single parent who hasn’t done this- it’s a customary parental ritual. We raise our kids above eye level and then move them back and forth so we can lock eyes and allow them to focus on our features. I’ve learned through experience that as I do this my kids weren’t focusing on my features so that they would be able to recognize me in a crowd of people. What I believe they saw each time I brought them closer to my face was an internal targeting signal that flashed a bright red X on my mouth each time it got within range of their saliva glands. 

 

When the moment is right, the child will release a volley of clear, lava-like fluid from their firing portal (mouth) inevitably scoring a precise hit. My children had the accuracy of a fighter ace normally achieving direct impact in my mouth causing me to momentarily lose composure and the ability to respond accordingly. This momentary loss of composure is problematic because you will be required to do multiple things simultaneously. One, ensure the safety of your child- do not drop, spike or in anyway endanger the infant- it is to your benefit to keep them safe for future intelligence value and observation. Next, move the child out of the effective range of his/her fires. Normally arms length is sufficient in reducing the effectiveness of their saliva launcher. Finally, search for a means to remove the fluid from your mouth/face (hello cloth diaper hanging on your shoulder). This is a harassing technique used to steal your ability to function for short periods of time. It has no lasting effect other than the emotional scars incurred from unexpectedly finding another human being’s saliva dripping off your chin.

 

Scenario #2-  There are multiple ways that your baby can employ his/her saliva glands. In the first scenario, I discussed direct fire techniques. Another way your child can punish you is through the use of strategically placed “slobber mines”. Your child will position saliva at key locations throughout your home- nothing is sacred. The best way to determine where the “baby boogers” are located is to think like your baby. This is called the “Infant’s Most Probable Course of Action (IMPCOA)”. Where you rest your hands, where you lay your head, anywhere your bare skin touches another object is where the baby will lay the slobber globule.  In my years of experience, I have encountered my kid’s saliva in a myriad of places. In my comb, on my pillow, on the rim of my coffee cup and my toilet- my kids had no sense of decency nor remorse when emplacing these disgusting little gifts of love. Slobber is only one of many bodily fluids that a child can employ on command. My boys are completely capable of firing multiple volleys from both ends simultaneously. This will most often happen during diaper changing or prepping for bath time. The critical time is when they are completely nude and all firing mechanisms are exposed to the elements.  But that is a story for another day… 

 

 

What’s Up, Chuck?

November 19, 2008
I think this weekend would be an excellent time to take my boys to their favorite “good time” place, which will remain nameless because I am going to blast them and I don’t want to get sued for slander.  I’ll refer to the restaurant, a term I use loosely, as CEC or Chuck’s.  Don’t get me wrong, I don’t enjoy (actually hate would not be a strong enough term to describe my utter distaste for this establishment) going there, but my boys love it and if you go about it the right way, you can actually minimize the amount of pain that you must endure.  

 

For instance, you will never hear me offer to take the boys to Chuck’s place on a Saturday afternoon.  This is when birthday parties routinely occur and the place is absolutely flooded with amped up, sugar-stoned children, sprinting in their stocking feet from game to game, knocking over old ladies and each other in the process.  For some unknown reason, parents lose their status the minute they walk through the door and children lose their ability to recognize parental authority.  It’s a black hole, a vortex, another dimension where every rule that has ever been established is suddenly cast aside and your kids revert back to their primal survival instincts.  If you’ve never been there on a Saturday afternoon, you should, if for nothing more than to marvel at the “Lord of the Flies” type atmosphere.

 

I’ve been to Chuck’s on a Saturday afternoon more than once and I have walked away to tell the tale, but it was not without earning both emotional and physical scars.  Here are some candid observations of what a typical Saturday resembles and why you should avoid going there on that dreadful day at all costs…  

 

1.    Food-  I’ve never met a single person that went to CEC to enjoy a fine dining experience.  My kids don’t even know it’s a restaurant so that should tell you how memorable the food is.  Last time we went, Mack asked me if we could go out to lunch after we were finished, to which I replied, “We’re in a restaurant- why not eat here?”.   With a confused look on his face, Mack replied, “They serve food?”.  For those of you who are conscious of your weight, they do offer a fully stocked salad bar, but sadly it costs more per pound than nuclear grade plutonium, so go light on the fixin’s.

 

2.    Service-  CEC only hires disgruntled teenagers between the ages of 16 and 16.5, unless of course you count the one elderly lady who works the cash register in between smoke breaks.  I’ve always been a bit confused as to why they target this demographic.  It has been my experience that 16 year old kids don’t necessarily enjoy hanging out in giant animal costumes, singing and dancing to Miley Cyrus tunes, or cleaning up after mobs of children.  I could be wrong, maybe they love their jobs, but judging by the looks on their faces, I would venture to say that they didn’t choose their occupations willingly.  Maybe they’re paying off some community service obligation from a previous felony conviction?

 

 

3.    Games- This is a plus, CEC does have some games to keep the kids occupied and out of your hair.  As an added bonus, if you spend inordinate amounts of money on game tokens you can eventually qualify for one of the many super cool prizes that are offered behind the counter.  Just to let you know, if you don’t plan on spending at least $50, don’t bother to wait in line at the prize counter as the 16 year old prize steward will only smirk at you in disgust. However, if you’re “in it to win it” you can walk away with some pretty good stuff.  For instance, $80.00 in prize tickets will earn you a pirate tattoo about the size of a postage stamp, $90.00 in prize tickets will nab you a pencil eraser shaped like Brazil, and $100.00 worth of prize tickets will land you a fluorescent yellow grasshopper. Considering the type of high-end prizes that are up for grabs and the amount of cash exchanging hands, it’s amazing that the mob’s not involved- at a minimum I would have expected more of a Vegas type atmosphere.  I guess we should be happy that it’s maintained its quasi-family orientation.

 

4.    Parental camaraderie- You would think that you could glean a bit of comfort from the other parents that were suckered into going there on a Saturday afternoon, but this couldn’t be further from the truth.  I’ve met two kinds of parents at CEC.  The first parent is as bitter about their predicament as you and is therefore about as cordial as a prison guard.  The other type of parent is wearing a “I-Heart-Chuck” t-shirt, is barefoot like all the other kids, and is using their home equity line of credit to support their skeet ball habit.  Warning: do not engage these types in conversation unless you’re really interested in learning which gaming machines are loose or when the next performance of Chuck’s mechanical band is taking place.

 

 

5.    Ho-Chi-Ming Tunnel Complex- Beware of the huge sprawling multi-colored tunnel that covers the ceiling.  At ground level, you can see the rate of speed at which children sprint from game to game.  Now imagine the same energy being expended in a confined space- it’s a potential powder keg.  A few different things occur each time my kids enter the tunnel complex.  One, they mysteriously lose their socks- this phenomenon is similar to what happens in your dryer at home- two socks in, one sock out.  Next, they get injured, obviously due to the velocity and corresponding trajectory of hundreds of other kids co-located in the same cramped space.  Finally, two kids go in and one comes out, sort of like the sock phenomenon, only you’re slightly more invested in your children than a pair of tube socks. Retrieving your lost child is next to impossible as the tunnel complex is only load tested for 70lbs and if you crawl your big ass up there, you’re likely to come crashing down on top of a group of already pissed off parents.  If they survive the collision, they’ll likely beat you to death, or worse yet, force feed you the pizza that they just spent an entire paycheck on.  So, keep your feet on the ground- when your kids get hungry enough, they’ll resurface.

 

6.    Adult beverages- There are none- how’s that for a slap in the face?  Not only are you basting in kiddie-hell but you can’t even douse the flames with a cold glass of barley and hops.  Who is the genius that came up with that policy? Obviously, a non-parent.  They do offer coffee, but it’s a specialty item.  Unlike every other eating establishment on the planet, CEC does not maintain a scalding hot pot of coffee on the premises.  If you want a cup of coffee, you must engage the 16 year old employee behind the counter, explain what coffee is (they think it’s a $9 luxury item found only at Starbucks), and then read them the directions for the dusty coffee maker located toward the back of the kitchen.  I only did this one time.  The coffee was so bad, I nearly cut out my own tongue to get rid of the taste.

 

So having said all of that, how could I possibly alleviate the pain of this little road trip to Hades?  Here’s the deal, CEC opens at 9a.m. on the weekends.  If you get there as the doors open, you’ll have the entire place to yourself.  The only kids running amuck will be your own.  It’s so much easier to decode calls for medical attention when the only kids in the place are yours.  I normally get $15 in tokens and split them up two ways with the disclaimer that what they have is all there is- when they are gone, so are we.  I then sit at a booth that affords great observation of the entire operation and turn off my brain as I sip my $9 coffee that is so worth it when compared to what they have behind the counter at CEC.

 

This trip will cost you $24- $15 in tokens and a $9 designer coffee, but it will earn you the undying love, devotion and admiration of your children for at least the rest of the afternoon.  How much better could it possibly get?  I’ll take pictures this weekend. Fire up the skeet ball game, Chuck, here we come!