Wednesday, April 29, 2009

I Promise I Won't Always Discuss Puke...Just When It's Funny

I'd love to say that last night was so much fun we laughed until we puked, but I'd be lying. Only one of us laughed until he puked.


Of course, I laughed, too. Both with him and at him. I'm a great dad, I know, but there's that whole gag reflex thing and if I didn't laugh I probably would have puked. Then there'd be a much bigger mess to pretend to get sick cleaning up and, after my last post, I can't count on my wife taking pity on me anymore.

Did I mention that I'm also a great dad because I was filming the whole thing and I definitely did NOT stop when the real fun began? I mean, really, how many opportunities am I going to get for pure, unadulterated regret-introducing-your-new-girlfriend-to-your-parents blackmail material like that?

It all started when Mini-Me cried his way to the time-out corner and accidentally swallowed the piece of gum he'd been chewing, but it got into full swing at the end of dinner when he ate the last blue Easter Peep for dessert and shifted into Little-Wild-Rainforest-Boy mode. Rach didn't mind Mini-Me chowing down some dessert because she was leaving shortly to get her hair cut. I'm sure she knew what was coming, though, mom's always do. I didn't hesitate handing over that sticky mass of blue hyperactivity because I was tired of his morning response to my question:

"What do you want for breakfast, buddy?"
"I want a blue Peep, daddy!"
"Blue Peeps aren't for breakfast, buddy. Do you want some cereal?"
"No, daddy, a blue Peep would be fine."

I was really looking forward to not having any more fowl marshmallows in the house, so I served it up with glee. Boy did I make the right choice!

After finishing the Peep, Mini-Me jumped into my wife's recently vacated chair to swipe some of her chips. He was laughing the deep, full, belly laughs that turn a video viral or, if dreams and time travel could come true, would earn me a date with Bob Saget. 'The Wubster' (our 9-month-old) initially stared quizzically, but quickly began laughing in response. Sensing the beginnings of a sticky mass of preciousness, I jumped up and grabbed the camera. Boy did I make the right choice!

Mere moments into the moment, Mini-Me began cough-laughing with his mouth full of chips. Debris began to fly. 'The Wubster' looked at me in a way that said, 'I wish I knew what safety goggles were.' Danger lurked.

You see, 2.9 years ago I felt genetically generous and shared a number of traits with my first-born. He is named Mini-Me for a reason, you know. The gag reflex happens to be one of those traits. We've become accustomed, but unfortunately not yet numb, to horrendous, pukeless gagging sounds during meals, swimming lessons, and other previously serene moments. There are noises that startle you when unexpected, but THAT noise kills fainting goats. Thus, the signs of an impending eruption were there and yet the natives stubbornly stayed in their homes thinking, 'Oh, that only happens to other people who live near the base of an active toddler."

Vesuvius, Pelee, Krakatau, Mauna Loa, Mount St. Helens. All impressive in their own rights, but only Mini-Me spewed masticated blue Peep. No villages were destroyed, no humans were buried in ash, no sounds were heard around the world, no sunsets were altered by ash, but still, it was a sight to behold and I couldn't stop laughing. Probably because my wife was still around to clean-up.

"Ugh, there are grapes in there!"
"He had grapes for breakfast..."
"And green beans!"
"This is nasty."
"Did you find the gum?
"Not yet..."

Aftershocks were felt later in the evening when Mini-Me was swinging in the backyard and settled into another laughing fit that had him foaming at the mouth.

"Buddy, don't spit while you're won't like what'll happen."
[Laughter and additional spit bubbles]
"Really, buddy..."
[Laughter, coughing...ralphing]
"Hmm...not what I meant, but I think you get the point!"

As I watched him spew again, I might have given him another push on the swing. It might have been two pushes, actually, since I couldn't stop laughing, or three as I pondered having to clean this new mess up myself. Then I remembered: we're guys, we're outside, no mom's in sight, and it's going to rain tomorrow.

As I scooped a tearful Mini-Me out of the swing and headed into the house to change him into clean PJs and settle (this term is used loosely around Mini-Me) into our nightly routine, I thought about how I should have put the camera down or stopped laughing and slowed the swing immediately...and then I remembered how important it is to document history. Plus, imagine how much fun I can have with that footage. Boy did I make the right choice!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

There's No Gratitude Without 'Atitude'

"Mommy! I missed you SOOOO much!"

There's nothing like being greeted with a warm welcome when you walk through the door after a tough day at work. My wife came home the other day and Mini-Me, our 2.9-year-old son, welcomed her with that booming announcement. She beamed in a way I hadn't seen since the day we walked down the Target and 24-packs of Mountain Dew were under $5. Caffeine is a necessity in keeping up with the boys.

As trying as life can sometimes be with the tantrums of a 2.9-year-old, such moments of loving gratitude far outweigh the beastly attitude. And what about me, you ask? Oh, I get my share of gratitude, too.

"Daddy, thank you for making dinner. Thank you soooooo much!" Actually, he's still working on the fricative 'th' so it's even more adorable when he says it: "NAHK you for making dinner, Daddy!"

My heart just melts getting that amount of appreciation for opening a piece of string cheese and slapping some PB & J on a slice of bread. I slaved in the kitchen for six minutes and for him to acknowledge that at such an early age...tears. What can I say?

My favorite moment of Mini-Me's gratitude, though, came when Papa Boyd (his grandfather...and no relation to Papa Smurf) and I assembled and improved upon a 'new' swing set. You see, my wife has become an expert craigslister. Flipping through a Toys R Us flier, I mentioned wanting to get Mini-Me a cool set-up for the backyard. Within minutes (maybe it was days, but still, it was fast...she's that good) Papa Boyd and I were in West County disassembling and loading a swing set in the dark. A couple weekends later we worked furiously during Mini-Me's nap in the hopes of having it ready when he awoke. Unfortunately, Mini-Me rushed out of the house while the swings and such were still scattered around the yard.

It didn't faze him one bit...

"What's dis, daddy?"
"That's your new glider."
"NAHK you, daddy...NAHK you!"
"That's a big boy swing."
"Oh, NAHK you, daddy! NAHK you, NAHK you!"
"This is a telescope (aka 'cheap plastic tube with no magnification value') to look across the common ground."
"Ooooh, NAHK you!"
"And this is a steering wheel so you can pretend to be in a ship."
"NAHK you! NAHK you, daddy!"

The pure joy of the moment seemed even greater than Christmas morning. He was ecstatic with the treasures scattered in the grass and genuinely grateful for each and every one of them. Mini-Me spent the next half-hour carefully examining each piece prior to its assembly.

And me? Atop the new fort attaching the cheap plastic tube with no magnification value, I felt as though I was standing atop Everest. Fists on hips, chest out, chin up, I could do no wrong. I was Superdad!

“Daddy, why are you standing up dere like dat?”

Of course, Mini-me knows how to bring us back down to size.

The day he greeted my wife so warmly after her long day at work he immediately kicked off his shoes and ran to the living room where his toy trains waited.

"I missed you SOOOOOOOOOO much, Geotrax!"

At least we know who the competition is.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

The Gag Order

"You realize your son is in our bed, right? He scared the sh*t outta me when I went in there."
"Seriously? When did he do that?"

The past few nights around 9pm my son, let's call him Mini-Me, has been getting out of his bed and stealthily heading for mine. Before he does, though, he makes sure to turn the nightlight off in his room.


That's like a convict serving a life sentence crawling through the tunnel he dug through three hundred feet of solid concrete using a plastic spoon only to turn around and go back to his cell when he realizes he forgot to return the copy of Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants that he'd checked out from the prison library. I mean, really, what 2.9-year-old takes the time to turn all the lights off when he leaves a room?

It's moments like that scattered throughout my mere 2.9 years as a parent that make me realize my children will constantly amaze me. The whole process of watching a child grow mentally and physically fascinates me. I am perpetually wowed by what Mini-Me says and does and I know it won't be long before both he and 'The Wubster', our 9-month-old son, are providing endless fodder for my stories.

In fact, I was SO amazed by something Mini-Me did a few days ago that I HAD to send a picture via text message. It was major. It was noteworthy. It was impressive. It was shocking. It was disgusting...absolutely disgusting. And I HAD to take a picture and send it to someone special...someone who'd really appreciate what he had created.

Before I go any further, though, there's something you must understand. I've suffered through life with an absolutely, traumatically, over-exaggeratingly horrible gag reflex. Horrible. Did I mention it's horrible? So horrible that I loathe trips to the dentist. Not because of drills or overzealous flossers, but because I hate when they demand to take x-rays of my teeth and they shove those ridiculous little film contraptions into my mouth and force me to bite down for what seems like an ungodly eternity! My eyes water and I become 'that crying guy' dental hygienists laugh about at their annual conventions. My tongue, disturbed by its new plastic bedfellow, dances, awkwardly trying to get comfortable, trying to spoon, trying to figure out where to put its 'arm'. I wiggle my feet because someone once told me that would help and, while it never has, I continue to try every single time. So there I sit, tears rolling, tongue dancing, toes wiggling...gagging.

I hate gagging.

As a pet owner in the years prior to fatherhood I suffered through further trauma each time one of our lovely fur balls decided to leave us a fetid present on the floor. The first few times I attempted to clean a mess and began gagging, my steely-stomached wife stepped in and rescued me while I stumbled away and attempted to recover. No matter what anyone says, I've never used my gag reflex to get out of cleaning up a mess...never.


Before Mini-Me was born I remember getting an email with a video of dads attempting to change their newborns' diapers using various ingenious, though ultimately flawed, methods. My wife and extended family got some good laughs at my expense as they debated what methods I would try. I couldn't argue with them, though. My brain was working on ways to improve upon those fathers' failures. I knew I was going to have to put myself in gag-prone situations. I knew my wife wouldn't let me off the hook as easily as she did with the pets.

So I became a dad. A dad with a gag reflex who no longer had any excuses. Disgusting scenarios are unavoidable aspects of life these days. Grossness lurks around every corner. Repulsion seeps out of many a diaper. Over the past 2.9 years I've found myself acting against my gag reflex's better judgment WAY too often. Becoming a father has brought me face to face to hand to arm with projectile vomit, snot, half chewed food items that are simply 'yucky', and far too many what-the-heck-is-thats to count. I've caught puke in my hands to protect the carpet. I've rushed to dangle my son over a trash can so he could ralph in the middle of the night. I've wiped snot with my bare hands when it threatened to conquer my son's face. And I've confronted poop fragrant enough to threaten life as we know it in Texas...and you don't mess with Texas. I've even gotten it on my hands once or twice. In all those memorable moments I've done everything...except gag. I'm not saying it's gone completely, but being a father has certainly cured me to an extent.

And that's where I left you earlier...absolutely amazed, but certainly not gagging, while staring at poop.

"My butt hurt when I pooped, mommy."
"Well, you probably need to...oh my! I see why."
"What do you mean? Is he okay?"
"Take a look..."
"I'd rather not, but...Oh my GOD! Buddy! It's bigger than you!"

It was bigger than him. It was glorious. Having written that I realize I disgust myself, but in that moment, beaming with pride at my son's accomplishment, I knew we needed photographic evidence. In fact I was positive that evidence needed to be sent along to an unnamed family member who's long boasted of the world's longest poops. I know it's repulsive, but you have to understand the family I married into: three sister's whose step-father was first introduced to them in the middle of a burping and farting contest. That knowledge rocked my world and shattered every 'that's-what-little-girls-are-made-of' dream I ever had. It put me to shame...really it did. And, so, I knew that there was one person in the world who would truly appreciate what my son had done as much as I did...and she received a picture via text message.


I think she gagged.

Friday, April 10, 2009

There's a Monster at the End of This Post!

What did that say? Did the title say what I think it did? There's a monster at the end of this post? Oh, please, do not read any further. I do not want to see the monster at the end of this blog! I, your friendly neighborhood father, son, brother, in-law, friend, teacher implore you not to read another word...

I've scarred my son. He's not even three and I think I've already set the stage for at least a couple years of expensive psychoanalysis.

Earlier this week while out to lunch with my parents, my son continued to slouch in his chair until he was almost completely under the table. In order to fight my fear of public displays of parental ineptitude, I created a monster who lives under the table and tickles little boys who don't sit up straight. It worked like a charm as my son sat bolt upright for the remainder of lunch. Harmless, right? He mentioned the 'monster' a few times afterwards, but it seemed like a joke.

Tonight, during his grandmother's birthday dinner, my son was getting a bit rowdy. Asking him politely to stop had no effect. I reached my leg under the table and pressed my foot against his leg. He didn't seem to notice. I continued. He still didn't notice. In fact he continued to act like a little wild rainforest boy who licked a frog he shouldn't have...the kid definitely missed his nap today.

Finally his eyes caught mine, I let a surprised, quizzical look cross my face, a look that said, "Oh! What could that be?" He smiled; a look that said "Silly daddy, what are you doing?" I tilted my head slightly and then panic set in. Sheer panic. Pure, childhood, stuff-of-nightmares, panic. My son's face twisted in ways I've never seen before. His body began to shake, his face went pale, he struggled to get out of his seat as quickly as possible for a child in the throes of a waking nightmare, all the while knowing that a monster was waiting for him as soon as he set foot on the floor. I dropped my food and pushed back from the table just as fast, scooped up my son and tried my best to console him; tried my best to take back the 'parenting' I'd done the past few days. He shook in my arms. He warned me that the monster was under the table. He ignored my apologies. He scoffed at my explanations that I had made up the monster and that it was only me touching his leg with my foot.

The rest of the dinner guests struggled to maintain composure behind their napkins. Tears of laughter mocked my tears of shame. I set my son down and showed him that it was only my foot. I tried to bring normality back to the table. I failed.

The monster now lurks beneath every table in every dining room. Its claws hold tight to my son's imagination. It eats dinner with us every night of the week and, while I can't eradicate this beast, the brownies and ice cream certainly keep him at bay...for now.

What was that? I am the monster at the end of this blog? Oh, dear...and you were so scared!