Saturday, December 29, 2007

Has It Really Been A Month Since My Last Post?!?

Chunk and Santa
It's been a long while since I've posted, so I thought I'd get you all caught up on the various activities going on in the Denver household. Here are the important or noteworthy events:

1. Chunk turned three! THREE! Geez, if people call it the "Terrible Twos" what are the threes? Something so profane, so unspeakably vile, that it can't even be uttered aloud? Almost overnight he went from a decent, pretty well behaved kid to someone in desperate need of legal action to help him regulate his meds. In the immortal words of my people, uffda!

There have been some goods things to come out of this weird transformation, however, such as the constant lectures from Chunk stating "I'm a big boy now, daddy" whenever I accidentally refer to him as my "little guy." Also, the way he literally walks around in public holding up three fingers as a sort of shorthand for "I'm still the birthday boy, damnit!" is kind of hilarious. And, as frustrating as he can be, it's been pretty amazing to see him becoming his own, independent person, a little bit every day. I'm hopeful that when he turns eighteen, I'll still be able to tolerate him, and his therapist will tell him that not everything is my fault.

My prediction for the next year: 1) Many posts that start with, "Man, that kid is driving me crazy..." and 2) An eBay listing for a slightly used three old, complete with toys, books, and croup.

2. Christmas Cards! My wife and I decided it was time to finally do the time honored tradition of sending out Christmas cards. We've been adults... legally... for a long time now and the world was an empty, sort of sad place, without a carefully constructed form letter from us addressed to anyone who'd be dumb enough to open the envelope. So, taking a very fetching family photo we took up in the mountains, we plugged my credit card into Shutterfly and were quickly the proud owners of 50 photo cards.

Let me tell you, when the envelope came, it was as if it was filled with opportunity. The smell that came from the fresh photos wasn't the scent of chemicals, but the lingering aroma of respectability. We would be sending out Christmas cards! Yes! We would add our pictures and lame Christmas update letter to the same stack of junk mail that contained offers from Citigroup and address labels from the Dumb Friends League! That would be us!

Then the smell went away.

So, how many did we send out? Well, we gave a few away on Christmas to family members, but that's about it. Denver Family: 0, Laziness: 1.

Maybe next year.

3. We celebrated Christmas! To be more precise, we celebrated three days of Christmas, starting with Denver Mom's extended family on the 23rd, my family on the 24th, then our small family (plus Denver Mom's mom and grandma) on the 25th. It would have been helpful to have water stations between the holiday meals, so I could run by, grab a cup, and throw it on my face before checking my pulse and continuing on to the next celebration, but I didn't plan far enough ahead.

The great thing about being a parent on the holidays is that you suddenly have power over your own parents. You know how when you were younger you had to do whatever your parents said, on and around every holiday? When you have a child, that completely disappears, because your child is the ultimate trump card. So, when my parents say, "We're going to go down to the Legion to help with the Christmas party" I can say, "We're busy!" Or, when my parents say, "We're going to watch Miracle on 34th Street on Christmas Eve," I can say, "It's not that same old Betamax version we've been watching since 1986, is it? We're busy!"

So, instead of marching along to my older sister's Christmas dinner orders, we can do our own thing, and that's exactly what we did. And, not to be arrogant or anything, but my ham was by far the most moist and flavorful out of the entire holiday bunch. Actually, my entire Christmas meal, which consisted of the already mentioned ham, garlic mashed potatoes, homemade rolls, and a salad, was by far the best meal out of all three. And, the pumpkin bread pudding we made for desert more than meet expectations.

Chunk had a blast, of course. I think he thinks his birthday is sort of like Christmas Lite, because going into the holidays that kid had his unwrapping skills honed to near perfection. He was the Michael Jordan of gift unwrapping! And yet, even he got tired of unwrapping stuff. After a while, he sort of sighed and shrugged whenever we urged him to open another gift, acting more like we were trying to get him to eat lettuce, than open up another book or toy.

The crazy thing is we really tried to cut back this year. Last year was simply embarrassing. It was every bit as vulgar as those cynics say Christmas has become, and so this year, we made an effort to restrain ourselves. Even then, he was overwhelmed by it all. We might cut back even more next year, but I don't really know how to walk that particular line.

I was talking to a woman in my office a few weeks ago and she mentioned that her kids get two presents every year, one from them (the parents), and then one from Santa. That seems a little too far in the other direction, but there has to be a balance there. If anyone wants to play armchair Santa in the comments section, I'd love to hear what your family does.

4. Snow! We had a white Christmas! And, a white... um... Thursday! And Friday was sort of white too. Today? Looks like it's going to be vaguely white with a chance of white. Tomorrow? Yeah, even I have to stop here... the joke is only a couple of sentences long and it's already getting old. We're getting lots of snow in Colorado, which is both sort of weird, and sort of expected.

Last year we had a blizzard every week. Literally. Every Saturday something would blow in and hammer us, so we got used to lots of snow (and cannibalism, for those Denverites that didn't have well stocked cubbards). The thing is, before last year, things have been kind of dry around here. In a lot of ways, the snow has been really fun, so I'm not complaining. I just wish the inside of the windows in the Subaru weren't icing up!

5. Guitar Hero III! Remember when I confessed that Guitar Hero II had threatened my very soul? Remember how I was both dreading and longing for the sequel? Well, my friends, Guitar Hero III is definitely in the house and it's every bit as fun as I was hoping. They have a new co-op career mode, which when translated out of nerddom, means Denver Mom and I have formed the most face-melting, cheesy plastic guitar band in Denver and we rock it when Chunk goes to bed. We rock it hard. Seriously. You should see us shred "When We Were Young". Denver Mom even does some cool guitar moves while she plays and so I'm expecting the inevitable Pete Townshead windmills any day now.

Denver Mom's Mom played on Christmas when she was over and she loved it. Looks like we're going to have to get Rock Band now, so all three of us can play at the same time. Sigh.

If we ever needed proof that video games are corrupting America's youth, we now have it. Chunk's new favorite song is "Hit Me With Your Best Shot," thanks to Guitar Hero III, and he knows all the words. I'm going to have to get video of him playing and singing along, all while dancing, because it's something you really do have to see to truly understand. I don't think I could explain it in a way that would do it any justice.

So, what's ahead? I'm glad you asked! In my immediate future....

1. Split Pea Soup! Yeah, I make it. And, it's pretty kick butt too! Insert macho cooking gestures here.

2. New Job/Travel! I start my new job in just over a week! And, my first day will be spent on an airplane, as they're flying me out to Kentucky for a national meeting! I've never been to Kentucky, so this should be sort of fun.

3. Jury duty! It's my civic duty and I'm all about civic duty, but I'm really dreading this. I hope I don't get called in. I'm trying to wrap things up at my current job and I could really use the time in the office. I missed the "whine to get out of it" deadline, so it's all up to luck now... which, sadly, has never really had my back.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

The End of An Era

How long, exactly, is an "era" anyway?

After 20 months, I've decided to leave my current position. It was a difficult decision for me, because unlike previous times when I've left jobs, I still really like where I'm at and believe in the mission of my organization. I genuinely care about the families we serve, believe we're making a difference in the community, and enjoy the quirks (and yes, irritations) of my coworkers, but as burnt out as I've been feeling, I needed a change.

It's funny, because one of the weird truths about the "industry" I work in (I put industry in quotes because its a strange word to describe what I do) is that development people last, on average, only eighteen months. So, I guess, I exceeded the average, but only barely. Why the huge turn over of staff? Well, begging for money is stressful, and although I was lucky enough to be one of the higher paid staff in my organization, "higher paid" doesn't necessarily translate into "high pay."

I gave my resignation last week and since then things have been a little tense in the office. My boss is pretty disappointed that I'm leaving. She's been great about it, very understanding, but I can tell that I've let her down. My coworkers seem to feel the same way, but one or two of them are probably glad to see me go. Offices are like that.

I guess this is my long winded way of saying that things are changing a bit over here. I'm hoping with my new position comes a little more time for myself and my family, which I hope will also translate into a little more time for this blog. Heck, I might even start sleeping again, but I don't want to get my hopes up just yet.

I'll post more soon!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

She's Not That Kind Of A Girl, Booger!

I'm not usually one for posting YouTube videos. There's nothing wrong with doing that, of course, it's just not something I've done on Denver Dad. However, having made my obligatory protests about this sort of thing, people need to see this.

Isn't your faith in humanity suddenly restored?

The truly dangerous thing is that you can actually buy a track suit like that. Hmmm. It's too late for my birthday, but Christmas is just a few short months away....

It Eats The Pizza Or It Gets The Hose

DSC00568We have neighbors that, for some unknown reason, see us as something of a charity case. And, not just any charity. No, instead of dropping by with checks or warm winter coats or boxes of filled with canned food, they bring us their leftover pizza.

I don't get it. It's not like they caught me gazing longingly at the pizza boxes in their trash can one early morning, my lips smacking at the thought of pepperoni I wasn't able to eat. It's not like we were talking to each other over the fence and I said, "I feel like I'm a pretty good dad, but I just wish we weren't so poor that we can't afford pizza. My son deserves pizza, damnit! He deserves it! Sob! Sob!" It's not like we even had the "what kind of food do you like?" conversation and I screamed back at them, "Pizza, and lots of it! Hey, if you ever have leftover pizza, you should totally drop it by!" And yet, this morning, what do our neighbors bring with them when they drop by for coffee? Leftover pizza.

In theory, I'm all for it. I happen to like leftover pizza more than most grown men should, but something about this situation leaves me feeling vaguely uncomfortable. I mean, why have we been singled out for this kind of treatment? Why not the neighbors to their east? Why not the scientist across the street, that also works in my building? And, even more importantly, why pizza? Why not, say, chili dogs or tiramisu or that midwest staple I grew up with, "hot dish?"

The only rational theory that I can come up with is that they're plying us with pizza so that we'll eventually join their cult. If the pizza continues, I'm completely fine with shaving my head and giving away all my personal belongs.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Crystal Meth Visions and Cough Syrup Dreams

Of course! Of course I couldn't buy cold medicine at Target because I, like many around me, are brewing crystal meth in my basement! I'm so naive, which is kind of hard to swallow for some of you, I know, because I usually come across as being so hip and "street." Thanks for pointing out what should have been obvious to me, faithful readers.

Speaking of medications and the issues that surround their use, has anyone been following the recent blow up about cold medicine for infants and toddlers? The national and local news was on Defcon 4 yesterday, dropping tantalizing teasers about how cold medicine is kicking in doors, doing unspeakable things to our children, then blogging about it so all of its friends can laugh cruelly at our families. So, like most parents home during that time of the day, I dutifully sat on the couch, hugging a pillow, praying that cold medicine wouldn't be taking my son away, and watched the news stories with cold terror grasping my heart. I should have known this was going to be like every other crisis... something of a non-issue.

Basically, the terrifying news is that parents are ignoring the labels on the cold medicine they give their children, and making up dosages for their children. This is causing overdoses in children which is leading to horrible complications and sometimes deaths.

I'm not sure I understand the hysteria. The labels, if you take the time to read them, on any over-the-counter medication you find for children clearly say "check with your doctor" for dosage amounts for children under two years old. The labels never say, "Check with your doctor or just give them eighteen tablespoons, an apple, and some fresh air." They don't say, "Oh... just give out whatever you think is good." They state very clearly that you should check with your doctor. So, what's the problem? Why the overdoses? And, is this really an issue that the Federal government should be getting involved in, as they are? Is this the sort of thing that really requires medicine being pulled from shelves?

The problems with asking these questions is that they lead to a number of sticky social areas. Why aren't people checking with their doctors? Maybe they don't have access to doctors. Maybe they don't have insurance. We have what I think is pretty good insurance, but getting Chunk's pediatrician on the phone is a little like trying to call the governor of your state. Are people just not reading the dosage labels? Do people just take for granted the danger that medicine poses, especially for little ones?

It's a weird issue. On the one hand, I think this panic is a little uncalled for. On the other hand, I can see how it could be an issue.


Completely Unrelated Comment: I finally broke down and purchased an actual "blogging" application. Journler is nifty, but doesn't work with Blogger, so I tried out a couple of other applications like Ecto and Mars Edit. For what it's worth, I went with Mars Edit. Check it out if you're an OS X user and are looking for something simple, but powerful.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Papers, Please... I Vould Like To Zee Yer Papers

So, I ran to our friendly neighborhood Super Target last night to grab our son some new socks (his feet are massive now and eating through his old socks like they are make of acid... the feet, not the socks) as well as pick up some groceries. Does it make me less hip to admit that I have a strange, secret crush on Target and all their supposedly low prices? I say "supposedly," because groceries seem to cost more at Target than any other place on earth, unless you're buying pods for my ridiculously pretentious and complicated coffee maker. On the one hand, I just know they're screwing me with their prices, but their commercials are all shiny and have lots of stuff spinning around and they keep saying they'll save me money, so I believe them.


In many respects, Target is a lot like a politician. If Target runs for president in 2008, expect a landslide vote, then a raise in taxes all while sweater clad twenty-somethings smile and wave and dance with new appliances. Seriously.

Anyway, this post isn't about Target's bait and switch tactics. No, this post is about cold medicine.

Denver Mom wasn't feeling well and asked that I get her some "Advil Nighttime." After ten minutes spent looking for it in the cold medicine aisle, I determined that it doesn't actually exist, so I grabbed "Advil Cold & Sinus." Or, I thought I was grabbing Advil Cold & Sinus. In reality, I was grabbing a little plastic card, which told me I had to go up to the pharmacy desk if I actually wanted medicine. Then, the pharmacist asked to see my ID, then scanned it, and made me pay for the cold medicine right there, even though I had a whole cart of groceries I was going to be paying for shortly. I even asked the guy, "This isn't a prescription. This is just normal cold medicine, right?" The look I got, in response, was a combination of annoyance and shock.

What's going on here? It's not like the medicine was expensive ($4.85). I literally had an easier time getting codeine when I had pneumonia. Is there some rash of crazy teenagers getting hopped up on decongestant?

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Those About To Rock... In Their Underwear

Just a few blog posts ago I was boosting about my maturity. No, no, the siren call of video games doesn't affect me any longer, for I have become a responsible adult! I was so bold, so self-assured, so proud of my newfound responsibility, so of course it wouldn't last. My friends, if there is another sudden disappearance from this blog, weeks and weeks of nothing new appearing in the many shades of green text you find here, you can blame Guitar Hero II.

Yes, I know, I thought I wouldn't be able to follow the plot either, what without my having played the first Guitar Hero, but I've managed to find some sites on the internet that have explained the idiosyncrasies of the story to me. And, thanks to my keen deductive mind, I've been able to follow the labyrinth of twists and turns with a fumbling, but modest success. What? You're not a fan yet? You don't know about Guitar Hero II?

It boils down to this... you strap on a cheesy, plastic guitar-shaped controller that has buttons on the neck and a weird switch/bar thing you can flick in its center. By pressing the keys and strumming in time to the music you're instantly transformed from a mild-mannered, non-profit office drone into a God of Rock. Or, at least, that's how it works for me. You might have different results, especially if you resist the urge to play in your underwear.

So, Guitar Hero has become my new “thing.“ It's become my hobby, my obsession, nearly become religion for me. Chunk? He loves it too. He doesn't really get that you have to press the buttons and strum at the same time, but he sure likes trying to play it, even if his attempts result in odd noises from his virtual guitar and his little computer-generated rocker gets booed off stage. What else does he like? He likes dancing along to the music while I play, which is kind of neat, as I get to indulge in my new obsession and then claim we were actually having some father-and-son time. I didn't know you needed dancers when you were performing old Motley Crue and Primus songs... again... in your underwear... but it seems to work in the Denver household.

The only bad thing I've discovered since mixing Guitar Hero II and parenting is that while it's a lot of fun, many of the songs are completely inappropriate for a two year old to know by heart and sing along to in public places. There's one particular song called “Possum Kingdom“ by the Toadies which, while not having any foul language or anything, seems to be sung from the perspective of a serial killer “seducing“ his next victim. So, of course that's Chunk's favorite. It's just called “the guitar song“ now and he likes to sing it while we're driving around, hanging out at the coffee shop, or running errands. I would lie to you and say it's cute, but really, it's just kind of creepy.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

You Found This Blog... How, Exactly?!?

Yes, that's right, I'm still phoning it in until I get back into the blogging routine. So, in pursuit of my own, special brand of blogging laziness, I present yet another dip into the Search Keywords bag, where all sorts of nuttiness on the internet brings me new and unexpected readership. Ready, dear readers, to investigate the mysteries of the net? Tis not for the faint of heart, so steel yourselves, take my hand, and wade into the weird with me....

“dady day care gams”

What the hell does this even mean? Is “dady” supposed to be “daddy?” Is “gams” supposed to mean... well... “gams?” What do day care and gams even have in common? Or, is it that “daddy” has “day care gams?” I'm so confused by this one I'm not even sure I should be talking about it.

“ladies who spank in denver”

ANOTHER spanking search? For crying out loud! I make one little reference to spanking and suddenly my blog is the go to spot on the internet for people who've been naughty and need to be punished. I guess you should go with whatever works, so my next post on Denver Dad is going to be “Naughty spanking dominatrix hootchie mamas who live in the 303 area code.” I'll be swimming in the page hits for sure!

“his father like to watch his son spanking his wife”

Oh, for crying out loud! Seriously? This is how you found my blog?

“glasses vs contacts”

People are doing legitimate searches for help on an important issue in their lives and they get my full page complaint about how little plastic discs have defeated me and I'm doomed to forever look like a nerd. Shouldn't Web-MD be getting these hits? Or, one of the spanking sites I keep getting confused with? You know, the one with with the librarian focus?

“if i'm not that pretty can I still be sexy for my husband?”

I swear to you that I'm not making this up. That's an actual keyword search that brought someone to my blog. It seems like when I'm writing about the keyword searches that bring people here, most of my comments are sarcastic and judgmental, but I'm going to actually answer this question. If you're still reading my blog, anonymous person, I want you to know that you can still be sexy for your husband. We are never as ugly or as beautiful as we think we are. We're always somewhere in that glorious middle that's full of truly attractive people. Your husband thought you were pretty enough that he wanted to spend the rest of his life with you, so I guarantee he still finds you sexy. It doesn't matter what's changed between then and now, he still finds you sexy. Go talk to him. You'll see.

“sexy im guna win you over quotes”

Like the previous keyword search, I feel like I have to answer this one with sincerity and seriousness, because I sense there is a real need for help here, even if its expression is squeezed into just a few words. If you “guna win over” a woman and you need a good line, try this one: “Baby, all four of my eyes are trained on you!” That one is a classic, especially in the calculator isle at your local office supply store. Or, maybe try, “You make my swimsuit areas get all tingly.” How about, “I'm so lonely. Oh, god, I'm so terribly lonely. Please, please love me.”

What? No good? Hey, they worked for me! You don't marry a woman as great as Denver Mom without a little wordplay razzle-dazzle.

“how to ask your babydaddy to move in with you”

Just ask. Honesty is a pretty useful and powerful thing and it often inspires more of the same. The answer might not be what you want, that's a chance you'll have to take, but having an answer is always better than agonizing over the possibilities. If you have a “babydaddy” that means you have a baby. That also means you're probably in a pretty unpredictable situation right now. You and that baby need stability, so find it. Hopefully your babydaddy wants to help you get there, but if that's not the case, you'll need to know so you can find stability on your own. Good luck.

“resparking a marriage”

Have you tried spanking? What about wearing contacts? Did you try to be sexy for your husband? None of that worked? Practice saying the following: “I don't think we're communicating very well at the moment.” Listen, if you're Googling for tips, something has gone off the rails at some point and it probably had something to do with your ability to communicate with your spouse. If you can say that, while being honest, and your spouse can hear it as something other than an attack, you're well on your way to getting back on the rails. It might start a conversation where you are communicating, then the rest is easy.

Whew... that was fun... and a little strange.

Friday, September 14, 2007

A Day With My Son

Well, the special event at work that has been consuming all of my free time is finally over, and while the clean-up is almost more work than the day itself, at least I've been able to get some sleep and spend time with my family. As a matter of fact, I'm taking today off to have some father-and-son time with Chunk, something I've been looking forward to doing for a couple of weeks now.

It's a strange feeling. Although I know my status as a dad wasn't taken away from me, at the same time I feel like I haven't really been much of a dad for the past month. Sure, I've made sure he's had something to eat, I've gotten him in the bath, told him that he wasn't allowed to smoke in bed, all the important things, but I haven't been much of a father, in terms of being there for my son. When he's grabbed me by the arm and shouted, in that shrill little voice, "Daddy, daddy, let me show ya!" I've just answered him with a grunt and more typing, rather than dropping everything and following him into his room to see whatever it is he's currently excited about. So, as weird as it sounds, I feel like today is my day. Maybe its not enough to make up for a month of being preoccupied, but it's something, and I plan on enjoying it.

My original plan was to take him to see "Underdog." I'm aware that its probably one of the worst movies of the year, but during our first movie experience as a family ("Ratatootie" a couple of months ago) we saw the trailer for "Underdog" and Chunk very nearly exploded. "It's a dog superhero!" he screamed, pointing frantically at the screen, and checking to make sure I was paying attention. Have we talked about his love of all things spandex wearing? Have we talked about his fascination for dogs? "Underdog," while undoubtedly bad, looked like a perfect film for him, but alas, it looks like it's already come and gone. The only theater showing it in town is the Cinema Latino de Aurora and I think its been dubbed into Spanish. Chunk probably wouldn't mind, but my Spanish is pretty rusty and I want to be able to follow the intricate plot and subtle character development.

More soon. For better or worse, I seem to be back.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

A New Exhibit By Chunk

I know, I know... you don't know why you keep coming back here. There's no new posts and this "Denver Dad" guy is an awful blogger. I apologize. The non-profit I work for has its biggest special event of the year coming up and I've been completely swamped. It'll be over next week, so I hope to be back to my usual sarcasm and whining after that. Thanks for your patience with me.

Until I have some time to squeeze in a few new posts, I thought I'd share some of my son's recent photos.

He inherited my previous digital camera and is obsessed with taking pictures. When I was making a pizza a couple of weeks ago, he documented the entire process, demanding that I lift him up so he could take pictures of the dough, then the crust, the sauce, the sausage, etc. Unfortunately, we lost those photos in an accidental "format card" incident, but that hasn't slowed him down one bit. He's still at it.

I asked him the other day if he was documenting "truth or beauty?" He didn't have an answer for me, so I have no idea if these photos are supposed to be photojournalistic in nature or artistic. I guess you'll have to be the judge.

Take care, all! I'll be back soon! And, if anyone has any suggestions for how to better use Flickr with Blogger, I'd love to hear them. I had to post each photo from Flickr as individual posts, cut and paste the code, then delete the photo post. There's got to be a better way.

Friday, August 10, 2007

The Truth About Working From Home

Telecommuting is great, but also dangerous. I've been splitting my work week between the office and home for as long as I've been a dad, and after two and a half years of balancing my work load between two offices (and at two different non-profits), I think I have a pretty good grasp on how to work and when to work, so that everything I need to do actually gets done. The problem is that even though I understand when I am most productive and what kind of schedule I need to follow to make sure I'm checking things off my to do list, its not always easy to follow that schedule.

Avoiding the distractions I thought were going to be a problem is pretty easy. When I started this, I was concerned that my biggest problem would be the urge to drop everything and just watch movies all day long. There is nothing quite like the siren call of a shiny new DVD or a seductive, old favorite, calling out to you when you've got a stack of thank you letters to write and zero interest in doing them. Why develope that pitch for your new special event when you can watch Robert De Niro and Dustin Hoffman spin an imaginary war? Why make follow-up calls when you can see that sneaky HAL-9000 murder astronauts?

But, surprisingly, I've been able to resist. Video games? No problem. Those are alluring, yes, but either being a dad has matured me some or I've just outgrown the need to shoot aliens in the face, but I don't spend much time with those any more.

The biggest problem is my son. Some days he's very understanding of my need to work. He plays quietly by himself, or loudly by himself, but he generally leaves me alone. Other days, he'll walk over, pull one of my hands away from my computer keyboard, and say, "Come on, Daddy, let's go play!"

How can you resist that? How can I possibly say, "No, son, daddy doesn't love you. I'd rather spend all morning on this report than spend fifteen minutes on the floor with you, playing pirates?"*

Or, what about when nap time rolls around? That Chunk is a clever kid, always playing the angles. He hates to take his naps, so mustering all of his avoidance tactics, he'll say, "Sleep in big bed? Come on, daddy!" and drag me off to my own bed, where he expects me to nap with him.

Again, there are exactly zero ways to stay firm and on task, when your child is offering to tuck you in for an afternoon nap. And, unfortunately, Chunk is smart enough to know this. He's damn, persuasive, that kid. He'd make a good politician.

* Not an actual quote, of course, but it sure feels like it sometimes.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Thomas The Tank Engine Is Trying To Kill Your Kids

I always found Thomas the Tank Engine a little... weird. I mean, sure, he's the cheeky one... says so in the song and everything, but he's got some serious self-esteem issues. If Sir Topham Hatt isn't praising him every day and calling him "useful," Thomas spins off into this whole self-worth death spiral. I don't know if I want my son learning lessons from a steam engine that clearly needs a good therapist.

On top of that, Thomas and his pals are also horribly poisonous. Not in that wanting "Nothing... but a GOOD TIME" way, but in that "coated in lead paint, asbestos, and deadly asps" kind of way. Check it out.

I would have mentioned this earlier, but this came up during my month of ne'er-do-well-ness and so I wasn't really posting.

The good news? The company managing the recall seems really sincere. I mailed off all of Chunk's affected toys and got an e-mail back saying they're working on it. I don't know what that means exactly, except that my son cries whenever the subject comes up, but they're on it and I guess that's good.

All joking aside, I don't have to tell any of you that lead paint is a bad thing for little minds. If your son or daughter is a fan of the Thomas wooden train sets, check the recall. Like many things, it's better to be safe than sorry.

The Morning After

He does it on purpose. I don't have proof, but I just know this is all a part of some devious, even nefarious, scheme of his, no doubt concocted with his little tribe of preschool friends. They're all in on it, you see, plotting, scheming, with their Crayola-etched blueprints and plans, their apple juice box models diagraming precise locations, potential escape routes, maybe the location of the “nilla wafers.”

Yesterday was board meeting day for me, which combined with the mentally ill hour I try to get into the office (no later than six thirty in the morning, thankyouverymuch), made for a fourteen hour work day. That's fourteen and a half hours, if you want to get technical, followed by a ride home on my bike... yes, in the rain. It's a common saying in Colorado that if you don't like the weather, just wait fifteen minutes, and something else will come along. It's an exaggeration, of course, but not much of one. Except for last night, when Colorado was apparently doing a dress rehearsal for the part of Seattle, making my commute home a bit more soaked than usual.

But, it's not something I was going to complain about. No siree, I got in a good, productive day and from my vantage point, it was all downhill from there. No, not on my bike. That's all uphill for the trip home. Love that. I meant the work week was all downhill from that point on.

I came home to a family already sleeping, so tiptoeing through the dark, I crawled into bed for a well deserved night of rest and... those of you who are parents know where I'm going with this... only to have a night of screaming and crying.

Chunk, of course, was sick.

Denver Mom didn't feel much better. So, right after I got home, she took some sort of cold medicine and slipped into a drug-induced coma that an atomic bomb test couldn't disturb, leaving me as the sole parent to handle that special two-hour mambo that requires water, comforting, and back-rubs at precise times throughout the night, or... I don't know... the world itself will end.

Does anyone want a two-year old? He's slightly used and has more miles on him than you'd expect, but he's built like a tank, is cute as hell, and knows the names of the entire Justice League of America.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

My Performance Review

It's difficult to summon the energy it takes to post to a daddy blog when you're just not enjoying being a dad. At first it's not a big deal. You can skate by with your previous deeds, acting like you're still working hard at it, but eventually, people catch on.

I imagine a closed door meeting with the HR person, going something like this:

HR Person: Denver Dad, you've been Director of Daddy Affairs, for how long now?

Denver Dad: It's been two years, eight months, and counting.

HR Person: Right. And, you've been doing a pretty good job, for the most part. That bit of projectile vomiting at the grocery store aside, your performance has meet standards and even exceeded in a few places.

Denver Dad: That's right. I drove to Minnesota and back with Chunk and didn't even raise my voice.

HR Person: Is that true?

Denver Dad: Okay, no, I did raise my voice. But, it was like only once to twice.

HR Person: That's not bad.

Denver Dad: Thanks! And, I took Chunk to see “Ratatouille” in a real theater and everything. That wasn't exactly a picnic. Neither was taking him to ride the light rail, just for fun, because he loves trains.

HR Person: That's great, but you know why we're having this particular conversation, right now, don't you?

Denver Dad: I won some sort of lotto and get a month of paid vacation?

HR Person: Hahaha... man, that's rich. You're a funny guy when you're not all depressed and morose.

Denver Dad: Umm... thanks.

HR Person: The reason I wanted to talk to you, Denver Dad, is that I noticed your performance has been... well... slipping lately.

Denver Dad: Listen, I've been under a lot of stress at work and I told Denver Mom I'd make it up to her. It was just that one time.

HR Person: Sigh. No, I mean with your duties as a dad.

Denver Dad: OH! Right. Sorry. I got a little confused.

HR Person: I was hoping you could tell me a little about what's going on with you and your son.

Denver Dad: Well, frankly, that kid is crazy.

HR Person: Crazy?

Denver Dad: Totally crazy. He cries when you put him in his car seat, but then he won't get in his car seat voluntarily. He whines constantly. He gets up at five thirty in the morning, every morning, like he's keyed off some freakin' atomic clock or something....

HR Person: I thought you were an early riser too.

Denver Dad: I am, but I wouldn't mind sleeping in until six in the morning... you know... just once.

HR Person: What else?

Denver Dad: We're still on that whole “momma do et” kick, which between you and me, has gotten more than a little old.

HR Person: And?

Denver Dad: Why would a kid voluntarily sit in his own poop? I mean, really... just say, “Dad... I dropped a load.” It takes like three minutes to clean up. It's not a big deal, but he acts like its some horrible secret that I'm not allowed to find out about.

HR Person: I've read that kids have issues surrounding their potty habits, because it's one of the few things they can really control.

Denver Dad: Are you kidding me? That kid controls everything. It's like having Dick Cheney has your son.

HR Person: I think you're exaggerating a little.

Denver Dad: You're right. I'm exaggerating. Chunk doesn't have a shotgun.

HR Person: So, how are you going to handle these recent setbacks?

Denver Dad: Well, I was hoping to just hide from him.

HR Person: Hide from him? That was your plan?

Denver Dad: That or track down the receipt the hospital gave us and see if I can get my money back.

HR Person: It's that bad?

Denver Dad: Some days it's not bad at all, but others... I'm pretty sure that demon that possessed that kid in “The Exorcist” got my son.

HR Person: Again with the exaggeration?

Denver Dad: Listen, pal, you haven't been locked at home with him. He's a monster.

HR Person: I'm still going to have to write you up.

Denver Dad: Pffft! You think I'm scared of a piece of paper? Listen, when we're done with this little meeting, I have to go back to him. I'm hoping you write me up really slowly so I can savor the time away.

HR Person: Just sign here. The yellow copy is yours.

That's pretty much what the last month has been like. Sorry I haven't been around, but like I said, it's hard to post glowing anecdotes about the joys of fatherhood when being a dad has been kind of a bummer lately. He's a great kid, that hasn't changed, but he's been challenging. The true wonder of it all is that I haven't killed him yet. Or, that he hasn't killed me. Glorious, eh?

More soon. I promise.

Friday, June 29, 2007

The Post Where I Admit I'm A Terrible Parent

After almost a week back home, everything is once again approaching normalcy at the Denver family household. Chunk, who wasn't exactly sure he wanted to share Denver Mom with daddy again, is settling back to his usual self. By “usual self“ I'm speaking specifically of that charming combination of adorable and aggravating that toddlers seem to have down so well, as if maybe they'd been taking night classes while you're sleeping. So, in general, things are good.

I was talking with a coworker yesterday who has an adorable new baby. Okay, she's over six months old, but she's still adorable, and according to my coworker, already getting her move on. What? You don't know what a “move on“ is? It's just that strange quasi-crawl bumping, bouncing thing babies learn before they truly get mobile. With her baby already mastering her move on, my coworker is suddenly concerned that she needs to start baby proofing her home... RIGHT AWAY... or else tragedy will strike and her baby may get a boo-boo or something. That's when I realized something... I still haven't baby proofed our place.

Oh, sure, I put some of those outlet covers in a few of the holes in our walls, but I never went full out and wrapped our furniture in nerf, locked all the cabinets with keypad access/rental scanning super-computers, or put up little reenactments of the Great Wall of China in baby form, effectively sealing off parts of the house from our little mongolian barbarian.

See, I guess I just couldn't be bothered with that. I know, I know, I'm a monster, but I found that screaming “No!“ and sprinting across the room in a panic, arms waving madly, legs churning like I'm a cartoon character, suits my parenting style much better. Chunk is trying to stick a pen into an electrical outlet? Scream, run, and dive. Chunk is seeing what the speaker cables taste like? Again, do that slow motion “Noooooooooo!“ while you trip over the couch and knock over the lamp on your way. Chunk testing furniture densities with his forehead? Bah... just let him do that. He'll learn.

When I was a child, baby proofing mostly consisted of picking up the ashtrays and only letting the kids have a couple of sips of beer, and I turned out fine. Oh... wait... okay, now I see everyone's point about safety. Maybe I am a monster.

What about you? Did you go crazy with the baby proofing? Or, did your living room resemble an episode of the Fall Guy on most occasions?

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Coming Home

It's all over. The arrangements, the viewing, the funeral, the uncomfortable conversation of the reception. It's all finished and I'm heading home, rolling towards Iowa at 70 mph.

As I said in my previous post, I was able to learn a lot about my Grandpa this week. Some of it was very surprising, some less so, but all of it endlessly fascinating. I never found myself waiting for a story about him to end, only wishing it would go on just a little longer.

I left Chunk and Denver Mom in Denver, traveling up to Red Wing with my parents. Making that drive, just one more time, this time as an adult, has been weird, but also nice. An uncle patted me on the back after the funeral, telling me it was nice to get to know me as a man, as opposed to the little boy he used to know, but that was only after I helped him set up his iPod, so I guess his comment might be a little suspect. My dad and I talked a lot of politics, something he used to only do with his dad, so in some ways it felt like the torch had been passed to me. I was able to have a few conversations with my grandmother-in-law that were nice and also very sad. She has a rough road ahead of her, a lonely road, and if any of you have any well wishes or supportive thoughts left in you, I'd appreciate it if you send them her way. She could use them more than I could.

It was very strange being away from Chunk. Denver Mom and I have had time apart, but I've never been away from my son and this week was harder on me, for that reason, than I thought it would be. I miss being a dad and I'm looking forward to getting that job back at the end of our drive. I'm also looking forward to being a husband again. I'm ready to be home.

We found a notebook in my grandpa's office where he had been writing down some of his memories. Whether my grandpa had known it or not, he had been doing a bit of blogging, and I'm looking forward to reading some of his memories and thoughts in the week ahead. I might even share some of them here.

Below is my favorite picture with my grandpa. He was quite a fisherman and I spent a lot of time in the boat with him, learning how to fish, but mostly learning how to be quiet and still. I'm told it was my grandpa's favorite picture too.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

We Inherit So Much

I'm in Red Wing again. My grandpa passed away on Monday.

I'm told he fought until the end, literally thrashed and kicked, until death finally took him. My grandpa's wife, Bev, thinks he fought it. I'm inclined to believe he fought for it, flailed his arms and flung his exhausted body at death, making it take him whether death was ready or not. In a way, that makes me happy, proud to know that when my grandpa wanted something, he got it, even at the end of his life.

He was ready. He had made decisions about whether or not he should be resuscitated. He picked out the people he wanted to be pallbearers at his funeral. He waited until he had one last visit with his son, then after he left, let his strength and resolve faded away just as my dad had done, starting the drive back home.

My grandmother was much the same. Although she wasn't able to fight off the cancer that took her, she had made a choice not to fight. The kind of cancer she had was simply too powerful to combat. Treatment would only prolong her life, while still taking away its subtle qualities, so she decided to just let her disease run its course, to live with what time she had, rather than force her body to give her more. Given her dignity and grace while facing death, I guess I shouldn't be surprised that my grandpa would choose his time with as much bravery and resolve. All of us will have our time, there's no escaping that, and I hope when my time does come, I can be as sure and poised. It's a powerful gift you give to those you leave behind and I'm thankful for it, thankful for the many amazing lessons he's taught me, thankful for this last one, one of many.

I've said it on this blog before, but my grandpa meant a lot to me. He was a father, when I didn't have one. Sitting around last night, I learned some things about my grandpa's own complicated relationship with his dad, and then his step-dad, stories that made things much clearer for me, made me understand why he stepped up when no one else did, why he protected me.

On these parenting blogs, we talk a lot about the duties of being a parent, about our responsibilities to our children. I take those very seriously, especially given the recklessness I experienced under my biological mother's watch, but it seems like many of those responsibilities are born in the physical world. We have to protect our children from the elements, feed them, protect them from harm. But, if we're lucky, we also teach them lessons about the emotional world, guide them towards honesty and love and responsibility. If we're lucky, we help them to become better people, kind people. Some of us learn what that means from hard-won experience, others simply know it, given an easy path from their parents, a path that works.

I don't know if, one day years from now, Chunk will look back and suddenly understand why I tell him every day that I love him. I don't know if he'll ever truly get why I hold him and tell him he's important, but he's an intelligent boy, almost too smart, and so maybe the light bulb will go on for him, as it did for me last night. Maybe he will have a single moment of clarity that makes him see why the path I tried to lay out for him had the turns and long stretches. If that moment comes, when he's tired and grieving and feeling lost, I hope it brings him the joy and peace that it has brought me. My grandfather has given me so much over the years, I was shocked to get yet another gift from him, even after he passed, and I'm thankful for that flash of understanding and clarity, that insight that came so quickly and powerful it was as if it had been written to me.

On Monday, before I learned that my grandfather had passed away, I went to pick up Chunk from day care. By that time, my grandpa was already gone, but for us, it was just an ordinary day, simple in its naivety. The room teacher pulled me aside and told me that a little girl in the class was upset in the morning, crying, and Chunk went over to her and held her hand. Maybe it was just the innate kindness all children have, the human urge we share to comfort those in pain, before cynicism and pain make us harder, cruel, aloof. Or, maybe he learned that empathy, was taught to be concerned when others are hurting. If he did, if I taught him any of that, it's because of my grandpa.

His gifts keep coming, even after his death.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

An Update About Gramps

Grandpa isn't doing well, again.

Dad called last night to let me know that grandpa has pneumonia and doesn't seem to be responding well to treatment. Dad was about to leave for Minnesota again to be with him, just in case this was "it."


A decade or so ago, we had another scare with my grandfather. They had run some tests and found that he had cancer. A tumor had already claimed one kidney and had spread into one of his ribs. The doctors were going to remove the organ and bone, hoping to stop the cancer's spread, and things looked dire. My dad called, explained what was going on, and he and I left just a few hours later, driving nonstop to Red Wing in my dad's silver Caddy, alone.

It was a stressful, strange trip, but also neat in a lot of ways. That probably bears some explanation.

My dad and I aren't good with each other. We never really were. Although we share some common interests, and have certainly enjoyed each other's company, we're usually only good for about two or three hours together, before silence starts to set in and we're both left wondering, "Geez, how much longer do I have to talk to this weirdo?" Given that it's a fourteen to sixteen hour drive (sans toddler) to Minnesota, that put us at well over ten hours of awkward, stilted dialog, not counting rest stop breaks or eating.

Some neat things happened during the trip. I got a lot done on my laptop which was nice (and not very unexpected). We got into an argument on gun control that made my dad so angry he couldn't speak in complete sentences for almost one hundred miles. Good times. Some other things happened, though. We went drinking. Well, he drank. I had soda water, but we sat at a bar together, drank, and talked. Then, I got to drive dad home, in his precious Caddy, which was something neither of my sisters can claim to have done. We laughed. I think that trip was the first time he saw me as a man, which was a corny and still very special thing for me. I also think it was one of the first times I saw him as a man, rather than a father. He made fun of what I was reading. I pretended to be interested in all the "Car and Driver" magazines he brought along. Although I can't claim that it was a good trip, I think it was a turning point for us, and our relationship has only gotten stronger since then.

It's funny how sickness and stress can do that. We always see the bad in the bad moments in our lives, but sometimes there is good, as well.

I think my dad wanted me to go with him. I think his telephone call, something he doesn't normally do, was his way of inviting me. Tired from a long weekend, I missed those cues, and I'm sorry I did. It would have been nice to spend more time with both him and my grandpa.

More Father's Day rambling coming soon... your excellent comments have me thinking, so there's certainly more to say....

Monday, June 11, 2007

Is Being Your Baby's Daddy All That Important?

I've come to the realization that I am, in fact, one of those bloggers. Oh, you know the type... they only blog about the exciting stuff they do or complain about how the entire world, no, the entire universe, has had numerous secret meetings behind the Applebee's to plot against them and crush their every dream. You know... those irritating bloggers. Yeah, I'm one of those.

Why have I come to this realization? Well, I haven't posted anything in over a week and while I have this nagging feeling like I should be posting something, I just can't muster the strength needed to waddle over to my laptop and type something inane into my text editor. I mean, what would I write? Would I blog about the coworker that is slowly eroding the sanity of everyone in my office, like some H.P. Lovecraftian horror? Would I blog about my dissatisfaction with my current telephone, a dissatisfaction that stems less from any issues with its ability to make calls, but more from my boredom with it? Or, would I draw up some elaborate blog post about how my son's slavish devotion to apple juice is making me angry, yes angry, at apples themselves, as if those fist sized fruits were somehow trying to steal my son's affection from me?

This is what you may not know about those bloggers. Sure, you get irritated with them when you visit their pages, day after day, only to find that nothing has changed. But, have you ever considered that their inability to post, their shocking laziness compared to other, more prolific bloggers, is actually a gift to you. Tell me the truth, would you rather read about my mind-numbing crankiness with my cell phone or would you rather I didn't post anything at all? Yeah, I thought so too. That's why it's been a week without any updates.

Not surprisingly, I've been thinking a little about Father's Day and what it means to me this year. Last year, I asked if I deserved it. Was I a good enough father to merit a day to celebrate my skills in child-rearing? This year, for whatever reason, I've been thinking more about society's views of fatherhood, a much bigger topic than I could hope to touch on in a blog post.

Several months ago, maybe even longer than that, I was having coffee with a friend of mine. We were discussing the challenges we had encountered since becoming fathers, the particular hurdles that had been tripping us up, and he made a startling confession to me. He and his wife had adopted two beautiful girls from China, but he was ashamed about needing to adopt. You see, he was struggling with the idea that because he was unable to get his wife pregnant, he wasn't a real man.

At first, I thought he was joking. I might have even laughed at him, since I'm sensitive like that, but he was very serious. We spoke in hushed tones, that morning, whispering into our coffee cups, trying to make sure the cute girl with the pastry tongs didn't overhear our man-speak.

I have another friend, father of an adorable daughter, who also carries a sense of shame. You see, he is troubled by the fact that his family name will die with him, unless he "sires" a boy. His daughter, although wonderful, won't carry his admittedly strange name into the future. If his family name is to continue, he needs a boy and time is running out. He explains this fact with a voice that continually rises in volume, his tone growing more and more stretched as he speaks.

What the hell is going on here? Is this the 21st century or is it the 17th century?

I know, I know... men have it easy when it comes to child birth. If pop culture is to be believed, we also have it easy when it comes to being a parent, as our job is simply to organize the garage, repeat "go ask your mother," and pray that our Viagra kicks in when the "time is right." With our jobs being so simple, so easy, of course we have to be saddled with some sort of weird insecurity, but does it have to be this? Haven't we passed the time when our worth is measured not in our abilities to parent, but our abilities to "father?"

Maybe this is where we're headed. Maybe, in a society where a term like "baby daddy" had to be coined, we need these old fashioned insecurities to come back into vogue. Maybe, with women becoming more and more independent, men suddenly feel like they have to contribute something unique to be valued. Or, maybe I just hang out with a strange bunch of knuckle-draggers. I just don't know.

Any thoughts on this topic?

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

It's Cliched Blogger Time... A Look Into The Search Keywords Bag!

I know it's a cliche, but darnit, I just have to comment on a few of the searches that have brought me new readership. If you were getting these kinds of hits, you'd have to comment too.

“dad spanking little boy underwear for fighting“

Okay, I can kind of see how a spanking search might have brought someone to my blog. I mentioned spanking specifically in my mind your own business post a few months back, but “underwear for fighting?” What the hell is that? I'm imagining some kind of demented toddler Fight Club, only more creepy and even more illegal.

Even more bizarre is that someone actually sat down and typed that string of nonsense words, words that alluded to some hidden, deeper meaning, into Google and hit return, hoping for an actual result. If you're still reading, underwear-for-fighting-person, welcome! Also, what the hell where you thinking? As much as I'm sure the answer would frighten and disturb me, I really want to know!

“dominatrix golden showers“

Uhh... yeah. Huh?

“help find dad in denver“

This one actually intrigues me, because if you read it out loud, it sounds like “HELP... find Dad... in Denver!” I can imagine a bunch of scenarios, many of them tragic and epic, like something Homer would have written (the poet, not the Simpsons dad). Was the person looking for their own, specific dad? Or, would any old dad do in a pinch? Was there some sort of hotline or service the person was hoping to find? “1-800-Lost-Dad! You lose 'em, we find them again!”

The majority of my new visits, it would seem, come from being listed on the blogrolls of my many internet friends and acquaintances. If you're on my blogroll, it's because I read your blog all the time and enjoy what you have to say about life and being a parent. If I'm in your blogroll, I just want you to know I appreciate being thought of so highly that you'd bother to list me.

Okay, everyone, group hug... no, really. That means you, too! Get over here, you big lug and give DD some lovin'!

Friday, May 25, 2007

I'm Not Going To Quote The Grateful Dead And You Can't Make Me

I'm not one of those guys that can complain about being prematurely gray -- the guys that, on their 25th birthdays, wake up to a silver sheen and a stunned sort of look on their faces can complain. I'm not one of those unfortunate men, but lately, my wife has been commenting more and more at the amount of gray that has found itself on my head.

I had a good run. I'm going to be 36 next month, so a bit of gray seems appropriate, but at the same time, still feels a little early. Men with gray hair shouldn't be obsessing about video games and zombie movies. No, we should be retiring to our dens to reflect on the works of Dickens, pulling leisurely on our pipes, and occasionally discussing which actress in “the pictures“ currently has the best gams. Or, at least, that's how I imagined adult life would be once I became a mature man. Little did I know I'd be the same dorky guy, only a little bit older.

Have you seen the “Just For Men“ commercials? They seem to be on a lot these days, or maybe I'm just more sensitive to them, now that I'm exactly the demographic they're trying to win over. They're actually kind of amusing. I'll recount the action, in case you missed them:

Sad sack guy is at a bar that hasn't been renovated since 1974, his hair conspicuously gray. No, really, this otherwise handsome guy looks like a grandpa... a GRANDPA! Geez, all the hot chicks are avoiding him because they're worried he'll try to ply them with Werther's Originals and then offer to take them back to his pad to show them his etchings.

If only he could cover up that gray! Wait... thanks to the miracles of modern science, he can! With just a simple application of a dye that looks a bit like the stuff that Spiderman's new black costume is made out of, he can be a swinging, hep cat again!

Cut back to the 1974 bar... my goodness... sad sack is now a happy playboy on the prowl! The hot girls are hanging all over him, he gave all of his Werther's Originals to the bartender, and life is good again! Thank goodness he got that gray hair taken care of and isn't a horrible troll any longer, despite the fact that like his favorite bar, his style hasn't changed much since he shared that apartment with Chrissy and Janet.

So, even though there is a product for men like me, men who want to go to 70s themed bars and pick up women who wear too much makeup, I think I'm going to forgo “coloring“ my hair. It seems like too much work and also seems like too much... I don't know... vanity? Effort? I'll look at my gray hair like I look at my scars, proof that I was here and didn't just spend my time sitting around looking pretty (clarification: looking pretty strange). I lived with as little fuss as I could, and damnit, I drew the line at hair gel.

So, when Denver Mom has an affair with our pool boy (once we get a pool), because I look too much like an old man, I'll reconsider. However, until that time, I remain gray and getting more gray every day. I don't know if I'll wear it with pride, but I'll wear it with genuineness. I'll wear my gray because I am, after all, gray, not old.

The question that's been bothering me since this realization: Is it just coincidence that Denver Mom and I are trying to learn how to play Bocce? Bocce?!? Maybe I am old.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Home Sweet Home

We've left Red Wing and are home. My grandfather's condition has improved, his strength has returned, his wit as sharp as ever, but his prognosis isn't much better. He's stuck between a bleeding ulcer and a damaged heart, with treatment for either destined to aggrevite the other. In other words, if they treat him, it could kill him.

He has told the medical staff that he does not want to be revived, should they be faced with that decision. At 92 years old, I know he's thought a lot about death, told me stories about friends he's lost, but that must have been a difficult decision to make. Thankfully, he had the strength of will to make these decisions for himself and isn't asking his family to struggle with those questions further down the road.

I think I mentioned it before, but we drove to Minnesota, rather than fly. From Denver to my family's small town home of Red Wing, it's just a little over 900 miles, a trip that's too far for a toddler, but Chunk surprised me. He was great there and back, well behaved and agreeable, if a little nuts by “night-night time.”

There's a strange kind of peace that comes from driving long distances. I've read that there is a quasi-hypnosis that happens to people who stare at the road for too long, but what I'm talking about is more than that temporary state. When I was a kid, most of our family trips were driving trips, usually up to Minnesota, and so I know the trip very well. I can tell you stories about most of the rest stops along the way, point out the best Denny's for pie in Iowa, explain which tourist traps in Nebraska are worth seeing and which ones are okay to simply drive passed. Having made the trip countless times, as a boy and teen, it was strange to take that same trip again as a father. Strange, but natural in a way, like this wouldn't be the first or last time our little family braved the long highways of the midwest.

On the way home we drove through South Dakota and I saw Mount Rushmore for the first time. Having seen photos and the occasional scene from “North By Northwest,” I expected it to be sort of cheesy, but it was surprisingly neat and very tasteful. I can be a little cynical at times (I hope you were sitting down for that particular revelation), but it was a very moving monument and more than just a little awe-inspiring. Crazy Horse is slowly being carved into shape several miles away and should be even more impressive when it's finished.

Denver Mom and I decided that we'd plan a car trip every summer. We're planning on seeing Yellowstone, White Sands National Monument, visiting the Robert Henri museum in his home town in Nebraska, and maybe going back to our old favorite, Bandelier National Monument. Any other suggestions for places we can go?

Monday, May 14, 2007

When It Rains

Last night, I spent an hour or so holding my grandfather's hand. With a variety of tubes running out of his body, electrodes hooked to his chest, he looked small, smaller than I've ever seen him, but he squeezed my hand with a strength that put me at ease, despite his situation.

On Saturday my mom called to tell us that my grandfather had suffered a heart attack. Although the doctors had been able to stabilize him, things didn't look good. His remaining kidney was failing, the heart attack was likely caused by the faulty valve he had in his chest, and there were other problems as well, but when he squeezed my hand, somehow I felt like it was going to be okay. Its funny how we're forever children before our parents.

My childhood was a complicated mess of ignored responsibilities. My biological mom really wasn't capable of being a parent, and when she dropped the ball with me, which often happened, my grandparents were always there to pick it up again. I think I lived with them more than I lived with my biological mother, until my aunt, uncle, and cousins took me in permanently.

I learned a lot about being a dad from my grandfather and I catch myself, sometimes, talking to Chunk like my grandfather spoke to me. He retired early and my summers off from school consisted mostly of he and I running errands around Minneapolis, sometimes going for short hikes, or hanging out in diners run by guys who knew my grandfather by name. At the time, it seemed like everyone knew my grandfather by name, and although he was an abrasive guy at times, everyone had a smile for him.

Every time we got in the car, I would learn something. We would drive along power lines and my grandfather would quiz me on why the birds could stand on the power lines without getting electrocuted. We would go to the hardware store and walk about how plumbing worked. Sometimes we'd just talk about the car we were driving in, have long conversations about traffic rules. That's the quality I think I mirror most from my grandfather. When Chunk points at something and asks, "What's that?" his voice more shrill, depending on his level of excitement, I never just answer, "That's a truck." I tell him its a truck, then we spend a long time talking about what it's used for, why it needs to be so big, etc. At two, he doesn't always get it, but I think he gets more than he lets on, just like I did with my grandpa.

There are strange moments that come with from dealing with our own parents, times when your perceptions are rattled and altered forever. Chunk will have these moments with me, I'm sure. I was shocked and surprised when I realized I was taller than my grandfather, a man who had been larger than life itself for my entire childhood. I was devastated when my grandmother passed away almost twenty years ago, not just because I had lost an amazing woman in my life, but because the devastation that my grandfather wore on his face was something I couldn't bare to see. Seeing how sunken my grandfather had become after the death of his daughter, my biological mother, shrunk me as well. And now, watching him lie in a hospital bed, straddling that strangely wide line between life and death, has been another moment of realization, a time when I can see very plainly that the man I idolized my entire life is just a man, like I am, not a legend made real, not a tall tale from the north like Paul Bunyon and thousands of fishing stories.

My grandfather wasn't always a good man, but he became one. He struggled with alcohol for a lot of years, but exorcised that demon and went to work helping others do the same. He wasn't always a good husband, but when my grandmother retired, he grew roses for her, big bushes of reds and pinks and whites and yellow, flowers that even I knew meant something more than just their surface beauty. He wasn't always a good father, but when given the chance to try again, became an excellent father to a boy that didn't seem to have any parents at all.

His calm in his hospital bed perhaps remakes him as the legend I've always seen him as being. When I told him he scared a lot of us, he told me, between machine assisted gulps of air, that he was scared too. Then, he smiled, like it was all a joke, like it was nothing at all, and squeezed my hand with a firmness that said he was right, that none of this was serious. After that, he turned his gaze back up to the ceiling and struggled with each and every breath, hiccuping with a strangely soft, high sound, that should come from a bird, not my grandfather.

His chances don't look very good. He lives 900 miles away and hasn't really gotten a chance to get to know my son. Like my great-grandparents, my grandpa will exist more as a story for Chunk, but there will be a lot of stories to tell. Some of those stories will be funny, others sad, some beautiful, and others inspiring.

I'm looking forward to seeing him this morning, but not because I want to say good-bye. I didn't spend two days in the car to say good-bye. I came here because I want to spend a little more time with my "bump-pa."

Monday, May 07, 2007

Shamed Out of the Shadows

I've written about balance many times, because the biggest lesson I have learned as a parent is that balance is a bit like a unicorn, winning lotto numbers, and Jami Gertz, intensely desirable but elusive to the point that you're not really sure it even exists. I had thought that I was approaching something that might have looked like balance, had the same sort of smooth corners and even weight, but as soon as I got to the point where I was considering claiming victory over my schedule, work came and clobbered me with some details I predicted, but somehow wasn't anticipating.

Is that vague enough? I mean, aside from my Jami Gertz reference? I'll be a little more obvious... I work for a non-profit and we have a big fund raising breakfast coming up. Of course I wouldn't have time for blogging. We're on the downward slope, however, so things should be returning to normal for me very soon.

Have I brought any lessons from my unexpected hiatus, any new bits of shiny, packaged wisdom that I can distribute like candy at Halloween? Gosh, wouldn't that be nice? Nope. I'm sorry, but as I get back up to speed, it'll just be more of the same. Wisdom is for people with better taglines and wit.

Expect more soon! And, Lainey-Paney, p-man, and Sarah O, thank you for shaming me back into posting. If the next post is nothing but fart jokes and talk about Xbox, remember, you brought this on yourselves.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Do-det-do-do... wah-wah-waaahhh....

I think I've mentioned it before, but I work in a non-profit that supports families with children that have a specific condition. I know I'm being vague, but they say that the fastest way to get fired is to blog about work, and I like my job enough that I don't want to screw it up. So, please bear with me. The important thing is that, given we work with children and families, our organization is very family friendly, to the point that I see all of my coworkers' children in the office quite frequently.

I know what you're thinking... you're thinking, "Geez, that sounds terrible! How do you get anything done?" And, if I had to answer honestly, I'd tell you that yes, it is terrible, and no, I don't get anything done. Thankfully, most of the time the kids are very well behaved and understand that they should leave the sourpuss in the corner alone, because not even Jesus likes his car and he's so clueless he can't even pull off a successful date with his wife.

The upside of this whole "children are welcome in the office" environment is that no one complains too much when I have to bring Chunk in for a couple of hours. I try not to take advantage of it, but occasionally we have staff meetings on the days when I'm working from home, so I have little choice but to bring him along and wait for the inevitable poo which happens about half-way through... every... single... meeting.

On Tuesday we all gathered around the conference table to discuss next year's budget. One of my coworkers brought along her little boy, who I will refer to as Mohawk, and the two almost instantly started the dance of the Toddler Staredown. For those of you without children, I'll explain how this works.

Basically, being a toddler, Chunk cannot go anywhere without his favorite toy. He can't take a bath without knowing Buzz Lightyear is sitting just inches from the bathtub, waiting to be retrieved once the harsh job of washing has been completed. On this particular day, Chunk had both Buzz and Woody, as well as "the big boy Legos" that I bring along to occupy him whenever I need him to sit still and keep it down.

Anyway, I was talking about the Toddler Staredown. Here's how it went down....

Chunk, clutching Woody and Buzz to his chest, stood motionless in the conference room.

Mohawk, clutching a number of cars to his chest, stood four feet away.

They were silent.

A tumbleweed blew between them and then bounced off to places unknown.

Someone nearby covered the eyes of their child and rushed them inside, stifling a panicked cry.

Chunk sort of leaned towards Mohawk for a moment, eyeing his really cool looking cars, then rocked back on his heels to his original stance. Mohawk was obviously checking out Chunk's toys, then flashed his mother a quick, nervous glance, before meeting Chunk's stoic gaze.

Minutes passed.

Literally. I'm talking actually minutes here.

Mohawk pointed at Chunk, said something I couldn't understand to his mom, then continued to stare.

Somewhere, Ennio Morricone started humming his theme from "The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly" and smiled to himself, confident he had done his job.

Then, when I wasn't looking, no doubt trying to contribute to the meeting, one of them broke their standoff and the two of them began to play together, each one a little suspicious of the other, but genuinely having a good time. There were a few panicked moments, like when Mohawk was playing with Buzz, and then when Chunk declared one of Mohawk's cars was "mine," but they did great. What was weird was that Chunk and Mohawk have hung out together several times, enough that Chunk even knows his name, and they've gotten along really well. It was just that on Tuesday, the stakes had been higher. This was Buzz and Woody we were talking about, damnit, and there are just some things you don't share!

I don't get to see Chunk dealing with other kids in this way, very often. Out of the group of guys I normally hang out with, Chunk is the youngest offspring in the bunch, by about eighteen month to three years. Both of his cousins are several years older, so what peer negotiations I've seen have mostly just been him kind of following the "big kids" around and playing what they want to play. Or, if he doesn't like what they're doing, he just goes off and does his own thing. Either way, he's generally pretty happy and hasn't had many conflicts or chances to test his will against another child. At least, not in front of his dad. I'm sure he has plenty of power struggles during his one day a week at day care.

It's kind of neat to see my little guy in action. When push came to shove, he didn't... well, shove. We have some problems with hitting at home, but when he's playing with other kids, he just doesn't seem to take things to that level when he gets frustrated. On Tuesday, it looked like he might lash out at one point. Mohawk had taken his Buzz and Chunk wanted him back. There was an impasse, but rather than slug Mohawk in the nose for taking his Buzz, he stood his ground and firmly demanded his toy back. It didn't work, of course, Mohawk was having fun and just ignored him, but Chunk was continued to be firm with him and never resorted to hitting.

I know, in the future, as my son grows and changes and continues to develop, I'll get other opportunities to see him interact with the world, time when he doesn't recognize that his dad is watching him. I'm looking forward to it. It's neat to get a glimpse of your child's character, and so far, I've been impressed with mine.

Monday, April 09, 2007

#%@*! Meme About Favorite Songs

My blogging buddy Maria, at Just Eat Your Cupcake, tagged me with a meme several months ago. Okay, maybe not months ago, but it was more than a month ago and I've been dreading posting it since then.

What meme has me quaking in my blogging boots? It's the "Three favorite songs" question, which given my absolute love of music, seems like it would be an easy post to get some mileage out of, but in reality, has filled me with dread and self-doubt. How could I pick just three songs, of out so many, that are my all time favorites? It's like "Sophie's Choice," but with much fewer Nazis.

So, even with a month of thought, I'm not sure if this is really my list, but it's darn close:

1. Cuyahoga, R.E.M. -- I've loved this song for years and have never been able to figure out exactly what it is about the song that captures my attention so well. Like most R.E.M. songs the lyrics are evasive, but intriguing, and to my mind, talk about naive enthusiasm about building something new and special, while acknowledging the construction that went on before. It's one of the most patriotic songs I know of without being propaganda.

2. Got To Give It Up (pt. 1), Marvin Gaye -- This song might be the closet thing to perfection that any single piece of music has ever reached, since the first caveman started banging sticks together in the dark. If you never had soul before, this song will give it to you. If you never had rhythm, this song will help you find it. If this song doesn't get your butt moving and your toes tapping, you might want to check your pulse.

3. An Ending (Ascent), Brian Eno -- Wow. Simply beautiful. People often talk about getting a literal message behind instrumental music, as if there was a kind of invisible dialog happening in the interplay between instruments, and I've always struggled with that idea. I guess my brain is just too literal to find that sort of underlying talking, but with this song, I think I hear hope.

I'll stop with my three songs. I could do a "honorable mentions" list, but I'd be here all day and you're probably already glazing over.

And, as is tradition with these sorts of things, I'm going to pass this along to one of my newer blogging favorites Lainey-Painy at Life Is Just So Daily, my arch-nemesis Mitch McDad at Mitch McDad's World, my fellow bleeding heart The Real Mother Hen at How the Real Mother Hen sees the World, the basement runner Radioactive Girl, and the guy who's mix tapes from high school were the coolest, Vampdaddy. I'd love to hear what all five of you really shake your tail feathers to, but if you're not listed, that doesn't mean you can't play. So, play along and let me know you have them listed on your blog. Or, leave your favorites in the comments section. I'm always eager to broaden my musical horizons.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Perfect Post Award? Me? Seriously?

Wow! Apparently there is this thing called the "Perfect Post Award" that is given out monthly by the charming moms at Petroville and Suburban Turmoil. And, if you can believe it, yours truly was nominated!

I didn't win of course... probably far too many references to farting in my posts... but just like at the Oscars, it's a honor to simply have been nominated. Thank you, Mother-Woman, for taking the time to offer up my name and thank you for thinking so highly of one of my posts. I really appreciate it. For your efforts, you're my official Blog-Crush of the Month!

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Denver Dad Reveals The Mysteries Of The World!, Pt. 2

Little did I know that my tongue-in-cheek question and answer section would result in a number of actual questions. Geez. You guys are a tough crowd. So, here are my answers to the questions you (yes, you... sitting right there!) left for me in the comments section.

Remember, the advice you receive is about worth what you paid for it.

Lainey-Paney at Life Is Just So Daily asks...

Q.Dear Denver Dad,

Our son is 18 months old, and is now starting this AMAZING fit throwing. A single fit may involve one or all of the following: kicking, screaming, crying, pinching of Mommy, pulling on Mommy's clothes, throwing himself to the ground, rearing his head back to the point of almost falling out of Mommy's arms.
It's TONS OF FUN for me.

I understand that he's frustrated due to his limited vocabulary & speech skills...but I also know that the fits often occur not when he can't communicate his wants, but rather when he does not get what he wants.

So...the question is---WHAT DO I DO ABOUT IT??? My pediatrician says to ignore it. Guess how well that works!!?? Not well at all. And really, how easy is it to ignore anyway when he's dangling from my pants & screaming at the top of his lungs? My husband says to spank him.

That seems to break my heart, and I'm afraid that it is teaching my child to hit (a nasty little habit that he picked up shortly after the introduction of the "spanking").

Is there a boarding school anywhere for toddlers????

A. Sadly, there isn't a boarding school for toddlers, but if you have some extra money laying around, boy do I have a franchise idea for you!

We have been blessed with a child that would rather just ignore you than throw fits, but he has had more than a few moments of drama, so I'll offer whatever wisdom I can. Your pediatrician is right. You're supposed to ignore it, but no one sane can ignore that kind of behavior. So, here's what you need to do:

1. Stay calm. Your toddler is screaming and clinging to get your attention. At some point, it worked, so now you only have yourself to blame. Don't take it so hard, because if you didn't react at some point, you'd be a robot and probably plotting to take over the world. That's bad. So, reacting to your child's needs is a good thing. It's just that it got weird somehow and isn't working the way it's supposed to work.

2. Stay calm. This is like those repeating Fight Club rules. Toddlers, like animals, can smell fear. So, they'll know when they have you. You've got to keep your wits about you and stay rational, because someone has to be the rational person and it's not going to be your toddler.

3. Negotiate! In a calm voice, explain that your child can either get a hold of themselves or go to their rooms and throw their fit. I know, I know, it sounds silly, but it works with Chunk. The first few times you give him the choice, he's going to ignore you, so you take him to time out. Eventually, he'll understand that if he wants attention, he's going to have to get it with rational behavior, as opposed to psychotic behavior. Or, he won't, but at least he'll be in his room screaming, instead of hanging off your leg.

4. Explain. I know you're supposed to let stuff go, but I like to talk to my little guy after the big blow-ups and have a debriefing. I say stuff like, "I know you're frustrated because I can't understand you, but that just means we both have to try harder next time." Or, "If you do that at the grocery store again, no one will ever find your body." You know, reassuring stuff like that. Your child will probably tune you out when you have this conversation, but it makes me feel better, so maybe it'll work for you too.

5. Be consistent. If you're going to do this, you've got to keep doing it. The second you break any of these rules, they (our demon spawn) know they have us wrapped around their fingers, and its that much harder to lay down the law later. That's actually true for any wonky "system" you find. If you're consistent, no matter what your system of behavior management may be, it should eventually work.

The thing is, our kids are whip smart. I mean that. Chunk terrifies me with how much he already knows and understands. So, I try to treat him like the independent person he's fighting so hard to become. It's not an easy process, but it's slowly getting better. Hopefully, it'll get better for you too.

Maria at Just Eat Your Cupcake asks...

Q.Dear Denver Dad,

My daughter is seven. She often pretends to be a dog (a golden retriever named Zippy to be exact). My question is: should I just go ahead and buy her a leash or give her free run of the yard? And when I take her for walks, what should I say to rude people who stop and laugh?

I work hard to accept her for herself and hey, if she is having a Zippy day, I'm supportive. My problem is that other people simply don't get it. Why won't they allow my child to explore her dog identity and how can I help her?

A. If I had a nickel every time I heard the "my daughter wants to be a golden retriever" story, I'd have a whole nickel!

Look, kids are creative and nicknames eventually fade, especially when you're old enough to move away. I say, get her the leash she wants, maybe even a fancy dish, and let her indulge. Assuming her psychological scars heal, and there will be scars, she'll grow up to be a fine, upstanding citizen who can fetch a tennis ball like you wouldn't believe.

The Real Mother Hen at How the Real Mother Hen sees the World asks...

Q.Dear Denver Dad,

My husband refuses to grow up - any advice?

A. Maturity is like kryptonite for most men. It saps their strength and makes them mere shadows of the vibrant, fun, beer-guzzling men they were before. I've seen it happen to many of my friends, and although they're still good guys, they've lost their spark and have become kind of dull.

Unfortunately, maturity is also kind of important. Maturity is what gets a guy to buy diapers instead of a box of frozen White Castle cheeseburgers when he hits the local warehouse store. Maturity is what gets a guy to stop playing his Level 60 World of Warcraft character and actually get a job that requires shaving and khakis. The real trick is not to force maturity, but teach your spouse how to be mature at appropriate times, letting them resort to childish fart jokes and goofing off when you have them safely locked in their "nerd cave."

I'm being serious here. You wouldn't want your husband to grow up. You wouldn't like him, because when he grows up, he becomes dull. The guy you fell in love with? The one that makes you laugh? He'll leave, for good, if your husband actually grows up. So, instead of forcing him to become mature, you just need to teach him when he can be a dumb-ass and when he's supposed to pretend to be responsible.

So, how do you do that? Remind him of stuff. "Honey, we're having brunch with my parents on Sunday." Or, "Dearest, khaki does go with everything, but that shirt is still ugly." Or, "Sweet Cakes, I know you need the Complete Wizards rulebook to play your illusionist character in your Tuesday night D&D game, but I'm tired of eating Top Ramen and day old bread, so we're spending our money on food and utilities, rather than dice and books with bimbos and swords on them." Don't nag. Nagging instantly turns whatever you say into white noise and he won't hear a bit of it, so you have to say it like you're having a conversation.

You know when your husband explains the two point conversions rules to you? Or, how a facemask can be either a 5 yard or 15 yard penalty? Remember that? No, of course you don't. If you nag, it'll be like that. Just remind him, gently, and after a while he'll start thinking it's his idea.

mo-wo at Mother-Woman asks...

Q.Dear Denver Dad,

I need Dad advice... At what age should I Ferberize my spouse?

A. When I first read your question, mo-wo, I thought you were asking when you should Frebreeze your spouse. Normally, I would recommend you Frebreeze your spouse as soon after marriage as possible, with periodic updates as needed. You should bring it up gently, though, because men are so sensitive and take offense easily. I would recommend saying something like, "Honey, now that you're married, you have to stink less. Lift up your arms and breath through your nose," then spray like you're trying to kill a wasp's nest.

But Ferberizing your spouse? That's a little trickier than spraying them with deodorizer. My wife and I practice "co-sleeping" with each other. We have since we were married ten years ago, and even before that, when we were just godless heathens cohabitating in sinfulness. It works for us. If sleeping with your spouse doesn't work, tell him, "Honey, it's not you... it's me, but get the hell out if you want to live through the night!" It's subtle, but will save his feelings.

Want something more subtle? My wife gets cold in 90 degree weather, so we got a heated mattress pad, at her request. We splurged and got the fancy one that has two controls, one for each side of the bed. When we go to sleep my wife sets her side to "broil." If I dare cross the barrier into her side of the bed, my flesh literally catches on fire and I run around the room screaming and trying to put out the flames. Like I said, it's a little more subtle, but if your husband has the jimmy legs, nothing fixes that quite as quickly as the threat of melting flesh.

Suburban Kamikaze at, shockingly enough, Suburban Kamikaze didn't really have a question, but seemed to suggest I needed to see a dominatrix for some issues that might be troubling me. It was either a dominatrix or Super Nanny. I'm not sure, but it was someone with boots. I know that much.