Sunday, April 11, 2010

Long Overdue

I'm not going to pretend I've dissapointed any loyal readers, altho I've heard that this blog has been perused before. But, it's a sad state of affairs when I haven't posted a single entry in almost 1 calendar year. Sorry to my wife and girls.

I was working on the post below about 10 months ago and never really finished I'm just publishing it as is. So, now I'm caught up on general blog housekeeping. I forgot how much fun it is to write this damn I better get to it.

You say Priv-acy I say Prive-acy (written in April 2010)

It's a pretty well known and agreed upon fact that parenthood brings spoils of rewards. They come in all shapes, sizes, flavors and colors. How about the seemingly mundane sentence our Abber Dabbers throws at us all the time, "Mommy/Daddy, guess what?" More times than not this question is followed by a fun little fact about Avery or something she is showing off about herself...hell sometimes we're entertained with a story about a twosie (yeah I know it's a theme). Then, every once in a while, all she says is, Mommy/Daddy, guess what...I love you." This is but one of the countless treasures we are blessed with because I'm a daddy and Anna's a mommy.

Fewer in number, but often times just as enjoyable to ponder are the things taken from us because we've chosen to reproduce. The one that struck me most recently is privacy. I have really always considered myself an open book, and what's more I genuinely prefer being in the company of others almost all the time. But who doesn't love some privacy every now and again? Certainly there are some places you never expect to get any privacy...the kitchen, the family room, the back seat of an '86 Buick Regal. However, once you're the parent to a 2-3 year old every square foot of your house is fair game. About a year ago Abby started to play the game where she would come in and turn the lights off on me while I was in the shower. Of course I would act all surprised and hoot and was a fun game. And you know, it never really dawned on me that this barrier of privacy was broken forever until last Monday morning when I was showering. I was in mid-snot rocket when the unmistakable sounds of two frolicking little girls came bursting into the bathroom. I pulled the shower curtain back and poked my head around the side just in time to see Abby and Ella chasing some balloons and each other into the bathroom. Yeah, balloons, little girls screaming and laughing...the only thing missing was some cotton candy and a skee ball machine. The funny thing to me was the look of surprise on their faces when they heard my voice and saw my face peeking out from inside the shower. As far as they were concerned I was interrupting their play time. I think I even heard Ella mutter, under her breath, "Next time you should knock AB guy."

How can they call Rice Cereal...cereal?

Avery is now at the stage in her life when she ingests a very steady diet of formula in a bottle, baby food, and rice cereal. I can think back to a time, before Abbers was 6 months old, when rice cereal was completely foreign to me. I'd be totally fine going back to that state of mind. You know, I really think Gerber ought to replace the word "cereal" with "mush" or "meal". Once you've had Cheerios, Raisin Bran, Lucky Charms, Boo Berry ( I could go on forever) it doesn't seem ok to call the stuff Avery eats every day "cereal" as well. Rice Mush or Rice-Meal sounds much more accurate and doesn't risk getting one's hopes up when hearing the name. Either that or the powers that be need to change the word we use for Trix, Golden Grahams and Apple Jacks to something else. If the white mushy stuff stays cereal then Wheaties can be called Ceunreal, or just plain Awesome. "Hey wanna have toast or a bowl of awesome for breakfast?" When compared to Rice Cereal, a bowl of awesome is perfectly apropo.

Little Aves had her 9 month doctor appointment yesterday and Dr. Segedy, who is sensational, officially extinguished the consumption of rice mush in this house. Anna mentioned that Avery was showing less and less interest in it and he said drop it like a bad habit. Out of the corner of my eye I swear I saw Avery do a little fist pump a la Tiger or Derek Jeter...hers was somewhere between the two of them.

I'm sitting here asking myself how my babiest girl is already 9 months old? Her personality is starting to really show itself...along with her teeth. She is currently cutting at least five new teeth, napping for an average of 90 minutes per day, and somehow staying happy. Perhaps it's her new found sense of mobilization. She is finally crawling at a significant rate after threatening to do so for about a month and a half. As with so many milestones for children, this one will be a double edged sword as well. I suppose if Avery lived in the 1400s she would have given Columbus some real sound advice. Considering she doesn't see the edge of the couch, the bed or anything else, I highly doubt she would worry about reaching the edge of the earth. I imagine her advice would go something like, "Flat Earth, round Earth who gives Even if you do reach the edge of the planet just be a man and keep going, there's always some kind of cosmic force there to catch you anyway. But beware, said cosmic force really enjoys kissing what he or she saves."

Anna turns 31

It's about time my lovely wife gets a little ink. What a tremendous wife, mother and person I married and created. Well, she was always a great person, but without me she wouldn't be a wife or mama, so any happily married guys with kids let's tip one back for...well...ourselves. But seriously, I could think of no better way to tell Anna how wonderful she is than by throwing her a huge surprise party. Glad it was my idea...(yeah, it wasn't). At least I can say I organized the whole thing (I'd be lying) and prepared a majority of the food (ha). The only thing I can take credit for is lying my knickers off to keep this thing a secret...the glory really belongs to our dear mate Melissa K. Rock solid planning, scheming and brainwashing are all in a days work for this lass.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

It's Only Natural

From where I'm sitting a pond in winter looks best only one way...with a little off the top. Yes sir, every backyard Minnesota pond ought to see some shoveling and skating during the course of a winter. Of course one can take anything too far, so from where you're sitting Johnny, Benny and I may have looked like absolute lunatics...on ice. In the weeks leading up to the prestigious Quad City Boot Hockey Championships we certainly did pull out all the stops to have JK's backyard rink ready. Flooding? Yes, flooding (after a couple mishaps a season before) is now a piece of pie. But what if the rink's superintendent decides to drill a few 3 inch holes in the ice before the snow has been cleared off for the first time? Well, the pond water comes out of those holes and combines with the surface snow to create, well, pretty much the biggest pains in the pooper one could imagine for an ice surface. So, we did what any creative, resourceful, ambitious 30 year olds would do when faced with a deadline. When I said we pulled out all the stops, in this case "stops" meant, backpack leaf blower, propane powered flame thrower, chain saw, hell we would have even dropped trou and made like the smallest little piggy if we thought it would have helped. Well, after many hours of effort we did get the ice in a playable condition. It happened just in time too...just in time for the gigantic Christmas snow storm and the great thaw which ensued. By the time our big tourney came around, all our work was buried beneath 4 new inches of perfectly smooth ice. I guess that's what you get for not procrastinating.

Unfortunately, as I write this, the rink sits in a state of ruin. If it were a pinball game there would be a sign taped over the quarter slot reading "out of order." So, another year of boot hockey and backyard pond skating for the kiddies is over. A monumentous sized thank you is owed to the Konrads for hosting, readying and giving...all things, all the time. If it weren't for his backyard rink and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II, JK may have actually slept this winter. Bravo Guy, bravo.

As I illuded, the good ol' Metro Area, as we natives like to call it, or what the country folk refer to as "The Cities" was recently the beneficiary of a bit of a warm spell and the snow banks have receded more than Josh Lucas' hairline. Spring is really a wonderful and beautiful time of year...but the weeks at the end of winter and beginning of spring are quite ugly really. I suppose I could coin a new word and call this time of year "Winting" or "Sprinter." A dumb name for an equally wretched looking portion of the year. I mean...look outside, the only snow that's left is covered in sand, dirt and chopped up asphalt from the road...gorgeous. We can now see what is supposed to be grass, but, in many areas, more closely resembles the hair on the head of that certain science or math teacher we all remember. You know, the one who put an overabundant amount of "product" and/or grease in his hair and chose to style it with a So, forgive me if the picturesque photo which usually sits atop these blog entries is absent this time. It was either nothing or 2-3 month old doggy dung sitting upon the aforementioned greasy grass (I'd say I got this one right on).

Anna and I did just recently get back from a week long vacation in Nuevo Vallarta. John and Melissa Konrad were nice enough to let us tag along to a not so little resort called Paradise Village. I use the term "tag along" not so much because our compadres saw us as inferior travel companions, but because the hotel did. At this place you were either a member or a guest. And, it wasn't hard to tell the difference. It was as if the slender Mexican man behind the check in counter was saying, "I would lov to poot a stomp on your foarhead wheech says 'Tina Tightwad' and 'Peter Penny Pincher' but all I hov are thees one eench thick, indestructeeble teal wreestbands wheech I will poot on you and you can not get off". I have worn the same sort of wristbands many times at various all inclusive resorts...when the wristbands get you everything you want for free. Well the only thing these wristbands got us was a few eye rolls from the bartenders. John and I played a lot of sand volleyball during the week, a lot of sand volleyball. Being that the average daytime temp was 85 degrees, we drank our fair share of H2O. I made the mistake of forgetting I was wearing the teal badge of shame, and I also made the mistake of making every single water run to the bar. Yeah I forgot about the wristband...until I got to the bar. The waiter and bartenders' looks were the same every time, "Oh, Senor Cheapskate Teal Wreestband, you would like more FREE ice waters...what a surprise?" It's a damn good thing they obliged because it was seriously hot and should I have gotten snubbed by the bartenders and really gotten dehydrated and, say, collapsed on the court? I'm pretty certain the hotel employees and members would have taken one glance at my left wrist and said, "Forget it, he's just a guest."

So after day 2 of sand volleyball JK and I are back at our beach palapa with the ladies and somehow the conversation turns to yours truly bossing people around on the volleyball court...of course those are John's words, not mine. Well, I didn't notice it driving past on the beach, but apparently the tear into AB bandwagon pulled into the station and found three gringos ready to saddle up. I just stood tall, grinned and listened to each of them pour it on. A general conclusion was reached (not factoring my input) which stated I am too serious and too competitive to just play some nice and easy resort volleyball. What can one do when such a decision is rendered? can only go about your business and prove them false. Either that, or secretly wish for a group of four, 60+ year old volleyball banditos to come along and rescue you. Their names were Stan, Niko, Joe and Mac. Yes, they were all above the age of 60 and they all played volleyball together.

Tournament day was upon us and this resort's version of the Golden Girls wanted JK and I on their team. More amazing than the fact that they were all over 60 is that they were all pretty darn good, a couple quite good. We had a chance to meet Stan a day or two earlier and learn his story. He was laid up in his room for the previous few days after throwing out his back while working out. He spends a few months in Mexico every winter and he informed us that he expected the winter of 2007 to be his last. He has two forms of terminal cancer, according to doctors should have been dead three years ago, has a golf ball sized lump on his chest where the needle for his chemo goes, lives in Chicago and played competitive volleyball when he was younger. So, if you think when Stan's feet hit the court on Tourney day he was just happy to be upright, alive and knocking the volleyball around a'd be sorely mistaken. After telling a few people what they should have done better, he uttered to me, "Let's play hard, I don't like losing at anything..." Joe and Mac were further down the intensity scale, but still aggressive. Niko was a pompous Scandinavian control freak whose accent I couldn't quite place even as he was disparaging me mere inches from my right ear. He always knew everything, even the score of the game, which was actually nice because no one else ever did. (I just realized that I never made fun of him for serving underhand.) Team Geezer, with a combined age north of 300 years, did not win the free drink which was awarded to the tournament champions, but a consolation prize for John and I was getting to play volleyball with those guys for the rest of...all the live long day.


It may sound like I disliked the old guys, which really isn't true. They were very nice people, and a couple of them were just unbalanced enough to allow me to get a full retraction about my so called "antics" on the very same volleyball court. What's the score now Niko?

Our Return from Paradise...

Not much in the way of Abby and Avery postings this time, but I did notice one very interesting and noteworthy thing about our youngest after we got back to the states. She's gotten a lot faster. Her head turns faster, her arms move around a lot faster, she wiggles and bounces faster. You know on some old tape players how you could fast forward but still hear the voices? Or some tape recorders how you could slow down or speed up the voices to make them sound like Alvin and the Chipmunks...well, Avery is moving around like that. In fact, she sort of moves like a chipmunk. Very fast, very fast, look around nervously, very fast, very fast...and so on.

Funny Abby quote:

While describing (in Disney terms) how long she was sitting atop the porcelain throne while going twosies one day Abby said, "My poop was inside me for as long as Nemo was lost for."

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Jack Bauer's replacement...

I can't really believe it took 3 1/2 years, but it did. Abby finally got out of her bed without our direct permission. Our eldest daughter must have seen her bed and covers as a comfy prison. After a long night's sleep or an afternoon napper, where was Abby? You could always find her in her bed. No, not in her bedroom, in the actual bed. Since her induction into the world of big girl beds, she patiently waited for Mommy or Daddy to come take down the forcefield and release her from the shackles of pink and brown sheets and pillows. Then one day she'd had enough.

I can just imagine her creeping out of bed on her own for the first time. I picture her carrying a brown satchel slung across her chest, complete with the whip and brown fedora hat. If she was as clever and resourceful as Indiana Jones who knows...she may have been sneaking out of her room for months? But one early morning as Anna went down the stairs she was met by our little adventurer on her way up them. I don't know who was more surprised. I'm sure Abbers was ecstatic to see she wasn't in any trouble for her blatant disregard of, well no rules at all. We never told her she had to stay in bed...until 4 days later anyway. So, what does a 3 year old do with such a new found freedom? Use it, exploit it and lose it seems to be the natural progression. Well, for the next three or four days Anna and I woke up to our Abbers (at 5:00-6am mind you) not to her poking us, not to the sound of pots, pans, toys, talking, singing, doors slamming, none of the logical ideas. Yep, for the better part of a week, she woke up, opened her door, crept up the stairs, came in our room and...hung out. Yep, she simply sat on her arse, and waited (and probably put out the vibe) while never making a sound. I'm thinking she's gonna make either a great stalker or superb field agent, either way the FBI is probably in her future. Of course, it was sweet and adorable and only a little weird. The result: she now must stay in her room until the clock says 7:something. And I will tell you what, she is punctual...I saw 7:01 on my clock everyday thereafter. Then we had to teach her how to turn on the TV.

It's about time Avery gets a little pub...

We have grown accustomed to our youngest flashing smile after smile after adorable little smile (now complete with teeth...err, well tooth). She truly is a happy baby and oh my how she loves her big sister. She laughs and smiles at virtually everything Abby does for her, with her and to her. However, beneath that darling facade, there is a diabolical side. Yes, little Avery is ahead of her time. More often than not, when Abby is disciplined within earshot of her baby sister, Avery gleams from ear to ear. It's truly as if Avery's stickin' it to her big sister already. I knew I liked this kid. I suppose it could mean trouble for this guy because I honestsly figured any sibling rivalries wouldn't begin for a few years. Imagine that, something else I got wrong about girls.

Pondering the Perils of Parenthood

There are a myriad of things one can expect when starting down Parenthood Lane. The first few things that come to mind are diapers, bottles, sleepless nights, trips to the park, brainwashing, the list goes on and on. There are an equal number of things one could never foresee, even with Miss Cleo on retainer. This list includes being completely willing to use your hands and clothes as tissues and toilet paper, trying to wholeheartedly give voices and personalities to Disney Princesses and Barbies, seriously considering DVR'ing Keeping up with the Kardashians (wait, that has nothing to do with child rearing does it?). But perhaps the most bizarre phenomenon I've stumbled upon are the rogue children sprinkled across every park in the southwest suburbs.

Let me explain. You take your kid(s) to a busy park one evening. Everything seems normal enough, no full moon, el nino is several months's regular. You are physically ready and mentally prepared to play and look after whose kid(s)? Yeah, your kid(s). Not five minutes after your feet hit the wood chips and you've grown an extra appendage. You got it, it's this park's rogue kid! "Watch what I can do." "My name is Biff." "C'mon let's go this way." "Do you like my Willie Nelson tattoo?" These are the things that come out of this kid's mouth. It's a bona fide ambush and you are a sitting duck. Smile, chuckle, try to be cordial, what else are you gonna do? But your new conjoined twin doesn't pick up on social cues...astonishin
g, he's 5. I don't mean to imply that this child is nasty, or ill-willed at all...he's just really terrific at invading your personal space. Whatever combination of parents junior has are obviously not cutting it in the attention department. And whether they know it or not, they've been spiking his sippy cups with shots of creepy.

So, you turn your focus back to your kid(s), but a thousand questions are running through your head. Where are Biff's mom and dad? How many other people has he beseiged in his career? How many cans of Red Bull has rogue boy shotgunned today? Does he think I'll want to play with him more because he is steamrolling my daughter on his way up the rope ladder? Why does he smell like a hamster cage? The funny part of the entire episode is that my kid (3 years) thinks it's as weird as I do. Most likely the really funny part is what I don't notice...Frodo's parents laughing their arses off on a not-so-nearby bench.

This brings me to a story of one special roguester we met at a park near our house. We refer to him as Spider-Man kid. Not because of his prowess on the monkey bars, not even close, more because he was wearing a Spidey t-shirt and calling himself...well...Spider-Man. He was as aggressive as any rogue kid I've seen. Maybe 5 or 6 years old...dude was all over the place, seriously bonkers, like Robin Williams on a talk show. It was also obvious he wasn't..entirely..there. Poor kid's mom did come over after awhile to run some interference for us, or at least give it her best shot. From the looks of it, he had already eaten her for breakfast that morning. I gotta give her credit though because he looked hungry and she must have looked like a corn dog smothered in chocolate chip cookies to him. In case that wasn't clear, she didn't stand a chance.

The highlight of this chance encounter came 15-20 painful minutes in to his interrogation of us. At one point, after answering 30-40 of his questions (Anna is so nice), Peter Parker's proverbial bulb lights up and he asks my wife the following: "Can I hold your baby?" At this point Avery is about 120 hours old, as if that matters. What comes to my head? Well, the kind version is, "UMMM, we'll pass." I turn to Anna and I didn't quite recognize her. Probably because she suddenly looked like a guard at Fort Knox. That and the face she wore looked like she was asked to give the square root of 589,658.23, without using a calculator. Spidey waved, with both arms, as we moseyed on home.

If you haven't experienced this playground wonder, it's only a matter of time because...they are everywhere.

Short Abby story:

Abby was very excited when Anna picked her up from the health club daycare this evening. She told her mom, "I talked tonight." Definitely pat-on-the-back worthy for our shy Abber Dabbers. The teacher from daycare corroborated Abby's statement. Apparently Abby told her teacher that her daddy is funny and I tell her jokes. When prompted to tell a joke she learned from her daddy, Abby said, "Why did Tigger stick his head in the toilet?"
Teacher: "I don't know, why?"
Abby: He was looking for Poo(h)"


Sunday, January 3, 2010

Maybe a resolution will help?

There are really only two options when posting one's first blog entry in almost 11 months...try explain the events of the remainder of 2009 or simply pick it up from here and hope readers can catch on. I am going with the latter (I assume the extensive audience this blog reaches will understand).

What would a new year be without some well intentioned resolutions to screw up? I've never been one to give much weight to making a betterment pledge because there was recently a one digit change to the date we write on our checks and signed documents. But for whatever reason this new decade actually feels like something. Maybe it's because we are in a new decade? Maybe it's because I've never before been 30 when the calendar turned over? Or maybe it's the "pine mouth" I've been experiencing for about a definitely makes the new year taste different.

In any case, I'm declaring that resolutions are in! Blogging more frequently is definitely my most challenging goal, but I'll do anything for my fans...and by "fans" I mean daughters. When they are old enough to read these entries about their family, I'm hoping they don't start to wonder why Daddy got dumber after he turned 30. You see, since venturing in to the nail bending business I have not written much of anything and it seems I have used only the construction side of my brain. Whoever said, "if you don't use it, you lose it" was right. So I'm also declaring that monosyllabic expressions are in, at least for a month or two.

Well, Christmas came and went faster than Abby's smile while perched upon EP Center Santa's knee. I think the only reason she even went close to him without crying is because Avery was on a collision course with jolly old Saint Nick too. This particular Santa photo parlour employed 3 elves whose jobs were, take pictures, collect money and keep any sparks or easily combustible materials away from the big man's beard. I mean, if all you do is snap photos wouldn't you be ready to pull the trigger at any time the kids on Santa's lap are smiling? Well, camera elf was not exactly Johnny on the spot. And wouldn't you know it, Abby was all smiles...for about 23 seconds, then, for Abbers, it may as well have been a picture from the early 1900s. I've often wondered why, in old photos, nobody is smiling? What's with that? And just as interesting to me...when did everyone decide, ok, let's try to not look like we're in the middle of the bubonic plague. Perhaps it's about the same time people started to care about hygiene and began to brush their chiclets? Anywho, Abby stonewalled real good for the duration of our Santa visit and camera elf captured, count 'em, zero smiles. Honestly, the picture is more memorable this way anyway.

I seem to recall comparing Abby's gift opening technique last year with a well known US Swim Team backstroker. So with the XXI Olympic Winter Games set to get underway next month, what does this year's present thrashing compare to that we may see in Vancouver? Abby was definitely Bode Miller, not because she quit the US Gift Opening team and took all of her presents back to her RV and opened them alone. No, she was carving her way through gift after gift, sometimes on one was hard to keep up with her. Avery would be best compared to someone in the same discipline, only someone who wrecked and now just sits and drools. Of course, her wide open, gorgeous baby blues are tough to replicate. I think maybe my favorite thing from this Christmas was this little high pitched, excited, mini-scream Abby would let out when she opened something she was really excited about. I really didn't appreciate the joy of giving until I witnessed the excitement and Christmas magic present in the eyes and soul of my oldest little girl. Yes, this Christmas was stocked with plenty of presents, but more importantly, it was filled with family, friends, laughter and wonderful new memories. Merry Christmas indeed.

Speaking of the bippidy-boppidy-boo properties of the Christmas season, there was certainly some Christmas mojo going on at our place on December the 12th. How else could one explain the 9 or 10 liters of booze we crushed that night? Our 35+ guests walked through the front door, entered the boundary of the kitchen and never left. I had to bob and weave my way through the crowd simply to reach the fridge to get more ice for the 300 drinks I mixed. At one point the lady of the house was recruiting, with fervor, people to drink red bull vodkas...just because. If you weren't careful you might have found yourself competing in a game of (pull the lever) CandyLand, in which shots were levied to the losers. There were yule tidings abound, one in particular came in writing..."Merry effin Christmas, Jesus." That was a first for this guy. It was easy to hear the music and difficult to hear conversations. It literally felt like being at the bar, glad that shipment of urinal cakes came in the previous week. There are 3 things I will say in summation:
1. everyone was in the mood to have some fun...
2. every conversation led back to Tiger Woods...
3. some people just don't appreciate an authentic re-creation of the pyrotechnics at the Vegas club Rain...

I will also add a few good party tips:
1. torches are great for a. starting fires, and b. prematurely ending parties
2. Usher played three times in a row, four different times does, in fact, constitute good song variety
3. every good shindig sees someone get their hair burned

Story from 2009

While Daddy is showering, Abby loves to come in the bathroom and turn off the lights. Well, she came in a little late one day because I was hopping out wearing...zippiddy-doo-dah. She stops short...stares...points...and asks, "Daddy, what are those things underneath your peanuts?"