Friday, April 30, 2010

The $150 Sock

This little bugger somehow worked itself into a tiny drain hole. It eventually lodged in the electric drain pump of our washing machine. This led to a very friendly appliance guy coming to kick it at our crib on Monday. That Hanes 2T toddler sock turned out to cost us about $150.

Here's the offending foot covering, still wet from its big adventure:

Thursday, April 29, 2010

On Sleep

Sleep is a commodity wasted on the young. Oh, sweet sleep! I remember long bouts with you through the lazy, school-free summers of my youth. I miss that feeling of nowhere to be and nothing to do. To wallow in pure laziness until only biological needs or lunchtime hunger forced me to finally roll out of bed. I remember scheduling my college courseload so that I could sleep till 10 a.m. every morning.

As I grew older and I started working, we only saw each other on the weekends. But those Saturday and Sunday mornings were like no time had passed at all. I slept effortlessly...heavily. I would awake refreshed and ready to go.

Things are different now.What happened to us? I hardly ever see you any more. I've got bags under my eyes. There are some gray hairs. I'm awake at 7 a.m. every single day.

I'm sorry that things haven't worked out. You see, we have this baby named Mad Dog. He's spectacular in almost every way. My heart is so full of love for him that I think I'm going to need an angioplasty just to scrape it all out some day. He's smart, fun, kind, and really cute.

Something happens to him when the sun goes down. An evil demon enters his body. This demon doesn't like you, sleep, very much. You make him very angry. Mad Dog rages through the night. He coughs and shrieks. He gets sweaty and bangs his little fists on the rail of his crib. He throws every toy, pacifier, stuffed animal, or blanket out his crib. Nothing will soothe his primal rage except to join his parents in bed.

We tried the no-cry sleep solution, the plenty of cry sleep solution, and wishful thinking. We consulted the Oracle at Delphi, our pediatrician, and the people at coffee shop. Finally, after my eye bags got charged an extra $25 to fly on our vacation, it was time to get serious and rebuild our relationship.

Out came the Ferber book, aka "Cry it Out" or "Just shut the door and go to sleep, that'll teach the little brat." We actually discovered there is some serious science behind Ferberizing, and it's not just about crying it out. We helped Mad Dog to learn how to fall asleep without us in the room coddling and rocking him. That way, when he wakes up in the middle of the night, he'll know what to do.

It was miraculous. On the second day, Mikey fell asleep within 5 minutes. He stayed asleep the whole night. Oh, sleep, I was so relieved to see you again. Last night, he slept the whole night again. I think we are back in business. Here's to making up for lost time, Sleep. I'm sorry we were ever apart.

P.S. If this celebratory blog posting jinxes us, and Michael regresses, I will be jumping off a bridge. Thank you!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

A Moment Frozen in Time

We were on vacation in scenic and hideous Gatlinburg, Tennessee. This hill billy mecca that serves the dual role as gateway to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and as a leading provider of themed miniature golf courses.

It is a time-honored tradition in these parts to put a personal stamp on your vacation, to capture these fleeting moments of travel bliss. You can find all manner of souveneirs to bring home and muck up your home. There is also a tradition of artisanal craftsman creating objects of beauty and utility with their bare hands. You have your broom makers, your wood carvers, your glass-blowers, and, best of all, your air brush t-shirt artists.

You can't mistake an airbrush t-shirt. You have the gentle lines, the ephemeral colors blending together into a harmonious hazey scene. The half-cursive script says, "Heck yeah, I'm on vacation. Pass me a Buddweiser." And, unlike the mullet, it is all party up front with nothing on the back.

An airbrush t-shirt captures the essence of the wearer.Whether you want to convey your political beliefs about medical "herb" usage, extoll the virtues of your southern heritage, or announce that you do indeed enjoy hunting the most dangerous game, deer, this is much more than a simple souveneir.

The airbrush t-shirt does not come cheaply. This is a commissioned piece of artwork from a trained expert. Hold on to your wallet because buying the plain shirt and compensating the artist for his supplies and work can exceed $25. You obviously wouldnt' want every item in your wardrobe to be an airbrush t-shirt, mainly due to the cost, but splurging every once in a while is a good idea.

That brings us back to our vacation. We were happy to commission little Mikey (known to some as Mad Dog) his very first precious, custom-made airbrush t-shirt. The shirt is spectacular, and you don't see too many like it around these parts. Most Austinites are content with their mass-produced Chinese factory apparrel. Pffft. Now, if I can just figure out how to wash the darn thing.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Everything I Need to Know I Learned from AFV

America's Funniest Videos (AFV) one of the funniest programs on television. Most people don't appreciate the nuanced layers of humors here. I will admit the Bob Saget years were an abomination, but the show now rocks. I've seen almost every episode and every clip multiple times. I've learned valuable lessons about the fragility of life, the capriciousness of fate, and the depths of stupidity. Here area  few of them:

1. Never menace a bird with pseudo-Kung Fu moves. You will end up with an angry fowl chasing you until you are out of frame.

2. Beware of monkeys. It's all fun and games until someone gets his eyeglasses stolen or shirt all stretched out by a grabbing little paw.

3. Conventional wisdom says that walking under a ladder is bad luck. Phooey, I say. Climbing a ladder seems to be a very unfortunate undertaking. From what I can gather, you want to be the guy with the video camera.

4. If you are over thirty years old and over 225 pounds, you should never attempt to ride a child's bicycle, skateboard, or pogo stick. Recapturing lost youth and having fun are good things, but so are maintaining the structural integrity of one's body and not making medical insurance claims.

5. If you are a woman of a certain age who might be a few pounds from ideal:  please do not try to jump on a trampoline, swing on a rope swing, or jump across a narrow stream.

6. To any fathers out there. Wear a cup at all times while playing catch or wiffle ball with the kids.

7. Never, ever hold an infant up above your face. If you must, please make sure that your mouth is closed, because the spitup is coming.

8. If you are water skiing, pausing to smile and wave at the camera is a one-way ticket to Davey Jones' Locker. Just focus on keeping your balance.

9. Children will destroy everything that you love and hold dear. Those fine new kitchen cabinets? Food coloring hand prints. Matching furniture set? painted over.

10. If a wild animal gets into your home. Do not remain calm. Grab a video camera and get lots of shots of the people screaming maniacally. This baby could win you $10,000

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Fear and Loathing in the Hill Country

"There she blows!-there she blows! A hump like a snow-hill! It is Moby Dick!"
— Herman Melville (Moby Dick)

A two hour journey through rolling hills west of Austin had brought us to this moment. Looming ahead, shockingly bare and pink like a giant granite bosom, was Enchanted Rock.

After two hours packed into family hauler, our crew (Shannon, Mikey, friend Maura, and her kiddos) was definitely ready to enjoy the stunning spring day by hiking and goofing off at "The Rock." Mikey was particularly ready to go, and only a steady stream of Goldfish and pretzels kept the demon baby of doom from emerging.

Then we got our first sign that this might be an ill-fated spring break day trip. It was literally a sign announcing that the park was closed for two hours. What the velcro is this?

"And the sign said anybody caught trespassing would be shot on sight
So I jumped on the fence and yelled at the house, Hey! what gives you the right
To put up a fence to keep me out or to keep mother nature in
If God was here, he'd tell you to your face, man you're some kinda sinner"

-"Signs" by Five Man Electrical Band

I'm gonna go all Earth Father Hippy Lebowski here and say that there's something really wrong when you journey hours to commune with nature at a gigantic rock, and "The Man" turns you away at the gate because of arbitrary capacity rules.

We were not happy. The situation got even worse when we returned two hours later, only to be turned away yet again. DisEnchanted Rock has earned a spot on my lifetime ban list (the first geological formation to earn this honor), and I am in favor of chopping it up to make beautiful and easy to maintain countertops.

So, what do you do when life gives you lemons? That's right, you put them aside and go looking for some good fruit. Thus began our hopefully meandering Hill Country Consolation Prize Trip of Shame. We worked our way up through Llano and visited the bustling metropolises of Burnet and Liberty Hill.

 In the end, we had a great time together. We saw ancient cabins, raging rapids, picturesque bridges, scenic lake vistas, and a family of wild bald eagles. A day of disappointment and rage against a bathysphere formation transformed into a chilled out journey of friendship and mini-destinations.

Here are some pictures of the adventure:

We are posing with super friendly bird watchers at the bald eagle nest site near Burnet, TX
This was a pretty cool bridge at Llano

Mikey and I are enjoying an extremely safe photo location

Friday, April 09, 2010

My Unambitious Bucket List

Gather ye rosebuds while ye may,
Old Time is still a-flying!
--excerpt from Robert Herrick's 17th century poem

I spend many hours plunked in front of my computer in lovely cubicle #RR3-G246. I fight with spreadsheets, get some neck pain, and maybe drink a cup of coffee or two. When I get home, I chase the Mad Dog around, do some cleaning, and cook dinner. After all this, I find it all too easy to be a lazy Jabba the Hut, sunken into the couch watching episodes of Lost or The Office.

The problem with this state of affairs is that life is short, and there's cool stuff out there that needs to be experienced. I constantly feel the tension between what is possible in my life, and what I'm actually out there living and accomplishing. How much potential am I wasting sitting on my ass? One of the cruelest cuts of all in growing older is the steady dimunation of one's potential and the inexorable cementing of who you have become. I'll never be a doctor, an astronaut, or President, and that's ok.

Allow me now to turn the wheel of the USS Emo and motor into brighter waters. Life is short. Everyone has wasted some potential and accumulated some regrets. But, it ain't over till it's over. Here we go again with the Dime Store Philosophy. Remember that Jack Nicholson movie about terminally ill old guys doing  cool stuff on their bucket list? It's actually not a bad idea!

I would like to tone down the television watching and attack my own version of the bucket list. I'm intentionally making mine pretty easy because I don't need another unachieved goal at this time, thank you very much. If I knock these out, then I'll move up to Bucket List 301: Intermediate Life Experiences (pre Req: Bucket List 101 - Elementary Adventures).

Without further ado, here they be:

1. Visit the observation deck of the University of Texas Tower. This thing was closed during my undergrad years, as a result of the bad mojo of the Tower shootings and a string of suicides. It's now open for business, and I've never been. Bucket Difficulty: 1.5 out of 10.

2. Visit the Hill Country Wineries: I've wanted to do this forever, but I've been too busy eating bon bons and wondering if the Lost smoke monster just might be a good guy. 

3. Go visit my friend Dan in California

4. Take Mikey to his first UT football game.

5. Write a book of some kind. Basically, I need to have a bunch of words on paper, and that paper should be bound in some fashion. I'll probably shoot for something as incredibly simple as a child's book for my boy. Then, I'll try something one step up from there: a sci-fi short story.

6. Visit my friends and coworkers in Slovakia, preferably on my employer's dime.

7. Become reasonably proficient in a foreign language. Spanish would be a good start. This one's been bothering me for a long time, but it ain't easy.

8. Have a daughter who will melt my heart and bring home potential suitors for me to menace.

9. Take my whole immediate family to Europe and reenact the Griswold European vacation. I kid, but a romp through Italy for some coffee, wine, pizza, and history would be fantastic.

10. Trek down to Lockhart and hit up the world famous barbeque joints. I life a short road trip away from these Food Network fixtures, and yet I've never been. Tsk. Tsk.

That's all I've got for now. Any readers have a bucket list?