Saturday, June 30, 2007

The Heat of the Moment

I've said before how I rarely get a whole weekend off. Well, this weekend is one of those rare occasions, so what did we do today? Stayed inside and straightened the house! Eldest is still under the weather, though his fever is down under 100 but his throat still hurts a little (and he didn't like the throat spray, saying it was "spicy" -- I admit it, I got it not at a pharmacy but a Thai restaurant). It was also hot today, really hot, around 100. It's supposed to be like this for a few days, too. Anyway, it was the perfect combination for an inside day. Lori got really focused on some minor projects, I got all the laundry put away and played video games with Eldest. The temperature finally dropped, and I'm typing this post outside. After wrapping this up, I'm going to water the lawn and look forward to another blistering day, more likely out and about, depending how Eldest feels and how much shade we can find.

Fever pitch

We were going to go to the pool Friday morning. We had made plans with the mom of a girl from Eldest's pre-preschool class (a 3-year-old girl, by the way, who has told her mom she was going to marry Eldest! That's my boy!) to meet their family late morning. Eldest was excited to go, as usual, and was in a good mood. I started getting Littlest ready, and by the time I got his trunks on and applied sunblock, Eldest was out of commission, almost asleep, running a fever.

The amazing thing was that not 5 minutes earlier, Eldest looked fine. It hit that quick. The evening before, he complained his mouth hurt, but he was only pointing at his mouth, what I realized this morning was that it was his throat that hurt. I now was suspecting strep after he pointed at his mouth again and realized he hadn't eaten much over the last 18 hours. I checked his temperature -- 103 on the first reading. That's warm. After some Tylenol, it did drop to about 100-101, but he still wasn't in a good mood, particularly after a little while later, when he saw his swim trunks and realized he wasn't going swimming.

But, Eldest got a good nap, as did Littlest, and was in a better mood in the afternoon. Wife took him to the doctor, where he was given a quick strep test that came back NEGATIVE. So, unless the full test comes back positive (the doctor said there is a 10 percent chance the quick test doesn't detect strep right away), we don't know what Eldest has. He was in a mostly good mood the rest of the night, after I went to work -- he and Wife watched movies, even called me because he was wondering where I was at, until he fell asleep. He woke up when I got home and wanted me to read him a couple books.

I hope he's feeling better Saturday. Poor little dude.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

My little runaway

Eldest got me really pissed today, at Wild Oats of all places (of course, it was a totally natural anger, with no hydrogenated oils). Every other Wednesday is my big shopping day, and aside from Wal-Mart and Costco, today I hit Wild Oats with both boys. There is a little play area which we went to first, when Eldest says he needs to go pee-pee. I say fine, and try putting Littlest into the cart, then notice the straps to keep him in there are broken. We walk back to get a new cart, I'm trying to get Littlest in, when, for whatever reason I'm not sure, Eldest takes off through produce.

I'm not sure where he was intending to go -- I don't think it was the play area again. I saw him running but couldn't keep up, with the cart and other shoppers in the way, but I tried a different aisle to cut him off ... except he never emerged where I thought he was going to. Now I'm starting to get a little nervous. After about a minute, we found each other, he was wondering where I was (maybe why I didn't keep up) as well.

I picked him up to explain why I was mad. I picked him up with such angry vigor that I think I bumped his head into my noise. After a few seconds of lecturing, I feel a trickle of blood drip down my nostril. Yes, I was so mad at my son that I gave myself a bloody nose. I'm now working my way through produce toward the deli area so I can get some napkins to stop the blood flow, still angrily lecturing Eldest and trying not to bleed on the organic vegetables.

Took Eldest to the bathroom finally, where he decided he didn't have to go. Either I scared him into not peeing or he never had to go in the first place (which I don't mind happening -- it might just be him asserting his independence that's come with semi-toilet training). We resumed shopping, but I was still so worked up that I was forgetting what I was buying. I gave him one final lecture out the door which I think he took to heart, because we went to Barnes & Noble after to play with the Thomas the Tank Engine trains in the kids department, and he was almost perfect, listening to everything I asked him to do, sharing with other kids, and not whining when we left.

I understand it's normal for kids to sometimes do these maddening things for no reason at all. I believe it's normal too for dads to then get occasionally over-pissed when that happens, too. Hopefully, next time won't involve temporarily losing a child or causing myself to bleed.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

No Sleep 'til Brooklyn

I have a fun sleep pattern.

A couple nights a week, I work until midnight, come home, need at least an hour to unwind, then finally get to sleep. Some mornings I sleep later, some mornings I wake up early and try to sneak a nap during the day.

The other nights of the week, I'm home. Theoretically, it should be easy for me to get to bed early, get eight hours of sleep, be refreshed the next morning and the next day.

Not quite. I still find it difficult to go to sleep before 11 on my nights off. This was the case before I went part-time -- I couldn't get off the late-night routine. I thought it would be easier to flip it the other way, but after almost six months, that hasn't happened.

There are some mitigating factors -- I do sometimes get sucked into whatever I was doing before 10:30 p.m. Like tonight -- I took the first season of "Murder One" out of the library and watched a couple episodes tonight. At least I try multitasking, like updating this blog, for example, but I wonder if I'm not winding down by this. It being summer doesn't help, it's still non-dark after 9 p.m.

It's not so bad -- I am getting to bed before midnight most nights, and that's better than before. Still gunning for 11 p.m.

Oh, "Murder One" was one great show.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

How Swede it is

Sundays are our one whole weekend day off together, so we try to not just lugs. We didn't make it to the pool today, or got out into the summer heat that much, but we did have an adventurous few hours at ... IKEA!

I slept late this morning, then Littlest took an uncharacteristic 2-hour nap. As a result, the four of us didn't get out until about 2. We had been going to the pool every Sunday, but skipped it in favor of the IKEA trip. This store just opened last month, and we hadn't made it there yet despite Wife's love of the store.

It was worth the trip.

We didn't buy much, just some hooks and an inexpensive kids play tent for the boys. But just the spectacle of the store (I hadn't been to one in years) was something to behold, even Eldest liked it. We got something to eat at the cafe (Swedish meatballs for the parents, mac and cheese for the kids that Littlest was devouring), looked at bunk beds (no rush, just for the future), and pondered future design decisions for our house. Before we knew it, we spent over two hours there.

Yes, it wasn't the most eventful day, but it was a good day nonetheless.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Down at the Sunset Grill

(Transcribed from a notebook, I hope I can read my writing :)

A year ago on the first day of summer, I drove to a park near our house that had a clear view of the sunset on the longest day of the year. I sat and wrote, keeping an eye on the setting sun. I wrote about how fickle summer can be for adults. For kids, the first day of summer, the actual summer solstice (not the last day of school) means little, because there still are several weeks before the realization actually hits that summer will end (about Aug. 7 is a good realization point). But for adults, at least for me, the first day of summer means you made it to the top of the mountain -- and it's all downhill from here. The days will get shorter, the weather eventually cooler, that perseverance to make it through all those dreary months paid off, only to face it all again. Seasonally, summer really gets going on the solstice, but also reminds us it will end. I don't know if other people feel this too -- maybe is hits them after the Fourth of July (in Milwaukee, it's the last day of Summerfest that felt like summer ended, and that's usually just after July 4) -- but for me, the first day of summer has become bittersweet.

(At this point when I was writing longhand, the sun had set. Just before it did, there was a little cloud intruding in front of it, so little I could only see it against the bright sun with my sunglasses on. That sun/cloud interaction was very cool and reminded me of the Myagi family crest from "The Karate Kid.")

I am back on that small hillside in Donner Park (yes, those Donners), watching the sun set on the longest day of the year again. So much has changed in that year -- my career and what I perceived as important, Eldest growing up, Littlest getting through his first year of life. So much has stayed the same -- my dreams, my passions, the love I feel for my family.

The sun set into the Great Salt Lake. At this time of year, it sets behind Antelope Island, a mountain range in the lake, meaning the true sunset, when it dips below the horizon, is not visible from my vantage point. I'm listening to "Sister Golden Hair" by America, a song that always reminds me of summer dusks. I must have heard it one night as a kid -- it's from 1975, I was 4; there are actually quite a few songs I can remember specifically (and which take me back) from that summer. The opening guitar riff is just mellow enough that it just sounds like ... a summer sunset. I doubt that's what America had in mind, but that's what I hear.

My kids are going to remember things like that someday. I have so many happy memories from my own childhood, and not just the big events, but little things, moments remembered, songs recalled, that became permanently etched. The boys will discover their own fond recollections. I can't force these memories, but I can make damn well sure there are enough opportunities, enough happy times, that they do find them on their own.

The sun set around halfway up Antelope Island. Tomorrow, it will starting making its way south again, for six months, until it's smack dab in the mountains due west. Then it will inch its way back north (insert Circle of Life reference here). Most people reflect like this on Jan. 1. I do it on the summer solstice -- I wonder what the next year will bring, how the boys will grow, where I, and my family will be in our lives. And I wonder what I will write about on this hillside in 2008, listening to that song, watching the sun set on the longest day of the year.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Stuffy and gruffy

I hate being inside on summer afternoons, but alas, that's what the boys and I have mostly done for two days now. I caught either a weird cold or a sinus infection, and though it's not so bad, it's knocked me out enough (the cold medication isn't helping my energy level) that it hasn't been the two most productive days. I'm not totally out of it though, we did get out for a drive up a canyon with the intention of going for a little walk (the boys fell asleep before we could get them out of the car, however), then grilled some burgers when we got home. And I am outside tonight typing this -- hurray for extension cords (the battery on this laptop is barely working) -- and I'm going to water the lawn after.

These ho-hum summer days drive me bananas, because there are only so many summer days per year, but these just-annoying-enough-to-alter-your-day-but-otherwise-not-too-bad colds piss me off as well. I'm left with not quite enough energy to chase the boys around, but too much to be a total dud. I'll probably ditch the Chlor-Trimeton tomorrow and try working out. Hopefully, it will be a more awake day.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Admiral Halsey notified me

What's the point of a stay-at-home-dad's blog if not to post the occasional cute story of his kids?

Let me explain my Saturday first. Usually, I don't get Saturdays off; rarely, I get a whole weekend. This weekend is the exception, and over Father's Day, too. We accompanied Eldest to one of his friend's birthday party in the afternoon, and he had a lot of fun (firefighters from the local fire department came to the party, let the kids explore the truck a little, then turned on a hose for them). We came back home and tried to relax, but discovered we had two crabby kids who needed naps. We decided to drive out to this burger/ice cream place about 45 minutes away that had a train theme. Thankfully, both boys fell asleep on the way. After a nice though slightly chaotic dinner (Eldest was fascinated by the trains, of course; Littlest ate almost a whole grilled cheese), we headed out of the mountains back home.

Now, Eldest didn't want to go and threw a little fit, so to try to appease him a little, I put on "Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey" by Paul McCartney. For those of you who don't know the song, it's a classic early-'70s McCartney song that's two distinct songs melded together (one of his trademarks as a solo artist). And it's also was playing the first time I ever heard Eldest spontaneously laugh with no effort from us. He was about 4 months old, and I was driving him around when it came on the radio, and when it got to the really upbeat part later in the song, he just started laughing.

More recently, he heard it and I repeated the line "Butter Pie" and he repeated it himself, complete with a faux toddler English accent. This has been going on for a few weeks, so I found it on my iPod (which I brought along and hooked into the car radio) thinking it would cheer him up. It did, as we kept saying "Butter Pie". So the song ends, the next one comes on, and we hear Eldest singing something from the back seat. We turn the radio down, and to our surprise, he's singing another part of the song, the chorus. It was so cute to hear "Hands across the water, water, hands across the sky" from a 3-year-old, for five minutes.

It was nice to get out on a warm summer evening as a family, especially this weekend. It will happen many times more, I'm sure, but I'll never forget that ride back.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Dive dive dive

Two milestones from the offspring today. First, Littlest took three steps this morning. He has been standing, crouching from a standing position (without sitting down), doing this bear walk that looks more difficult than actual walking, but no steps beyond one falling forward. But today, I stood him up, tried to get him to walk to me, and before he realized what he was doing (he was a little crabby at the time), he took a few steps. Even Eldest noticed it and exclaimed "He's walking!" Littlest took two steps later on. Just a matter of time before he gets it down pat, then he starts running, then my life gets more difficult. Make no mistake, I can't wait for him to walk, it's just the aftermath that is sometimes overrated.

Second milestone: Eldest jumped off the diving board at the pool. Just a low dive, Wife was waiting in the water to guide him to the side (not to catch him, either -- just to make sure he remembered he could swim over to the side), and it was more walking off the board than diving, but still, he went off the diving board. And not just once -- EIGHT TIMES. The little boy does not have a lot of fear, though he did get a little freaked out by a friendly lost dog meandering outside the JCC (Jewish Community Center, like a YMCA, yes, we're Catholic, we're in the most Mormon place in the world and we belong to a Jewish Community Center). So he has a little fear, but so much determination to have fun.

Monday, June 11, 2007

This place is a dump

Note: Contains fecal issues that some non-parents may find unsettling. Read at your own risk.

We are on our last push to get Eldest potty-trained. He's come a long way, going pee in the toilet without us even prompting him and not going in his underpants that we let him wear sometimes, when we know there isn't a big poop coming (and even in his Pull-Up diaper, he'll use the toilet too). We're proud of him and what he's accomplished -- he's even starting to pee when he wakes up in the morning. Today, however, the poop hit the fan.

He's been reluctant to sit on the potty and go poop. We ask him if he has to go, and he says he doesn't. We ask him if he wants to try, and he says very loudly "No, I don't have to go poop!" Even the sticker bribery doesn't work on this end (no pun intended) -- he has a sticker board that we've told him if he fills up, we'll by him a big toy (the thinking being, if he fills it up, he's potty-trained completely and deserves the reward, plus, what we'll save on diapers for a month will pay for the toy). He poops in the potty, 5 stickers. He's still reluctant.

Today I was very proud, he made it through his pre-preschool with big boy underpants, two hours, no accidents. We got home, I asked him if he had to go potty, got the same angry reaction, that he didn't have to go. I told him we'd have to put a diaper on him then. This wasn't just as a reminder to try to be a big boy, but also because I knew it was the time of day when another big poop was coming. So I go into the kitchen, try to finish my lunch and make it to the next commercial during a "Law and Order" rerun. Eldest walks in and says he pooped in his pants.

I know I'm not supposed to get angry during this process, there are going to be accidents. And it was mildly my fault that I didn't change him as soon as I said I would. Yet I was still annoyed that a smart 3-year-old either didn't realize he had to poop five minutes before he did, or that he just didn't want to even if he knew it was coming. The mess was enormous, I actually took the underpants outside and tried washing them off with a hose before I applied stain stick.

It gets better -- we had a repeat performance about 6 hours later. Eldest normally doesn't poop thrice in a day, I guess it was crappy karma (Littlest had an escaping poop this morning that was messy, too). At least Eldest is realizing the moment after it happens and telling us, rather than sitting in his own poop for minutes (which he'll do in his diaper). I want to recite the Alcoholics Anonymous serenity prayer every time this happens, knowing he'll eventually he'll figure it out (he better, they won't let him into real preschool in August with diapers). We read both his potty books tonight and agreed to give it a try tomorrow. I'm hoping he earns the five stickers.

Really, really hoping. For poop's sake.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Brrr, it's cold in here

Wednesday was frosty for June 6 in Utah. How chilly? Low 50s, rained all day, like Good Friday in the Midwest. So we were inside most of the day, and after getting outside every day as part of the warm-weather routine, being cooped up wasn't fun. Tried to getting some cleaning done, and though to a certain extent I was able to, it wasn't easy when the boys wanted to play when I wanted to work. I'm sure I wasn't the only parent going stir crazy today.

Thursday should be interesting, as the weather will be the same and there is nothing planned (the boys' swim lesson was canceled in advance of the sucky weather. We'll definitely get out, maybe the dinosaur museum I didn't want to venture to today. If the weather stays bad into Friday, we already have a children's museum play date set.

When the temp here gets over 100 later in the summer, somebody tell me why I didn't like today.

Carry a tune

I had this idea a couple days ago to write about my favorite summer songs. I don't mean songs about summer, necessarily, but songs that were big hits in summers past. Having been a Top 40 geek through the '80s, and having so many songs able to transport me back to a specific time of my life, coming up with this list should have been easy, but it was a little trickier than I anticipated. Many songs that do take me back aren't necessarily my absolute favorites -- "Every Breath You Take" by The Police was a monster hit in the summer of 1983, does remind me of that time, yet, I've never really liked the song.

So I had been contemplating my favorite summer songs when I turn VH1 Classic and see ... the top summer songs of all-time. Hosted by original MTV veejay Mark Goodman (who by the way is looking way old, though not quite Kurt Loder old yet), it was purely the best summer-themed songs, including "Vacation", "Boys of Summer" and "Summer of '69". Again, this is just my favorite songs that were big hits from Chicago summers of the 1980s.

1980: "Against the Wind" by Bob Seger I already blogged about why I like this song so much, so I won't rehash. RUNNERS-UP: "It's Still Rock 'n' Roll to Me" by Billy Joel; "Train in Vain" by The Clash; "Steal Away" by Robbie Dupree (yes, it's cheesy soft rock, sue me).

1981: "Hold on Loosely" by .38 Special My first conflict on this list, there are many great songs from this summer. RUNNERS-UP: "The Waiting" by Tom Petty; "For You" by Manfred Mann; "You Better You Bet" by The Who.

1982: "Only the Lonely" by The Motels Not the most upbeat hit of this summer, but not so mellow to descend into soft rock. A simple, thoughtful song. RUNNERS-UP: "867-5309" by Tommy Tutone; "Eye of the Tiger" by Survivor, "Heat of the Moment" by Asia (insert "40-Year-Old Virgin" reference here).

1983: "Electric Avenue" by Eddy Grant Maybe it wasn't as cool as I first thought it was, but still a favorite. RUNNERS-UP: "Safety Dance" by Men Without Hats; "Sweet Dreams Are Made of This" by The Eurythmics.

1984: "Panama" by Van Halen My general favorite song is "My Everchanging Moods" by The Style Council and is from this summer, but I don't quite connect it with this summer, so I'm not listing it. "Panama" just rocks. RUNNERS-UP: "Round and Round" by RATT; "When Doves Cry" by Prince; "Dance Hall Days" by Wang Chung.

1985: "Invincible" by Pat Benatar Good song from a bad, bad movie ("The Legend of Billy Jean"). RUNNERS-UP: "Glory Days" by Bruce Springsteen; "People Are People" by Depeche Mode.

1986: "Rumbleseat" by John Mellencamp This was the toughest summer to come up with a favorite, not because of too many choices, but a lack thereof. That said, one of my top five Mellencamp songs. RUNNER-UP: "Sledgehammer" by Peter Gabriel.

1987: "Don't Mean Nothing" by Richard Marx Remember the video more than the song. RUNNERS-UP: "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" by U2; "Seven Wonders" by Fleetwood Mac.

1988: "The Flame" by Cheap Trick Their comeback ballad might be a little weird for Cheap Trick, but it's a good song nonetheless. RUNNERS-UP: "Sweet Child O' Mine" by Guns 'n' Roses; "Pour Some Sugar on Me" by Def Leppard.

1989: "Free Falling" by Tom Petty The 1980s were running out of steam as far as good Top 40 went, and I admittedly wasn't listening to Top 40 as much. Probably the best lyrics of the year. RUNNERS-UP: "Every Little Step" by Bobby Brown; "Buffalo Stance" by Neneh Cherry.

There's the list. After typing it out, well, it's not as earth-shattering a list as I'd had hoped. Maybe I'm forgetting some songs, or maybe as the decade went along, I wasn't connecting as much to what was on the radio (which gradually got more specialized). Oh well, it was still fun to write.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Agent 86

I have rejoiced how my life is getting back to normal (at least for for me in SAHD mode) starting this week, with five consecutive days off. I did that math and figured from the time I woke up this morning to when I go back to work will span 126 hours. Take out 40 for the estimated time I will sleep, and it comes out to 86 waking hours this week. I want to make the most of those 86 hours, meaning better eating, little napping (for me, not the boys), getting more things done around the house, less random TV watching, and simply enjoying the new summer. And so far, so good. Today, we went for a nice walk, took the boys to the pool, got a little stuff done around the house and grilled some burgers. Got to sit on the porch in the evening, listen to my iPod and peruse the Baseball Encyclopedia. It was a good Sunday. Seventy-four hours to go.

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Seems like yesterday, but it was long ago

One of my favorite songs is Bob Seger's "Against the Wind." Being somewhat overly nostalgic, it's always resonated with me, even when I was a teenager. In 1984, we were on a weekend trip at a resort in Wisconsin (a longer story for another post), and I was incredibly bored and listened to the only tape I brought for my Walkman over and over, just songs taped off the radio. One of the songs was "Against the Wind" and somehow, only at 13, I recognized the reflection the lyrics invoke, of being young and taking life head on, growing up in a blink of an eye and being wiser yet a little sad. Of course, just about every Bog Seger song is about that same theme ("Beautiful Loser," "Like a Rock", "Night Moves", "Roll Me Away," you can even make a case for "Old Time Rock 'n' Roll"), but this one always stuck with me.

Another reason I like "Against the Wind" so much — the line: "Those drifter days are past me now, I got so much more to think about, deadlines and commitments, what to leave in, what to leave out" — which is essentially as a newspaper journalist, a copy editor no less, was what I was living and still do. More in a literal sense than the metaphorical sense Seger was driving at, but still, it does hit home a little. Also, it's a summer song (it was a single in 1980), which always brings back the nostalgia a little stronger.

Anyway, a mildly scary thought occurred to me several weeks back — I am older than Bob Seger when he wrote that song. Granted, 27 years ago, mid-30s was older than it is today, but the sense of just being tired is the same, of looking a little bit of peace, at least for me (partly because those deadlines and commitments), though more so before I made the switch to part-time. Seger found that peace, at least I hope he did — and I just want to preface this that I liked this song before I found this coincidence out — he became a stay-at-home dad in the 1990s after he had more kids, taking a long break from touring and recording.