Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Trick or treat

Today was Halloween, and the boys had fun, most of the time. We had fun, most of the time. It was a good day, except for a couple little bumps, literally.

Wife helped throw the Halloween party for Eldest's preschool class, and it went well. He also participated in the school's parade, which was fun and a little exasperating -- he just didn't want to follow the parade route all the time, then didn't want to leave the playground after the parade was over. I think I'm coming to realize that on days like this, we should expect the kids to get a little overstimulated and not listen to us and melt down a little.

With the daylight savings time not ending for another few days, it was still light out a 6 p.m. Littlest wasn't going to last until it got dark, so we got ready to go trick or treating. Then, Littlest tumbled off the front porch. I'm not sure if he didn't see the step (he's better with steps, at least knowing he needs to scramble down if he's not confident walking down) or tripped over his costume, and I did catch him as he tumbled, but he still scraped his face a little and got a fat lip. The scrapes did kind of fit the Halloween theme, or would have if he wasn't dressed up as a lion. After crying for a little while, he shook it off and we were ready to go, but not until after a picture -- that Eldest didn't want to sit for. The first trick-or-treaters came by, and we declared to them we were dressed as agitated parents.

Eldest was out of sync the first few houses and still wasn't listening to us, but then he attached himself to some random kids and went house to house with them while Wife followed. I took Littlest, and he was adorable, he'd get a piece of candy and not put it in the basket I was holding, sometimes instead putting it in the next house's candy bowl. We only took him on our block, while Eldest caught up with some of our neighbors and the group hit a few other blocks in the neighborhood.

Eldest made out like a bandit. We have a lot of chocolate, too much even for me. He was saying thank you on his own about half the time, the other half I had to remind him, and he'd usually say it on his way back. But other than that, all the other issues of him disappeared, he had fun with his friends, wasn't too scared (except for a barking chihuhua that had to be five pound lighter than one of our cats, he ignored the mechanical ghost and fixated on the yipping), and didn't put up a fight when he wanted to go home. He trick-or-treated, he tired out, came home, had a snack, fell asleep. All according to plan.

Boo. Halloween with overstimulated children wasn't so scary after all.

The lost Halloween

With Halloween upon us, I was having a conversation with a co-worker on trick-or-treating as a kid and started to reminisce the last year I did go around the neighborhood and the first year I didn't.

Here's what the last trick-or-treating venture was like -- I went with a couple friends on a journey for a house where an owner of a taffy apple company supposedly lived. Though it wasn't too far (and we never got taffy apples), it was out of the way enough that walking home, I trick-or-treated more houses than a 10-year-old should. I was dressed as a vampire that Halloween. When I got home, I went with some of my other, older friends to a high school football game (thinking back, was that a playoff game for the high school I'd eventually attend?), got my hand on a field goal kick after it went through the uprights, and had one friend take by force a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup (crunchy) after I waffled on giving it to him. That was 1980.

Here's what the first year I didn't trick-or-treat was like -- I guess I outgrew dressing up, though the next year I would be costumed as a wizard though I didn't hit the neighborhood. It was the year of the big Tylenol cyanide scare in Chicago, so there wasn't much trick-or-treating anyway. I stayed home that Sunday and gave out candy to just a few trick-or-treaters, and remembered hearing "Who Can It Be Now?" on the radio that afternoon in my living room while manning the candy (I guess I wasn't watching football, wait it was the strike year!). That was ... 1982?

Yes, there's a whole Halloween in there I don't remember. Did I not dress up in 1981 and just forgot I hadn't? Or did I and just have forgotten any memory of the costume or if I trick-or-treated? And it's not like that I blocked out that fall from my memory, either -- I would get an Atari for my birthday a week later, and that I remember vividly (but that's for another post). So what did I do that year? It's bugging me, because usually my memory for things like this unusually lucid, yet not for Halloween 1981.

I do have one thought on that year -- maybe I dressed up as an amnesia victim and took the part too literally.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Horsies, castles and spaceships

Eldest is really into games right now, and we decided to preliminarily teach him chess. I don't expect him to get it overnight, though, if I may brag, I was playing chess at 4. For now, I'd love him to know what the pieces are, where they initially go, and how they move. He's apt to learning, but he also wants to play his own way. That means his knight (he's calling it a horse, though he's not calling a rook a castle yet) takes every of his opponent's pieces on the board and moves wherever it wants. It makes sense, I suppose, to a 3-year-old, a horse should be able to move everywhere.

The other cute thing -- when he first saw the bishop, he thought it looked like a rocket and flew it around the board. And when he heard us call it a bishop, it just made sense that we weren't calling it a bishop, but a spaceship. Does the multi-level chessboards on "Star Trek" have spaceships? Just wondering.

Anyway, he's having fun, and eventually, he'll learn. In the meantime, my king gladly can be checkmated by a spaceship.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Take a hike

I wrote about our Moab trip on my last post, and it's already been almost a week since we got back. Funny thing about vacations, even short ones, is how the few days after you return go so quickly as you try to get back into your routine.

Anyway, it was a good trip, especially the couple hikes we took at Arches National Park. One was a longer hike (but not too long), with Eldest walking and Littlest in the backpack. Eldest had a blast, especially looking for rock cairns that mark the trail (he'd try to add rocks to the cairns). The second hike was shorter, to Sand Dune Arch, a small shady arch in a sand dune (hence the clever name). Both boys walked this and both had so much fun, especially Littlest.

We've done hikes with both boys before, but this just seemed different, where before it seemed we brought the boys along, this time we hiked as a family. The first family hikes of many.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Value meal

We just got back from a three-day trip to Moab, Utah. Moab is a little desert town near a couple national parks, and it's one of our favorite places in the state. It's the first time we took both boys down there, and aside from a little car trouble, it was a fun trip. But perhaps the best part for me didn't involve any hiking or scenery, or even just getting away. No, the best part happened at Wendy's on the drive back.

It's about a 3 1/2-hour drive from Moab back to SLC, and we were planning to push through without stopping, but the boys were getting crabby after a busy trip, so we stopped at a Wendy's about halfway home. For those of you without kids, going to a restaurant with two kids under 4 is an adventure, putting it mildly. But amazingly, this turned out to be the most non-eventful meal out we've had with the boys yet. Note I didn't say quiet, we don't expect that, but it was just ... fun. Maybe our expectations were lower because it was just fast food or because it was a spur-of-the-moment decision to stay, yet we had fun. While Wife was ordering food, Eldest kept me at bay so he could "pick out the perfect table." Once we found one, we sat down, the boys ate and weren't crabby, and we got the break we needed before finishing our trek home.

At one point of the meal, I needed to get another spoon (these urgencies happen with kids), and as I was walking back to the table, there was my family, eating dinner and enjoying themselves. I had to smile, because for those few seconds as I walked back, I realized, this is my family, and that perhaps I was the luckiest person in the world. That was the best part of the trip. And the best part of the best part is I can experience that every day, I just have to remind myself to recognize it among the mundane moments of life as well as the memorable ones.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Sleep deprivation

Eldest has been resisting sleeping in his own bed the last few days. On nights I work, Wife lets him fall asleep in our bed, then I transfer him when I get home, and he knows it's just for that night. But lately, he's been trying to fall asleep, even asking to sleep, in our bed. And he's becoming devious, before bed, he'll say he's cold and insist he get under our covers, knowing he'll fall asleep there and thinking I won't then move him. Tonight he insisted he wasn't sleepy so he wouldn't have to go to his own bed (I moved him and read him half a book before he zonked). We get these spurts once in a while, where he resists his own room, and sometimes we give in and let him stay with us, though that usually relegates me to his room, where I never sleep well.

I know there is a security for a child to crawl into bed with his parents. Stormy nights, really frigid evenings and bad dreams will do it. Eldest sometimes wants the light on while he falls asleep, too. I want him to feel secure, but I also remember how scary that dark room, all by yourself, can be.

Monday, October 8, 2007

This magic moment

Four years ago, when Wife was very pregnant with Eldest, we were sitting in her OB/GYN's office waiting for her appointment, and I was perusing Parents magazine. It was the October issue, featuring kids in Halloween costumes, kids dressed for fall, school advice as well as all the usual stuff you'd find in a parenting magazine. There were several "Wow, I'm having a kid" moments throughout the pregnancy, but this is one of the few that really stands out.

I'm reading the magazine, and I realize, this will be my child dressing up for Halloween someday. It will be my child dressing warm for a crisp fall day, one in which I walk him to school. And through all of the imaginings of what his life would be like, this for some reason resonated.

Well, part of that came true today, as I walked Eldest, decked out in fall clothes to school on a crisp October morning. It wasn't quite as overcast as I'd imagined, and the leaves aren't quite falling here in Utah yet, and it was just taking him to preschool, but the whole experience did pack a minor emotional wallop.

Combine that with something I felt Sunday -- dropping him off at CCD, in the main hall of the school (his preschool is in a newer part of the building, the effect isn't the same) that just smelled like grade school, my old Catholic grade school, that mix of gentle cleaning agents, Elmer's glue and textbooks -- and I'm even more amazed I have kids, and that they are growing up, and all the things I wondered about are happening or will indeed happen. It's incredible, sad, astounding and wonderful at the same time. At least it was the past two days.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

The classic fall

The Cubs are back in the playoffs, and once again, they are destined to break my heart, as well as all millions of other suffering fans.

I'm not sure what's worse, to have the Cubs be bad all the time or to occasionally tease us with these trips to the playoffs. This is the fifth season in my lifetime they have been in the postseason, and I'm almost positive there will not be a World Series in their immediate future.

Through the years of heartbreak, there's always been a catalyst, something that turned destiny into resignation. The black cat, Leon Durham's glove, Les Lancaster forgetting the pitch count, Brant Brown almost blowing the Cubs' chance to get into the playoffs in 1998, or Steve Bartman, it's always something. And that something isn't necessarily the reason the Cubs lose, but just the ominous sign of imminent doom -- Bartman didn't lose that game in 2003, but as soon as it happened, I looked at Wife and said "That's it, they are going to lose this game and Game 7."

I'm not sure if there will be a catalyst this year. The Cubs are already down 1-0 after losing to the Diamondbacks on Wednesday night. Well, there's always my kids' lifetimes.