Monthly Archives: January 2014

Cabin Fever

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I’m not crazy.

I don’t know how long it’s been though. I honestly can’t remember. It’s probably only been a week or so, but it feels like a George RR Martin novel.

Everybody’s sick here. The Mama, came down with some virus that’s completely sapped her energy, and Little Man got hit with a bad cold.

Speaking of cold: it’s cold. Like school canceling cold. Like 30-40 degrees below. It’s not the polar vortex, though, not anymore. Exposed skin won’t get frostbite in five minutes these days. No. It’d take more like 20 minutes. So we got that going for us.

Blarg. This calls for a list.

Lessons learned after being shut in with a sick mama, a sick toddler, outside temps that could kill you, no car, and no preschool:

-Battles about limiting screen time can wait. March is a fine month for discipline.

-Walking downstairs to get the mail can count as an outing.

-The only thing worse than having a high energy toddler laid out sick while you’re trapped inside for a week is having a high energy toddler in perfect health while you’re trapped inside with no car for a week.

-Espresso will listen. Espresso will care.

-Five hours of various versions of  “The Wheels On The Bus” is, believe it or not, preferable to five hours of play doh unboxing videos. But only just.

-There are no good or bad parents in this situation. There are only survivors. (I was going to say it’s like Auschwitz, but that would be in poor taste).

-On the plus side, if Mama and Little Man are listless, watching videos, you can get a buttload of dishes done.

-This will end. Someday, somehow, it will be 30 degrees again. Above zero, this time.

-The wheels on the bus go round and round and round and round and round and round and round and round and round and round and round and round and round and round and round and round and round and round and round and round and round and round and round…………..send help………….and donuts.

 

Disclaimer: since writing this yesterday, the temperature has shot up above zero, everybody got outside for the day, and sanity is once again restored. But you can still send donuts.

 

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I Never Thought It Would Happen To Me.

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The nocturnal subconscious is a lusty thing. While we shift and sweat under the Buzz Lightyear comforter (yours is in the wash) the unknowable Id slithers a tentacle up from its black depths to drag our dreaming selves through all the wild revels forbidden to us by reason and compassion.

In my fevered, guilty fantasies I clean the apartment.

That’s all, just clean the apartment. I’m not even naked, even. It’s exhilarating.

Fatherhood does funny things to a fella’s perspective. Those dark secret corners of the mind once reserved for Counselor Troi or Xena Warrior Princess are now occupied by a task that, five years ago, I’d aggressively avoid.

Another example: Barney the Dinosaur.

Barney waddled into the zeitgeist to shoulder Teddy Ruxpin into obscurity back in the early 90’s, round about the time I was in junior high. As such, hating on Barney was like being white in Iowa – that was just what you did.

And so, when watching videos and cartoons became an activity for my son, we tried out Sesame Street, and Mr. Rogers, and a slew of newly discovered British shows (Peppa Pig, Charlie & Lola, and Ben and Holly’s Little Kingdom – smashing, they’re all simply smashing), but Barney never crossed my mind. I never even thought of it as a show, really, more of a punch line.

But yesterday, here we found ourselves trapped inside yet again, with preschool cancelled for extreme cold (not quite a polar vortex, but still frostbite-inducing. Maybe a polar subtext?) and the Mama was laid out with a heavy cold, and damned if the Little Man and myself happen across a Barney video on youtube.

It was an hour and ten minutes long. Little Man watched the whole thing. And then wanted to watch it again.

Teenage me would defecate in furious disbelief to witness such an abomination, but thank you, Barney. I still draw the line at your empire of merchandise, but for the show, for those few hours yesterday, thank you from the coffee-soaked bottom of my sleep-deprived heart.

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A Traveler On The Foot Fist Way

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Way back in the misty Northeast Iowa of the past, when I was 8 or 9, my brothers and I witnessed the graceful fury of the Foot Fist Way. A bunch of guys from the regional empire of Jung’s Tae Kwon Do came to our town and showed us all of the acrobatic ways in which a man can ruin lumber with his bare feet.

I may sound disrespectful, but that’s just my literary voice. My older brother and I signed up that night, and trained to the level of black belts. My younger brother still trains and teaches in St Paul. And it’s largely the influence of Master Woo Jin Jung, that has shaped me into the hopeless martial arts nerd that I am today (did you know there’s a Duck Style in Kung Fu? Because I did).

Master Jung learned TKD in the Korean army, and we trained as such. There was one drill in which we paired up and punched each other in the stomach to the teacher’s count. No defending, no blocking, you just stood there and got punched in the gut.

This is actually surprisingly effective. At my peak I’m pretty sure I could have taken a baseball bat to the stomach without slowing down.

I probably still could these days, if that baseball bat were wielded by a blind child with one arm. Who was sleeping. And horrendously fat. And probably ugly too – I mean, the hypothetical little bastard’s hitting me with a bat, am I gonna make him pretty?

As you may know, in addition this labor of love you read right now, I also blog over at Cooper & Kid. My area of soliloquy is cooking and food as a father, but there’s a guy on the site named Chris Dovale who writes a blog I’m really digging about dad fitness.

He wrote a post recently called “Be Water My Friend.” It’s a quote from Bruce Lee, describing how a fighter’s style should be flexible and versatile enough to flow perfectly into the circumstances like water into a vessel. This also applies to training, how you should structure your training to fit your life as a dad, as opposed to trying to structure your life as a dad to your training. If you’re at the playground, do some chin-ups on the monkey bars, play tag for some cardio, that sort of thing.

I enthusiastically subscribe to this. Instead of doing knuckle or fingertip-pushups while an iron-hard little Korean man idly kicks my side, Little Man and myself do lots of crawl-chasing around, papa on his knuckles, Little Man on whatever he wants. Instead of doing the splits whilst aforementioned iron-hard little Korean man pushes down on my shoulders, I sneak in hurdle stretches while we play with trains. And instead of being punched in the gut repeatedly by a grown man with all the misplaced rage of an America in rural decay, I have a 35 pound toddler bounce on my stomach as I hide under blankets.

I may not be ready for competition, but if I suddenly found myself serendipitously paired with Cynthia Rothrock, and embroiled (through no fault of my own) in some sort of guns-free international gang war that might, just might reach all the way up to City Hall? Well, let’s just say this papa could dispense hard justice to his share of nameless goons. Although looking good doing it might be too much of a stretch. Whatever.

Play makes me strong.

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Quitting For The Win

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Terrain is important.

You don’t plant your bougainvilleas on the North side of the house, you don’t dig a basement in Hawaii, and you don’t attack Obi Wan if he’s got the higher ground.

A fella could get his arms chopped off is he’s not paying attention to terrain.

Sun Tzu devotes an entire chapter to terrain in The Art of War. There’s some terrain you should attack from, some terrain you should defend from, some terrain you should always try to control and some terrain you should always surrender.

This is important: sometimes, you have to surrender to win.

I’m not saying this because we caved to a tantrum. No. Not at all.

But we did totally cave to a tantrum. Totally.

You may have heard, the upper Midwest has been frozen banana cold just recently. Canada’s weather sewage, the polar vortex, came down I-35 and trapped the baby mama, the little man, and your humble, ruggedly handsome, narrator in the apartment for 2 days straight. It ended up being about as good as it could have been. But on the morning of the third day we were all pretty much done with each other.

It all went down, as these things so often do, over that home-wrecker, that domestic incendiary, the anti-discipline known as the Play Doh Fun Factory. A toy Little Man had  wanted since he knew how to want anything that wasn’t food. The subject of several hundred hours of “unboxing video” stared fixedly at over the last two years.

Do you guys know about this? “Unboxing Videos?” That this is a thing? They just take crap out of its packaging, maybe fiddle with it. It’s not a review, it’s not really a how-to demo, it’s not even some weird fetish. Really. I don’t understand humans.

But so, the Fun Factory. We’d had it for months but saved it for one of those days, say, when you couldn’t leave the house or you’d literally freeze to death in 30 minutes or less. He loved it. He adored it. He brought it to bed with him. He would reenact our giving it to him. He’d open the box, take it all out, put it all back and give running commentary the entire time.

But on that fateful morning, with temps rising to mere single digits below zero, when we had an outing with a schedule on the books. He decided he wouldn’t put it away. “Mama could do that.”

A line was drawn in the sand.

We offered to help him do it. We offered to help him more. We tried asking him why. We threatened to take it away for the rest of the day.

We were shushed. We were told to go away.

I want to stress how many freakin bones were thrown here. We were compromising like a toddler trying to stay at the zoo. And it’s not like it was gonna be summer the next day. We still had about 36 hours before wind chill was non-lethal, and preschool/grandparent schedules could be resumed. And he loved the thing. So much.

But putting things away, especially play doh in a moisture-sucking cold snap, is a foundation of our family routine.

But we had to be somewhere in 15 minutes.

And in the end, Mama did put the f***ing thing away. He held the cupboard door, though, so some compromise was reached, sorta.

It may appear that we lost this fight. We did. But all we lost was ground that was useless to us. A victory there would have cost us the only time away from the house over 74 hours, it would have removed one of the most efficient time-consumers from our “making it to bedtime” toolbox, and would have soured the little dude’s hard-earned pleasant disposition for the remainder of our weather-mandated staycation.

By giving this up, we left the house, got refreshed by new air, new people, did some running around, and made it back to a normal routine with smiles on our faces and play doh under our nails.

And, if it ever comes up again, we can fight the battle when its in the mid to high 20’s.

Sometimes, you must surrender to win.

Is it May yet?

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Don’t Be A Stranger

Well.

So.

Hi.

It’s been a while. A while it’s been. Christmas? New Years? Yup. Good, too. Yup.

Aaaaaand we’re out of things to talk about.

See, starting a blog with an apology for not blogging recently is just so…done. It’s like starting your rap with “My name is _____ and I’m here to say.” Can’t we aspire to more?

So in protest, I’ve decided to open my blog with a bit of homespun wisdom, maybe:

“A cold Minnesotan’s a lot like a slow movin cow with a goat on his back: nobody’s really that impressed and the cow only has its own decisions to blame.”

ahem.

I realized, over the 4 days sine I wrote the first part of this update that it’s been almost a month since I’ve written here. I’ve kept busy elsewhere – I’ve got a bunch of posts up on Cooper & Kid, and I did a piece for Minnesota Playlist about being overwhelmed by work and family and the holidays. It took forever to do even this, since I was overwhelmed by work and family and the holidays.

My writing muscles, I find, have gone soft. My gluteus vocabulus, once toned and firm now softly sag like warm brie or a Walmart shopper.

A debt is owed, I realize. In the next two weeks I swear by Choo Choo Bob and Play Doh that I’ll catch up on back posts and get the new year rolling.

If you’d like to learn more about being overwhelmed by work, family and the holidays, please feel free to read my whine here.

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