Archive for December, 2010

A Warm Spot in a Cold Season

Children whose families celebrate Christmas are taught that it is a special time of year, and so it is – but it doesn’t just happen. It’s a time of year when the weather has turned, and people might be expected to slow down and show a certain reluctance to leave the warmth and comfort of home. Instead, there is a bustle of activity as people go about creating the Christmas spirit.

Santa’s ear has been whispered into by wide-eyed tots. Hints have been not so subtly dropped. Pleas made. Lists written. Hopes raised. Names chosen.

Shopping, shopping, and more shopping. Budgets have been strained. Parking spaces have been found, eventually. Lines endured. Massage chairs have been tested – not to buy, just for a lark. Harried store clerks, forced to listen to the same 12 carols over and over again, have taken the time to answer questions. Items have been picked up, put down, and later picked up again. Crowds have served as impromptu obstacle courses. Bags have been lugged. Small, robotic Santa Clauses have done the booty dance.

Office holiday parties have been dutifully attended. Sweaters, both ugly and scratchy, have been donned. Bosses have been told what people really think. Co-workers have flirted. Secret Santas have been revealed. That same guy in accounting has once again picked the best Yankee swap number (He always brings socks as a gift).

Parents introduced their children to the holiday stories that brightened Christmases long long ago. Rudolph was cuuuuuuuute. Ebenezer was enlightened. Frosty celebrated a birthday. Ralphie shot his eye out. Linus explained the true meaning of Christmas. The Grinch thought better of it and carved the roast beast. The Burgermeister has Meisterburgered. Heat Miser and Snow Miser have been too much. Bumbles bounced.

Some trees have been tied to cars while others were taken out of boxes. Strings of lights have been untangled. Some lights winked, while others steadily gazed. One has gone out and they all have gone out. Ornaments have been knocked off of branches by wayward tails. Cats have hidden in the branches. Special ornaments have reminded us of times gone by. Stars have been affixed. Color wheels, for those into that sort of thing, turned.

Lawn Santas waved at traffic. Illuminated reindeer rhythmically dipped their heads to crop at the snow. Colorful snowmen inflated. Glowing plastic icicles draped from gutters. Neighbors who went overboard were gratified when cars slowed to admire the effort.

Gifts have been wrapped. The tape has gone missing. Empty paper rolls have been used by children intent on fencing. Paper cuts have stung. Bare spots on gifts desperately covered with different colored paper.

Soldiers have been desperately and achingly missed. We have prayed for them to come home. It will be a blue Christmas without them.

Old grudges have been set aside. Families have reunited. Memories shared. Hugs given and received. Carols hummed. Mistletoe used as an excuse for kissing. People who don’t usually give have given. Lonely people have been visited. The phone picked up and that long-distance call made. People have been reminded that there is love in the world.

Yes, the Christmas season is quite a thing – a warm spot in a cold time of year when people go out of their way to make things special.

Merry Christmas.

The Day to Day Grind Tim 31 Dec 2010 1 Comment

From the Parenting Front

Some random thoughts and occurrences:

The other day, I was sitting on the couch with my baby boy asleep on my shoulder. He was snoring, just a little, and had snuggled in with his arm around my neck. It was a good feeling – in fact, I was thinking that it would be impossible for me to love anyone or anything any more than I love my little Bronco. It was sweet enough to make my teeth hurt. Then I remembered a story that has become legend in my family:

One Saturday, many years back, my parents got a babysitter and decided that they needed some adult conversation – and maybe a game or two of cards – so they went to visit my father’s parents. When my parents walked in the door, my grandfather met them at the door. He looked behind them, then turned to my father and asked, “Where are the kids? You came without the kids? Why would you come without the kids?”

I guess grandkids throw a fly in the whole, “love your kid more than anything” ointment…

…It’s a good thing that I love my boy so much, because he is growing out of his clothes at an astonishing rate. At his last doctor’s appointment, he checked in at 99th percentile for length and 96th percentile for weight. We’re growing tired of washing clothes that he has worn just once but now do not fit, so I’m thinking of inventing a “onesie” dispenser (I’m envisioning something like a paper towel dispenser) for the wall next to the boy’s changing table. At least we could just pull down the next outfit instead of rummaging around through his bureau for clothes that no longer fit. I’m thinking maybe we could sell recyclable, single-use onesies in rolls, like trash bags – either all as one size, or progressively larger as the roll goes on. Onesies at bulk rates! This would make millions, I tell you…

…Another reason we need an incredible number of baby clothes is that the boy requires a number of costume changes throughout the day. Some of these are due to his habit of spitting up at least a third of whatever he has consumed, but the other cause is a bit fouler.

He has a little saucer-type contraption with a seat that allows him to spin 360 degrees to access the different toys that are attached to the saucer. He loves the saucer and it is one of the few things that will keep him occupied and happy for large chunks of time without direct parental involvement. The problem is that the saucer seems to send messages directly to Bronco’s bowels – messages to the effect of “Get Moving!” The resulting movement then shoots up the only available path and onto the back of his shirt.

The key to preventing this is to watch the boy very carefully – which takes away from the freedom granted by the saucer – and to snatch him up and off to the changing table as soon as he looks like he’s concentrating on something…

… In addition to growing at an exponential rate and ruining clothes at a record pace, baby Bronco is teething lately. We noticed that the current rage among the parental set is a French rubber giraffe. The giraffe is marketed as a “Teether” but in reality it’s a $20 chew toy that squeaks. My dog has a number of similar toys in my backyard, but those toys are not made with “Natural Rubber from the Hevea Tree” and hand-painted with “food paint” (from what I can tell from Wikipedia, a Hevea Tree is just a plain old rubber tree, with name spiced up for marketing purposes).

Before dropping the $20, I asked the advice of one of my friends, whose baby is also teething. She said, “[The giraffe] is the best invention since the wheel. Yes, it’s expensive, French, and clearly a dog toy but if my son lost his and they told me that it was now twice the cost and North Korean, I wouldn’t think twice about buying it again.”

What else could I do? That giraffe entered our little home that same day…

…Of course, my dog Callie is quite confused about the presence of a chew toy that does not fall under her dominion. The dog’s ears always perk up when she hears the toy squeak, and she looks up, as if to say, “Are we going to play now?” And the answer, unfortunately, is usually “no.”

Also, the fact that Bronco has a tendency to squeak the toy and then throw it to the floor does not help the situation. There have been multiple incidents where the dog has snuck up, snatched the toy from where it landed, and sprinted for the freedom of the back yard, only to be foiled by a closed back door and an observant owner.

I mean, she’s a good dog and all, but she doesn’t need a hand-painted Hevea Tree rubber giraffe.

The Day to Day Grind Tim 10 Dec 2010 No Comments

Dumpster Fever

Dumpster Fever

My wife, The Megger, and I recently rented a dumpster. I believe that the rental was a response to her recent affinity for the television show Hoarders – where people are profiled who live in the midst of extreme, almost unreal amounts of junk. The Megger has a secret fear that we will somehow slide from our current level of “people with some stuff in the basement” to “people who sleep in a bed feathered with Quarter Pounder wrappers.” I do not share that fear, but friends who have seen the state in which I keep my office have gently suggested that perhaps I should be at least a little concerned, so I agreed to the dumpster rental.

As a side note, this is actually the second dumpster we have rented. We had one two or three years ago. But, the day after that half-empty container was carted away I walked into the basement and saw piles and piles of stuff that should have been thrown away. In fact, to demonstrate that I can be a bit of an idiot, I admit that I hadn’t even looked in the basement for things to throw away. As a result, those forgotten items aged like bad cheese while other items piled up around them – resulting in another chunk of change for a dumpster this year.

This year’s dumpster sat innocently enough in the driveway, but its mere presence created a type of mania in our house. We quickly discovered that once you develop a taste for it, throwing things away can become quite addictive. This was not helped by the fact that using the dumpster was actually quite fun – we could simply open our kitchen door and fling stuff into it. The unwanted item would rise into the air, seem to hang there for just an instant, and then land in the dumpster with a reassuring thud.

We started with the obvious stuff. Broken mirrors, dilapidated patio furniture, a dead garbage disposal, and an old screen door all sailed into the metal box. But, we found that we still weren’t satisfied once all of the obvious stuff was gone. There were pangs of a need – no, call it a hunger, a hunger to purge. On car rides, we would turn down the radio and have intense, excited discussions about what might and might not be used to fill that metal box.

Soon, every item in the house was carefully scrutinized and evaluated for its continued value. (It was during this period of time that the dog acquired a nervous look and began spending all of her time in the back yard). We tried not to throw anything away that could be recycled or donated, but in the end, our addiction got the best of us. In our frenzy to liquidate, even functional items failed the test: For example, the coffee table from our living room, a perfectly good suitcase (whose only crime was that I don’t travel much), and my old, but functional bowling shoes – thud, thud, thud.

(However, none of the Christmas ornaments and decorations that my wife has accumulated over the years – we have about 7 large bins full – were touched. Let’s just say I’m not THAT much of an idiot)

Our fervor even transformed the job of emptying the kitchen trash barrel from the usual Jenga-like test of endurance into a totally different type of competition. Bags that were only half-empty were suddenly through the door and into the sky. I found that I could get some really nice slingshot action on the bags with the handles.

Heck, even the baby’s diaper pail…ok, I have to be honest: No one rushed to empty the diaper pail.

However, after a week of riding the dumpster wave, my wife and I were worn out. On the last night, we found ourselves standing in the basement, searching the darkest corners for wayward lawn chairs or cinder blocks. Our eyes met, just for a moment, and we both knew that we had had enough. There were vague promises about getting up early for one last expedition, but when the time came we were both just too tired (to be fair, it was before 7am and we were both sleeping when the truck came and woke up our entire neighborhood).

We were sad to see the dumpster go, but were glad to have come through the experience as stronger, less cluttered people. The Megger and I will surely see dumpsters around from time to time – in front of stores, or at construction sites – but those heady days are behind us now. I think that a return to the slow routine of trash stickers and curbside pickup will be good step for us. After all, we’re only human.

The Day to Day Grind Tim 03 Dec 2010 No Comments

Next Page »