Archive for October, 2008

Pumpkin Carving Party

Saturday was Claudia and BJ’s annual pumpkin carving party. It’s a good time. People get boozed up. People gut pumpkins with big knives. Pets and kids tear around the house and the yard. Trey walker carves a pumpkin by pounding it with a 2×4. Trey Walker pees on the fence. Typical stuff, but fun, all the same.

Eli had an especially fine time. There were kids to play with this year. And there were Claudia and Jana, who are like cool aunts to him, and BJ and Trey, who are like weird uncles.

BJ, a big dude with a shaved head who rides a Harley and likes to kill stuff, seems like the kind of guy who makes little kids wet themselves. But to Eli, he’s that funny guy who tickles him. Trey has all the cool toys: a tractor, a riding mower, a monster truck, a speed boat, and a box of hot wheels from his childhood. So Trey is strange and fun, too. Add in all-you-can sweets at the party, Eli’s new transformer’s costume, with space to run, and Eli had a memorable night. By 9:30, the boy was dead asleep.

Sunday was all about working on the house, Sally catching up on laundry and picking up inside, me climbing way up high on a ladder to stain the deck. In the afternoon, we cruised down the hill to the lake. The water is still surpisingly warm, warmer than it was in July, oddly enough. It was typical Apache Shores. A few rednecks drinking tall boys. A few friendly dogs. A couple of lefties ragging on John McCain.

Sunday night, a front blew in. Swimming season might finally be at an end.

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Soccer

Eli loves to play soccer, and he’s very good. Two goals in a game are not uncommon for him. Last week, it was three and could have been more had his coach not shown mercy on the other team and told Eli to stay back to play defense. Week after week, Eli and his teammates roll team after team: 6-1, 5-2, 13-1, and so on.

Watching Eli, and the other four and five year olds play soccer, is a hoot. Some of the kids forget which goal is theirs. Some of them don’t get that there’s an out of bounds. Some of them are more interested in the bugs and the grass on the field than the game.

Not Eli. The boy is focused, competitive, and aggressive. Add in that he loves to run and seems faster than any of the other kids, and you end up with a dominant pee wee soccer  player. You also end with a child who blasts straight through any kid who gets in between him and the goal. Winning matters.  

Being competitive isn’t bad, but being a bad sport is. It’s not okay to pout when the other  team scores. It’s not okay to push the children who get in your way. So we—his coaches, Sally, and I–are trying to show him the difference. And we’re trying to emphasize fun, not winning. I think it’s sinking in.

Seeing that wiry boy, I can’t help but see me. I was out of my head competitive as a youngster. Here’s the ugly truth. If I lost a basketball game during recess, I would cry, sometimes picking fights with the winning kids. If my tee-ball team lost, I’d hurl my glove in the dirt and feel low the rest of the day. Sally was, and still is, the same way. We don’t play board games often, mainly because it can turn unpleasant.

What’s weird is we’re pretty easy going about most things, and we’re not overly competitive in other areas–our jobs, the stuff we have (don’t have). Sports are different. I’m watching Texas play on television this Saturday. If things go badly for the guys in burnt orange, I’ll be yelling at the TV and scaring the dogs, all over a silly game played by 20-year-olds.

I see it like this: You are who you are, and you care about what you care about. It isn’t rational. It just is. And you pass all those emotional tendencies down to your kids, some of  them good, some of them destructive, most of them somewhere in between.

No matter what Eli does or how many goals he scores or how his team performs, I’m proud watching him play soccer. Maybe it’s a kind of narcissism. Maybe it’s that despite being one of the shorter kids, and probably the lightest, Eli outruns the bigger children and  fearlessly throws himself into any scrum. Or maybe it’s something else.

Whatever it is, it sure is fun. And I’m already looking forward to Saturday, to seeing the boy wearing his team jersey that goes almost to his knees, to giving him a high five after he goes out and does his best.  

A Draft: Conception

Craig here. I’ve started jotting down my recollections from pregancy number two. Here’s a chunk from the first part. It’s far from polished, but it’s a start.

Part 1: Conception

Two things are important to know about my wife:

Thing one: Sally is game for anything, always. I say, you want to buy a new house, quit our jobs, travel to Africa, huff paint, and she’s game. Okay, maybe not paint, but you get the idea. I try to make out like I’m free like her, like I’m open minded, relaxed, and ready for adventure.

I’m not. I’m a fist. And I pound every idea to bits.

“Want to go to Thailand?” she asks.

“Sounds good. But I only have a week of vacation and we’re broke and we need to get passports and who will watch the dogs and who will feed the cats and you heard about the bird flu epidemic over there, right? People wearing masks. Children dying in the streets.”

“Oh.”

I kill one crazy, fun idea after another. I’m 37, but I act older than my years. I’m settled, comfortable. I like my easy job. I like coming home, hanging with the kid and Sally, then zoning out with a beer or three and an hour of forgetful television. It’s a fuzzy, soothing existence.

Thing two. Sally’s maternal drive is strong. She’s hard wired to take care of people and pets. In our 20’s, an ever-growing family of pets and a boyfriend (me) who walked around in a directionless haze satiated her maternal drive. She had to make sure the dogs were fed and that I didn’t go off to work without pants on. Plus, none of her friends had families. And nobody in our circle had money.

That changed in the our early 30’s. Sally started saying she wanted a child and over time she won me over, convincing me that I wanted to change diapers and give up sleep and take a vow of poverty to bring a child into the world.

We got pregnant immediately and then the baby arrived. I loved being a dad. The sleepless nights, the golden showers when changing Eli’s diaper, the standing over his crib in the dead of night, making sure he was still breathing. All of it. But kids demand time and energy and money and two years later when Sally started telling me that she wanted another baby, I wasn’t sure that I was game for a repeat. I was just starting to settle back into my comfortable world of work and family and drooling in front of the tube.

Thus began a dark time in our marriage. Sally pushing and pushing and pushing. Some of it was direct: “I want another baby. Just one more.” Some of it was indirect: “Craig, look at that sweet, little girl. Aren’t babies fun?”

I, of course, caved. But month after month and boxes and boxes of pregnancy tests later, and we still were not with child. “Too many chemicals in our youth,” I theorized to Sally. “Too many bad chemicals.” With each passing month, when my seed didn’t find purchase, Sally would sink low, low.

She started bringing home pets. There were the cats, Farnsworth, Motorhead (a female), and Snurp, who was mean and dumb yet loyal. Not satiated, Sally pushed for sheep, goats, miniature ponies, and chickens. I shot those ideas down, as is my habit, and Sally never put up much of a fight. A pet chicken wasn’t going to fill the need to be a mommy again.

She went to her OBGYN to have tests performed. Everything was fine. So I was tested. There were blood samples, urine samples, and semen samples. There were urologists and fertility specialists and GPs and pflobotimists and indifferent receptionists. They had their ideas and their miracle pills, but no baby.

I had my own theory: “Bad chemicals,” I suggested to one doctor. He stared at me blankly.

In the course of the testing, I found out all kinds of interesting facts about myself: like my sperm count was very low, like my sperm were misshapen and lazy, like I had about as much testosterone as a teenage girl, like I might have a brain tumor.

So they put me on Clomid, a drug that was to make me grow muscles and find the lost energy of childhood and make my sperm multiply and learn to swim. But aside from making me grow boobs and increasing my likelihood of getting cancer tenfold, Clomid didn’t seem to do much.

But to appease my wife—who was persistent, bordering on psychotic at this point—the fertility clinic harvested my sperm, cleaned it, and injected it into Sally with something akin to a turkey baster. Given that my sperm moved around like wavy gravy after a week-long acid binge, the doctors put our chances of conceiving at about nil. They were nonetheless happy to take our money.

Somehow, someway my stoned sperm swam their way to the egg, and just like that, we were pregnant. It’d taken two years. It’d cost us north of a thousand dollars. But it had happened. The good chemicals had defeated the bad chemicals and cells were multiplying inside Sally and life was working it’s magic. I couldn’t help but be excited about the miracle and the science of it all, and I couldn’t help but be excited about being a dad again.

But then the enormity of fatherhood sunk in. The crying that awaited. The mountain of stinky diapers. The trips to that pastel pocket of hell known as Babies Are Us for boppies and binkies and bouncies. “I’m going to be a dad again,” I thought. “Sweet Jesus. We’re fucked.”

Why we blog

Blogs are contaminating cyberspace with their narcissistic, stupid, and boring posts. And yet, here Sally and I are, joining in and crapping up the interwebs with our tales of our insignificant lives.

We’re not entirely sure why.

Some of it’s probably vanity. We like to write and tell stories. We like to pretend people want to read them. Blogs are nice for that.

Some of it’s Eli and his soon-to-be brother. Death is taking dead aim. And if we get rubbed out, we want the boys to have something significant from us. Sure, there’d be pictures and lousy videos and superficial stories. But there wouldn’t be the hurt, the humor, the anger, the love–the raw and real stuff that words convey best.

Some of it’s our fading memories. People, places, events disappear. We want to hold on to some of that, that small magic of people we love, the wonder in the mundane of every day life.

So, welcome, to whatever this is and whatever it will become.

First post

This is the beginning. Of what, I’m not sure. Probably nothing much. But it is definitely the beginning.