Archive for February, 2009

Mustard floods and house tornados

Slade has had exactly one BM in the last five days. BM, if you’re not in the know, stands for bowel movement. It’s the euphemism they use at day care for baby shit.

As the days pass, Sally and I know all too well what awaits. We’ll be at Taco Bell or the liquor store or church—okay, probably not church—and Slade will grunt, and we’ll hear a gush, and his diaper will overflow, and mustard will flood down his leg and drip on our clothes and puddle on the floor. Sally and I will look around furtively, praying for no witnesses. Then we’ll tidy up hastily and slink out of the store.

We endured the same diaper droughts and floods with Eli. He filled his britches 10 times a day for the first couple of months, and then it just stopped. Days would go by without a drop of doo, and we’d worry, and we’d call the pediatrician, and the pediatrician would tell us not to worry, but we would anyway.

And then the dam would burst.

We’d be at a wedding, and we’d hear a rumble and see the mustard racing out and think “Oh, shit,” which, of course, it was. Eli would feel better after doing the deed and would coo happily. We, only the other hand, would be in a silent panic, trying to obscure the fact that our boy had taken a dump in the middle of the service.

My sister and her husband arrive today. They’ll be bringing their son—who is two, which means he thinks it’s fun to scoop poo out of his pants and toss it at people—and their daughter, who is a teenager, which means she’ll be in the bathroom texting boys all weekend. Add in very own house tornado of dogs, boys, terrible cat, and sleep-starved parents, and you have the fixin’s for loud, messy, chaotic fun.

I suspect toys will break and children will cry and Snurp will mark his territory in the guest bedroom. I suspect I’ll need a stiff drink at day’s end. But I’m looking forward to it, to seeing them all, to showing off Slade, and to talking late into the night with my sister about books and beliefs and BMs.

We don’t do cute here

Thousands, perhaps millions, of family blogs contaminate or enrich the internet. You probably already know that. You Bad Chemicals readers, all four of you, are like smart and informed and stuff.

What strikes me after reading many of these family blogs is how they’re put together much like this family blog, like Bad Chemicals. To build one, you just follow this simple three-step template:

  1. Take a regular suburban family, and add a handful of pictures of regular children and pets.
  2. Mix in one ambivalent critique of Facebook. Pro: Reconnecting with friends. Con: Reconnecting with friends. This will show you’re deep and with it.
  3. Piece together several platitudes about endings that are really beginnings. Flap your wings, Uncle Larry. You’re free at last. Flap them till you finally reach the sun. This will show your sensitive underbelly.

And voila, you have yourself a family blog. Just like Bad Chemicals.

Okay, sure, they’re not all the same. And, sure, they don’t all conform to the template. Even Bad Chemicals. This family blog differs from the norm in one small way: Moms write most family blogs, but here, the dad does the scribbling.

A few days ago, I mentioned to Sally that I’d picked up on this difference, that mainly mommies blog for the family.

“Well,” she said. “You are kind of girly.”

I do dig some Mommy Blogs, like the ones my blogging buds maintain, like the offerings from Whiskey in my Sippy Cup, the Bloggess, Redneck Mommy, the Z Files, and the Magical Fruit. But most bore me or annoy me or are so adorable that I want to punt poodles after reading them.

It’s fun to punt poodles, by the way. Smart Bad Chemicals readers like yourselves probably already know that, too.

You might think the revelation that I blog like a chick might unnerve me—that I might now wrestle with my identity or question my place on this planet or attempt desperately and stupidly to prove I’m not some kind of sissy. But that’s not me. I’m secure with the man I am, and I’m satisfied with our family blog.

So I obviously won’t be manifying the content here. (That’s a real verb, right? To manify?) I’m plenty comfortable in my own men’s size 11 shoes.

Tomorrow, for instance, I’ll be offering family-oriented pointers on how to beat up hippies on the blog. On Saturday, I’ll be sharing my ideas for a children’s story about a boy who kills a polar bear with a rock and his fists and then eats the animal’s organs raw and curls up inside the carcass to survive a blizzard. I’ll return next week with a wholesome review of the all-night massage parlors on the interstate.

See. Same old G-rated content as always here on the family blog.

Also, as always, you won’t find narratives about cuddly cats or sappy love notes to Sally or pukey meditations on change here.

And you definitely won’t find cute pictures of kids, pets, unicorns, or rainbows. We’ve never done cute at Bad Chemicals, and we’re too busy kicking ass to start now.

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Hungy hungry hippo

The littlest dude isn’t so little these days. Slade is over nine pounds, which might not sound big, but that’s a six-pound gain from three months ago. I’m not surprised, really. The kid eats well.

Take yesterday. When I left for work, Slade was nursing, and when I returned in the evening, Sally was giving him a fortified bottle.

“How’d Slade do today?” I asked.

“Same old,” she said. “I think he ate all day long.”

An hour later, Slade was grunting and smacking and fussing for more.

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Counting strokes

“What am I doing here?” That’s thought one. It’s 58 degrees on Sunday afternoon, and I’m swimming alone in Lake Austin. Nobody else is on the water. No kayakers. No wakeboarders. No other stupid swimmers.

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“How long before I go hypothermic?” That’s thought two. Sure, I’m wearing a wet suit, but it’s leaking, and the water, which comes from the bottom of Lake Travis just upstream, is so cold it gives me an instant headache. I’m pretty sure my feet are numb, too.  

“That’s it. I’m swimming back, putting on a parka, and turning the heat on full blast in the car.” That’s thought three.

To keep going, I count strokes, using them as miniature goals. I see if I can get to 10, and when I do, I do 10 more. My stop watch marks another milestone I set; if I’m shaking after seven minutes, I’m returning to land.

Five minutes in, my body does warm up. My mind drifts, and I’m thinking about sighting, scanning the rocks below for fish, and wondering what lurks beneath in the green water. Alligators? Cotton mouths? Dead bodies?

I go back to counting. I’d rather not think about what’s in the water.

I turn around around a third of mile from where I started. I’m still counting strokes, pulling my head just above the water every fifteenth one to look for boats and land. My breathing grows deeper, and I settle into the swim. I feel stronger and stronger as the dock comes into view, and my workout comes to an end.

When I stand up in the knee-deep water, my balance is off, and I stumble like a drunk out of the lake. I’m not as warm as I thought I was. My hands are compressed and shaking, and I’m having difficulty tying my shoe laces.

But I feel really good. Electric. Focused. Unstoppable.

And that’s the payoff for the pain. That transient buzz of power and immunity at the finish. It’s the real reason I’m out here—not to train for a triathlon, not to get fit, but for that high.  

Now if I could just tie those dumb laces.

I believe in miracles

Thanks to the BabyBjorn, I now believe in miracles.

You’ve seen BabyBjorns, but you might not realize it. You know how you sometimes notice a dad walking around with a baby strapped to his chest in what looks like a horrific nursing contraption, and you feel sorry for the defeated dude because he’s obviously lost all pride and dignity and has probably been castrated? That emasculating carrier he’s wearing is a BabyBjorn. It comes from Sweden.

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I made fun of dads wearing BabyBjorns until I became a dad myself. As a newborn, our son Eli was very sweet and very affectionate and wanted to be held all the time. Also, if he wasn’t being held, he would scream till our ears rang. We even discussed giving a three-week-old vodka and crushed up tranquilizers.

Sally got the worst of it. I had to return to work when Eli was less than two weeks old, and I’d come home to find Sally still in her nightgown, her hair greasy, her eyes ringed in purple, with Eli squirming in her arms.

“Here,” she’d say and hand me the fussy baby. There was no hello. No how was your day. No welcome home, husband. Just here.

After a few weeks, Sally, who was starting to go insane, pulled out a BabyBjorn someone had given us and slipped Eli inside it and just like that the sun emerged and birds tweeted and angels danced and Eli stopped wailing.

It was gift from heaven. Or maybe Sweden.

When I returned home that evening, Sally told me about the magic of the BabyBjorn and suggested I try it on, and I told her I was way too studly a dad to wear something so faggy, and she told me to stop acting like an uptight Republican, and I told her I wasn’t uptight, and she said fine then prove it and I said fine I will.

So I did. I put on the BabyBjorn, and I became an instant convert. Not only did the BabyBjorn quiet our perpetually fussy baby, but I liked having Eli warm and secure on my chest. That probably means I’m a fag.

The BabyBjorn liberated us in all kinds of ways. We learned we could vacuum and fold laundry and bathe the dogs with the boy inside the carrier. We learned we could go to the grocery store with our arms free and the baby silent. I even realized that I could urinate with Eli strapped to my chest. (I probably shouldn’t share that, should I? In my defense, Eli never complained, and I’m pretty sure he was splashed on only a few times.)

When we brought Slade home in late December, he slept and ate and almost never cried. There wasn’t a need for the BabyBjorn with an infant that easy going, and we’d sometimes forget about him. (That’s true, by way. Us forgetting. We’d be upstairs and one of us would realize that we’d left Slade downstairs in the dark alone, so we’d huff it down the stairs to find Slade, eyes open, staring into the black, perfectly content.)

But then things changed. Slade decided he liked being awake, and when he was awake, he wanted to held, and if he wasn’t, he’d cry till our heads throbbed and our eyes twitched and we once again weighed the consequences of feeding a newborn vodka and tranquilizers.

So out came the BabyBjorn and away went the gloomy baby. Just like that.

Tonight, for instance, I’ve brushed my teeth and used the toilet and read my new Bicycling magazine and written this post, all with the Slade content inside the pouch, warm and perfect.

Drop it, Chuck. Drop the underwear.

Our dog Chuck has about as much energy as furniture. Sure, Chuck gets up to eat and drink and he’ll bark outside some, but most of the time, he lies motionless in the living room, like a polar bear rug.

Or maybe a dairy cow rug.

Sometimes I wonder if he’s still alive. I’ll call him, and Chuck won’t respond. So I’ll pet him, and Chuck’s tail will slowly thud on the ground. Then he’ll roll over so I can better rub his belly. He’s fine, of course, just lazy. He’s 100 pounds of lazy canine.

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But every so often, Chuck displays an unexpected burst of graceless speed. It happened often in puppyhood. He’d burst into the laundry room, clamp down on a pair of dirty underwear, and crash through the doggie door outside as we ran after him yelling, “Drop it, Chuck. Drop the underwear.”

Other times he’d sneak laundry outside while we weren’t paying attention. We’d look outside to see Chuck running in circles and gnawing on a pair of panties. “Drop the underwear,” we’d yell, a phrase Chuck heard so often he probably mistook it for his name. “Drop it, you bad dog.”

Last night brought back memories of Chuck as a puppy, albeit briefly and without the shredded undergarments.

Around 11:00, I heard a noise in the front yard and opened the door to investigate. There I found Snurp, the terrible cat we feed, rigid and hissing at a raccoon, cat, dog, or boogie man in the trees just out of sight. Noticing that Chuck had awoken and ambled to the door, I whispered, “go get him,” more as a joke than command.

And get this: Chuck obeyed, which might be a first. Chuck raced into the yard, bounded over Snurp, and disappeared into the trees. In the darkness, I heard something scampering away and something much bigger bludgeoning the bushes and giving chase. That bigger something was Chuck, chugging like a diesel through the woods after who knows what.

I was dumbfounded. The dairy cow rug could sure move. On top of that, the dairy cow rug had protected Snurp, the cat who tortures him every single day.

After a few seconds, I called Chuck, and he trotted right back, which also might be a first.

“Chuck, you good dog,” I remarked. “You actually listened.” Chuck wagged his tail slowly. Then he walked inside the house, slurped some water, and dozed off. Snurp also came in the house, and soon settled down enough to climb on the couch for petting.

Then he pounced on Chuck’s tail.

But Chuck was so tired he slept through it all.

You and what army

Sometimes, I hate our free-spirited neighborhood.

This morning, while I was attempting to get Eli to stop running laps and put on pants, I looked out the window to see a bird dog doing his business in the lawn. I opened the window and yelled at the dog, who gave me a bored look that said, “You and what army.” This particular dog stops by our yard regularly, leaving a tidy pile on most visits. Our yard has become his personal toilet.

What really angers me is that the bird dog has a collar and presumably a home, but we’ve never been able to catch him or figure out where he lives. The dog is fast. He’s street smart, too.

One morning, last summer maybe, Sally lost it. She spotted the bird dog squatting and blasted out the front door, running barefoot in a moo moo, spitting profanity, and chunking a twig—the only makeshift weapon she could locate—at the indifferent canine. Eli and I watched the whole scene silently.

“That’s your mom,” I told Eli as I often do. “She sure is interesting.”

Sally and I don’t know what to do about the bird dog. There’s animal control, but their response time is 24 to 48 hours.

There’s also siccing our dogs on them. We tried that once. The dogs loped up the drive, sniffed anus with the bird dog, and wagged their tails politely as the bird dog marked his territory.

So I’m at a loss. Maybe we buy a long-range water pistol and soak the intruder. Or better yet, maybe we invest in a BB gun and pop the pooch when he lifts his leg or hunkers down to lighten his load. You know, pop him right in the pooper.

Maybe that would teach him a lesson. If nothing else, it’d certainly make us feel better.