Monday, December 1, 2014

'Tis the season... for Raccoons!

It is fair to say that among the Scrooges of the Ninja/Rookie household, I am typically the Scroogiest.  From my rampant disdain for glittery junk that does nothing other than stick to my cheek inappropriately before important meetings and clog the vacuum cleaner to my disregard for dressing up for costumey occasions in anything more than a different colored baseball hat, I much prefer to spend my holidays sitting in the corner feeling superior and judging you all.

While drinking Egg Nog.  Because Egg Nog is the bomb.

Case in point, while Kitty starts Christmas planning in March, with "Stocking Stuffer Season" in full swing by July, I hold fast to a No-Christmas-Before-Thanksgiving rule.  This means no Christmas Lists get written, no Christmas Carols get sung and certainly no Christmas Lights go up until after the turkey is put away and both the gravy and Daddy are drank/drunk.

But it was harder this year to resist the draw of Christmas in the fall.  I don't think it was the October Christmas displays at Rite Aid (though those are getting better), I think it was the ridiculous explosion of Halloween and Thanksgiving lights that everyone in Seattle has suddenly adopted.  Thanksgiving lights?!  We even had a neighbor that had a giant inflatable turkey in their yard, holding a knife & fork... What does that even mean?!?  Is he eating turkey?  Or is he implying that he's going to eat people?

I have no idea, but we had to go down nightly to analyze & debate it.  Unfortunately, we may have broken our daughter of holiday lights in the process.  On one trip down to the giant inflatable cannibal turkey, we ran into a gang of ruffian raccoons that tried to run us off their turf.   I thought we handled it well, with few "We're not scared of you!  We're leaving because we want to, not because you're making us!" back over our shoulders, however now whenever Edie sees Christmas lights, she just starts repeating, "No raccoons, no raccoons" like a soldier with PTSD and won't let us go anywhere near them.

It would be a shame for someone who has shown herself to be a big animal lover to develop a critter phobia like that so early on, particularly one that impacts our ability to rock out to some Christmas lights, so we'll need to work on it.  And apparently we'll work on it by buying a life sized stuffed tiger that we'll name Mr. Pickles and that will also terrify her.  We like to fight fear with more fear.

Nothing is more adorably sad than hearing your daughter yell, "No Pickles, No Pickles!" over and over again at your enormous stuffed tiger.

Whatever.  She'll get over it, eventually.  She's already gotten up the courage to punch him in the head, so hugs are the natural next step.  Right?  Right.  Finn currently drags Mr. Pickles all around the house with him and sleeps with him in his bed every night, so it's not like she can avoid him.

So while we work on that, at least we can enjoy our own Christmas lights, since I went against type and put them up weeks ago.  Given how ridiculously sore I now apparently get from the act of putting up Christmas lights, I'm extremely happy that I did it so early.  This whole holiday would not at all be worth it if I had to climb up in that stupid tree and take them down again just a couple of days later.

Here's to Christmas lights in July!  Ho! Ho! Ho!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

From the hip

Greatest.  ER picture.  Ever.
Do you know what Toxic Synovitis is, aside from the most kickass punk band to ever crawl out of the Athens underground?   You should, because according to the internets, it's a very common ailment affecting children between the ages of 3-10.  And I had never heard of it before last Friday either.

The good thing is that Toxic Synovitis can be treated with Ibuprofen and rest.  Or, alternately, it can be treated with a trip to the ER, surgery under general anesthesia, and two days in the hospital.

Being concerned about money, we opted for the latter.  Of course.  But I'm getting ahead of myself...

After being home sick on Wednesday, but making a full recovery on Thursday and going to school & karate, we were surprised when Finn suddenly announced that he couldn't climb the stairs as we were going to bed Thursday night.  Assuming that this was just Standard Finn Manipulation protocol, I sighed, picked him up and carted him off to bed.

When he was still complaining that he couldn't walk on Friday morning, we went into full on parent-mode, deploying the most effective tool in our arsenal:  fear.  We told him that if he couldn't walk, we'd have to go to the doctor, assuming that he'd snap right up and start brushing his teeth.  When that didn't happen, we were out of ideas and we scheduled the doc appointment.

While waiting for the appointment, his condition worsened, his fever spiked again and he began crying about pain in his groin with any shift in his body position.  The doctors ruled out a groin strain and recommended we get x-rays done at Children's Hospital, just to rule out a bone issue or infection.  No problem - it's across town, but we have 3 hours before we need to pick up Edie, so should be plenty of time to get some x-rays and get back.

This is how parents who have never had to take their children to the ER think.  It's all sunshine and roses, until it's 12 hours later and you're in an abandoned, dark, surgery reception area in an empty hospital, pacing holes in the floor because the surgeon was supposed to contact you 30 mins ago and your son is under general anesthesia and it was only supposed to be a groin strain and you only agreed to this whole stupid procedure because the doctor scared you into it with fears of infection, even though there wasn't much fluid in the ultrasound, which followed the x-ray, which followed the blood test and christ you're tired and your wife looks like she's about to throw up and you hope that your sister-in-law is still OK watching your daughter while you silently freak out, worrying that the last time you're going to have touched your son is when you were helping him hold his wiener steady so he could pee in the bedpan, in this dark, empty hospital with its ghostly footsteps echoing in the distance.

Or something like that.

When the surgeon does finally call and tell you that everything is fine, that he extracted a little bit of fluid from his hip and it's not infected and while you're not supposed to see him, because he's still sleeping, hell it's two in the morning, so come on over and we'll get you into a room - that's when you exhale.  And you promise yourself that you will never, ever take a single minute with your son for granted and you chuckle about that whole "holding his wiener" thought, and you smile and head home to let your sister-in-law off the hook while your wife spends the night in the hospital.

The next day, as you and your wife switch places, you have the most amazing day with your son.  He's completely healed and you race around Children's Hospital - which, incidentally, is THE hospital to be in if you can choose, where mac & cheese is always on the menu, where there's a Starbucks on every floor and where they bring you free unopened Legos if you but ask - chasing & tickling each other until you're both exhausted and making your son laugh so hard he pees in his pants instead of in the bottle they're trying to get him to use.

It's heaven.  And it lasts about two hours, before you're yelling at him for some small offense like spilling his juice or neglecting to flush the toilet.  Just like that, everything returns to normal, except you're still stuck in the hospital.

Now we're home and Finn wishes we were back at Children's, where the bed is adjustable, the TV is always on, and his Dad buys him cake pops from Starbucks whenever he asks.  And his Dad is reading articles like the one linked above stating that Synovitis can be cured with Ibuprofen while he waits for the hospital bill and wonders what kind of kickback the surgeon gets for recommending all of the tests.

But that doesn't matter.  His son is healthy and happy.  Or at least he was healthy & happy until he faceplanted running down the street last night with his ams zipped into his jacket, leaving nothing but his nose to break his fall.

Luckily it was just a little bloody - no lasting damage - and we were able to bypass a second trip to Children's.  Better luck next time, Finny.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Low Tech

When asked whether his kids enjoyed the amazing technology devices that he had created - specifically the iPad - Steve Jobs famously replied, “They haven’t used it. We limit how much technology our kids use at home.”

He was apparently not alone in the world of technology leaders - lots of folks that spend their days living and breathing tech, limit the amount of interaction their kids have with those same electronic devices.

That's admirable.  And totally freaking impossible.

I mean, we do monitor the screen time Finn gets at home, but temptation is everywhere!  Especially when you're hung over!  Or busy!  Or feeling like just maybe being a grown-up for just a minute and pretending that your life is actually your own, IS THAT TOO MUCH TO ASK?

While we attempt to limit the technology to just 30 mins every other day (plus those extra-special qualified situations), increasingly technology is sneaking in around the corners.  Finn now has iPad apps for both his reading homework and his math homework.

Who wants to read books when you can read an app, particularly an app that reads for you in a far more attractive voice than your clumsy Dad's?  I know I don't.  I wish Finn's reading app could keep me up to date on all of my important reading.  By which I mean celebrity gossip and Derek Jeter fanzines.

But I digress.

While the concerns about addiction and impact on cognitive ability linger, conversations with Finn have gotten more... interesting, of late.

For instance:

  • When I informed him that his behavior was making me frustrated one morning and tried to engage him in a discussion about how we could fix that, he set me straight.  "I think you just need to meditate, Daddy."
  • Last week, after we told him that we would no longer be reminding him of his chores, we asked him what might need to be cleaned up before he could have dessert.  Without missing a beat, he replied, "If I told you, then I'd be reminding you."
  • As his mom was pressing him for details on a story that he was telling that wasn't quite ringing true, he stopped her dead and asked, "Why are you asking questions?  You have all of the information that you need."  And then went back to playing Legos.

    This will not do.  I did not intend to have these types of conversations until our children were much older.  Edie just showed us that she can count to eleven (though to be fair, I'm pretty sure she has no idea what she's saying).  I'm at risk of being outsmarted by my children before either of them reach the age of 10.

    Either I need to start killing their brain cells with technology or I need to double down on killing my own brain cells with beer so I no longer care.  At the moment, it's a toss-up.  

    Maybe we'll do both.

    Thursday, October 23, 2014

    Hot Stuff

    I've picked on Baby Led Weaning plenty - and it deserves to be picked on, because it never delivered on its promise of teaching a kid how to eat all kinds of fun and exciting adult foods, such as anything that isn't cheese or pasta related - and while I still spend WAY too much time cleaning up all kinds of squishy, crunchy, smeary food off the dining room floor after every meal, there is one thing that it has taught Edie to do.  And it's something that I value quite a bit.

    That woman can eat some heat.

    Finn has never been fond of hot foods - neither caliente or picante.  He will immediately spit out anything that is even approaching hot in temperature, even if it hasn't actually touched his tongue, based purely on an offhand mention that it might be hot or the presence of a single wisp of steam.  He's slightly better with spicy, making a single concession to my love of spicy foods by sharing 1, maybe 2, but no more than 3 JalapeƱo potato chips with me.  Anything more than that will result in cries of "too spicy!" and maybe some tears.

    I'll bet Edie could drink Finn's tears if I were to boil them for 30 minutes.  I'm not sure she has any temperature receptors in her mouth at all.  Where Finn would cringe, Edie looks me dead-in-the-eye and matter of factly shovels more scorching hot food into her open cry-hole, while mentioning in a slightly bored fashion, "hot."

    Not having to spend 15 minutes blowing on each bite of luke warm pasta is nice, but I've been leery about really unleashing the spicy on her.   This hesitation is apparently unwarranted.

    While the family was on a beautiful fall excursion a couple of weekends ago at one of Seattle's prettier parks, Kubota Garden, we took a moment to check out a koi pond in which a turtle was sunning himself.  It was a great view, so I let go of Edie's hand for a second so I could snap off a couple of pictures.  I turned around to call her to come up to the pond for a look and that's when another idyllic sight struck me:  Edie with a dirty, half-empty Taco Bell hot sauce packet hanging out of her mouth.

    As I screamed, dropping my camera and rushing over to wipe the disgusting red goo off of her face, her hands and her shirt, she just stood there, looking calmly at me, as if to say:

    "Who's the baby now, old man?"

    Saturday, October 4, 2014

    What's Your Damage, Edie?

    If the anecdotal evidence poured into our ears by our friends as we prepared for child #2 was to be believed, Edie was guaranteed to be the polar opposite of her brother - destined to be completely chill, to enjoy entertaining herself for hours, and to be potty trained by week 2.  Of course, our friends are all drunks, so it was not at all surprising when Edie turned out as a 150% more hyper version of her already insane brother.

    But then something happened.  The ship turned.  Or maybe our memory of Finn's maturation is faulty, but she is now totally happy sitting in the corner by herself, eating rocks and writing on the wall with crayons.

    Maybe she developed self-reliance when we weren't looking.  Or maybe she developed it because we weren't looking.  

    It's not perfect.  Like I said, she draws on the walls, the furniture, me and Kitty, and the cats - which was a habit Finn never picked up - and she does it while staring directly at us, and smiling.  So, while she's cool hanging out by herself, she's also kind of a jerk.  But a confident, self-reliant jerk - the world will be her oyster.  

    At daycare, Edie has two little friends, both born within a month of her.  Her daytime Mommy informed us the other day that she is now the "ringleader" of this tiny little adorable gang.  

    That is an absolutely terrifying prospect.  My daughter is turning into a Heather.

    I wonder if she'll be sitting in her college dining hall, throwing whatever food she doesn't like onto the floor while staring her dining companions dead in the eyes over threats of "time-outs"?  Or still be expressing her feelings in a reasonable and measured way, by punching the guy who lovingly picks her up at the end of a long day directly in the face?

    Actually, as long as that guy is no longer me, I might be ok with that.  You go, Edie.

    Sunday, September 28, 2014

    Kicking & Screaming

    As Derek Jeter plays his last game as a Yankee, I am forced to simultaneously confront two harsh realities:

    1. I'm getting really freaking old
    2. Finn has not done a very good job of positioning himself as Jeter's heir apparent.
    The former is not news and the latter is not surprising, though it's not for want of trying.  My patented instruction-through-yelling technique may be world renowned, but it has strangely not proven effective in Finn's case.  Perhaps I'm just not yelling hard enough.

    And so it was that with a goal of significantly increasing the amount of spittle flying out of my mouth and veins popping out of neck that we signed Finn up for fall soccer.  For some reason, he didn't seem overly excited - as in, didn't want anything to do with it - until I promised that unlike in Little League, I wouldn't be coaching soccer and therefore wouldn't be standing directly behind him for 5 innings, criticizing the way he was kicking the infield dirt.  Suddenly, he was open to the idea.

    Lucky for Finn, I know absolutely nothing about soccer - which apparently separates me from every other dad at the field, based on the "encouraging" screams of criticism coming from all sides.   I don't want to sound like a hippie, but man, these dudes need to lighten up.  I've significantly rethought my approach toward sporting with Finn based on just three games and Kitty and I have decided that from here on out, we would be nothing but supportive and would maintain realistic expectations.

    Given that Finn has never played soccer before and his initial approach to the game appears to involve circling any ball in play from a distance of no closer than 30 feet and/or carefully considering all balls kicked directly to him for such a period of time as to allow anyone to come along and kick it away, realistic expectations are a must.  Our goal today?  Just kick the ball.  Any ball.  In any direction.  And kick it hard.

    And you know what?  He did.  Like six times.  The ball didn't go anywhere near the goal, but he couldn't be happier and therefore, neither could we.  I gave a him a standing ovation as he exited the porta-potty, but for some reason, he wasn't as into that.

    I think we're gonna like this soccer thing.

    At least until it starts raining.  Which should be right about... now.

    Tuesday, September 16, 2014


    While it's awesome that Finn's new school is only a drunken hop, skip and a broken ankle away from our house, the downside for lazy ol' me is that we're now actually TOO CLOSE to catch a ride with the school bus.  Not only does this mean that Finn is missing a golden opportunity to get bullied by the big kids in the back of the bus while they sit around smoking "My First E-Cigs", it's actually kind of tricky getting him to school.  It's a little too far to walk - what with that one hill and all - and while we can easily drive him, the traffic patterns approaching that school in the morning look like the bridges and tunnels into Manhattan during rush hour.

    To avoid starting our morning sweating and/or screaming at each other over our inability to find parking while one of us is kicking the back of the others' seat, we opted for another route.  We're doing the Walking School Bus!

    Pros of the walking school bus:

    • Sick reflective vests!
    • Meeting and getting to know all of the neighbor kids at school within a 4 block radius
    • Ability to drop Finn at the curb 20 mins before we would normally be able to drop him off at school
    Cons of the walking school bus:
    • Apparently awesome perks like this require "parents" who will "volunteer" as walking school bus "drivers"
    I was ready to totally walk away from the deal on that condition, but Kitty - being a sucker - volunteered us.  The plan is for us to alternate one day a week, but we both know that this means that I'll fake a cold or a leg injury or ebola and Kitty will do most of the work. 

    Today was my day, so since this was my first, I happily agreed to walk the bus, after Kitty happily informed me that I'd be walking the bus.  And I'm glad that I had that idea, because it was a lot of fun.  Between my wealth of knowledge of Charlie Brown characters and my seemingly inexhaustible inventory of stories about getting pooped on by birds, the kids and I got along famously.  Sure I couldn't stop them from hitting each other in the face with sticks and maybe one of them almost stepped in dog poop on my watch, and OK, I may have kind of forcefully pushed them along a couple of times to keep them moving, but it was still awesome.

    As I sat sipping my coffee at the playground waiting for the bell to ring and watching them play, I couldn't help but think of all of those sucker parents sitting in their cars, already on conference calls, that were missing out on the best moments of their kids' lives.

    And then I realized how cold it was, right as it began to rain.  As I was walking back up the hill that seemed to have grown 500 ft in the past twenty minutes, I came to the following conclusion:  I think I'll have ebola next week.