Tag Archives: Fatherhood
Slim and I made a trip to visit his allergist last week.
It was a highly successful appointment. We gained valuable new information we’re sure will help us better manage his allergies.
And manage is what you do with allergies like Slim’s.
But gaining that information came with a price. Not in the form of medical expenses; the cost of a hotel room; the corn dog and Kraft macaroni and cheese lovingly prepared by the culinary artisans at Applebee’s (yes, Kraft macaroni and cheese); the elusive Skylander’s Giants character Chop Chop Slim scored at the Toys “R” Us conveniently located directly across the parking lot from Applebee’s; or the sweet lenticular 3D Star Wars playing cards we picked up at Barnes and Noble to support the 9-year-old’s burgeoning cribbage habit.
No, the real price for that information came at the expense of Slim’s back — and his physical comfort — in the form of a prick test.
Actually, two prick tests (which are actually more of scratch tests). A few of the allergens reacted so strongly on the initial panel that the administering nurse worried the results may have been compromised, so we left for a few hours and returned to have a second panel conducted excluding those allergens that were definite positives from the initial test. Which was followed up with a blood draw because they were still having trouble sorting out what was actually causing positives and what wasn’t.
And Slim’s reaction to all of this?
Nothing. It’s all old hat for this allergy kid.
He played Plants vs. Zombies on the iPad while the thirtysome scratches were administered (twice) and during the accompanying 15-minute wait for the allergens to do their thing.
He joked with the nurse that if he ever met this guy Pistachio (#29), he was going to rip his arms off and beat him silly with them. We all had a good laugh at that.
A couple of times he said his back was itchy, but that was the extent of his complaints. And that’s consistent with how Slim’s handled his condition all along.
His allergy journey began at age two (technically, I suppose, it actually started a few years prior when a different sort of prick test came back positive, if you know what I mean) after he ingested a fraction of an Oreo with peanut butter filling. Things immediately went awry.
Let me tell ya, if you’re looking to get people hopping in an ER, walk in holding a wheezing, hive-covered toddler with his eyes swollen shut and say, “We think he might have a peanut allergy.” Your wait time becomes exactly zero minutes.
Thankfully, Slim’s never had another scare like that.
He had his first prick test at age five — for environmental allergens — and the results suggested he’s basically allergic to Earth. His doctor said she’d seen tests with more severe reactions, but never one with as many.
Allergies affect Slim’s health to some degree every second of every day. Feeling “good” is a relative term for him, and it entails a strict, inflexible regiment of medication, diet, and a whole lot of lotion (he’s got severe eczema to boot).
But he doesn’t complain. It’s just what life is for him.
I realize many parents have children who face challenges far more severe than Slim’s, but he’s our kid, so I’d rather he didn’t have to deal with any of it. But he does, and the way he does — with such courage and strength – is both humbling and inspirational to me.
As he lay on the examining bed — for the second time — distractedly planting his assorted flora in an effort to eradicate the slowly-marauding legion of undeads while waiting for the legion of allergens on his back to wage its own attack, I leaned down and whispered, “You’re a brave kid.”
Then I corrected myself. “No, scratch that: you’re a brave person.”
I don’t think he caught the pun, but that’s okay.
He was too busy ignoring those miserable little pricks.
In related news, I’m trying to convince Slim he may be able to occasionally play this whole allergy thing in his favor by claiming he’s allergic to certain things even if he isn’t. For example:
- Foods he just doesn’t want to eat (“I’d love some of that lime Jello mold with shredded carrots and cottage cheese, but I’m allergic.”)
- Clothes he doesn’t want to wear (An argyle allergy is very, very rare, but it could happen.)
- Shows his younger siblings want to watch (The entire world should be allergic to Max and Ruby.)
Math homework (“Sorry, Mr. Teacher. I couldn’t complete that worksheet. I’m severely allergic to long division.”)
Girls (He’ll outgrow this one eventually.)
Heck, I’d claim allergies every now and then if I could get away with it. Some things I wish I was allergic to:
Vegetables in general (Bleh. I only eat them because I feel obligated as a semi-adult.)
- Reality television (Celebrity diving? Really?)
- Going to Walmart (This one really flares up when I’ve got the kids with me.)
- Anything claiming “SOME ASSEMBLY REQUIRED” (Lying bastards.)
- Arguing children (If only my ears would swell shut.)
Anything you are (or wish you were) allergic to?
Hellcat and I have a special relationship. It basically amounts to me doing whatever she says, whenever she says.
At least that’s how Kick Ass Wife — likely rolling her eyes – would describe it.
(Coincidentally, this is the exact same relationship KAW has with her dad, but don’t tell her I said that.)
So it was that I found myself prone on Hellcat’s bed last night.
HELLCAT: “Daddy, will you lay with me?”
ME: “No. Your mom said nobody is laying with you.” (Yes, I play that card. Frequently.)
HELLCAT: “But –”
What can I say? She’s convincing.
So I crawled up into bed with her, and she immediately asked me to tell her a story.
ME: “No. We read books right before bed.”
HELLCAT: “But –”
I know, I know. Just quit with the eyerolls.
Anyway, I asked the 5-year-old mind melder what she wanted a story about. She said the dentist.
ME: “Like you’re a dentist?”
HELLCAT: “No, like I’m going to the dentist.”
ME: “I’m not going to tell you a story about you going to the dentist.”
HELLCAT: “But –”
So I told her a story about her going to the dentist.
In fact, I just retold the factual account of her actually going to the dentist a couple of months ago. No frivolous details. No embellishment with leprechaun hygenists or a whimsical dentist using a unicorn horn to check for cavities or a magical prize drawer containing cotton candy floss. Just a retelling of a boring-ass trip to the dentist.
She loved it.
After the story, I decided to try to levy a parenting moment out of the bedtime in hopes that I’d feel better about being such a pushover.
“You know, you could be a dentist when you grow up, ” I said hopefully. “You could be Dr. McFadden!” (I’m already assuming a disposition lending itself to a nickname of “Hellcat” isn’t going to result in a flurry of marriage proposals.)
To which said Hellcat replied – with a look equal parts conviction and disdain, visible even by the meager illumination of a nightlight — “I’m not going to be a dentist. I’m going to be a Walmart worker.”
To which I replied — with a look equal parts conviction and disdain, visible even by the meager illumination of a nightlight — “What?”
Don’t get me wrong. I have no issue with Walmart other than whenever I go there it seems about a thousand other people are doing the same thing, and I’m generally not a big fan of situations involving other people, thousand or otherwise.
And definitely don’t think this has anything to do with feminism and sending a message to our daughter that little girls can grow up to be whatever they want to be, just like boys. Hellcat can look at her mom and figure that out. She’s no dummy.
No, my only hope for our kids is that they grow up and find something that makes them happy.
And — more importantly — pays somewhere in the six-figures range.
Hell, I wouldn’t care if Hellcat worked at Walmart. Scanning things, sorting things, stacking things. I’m sure it’d make her very happy.
Ditto for being a “chai maker,” which she proclaimed was her destiny after “graduating” from preschool. (CARD: Congratulations on managing to turn 5!)
No, I’d be proud if she did either of those things. If doing so paid an annual salary of $250,000+.
Because at least one of these kids is going to have to support us when we get older. I mean, I’m a writer, for Christ’s sake! Chai makers are practically Trump-like compared to me.
So I’ll keep telling Hellcat stories about dentists and doctors and professional football players and Cirque du Soleil performers (they probably make some decent coin) in hopes that I can eventually break her and convince her she wants to grow up and be one of those things.
Unless she says she wants a story about a Walmart worker.
Then I’ll just lay down and tell that tale.
Seriously. Enough with the eyerolls already.
What did you want to be when you grew up? Did it work out? Anyone actually know what Cirque du Soleil performers make? I’ve been working on my flexibility. Think I might take a swing at it…
Slim, Perpetual Motion, and Hellcat all have the same PE teacher, and it just so happens this individual is one of my closest friends.
When Kick Ass Wife and I moved here and took our first teaching jobs almost 15 years ago, he and I coached basketball together. A hundred or so hours of bus trips later, we knew each other pretty well, and that friendship has remained til this day.
He’s a salt-of-the-earth type person, someone you feel fortunate to have crossed paths with in life.
And he has a great sense of humor.
So it was that I composed this letter and sent it with Slim (sealed in an enveloped) to deliver to his PE teacher the day of the mile run:
In the end, Slim — oblivious to the nature of the letter he had delivered – ran the mile, which was fine with him because he’s one of those sick individuals like his marathoning mother who actually enjoys running.
My friend – who penned a witty rebuttal which brought me to tears – got a chuckle as he put the poor little bastards through their paces.
And Kick Ass Wife — who teaches at the same school the kids attend and works with a group of really terrific people – got a cowboy hat, compliments of a colleague who caught wind of Slim’s letter of excusal.
Hopefully she’ll try it out when the mile run comes around again this spring.
Tax Credit #4 and I spent the afternoon playing in the snow yesterday.
We’ve received a fair amount of white stuff over the last couple weeks, which is awesome. It provides opportunities for the types of memorable, enriching activities I want our children to experience.
Like redneck sledding.
And snowball fights.
For me, it’s hard to imagine a childhood void of the thrill of scooping up a handful of fresh, wet snow, packing it as tightly as you possibly can, and drilling a fellow human being directly in the face from a painfully-close range.
However, with a little guy like Tax Credit #4, snowballs and snowball fights have a little different feel to them.
Here are some helpful guidelines for snowballs and toddlers.
1. You’ll need to make all the snowballs for the child because mittened toddler hands are as useless at tits on a crow.
I don’t really understand what that means, but Kick Ass Wife’s grandmother says it all the time and she’s awesome. So I love it.
Anyway, each time #4 attempted to fashion a snowball with his club-like mitts, he became increasingly agitated.
“THIS SNOW’S BROKED!” he finally yelled.
So I corrected his grammar and piled up a pyramid of power-packed projectiles he could use for his personal arsenal.
Which he decided to snack on.
2. Beyond making snowballs, your only other contribution is being a target.
I know it seems snowball “fight” would suggest two opposing sides with the expectation that both are trying to hit the other, but that’s not how it works.
WARNING: DON’T EVEN THINK ABOUT HITTING THE TODDLER WITH A SNOWBALL.
No matter how light and playfully I toss snow at Tax Credit #4, he acts as though he’s been struck down with a bowling-ball sized ice bomb anytime snow so much as grazes him.
TC#4: “DAD! WHY’D YOU DO THAT!”
ME: “Because we’re having a snowball fight?”
And if even a single crystal of snow accidentally comes in contact with an exposed surface — say his neckline just above the collar of the coat — it’s meltdown city, baby. Game over.
No, if you know what’s good for you, this melee will involve you standing stock-still while the toddler pelts you — ironically – with the snowballs you made.
And remember, a toddler is about waist-high to the average adult, meaning the most-likely place of impact will be your groin.
ME: **COUGH** “You sure did!” **COUGH**
Believe me, even while bundled up in a snow suit to the point of almost zero dexterity, a 3-year-old can throw with a surprising amount of velocity, so don’t pack the snowballs you’re making for your child to throw at you too tightly.
3. Suggest you and the toddler team up to throw snowballs at the groin of a third-party target, like a tree.
After several direct shots below the belt, I decided it was time to come up with some type of game that didn’t involve so much abuse.
“Hey, I’ve got an idea,” I said, spitting up blood, “Let’s pretend that tree is Shredder and we’re Ninja Turtles!”
“Oh, yeah!” Tax Credit #4 is all about the Turtles, so luckily for me he was all-in.
At this point, he’d exhausted his first cache of snowballs — all of them having been either eaten or hurled at my crotch — so I sat down to make more ammo.
And ice down my snowballs.
I tell ya, if toddlers would just hit you in the face like they’re supposed to, snowball fights would be a lot funner.
Hellcat draws a lot like she sings: what may be lacking in terms of innate artistic ability is more than compensated for with sheer output.
And a Hello Kitty microphone and multiple wardrobe changes and raw primal aggression in the case of singing.
So last night when she announced she was going to color a picture for me, it was no surprise she reappeared minutes later with five. And — contrary to Kick Ass Wife’s baseless assertions that Hellcat is a daddy’s girl — she included her mother as a recipient on all but one of them, as well.
After all, Hellcat is nothing if not thoughtful.
As we thanked our precocious artist and made our best-educated guesses at the species of those animals not conveniently labeled (if you’re curious, that is a lion, not a “scared wiener dog” as Perpetual Motion chimed in), I decided it was a perfect opportunity for a little innuendo, as though there are non-perfect times.
“Your mom is probably most impressed by this one,” I explained, pointing, “because she can’t help but think of your dad any time she sees an elephant.”
“Why?” asked Hellcat.
“Because elephants have really… long… memories, just like me.”
After sighing and eye rolling in the manner our kids have become accustomed to, Kick Ass Wife said, “Actually, the reason I think of your dad when I see elephants is because the size of their brains is much smaller than the size of their bodies would suggest.”
“Ohhhhhhh, Dad!” exclaimed Slim in that manner common to 8-year-old’s-who-aren’t-minding-their-own-business-just-before-their-faced-fathers-send-them-to-their-rooms.
Luckily, elephants have thick skin, too.
Have you ever gotten out of the habit of doing something for so long you’re not really sure how to get started again?
If so, you understand how it’s been for me and showering as of late.
Oh, and blogging.
To be fair, I’ve been tied up with some other responsibilities – race strategist for Usain Bolt at the London Olympics (“Run really fast”), guest choreographer for Beyonce’s Super Bowl halftime performance (“You know, I don’t think you can ever go wrong with the chicken dance”) — but, for the most part, I just haven’t really felt like writing.
So it’s time to get back in the proverbial saddle and chafe some areas that haven’t been chafed for a while.
And on that note, I’m going to shower.
Sunday of Labor Day weekend we took our team of sluggers to a minor league baseball game.
Arriving at the ballpark about a half hour ahead of the first pitch, we made our way to the walk-up ticket window, and $18 later (hello, beer money!) the six of us were through the gate.
You gotta love minor league prices, especially on the heels of an epic Chuck E. Cheese’s run (aren’t they all?) and back-to-school shopping looming the next day.
Our tickets were for a grass area down the first base line behind the visiting team’s bullpen, which in this ballpark amounts to the foul territory down the right field line — think Wrigley — where we spread out a blanket and plopped down.
Afternoon baseball is a real treat. Savoring the warm-but-not-hot late summer sun on the backs of our necks, we watched the players nonchalantly yuck it up as they loosened their arms, the whistling whiz of stitched rawhide popping well-oiled leather providing a rhythmic soundtrack for this little slice of Americana. (Take that, Ken Burns.)
The serenity of this moment lasted just under two minutes before our bench players got restless, which was just fine. Part of the reason we opted for the cheap seats on the grass (besides beer money) was knowing that the kids wouldn’t be content sitting still for long, and we didn’t expect them to.
So we were up and off. Perpetual Motion to the inflatable jump pit; Kick Ass Wife, Hellcat, and Tax Credit #4 in search of snow cones; Slim double-fisting a couple hot dogs and me double-fisting a couple Shock Top Belgian Whites.
Then back to the blanket for starting lineups, our Anthem, and the first pitch, just before which the players in the pen turned and tossed a ball to each of the kids.
This pattern continued for the entirety of the game. Watch a half inning from the grass, get up and move.
We made several laps of the field, pausing along the way to watch from several different vantage points, the kids asking questions, pointing, then scurrying just ahead or falling just behind as we mosied on.
No hurry, no worry, our pace matching that of the game being played before us, a welcome relief after the first week of school with its maddening rush of morning and evening and everything in between.
It was good stuff, all the way around.
Oh, and great baseball, too. We cheered on an inside-the-park home run by the home team’s number two hitter in the bottom of the first, maybe the most exciting play in baseball. We marveled over a dazzling play by the shortstop from deep in the hole, and applauded the right fielder’s running snag of a ball hit to the gap. And we witnessed quite possibly the best pickoff move in the history of baseball.
But it didn’t involve a pitcher.
It involved a 3-year-old.
Somewhere toward the later innings Kick Ass Wife and I somewhat begrudgingly agreed to get one bag of cotton candy for the crew to share, our reservations having nothing to do with nutritional value (see: snow cones, hot dogs, soft pretzels, nachos) but with messiness value, which, if left up to me, would be a major determining factor for all food choices (see: jerky). But we figured “What the hell?” It was a go-all-in type of afternoon.
We lined up the kids along the concession stand wall and allowed each of them to get one big handful of the sugary wisp, and, quicker than a catcher’s snap throw to first, they were instantly covered in cotton candy blue.
Others walking by chuckled and pointed out the quartet of sticky siblings to companions, giving me that knowing look that says, “You poor bastard.”
Of course, I had to get a picture. And it was then, as I was capturing another memory from our day at the ballpark, that the pickoff occurred.
Tax Credit #4, who had already inhaled his allotment, glanced up and spotted his sister’s remaining chunk hanging from her mouth as she preened for the pic, and with the deftness of a fourth-born who knows he’s going to get only one chance at something — if any — #4 snatched it from her lips and crammed the whole of it into his mouth in one smooth motion.
Hellcat stared down at her little brother, dumbfounded (and enraged). His brothers laughed and complimented him on his handiwork. His mother didn’t even realize what had happened. I raised my cup to him.
It truly was a move (and a day) for the ages.
I just heard this AC/DC classic on Pandora and it reminded me of every time we drive anywhere, but it especially reminded me of our road trip to Oregon a couple of years back.
This is a reblog (How cool is that word?) of an original post from August 2010, “Is It Much Further, Papa Smurf?”
The video of Hellcat still kills me. Now she’s a kindergarten goat hefter.
How time flies… except when you’re in the car with kids.
About two weeks ago my wife and I loaded up our crew and drove to Oregon.
Because if you have four kids age six and under, the logical thing to do is pile in a vehicle and drive 2600 miles round trip (approximately 40 car hours) to see the ocean.
Faced with having to choose between either embarking on such a trek or neutering a full-grown Bengal tiger with a butter knife, most level-headed individuals would turn and walk directly to the silverware drawer.
But we’ve never been the sort for level-headedness, so early Friday morning my wife and I began packing our suburban and ushering the kids toward their respective car seats in anticipation of our departure later that afternoon, and at precisely 7:00 a.m. Saturday morning we were on our way.
Experienced parents know that actually getting the kids into the vehicle and strapped in is one of the most aggravating aspects of traveling with minis. Invariably, just about the time that you’re yanking the strap and cinching the last one down into his seat, you turn to find that two others have escaped.
It’s mind-numbing. Fortunately, we had to go through this routine no more than 25 times each way on our trip to the coast.
But as I said, we did manage to get on the road by Saturday morning, and it wasn’t long before Papa Smurf Syndrome set in.
Remember Smurfs? In nearly every episode Papa would lead Smurfette, Hefty Smurf, Rampant Hemorrhoids Smurf, Tourette’s Smurf, I Swear It’s Medical Marijuana Smurf, and the other Smurfs on a long journey in search of berries or to save No Concept of Personal Space Smurf from Gargamel and Azrael. Without fail, one of the Smurfs would ask, “Is it much further, Papa Smurf?” minutes into their journey, to which Papa would calmly reply, “Not much further, my little Smurfs.”
And remember how after the third such inquiry (it’s always in threes), Papa Smurf would snap?
“The next Smurfin’ Smurf that Smurfin’ asks me how much Smurfin’ further is going to get a Smurfin’ Smurf up the mother Smurfin’ Smurf compliments of my size-Smurf Smurfin’ left boot!” And then he’d Smurf a pull from a bottle of Captain Smurf and keep on a Smurfin’.
At least that’s how I remember it. I was like seven.
Anyway, approximately 38 feet from the end of our driveway, Perpetual Motion, the 4-year-old, asked, “Dad, are we to the ocean yet?”
“Have you ever been able to see the ocean from our house?”
“Well, if you look out the window to your left, you’ll see our house. So it’s going to be a while. Take a nap.”
It’s those kinds of comments from your kids that at first blush seem cute and funny, but then you start to really think about what they’ve suggested and cringe.
Had we ever passed a large body of water while driving down the lane in front our house? Why would one suddenly be there? You sort of realize that your efforts to educate your kids are falling woefully short when they say something like that.
Another example from earlier in the summer at our local county fair: after checking out the craft exhibits and swarming the rent-a-clown, we walked through a building where the kids petted some rabbits and molested some goats. (On our trip to the coast we found that this is a fairly common practice for our kids when we visited a walk-through safari, although the teamwork demonstrated is admirable.)
As we walked over to another collection of stalls at the fairgrounds, I asked the kids what other animals we might see at the fair. The 6-year old, Slim, chimed in with pigs, Perpetual Motion offered cows, and then the Hellcat, our 3-year old, threw out whales, serious as can be. Kick Ass Wife looked at me and smiled. But I couldn’t let it go.
“Whales, Hellcat? Oh wait, yeah, I forgot: the whale showmanship competition typically takes place after the penguin sale but before the giant octopus rodeo. Are you kidding me? We’ve probably read you a minimum of 30 different books about farm animals, we have a miniature farm set complete with red barn and farm animal start-up kit, and you come up with whales? How about horses? Chickens? Any of those ringing a bell? Even llamas would have put you in the ballpark. But whales? I’m disappointed, Hellcat. You need to go sit in the car and think about this a little bit.”
Okay, so actually I just patted her on the head and bought her a snow cone, but I was a bit flabbergasted by whales.
But back to the trip. True to form, PM asked if we were to the ocean twice more before we even reached the on-ramp to the interstate, once when we were passing our local Wal-Mart. If this continued, I was going to be looking for a sheer cliff face to Thelma-and-Louise off of before we even hit the Wyoming border.
Then, suddenly, I had a devious-yet-brilliant idea that could potentially lop 38 hours off of our drive. I ran it by Kick Ass Wife.
“Hey, if the kids are asking if we are at the ocean yet, we can find just about any body of water, call it the ocean, and they won’t know any different. ‘Yep, this is the Pacific Ocean, kids. See all of those beached Jet Skis on the other side of the lake, er, I mean ocean? That’s the coastline of China. Soak it all in, kids. Soak it all in.’ We could save some serious coin, be home by nine tonight, and potentially avoid becoming a flaming scrap heap at the bottom of a deep ravine.”
“Just shut the Smurf up and drive,” KAW replied.
Where’s a bottle of Captain Smurf when a fella needs it?