Month: December 2014

I’d Like to Thank the Academy….

Screenshot 2014-12-22 08.48.08

And so it begins.  The boys’ Winter Break, 2014-style.  Only one of my sons is currently awake as my fingers pop the keys of this keyboard.  Hunched over a Santa-sized bag of Legos, clawing away at them, since I rebuffed his first attempt at turning on the television.  Coughing loudly every 3 or 4 minutes, wearing T-Rex and Skull and Crossbones-print pajama bottoms and a blue and grey “Duke” beanie.  No shirt, of course.  The shirtlessness likely explains the coughing, at least in part.  But I don’t demand a shirt.  I’ve long-since learned to pick my battles.  And I don’t pick this one.  Cough Cough.

This is a busy time of the year for my wife (and my sons’ mom) at work, as people suddenly realize they need her to do a bunch of important stuff for them.  Like now.  So that means that at least until Wednesday afternoon, I’m mostly solo.  I like solo.  I like my wife, too, of course.  But I also like solo. 

I’ve already got today and Tuesday accounted for:  I’ll finish this blog post in the next 30 minutes, accompanied by Everett raking through his thousands of Lego pieces and by our dog staring at me from her bed.  The dog won’t become a priority until her staring becomes so persistent that other recipients of said stare would anticipate an imminent attack on the jugular.  To me, that just translates into “take me outside or I will for sure poop and/or pee right here and right now.”  No such stare at the moment; I just checked.

I aspire to fire up some eggs (fried or scrambled depending upon which son’s preference is the morning’s squeakiest wheel), hash browns and bacon on the stove top grill.  The grill’s surface is scratched from heavy use, and I harbor some concern that I will be feeding my kids a dose of non-stick chemicals.  That’s an ongoing risk that will have to be addressed another day.  Because after breakfast, we are headed to the Academy.

The California Academy of Sciences, that is.  When the boys were younger, the Cal Academy was a go-to.  One of the few places where a parent could lower a toddler’s feet to the ground and, more or less, let the toddler explore on his or her own, while the parent trailed behind.  On a crowded day, this admittedly made for some nervous moments.  I have run-walked some shallow-breathed loops around the trippy blue underwater rooms downstairs, picking up my pace as my eyes scan the dark corners for my progeny, calculating the odds that he could drown in a starfish pool, crack his head on the stairs near the Gar tank, wind up in some stranger’s stroller, or topple into Claude’s den.  Did I mention that Claude is an albino alligator? None of those things have ever come to fruition, though in retrospect, I always sort of admire my creativity in terms of all the incredibly terrible things I conjure up before I find Max or Everett at a water fountain.

Fortunately (or maybe, unfortunately), those days are over now.  My kids only disappear if they choose to.  And they know my cell phone number, combined with absolutely zero fear of asking a surprised stranger to borrow the stranger’s cell phone.  “Just real quick, if you don’t mind, so I can call my dad.”  I’ve grown accustomed to seeing incoming calls bearing completely bizarre, I-don’t-know-anyone-in-Alaska area codes.  That just means Max or Ev is calling from some bemused person’s iPhone.  Fun for the kid.  Strange mixture of pride and mortification for me.  Pride for their resourcefulness.  Mortification if the owner of the cell phone is the type that will admonish me or give me that look when I show up to claim my offspring. A similar scene plays out if there is no stranger’s cell phone readily available.  Both of my kids are adept at commandeering the public address announcement system at grocery stores, museums, even airports.  In those situations, the mortification is magnified by the hundreds of disapproving eyeballs.

I so dread the mortification part, I sometimes catch myself considering ways to avoid or diminish the shunning.  Maybe I should wear a suit.  Or a tuxedo.  I have a tuxedo, it’s the one in which I was married.  Still fits, pretty much.  And I’m always looking for an excuse to wear it.  I imagine there are peer-reviewed, double-blind scientific studies supporting the notion that a man wearing a tuxedo is less likely to be admonished for delinquent parenting than a man wearing fleece sweats, a striped beanie, and goofy green running shoes.  If there is no such study, there ought to be.  Perhaps I’ll roll the study out this morning.  Given what I’m wearing at the moment, I’m thinking the beanie and green running shoes should probably be the control group.  The tux may have to wait until next time.  It’s been awhile since I’ve tied a bow-tie, and I don’t think I’ve allotted enough time for that this particular morning.  

On the other hand, a tux today might just be the perfect choice.  I imagine the scene:  Responding promptly to the fully-expected page using my first and last name (combined with the delinquent parenting part).  Mock surprise on my face, eye brows raised phonily, maybe even mouthing a “who, me?” I glide gracefully, with purpose, towards the Customer Service kiosk.  The spotlights normally trained on the enormous Blue Whale hanging from the ceiling — they snap onto my me, illuminating my path towards the kiosk, allowing me to cut through the admiring throngs.  (Slowly, the mortification begins to transfer from me over to my sons.  I can see it on their faces.)  Somewhere, a drum roll pounded out on a timpani reaches a crescendo.  I reach for (read: yank from the grip of the nervously-smiling Customer Service representative) the mic.  With the entire place holding it’s breath now, I scan the crowd.  Take it all in.  I smooth down a slight cowlick with one hand, pinch a corner of my black bow tie with the other.  Then maybe a quick flattening of the cummerbund.  I clear my throat, “First, I’d like to thank the Academy.”  I don’t get the rest of my speech out, though, due to the heavyset security guards clutching my elbows.

So on second thought, I think I’ll just go with the beanie and green sneakers. 

Thanks for reading.

Like Water for Chocolate…for Dogs.

IMG_5426Our black Lab-ish pup is at it again.  We have long since learned the veracity of the generally-held notion about black labs’ food motivation.  We go through periods of days or weeks during which we fall victim to serious doubts as to whether Wailea is a black Lab at all.  Her snout is too pointy.  Like a border collie’s.  She is too lean, like a greyhound.  She has Captain Kangaroo mutton chops, like a German shepherd. 

Screenshot 2014-12-09 08.19.06She jumps high into the air to fetch a high-bouncing ball, like a Kelpie Muster.  When I time my blue plastic Chucker throw just right, the orange orb compresses on the short grass and bounces maybe 20 feet into the air, with Wailea in pursuit at a full sprint.  Using her momentum she springs up and strikes a pose as if she were “posterizing” her opponent (if dogs approached a game of fetch in that manner), finishing with a flourish.  Some totally unnecessary hip-whipping for good measure.  There are no technical fouls called on the Marina Green for “unsportsmanlike fetching.”

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But then it comes back to eating.  Anything.  Even when it is clearly against her own self-interest.  Take chocolate, for example.  Most dog-owners, and maybe even most people who own no dogs, know that chocolate is a no-no.  One of the most common causes of canine poisoning, apparently.  Sometimes treated with a week-long course of fluids and anti-seizure medication, I’ve read.  So of all the things our Wailea has eaten to-date — cash money (USD), playing cards (Queens, Kings, it doesn’t seem to matter), several leather boots (but always only one of a set), red pepper flakes (preferably in leftover pasta) — the dreaded Theobroma cacao seed strikes fear in our family’s collective heart.


Our 9-year old son is allergic to peanuts.  So good luck finding anything peanut-related in this house.  That stuff has, for the most part, been banished and wire brush-scrubbed out, Karen Silkwood-style.  But chocolate?  Shoot, we got plenty of chocolate up in this piece.  As a family, however, we are pretty good about keeping Halloween candy out of paw’s reach.  Even our kids, both of whom are shameless candy thieves, understand the dire consequence of leaving a half-eaten Milky Way mini-bar under one’s bed:  The prospect of finding our beloved rescue dog gacked out on their carpet.  Cartoonish, black X’s for eyes.  Blue tongue lolled out the side of a froth-covered mouth.  No bueno.

Which brings us to last night.  Last night, you see, as my wife Hilary got a running start into a finger-pointing rant at our boys about some purportedly stolen fudge, things started to snap into focus.  Of the tunnel-vision variety. 

“Was the fudge covered in tin foil?” I asked. 

“Yes,” was Hilary’s reply, made without eye contact for me, as she continued berating the boys, presumably cringing somewhere upstairs but still within earshot of our bedroom. 

“Was the fudge down here?” I inquired. 

“Yes, right on my bedside table,” she responded, matter-of-factly, pointing to her side of the bed.

“Oh shit,” came the stage whisper from my own mouth.

My mind flashed to the two, postage stamp-sized tin foil pieces I spied on our bedroom carpet that afternoon.  I had picked them up quickly, unthinkingly, without breaking stride.  (At the time, I was distracted by the supposition that Lea had just consumed an entire Gingerbread Clifbar, including the paper wrapper.  This turned out to be false.)  But now I realized I had stumbled upon two pieces of critical evidence.  Evidence that would fully exonerate our kids.  Evidence that suggested, very strongly, that Wailea’s eyes would soon turn to X’s.  She would be lying upside down, belly bloated, limbs stiff and straight up. 

Half-panicked now, I tried to recall when I last saw the fudge cache intact.  How big was the foil-wrapped block?  As big as a laptop?  Two laptops stacked on top of one another?  Our family ran in circles around our bedroom like heated atoms, scratching our own eyes out, moaning “Gaaaaaaaahhh!” at the prospect of losing our dog, blaming one another with ridiculously convoluted plot lines, convinced Wailea was a goner.  (In truth, I sensed a bit of relief from my kids, as this particular fudge theft could not be pinned on them.)

And yet somehow, Wailea seems fine.  Assuming what we think happened to the fudge actually did in fact happen to the fudge, she ate a ton of it.  And washed it down with a sheet of tin foil, no less, save for the two stamp-sized chunks.  She hasn’t expired.  Not gacked out.  No convulsions.  Nothing out of the ordinary. In fact, here she is sleeping in her bed at my feet while I type these very words.  See?  No X’s for eyes.


Which brings us back to the black Labrador part.  Man, they can eat just about anything.  Including chocolate, apparently.

Thanks for reading.

The Great Christmas Tree Crash of 2014 (The One-Horned Medicine Man’s Medicine Is Good).


One December night maybe six or seven years ago, we vaguely heard a thud in the front of our flat whilst we slept. I don’t remember it all that well, truth be told, so maybe my subconscious managed to weave the real-world sound into whatever I was dreaming about that night. Could’ve been the muffled slam of my high school locker door, for example. The one for which I can never remember the combination, as I struggle in a frenzied panic to loose a text book critical to the Calculus final exam I am missing while I fiddle with the numbered dial. That might have been the one.

The relief I would feel upon waking up and realizing I didn’t really need the locker combo after all? (And please, Late-for-Calculus-Final-Exam Dream, release me from your grip.) That morning, the relief was replaced with dread as we discovered our over-sized Christmas tree (do I have the capitalization scheme right on this?) had toppled over in the night. Smashing to smithereens a number of ornaments we had slowly gathered thusfar during our early years together, my wife and I.

The facade of the Heritage House, a great little bed and breakfast in Mendocino to which we’d escaped one weekend early in Hilary’s first pregnancy for our now-teenager. (Yes I know I am not using one of those little sickle marks on the c in “facade.” I took French. But I can’t find the mark as a choice on my iPhone keypad.). Broken into 3 pieces, the bright red front door split from the yellow trimmed windows.

A medicine man of some sort. Green face, black and white striped horns, yellow teeth, bulging eyes circled in black eye liner. Maybe wearing pants made of buffalo hide or something. A little terrifying, actually. Think we picked him up in Sedona or Sante Fe on our move out here from the east coast in 1999. I’d guess he is supposed to be some sort of ceremonial figure. Probably my favorite tree decoration. Well, he survived the trip west unscathed, but lost a horn on our carpet, thrown down unceremoniously by our own strange ceremony involving a chopped down pine tree propped up in our living room for a month.

Well, last week it happened again.

No more than 30 seconds after I snapped the above photo of the newly-clamped and ornament-strung tree next to our fireplace, that bad boy came down.

Moments earlier, the five of us (including our dog) were, for once, actually quiet. The boys were drawing up their (ridiculous) Christmas wish lists. I was engrossed in the final pages of a book about exploring the ocean’s depths. Hilary was maybe catching up on emails. The dog was lying at my side, tongue lolling out, probably fantasizing about licking our dinner plates clean once we’d all gone to bed. The fire crackled.

Suddenly, Hilary let out a primal scream. As I jolted my head up, the tree began to fall in slow motion, the dog bolted upright and got the hell out of Dodge, and our youngest was suddenly under the 8-foot tree.

Me: “Everett, are you OK in there?”

Everett (presumably still clutching his pen, scribbling madly to ensure every possible aspiration is included on his list, possibly not even noticing the tree covering his upper torso): “Yep.”

The only damage, really, was the thin (too-thin) glass ornament we’d picked up at Zion National Park last spring. That was a once-in-a-lifetime trip filled with memories we’ll be reliving for years, likely even years after the actual participants are long gone. That hand-painted orb was fairly shattered, its sharp pieces set delicately on our dining room table even now, nearly a week later. As if we’re mourning the ornament.

The Heritage House also broke again, along the same fractures as last time, apparently not glued together as well as we thought. I think I can fix this one, though. Hopefully without Crazy-Gluing my thumb and forefinger together.

And the Sante Fe Medicine Man?

Where is he? Where is he? I may even have said those words aloud as I combed through the debris. His medicine must be good. Somehow, he survived this calamity without a scratch. He still only has the one horn, but his medicine is good.

Until the next time.

Thanks for reading.