Show and Tell Presents a Slew of New Challenges

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Oliver has officially entered pre-school and with it comes new challenges and obstacles.  He’s fully potty trained (THANK GOD) and learning to write his name.  Once a week, he gets to bring something into class for show and tell.  There’s a catch though.  Every week is a specific letter so he has to bring in something that starts with that letter.  Being that he’s my son, I’ve encouraged him to bring in nerdy stuff instead of your average items.  For B, he brought in a bat Halloween decoration that flapped its wings.  For C, he went in with a C is for Cthulhu plush and book, much to the dismay of his teachers who struggled to pronounce anything in it.

nk-g0rhii3dlhlenvucdwluhs65liwsbq-ixstvoqbcpx92ib

Each week, Monica and I frantically search for options for Oliver to bring in.  Show and Tell is on Tuesdays so we really have one night to really think about it.  Sure, we could plan this farther in advance, but who does that?  (The answer to that question is Monica.  She does that and we’ll get to that in a bit.)  This week’s letter was I.  We struggled with this one.  Ice cream?  Iceman?  I got nothing.  In desperation, I went downstairs to look through a box of my old action figures the kids have taken over.  I take one quick glance down and realize how stupid we’ve been.  I shout up to Monica “We’re idiots.”  She replies “That starts with I!” Grimacing, I point out that we had forgotten the most popular super hero that starts with the letter I.  Iron Man.  How could we forget this?  Oliver dressed up as Iron Man for Halloween a couple weeks ago.  I’m disappointed in myself.

 

Anyway, I pulled out a few Iron Man toys and Oliver picked one out to bring with him, specifically the Hulk Buster Iron Man.  I have about six different versions from the incredibly cheesy 1994 cartoon.  We also told Oliver that if he was good, he could wear his Iron Man costume to school.  So, the next morning, I drop Oliver off and the other kids stood there, mouths agape.  How come he got to wear his costume?  Why couldn’t I wear my costume?  It was then I realized that I’m the cool parent.  I let my kid wear his Halloween costume to school, albeit with a tie-in to show and tell.  Oliver wore the thing the entire day.  He was still wearing it when I picked him up later that day too.

One of Life’s Great Mysteries: Solved

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It’s 4 AM when I’m awoken by a familiar sound: the creak of Oliver’s door slowly opening.  Yes, this is a creepy noise to hear in the middle of the night, but as it’s one I hear frequently, I’ve grown used to it.  I close my eyes and hope that he’s just going to use the bathroom.  No such luck on that front as I then hear the pitter-patter of his small feet as he makes his way into my bedroom.  Again, I have a small hope that maybe he just wants to come into bed with us and then we can all go back to sleep.  After all, I’d already been up frequently with Parker so maybe, just maybe, we could all just get a few more winks in.  Again, I’m nowhere near that lucky.  Instead, I’m told something that I can honestly say I’ve never heard uttered by another human being.  I could be weird and say that my three year old son was speaking in tongues or something along those lines.  No, the truth is strange on its own and far more humorous.

“I can’t find my pants.”

That’s right.  At 4 AM, my young son woke up and came into my bedroom to tell me that he’s lost his pants.  I’m immediately filled with questions.  How did he lose his pants?  Where could they have gone?  When did he lose them?  Why did he take them off in the first place?  I ask him one of these questions.

“Oliver.  It’s 4 o’clock in the morning.  How did you lose your pants?”

“I can’t find my pants.”

With a deep sigh, I get up out of bed and walk him back to his room.  He’s clad in his t-shirt and underwear.  Once we’re back in his bedroom, I pick up the flashlight on his dresser and shine it around to quickly find the missing pants, wedged between his bed and the wall.  I help him put them back on, tuck him in, turn the flashlight off, and then walk back to my room.  Fortunately, he went right back to sleep and stayed that way for another hour or two.

Being a parent is weird and I’m sure I’ll be faced with tough questions as my two kids get older.  I’ll have to explain death and the birds & the bees.  For now, I can be satisfied knowing that when my son loses his pants, I can solve that mystery.

I Almost Peed on My Son

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I’m not burying the lead with this blog post.  We’re going to get right into it because there’s no other way to tell this story than by starting with that headline.  The other day, I almost peed on my son, specifically Parker, the one year old.  First, some background information for you.  Since Monica and I have had our own place, I have peed with the door open.  It’s my house and it’s my bathroom, so that’s it.  I can’t explain why I feel so entitled as to urinate with an open door.  It doesn’t make me feel special or anything.  It’s not as if the act of closing the door behind me is cumbersome or difficult.  Before you ask, yes, I close the door when company is around.

parker-smile

 

This habit was only slightly curtailed when I had kids and then only when they started moving around on their own.  Plus, it helped a bit when Oliver was potty training (which is an entire other blog post) to understand that everyone else used the toilet.  I could sneak off for a minute to go take a leak while Oliver was otherwise occupied in the next room with toys or the TV.  I do not have that luxury with Parker.  If Oliver was a handful, Parker is a dump truck of mischief.  The kid gets into anything and everything and he’s friggin’ fast.  He’s climbing on stuff and crawling / walking every where.  He also seems interested in stuff that Oliver never was, such as the toilet.

 

This brings us back to the subject of this blog post.  The other day I get home with the kids.  They’re playing upstairs.  I’ve got a gate up to prevent Parker from falling down the stairs.  This allows the kids to play in either or both of their rooms freely.  I go into the bathroom through my bedroom and leave the door open behind me.  This is something I’ve done a million times.  Just as I start peeing, Parker is closing in quick.  He’s crawling in his little Gollum style, with his left leg up and his right leg down in the traditional crawl pose.  I’m in mid stream when he’s suddenly between my legs, grasping the edge of the toilet to pull himself to a standing position.  By this point I’m screaming “NO! NO! NO! NO! NO!” and trying to tuck my junk back in my pants while also avoiding peeing on my young son’s head.  This is easier said than done but I’m happy to report that he got away dry.  I then picked up him, put him outside the bathroom, closed the door, and finished my business.  I’m sure I’ll receive a therapy bill for this traumatic experience some time in the future.  Sorry kid.  I guess I’ll start closing the door more often.

The First Casualty in the Groundhog War

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I’ve written before about my battles with the groundhog in our backyard.  I thought I had chased him away two years ago, but like a bad penny, he’s returned.  This time he brought friends.  I’ve spotted two separate groundhogs out in the yard and they’ve got two different hideouts.  The first and most notable of the two is under the shed attached to the back of the house.  I’ve caught them out of the burrow a few times and chased them off.  I then filled in the hole with rocks and dirt.  The next day — and sometimes even within the hour — the hole would be dug out again.  Monica even looked it up online and read that groundhogs hate the smell of dryer sheets so we shoved a bunch in there, but to no avail.

 

The other groundhog hideout is less of a concern.  It’s a hollowed out stump on the edge of the yard near the stream.  They can have that.  The shed hold is unacceptable.  It’s an eye sore and I’m concerned about the foundation of the shed itself.  After filling in the hole for what felt like the millionth time, I called a professional.  Over the weekend, a guy came and set up a trap to catch one of the groundhogs.  It’s a lethal trap which I’m fine with.  It’s personal now.  He explained that he has to kill them either way due to the law.  They’re considered a nuisance or something so he can’t just set them free.  The choice would be a lethal trap to kill the thing right there or a non-lethal one that he’d then catch and drown or something elsewhere.  Why make the extra work?  Lethal it is.

 

While he was setting the trap, this guy (who was incredibly nice and very knowledgable) explained that sometimes the animal will try to run through the trap.  This means that it will spring and only catch their hind legs.  He told me that if this happens, just pick up one of the nearby rocks and bash its head in.  You know, like you do.

 

After he set the trap and left, I had to go visit some family.  When I got back, my neighbor — whom I don’t care for — was having a small barbeque in their backyard with some friends.  Instantly I thought of a scene where the groundhog was stuck in the trap, half dead.  I’d find it there and realize what had to be done.  I would make casual conversation with the neighbors, waving courteously with a smile.  “Beautiful day today, huh?”  Meanwhile, I’m picking up a large rock.  “Can you believe this weather?” THUNK!  The rock lands.  Blood splatters.  “It’s a shame to go back inside.”  THUNK!  One more just to make sure it’s dead.  I never once mention what I’m doing or why.  Then I wave once again and head inside.  The sheer thought of this had me hysterical laughing.  Unfortunately, the opportunity to do this did not present itself.

 

Monica came home from work today and reported that the trap had sprung and one groundhog had been caught.  He lays there, lifeless, head first in the trap as I type this.  The trapper guy is coming to dispose of the body and re-set the trap so we can catch the other one.  James: 1, Groundhog: 0.  Once the other one is gone, I’ll have to fill in the hole with some extra reinforcement to ensure no other critters make their homes in there.  These are the things you have to do when you own a house.

 

UPDATE: The trapper came and reset everything.  The next morning we had caught the other groundhog.  The trap was reset once more, but nothing else has come through so I think we’re groundhog-free now.  I consider this a victory against large rodents.

Drool is the Most Disgusting Bodily Fluid

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My youngest son Parker is now 9 months old.  Between him and Oliver I’ve cleaned up my fair share of urine, feces, vomit, and more snot than should be possible to come out of a child’s nose.  The most disgusting of these bodily fluids by far is drool.  It’s unlike any of the others in that it’s almost impossible to entirely get rid of it.  A drip of the stuff can get on your hand or shirt and it just won’t go away even if you wipe away at it countless times.  There have been several instances where I’ll get to work hours after dropping my kids off at day care only to look down and find that there’s an obvious drool stain on my shirt.  It’s par for the course really.

Look at this adorable little drool machine.

Look at this adorable little drool machine.

The consistency of drool is what makes it so nasty.  It’s almost oily in texture, allowing it to slide freely from surface to surface, without you noticing at first.  No amount of tissues, bibs, and burp cloths can keep the tide at bay.  Speaking of bibs, they are a must-have at this point in Parker’s life.  He needs to be in one at all times because the drool just keeps coming.  If I forget to put on one, his chest is drenched within minutes.  Even when he’s wearing a bib, that thing gets soaked so quickly.  I’ll pick him up and suddenly get slapped with a piece of wet cloth…only it’s not wet from water…it’s wet with the saliva of my infant son.

You basically just have to try to keep up with the waterfall of spit that’s coming out of the kid’s mouth.  Bibs help that.  Having tissues nearby is a good backup plan.  We were out today and I had neither so I sort of used his arm to wipe it up, like an older person would do.  Just use your sleeve, right?  He didn’t mind.

In related news, I’ve found that Parker really loves it when I toss him up in the air.  I was always cautious of this with Oliver because I thought I’d break him or something.  That caution is all but gone with the second kid.  I haven’t dropped him or anything, but I’ve definitely been throwing him up in the air a lot more.  He’s got a huge smile on his face the entire time too.  You might see where this story is going.  One evening I was sitting in my reclining chair, casually tossing the kid up and catching him.  He’s giggling and smiling.  Everything is great.  Then I toss him up once more.  I catch him and at that moment, the drool breaks free from the dam that is his mouth.  Gravity pulls it towards the earth, straight down…and into my mouth.

Despite my instant revulsion, I didn’t just throw my infant son across the room.  I immediately moved him to the side and started spitting into a nearby burp cloth.  It was gross.  It was the grossest encounter with baby bodily fluids I’d ever had at that point.  (I’ve since had a worse one, but that’s a story for another day.)  That hasn’t stopped me from playing with my kids though, nor should it.  This kind of stuff is just part of being a parent.  It’s something that someone — a doctor, an elder, anyone really — should tell you about.  There’s a good chance your kid is going to drool right into your mouth.  You’re going to get poop on your hands.  You’ll get peed on.  Boogers will be wiped all over you.  Just hope none of them puke in your mouth / face.  I’ve managed to avoid that up until now.

Poop is the New Immovable Object

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Please note: This entire post is about poop.  If you don’t want to read about that, skip this one.  I’m being completely serious.  This is all about crap.

We’re currently trying to potty train Oliver.  He’s 2.5 years old and knows what the toilet is, but he’s not a huge fan of using it.  There are times where he’s clearing shitting his pants (you can tell because he has this weird strained face and he’s standing in the corner), but when asked if he can sit on the potty, he refuses.  So, we’re still buying diapers in bulk which are crazy expensive, especially when you consider the fact that my son is literally going to piss and crap all over these things before I throw them in the garbage.

If you actually read the instructions for diapers, they tell you to dispose of solid waste in a toilet before throwing in the garbage.  I can tell you that we never did that.  Why would you want to scoop out the kid’s crap when you can toss the whole thing?  The less contact with poop, the better, in my opinion.  The thing though is that with Oliver potty-training, we are trying to show him what he should be doing and that includes poop going into the toilet, so we’ve had to do this a few times.

Here’s something else that no one tells you: A toddler’s poop is shaped strangely.  You have an idea in your head as to what poop looks like, right?  It’s like a cylinder.  That’s how it comes out when it goes directly into the toilet.  When a kid craps into a diaper, it doesn’t end up that way.  It molds around the walls of the diaper, like a horrible version of PlayDoh, creating a big solid mass of fecal matter.

This was the case earlier this week when Oliver insisted on transferring his dump from a diaper into the toilet.  Monica was handling this whole transaction while I was preparing dinner.  Then I got a call.  I was beckoned downstairs because there was a plumbing problem and I’m the dad, so that means it’s my problem.  I entered the bathroom to find a solid piece of crap wedged in the bottom of the toilet.  It was as if someone had placed the worst smelling candle in my commode.  Apparently Monica and Oliver had flushed a few times and that thing just was not moving.  It had taken up residency in the bottom of the toilet and it was not being evicted any time soon.  Water was flowing around it fine, so it wasn’t blocking up the pipes or anything.  It was just hanging out, like a decoration in a fish tank.

I stared at this dumbfounded.  What was I expected to do here?  I know what to do when the toilet is clogged.  The plunger can just unclog that sucker.  This wasn’t so much of a clog as an obstruction.  Would it dissolve over time?  What if we just flushed the toilet a lot?  Should I look this up on the Internet?  Is there a video on YouTube showing what to do here?

After laughing hysterically at how ridiculous this situation was, I ended up knocking the thing around with the plunger so it eventually went down the drain.  Oliver is still in diapers and we have not thrown any other poop into the toilet since.

Raging Nerdon: Episode 001

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I’m trying to figure out the best way to distribute podcasts.  For now, I can post them here for your enjoyment.  I will have RSS feeds and whatnot worked out soon (hopefully).  In related news, if you are an artist or graphic designer and want to help me want to help me out with some album artwork for this and two other podcasts, please let me know.  I wouldn’t pay you in “exposure.”  I’d actually pay you in money.  Same goes for musicians to help out with some intro / outro music, plus some intro pieces for some of the segments in the show.

 

Here’s the very first episode of Raging Nerdon, featuring the geeky ramblings of James Ferguson and BJ Boothe.

Don’t Let the Bed Bugs Bite

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Yesterday my sister-in-law, Lindsay got married.  It was a great time and everyone enjoyed themselves.  We’re all very happy for her and my new brother-in-law, Kirk.  This post is not about that.  This post is about how I got bit the F up by bed bugs while staying at the Best Western near the Albany Airport the night before the wedding.

Now, there are many things in that last sentence that should have set off some alarm bells.  Best Western is a popular hotel chain, but they’re certainly not a glamorous place by any stretch of the imagination.  That, coupled with the close proximity of the airport doesn’t sound like a great combination.  It’s not like the place had hourly rates or anything.  It just had a slight skeevy feel to it.  Monica and I got a room with two beds to house us and the kids.  Parker was in a pack-n-play and Oliver had a bed to himself.  Everything started normal.

Partway through the night, Oliver woke up and wanted someone to lay with him.  Monica volunteered, leaving me in the other bed.  I then tossed and turned and generally had an awful night sleep.  At some point, perhaps around 1 or 2 AM, in my half awake stupor, I saw what I believe to be a small bug crawling along the edge of the sheet.  I try to squash it and say out loud “I sincerely hope that wasn’t what I thought it was.”

I managed to get some sleep regardless of this and the occasional screaming child.  I get out of bed in the morning and notice two red marks on my right side, around my waist line.  They looked a little like bug bites, but they didn’t really bother me.  I didn’t think much of them.

Fast forward a few hours.  We’re now at a different hotel, waiting for the wedding to begin.  I’m dressed in my suit and my right forearm is very itchy.  I’m starting to think this is really a bed bug situation.  Monica, Oliver, and Parker are completely fine.  Throughout the night, I notice other bites on my right hand and my left leg.  That was just the beginning.

After the wedding and reception ended, Monica and I retired upstairs.  While changing, I found at least a dozen bites over my right arm, both legs, back, and even one on my face.  The worst are two bites on my right forearm which have caused it to swell up to the point where I look like Popeye.  This is some crazy shit.

I look up bed bugs online and find that the bite patterns match up to my symptoms.  I’m both pissed and worried, especially since my arm looks so weird.  I picked up some Benadryl and cortizone cream in the morning which helped a little, but I’m still crazy itchy.  On the plus side, I get super strong when I eat spinach right now.  No other super powers have been discovered at the time of this writing.

Upon returning home, I called the Best Western.  They said they would “look into it.”  When I asked what that meant, the manager said that they have a professional they call in to check to make sure if there are bed bugs or not and they would call me back.  I’m not expecting a return phone call from them, but I’ll definitely be avoiding them in the future.  A quick search online found a review from a year ago that also referenced bed bugs.  Clean up your shit, BW.

Pancakes! Pancakes!

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I don’t go to a lot of sporting events, mostly because I don’t like sports.  I have been to a few baseball games, a single hockey game, and a basketball game, none of which I paid to attend.  That’s the only thing that will get me remotely interested in going to a game really.  Thursday night, my company supplied tickets to the Rockland Boulders game.  This is a local CANAM league baseball team with a stadium about 10 minutes from my house.  I’ve been to a couple games there before.  The place is nice and again, I didn’t pay for the tickets.  We took Oliver to a game last year and he lasted a few innings before we called it quits.  Now that he’s about 2.5 years old, his attention span is a little longer and we figured we’d give it a try again.  Obviously, this time we’ve got an infant too.

The experience wasn’t bad.  We ate some complimentary hot dogs and chips, which Oliver loved.  Parker was pretty relaxed for the vast majority of the game, only really crying when it was time for him to eat.  Oliver had a blast on the playground and patiently waited in line for a ride on the train the drives around the stadium.

Rockland_Boulders

What I was most intrigued by this time around were all the strange promotions that the stadium has for local businesses.  There’s a Mercedes dealership that will give away a car if a Rockland Boulder hits a home run into his sign in the outfield.  Someone did hit a home run and it landed below the sign, but not nearly far enough to reach it.  That car is never going to be given away.  The bulk of the promotions are in the form of coupons given out at the end of the game if something happens, such as two doubles in a row.  The weirdest one was for IHOP.  A batter on the opposing team is selected ahead of time.  If at any point during the game, that batter strikes out, everyone in attendance gets a coupon for a free short stack of pancakes.  The first time this guy came up, he didn’t strike out, but was knocked out pretty quick.  The second time was a different story.

When he got up to the plate, the announcer reminded the crowd that if he struck out, we’d all enjoy a short stack of pancakes.  This was followed with a Jaws-like rhythm as the announcer repeated the word “Pancakes” a couple times.  Then the pitch. Strike one. The crowd cheered and the announcer came back.  “Remember everyone, if he strikes out…pancakes….pancakes.”  The next pitch was thrown…strike two.  The crowd was now blatantly excited.  They were on the verge of eating free pancakes and everyone knows that free food tastes better.  The announcer was back on the loud speaker.  By this point, he wasn’t even bothering with the niceties.  Instead, he just started saying “Pancakes” over and over again, with that Jaws tune backing him up.  The crowd joined in, chanting “Pancakes” in unison.  The stadium was far from sold out, but it was still a bizarre experience to witness as hundreds of people were so singularly focused on what may come next.  This is how much people love pancakes.  Now, I think the next pitch resulted in a foul ball, but I can’t remember for sure.  The excitement came when the final pitch was thrown with the crowd chanting “Pancakes” in a fervor.  It came over the plate and…you guessed it.  Strike three.  Everyone lost their minds.  Free pancakes!  They’re from IHOP!  Woo!

There’s a catch though.  See, the only way to claim that sweet syrupy prize was to stay until the end of the game.  We left in the middle of the 8th inning, which was already past 9 PM.  With two small kids, that’s like 3 AM.  I found out later that the game lasted 13 innings and well into the night.  I’m glad that I went home and got some sleep instead of staying at the game for another few hours with two kids that would have grown increasingly cranky as the night went on.  I’m also willing to bet that the coupon has a pretty small timeframe for usage.

When I recounted this story to my boss the next day, he brought up a good point that works as a terrific closer to this tale.  You can be sure that the rest of the opposing team called that guy “Pancake” for the entire ride home.

Sometimes Kids are Assholes

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Oliver is 2 years old now.  He’s not quite 2 and a half, but he’s getting there.  A few months back, he developed what is perhaps the most annoying habit in the entire world.  This sweet, adorable, loving little boy will occasionally and without warning, scream at the top of his tiny lungs while smiling his cute little face off.  Just to clarify what I mean by this, it’s more of a shriek than a scream.  It’s a high pitched, ear splitting noise that pierces your very soul.  No place or time is off limits to this either.  He could be in acceptable places like a large outdoor playground or a field or in a crowded supermarket or, my personal…whatever the opposite of favorite is…the car.

We had a long car ride home yesterday from Monica’s family reunion upstate.  Parker was sleeping soundly and we figured that Oliver would conk out so we’d have a peaceful ride.  No such luck.  Oliver was up the entire way back, screaming like a madman.  Despite us trying everything we could possibly think of to stop him from doing this short of stuffing a sock in his mouth, he kept gleefully doing it.  It got to the point that Parker woke up and was crying.  To paint this mental picture for you, we’ve got Oliver shrieking, Parker crying, Monica trying to soothe them both, and me driving with gritted teeth, hoping to get home as fast as possible so I can get the hell out of that car and perhaps jump out of a window.

We got home and I dragged Oliver upstairs, changed him into his pajamas, threw him in bed, and then went to unload the car.  Meanwhile, he was clearly not tired, so he proceeded to get up and yell for me at the top of the stairs.  After taking a minute to calm down, I went up there, put him back in bed, tucked him in, and then closed the door.  This set him off on a fit, despite the fact that he told me to leave and to close the door.  Kids can’t make up their minds.  I let him cry it out for a few minutes before going in there and calmly tucking him in again.  I sat with him for a little while and it was like everything was totally normal.  He was my sweet little boy again and all was right in the world.  All of the aggravation I had built up during the car ride washed away.  Here was my son, curled up in bed, clutching his teddy bear under his Spider-Man blanket and he just wanted me to sit with him for a few minutes before he fell asleep.

That’s the thing about being a parent.  It can be the most rewarding, literally awesome thing in the entire world one minute and the next, it can be a terrifying, soul-crushing beast.  Despite this, I wouldn’t change a thing.  The good far outweighs the bad. Just know that some day I will not only wake my son up in the middle of the night just to hang out, but I’ll also be sure to shriek at an inopportune time in his life.  Maybe at his high school graduation or his wedding day.  Dad doesn’t forget, buddy.

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