Friday, November 28, 2008

Giving Thanks!

Today, I'm thankful for:

1. Banilla Yogurt. It makes for great shave cream, what ever that is.

2. The little red guy with the funny voice. We are like brothers!

3. Sleeping in until 7:30 this morning. Mom and Dad were much more alert when they came to get me out of my sleeping cell.

4. Being the only person under 16 at Thanksgiving yesterday. I got loads of attention. What a sweet gig.

5. That I am feeling better recently, and was able to fight off that nasty staph infection which ruined my Halloween. I have got some catching up to do.

6. Uh, Yeah.....And mostly I am thankful for Mom and Dad, who love me with every ounce of their being. They say that a lot. I am very lucky to have them, although they always tell me that they are the lucky ones.

Happy Black Friday everybody!!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Oh Yes, He'll Sing

In what appears to be an amazing case of dumb luck, I believe I have inadvertently stumbled across what may prove to be a major new tool in the war on terror.

We all know that torture to elicit vital information (tactics such as electric shock or water boarding), are not sanctioned by the Geneva Convention, and for obvious good reasons. Likewise, tactics that once were considered sure-fire ways to convince a combatant to 'give up the goods', such as bamboo shoots under the fingernails, foot roasting, or being slowly drawn and quartered, are neither sanctioned nor practiced by civilized nations in this day and age.

Of course there are other information gathering methods generally deemed more humane and acceptable than the above mentioned interrogation techniques. Sleep deprivation or playing loud rock music come to mind (Actually, this sounds like a typical weekend in our household). But even with these there is no guarantee that if a desperate situation were to arise, where timely information was of the essence, that vital information could readily be obtained.

But I have an interesting new suggestion. When faced with a situation requiring the most extreme truth-eliciting methods, the modern-day interrogator can set aside the Metallica discs, discard those bamboo shoots, empty out the tub of water and instead pull out a...


Yes, a diaper of all things. Based on recent research in our house, the mere act of changing a diaper can turn even the most even-tempered and pain resistant person into a writhing, screaming, kicking, and protesting subject who would do anything, or say anything (within personal limitations, of course) to get you to stop.

I know what you are thinking. "It seems so inhumane". But folks, I can assure you that it's not. The pain associated with this new method is not physical, but rather mental and should not result in any lasting physical effects.

That being said, I will need additional research to determine if there is any long term mental scarring associated to this act.
I'll post an update in, oh...about 25 years!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Guys Night In

In a bold move designed to lift our family out of the running for the title of Most Boring Family Ever, Mrs. LIAYF decided to take some friends up on an offer to do a girls night out Saturday, leaving Lukas and I home alone. While she was out painting the town red, the Rock Star type Par-tay that I was envisioning for Guys Night In ran into some early snags. Not the least of these was Lukas forgetting to stop and pick up the cigars and beer. Doh!
In all seriousness though, things were complicated from the outset by the fact that the girls were meeting at 6:00 PM. This meant that it was up daddy to get Lukas bathed and to bed. I don't imagine this would be too big a deal for most parents of a 17 month old, but since we had been taking the whole boring thing so seriously, this is the first actual night that Mrs. LIAYF has intentionally left it to me to get Lukas to bed on my own. (I wasn't joking about the boring thing)

I had put Lukas to bed on my own once before. This happened when Mrs. LIAYF was held up at work, and that went rather swimmingly as Luke curled right up and went to sleep, no questions asked. In my demented sort of parental calculus, that one instance several months ago added up to "No problemo. Piece of cake. Been there, done that".
I was never strong at math.

This time around was met with a stark and rather immediate realization on Lukas' part that "Things ain't right here! Where's Mama? You have no BOOBIES!"

Still, I have to hand it to the little guy, as he gave it an early college try. After I put him down in the crib, there was about 15 minutes of silence, time where I was wiping my brow and rather pleased with myself for deftly navigating what could have been a very upset, and very unsatisfied little boy.

Then the cries started. Muffled at first, but then much louder. Sticking to our trusted routine, I waited the mandatory 10 minutes, then went to tell Luke it was "night-night time", calming him before leaving the room. I repeated this a couple of times to no avail, before abandoning that and trying to spend some extra time in his room trying to put him to sleep.

That didn't work either. So I returned to the comfort him, leave the room strategy. He would fall asleep intermittently for longer stretches, leaving me thinking he was out for good, but then wake up upset once again. Nerve wracking stuff, which left me with my trigger finger on the Talk button, ready to call home the reinforcements. I held off though, which was for the best.

After a while Lukas tired out and went to sleep, with me still completely on edge-hoping that it would last. In the end I survived, and Lukas is no worse for wear. But without beer, cigars, or television I am only left here to blog about it all while Mrs. LIAYF enjoys a much deserved night out.

Boring is as boring does.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Bring it on!

I have generally greeted that period after Halloween and before, say December 15th, with grudging acceptance. Grudging acceptance of those who would hasten the impending holidays, with lights, trees, Christmas music, ect. . .

It's not like I have had a 'Bah, Humbug' attitude. Not at all. It's just that it has always seemed WAY too early to see holiday decorations sprouting up in early November. After all, once Halloween is in the rear view mirror, there are still nearly 7 weeks before Christmas arrives.

However, this year there is an ever so subtle change brewing somewhere in the inner reaches of this dad's soul. I still think it is too early for the full on holiday barrage of everything red, white, and green. But this year there is a noticeable lack of disdain for those who would hang out the icicle lights right after Halloween or put up the tree the day after Thanksgiving. It is a softening of the spirit that seems to correspond to the multi-faceted softening of the man.

Don't get me wrong. There will be no tree in this house before December 15th. The holiday music will stay on the shelf until then as well and the gift purchasing will most assuredly be last minute as it always seems to be. Rather, It's the spirit of the whole season that seems to have taken a festive new hold in me this year.

Of course, this is in no small part due to the fact that Lukas will be a year and a half old this Christmas, and for the first time will be aware that things are interesting and different around the house. I look forward to sharing all this with him, as well as sharing the spirit of giving that also comes along with all the decorations.

So, to those neighbors planning to decorate with adandon on the morning of Nov 28th, I say "Bring it on!" Just leave the giant, blow-up, holiday themed Scooby Doo in it's box and out of the front yard.


Monday, November 17, 2008


This has all happened before. I can sense it. Perhaps last year? Maybe. Regardless of when, I am made aware of it again and again in all its horrific detail each time I step through the front door. "Happy Halloween" greets me cheerily on the porch, but then thumps against the door to my chagrin. The banging of wood on glass serves as a chilling reminder of things left undone.

The life sized skull stares at me with hollow eyes as I pass through the foyer. The hovering hoard of hanging bats flutter gently in the breeze generated by my walk to the fridge. The strings of spiders still cling to my island light fixture, blending neatly with what must be more than a few real ones by now.

The skull lanterns still hang menacingly in our picture window, painting a vivid picture to our neighbors of a family not ready to give up the ghost . . . so to speak. The orange lights still frame our stairs and front porch, adding an unworldly feel to any strangers approach. Hell (yes, hell), even this still smirks at us from an overlooking shelf, as if done with nefarious intent.

The Halloween decorations still adorn our humble home. It is Monday night as I write this and I had every intention of taking them down this past weekend. Really, I did. Didn't happen. Someone passing by might soon begin to suspect we are The Adams Family. Or perhaps even the Munsters (the dearth of sun here in Seattle leaves us all a bit on the pale side this time of year). My procrastination is shamelessly out there for everyone in the world to see.

However, anyone who doesn't read this blog, which pretty much means everyone who is not you, will get a different story. They will hear all about how we missed Halloween this year. And a Birthday as well. No Trick-0r-Treating, No costumes, No cake.

We are just making up for it. And I suspect we will be making up for it until next weekend as well.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Plasma Time

I've decided. I need to get myself a brand new 31'' Plasma! Oh yeah, it's going to be suh-weet. Better yet, this is a purchase the whole family will be able to enjoy. Well...eventually, at least.

Ok, so I'm not talking about a new Plasma TV. Heck, I don't even have cable, not to mention the spare cash to fork over for one of those. Although I have to admit that that would be a nice way to watch my movies at home. Someday.

What I am talking about though, is a PlasmaCar. This toy car was voted a winner in the 2008 Fat Brain toy awards. And deservedly so, I must say.

While checking out an indoor community play area with Lukas yesterday, Mrs. LIAFY and I happened upon a couple of these cars and since the wide open space was otherwise empty, we took them for a spin around the play room. We ended up riding them for several minutes while Luke busied himself with toys his own age (the car is for 3 years and over), and we had a blast!

These cars are operated by inertia, centrifugal force, gravity & friction, so no pedaling or pushing is involved. Just hop on, turn the wheel, and spin around the room. Backwards, forwards, hairpin turns, you name it we were able to do it with these amazing little cars. I had never heard of a PlasmaCar before yesterday, but I was instantly hooked. All you need is a smooth, flat surface and you are ready to roll, continuously!

The heck with buying one for your kids, I recommend you go out and buy one for yourself. You'll definitely feel like a kid again. I sure did.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Fly Me Past the Moon...

Fascinating news came out this week that Astronomers have positively identified the first planets beyond our solar system. Three of the four planets discovered are circling a star named Fomalhault b. (I think we need a naming contest for this one) Fomalhaut b, as it is now known, is said to be 148 Trillion miles from Earth (this # reminds me of the size of our national debt) while those planets discovered are said to be distinctly un-earth like, being comprised mostly of gases.

( rendition by ESA, NASA, and L. Calcada)

Un-earth like perhaps, but still, this news stirs the imagination. Knowing there are planets outside our solar system, as opposed to speculating about them, rekindles once again in this father the fascination with what lies beyond the reaches of our current minuscule view into the vastness of the universe. I find myself again asking "how many billions of other pale blue dots are out there are at this moment circling their own bright stars?" This is a concept that can easily boggle the mind.

Sure, given the limitations of physics as we know them, even if found, never will we be able to actually visit any of these perceived worlds. And never, as imagined in early science fiction, will we be able to gently set our conical rockets down on distant rocky shores or amidst vast cityscape's previously unconceived of by our limited spheres of knowledge. Ah, but to imagine...

To consider that one day Lukas, who harbors a not uncommon fascination with rockets, and whose middle namesake (not by chance) happens to be the second person in human history to plant a foot solidly on another world, could see or even become an astronaut and be the first human to travel beyond the moon to further off worlds in our solar system, perhaps even beyond. Well, even if very far-fetched, that is just a very cool concept to this dad.

But alas, those worlds are still just speculation. And absent the positive discovery of other earth like worlds, I am left currently to wonder about these gaseous planets, identified in the affirmative. Could a different form of life exist there? Could it be sentient? Could, 148 Trillion miles away, some hydrogen based father be just as proud of a little puff of gas as I am of Lukas? Maybe. Just maybe.

Perhaps, in a vignette not unlike one of our own, after speculating themselves about life on other distant worlds, that hydrogen based Fomalhault father holds out what passes for a finger, the little puff tugs on it, and some form of carbon based material is expunged. They both laugh hysterically, while in another corner of their home, a mother gas cloud just rolls what passes for her eyes and sighs.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

*School* Pictures

Luke's first 'School' pictures arrived yesterday. I was a bit surprised when I first heard that our daycare actually had a picture day, but Mrs. LIAYF and I were excited to actually have a professional photographer get a shot of Lukas because, in his 16 months, we had yet to have a formal sitting for him. Not even a sit down picture with Santa last year, a parental crime of monumental proportion that we will certainly not commit again this year.
Although Luke looks a bit startled and wasn't smiling, we were pretty happy with how this picture turned out. After all, he wasn't crying despite strangers messing with him. Being a handsome boy helps quite a bit too. The photographer did a good job of getting him to sit still and get his attention which is something we have extreme difficulty doing ourselves. Kudos to them.

Scary Mommy recently posted a call out to bloggers to show the good, the bad, and the ugly school photos they have stored away. Since this is Lukas' first picture day and it turned out fairly nice, for me it qualifies as the Good.

Now, for the Bad - Mrs. LIAYF generously allowed me to post her high school marching band photo from 1985, freshman year (yes, she was a band geek):

(Bee Girl, Be a girl...)

Personally, I think she's adorable. Mrs. LIAYF, however, cringes whenever she sees this lovely photo. Note the big feathered hair (not as big as other girls' hair - she went to high school in Kentucky), the high-riding band pants, the fabulous plaid sash, shiney wide belt, black ascot, and the "action" pose of her mallets. She informs me there was also an enormous black cowboy hat that went with this outfit (thankfully, not pictured). Freckles weren't cool yet, but this picture shows she had a ton (the marching band practiced outside a lot in the sun). This picture reminds me of Jodi Foster in "Freaky Friday" - she also played the glockenspiel. Mrs. LIAYF rocks this uniform, don't you think?

As for the Ugly, I pulled out this gem from my personal archives:

(If this kid comes along...You must whip it!)

Check out those phat burns! And the Devo style helmut head was a 1979 must have. Other great features highlighted in this school picture are the "snap it already!" fake half smile as well as the faded orangish purple tint. Finally, this shirt is a disco dream, calling out loudly to the ladies that it is worn by one very cool, and very available, dude (especially to one band geek - four years my junior and probably in grade school at this point).

Lukas has many years of school pictures ahead of him, but I'll go out on a limb here and say he won't be able to top this one for extreme nerd factor. Do you have any geeky photos of your own? Brave enough to post them? Go on over to Scary Mommy and post them. I dare you!

Saturday, November 8, 2008

A Week of Sundays

(Lukas wants this Monkey off his back!)
Ah, the grey overcast has arrived, the daylight is in short supply and open bumbershoots provide a colorful canvas of convex trampolines for the never-ending bombardment of raindrops from above. Fall in the Northwest usually means hunkering down, layering yourself before stepping out, inside projects meant to kill the time until the weather brightens, and often daydreaming about, or traveling to, some far off place where the sun still shines and shorts, a T-shirt, and flip-flops are still the attire of choice.

Given Lukas' yet to be fully resolved run in with some rather sinister bacteria, what was to be our first famiy vacation since his birth 16 long months ago didn't materialize. November sunshine and fresh air down south in Texas gave way to doctor visits, grey skies and flood warnings here in Washington. Not exactly what we had envisioned as that pick-me-up to build momentum and carry us through the long dark Winter months before the Spring begins again to rear its head (kinda like Putin) sometime in late March or early April.

In the place of a proper vacation, we have relaxed, completed projects around the house, had friends and family visit, and generally spent the time enjoying the company of our wonderful son. Everyday this week has been like a lazy Sunday for us, and it has been terrific. True, we would have liked to have slept in a bit longer (Fall Back is not a concept that a toddler sleep routine adapts to easily!), but that aside it has been a rare opportunity for both of us to be SAHP at the same time for an extended period.

Mrs. LIAYF and I have been able to interact on a more intimate level with Lukas given that the outside pressures of work and travel were alleviated. It has been amazing to be here to listen as his vocabulary seems to have exponentially taken off, and his understanding of the world around him blossoms. Each time I am witness to Luke saying a new word for the first time or demonstrating his growing understanding of the world around him by picking the right picture out of a series of photos when asked "where is the ...?", I feel as if I am privileged to be viewing something extraordinary happening.

I am not sure if it is because of who I am at this time in my life, because of how old I am as a first time father, or because I am a pretty boring guy in general, but to be here in the moment witnessing a child (my child) develop is nothing short of amazing. I may have missed a vacation, but just being able to spend the extra time with my son, especially when he is not feeling well, leaves me wanting nothing more.

Tomorrow, sadly, my week of Sundays will come to an end.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Wordy Wednesday - "Yes, We Did!"

Congratulations to President Elect Obama! I am extremely proud of the message of hope and change my country delivered yesterday. Obama's acceptance speech was both inspiring and unifying at the same time, while Senator McCain also showed the class act that he is by giving a gracful and unifying concession speech of his own. This was a truly historic moment and I am honored to have been witness to it.

Lukas proudly wore his Babies for Obama button all day today. It was amazing to hear the buzz and the conversations that filled the sidewalks of Seattle on this historic afternoon. Hope was in the air!

On another note, Lukas is feeling much better today as well. He is in great spirits and his fever seems to be gone for good. He is, however, still walking gingerly on his left leg after a run in with a playground slide shortly after a follow-up visit to Children's hospital on Monday. I took him down the slide and his left leg got caught between mine and the slide on the way down. We initially thought his leg was broken given his tearful reaction as well as the fact he couldn't put weight on it for several hours afterwards. Thankfully, X-rays were negative for a fracture but it remains very tender a couple days later. This rookie dad feels pretty bad - next time I take him down a slide I'll make sure to hold his legs in!

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Meanwhile in Another Universe...

(Lukas after his knife fight - the other pirate didn't fare so well)
It has been postulated that ours is only one of an infinite number of universes, and that every decision that a person makes leads you to the universe that we currently occupy. Those other universes, it is theorized, hold our alternate lives, lived out with the decisions that did not happen in this universe. In an odd twist of fate, you have been privy to one of those alternate Austin family universes that did not play out in our universe, but must, if the theory holds true be taking place as you read this post.
Right now, in that alternate plane, we are indeed enjoying our visit to Dallas. We had a wonderful Halloween Night of trick-or-treating, birthday cake, and enjoyable conversation with friends we have not seen in a long time.

What really happened is much less appealing. Much less enjoyable for sure.

I had written my previous post Thursday morning, in anticipation of not having the time on Friday given my packed agenda. However, Thursday mid-morning I received a disturbing call from Mrs. LIAYF. Lukas had taken a turn for the worse, the swelling in his cheek began to grow much larger in the days since I left home. He was being admitted to Seattle Children's Hospital to have immediate surgery to drain what had become a frighteningly large abscess in his lymph node (confirmed by ultrasound and CT scans). The infection was bacterial and not viral after all.

I hopped the first flight out of Dallas Thursday afternoon, making it to Seattle in plenty of time before the surgery which was delayed until 10:30 PM Pacific time. The surgery was successful, and we were able to see him just after midnight, Halloween and (Birth)day. Worse yet, since the doctors were not sure what had caused the infection and Lukas had developed a strange rash on his arms, we were promptly put into a quarantined 8x10 room where we spent the next 36 hours. Luke was on IV antibiotics and we were set for a few days of worry. No sleep (nurses coming in every few hours to check Luke's IV and vitals), no trick-or-treating, no birthday cake. It was a true Halloween horror tale that we will never want to repeat.

The cultures came back this afternoon - a staph infection. We were finally released after the final determination. Lukas, true to form, was amazingly cooperative and stoic about all the poking, prodding, and inability to walk since the IV was in his right foot, and the foot strapped to a board. He spent most of the time in a little red wagon surrounded by toys (including a cute stuffed panda he was given in the ER - courtesy of Allie's Friends Foundation). All the nurses and doctors were genuinely amazed at his demeanor given his 16 month age. We, however, were not. He is a wonderful little boy, in this and every conceivable universe!

As crazy and painful as this holiday turned out to be, we are just blessed to be at home now with our brave little guy. We are also equally blessed to live so near the fabulous Children's Hospital. Despite the absence of cake and Halloween fun, Mrs. LIAYF insists that she got exactly what she wanted for her birthday - her family together and her little boy getting better. Please send us your thoughts and good karma. Lukas needs all he can get to help fight off this tough infection.