Saturday, April 30, 2011

1st Self-Portrait of The Artist as a Young Boy

"And here is my biiiiiig head!"

Friday, April 29, 2011

The Road Not Watched

Wow.  I finished reading Cormac McCarthy's The Road a couple of nights ago.  The novel was awarded the Pulitzer prize, and was extremely well written and readable.  It was also an undoubtedly haunting read, perhaps made even more so to me by the fact that I am the father of a boy who is not too much younger than the boy in the book.  One of the 'good guys'.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the story, it follows the journey of a father and his young son through a post apocalyptic landscape as they travel towards the coast in desperate hopes of finding some sort of salvation there.  It is winter, they are under clothed, under sheltered, and have to scavenge mightily for the precious little they find to eat.

The lack of available food throughout this dark landscape leads to bodily dangers beyond simple starvation, and adds notable suspense to the storyline.

But it's the choices which had to be made by the father and his young son which will stick with me for a long, long time to come.  Especially the Father's final choice as the story came to a close.  It was a gut-wrenching ending and one which has left me speculating on how exactly I would handle such a situation myself.

Thankfully, I will never have to.

Throughout it all, it was the boy who stood out as the brightest spot in an otherwise dark tale.  That really resonated with me because during my journey through fatherhood, Lukas has always been such a bright spot in each and every day.

Mrs. LIAYF preceded me in reading the book, and before I had carved out time read it too, I put the movie in our Netflix Queue.  The movie has sat on top of our television for a few weeks now.  She has maintained that, although she felt the book was a good read, she had no desire to watch the movie.  I haven't yet sent the movie back, because I didn't really understand.

I do now. 

I'll be putting the disc back into it's envelope tonight and mailing it back to Netflix.  Although I'm sure it's a great film adaptation of the novel, I really don't need to watch it too.  The book was enough.

What about you readers?  Have you read the book, and what did you think?  Did you also watch the movie, and which came first?  And finally, what type of event do you think caused the destruction?

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Cosmic Sense of Humor

As Lukas said to Mrs. LIAYF "Poor You". 

Unfortunately my wife has had an accident.  She slipped going down a set of stairs and heard an audible pop in her ankle when she landed.  By the time I got home yesterday, she couldn't bear weight on it and we decided it prudent to go to urgent care and have her ankle x-rayed.  We were there late into the night.

Thankfully, there were no broken bones but there is still a strong possibility she has some ligament damage.  We'll find out in a few days.  Right now she is in a splint and on crutches and so far in need of a lot of help to get even the basic daily activities done*.  An extended stint with them would not be good for her...or for my sanity.

We live in a house of stairs.  We have a 3 year old.  I am already working long hours.  Plus, we have our first vacation in nearly a year planned in a few weeks for crying out loud.

So today, after being up past midnight last night, getting up early to get my wife and son ready for work and daycare, working overtime, picking up Lukas from daycare, stopping off to pick up groceries with a tired 3 year old, lugging everything in from the car, unloading, making dinner, helping Mrs. LIAYF up the stairs, setting the table, cleaning up a whole cup of spilled milk, helping Mrs. LIAYF and Lukas upstairs for bedtime routine, starting a load of laundry, folding two more, clearing the tables, unloading the dishwasher, loading up a new load, taking out the trash and compost, getting breakfast ready for morning, helping Mrs. LIAYF set up a station for working from home, and cleaning the cat box, I was FINALLY able to open the refrigerator and pull out a cold Full Sail LTD 05 .

At least I laughed when I popped of the bottle cap....

You know it!

* I must give my lovely wife a lot of credit, since is pretty tough. Despite her swollen and splinted leg, she is still working full-time.  Something I probably wouldn't be doing.  Then again, as I already know, she is irreplaceable.

Monday, April 25, 2011

My Good Friday

Big Exhale. I finally got my divorce papers on Friday.

What? Oh God no.  Sorry about that.  Mrs. LIAYF and I are indeed still happily married. I was actually talking about the official divorce papers from a short, albeit reluctant chapter in my very early adulthood.  It was more or less a marriage training ground, where I learned how bad things could really be...and the value of choosing a life partner who is not only beautiful, smart, and funny but also one with solid moral character. 

Thankfully I'm now batting a respectable .500 in the life commitment department.

And the papers?  Well, that's sort of a humorous story.  Emphasis on the 'sort of'.  You see, I haven't really talked about this before but Mrs. LIAYF and I are in the planning stages of adopting a second child.  If you are at all familiar with adoptions you will know that they involve a home study.  This is where you hire a social worker to do what is essentially a background check on your family life, and declare you fit to raise an adopted child.  Part of ours asks 'Have you ever been divorced?' and if so, asks you to provide copies of the decree.

"Go find your decree and bring it to me" Mrs. LIAYF instructed me, as she was reading through the paperwork.  "Hmmm, I'm not sure where it might be" I responded.  And with that I was off to dig through my papers to find it.  But, all I came up with was a draft.  It didn't have any signatures or even a case number. 

"Is that ALL you have?" asked my wife.  "Uh, yeah.  I guess so." I responded with a lump forming in my throat.

"No problem, we can just look it up online." She offered.  So we pulled up the court records and typed in our names.  It yielded nothing at all.  I began to sweat.

Mrs. LIAYF looked over at me.  "You are actually divorced, aren't you?" 

"Yes. I am." I said with all the conviction I could muster.

"Well, did you get anything from the judge?" 

"I didn't actually go to a court house.  It's been nearly 20 years ago, but I'm pretty sure I signed something"

It was at that point that we decided to do an online background search of my first wife, understanding that it would also include any divorces she was involved in.  I knew she had been remarried too.  But when we looked her information didn't come up with her maiden name, or her remarried name.  It came up with MY last name.  And there was no record of a divorce.

Shit Shit SHIT! 

This wasn't good.  I literally felt sick to my stomach.  What if she had never actually filed the papers?  I was young and stupid at the time and I just wanted it all to go away, so once I signed I never thought about it again.

Suddenly I had visions of my life being another story line from Big Love.  Would I have to convert our house into a compound and hide out from the authorities, all the time fearing that I would be exposed to the neighbors as a polygamist?  And also, how many sister wives would Mrs. LIAYF be ok with?

Actually, to her credit Mrs. LIAYF was amazing during this whole episode.  She instantly recognized my stress over the lack of information and reassured me that we only had to go to the courthouse and have them look up the decree.  Me, I now wasn't so sure.

The courthouse in question was not local, so we had to wait til I could get some time off to go see.  That day finally came on Friday.  With Mrs. LIAYF by my side, we asked the clerk to look up the divorce decree for one SeattleDad and his first wife.

My stomach nearly dropped through my ass when he at first said "I am not finding anything here".  But after some more searching, he then said "Ah, here it is.  I found it.  How many copies do you want?"


We had him print off two copies, and stamp them official.  As it turns out, no one is actually given copies, unless they are requested at the time of the decree.  So, I never did have copies.

I gave Mrs. LIAYF a big hug and with that we left the court house.  Strangely enough, as I walked down the sidewalk holding my wife's hand in one hand, and my divorce papers firmly in the other we were greeted by a throng of people walking right at us holding crosses.  Having been raised Catholic, I wondered if this was a sign.  After all divorce IS against the rules. But they just walked on by.  It was Good Friday after all. 

And it was a very good Friday for me as well, as now having that potentially disastrous roadblock out of the way, Mrs. LIAYF and I can now move forward in our plans to bring another child into our happy home.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Not Not Not a Box

It's been one of those weeks for me at work.  It seems there have been a lot of them lately.  You know the kind, right?  Deadlines to meet, emails coming in faster than you can read them, stress levels through the roof, a constant line of people outside your door, looking for solutions to their problems.  It doesn't help that I don't have a window, or any natural light. The Humanity!

In fact it's been so busy that as I was exiting my building yesterday I entered into a world bathed in sunlight.  It took my eyes a few moments to adjust.  I just shook my head while soaking in the Vitamin D realizing that I hadn't left the building all day.

Then, after picking up Lukas I realized I was mentally exhausted as I drove him  home, struggling to muster the energy to hold a conversation with him about how his day went.  I literally wanted to just zone out and think of absolutely nothing. 

Arriving home, I actually did something I rarely do.  I prompted Lukas to see if he wanted to watch a video.  "You earned enough stars today Buddy."  "Anything you want to watch." I offered.  After all I still had to get dinner together, since Mrs. LIAYF was still an hour from arriving home.

Instead he just ignored me, walking into the dining room where a large, empty, white box sat on the floor.  "Look Daddy!" he grinned, pointing at the open box on it's side.  "Okay, go ahead and play with that while your figuring out what you want to watch" I responded, walking into the kitchen to unload my arms.

When I returned, Lukas wasn't there.  There was just the box sitting upright and closed.  "Hmmm, Where's Lukas?"  I called. 

A giggle came from inside the box.

"What's in there?  I played along.  "Ribbit!" replied the box. "Ribbit, Ribbit"

"Is there a frog in this box?  Lukas, you have to come in here and see this.  I think there is a frog in this box."

"Meoooow" said the box.  Followed by louder giggling.  "Meeeeeoooooow".  At that I couldn't help but burst out laughing myself.

It was at that point, Lukas popped out and said with a huge smile "It's only me, Daddy.  Hey, now it's your turn."

This is reason #3423 that having a child is so awesome.  Not so amazingly, this interaction changed my whole mood.  No longer was I sullen and spent from the day, but rather laughing and engaged in a fun game of What's in the Box.  It gave meaning to why I was subjecting myself to these brutal weeks at work.

I then obligingly put the box over my head, squatted down, and when Lukas, laughing, asked "What's in there?".....

I let out a deep "Moooooooo"

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Green Eggs and Chinese

Mrs. LIAYF, Lukas and I were traveling home a couple of nights ago we realized that *surprise* we weren't in the mood to make dinner.

"Let's stop for some take out" I suggested

"Great, how about Chinese?"  Mrs. LIAYF responded.

"Noooooo!" cried Lukas.  "I don't want CHINESE!  Yucky!"

"But, You've never even had Chinese food buddy" I nearly snorted. "Just give it a try.  Like, Green Eggs and Chinese". 
He was unconvinced though.  "No, I don't like it!"  he whined. 

I don't know what was up.  Maybe it just sounded like a vegetable to him.

And, just as I was about to tell him "Tough, we are getting it anyway, and I'm sure you'll like it", Mrs. LIAYF interjected with this alternate tactic.

"Okay Lukas why don't we try something else?  Why don't we try out Ho-Win food instead?*  It's yummy and Ryan and Ella across the street  just had some yesterday and they really loved it.  Is that a better idea?"

"Yeah!  That sounds good!  Let's get some of that instead!" he enthusiastically responded.

Mrs. LIAYF and I just turned our eyes towards each other and grinned as we pulled up to the take out restaurant.

A little while later we were all gorging on healthy portions of Spring rolls, Cashew Chicken, and of course General Tso's famous Ho-Win Chicken. 

It was actually pretty good, but my fortune cookie on the other hand was pretty lame.  It read: Someone is going to give you something. 

I lamented for a while about not getting something more profound inside my treat.  That is, until I realized that that probably a pretty standard fortune for a Ho-Win cookie.
*Ho-Win is the name of our local Chinese Dive.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Reel Alphabet Song

Happy Saturday Readers.  Mrs. LIAYF and I had a real life date night last night, which is something we have thankfully been able to do more of recently! We started out by attending a nice dinner (think prime rib and open bar) and reception, then near the end slipped away to catch a new movie called Win Win

We had a lot of fun, and Win Win was actually one of the better movies we have seen in a while.  I would even go out on a limb and call it the best high school wrestling movie since Vision Quest.  Yeah I know, I know, you're probably skeptical. But it really is a good flick, even though there aren't any scenes with wrestlers carrying logs on their shoulder up stadium stairs.  "Shute! Shute!"
Anyway, after seeing the movie I then visited one of my recent favorite blogs, Life of Riles, and read a post by Tim who listed his favorite movies from A-Z.  The post was fun to read and it inspired me to post my own list of favorite movies by letter. 

Here they are.  Let me know what your favoite of these is, and also what some of your own favorites are.

A - Almost Famous
B - Big Fish
C - Contact
D - Dances With Wolves
E - The Empire Strikes Back
F - Field of Dreams
G - Glory
H - Hero
I - The Italian Job
J - Jaws
K - Kick Ass
L - Lawrence of Arabia
M - The Matrix
N - Napoleon Dynamite
O - The Outlaw Josey Wales
P - Princess Bride
Q - Quantum of Solace
R - Return of The King
S - The Shawshank Redemption

T - Tropic Thunder
U - The Usual Suspects
V - V for Vendetta
W - The Warriors "Come Out and Plaaaaay"  Win Win
X - The X Files
Y - Young Frankenstein
Z - Zombieland

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Someday Planner

I'll admit it.  I am not a very good at planning for things to the future. Horrible really. I might even theorize that perhaps during a - since wiped from my memory - alien abduction, that that part of my brain may have been removed for further study.  I might, that is, but I'm pretty sure the region I use for theorizing is gone too.

In fact, it's not out of the question that both pieces are in a dusty old pickle jar somewhere, light years from here.

Now, even though I don't plan very well I do do a pretty decent job of accomplishing task put in front of me.  It's because of that, that I have gotten by for as long as I have.  Well, that and marriage of course. As we all know, a good synergistic union can help a couple accomplish much that they couldn't as individuals.  That is certainly the case with Mrs. LIAYF and I.  Because, even though my planner is MIA, hers works in overdrive.
We have an understanding.  She plans things.  I do them.

Okay, yes she does them too, after she gets done planning.  But I help out.  Like I said, it's an understanding.

As a result, she is constantly mapping things out and posing different scenarios of how we could get from point A, where we are, to point C, D, or E even.  Usually this takes place at night, after Lukas is bed.  It's usually also at this point that I have endured a long work day, am worthless, and most often become a lump who absorbs about every 4th or 5th word that my lovely wife is saying to me.  Thankfully I have developed a knack for identifying key words, so I can comprehend the jist of what is being proposed.  I'm good at nodding.

I'm not complaining.  I consider myself extremely lucky that she puts up with me. Among other things, with help from her planning we have successfully remodeled two houses, find ourselves happy and gainfully employed, and of course have a pretty darn good son too.

Mrs. LIAYF also recently arranged for a summer camping trip with some friends who have kids Lukas' age.  She did this all herself. The trip was for seven families in the Summer of 2012 at a State Beach Park.  This will be a pretty cool trip too.  We'll stay in waterfront cabins, have cookouts, bonfires, hiking, boating, stargazing, and plenty of relaxing and solidifying friendships.

Me? I could never have pulled off such arrangements.  But as I said, I'm not a planner, I'm a doer.

And when the Summer of 2012 finally rolls around and all her planning comes to fruition I will certainly be doing my part.  Even if it's just enjoying the get together, and the company of my son and lovely planner of a wife.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

To Be Free Again

Happy Saturday readers!  It was nearly a year ago that I posted about the new balance bike that Mrs. LIAYF and I bought Lukas.  It was his first two wheeled bicycle, and at 2 1/2 years old it wasn't long before he was off and running on it.

Our intent at the time was for him to have a way to scoot around while we were walking around our neighborhood, or on longer flatter surfaces while Mrs. LIAYF and I were also riding our bikes.  As a bonus, this mini bicycle would also teach him how to balance a two wheeler - without the need for training wheels.

We certainly recouped our investment in the Rocket emblazoned two wheeler as hardly a weekend day went by all spring and summer long that we weren't out walking, with Lukas riding alongside.

And, when another spring finally arrived here in the Pacific Northwest, Mrs. LIAYF and I decided to begin the search for a pedal bike for Lukas.  Our challenge was finding one with a low enough profile for Lukas' small stature.  After looking at many different options, we eventually found a Specialized Hotrock 12'' late last week at a local bicycle shop, but the price tag on it gave us a double take.

Fortuitously though, the very next day while driving past a kids resale shop 2 blocks from home Mrs. LIAYF spied a mint condition 12'' Hotrock for a fraction of the price of the new one.  We bought it without hesitation, promptly removed the training wheels, and let Lukas hop onto it on the sidewalk outside the shop.

In just 10 short minutes he was riding short distances on his own.  The abundant rain which blanketed Seattle all week kept us from taking him out for more practice.  However today, with the weekend, also came some much needed sunshine.  And an opportunity to ride his new big boy bicycle.

I must say that to watch my little guy, still only 3 years old, so effortlessly master this major childhood milestone - is an extremely sublime moment for me.

Way to go Lukas.  Ride like the wind!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

'Sudden Death' of Coolness

Okay, I guess Buzz IS pretty cool.

Lukas is finding a lot of things pretty "Cool" these days.  That fact, coupled with my competitive nature, got me to wondering what would beat out what in a 3-year-old Sudden Death of Coolness

So, when I came home tonight I pulled out 10 scraps of paper and wrote down 9 things that he has been pretty excited about recently.  On, the 10th scrap I scribbled Daddy.

It seemed like such a great idea at the time.  Not sure what I expected. Here's how the conversation went:

Me: "Okay Buddy, what is COOLER, robot or a submarine?"

Lukas: "Um...both!"

Me: "No, if you HAD to choose which do you think is cooler?"

Lukas: "Well...a robot and a submarine!"

Me: "No, you have to choose one or the other"

Lukas: "Hmmmm.  A submarine."

Me: "Good.  That's what I meant.  Now, what about Superheros or submarines?"

Lukas: "Um...Superheros?"

Me: "It's your choice.  So, Superheros?  Yes?  Okay.  How about Superheros or books?"

Lukas: "It would be cool if we could read a book about a Superhero driving a submarine Daddy!"

Me: "Well, you got me there.  Yeah that would be pretty cool."  "But that's not the game I'm playing.  Now, let's try this again..."

It was a futile effort but I pressed on, not yet willing to concede that a 3 year old could simply consider everything equally cool.  Or at least that it would usually be the last thing you asked him about.  One moment a robot was cooler than a rocket, while the next it no longer was.

Finally, after several more choices I decided to just call it good.  It seemed the game clock on my great idea had ticked down to zero.

Plus, in the Sudden Death of Coolness, although well behind Buzz Lightyear, Robots, and Rockets, at least Daddy was still higher on the list than rocks and stickers.

Monday, April 4, 2011

The Sleepover

Since starting pre-school back in the Fall, Lukas has occasionally received invitations to do sleepovers at the homes of other 3-year-olds in his class.

 I'm pretty sure these invitations were not initiated with the approval of the other kids parents.  That's because, let's face it, 3-year-olds are not prime candidates to be comfortable, let alone fall asleep, in a foreign environment with the lights out.

Mrs. LIAYF and I would tactfully explain to Lukas each time he would relay one of these invitations to us, that he would have to wait "Until he was older" to have a sleepover with any of his little buddies.

Well, that all changed Saturday night as we were hosting our visiting friends, who used to live nearby and whose 3 year old son is also one of our sons best friends.  We only had one spare bedroom, so we decided to let both boys sleep in Lukas' room.  We told Lukas that he was finally going to get to do a sleepover.  He was pretty excited about it.

By the time we had met up with our friends, had dinner and playtime, finished up movie night for the boys and got them ready for bed, it was nearly 10:00 and both boys were a bit wound up as we laid them both down in sleeping bags on Lukas' bedroom floor.  We told them to be quiet and try to go to sleep.  We didn't have high expectations.

Our low expectations were well founded, because no sooner than we had reached the bottom of the stairs, than the thumping started from the room.  After giving them a few minutes to goof around together while we chatted, Mrs. LIAYF and the other mother went up to tell them to go to sleep, with his friends mother ultimately laying down with her son to help him go to sleep. 

When the mother came down she smiled as she let us know how sweet Lukas had been.  Apparently he had rubbed the back of his friend, telling him that "It's okay, if any monsters come they will all be friendly." and "If you get scared of the dark I can grab my tiger flashlight to turn on", echoing some of the things that Mrs. LIAYF tells him before leaving the room each night.

But as we were all smiling about that story, the door once again opened upstairs. It was Lukas.  It was also my turn to go talk to him about going to sleep.   "He's really asleep!" Lukas exclaimed as I entered the room, looking over at his friend as I laid him back down.  He then leaned over and kissed his buddy, who didn't move an inch, on the forehead before turning to me with his hands outstretched and palms up.


"Yeah, he sure is" I said as I hugged and tucked my little guy back into his covers.  And with that it wasn't long before Lukas finally drifted off to sleep, which both boys did until 6:30 the next morning.

We all could have used more sleep, but  realistically that was as good an outcome as we could have hoped for from his first ever sleepover.

So tell me.  At what age did your kids start having sleep overs?

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Spring Hiking - Seattle Style

Good Saturday to you readers.  It's Spring in Seattle.  What that typically means, is if you don't like the weather, you can wait 10 minutes and it will have changed considerably.  Ba-Dum-Dum!  No, actually that wasn't a joke.  Our weather this time of year is more hit and miss than our sports teams, which unfortunately typically trend towards the miss end of the spectrum.

We are all pleased though, that in general it is noticeably warmer here than it was a month ago.  And since it was pleasant and sunny this morning Mrs. LIAYF, Lukas, and I took the opportunity to get our gear together and go for a hike.  Okay, so it was only a short  hike in an urban park close to home, but since we live in Seattle and have old growth forested parks with hills, we at least had the illusion that we were somewhere deep in the forest.

Typical of our schizophrenic weather, it had rained heavily here yesterday and there were several swift streams running by the trails, which happened to be pretty mucky in places.  That, however, didn't deter us as Lukas was extremely excited to be going on his first hike of the year.  He was even convinced that we had to be on the look out for bears, and seemed somewhat disappointed when we told him there probably wouldn't be any in this city park.

After exploring for a while, we were joined by some friends with a boy Lukas' age who were visiting from Colorado.  They actually moved away from Seattle a few months ago, and despite the rain were extremely happy to be back.  They missed the green of the trees and the proximity to the water we have here.  Plus, as they explained it there is just a feel about Seattle that they aren't getting where they are now.  I have to agree.  Where we are is a very nice place to live.

Plus, as the weather continues to warm this Spring, and as Lukas gets older, we will certainly be taking advantage of the abundance of hiking trails that we have nearby, especially in the foothills of the Cascades.  It would be a shame to live in the midst of such natural beauty and not take full advantage of it.

But on this Spring day we were content to hike through our neighborhood park, passing fallen logs and crossing wooden bridges built over swampy areas.  It was a lot of fun and a good warm up for what promises to be Summer of great hiking opportunities.

When we all finally reached the bottom of the hill and exited the park we were once again in a residential neighborhood.  Just a couple of short blocks later, having braved swift streams, fallen logs, mucky trails, and of course bears - and with a threatening looking rain cloud creeping our way we entered a local Starbucks coffee shop for some much needed nourishment and rest.

Because, like most other things in the Emerald City, that's how we also do nature hikes in Seattle.