Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Monday, March 29, 2010

A Chase Scene to Cherish

There is a small park next to the pizza joint Mrs. LIAYF, Lukas, and I visited the other night. It doesn't have playground equipment, and just a couple of bench's. It consists mainly of a small circle of grass big enough to run around in, surrounded by a couple of big rocks and a small concrete wall. The only real lure of the place that evening was that it was next to said pizza place and it could afford us a few moments to let Lukas burn off a bit more energy before taking him home to bed.

So, still full of tasty pie, we walked onto the lush green grass of the park, set our belongings down and engaged in a fun filled game of 'chase' with our son. I chased Lukas, who in turn chased his mother, who in turn chased both of us. Like much of our family playtime it was spontaneous and authentic, with the laughter of the moment ringing out in all directions.

We were so engaged in the moment that I hadn't even noticed that we were not alone at the park.

After a few minutes of fun we had announced to Lukas that it was time to go, and gathered up our belongings & walked towards the direction of our car. Then I heard something faint. A mumbling that I couldn't make out. Not realizing where it came from, I looked all around before finally fixing my eyes on a man sitting on a rock at the opposite end of the grass.

He was a fairly sad looking character who was sporting a shaggy beard, tattered clothes and a dirty baseball hat. As we made eye contact, he took a long drag off of a near fully smoked cigarette, then said something again. His voice was barely audible, and what came out was more than a bit raspy. Still I couldn't make out what he had said, so I veered off from my beautiful wife and son, who had continued on towards our car, to approach this man. I acknowledged him with my eyes and cupped my hand to my ear.

"What's that?" I said, not knowing quite what to expect in response. He managed a slightly louder "Cherish what you've got there" giving a wistful glance towards my family.

"Cherish what you've got there."

I smiled and followed his glance towards my family as I let those words soak in. He was obviously speaking from some form of experience, perhaps having had then somehow lost just such a sublime period in his own past. My mind wandered to some day in the far future when my son would be off doing his own thing and I would be the one envying young(ish) families laughing and playing with their children. Then, as I turned and glanced back towards him to carry on the conversation...

He had vanished.

Nah, just kidding. He was still there. Finishing off that cigarette. I paused, then merely gave him a nod of acknowledgement and an "Absolutely man".

Then I turned and rejoined the two most cherished things in my life, to start our evening routine.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Recycled Humor

The great thing about Twitter is that if you think of something funny you can instantly 'tweet' it. And, by sending it out in 140 characters or less, you can keep it short and get nearly instantaneous feedback from the people who are online and who follow your tweet stream.

It can be like a humor sugar rush.

The drawback to this free flowing form of online interaction is that most of your followers also follow hundreds of other users and the chances of your humor being received by a large group of followers who are in the right frame of mind to appreciate it, are fairly random.

So, being a citizen of one of the top recycling cities in the country, I figured maybe I would also recycle some of these 'barely used' humor tweets.

Remember, one man's trash is another man's treasure.

Breaking news: 4400 people 'Taken Away' by Calgon over the years, suddenly reappear near Mt. Rainier.

Guess I can cross 'Attend a boring meeting' off my Bucket List.

There is a Horsefly who looks surprisingly like Charles Bronson buzzing my head.

Who wants to be my Wonder Twin? Form of a Frappacino cup, by itself, gets me nowhere.

Sometimes it's a good thing kids books have words.

Walked past a dirty foil packet on the street that said 'Chicken Flavor'. Somewhere a chicken weeps for its wayward flavor.

Do they make coffee flavored cereal? Cause I would definitely be Cuckoo for Coffee Puffs.

2yo popped off the toilet and said "I did big log" Wife glared at ME, but I swear I didn't teach him that.

Waiting for my own comic book - Me: "Ok, the toilet is now unclogged." 2yo: "Yeah! Daddy's a hero!"

I couldn't do yoga, because as soon as everyone did Downward Dog I'd want to go around wiping their asses.

Ate at a semi-fancy restaurant with our 2yo for the 1st time. People knew we were classy when he took a big swig off the ketchup bottle.

No fruit for breakfast. I'm worried I'm developing an afternoon case of scurvy.

No fallen fries at the bottom of drive through bag! I feel seriously gipped.

Just had an office meeting with mesh chairs. I need one of those. It would make a great crumb filter.

Just now sent off Christmas box to the inlaws. Sharpied 12/20/09 on the outside of the box. Worth a shot.

I like that my wine pallet is unsophisticated and that I can enjoy a cheap bottle w/o caring that it is basically the 7-11 hotdog of wines.

Working on a couple days growth. 2yo: "Is a Worax (Lorax) going to pop out of your whiskers?"

Just saw an opossum on my back porch. Either that it was a humongous miming rat.

I wonder if my grandkids will ask me one day "Grandpa did you really once read of off really thin sheets of wood?"

Morning. Coffee required. You think if I fed raw beans to my cat, I could get a poor mans Kopi Luwak coffee?

Little known fact: Rubbing your wifes feet gets you more Twitter.

*Photo from Flickr Creative Commons - Hugo 90

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Base Camp - Day 1000

Each morning during my commute to my Seattle job I glance at least once to my Southeast and revel in the majestic glory that is Washington's Mount Rainier. Imposing and impressive, it dominates the southern skyline. Its peaks have been especially glorious on recent spring mornings with the rising sun framing this enormous snow-capped mountain in all of its natural beauty and wonder.

On many such mornings, I find myself daydreaming. Daydreaming of how amazing it would be to someday climb that imposing, wondrous mountain. To once and for all stand on it's summit and take in the breathtaking scenery that such an accomplishment would undoubtedly sear into the deepest reaches of my memory.

How would I accomplish this feat? One step at a time, of course.

If the whole of raising children from infancy to adulthood can be considered an equally imposing Mountain, then today, after climbing one step at a time since my son Lukas' birth, I have finally made it to...base camp.

1000 days. 1000 steps.

Not unlike climbing a literal mountain, climbing the figurative mountain of parenthood for me, as well as for Mrs. LIAYF, has been accomplished by putting one foot in front of the other.

At times the climbing has been easy and invigorating, while others it has been slowed by obstacles in our path. Obstacles, the likes of which have at times made us feel like turning back, or at the very least sitting and telling ourselves that we've reached our limit and can't possibly go further.

But arriving here at base camp, at day 1000 with my amazing little guy, the view is already so unbelievably incredible that it understandably challenges my meager ability to describe its natural and emotional wonder.

My son is a truly amazing little person. His daily accomplishments, goofy antics, revelations, and acts of compassion fill my heart with a love the likes of which I had no idea I had the capacity to possess before his birth. Each of these days is its own amazing gift to me.

I know that to reach that summit and gaze back at the incredible path that led me there - to plant my personal flag on the peak which constitutes Lukas' childhood with his mother and I - that there will be uncountable steps yet to be taken.

Steps that will be some of the most difficult that I will have ever taken. That I will likely encounter storms along the way which will test my endurance to its limits.

I will deal with those steps with the same approach my lovely wife and I have used to deal with the previous 1000. Taking them one at a time.

Taking immense pleasure in putting one foot in front of the last and appreciating the spectacular beauty that each one affords along the way.

Happy 1000th day in this world son.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Money Doesn't Grow on Trees

As most 2-year-olds are, Lukas is obsessed with how things operate. Mrs. LIAYF or I can't pull out our computers, i-pods, or other electronic devices without our son crawling all over us wanting to try them out by pressing and poking every button or dial that they posses.
It's the way he processes how these devices operate. What they pay out, as it were.

So it came as little surprise to me Saturday morning when, upon seeing a candy vending machine laden with selection buttons at our local community center, Lukas sprinted over to it and started to press the buttons. In truth, he looked as if he had purpose while doing so. It was not unlike some scene from a technological thriller where the protagonist is tasked with cracking a secret code as a timer quickly ticks down towards zero and our ultimate demise.

However, once I approached to shepard him along to our intended destination, he stopped pressing buttons and instead reached his hand into the coin return slot.

And pulled out 2 shiny quarters!

Excited at his payout, Lukas then implored me to lift him up so that he could drop the quarters into the money slot of the machine. Once he had done this, I lowered him back to the floor where he peered once again into the coin return. Not wanting to disappoint my son, I surreptitiously pulled the coin return lever.

Down dropped not 2, but 3 quarters!!

At that point Mrs. LIAYF came along and reminded us that to keep on schedule we needed to get going. As we walked in the sunshine back towards our car, Lukas stopped more than once and mentioned that he wanted to go back to the machine and "Get some more money!", which brought a predictable chuckle and "If only" response, from his mother and I.

Then today, during our first outing with our son to the local bowling alley, as we were finishing up and getting ready to leave, Lukas spotted a drink vending machine tucked away against a lonely far wall and sprinted towards it. Mrs. LIAYF followed him as I payed little attention while I busied myself gathering our belongings off the bench.

Not a minute later, as I was almost fully loaded with our gear, something shiny caught my eye. It was my son, with a huge smile on his face, holding a quarter up in his outstretched hand. "Look what I found Daddy!" he exclaimed.

I smiled, patted his head, and told him "We may be on to something big here, son."
You can look for us coming soon to a vending machine near you.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Updating My Tagline: Ideas

I have had the same tagline on my blog 'Diary of a New Dad' since it's inception. However, I've been thinking recently that with Lukas closing in on his third birthday, I'm not really a 'New' dad anymore, and perhaps should update my tagline.

That being said, I have come up with a few idea for a new tagline. I'm not sure if any of them will resonate with me, but let me know which of these you like best, or feel free to propose one of your own. Eventually, I might even get my lazy backside around to changing it.

If you do offer a suggestion, I just ask that you keep it clean. This is, after all, a family blog. (hmm...maybe I ought to add last sentence to the list)

Here they are in no particular order:

Blogging it Old School Since 2008

A First time Dad Aged to Perfection. Almost.

Sorry I'm so old Buddy

A Dad with a Hands on Approach
(Mrs. LIAYF thought readers might miss this Star Wars reference and just think it creepy)

The Light Side of Fatherhood

Cleaning Up When the Force is too Strong.

I Understand Now that I'm a Dad

Removing the Mask of Fatherhood

Oh, I'm Sorry. Did I Break your Concentration?
(From my Twitter bio)

Why didn't I do this Years Ago?

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Storm Troopers

I am currently dealing with somewhat of a perfect storm of stress. In short, I'm stressed out at work, my wife is stressed out at work, we are experiencing uncomfortable stress between friends, and are also dealing with stress stemming from financial issues with a third party.

And, I am not exaggerating about any of these separate incidents. Each, in and of itself, would have served as a notable and unprecedented amount of stress in our lives just a few months ago.

But now, at this very moment, these stresses are all coming together and intersecting at the crossroads that make up our lives. It must show too, since I have had several co-workers approach me to inquire about how I am doing in the midst of what they see as my work related stress. They know not of the other added factors.

This will all pass soon enough, it always does. Life will return to normal and we will all be fine. But in the mean time it makes it difficult to see the joy in everyday events.

So, when amidst all of these competing forces - when attempting to solve a complex work problem while standing at my laptop in my kitchen, because I first need it solved to move on to the next in a string of challenges which will need to be solved this night - I get a tug on my pant leg and a raspy little voice implores to me: "Daddy, can we catch some football?"

Well, you might not fully grasp what a stress reliever it is to put aside your work and personal concerns for a short time to oblige. To smile, and to lose yourself in the moment.

It shields you from the severe weather afoot. Like opening a bumbershoot in a driving rain storm.

Photo from thrig via flickr creative commons attribution license.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Monday, March 15, 2010

Madness Begins Early

The icy wind which rushed through the playground Saturday morning wasn't deterring Lukas. He seemed impervious to the cold. But to me, winter was once again showing its incisors and proving it could still use them to deliver a bite. It didn't help that one glance at the brilliant sunshine outside my living room window had convinced me I wouldn't need a jacket at the early morning toddler soccer practice.

However, sitting there shivering and cursing mother nature under my breath I realized what a mistake that had been. After a while I finally convinced Lukas that we needed to venture inside the large brick building that housed our local community center.

It contained a full basketball court. To my satisfaction it was empty, and WARM.

As we entered onto the court, two worn basketballs lay placidly against the wall like airport taxi drivers sitting against their cabs waiting patiently for a fare. I kicked one past Lukas, who seemed thrilled to chase across the court after it. The other I picked up and felt in my hand. Although rubber and not full grain leather, It still had the sweet feel of familiarity.

I dribbled it once, hard enough to bounce off the wood and rise to my outstretched palm at chest level. I immediately sent it down again, and took pleasure in its predictable return.

I grew up on a small dairy farm in rural Washington state, and ever since I can remember we always had a basketball and hoop to practice with. Hard work and basketball were two essential parts of the fabric of my childhood. I would say that my high school basketball experience was not too unlike the movie Hoosiers, but for the fact that I couldn't hit a consistent jump shot and our small town high school team never made it past districts.

True, I wasn't a great player. Not even a good one really, but I played with an enthusiasm for the game that still burned within me on this chilly Spring Saturday morning. After high school I went on to organize and play for four years on an intramural team at college which went to the finals in the 6' and under league. It was a blast and created some of the most endearing memories from my college days.

However, in recent years, as I have left 40 in the rear view mirror, I have not played basketball in quite some time, save for a few days at the gym shooting around and practicing my dribbling. But on Saturday morning, shooting around and playing ball with my 2 year old son, I realized how much I have missed the hardwood. Baseball is my favorite spectator sport, but basketball I love to play.

Dribbling around that empty gymnasium I paused for a few moments, looked over at my enthusiastic boy, and thought to myself that perhaps that love could be translated into something positive for him. Maybe along the way a team of his could use a coach or a volunteer when the time comes. I think I would enjoy that.

And as I watched Lukas grinning from ear to ear as he lifted the big orange ball over his head and launched it skyward toward the 10 foot high rim, it gave me hope. Hope and reason to reintroduce myself, and my son, to my favorite of sports.

Even if the ball only made it to about 4 foot high, before falling gently back to the court and bouncing slowly away.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

File under 'Dating Advice'

As a loving father I naturally want my son Lukas to be beneficiary of the life lessons which I have painstakingly accumulated during many years of my own questionable decision making.

Take my High School years for instance. Yes I dated, but not a lot and not nearly enough to prepare me for dealing with my first college relationship - which, by the way, went horribly wrong.

So, after pulling one of my senior photos out of my high school year book last night and sharing a much needed laugh at my expense with the lovely Mrs. LIAYF, it seemed pretty clear what advice I would file away for a later conversation once Lukas reached high school, and hence dating age.

I can see the conversation clearly.

"Son, take a very close look at this here picture. If there is one thing that should be painfully clear from it, it's that if you want to be a success with the ladies during the next few years...

"Yeah, you guessed it - you'll want to get yourself a much cooler set of wheels than your old man had."

"As for those vintage 1985 parachute pants. Well, you'll want to score yourself a pair of those."
In fact, I think there may still be a pair sitting around in a dusty box in the garage. Probably piled up in a heap on top of you dads dignity.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

A Penny for Your Strawberry Cream

Needing to get out for some fresh air and exercise after Lukas' nap time the other day, Mrs. LIAYF suggested it might be fun to load up all the loose change that had accumulated recently in the various nooks and crannies of our abode, and bike it up to the local Coin Star machine with our son.

So, we loaded it all into an empty yogurt container, which we carefully placed into his Ketler tricycle basket, and were off on yet another neighborhood adventure.

Being coin counting virgins, we didn't know quite what to expect once we arrived at the machine. That being said, once we had most carefully dumped all the change into the machine receptacle, filtered it in through the counting slot, and were given the final tally of our recycled change, we were then presented with three competing options of what to do with our mini fortune.

Looking them over, Mrs. LIAYF and I quickly decided which option we would choose. Now, we just needed to convince Lukas as well.

"Lukas, you can do one of three things with the money we dumped into the machine." Mrs. LIAYF explained.

"Do you want to get a voucher for some paper money?"

"You could also get a piece of plastic, which we could order some new books with."

"Or.....You could help give food to some hungry boys and girls who have no Mommy or Daddy."


"And, if you did that we would get you some ice cream too!"

"Yeah! Dat's it." "Feed hungry boys and guurls!"

I'd be willing to bet that philanthropy never before tasted quite so sweet.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Life and Taxes

The voicemail sounded grim. "I have bad news honey." Then a pause "There will be no tax refund this year. In fact, it looks like we are going to owe taxes." Then she gave a number that literally made my jaw drop.

I quickly called back, wherein she let me know that she had made a mistake on the initial form. Relieved I said, in my best Fred Sanford imitation, "Are you trying to give me a heart attack?" "Because you know I'm over 40 now. I could go at anytime honey!"

"Well, It's not as bad now, but....we still owe" she indicated. True, the adjusted number was much less harsh, but still more than we had sitting around in petty cash. How could this have happened I thought to myself. We have deductions sticking out of our ears. Then we realized that I had over calculated when I had reduced my work withholdings to near zero after Lukas was born. Now we owed.

"There is another figure which we haven't calculated yet that may still reduce that amount." Mrs. LIAYF continued. "We can itemize our state sales taxes rather than taking the standard deduction."

It wasn't a pleasant thought (we had bags and bags of receipts we had kept), but definitely worth a shot. And, at that we began the laborious process of unfolding flattening, and checking every receipt we had accumulated in the past tax year.

Working in tandem, me flattening receipts and calling out amounts, and her reading and entering two figures to my every one, we spent hours adding up what we spent in sales tax.


Unfortunately, most of the grocery receipts yielded no taxes. "It's a good thing we have the tax on all those Starbucks receipts of mine" I joked, to no response. It was a tough crowd.

At some point in the process we started a game where we tried to trump the highest tax amount of the other. My wife even beat me at this game garnering a whopping $9.49 for a Marshall's receipt (Obviously one of hers). Competition or not, I gave her a hoot and a high five.

After a while, frustrated by my slow dexterity with unfolding and looking for the tax amount she told me to just unfold the little papers. That I was faster at that and she was faster at finding the amounts. "You actually think you are faster at both, don't you?" I asked. "Well...yes, I do." She was right.

We trudged on and on. Had we really spent that much in 2009? All the small things for the basement remodel really added up.

Then, just before Lukas woke from his nap, we recorded the last of the amounts and my lovely wife-of all-trades punched the new figures into the tax form and studied the tables. I held my breath. It was a reasonable number for sure! No, we didn't eliminate all of what we owed, but nearly. I felt much, much better afterwards.

In the end, going through all of those receipts certainly wasn't the ideal Saturday afternoon, but it did save us quite a bit of anxiety.
Plus, once Lukas woke up from his nap, it also gave him somewhere new to play...

Monday, March 1, 2010

Thine Eyes have Seen the Beauty

We keep promising ourselves we will do it. Starting tomorrow.

However, with everything that is going on in our lives right now, Mrs. LIAYF and I just can't seem to consistently get to bed before 11:00 PM. More often it's closer to midnight. If we are lucky, Lukas will sleep straight through until 7:30.

We are not generally lucky people.

So, this morning at 6:45 when it sunk into my brain that Lukas was in his crib calling "Daddy, I'm awake", my wife and I were both still in an utter state of sleepy exhaustion. Nevertheless, I gingerly pulled myself out of bed, opening the door to let the morning light shine brilliantly through from the guest bedroom window down the hall.

"You want to crawl into bed with Mommy and me?" I said to him, my voice full of gravel as my eyes fixed on a standing, mussy headed, grinning little boy. "Yeeeah!" he replied as I scooped him out of his crib and deposited him gently down between his mother and I before collapsing back into the warmth and comfort of the permanent indentation of my mattress.

After a few short-lived snuggles with mom and dad, he popped up, looked down the hall and out the window and proclaimed "Look, the sky is purple!". "It's more periwinkle" I managed to muster, then closed my eyes again. "I need to see it!" he excitedly yelled as he quickly slid himself down the side of our elevated bed and out the door.

As our son ran down the hall full of excitement, back to our room for a brief stop, then back down the hall to the window once again, Mrs. LIAYF mumbled something that I could only make out as "Don't you wish we woke up with that kind of energy?". The truth was that, yes I do wish for that kind of energy often these days, however all I could manage at the time was a barely audible grunt of affirmation.

Then, after Lukas had once again visited the guest bedroom window and stood on a old schoolhouse chair to gain a better perspective of the sunrise reflecting off the majestic snow capped Olympic mountains to the west, he once again hopped down and sprinted to back to our room.

"Come quick!" "Come, quick!" he implored. "You NEED to see the beautiful day!!"

And with that, yet another beautiful day of fatherhood helped to clear the morning cobwebs thus ensuring that I would start the week off with a smile.
Photo credit: orcmid from flickr creative commons