3/22/17

The Value Of A Good Henge

I want my children to know the value of a good henge.  The first thing to know about a good henge, of course, is that they are not always made of stone.  Sometimes, they are made of other things.  My children have learned this from personal experience.  Henges can be made out of cars, wood, boats and sometimes weird little hot wheel cars arranged just so.  But what makes a henge a henge is what it does.  You would think that marking the different times of year, like the summer solstice, is its main function.  It is not.  A henges main function is to merely exist so that father’s who like henges have someplace to drag their kids.  We have now seen 5 separate and distinct henges.

I’m not really sure exactly where we are currently at.  It’s somewhere between over there and lost.  These are the best adventures, though, the ones you really have to look for when it’s 90 degrees out in March.  This aberration of temperature helps fuel my kid's current attitude to our henge seeking adventures.  This is, mainly, can we go back to the cabin now?  No, we cannot.

“But we have already seen the henge!” they scream.

“Yes, yes we have.  But we haven’t seen the troll!”

Sometimes the kids don’t share my enthusiasm.  There is a troll by this henge and we are gong to find it.  We have wondered through the Kansas prairies, tall dry grass flying by our windows, past what I am sure are countless henges.  The troll, which I read about online, should be located near our latest henge.  It’s in a park, underneath a rain grate, next to some sort of water.  It wasn’t in the first park or the second, but I’m pretty sure I have narrowed it down as we pull into the third.  We get out of the car and start walking, letting the heat attempt to stop us.

“It’s hot!” they say.  I think that they are trying to take a stand against me.  I’m betting Patton didn’t have this kind of problems.

“Yup,” I say.  The best way to shut down a debate is to simply agree with them.  We march on.

I ask the first person we meet if perhaps they know where the troll is located.  He seems like a nice old guy as he quickly jogs away from us and our troll hunting/henge seeing adventures.

I find someone else and ask them if perhaps they have seen the troll, I mention that we have just come from a henge.  This nice young person gives us directions to the nearest hospital and urges us to see help.

However, the third person that I speak to (bother) says yes, they have indeed seen the troll!  As her pupils are not dilated, I feel that she actually means it and is not on drugs.  She says that it’s just right over the hill, next to the damn, just follow the sidewalk.  She tells me that she took her kids that way last week and I feel a certain connection with her immediately.  But before I can ask her about her attitude toward henges, the kids pull me away.  They seem eager to get this adventure done.

Within minutes we find the troll, just like the good people of the internet said we would.  Underneath a giant rain grate right off the sidewalk.  He’s about 6 feet tall, overlarge head and metal glimmering eyes.  We stand over him and do what we came here to do which is basically just look and point while I say “hey kids, look at this troll!”  They are back in the car before I can suggest we name him.  (I did, by the way, we now call our troll “Gronky” and he is part of our family lore.)

Back in the car, we chew up the miles like a football team at a buffet.  To my right, I notice a brown sign.  It’s the type of sign that you see everywhere when you look for it on America’s highways.  Sometimes they say “Melvern State Park” or “Santa Fe Trail wagon wheel ruts.”  This particular sign says “Cattle Pen Lookout.”  The sign points north.  You know what else is north that I’ve had my eye on for a while?  Carhenge.  One that we haven’t seen and completely different from the Carhenge we have seen.

I slow down preparing to take the exit.  In unison, like a young boys choir, I hear my kids scream from the back “No!  Don’t get off the highway!”  Hesitatingly, I increase the speed of the car and reluctantly miss the exit.  I point the nose of the car towards home.  Perhaps this time they have a point, it’s pushing 10pm.

And it’s ok.  Because the last thing to know about henges are that they are immortal and will always be there tomorrow.

3/16/17

The Pinnacle of Being an At Home Dad.

This is it, I have reached the pinnacle of being an at home dad.  Nine years, nine long years and today is the day that I can truly say that it's all coming together.

March Madness starts today and there is absolutely no one home.  All day.  A full day with no one at the house.  At all.  Let me bask in this for a few minutes.

Look at those chips in the kitchen over there.  See those?  Those are MY chips.  There will be no grimy hands covered in boogers and snot grabbing into that bag.  The only hands taking those sweet fried potatoes out will be shaking from the excitement from the knowledge that there will be no sharing.  I'm going to eat the whole bag in under 2 hours which would be a personal best.

The beer is right next to the chips and I want to again remind everyone that those are MY chips.  That is also My beer.  I will not be sharing these either.  My daughter can be a mean drunk.  (Don't call CPS, it's only a joke, she is a very nice drunk).  While I drink this beer, with MY chips, there will be no questions.  "Why do you drink Daddy?" or "What is passed out?  Daddy?  Daddy?"

Now that the beer and chips are taken care of, let's move onto what else is mine that I will not be sharing.  I will sit alone, in MY chair, by myself.  I may allow the dog to lay at my feet and soak up some of this awesomeness.  He gets no beer or chips, though.  Those are still mine.  There will be no kids jumping to my crotch like a rocket fired from the launchpad that is our couch.  There will also be no getting up for a good 3 hours to check on what that huge crashing sound was.  Because there will also be no huge crashing sound unless its the sound of my over indulgent sighs as I fit one more chip in my chiphole.

For lunch, I've got something special planned.  MY brats will go nicely with MY beer and MY chips.  I'll eat them in peace and not once wish they were hotdogs, why can't we have hotdogs, I want a hotdog, I no longer want this hotdog.  Let me make this clear at the start of this day.  There will be no hotdogs.

I'm going to do all this from the comfort of MY living room while I watch MY TV at a reasonable volume.  I will be able to hear the program I am watching and I will not have to wonder why the volume only goes up to 99.  I will watch it at volume 20 like civilized people do while they eat brats, beer and chips.  When there is a good play I may actually rewind the play and watch it many times.

Then I'm going to cuss about the play.   I'm going to say "fuck" and not "fork".  I'm gong to say "Shitnizzle" and not "Shuxalive."  I'm going to scream "Goddamnit you bastard loving cunt sore."  Well, hold on.  I'm not going to say "Goddamnit you bastard loving cunt sore."  Even for me, that is pretty extreme.  Let's not get carried away here.  So instead I will say "Goddamnit, stupid millennials costing me my bracket.  Twats."  Yes, that's better.  I will say that.

Everyone is now expecting a twist now, aren't they?  Everyone is expecting me to come to the great realization that my life is infinitely better and sweeter when my kids are around.  That I will have an internal dialog about the guilt I feel about all 3 of my demons being in school.  That maybe I will eagerly run to preschool, grab my youngest and then hop over and take the other two out of school as well so we can experience this together.  That is where this story goes, right?

Fuck no.

Nine years, nine years I've been doing this.  Read the first sentence again, there will be no going to get the kids and having a special moment.  I'm going to have plenty of special moments over the course of this day.

And I'm going to have those special moments while sitting in MY underwear, which will be on MY butt.  MY underwear will not be on some four-year old's head, it will not be pulled down at the waist by tiny hands and no one will ask me why there are pirates on MY underwear.  Pirates are cool, that's why they are on my underwear, to protect my booty.  Dear god, even the jokes are getting better now.

3/13/17

House WebMD

Hossmom is wondering why I am freaking out about the stopped up kitchen sink.  She seems to be very nonchalant about it, that it is no big deal.  She says that she knows that I can fix it and when I couldn't, she didn't seem to freak out at all.  She wants to know why it's stressing me out so much.  Let me explain in terms that I think that she can understand.

When my wife gets the random pain in the calf or a tingle in her arm, she makes the mistake of going to WebMD or other sites that instantly diagnosis her with cancer.  Then she convinces herself that it's not cancer but she had a heart attack and didn't realize it because somewhere she read an article that women have lots of heart attacks and don't realize it.  She fixates on this information and practically hyperventilates.  Thank's WebMD, you guys make my life so much easier.  From the very bottom of my heart, fuck you guys.

When I calm her down and tell her that it's just the aches and pains of getting old, she then reminds me that the very first guy that did jogging in the 70's died of a heart attack so what hope does she have?  She will then begin to list all these super healthy people that have died of heart attacks.  This can go on for a while.

So using that analogy I can now frame the house repair stuff in a way that she will get my stress.  If there is something that is wrong with the house, like a plugged sink that I can't reach, I begin to go down the WEBMD of the house.  It's not just a plugged line, an easy fix for a professional.  It's a multi-million dollar repair that is going to bankrupt me.  In short, it's house cancer.  And if it's not house cancer, it's a house heart attack.  That's what it is.  That's where my mind goes.  It can't just be a blocked line because I know what my kids and wife have dumped down that thing.  It's some mutant monster now that is chewing the insides of my house, that is destroying the goodness that is my life.

That heart attack house monster just started on the sink drain.  It has now moved on to the main sewer line and they will eventually have to dig up my yard, replace pipes, rebury the Indians that we accidentally built upon, and upset the very nature that is reality.  The bill, of course, will be worth more than the national debt.

As a single income family, I have no hope of paying this off.  The best I can do is to sell myself into debtors prison and hope that my children can grow up fine without me.  I will be an indentured servant in some plumbing company, going around to other houses and digging up their yards, thus recruiting more members to our cult.  For lunch, they will give me whatever greasy fish is pulled out of drains.

Look, I know realistically it's just a simple sink plug.  I know that it's just farther down the line than my feeble plumbing skills can reach.  I know that most likely it's nothing more than a routine maintenance.  But I also know who lives in this house.  Hell, 10 years of this blog is dedicated to a number of things my children have broken.  Would I be terribly surprised to find a barbie head and a pair of pliars are what is clogging my sink?  No, no I would not.  In fact, it's always a wonderful surprise when it's actually something other than us.

I know just enough about home repairs to freak myself out.  I see a clog in the sink and if I can't fix it, I know that a possibility is that it's a clog in the main sewer line and that is going to get pricey.  And then my head thinks things like "It's probably busted and sewage is right now at this moment flooding my basement!"

So there, Hossmom, that is why I was a bit stressed out by our simple sink clog.  That's why I was nervous all weekend when I couldn't fix it myself.  That's why I would prefer to hide in a hole and let a grown up handle things for a little bit, this grown up needed to consult house WebMD and then slowly prepare for a life of cleaning other people's toilets.

3/9/17

Ode To The Poptart

I pick up the crusted poptart from the floor and place it back on the lower level of the refrigerator.  My hand brushes against the lettuce as I pull away.  The lettuce slides and again pushes the poptart back onto the floor.  I bend over, pick it up, and place the poptart back in the fridge.

I walk away, the poptart safe in it's cold cave.

Later in the day, I go to make lunch.  I have to move the poptart to get to the lunch meat that one of the kids has stuffed in the back.  I also grab the lettuce, placing the bologna package on the poptart for a second while my other hand grabs for the mustard.  I get everything I need and shut the door to the refrigerator.

I make dinner that night.  The poptart still sitting like a sentry every time I open the fridge to get something.  It's silently waiting.

The next day I repeat the pattern of constant food preparation for the horde that is my family.  The fridge door opens and closes, opens and closes.  The light illuminating the blueberry pastry like a lighthouse on a stormy coast.

The week continues and so does the uncovered poptart on the bottom shelf.  Sometimes it is knocked off the shelf and it is quickly picked up.  Back into its abode, its cooled castle.

The next week comes and the poptart has been knocked off the shelf so much that it is now in two pieces.  Its edges are crumbled and a bit smushed.  The blueberry filling is dried out, the deep purple color draining a little bit more as the door opens and shuts.

Two weeks have now passed and groceries have been added and subtracted from the fridge.  The poptart has brief house guests of leftover spaghetti or an unfinished brat.  But there stay is short-lived, unlike the poptart. which is now timeless.

A month goes by and I open the fridge door.  I notice the poptart and really see if for the first time.  It's more crumbles now than an actual poptart.  Its rectangular shape has disintegrated into nothing but a memory.  It no longer slides out of the fridge because it has slowly attached itself to the bottom shelf.  The sugar sweetness is gone, leaving nothing but an adhesive paste.

I look at the poptart and in return, it looks at me.  I join it on its journey of self-discovery.  Troubles melt away, my world becomes uncluttered, and my mind clears.  In this state, an epiphany hits me with the truth of a thousand sons.  I understand myself more than I ever have and I understand the poptart.

 One thought echoes in the emptiness  of my mind, over and over again:

Jesus Christ, I need to clean the fridge out.  Dear God that's disgusting.  

3/6/17

We Cleared A Path

"We thought you said 'clear a path'"

The only time I would have told my children to clear a path is if I'm a naval captain on my way down the ladder to check the nuclear launch codes.  Or a firefighter with an armful of kittens.  I would not, I did not, say 'clear a path' to my children.  What I said to my kids was "Good God, it's like a twister came through the toy room.  You better hope that R2D2 can disable all the trash compactors on the detention level or things are going to get interesting.  Watch out for the trash monster."

Wall to wall crap littered the floor of the toy room.  Toys and trinkets were piled so high that some were headed up the walls as the only escape from the pit below.  To walk across would take a city permit and the services of a good sherpa.  Only steel toed boots should be allowed in that hole of pointy plastic corner pieces.  So I told them to clean it up and gave them 1 hour.

At the end of that hour, I came back.  I didn't check on progress during that hour because, and I'll be honest, I wanted a break.  I was tired from long hours of thinking of metaphors to describe the pit of destruction that I had witnessed.  When I did come back, they had indeed cleared a path.

A 2-foot section was opened making a nice little trail to the one window in the middle.  The other two windows on the side of the path were apparently for decoration only, not intended for use.  If my kids worked at Yosemite, then they would make excellent park rangers.  This isn't Yosemite though, this is my house.  There's probably a dead cat in there somewhere, we should find it before CPS comes and decides to give me some free time.

I asked for their logic because I honestly want to see what is going through there heads.  Maybe there is a scientific explanation like maybe there is a hypothesis about the amount of clutter and the level of Dad's frustration.  Maybe there is a device in this pit of destruction that measures the colors of my face.  That would be cool.

"Bacon Hoss wasn't helping."

The 4-year-old wasn't helping.  Always blame the toddler, a favorite family tactic.  I implored them to go on.

"And we thought you said to clear a path."

So we are back to the beginning which is good because there is literally nowhere else to go in this room.  We are going to start again.  It's tough to explain to childless, easy going people, how it can take 2 hours to clean a room.  Because it's not just the room we are trying to clean here, it's also language and the messages that it conveys.

I go grab my big boots and a trash bag.  They know the rule. If Dad picks it up it goes into the trash.  I have yet to actually throw anything away after the first threat of this 7 years ago.  I walked into the room with my trash bag, my body finding dog, and a smile.

"Ok, I'll help.  Let's clean the room!"

The toy room was cleaned in 10 minutes.


3/2/17

Oops

Where is my daughter, I'm ready for her to get home.  There are things to do, lots and lots of things to do.  There is volleyball to talk about and there is soccer to go to.  I have a class I need to get to and I want her to read what I have written.  Come home Little Hoss, play with me!

Bacon Hoss is no good for this type of stuff.  He won't laugh at my writing mainly because he can't read at all.  I find this a deficiency in his education.  I blame Hossmom.  And he's loud a lot.  He's loud all the time.  I get it, though, he has to be loud to compete with the other two while I sit back on my golden throne and watch the children compete for my attention.  Dance you monkeys, dance for Daddy's entertainment.

He keeps me busy, though, we are busy a lot.  I'm feeling that I'm becoming forgetful and I know why.  The more I add to my plate the harder things get.  This is not a shock, not a shock at all.  In 8 years of being an at home dad, the kids and house have been my focus.  And donuts, I have done a lot of focusing on donuts as well.  The kids are still my focus but my youngest is now in preschool twice a week.  Another year and a half he will be in full-time school himself and then Dad will be all alone

So sure, there needs to be some prep work to be put in so that when all my kids leave me I'm not a sad pile of meth addiction and divorce papers.  My focus has grown because of this.  Writing classes and groups are now mixed in with soccer practice, field trips, and adventures.  That's a lot of focus.  If my daughter would hurry up and get home from school she could help me focus.

I get a phone call.  It's the kid's school.  I am a little concerned, school ended 30 minutes ago.  I answer the phone.  It's Donna, the school's secretary.  I know donna because over the last 5 years my kids have forgotten lunch boxes, uniforms, homework and pretty much everything else.

"Little Hoss is under the impression that you were supposed to pick her up today because she had to bring her cello.  She's here at the office waiting for you."

Crap.  Crap, crap, crap.

Little Hoss is right.  I drove her to school this morning because her cello needed to be tuned.  That mahogany whale of an instrument cannot be taken on the bus.  I'm sitting here right now waiting for the bus and for my daughter to get home.  She's not coming home.

I need to focus on being a better parent.  

3/1/17

Writing Group

Within minutes of walking into the stuffed room at the local library, I realized that I was the dumbest guy in there.  This should give me pause, this should make me wonder if I've stepped into something I shouldn't have.  Perhaps it's best if I just turn tail and run before I ruin whatever great literary work they are about to discuss.  They will be talking Tolstoy and I will be understanding Dr. Suess.  But feeling good in my caveman intelligence I decided fuck it because that's what dumb guys do.  If I had a beer I would have given it to my buddy and told him "Hold my beer, watch this."

There were a series of tables arranged in a large square formation, the chairs were pushing almost up against the walls when you sat down.  I made a weak joke, the kind that says "I'm no threat, I'm just here to take whatever literary scraps you guys throw out.  I'm the racoon of the writing world, don't mind me."  I had to grab a chair from the closet and make the decision of who's space do I want to funk up.

It's always weird coming into a new group.  It's tough breaking in, especially when it's outside of your comfort zone.  You would think that I would be quite good at this and sometimes I am.  But I'm also sometimes that 7-year-old boy that's new at school and just wants someone to sit with me so I don't stick out so much.  There was no space at this lunch table so I put my chair in the corner and told everyone to not mind me, I"ll be over here by myself.

The group laughed and this was good.  I had gotten them to laugh twice in 3 minutes and this bodes well for me.  They quickly made space for me at the table and handed me some print outs.  I was now part of an official writing group.  I was doing it, I was making progress!  I texted my wife to let her know that I am an official writer now.  She quickly pointed out that I've actually been published and could have called myself a writer for a long time now.  Her constant encouragement gets in the way of my low self-esteem and I find that annoying.

The group leader, Jim, welcomed me and the few other new people that had joined this group.  He laid down some ground rules but in a way that said "We are going to criticise the shit out of you and it may hurt.  But it will be wrapped in warm hugs and donuts so you won't even realize when the needle goes in."   I haven't been this excited since my son was born.  Hell.  Yes.

And then we began.  We reviewed 2 works that night.  They were read out loud and then the other writers voiced their thoughts on what was just presented.  It was a no holds bared critique but I was smiling ear to ear and so was the person that had written the piece.  She was furiously taking notes, she was marking her copy of the story up so much that it had basically just become a red page.  She was laughing, I was laughing.  And the advice was just so....damn...good.

Here's the thing about writing, at least for me.  It's terrifying.  Every piece takes a bit of you with it.  It's like a Horcrux but good.  The only person you have to kill to imbue it with life is yourself.  Then to send it out into the world, to want to send it out, makes you want to take big gulps of moonshine and close your eyes tight.  It's like jumping out of an airplane and not being sure if you grabbed the parachute or the backpack with the anvil.  But here I was with all these people taking that leap together and Jesus Christ was it just so awesome.

They talked about things that I knew about.  They talked about things that I was excited about.  Their excitement made me excited.  The way they jumped on the technical side of plot development and character growth.  The way they pointed out themes and the voice of the story.  Over the last 6 months, I've tried to throw myself into writing, to truly become better and actually do something with it.  I want to be a writer, I want to be creative.  And here, I found people using the terms and vernacular of every work I've done since Bacon Hoss started going to preschool.  It was like I was jacked up on cocaine and caffeine while cliff diving.

The story that we were "workshopping", that's a writers term--I can use that term now because I'm a writer--was chopped and gutted.  Of the 8 pages, 3 were pretty much cut and laying in the pile of "why did I ever write that to begin with."  The rest of her story was better for it.  Then we started the next one.  Again, brutal honesty without malice and the piece came together wonderfully.

Here's the thing about being the dumb guy in the room.  Sometimes you want to be that guy.  You need to be that guy.  Because at the very least you are surrounding yourself with people that know what the hell they are talking about.  The lessons that can come out of a situation like that are invaluable.  And maybe you are not so much the dumb guy anymore the minute you realize that.  At that point, maybe you just become the guy you wanted to be.

At the end of the meeting, the leader asked our background and what we wrote.  After my many jokes, I don't think it surprised anyone that I wrote more humor.  One of the other's asked who had works published before and I actually raised my hand.  Many didn't.  I need constant encouragement when I write, it's like I'm a contestant in a beauty pageant.  And as I looked around and heard people speak I realized that maybe I wasn't so ugly in the swimsuit competition.  Make no mistake, I've got the writing love handles but some vaseline just might be able to fix this up.

I left the meeting feeling inspired and creative.  And talkative, very very talkative.  I can't wait to go home and tell Hossmom everything, every detail, every piece of writing that was discussed.  I'll talk so much that she will gradually fall asleep and that's ok because now I have other people to talk to about this.  It's because of her you know and I think she has very much earned her rest.