Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Keymaster

Our kid was determined. He wanted to get inside his room, and it didn't matter to him who was in there. My mother claimed she was using the room to get dressed, but Kyle seemed to think she was in there for other reasons. The little guy knows what the deal is with his room. He knows by heart what treasures lie behind that door. There was no way he was going to believe that "I'm getting changed" story for one minute. No doubt he was expecting to barge in there and find his Memere (that's what we of French-Canadian ancestry call our grandmothers) singing the ABC's with his musical toy table, racing trains across the floor, or wading in the secret swimming pool. Kyle had no problem with his Memere using his toys. But keeping Kyle outside the room as she played? Well, that goes against the rules of sharing, and Kyle would have none of that.

At first, Kyle tried to get in the polite way. He knocked, and my mom knocked back. Kyle tried again, and again my mom knocked back. Kyle laughed, but you could tell he was infuriated that this was going nowhere. After a dozen or so more knocks and giggles, our son did something he never did before. He ran from the door towards me and shouted, "KEYS! KEYS! KEYS!"

Kyle received his own set of keys about a year ago. Before then, we had to be careful carrying Kyle past our own keys, as he would reach out and grab them, often smacking us in the face or neck along the way. We didn't want Kyle playing with our keys, as we were concerned he might put them in his mouth or start up the car. So, we bought him a ring of his own and put them next to ours. Whenever Kyle went for our keys, we gave him his. Soon he stopped wanting ours, and just took his whenever he could, often smacking us in the face or neck along the way. It was a much better situation. Little did I know that he thought his keys were just as real as ours. That all became clear yesterday morning.

"KEYS! KEYS! KEYS!" Kyle shouted. I grabbed his keys off the hook and handed them to him.

The little guy quickly spun around and ran back to the door. He took one key from the loop and started pressing it on the doorknob, hoping the key would go in even though it's twice the size of the key hole. After trying for a half-minute or so, he would pull the keys down, fumble through them, and try the doorknob again with another key. As he went on and on, trying each key, you could hear him muttering under his breath, "No, this key must be for the car. This is the front door key. This one belongs to the safe. What's this key doing here? Do I still even own whatever it opens?" Again, Kyle was going nowhere fast. Too bad he never realized that the door wasn't even locked.

Five minutes later, the door opened, and my mom walked out of the room wearing different clothes. She clearly had been changing and not playing with his toys, but Kyle remains suspicious of her.

My parents and I were amused by what had just happened, though I was a little concerned about Kyle's determination to get that door open. I recalled that scene in Jurassic Park when one of the scientists says they'll be safe unless the man-eating dinosaurs figured out how to open doors... and then the next scene shows a dinosaur doing just that. Kyle has yet to learn how to turn a doorknob to get a door open, but the incident yesterday shows that he's determined to figure it out. If he does, we could be in for some trouble. I would have to get better locks for the doors, do more baby-proofing, and remodel our room of rotating knives. If anything, I no longer would be able to shut myself in Kyle's room to play with all his toys. And that would be a sad day indeed.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Super Friends

I have been very fortunate. My two closest friends live in this city, and for more than two years they have visited me nearly every week for a lunch or dinner. They don't live down the block, either. In fact, it usually takes longer than an hour by subway to get from their home to mine. And, again, they have done this almost every week. Fortunately, their jobs often gave them time off during the week, so they didn't spend their entire lunch break riding here. Still, a visit often consumes most of their day off.

I have mentioned these friends before. Their names are Matt and Mickey. Here's a picture of them (and their lovely wives, Amanda and Bonni) from my birthday party earlier this year:

From what I hear, Matt and Mickey's visits are rather unusual.

"Every week?" another friend of mine said several months ago when I told him about the lunches. "You have to blog about this! It goes against every stereotype about male friendships." Well, not every stereotype: we still talk over a beer about sports, TV and politics, or we complain about current and former jobs. Occasionally, a foul odor will float through the air. And, occasionally, it won't be coming from Kyle. So, really, the meetings themselves are more or less what you'd expect. What is unusual, I hear, is the fact that they have happened so often. I don't know for sure if that's really true... but nevertheless I don't know what I would have done without these visits, especially during the first year of being a stay-at-home dad. The rough days then were very difficult, especially since I was new at it and Kyle couldn't communicate well, and the knowledge that I would have a real adult conversation later in the week kept me going. It's been better recently. I've been able to do a lot more with Kyle, and even though the "terrible twos" are not easy, I no longer feel cooped up in our home, begging for some sort of interaction. Still, I look forward to every visit by Matt or Mickey, as they're a lot of fun, and Kyle has a blast whenever they're here. They're Kyle's best friends, too.

So why did I wait 'til now to take my friend's advice and write about the visits? I really don't know why I didn't do this earlier. I suppose I found it easier to write something silly about Kyle. Even today I am having trouble finding the right words to adequately express just how much these friendships mean to me. I guess you probably have to be a stay-at-home parent to fully comprehend just how amazing it is to have your best buds visit you each week, even for just a couple hours. Friends like Matt and Mickey are valuable beyond measure. I hope other stay-at-home parents have been just as fortunate.

But back to the question of "Why now?" Well, now everything is changing. And I couldn't be happier. Why? Because Matt is now a dad.

Matt's little boy Evan was born on Friday. Jennifer, Kyle, and I went to meet the baby this past weekend, and he's a beautiful child (I'm not posting pictures because this is a public web site, so those who don't know Matt and Amanda will have to take my word. Trust me, he's a good-lookin' kid). We have been so excited about this child. We even kept the month of July open just so we could be around whenever he was born. It was a lot of fun exchanging stories with Matt and Amanda as they prepared for their baby's arrival, and now we can share in the journey of parenting. And there's just something about seeing two of your closest friends with an itty bitty baby of their own that just makes you so happy. I'm smiling thinking about it.

Of course, now that Matt has a little guy of his own, he's not going to be able to make that hour-long trek here each week. Instead, I hope to put Kyle in the car and drive out to visit him as often as I can. Now that Kyle's older, that won't be as difficult as it was before. Besides, it's probably not a good idea to go out to restaurants with Kyle right now, as he often transforms himself into an unruly catapult. I can't get through a meal without worrying that he might knock another customer unconscious with his straw cup. So, grabbing take-out and meeting Matt and Evan at their home might be the safest option. I just hope I can be there for Matt as he was there for me.

Mickey continues to take the slow train out here to see us, and so far he's been fine with that. I still look forward to his visit every week. Just like with Matt, I hope that someday I will be there for Mickey as he's been there for me. And it looks like that "someday" will be soon. Mickey's own child is due to arrive in January.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The monster bash

On Sunday, the family took a day trip to the Sesame Place theme park in Pennsylvania. We went there for two reasons: 1) Kyle has become a huge fan of the show and we had heard that the park is designed for kids his age, and 2) I needed to know once and for all whether Jennifer was having an affair with Cookie Monster. I was going to confront him, and, if rumors were true, knock him out, right there in front of everyone. C is for "Can of Whoopass!"

Now, you may wonder where such a rumor started. After all, I initially had no reason to suspect that my wife was sharing cookies with the big blue monster. She had always seemed faithful to me. But then, one day, out of nowhere, the little guy started blurting, "Mommy and Cookie Dah-doo! Mommy and Cookie Dah-doo!" I gasped. Cookie Dah-doo is the Kylese word for Cookie Monster. Jennifer immediately tried to get Kyle to stop saying such things. Yet she did not deny them. So, on Sunday, we drove to Cookie Monster's home to get answers, and possibly revenge. We didn't need anyone to tell us how to get there. We had maps.

Not too long after we arrived at Sesame Place, we realized that, indeed, most rides were safe for two-year-olds. Of course, that didn't mean that our two-year-old would actually ride them. After several long waits in line under a blazing hot sunny day (begging for those swept-away clouds to come back our way), we found ourselves getting off rides before they began moving. Kyle wanted no part of Big Bird's balloon ride, he spent a lot of time trying to climb out of Ernie's bouncy room, and he wisely stayed away from Grover's house of chainsaws. Instead, Kyle spent most of his time in an activity area that closely resembles our local YMCA. I was starting to wish that we didn't dip into our 401(k) to pay for the park's admission tickets.

Things were not looking up for my other mission, either. We could not get close to the Cookie Casanova. He and his bodyguard named Tully (seen to the right) were busy the entire day taking pictures with tourists. We considered getting in the line ourselves, but it stretched all the way to New Jersey, and our child did not have the patience to wait that long. So, the best I could do was just stand in back of Cookie Monster and growl, hoping to get some sort of reaction. There was no sense in shouting his name because everyone else was doing it. Plus, from what I could see, Cookie Monster showed absolutely no interest in Jennifer, which made me start to wonder whether my son was just making things up. We gave up on meeting the big blue beast, and had our picture taken with Bert and Ernie instead. As everyone knows, they're perfectly safe... right?

(Above: Kyle considers starting a new rumor)

After lunch, which consisted of pizza and fries (sold to us underneath signs that urged kids to eat more vegetables), the day became better. The three of us found a shady spot to watch the Sesame Street parade. Kyle smiled often and pointed at the characters as they danced along the road. It was one big party. When Cookie Monster walked past us, he did not seem to recognize Jennifer at all, and there was no Bill-and-Monica-type hug. Kyle had also stopped saying "Mommy and Cookie Dah-doo." I then figured that Jennifer must have been just playing along several days ago when she was coy about Kyle's accusations. Heck, even if it were true, was it really that bad if Jennifer had a special relationship with Cookie Monster? He always was my favorite Sesame Street character, and he inspired the eating habits I still have today. Maybe this would lead to more fresh-baked cookies around the apartment, and I have no problem with that. So, during that parade, I gave up my plans for a big blue smackdown, as I suddenly felt a-okay with "Mommy and Cookie Dah-doo." Hey, at least it's not Elmo.

Kyle also found joy at one of the pools by the park's water slides. The wall at the edge of the pool squirted out streams water, and many kids were playing with them. We carried Kyle there, with him crying and screaming "NO WATER! NO WATER! NO WATER!" the whole time. Ten minutes later, he was running around in the water, splashing and laughing. Those who missed his resistance thought Kyle was always a big fan of the pool. I'd say it was a small victory. By the end of the day, though, we concluded that a two-year-old, especially our two-year-old, is still a little too young for Sesame Place. I'm sure we'll go back when he's older. Kyle still had a good time, and for much of the ride home he kept saying "good-bye" to Big Bird, Cookie Monster, Elmo and the gang. I suppose that in itself made the visit worthwhile.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Almost hit the fan

I had one of those days last Thursday. I'm sure you're no stranger to the type. It was the kind of day that felt like machine-gun fire of mishaps. It wasn't horrible luck, such as experiencing a carjacking or Hanna Montana marathon, but just bad luck, a series of minor annoyances that had me thinking that someone, somewhere, was getting a good laugh at my expense.

The first event, the "Kick-off" as I call it (since I am the creative type), was only minor in that nobody was hurt. As I was putting Kyle into my car after getting its oil changed, the vehicle started rolling! I immediately pulled Kyle out of the car and saw that the mechanic who had driven it out to the parking lot didn't put the gear in "park" when he left it; he just turned off the engine. Other things followed, from discovering a broken car part, to having a horrid time finding a parking spot, to having to feed Kyle in the car because of NYC's alternate-side parking rules, to nearly killing a worker at Subway who almost put something on my sandwich I didn't want (she had insisted that she was doing the right thing because another employee told her to do it... an excuse that, I believe, would have made my homicide justifiable). By early afternoon, I was happy to be back home, though Kyle made sure the "fun" didn't end there. As I fumbled for the keys to my apartment, while holding onto an oddball assortment of bags, mail, and unnaturally large mechanic receipts, the little guy decided it was a good time to dig his teeth into my shoulder. You could tell he liked it, because he dug deep for a big, mouth-filling bite. Apparently I taste like doughnuts.

Then came the grand finale, and the main reason for writing this post. After I dropped everything I had in my arms, including Kyle, I pulled from my pocket the broken car part I discovered shortly after discovered that the car was moving on its own. The part wasn't anything essential: just a piece of the hubcap that I figured could be fixed or replaced. Well, as I pulled the part out, fixing it became less of an option as a chunk of it snapped off and skidded across the kitchen floor. I had had it with this day. I was weary. I was frustrated. I stopped thinking long ago. So, out of my mouth came a four-letter word. Since I hear this is a family website, I won't spell it out, but I'll just say it's perhaps the weakest of four-letter words, though the one that stinks the most.

Now, in many cases, saying a word like that is really no big deal. Swear words do have health benefits, as they did help me get through my last job without throwing a computer at someone. Plus, we're also in New York City, where it's so much a part of the vernacular that even the names of some popular breakfast cereals contain four-letter words. I'm not exactly one to rattle them off like the Vice President does, but there are moments when they just happen. The problem was, at this particular moment, Kyle was listening. And immediately afterwards, he tried repeating it. "Shhhhhhh..."



My eyes shot wide open. Oh, what did I do? Our son, like most two-year-olds, has developed a knack for repeating words he hears. And repeat them. And repeat them. I did not want this word to be one of them. Plus, I did not want to be blamed for teaching him that. So far, I've taught him numbers and colors, but if he learned this, nobody would remember that. "You know what his dad taught him? S**t! We'll have to buy him something wholesome for Christmas, like that Hanna Montana movie."

I hear, though, this kind of thing does run in the family. Jennifer says she had quite the vocabulary when she was a child. Beneath that bright blond hair and beautiful, innocent brown eyes, was a mouth that spewed a torrent of obscenities, which got her into trouble at the schoolyard and race tracks. It bothered her parents tremendously, so much so that her mother created a song for the two of them to sing together on the way to daycare, in hopes of getting it out of her system. This is true. Each day, all along the way to daycare, they sang aloud a song that went a little like this: "When we are in daycare, we don't say words like s***, d***, f***, a****** or m*****-*******-*****-********. Laaa-deee-dum-dum." I keep telling Jennifer, with the right music, this could become the next big children's song, right up there with "Wheels on the Bus."

For years, Jennifer's parents never knew who corrupted their little girl. But, at some point, the truth finally spilled out: the culprit was Jennifer's older sister, who was a teenager at the time. Kyle does not have an older sibling to teach him these words, but he does have an entire city to help him... and I'd rather let the city do that job. I did not want to fill that role myself. So, on Thursday, in my wearied state, I somehow, someway, had the presence of mind to change course just as things were about to get ugly.

"SHOOT!" I said, in a way that sounded like I was repeating myself.

"Shoot!" Kyle said back at me, with a big smile. "Shoot! Shoot! Shoot! Shoot! Shoot!"

And once again I am spared from embarrassing myself. Damn, that was close.