Tuesday, October 26, 2010

A Nightmare on Sesame Street

There's nothing more exciting than waiting in line for a ride or a show.  Jennifer and I love it.  That's why we returned to Sesame Place on Saturday.  We had heard that the park will be soon closing for the year, and we did not want to miss out on another good dose of standing on our feet for hours.  Also, since the tickets we purchased in July covered an extra admission, the price was right, too.  Nothing like free waiting.

This trip was remarkably different than our summer trip.  First of all, having settled my issues with Cookie Monster, I was able to go unarmed.  Second, the water park was not as much fun this time around, as all the pools and rivers were drained.  In July, when Kyle refused to try any rides, the pool was the one thing that made visiting the park worth it.  This time around, I couldn't even get him to go in it.  He's so finicky.  

The whole park was decorated for Halloween.  Banners of the Sesame Street characters now featured them in costume.  Floral arrangements were turned into pumpkin patches.  There were even "Trick or Treat" stands for the kids.  Overall, though, the park was not very scary, and that was a bit disappointing.  They certainly could have done more.  Maybe they could have put a jar of live tarantulas next to the scary-looking pizzas in the cafeteria... or, better yet, have a mechanical severed head of Snuffaluffagus on a pole outside the entrance of the restrooms, quietly welcoming patrons with a "Heeeeey, Biiiirrrd."  No, the closest thing they had to anything creepy was Elmo's on-stage impersonation of Michael Jackson.  They'll have to do better if they really want to be a Halloween destination.

We did watch a couple of the park's Halloween shows.  Kyle enjoyed seeing his favorite characters, but I don't think he fully appreciated the plots.  When I tried to discuss them with him later, hoping to dissect the allegorical meaning behind the Count's polka dance, my kid merely said, "I had fun with Elmo and Cookie Dah-doo."  We're not quite ready to take him to a Broadway show just yet.  Still, he seemed engrossed by what was going on.  I was impressed that he was able to sit still for a good twenty minutes.  I'm starting to think that I should talk to our pastor about somehow adding Cookie Monster to the family church services.

We also had a minor breakthrough: Kyle enjoyed "Ernie's Bed Bounce," which he shunned the last time we were there, after waiting five hours in line.  Last time Kyle set foot in the bouncy room, he stood at the edge, begging for his mother to take him out.  This time, he immediately ran away and tackled a poor girl at the other end, before running back and tackling another girl.  As I've written before, my son is gifted when it comes to women.  When he was not working his moves, he jumped around, tumbled a few times, and laughed.  He just needed a couple of months to get over his fear of that ride.  Maybe by next summer he will want to go on one of those upside-down roller coasters.  I'm keeping my fingers crossed.  A ride like that certainly would make waiting in line worth it.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Man Vs. Wild

I have squished more than a few bugs in my day, and even conquered the monster cockroach-like water bugs of the South, but I never considered myself much of a exterminator, or even a hunter of beasts.  For years, I had no reason to combat the wild, as I, like most of you, do not have to kill to obtain shelter and food, unless the supermarket is unnaturally crowded with idiots.  Rarely do I test wits with a creature from the outside, but I found myself doing just that last week, when a mouse chose to camp in our apartment.

(Above: A reenactment of the mouse's first visit)
Contrary to popular belief, not all New York City apartments are crawling with mice, rats, roaches, or obnoxious sports fans.  Believe it or not, this mouse that first visited us a couple months ago was the first one we faced since moving to the city in 2004.  We were stunned when we saw it scurry across our dining room and into a closet.  At first we thought our eyes were playing tricks on us, but as we opened the closet door, we saw it sitting in the back, staring at us.  A quivering, scared, defenseless little mouse.  Or so we thought.  Having never dealt with a mouse before, I grabbed a small bucket, thinking I could easily drop it on the thing, much like the way it's done in the board game "Mouse Trap."  I naturally felt that the expertise I received from playing that game when I was ten would help me in real life.  What I was to do once the bucket fell onto the mouse is anybody's guess.  The board game didn't go that far. 

Surprisingly, the plan didn't work.  As the mouse darted out of the closet and over a bunch of boots, I gracefully flung the bucket down sideways and watched it bounce away as the mouse ran freely in the opposite direction... and under Kyle's bedroom door.  We gasped.  This mouse broke a sacred barrier, and it now deserved what was coming to it.  No more sympathy.  We barged into Kyle's room, turned on the lights, and looked in every basket and in every corner for the thing.  Kyle groaned as we clanged around everywhere.  Despite our rigorous search, the mouse somehow escaped, and we were forced to give up.  I did not sleep well that night.  The mouse had won round one.

We were better prepared for its next visit, which happened a couple days later.  The mouse once again scurried across the dining room, and under the closet door.  I pulled out some glue traps we had bought (the humane traps, unfortunately, had attracted ants), and placed them along the door.  We waited on our couch in the next room and watched as the mouse ducked its head out from under the door and sniffed at the bait.  Just as we were about to pop the champagne to toast our victory... the mouse evaded the traps!  It ran back across the dining room and disappeared again, having won round two.

We didn't see our visitor again for a good month after that.  I had hoped it was gone for good, but that was foolish thinking.  It is too hard to resist the free buffet offered each night on the floor of a two-year-old's home, and a little more than a week ago, the mouse came back for more.  Once again, we laid out the traps, and once again it ran off, towards our apartment's hallway.  We assumed it fled out our front door, since there's a hole by the bottom edge of it that leaves us vulnerable to very small crooks.  The mouse had won round three.

I then realized that the mouse had initially entered our home through a quarter-size hole in the dining room wall that had been created by previous tenants.  I clogged it up using aluminum foil and duct tape, the two tools that can be used to combat all kinds of problems, from leaky dams to scalp itch.  Of course, at the time I was not aware that, in blocking the hole, I was trapping the mouse INSIDE our apartment.  Apparently it hadn't left that closet as we had assumed. 
Two days later, as Jennifer was working late, I sat on the couch and spied the mouse running from the hallway and back into the dining room closet.  It then ran from the closet and back toward the now-blocked-hole, pausing once to look at me and blow a raspberry. That finally pushed me off the edge.  I grabbed a broom and stood in the dining room, my mouth foaming and eyes wide, ready to attack it once it crawled past me.  But this mouse was too smart and cocky.  As I stood there, it still managed to run by, and even stop to insult me once again... crawl crawl crawl - PFFFFT!- crawl crawl crawl... before disappearing back into the hallway, perhaps into the pantry there.  I doubled up the useless traps there and waited with the broom.  It did not show its head again, and eventually I put the broom away and went to bed.  For the rest of the week I would plot the mouse's demise.

This past weekend, as the family took a brief trip to Massachusetts, I tried a new scheme using the traps we had.  As I laughed and rubbed my hands together maniacally, I placed the glue traps in new locations.  I also left two humane traps in the hallway, positioned in the most attractive way possible, and away from any location where there were traps before.  Somehow, someway, by some miracle, it worked!  When we came home late Sunday night, one of the humane traps was closed, with the critter inside it.  I was giddy with excitement as I put the trap into a bucket and brought it a few blocks outside so that it could be back with "nature."  Far away from our apartment, next to a tree alongside the road, I opened up the trap and watched the little thing fall to the ground and wiggle around.  I walked away immediately, denying it any chance to mock me again.  This time the last laugh was mine.  HAHAHAHAHAHA!

Okay, maybe my obsession became a bit out of hand, but it paid off at the end.  I fought the beast that had intruded our home, and won.  The mouse is gone, and our child is safe.  You can be sure that mouse won't show its face around here again.  This apartment ain't big enough for the both of us.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

What's Mine Is Yours

One part of this parenting experiment that I particularly enjoy is the teaching.  Right now, Kyle is a little sponge, absorbing all kinds of things Jennifer and I tell him, and giving off odors if left alone too long.  We have taught him a few songs, numbers, the alphabet, and how to parallel park.  He seems to be grasping most concepts, and he dodges those he doesn't understand by repeating what we say or trying to change the subject.  He already would make a good politician.  The teaching process was going very well, up until a few weeks ago, when I discovered that he didn't understand the difference between "my" and "your."

I think the problem has its roots in our morning ritual, just before we go outside to watch pigeons attack tourists.  I often say to Kyle, "Go get YOUR hat," and he grabs his baseball cap.  Then I say, "I'll grab MY hat," which is either a baseball cap or a fedora (and whip), depending on where we are going.  Even though I don't stress the words "your" or "my," apparently Kyle's sponge brain has sucked them right in, but in the wrong way.  I noticed this recently, when Kyle grabbed the hats without my guidance, and said "My hat!" when he gave me mine.

"No, Kyle," I said once I realized his mistake, "You don't say my hat is 'my hat;' you say my hat is 'your hat.'  When you say 'my hat' correctly, you are talking about your hat.  Got that?" 

Kyle then said something about food.  This was not going to be an easy lesson. 

This sort of thing continued for several more days, until I convinced him to say "Daddy's hat" and "Kyle's hat."  I figured that would buy me some time until I worked out a better way to get him to understand what I meant.  It was by no means a solution to the problem, as the "my-your" confusion extended beyond headgear.

Shortly after my discovery, we visited our new neighbors downstairs, who have a five-year-old daughter and two-year-old son.  I was talking with their dad when the girl told me that Kyle wants to take all the boy's toys.  I looked over and saw Kyle hovering over a pile of the boy's Legos, saying, "My toy.  My toy.  My toy," as he pointed at each block.  The boy shouted back "NOOOO!"  Suddenly it became clear to me why Kyle still doesn't have any friends.  I tried to explain that Kyle actually meant "your toy" but I don't think anyone really believed me.  The boy still hugged his toys, believing Kyle was going to grab them from him.  Kyle has done this with other kids, and around the neighborhood he is developing a reputation of being a selfish hoarder, though he's simply trying to tell people what stuff is theirs.

As I try to break him from this confusion, I am carefully choosing my words, but it's not easy.  Just the other day, as Kyle brushed his teeth, he pointed at me, signaling that I should grab a toothbrush and join in the fun.

"Sure," I said, "I'll go get my-" Then I paused.  How's he going to learn "my" if I keep using it to refer to my stuff?  I thought.
"I mean," I then said, "I'll go get what YOU say is YOUR-" I paused again.  You're getting too confusing, Dave.  What then will you say when you actually mean YOUR?  Hear that?  It's your brain exploding.
"Ummm," I continued, "Daddy will go get his toothbrush."  I shook my head in disgrace as I stood up from my seat.  Great.  Our son is going to start talking in third person, just like Elmo.  That's all we need in this apartment: another Elmo.  One is bad enough.  Another could trigger a nervous breakdown.

I'm guessing we'll figure this out eventually.  I can't imagine him going on a date without knowing the difference between "my" and "your" ("Hey, baby, can I have my number?"), or trying to get a job ("As you can see from your resume, I'm more than qualified to work at my company.").  I've tried telling him, "When you say 'my' you mean 'Kyle's' and when you say 'your' you mean 'Daddy's.'"  That seems to be helping him a little bit, though now I wonder what will happen when he tries to give his mommy a hat.  Your guess is as good as mine.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Days with Dad

For the first half of this week, Jennifer was away on a work retreat.  She and a group of her fellow lawyers stayed at a compound along the Hudson River, spending nights around a campfire, telling ghost stories, singing "Kumbaya," and drafting 200-page invoices for their clients.  It was a huge bonding experience.  Kyle and I, meanwhile, spent that time at home, getting to know each other better.

Granted, this probably would be a lot more exciting if I was not already a stay-at-home dad.  It would have been a classic Hollywood moment, with me panicking over dirty diapers, tripping over Kyle's toys and falling face-first into a pile of Legos, and pulling my hair out and shouting at the sky as Kyle runs around with something dangerous and destructive, like a chainsaw.  That would have been HILARIOUS!  But that wasn't what happened, since I have a routine down, having done this job now for more than two years.  This is obviously a let-down for the little guy, and he expressed his dismay on the way home from dropping Jennifer off, often repeating, "Mommy.  Mommy."  A few days alone with her would have been exciting.  A few days with my parents would have been exciting.  Heck, even a few days with a pack of wolves or our crazy landlady would have been a kick for him.  But a few days with Daddy?  Just more of the same.  The weather didn't cooperate, either, so my plans to spice up the week with a little skydiving and rappelling fell through.  We went to the YMCA instead, and he simply ran around in circles, throwing red rubber balls.  Ho-hum.

So, really, this week hasn't been much different than previous weeks, except for a few days I was the one feeding Kyle breakfast. Turns out he's just as impatient in the morning as he is at lunchtime, when he cries at his highchair, demanding his food and milk, as if I was going to put him there and forget about him.  Silly kid.  That only happens at nap time.  When we weren't eating or snoozing, we did the usual stuff: grabbing an afternoon coffee (usually for me), playing with toys, reading books, or competing in wrestling/tickling matches.  I don't win those anymore... even the coffee can't compete with that kid's energy.  So, it really was just more of the same... except this week we lost our kitchen table and chairs.  I had sold them on craigslist.org to make way for a new set, which arrived today. 

Of course, since Kyle has yet to understand the intricacies of modern commerce, he had no idea what was going on.  I probably should have given him more warning.  He seemed awfully confused.  We came home Sunday night from dropping Jennifer off, and I was in the middle of feeding him dinner when the buzzer rang.  In came two women, and they just took the table and chairs, and left.  I went back to feeding Kyle.  He ate well that night, as I'm guessing he figured that, if he didn't finish his meal, the women would come back and take him away too.  Of course, that would never happen.  I'd never sell my kid over an unfinished meal.  After all, if I sold him, who would rake the leaves once we own a home?  However, I'm sure I could get a good price for all his toys. 

The empty dining room was the big thrill for Kyle this week, as he kept pointing to it and saying, "No table!  No chairs!"  There were a few other moments he enjoyed, too.  My friend Mickey stopped by on Tuesday for lunch, and the little guy hasn't stopped talking about it since.  "I had fun with Mickey," he repeated over and over again, as if to emphasize that he wasn't having fun with Daddy right now.  He even said he had fun with the kids who live downstairs, though he only saw them for about 10 seconds as we passed them by in the hall.  But that's Kyle's way.  He has fun with me by pretending that he's not.  His smiles give him away.  He's a little wiseguy.  I don't know where he gets it from.  I think I'll blame my own dad. 

So, yes, I suppose he did enjoy the "extended" routine, and hanging out with dear old Dad.  Yet, it was no secret that he missed his mother, and when she came home last night, he jumped around with so much reckless excitement that he accidentally whacked his chin on the edge of his crib.  He's okay, though, as the injury wasn't too severe.  I'm just glad that didn't happen under my watch.