Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Fliers on the Storm

The weather here in the Northeast is so hard to predict.  From day to day, you can never be sure what it'll bring.  Just spin the roulette wheel, and carry an umbrella and sunblock.  What will it be?  Rain?  Snow?  Hail?  In-laws? 

We had an in-law shower Wednesday night.  Jennifer's dad (also named Dave) and his wife Ruth were taking a trip from North Carolina to the Czech paradise known as Prague, with a stop at New York's own paradise, JFK airport.  The plane to Prague left without a problem.  Unfortunately, it departed BEFORE my in-laws arrived at JFK.  A storm had caused them to make an additional stop in Baltimore.  By the time my in-laws landed in New York, their flight was gone, the nearby hotels were booked, and airport's public address system was playing a Barry Manilow marathon.  My in-laws needed to get out of there fast.  They gave us a call to see if they could stay here.  We told them we had a bed for them, but that would mean putting Kyle out in the rain.  Fortunately for the little guy, they were willing to use our sleeper sofa.  They arrived after midnight, and we started getting ready for bed by around 1:30 a.m.

The next morning our son was up at 6 a.m., about an hour earlier than normal.  He must of sensed that we had gone to bed late.  It's long been his goal to make us as tired as absolutely possible.  That way we break easily, and Kyle gets to see more "Thomas the Train" on TV.  This time around, Kyle received an even better treat: Grandpa and Ruthie.  Once he learned they were here, he started bouncing off the walls, which made it all the more difficult to keep him quiet so that our travel-weary guests could sleep.  Eventually our son was let loose, and he was soon spoiled with far more attention than Jennifer and I could give him, as it was way too early to do anything but walk slowly and drool.

Kyle showed Grandpa and Ruthie his new toy box.  He showed them his toys.  He buried Grandpa in books.  He sang songs.  He talked about the numbers on the buildings outside.  He had them read him stories.  He played catch.  He colored with crayons.  He ran around in circles.  He did everything he could to squeeze a week's worth of activities into the few hours he had with Grandpa and Ruthie.  They seemed to love every minute of it, and so did the little guy.  I drank lots of coffee.

It was a busy day, but being a sudden host wasn't bad at all, even though I was so tired I had trouble remembering a) where the best lunch spot is and b) to wear pants to this lunch spot.  In the end, I had a few extra coffee cups to wash, but Dave and Ruth were gracious guests.  Besides, Dave's been through this sort of thing before.  You may remember that he ended up spending a few extra days here because of a surprise blizzard at Christmastime.  I'm starting to think he may be cursed.  Sure, he and Ruth made it to Europe without incident on Thursday, but now there's a volcano in Iceland spewing ash all over the place and disrupting some air travel on the continent... just in time for their return trip.  Hopefully it won't be an issue for them.  No matter what, next time my in-laws fly, even if it's to Boise, I'll make sure we have clean sheets ready.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Down Under

We are now deep into May, and it has come to my attention that we have a second child arriving sometime next month.  Turns out Jennifer's expanding torso is not due to the mounds of candy we received at Easter.  There's someone moving in there - I've seen a leg or arm or knee try to poke through.  I suppose it's about time we prepare for his arrival, especially if he's like some of my relatives who always arrive early to an occasion.

This past weekend we took a few major steps to make our home ready for the little guy.  Jennifer sorted through some of Kyle's infant clothes that somehow survived his amazing ability to stain.  Meanwhile, I tinkered with the old crib, making it suitable for a baby once again by raising its mattress.  I didn't realize I would also be creating a fort.

Once the complex operation was finished, we let Kyle back into the room.  He looked at the crib with a huge smile.  "Under the crib" he said, and he immediately grabbed a book and slid under it.  He then spent much of the evening there.  When the crib was low enough for Kyle to sleep in it, he barely had enough space to have fun beneath it.  The best he could do was to lay flat and slide himself under without raising his head any more than an inch off the ground.  Though the space was limited, Kyle still had fun doing this.  We approved because it was easier to have him slide around than to dust under there.  Now, with the mattress moved higher, Kyle can actually sit beneath it, and suddenly he has a new favorite spot.

After checking out his new digs, the little guy "read" aloud some of the great works of literature, including Thomas the Train: Little Engines Can Do BIG Things by Charles Dickens. "Read" is in quotes because he's just flipping pages and saying, "bigga bigga bigga big-KA."  I guess that's what I sound like when I read him a story just before bedtime.  Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, right?  Once he was done reading, Kyle played with some of his toys and then installed lighting and a refrigerator.  I hear he's already having mail forwarded to his new place, and he is contemplating buying a hot tub for it.  He's going to be very disappointed once his brother learns how to sit up and I have to move the mattress back down.

This unexpected development makes me wonder what will happen when we do other things to prepare for the baby.  When I install the infant car seat, will Kyle use it as a snack holder?  Will he use baby bottles as binoculars?  Will he use the bouncy seat to fling himself above the fridge to reach the cookie jar?  These are all things I suppose I should now consider.  With June arriving fast, I guess we'll get these answers soon enough.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

All Work and No Playground

It has been absolutely beautiful outside.  The sun has been shining, there's a pleasant breeze, and the city isn't quite hot enough to start smelling like garbage.  It's rare to say this in New York, but few would disagree: the weather has been perfect.

Ever since becoming a parent, this has been "prison break" time.  No longer are we cornered in our apartment, waiting for the snow/sleet/hail/locusts to subside.  Once spring arrives, we can go outside and do some much-needed time-killing.  And whenever I start thinking, "what on earth am I going to do with this hyper-crazy child?" there's always a fail-safe option: the playground!

My son loves the playground.  He loves the swings.  He loves the bouncy bridge.  He loves the slide.  He loves the dead leaves and worms lying around.  He loves just running around and being carefree.  I love watching him have fun without draining my own energy.  It would be better, however, if the playground had a mini-bar.  Despite its imperfections, I had been a huge fan of my son's favorite playground, especially since it's just a couple blocks from my home.  It would be no problem to take Kyle there quickly whenever I needed to eat up a half-hour or so of time.

Not anymore.  Kyle is no longer welcome there:

Nor is any other kid, in fact.  As part of Mike Bloomberg's "Kids Have It Too Easy These Days" initiative, the local playground has been shut down and boxed in by a chain link fence topped with barbed wire.  Angry, hungry rottweilers patrol the grounds to prevent any toddlers from wandering in, and the city plans to build a moat once it raises enough money from laying off thousands of teachers.  With the children kept out, workers can demolish the playground and build a casino there.

(Above: Some of the city's renovations,
including the new "slide that goes nowhere")
Okay, that's not entirely the truth.  The city is actually renovating the playground, which would be great if I still thought we'd be living here when it's finally complete.  The way these public works things go, both my kids could be college graduates by time this is done, and that would mean they'd look funny going down the children's slide.  So, basically, we lost our playground.

Let me clarify that: we've lost our very close playground.  We live in a neighborhood that has more playgrounds than bagel shops, which is quite impressive considering this is New York.  Two other playgrounds are just ten-minute walks away, so they're not incredibly far.  But I can't just "pop" over there if Kyle wakes from his nap early and starts playing "fling the cookbooks."  Yes, I am grateful to still have several playgrounds around, as my suburbanite friends don't have such luxuries within walking distance.  Then again, my suburbanite friends have yards.

Oh well, I suppose I could deal with it.  We'll adjust.  This has been a big year of change anyway.  Some things, like the new car, have already happened.  Other things, such as the big baby arrival next month, loom ahead of us.  In the grand scheme of things, I suppose losing a playground isn't a big deal, even if I'll miss it.  So what if I lose my go-to time-killer spot?   There are others around, and I could always resort to putting him in front of the TV a little longer.  And so what if Kyle loses his first playground?  Things change.  Besides, he probably was spoiled having it close-by anyway.  Kyle really should work for his fun.  Kids have it too easy these days.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Never Forget

I have to be very careful.  Kyle might remember what happens today.  The little guy is about a month and a half away from his third birthday, which means the memory factory is gearing up.  Chances are there will be an experience from now that will remain in his head for the rest of his life, the earliest memory that he might one day write about in school.  I sure hope it's not one of me smelling my armpits or tootin' in the kitchen.  I thought about that on Saturday morning, when we watched the royal wedding I had recorded the day before.  As Kyle pointed out the silly hats worn by the silly Brits, I suddenly realized that I was about his age when Charles and Diana were married... and I vaguely remember when that happened. 

Now, Kyle might not remember William and Kate or even those hats.  He might not remember our recent trip to North Carolina, or the moment he first saw his new toy box.  Yet something is bound to stick, right?  Maybe his first memory will be like mine, seeing one of his grandparents holding his baby brother.  Maybe he will remember something from a holiday, like Christmas or his birthday.  Or maybe his first memory will be that time when Daddy had food poisoning and made all those outrageous noises in the bathroom.  I wouldn't be surprised.  Kyle thought my illness was hilarious.

For the first couple of years, during my crash-course in parenting, I had taken some solace in the fact that Kyle wouldn't remember a thing.  Sure, I have documented some of my foibles, but the little guy probably won't read about them until years from now, and that's only if he discovers my website, which by then will no longer be devoted to stories about him, and will instead focus on 19th century Scandinavian shoe horns.  So, if Kyle doesn't read or remember much about these years, he will continue to view me as the brilliant dad who has always known how to do everything right.  But, again, now I have to be careful... or else Kyle will realize that I am actually "winging it." 

So there are many things that could end up being Kyle's first memory.  It could even happen any day now. Chances are, though, it won't have anything to do with the incredible news that broke this past weekend.  I doubt Kyle will remember the death of Osama bin Laden, since he had gone to bed hours before the TV networks first announced it.  I almost missed it myself.  We were getting ready for bed when I flipped on ESPN's SportsCenter and learned of the news through its crawl.  I quickly turned it to ABC and sat there in disbelief.  I, like many Americans, had started to believe that this day would never come.  And, yet, it did.

Osama bin Laden changed our lives, our country, and our world through terror.  He was an evil man who nearly escaped justice.  But now he can do no more harm. Osama bin Laden will be just a name in the history book Kyle reads at school.  Kyle won't hear any new threats from him.  He won't see any new video of him.  Of course he will learn a lot about 9/11, but now he will also be told that a group of brave Navy SEALs found the man behind that horrific day and made sure he couldn't take any more lives.  9/11 is still vivid in my mind, and I know I will never forget Osama bin Laden and all that he did.  But Kyle won't remember him at all, and I am extremely grateful for that.