Friday, October 29, 2004

Recycled -- Hubert

This post originally appeared on my other blog, but I realized you folks would almost certainly get a kick out it. I originally wrote it last January, before my job ended and I became a stay-at-home-dad.


We have two dogs (and three cats, but that’s a story for another day). Hubert, a three-year old Great Dane, and George, a 3.5-month old – something. He shows signs of Dane, Lab, and German Shepherd. Odds are he’ll be pretty big, though not as big as Hubert, who is skinny at 120lbs.

Hubert is a peculiar creature. All dogs have personalities of their own, but some have more than others. Hubert is one of those. There’s no need to go into all his traits. For now we need only recall that when he gets upset about something, he has a tendency to grab low-hanging food and eat it. And being a Great Dane, just keeping stuff on a counter or table isn’t enough if he is determined. Being left alone all day when it looked like Trish or myself was going to stay home is something that upsets him; and trust me, he knows by how we dress if we’re likely to stay home. In particular, he takes note of Trish’s shoes.

But I digress.Yesterday, I picked the munchkin up at day care and we got home. He headed up to let George out of his crate, and I let Hubert outside to take care of business.Then I noticed the onion. Or rather, the bits of dried onion skin on the floor.

There was a bag of red onions (big red onions) on the edge of the kitchen table, with the bag opening hanging over the side. This did not look good.While Jake proceeded to watch a little TV (PBS, natch), I hurried through the house looking for signs of onion. I couldn’t imagine Hubert, Mr. Finicky himself, eating an entire red onion, but there was no sign of a partially chewed and spat out onion anywhere. And George had been in the crate all day, so he couldn’t have done it. I tried calling Trish, but she wasn’t in her office or answering her cell phone.

I decided I’d better call the vet, a place that should be on our speed-dial.The vet people were a bit taken aback at the idea a dog would eat a red onion, but promised to look it up.

One of the many nice things about having a really big dog is that it takes a lot of whatever is bad for them to make them sick. But the onions in that bag were at least as big as my fist. At any rate, I was hoping that we would only have some really bad gas to deal with (our recently deceased Dane mix Chester once got into some moldy bread. Even the French would have voted in favor of the UN resolution to disarm the resulting gaseous WMD).

No such luck. Although no toxic dose was found for a dog of Hubert’s size, red onion could do unpleasant things to a dog’s liver and thus his blood. They recommended I try to induce vomiting, and if I couldn’t get that to work, to call the emergency vet for more advice. Oy. I tried calling Trish again, no luck. I made a last-ditch effort to find a partially chewed onion carcass in all the places Hubert normally liked to lie down. No dice. I began to sweat. I fielded a call from Trish’s father, a retired pathologist, but he had little advice except to remain upwind.

I gathered up the hydrogen peroxide to induce vomiting. You ever try to get something that legitimately wears a horse bridle instead of a collar to take hydrogen peroxide? Yeah, I didn’t think so.The phone rang. It was Trish. I asked her about a missing onion.

She laughed. I resisted an urge to strangle someone. She told me about how George had gotten himself an onion, carried it upstairs, and taken a nice big bite. And immediately spat it back out again and got as far from the offending vegetable as possible. I looked deeply into the trashcan, and found the onion.

“Is everything okay?” She asked.

“It is now,” I replied, and allowed myself to fall into post-adrenaline rush collapse.

Ahead Flush Factor Four...

We are thankfully done with potty training, but my friend Mark will get his chance in a year or three. I'm just glad they didn't have this sort of thing when we were working with Jacob:

Oh sure, I know, you probably already have a laser in your toilet. But does yours make noise? When this one first turns on, it sounds like Microsoft Windows starting up. It's a nice little chime, and while it doesn't explicitly ask, "Where do you want to go today?", you know that's what it's thinking.

Found on The Trixie Update.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

What Is It About Errands, Anyway?

One thing I had not counted on when started this kind of blog was getting worried that I'd start to repeat myself. And its only been what, 3-4 months? Still, there are things that keep coming up in my mind, even if they haven't made it onto the blog. I hope.

Like the need to run errands. This week, for example, I am going to spend at least part of every day away from the house. Why is this? I really do not know how it happens every week, but I seem to have to leave at least 3 out of every 5 days.

You have your groceries, then the inevitable forgotten items, a run to the Lowe's for a sprinkler and sandpaper. The dogs need to see the vet, something is happening at school. The car needs an oil change, you need to make copies of some documents, then they need to be mailed from the mailbox store because you need the correct postage. Stuff needs to go to/ get picked up from the cleaner's. And on and on. And it always takes longer than you expect, which certainly plays hob with your desire to get the 196,483 little items done around the house.

And we haven't gotten into the trekking out to Jake's karate classes, which I don't count.

It's really strange. I can view paintings hanging across the ocean in the Louvre without moving from my desk, but to get dog food I have to drive 3 miles. And no, I do not intend to walk those miles with a 40lb bag of Senior Canine Hip&Joint Formula slung over my shoulder.

Monday, October 25, 2004

The Weekender

Busy weekend. Fun, but busy. Herewith my observations of taking Jake out of school on Friday and dashing off to Houston for Friday and Saturday:

The Houston Children's Museum is way cool. Jacob thought so too, judging from his bouncing.

The Houston Museum of Natural Science is pretty cool, too. Saw exhibits on the Dead Sea Scrolls and the treasures of Tibet. The scrolls exhibit used little MP3 players with headphones to explain a lot of the stuff. Jacob listened to all of the kid level ones and many of the adult as well.

Churrascos is as good as ever. I think the plantain breaded fried shrimp was not quite as good as the last time. Which means it is still in the top two of fried shrimp I've ever had anywhere (the other place being the King's Inn, located on the Texas Gulf Coast near the small town of Riviera).

You can still educate 1st graders better by an occasional outing than leaving them in school every single day, but its getting harder. The little nipper know 6 x 7 = 42, which was a lot more than I could do at that age.

Getting dressed up for the Renaissance Festival works out okay, even in the rain, as long as you have a big hat. It quit raining after lunch, but for a while there I managed to be both hot and cold at the same time, something I don't think I've ever done before.

And finally...

One should take advantage of the chances to do things like this. Near the end of church yesterday, I watched Jake crawl into his mom's lap to snuggle. He just did it, totally unselfconscious about it, because he wanted to. He's almost physically too big for that now, but how many more years until he's emotionally too big for that? Two? Three? And how fast will those years go by? Better not waste them.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Off Into the Wild Blue

Only for a couple of days, though. Off to Houston for various kinds of fun and the Texas Renaissance Festival. Kind of a last-minute thing, but now my next few days are very busy. Blogging to resume Tuesday, probably. A good weekend to all except Colorado Buffalo Fans! Heh.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Minor Bummer

Last night, I found out that the acting class I had signed up wasn't going to have enough students to go forward. We had four, we needed six. There had been six signups, but two of them never showed. Our instructor said that wasn't uncommon for this class. The problem for those people was likely the thing that attracted me in the first place: the class puts on a performance at the end. You don't just practice being an actor, you get to do it, live and on stage with no nets.

One thing I've hoped I might be able to do if I pursue the stay-at-home route is return to this long (delayed? sublimated? restrained?) love of mine. I got the acting bug back in high school, like a lot of people. I was in three plays (should have been in four, I'm told, but the director stuck his favorite in), got Best Actor once, All-Star Cast the other times. I also did other stuff on the Speech Team. Probably my finest hour came when I and three friends did a little skit in the finals of a tournament and got both a standing ovation and a encore! After, I had bit parts in college plays, made extra on a few movies, but nothing that really satisfied.

Any performer can tell you that a sincere standing "O" is pretty much the best feeling you can get short of marriage, births, or illegal drugs. Indeed, the one complaint I have about our otherwise excellent local theater is that the audiences are way too generous with standing ovations. Almost every performance I've seen has gotten one. Those folks are good, but not that good. Anyway, even plain old applause short of the standing "O" is worthy, and its been too long since I got to hear that. It's an amazing rush when you know the crowd is with you, and you can feel it on the stage. It's easier to tell with comedy, since you have the immediate feedback of laughter (or silence when there should be laughter) but even with drama you can sense what's going on out there most of the time.

Ah well, I've waited this long, I can wait a little longer for the next go-round. At least now I know I'm waiting for the opportunity to come by, not for the time to take it...

Monday, October 18, 2004

Time, Again

I blogged once before about how going the stay at home route (for either spouse) gives your family a lot more time to do fun stuff together because you're doing all the stuff that used to get stuffed into the cracks of your workdays and weekends during that vast river of time between 7AM and 5PM.

But I have come to realize that, despite being a lot of time, its not as much time as you think! Yup, when I started this gig, I figured I would be able to read the morning blogs, do the laundry, write long, complex analysis in my political blog (that would change the world you know, or at least the face of American politics), walk the dogs, sweep the floors, deal with the family finances, write an article for a magazine, exercise for 45 minutes, read more books, watch that blood and guts sci-fi comic-booky movie the wife would never want to see, work in the yard, get the groceries, run miscelaneous errands, and play some computer games. And that was just Monday.

Hasn't worked out that way, and if you've been doing this for longer you no doubt are wearing an indulgent smile. Sure, I probably could do more than I actually get done (I'm a famous procrastinator), but even so it would never approach what I thought would happen.

Well, we live and learn, yes? Reality is always such a pisser, as my old buddy Pete would say.

Friday, October 15, 2004

Interesting Question

My friend Mark Hasty asks the question: If you could choose your kid's vice, what would it be?

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Daddy Agonistes

As time marches on, I come closer and closer to deciding that what I want is not to go back to a regular, 9 to 5 type job. But I confess this is something that also makes me feel guilty. I would be making this choice because, well...I like it.

Yes, it sounds ridiculous put that way. Why should we feel guilt for choosing something we like? But this choice, while good in many ways (I'll skip talking about time issues) does have the problem of not likely to be making much money. No, we don't really need the income, but...there is a second-hand couch in the living room right now. If I was working it would be a new one.

It has to be said that even so, we could have afforded a nice new couch. But a thought that we needed to be more careful played a part in that decision, and the fact that thought existed has irked me more than I had thought it would.

And yes, I am well aware of the fact that not being able to afford a nice new Pottery Barn couch is really a pissant level of problem in one's life. But since it connects the issue of what I am choosing to do with my life, it gets a certain kind of magnification.

Of course, getting to choose one's life and having the option of not working full-time is also fairly close to pissant level on the Great Life Problems Meter. But, they are the ones I've got right now. And here I always hated those sorts of "woe is me, the SUV has a scratch and the lawn service can't come before the party this weekend" kind of yuppie suburbanite angst tales, only to find myself living part of one.

Where was I? Ah yes, life choices...Granted, my thoughts were leaning in the direction of getting an acting gig from time to time, and trying to write articles for a magazine, in addition to becoming a true Stay At Home Dad (though I guess that technically would make me a Mostly Stay At Home Dad, or MSAHD). That would make a few bucks from time to time, enough to provide us with some extras. I haven't the foggiest idea how much realism there is in that. I can write, and I can act, Austin gets a fair number of movies, etc. etc.

Can I demonstrate the discipline that writing real magazine articles takes? Its one thing to crank out something like this for a blog every few days. It's quite another to write long articles for publications. And just how good can I act? Better than average, but acting classes or no acting classes, there are a lot of good actors out there working as computer programmers or whatever.

Where did I start? Oh yeah, guilt. Yeah, I'm thinking of taking up a life choice that is, from my POV, very low stress. Nobody is on my case, almost all the deadlines are my own, the commute is very short, it leaves our weekends free, etc. etc (I rhapsodized about the sudden expansion of time in this older post). But the pay is low.

Man, this is a gloomy-sounding post! Thank God for proofreading (which will still fail to catch a missing word or extraneous letter).

I think they call this "buyer's remorse". You get it almost any time you make a major purchase, like a house or a car. No matter how much homework you've done, no matter how many other options you've looked at to arrive at the decision that this is the right one, once you've committed, you spend some time worrying if this really was the right way to go. Well, this is a lot more committment than a house or a car. I think I've touched upon this before.

I hadn't really done very much thinking lately along these lines until I started this post today. Something about writing forces you to think about things you skip over while making sure the chicken is properly defrosted and the celery chopped, I guess. Funny.

And now I can't figure out how to close this. I'm not as gloomy or angst-ridden as the first part of this post sounds, but just saying "I'm fine guys, really!" doesn't seem like its enough. Is this what they call writing yourself into a corner?

I guess it is. Well, yes, I do sometimes worry if I'm doing this just because its fun and easy as opposed to right, but I'd be less than human if I didn't. But I'm also determined not to allow myself to be guilted into a choice I don't want. I guess thats just going to have to do for now.

Monday, October 11, 2004

Take the Day Off

Today is looking like a simply gorgeous day. Mild, sunny, with a bit of a breeze. Texas gets some payback from its typically miserable Augusts and lame winters with lovely mild weather like this. It's also a school holiday, so Jake and I are going to head out for a bit of miniature golf and video games after he gets done practicing his drums.

We also slept in, ate blueberry muffins and banana for breakfast, and will almost certainly manage a quick run to the grocery store. If I was at work, he would have gotten up at 6AM and be sitting in his day care right now[*]. And I would be making DO loops or some fool thing.

Later, before karate class at 5PM, we might do some soccer or go to a park. Assuming his best buddy across the street isn't home. I am apparently great fun to have around, but 7-year-olds are still WAY cooler. :-)

* Actually, I shouldn't snark about his day care. Bluebonnet was actually a very good place with fun and some teaching, not simply a holding tank. Pricey, however, like most better day cares.

Thursday, October 07, 2004

Dust to Dust. Hair too.

One of the few bad things about Austin from a geographical perspective (other than sitting on a Hellmouth) is that it is Ground Zero for allergens. Austin is the intersection point of several of the areas of major allergy creating molds and pollens. Probably space aliens as well, as anyone who spent much time on South Congress might suspect. So at any point in time, something here making someone sneeze.

I myself do not suffer too much from allergies, though like most people I get them in the spring. Right now is a bad time for ragweed, apparently. Bad enough that I've actually had to take antihistamines from time to time over the last 2-3 weeks. Trish has suffered a lot more, especially in the past week. It doesn't help matters much that she reacts strongly to all antihistamines we've tried. You know that bit about operating heavy machinery? They wrote that for her, poor thing. Again, that's something I don't suffer from. Kind of a cosmic joke that I don't need the medication as much and also don't suffer from its most common side effect.

Because of all this, I've tried to be a bit better on matters related to dust. Now, you might imagine that in a house with two cats, three dogs, and a six-year-old boy, there would be a fair amount of dust and hair to get up. I certainly imagined, but the reality is amazing. I feel like I gather enough animal hair every two days to make a small dog or cat. And enough dust that God could whip up another Adam at least twice a week, should He feel like it. Or if you're looking to start making your own island, I can help you out.

Before I stayed at home, the floor might get swept twice a week -- if that. Most likely it was once a week, Friday. That's when we have someone come over to do housecleaning. Yes, she still comes over. Cleaning was never my strong suit. And she does stuff I'd never even think of, like dusting off pictures on the wall. Anyway, I shudder to think of the amount of dust and hair and what-not she used to find.

I think I'd better go deal with the air filters now. They don't last three months at our house like the label says.

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Time, Tasks, and Getting Off Your Duff

There are days when it seems you have so much to do that you just sort of sit there and don't do much of anything. You look at the list of things you need or want to do and it seems overwhelming. Where to start?

This certainly feels like a day that could happen. I have at least three phone calls I should make. I need to get some more dog food, milk, and 60-watt light bulbs. I wanted to clean out a device we originally purchased to hold bills but instead has morphed into a thing where we hold generic papers we can't decide what to do with. You know the sort of stuff, you need to keep it, but you don't need it every day. Where does it go? Where do you put it so you can find it again if you need it (preferably without having to search for an hour). You organized people with file systems you actually use can stop snickering now.

Then there's some laundry. And I wanted to get more air filters and change the old ones out. And dust the air vents. Spread some soil out in the area we are going to turn into an herb garden. Write some blog posts (one of which Blogger already ate as I write this one -- So I'm composing this in Notepad, just to be safe). Oh, and gather some materials and send them off to the bank.


Well, I didn't get it all done but I got some of it done. Did the dusting and laundry, got the dog food and light bulbs and milk. Made two out of three phone calls. Wrote blogger posts. Realized I needed to straighten out the kitchen and put away all the clean dishes. Amazing how little that seems, yet I spent almost 6 hours today doing it (and some incidentals like lunch).

I truly don't understand how time manages to pass that way.