Friday, February 25, 2005

Family Matters

Tomorrow, my birthmother arrives. This will be only the second time I've seen her in person. Well, perhaps really the third, but I don't remember the first time, so I don't think it really counts.

You see, I'm adopted. Or was adopted, I don't know how you're supposed to tense this sort of thing. This was something I knew from a very early age. It was not dwelt on, but neither was it ignored. About seven or eight years ago, I got a call from the agency which had done the placing of baby Me. Long story short, I got back into contact with the woman who gave birth to me. Letters, phone calls, and eventually an actual visit. She lives pretty far away, and there are further complicating factors, so we haven't gotten to visit in person but the one time.

But now, a fortunate confluence of events means she is coming to visit, for about 5 days. This ought to be interesting. Last time, I was of course at work for part of the visit, and it was Trish who did the entertaining. This time it will be the reverse. What this means for next week's blogging is anyone's guess.

I'll let you know how it goes, maybe say a few words about adoption stuff, if anyone's interested.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

By Golly, Time Does March On, Doesn't It?

This summer my high school class is having its twenty-year reunion. Good Lord, has it really been twenty years? I hadn't even been alive for twenty years when I graduated.

Anyway, this does bring up an interesting question for me. How much do I tell people about what I'm doing now, and how do I tell them? This is, of course, a subject I have visited before. And no doubt will again, as events warrant.

I could just give it to them straight. When my job ended and another one did not turn up after several months, we decided to just do the SAHD thing, and write and act as it came to me. Or I could say I've semi-retired, which amounts to the same thing, but with a different spin.

And do I say that it happened because of some luck in the market? Or do I admit the full truth, which is that the deaths of my parents created a nest egg (and lets face it, an opportunity) we didn't expect to have and which most people never get.

Its quite silly (but since my brain served it up to me one night it must mean something to me somewhere), but I was voted "Most Likely to Succeed" (more or less by default as the smartest guy in my class, as it was lacking in Joe Valiant types). I think I'd like to be able to lay some claim to having lived up to that, all these years later. One might say being able to leave the rat race at least part way is a pretty good definition of success, but the truth is that I didn't do much to achieve that. Managing not to do anything too stupid is an accomplishment of a sort, but it's not what I or most people think of when we say you achieved something.

Hmmm. Y'know, I think I've been down this road before as well.

Monday, February 21, 2005

Jake and the Seventh Birthday

We got through Jacob's birthday party in one piece. The guests, mostly boys, acted pretty much exactly like…well, boys. The lone girl did not seem to think much of the festivities, poor thing. We had gone to some trouble to set out toys and stuff for the kids to play with, but what they (the boys) did was head immediately to the toy swords and toy guns (or things that looked like they could be used as toy swords and guns) and proceeded to shoot and slice at one another. Then you had the fart and penis jokes.

If they had known about sexual innuendo they could have passed for tipsy college boys. I find this sorta scary.

There were only about 7 guests, and I found herding them to be more than a little tiring, even when all we were really doing was trying to prevent them from hurting each other, or to do something they would like, like eat pizza or have cake.

Seven years ago he was just a little lump. Now he's making fart jokes. Quite impressive in its own way.

The only downer on the day was the fact that it took us an hour to get seated at Benihana for the birthday dinner. Had I felt hungry even 15 minutes sooner, I don't think we would have had that problem (calling ahead for a reservation would also have helped). Well, live and learn, I guess. At least the kid thinks its more fun to eat at Benihana than Peter Piper Pizza.

Friday, February 18, 2005

Friday Miscellany

Tomorrow is Jake's 7th birthday party. Got a lot to do, and it just seems like one of those days where scheduling could be nightmarish. Carpet cleaner types, store runs 9including cupcakes for a school treat -- I'd forgotten that, extra-special housecleaning…I know I'm going to forget something or get behind an eight-ball time-wise. Here's hoping.

After all that effort laying down fresh sod, it looks like its going to rain all weekend. Oh well, we needed to lay it down anyway.

The problem with today's high-tech, well-grooved (like an all-weather tire) sneakers is that it is really, really hard to dig all the dog poop out of those ridges and divots. You just can't do it the way we learned as kids, which is to find a good clump of grass and twist back and forth like Chubby Checker on meth. Boots, which I wore quite often in my youth on the brushy plains of South Texas, had it all over sneakers when you needed to clean off less than desirable substances. Too bad they aren't as comfy.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Wrap Them In Many Layers of Cotton

Its funny sometimes how we go through phases of protectiveness with out kids. At first they can't really move or get into trouble on their own, but you constantly check to make sure they are still breathing. Then they start to move around, and you follow them everywhere, watching every move. Eventually, you feel you don't have to watch every move, but you still prefer to be in the same room with them. Then they go outside.

Outside, you follow them everywhere as they toddle, rarely more than six inches away. Then you allow them to wander farther away as you watch every move, and then you aren't watching every move, but you are outside with them the whole time. Then you allow yourself time to dash in to get a drink, go to the bathroom, or grab another book/magazine. Finally, you stay in the house and just poke your head out from time to time.

Now they start to want to go over to other people's houses. Not just the people across the street, but people around the corner where you can't easily see what's going on. I swear, that's the hardest for me for some odd reason. It's odd that taking Jacob to a near-stranger's house a mile or two away to play with some other kid from his class is easier for me than to take him to another near-stranger's house in our neighborhood. I suppose it’s the theoretical ease of checking in that does it. I could check, but I won't. At least, not unless he's been over there for a whole day or something (which he did occasionally with some folks who have unfortunately moved away).

Then there's the fairness factor. I don't like Jake being over at someone else's house for several days in a row without reciprocating. But what if they seem uninterested in coming over? As long as its clear we've made the offer, should I just get over it?

Monday, February 14, 2005


Not too far from our house is a city park. We can walk there easily by traveling up a drainage ditch if we want to. Yesterday we took my SUV. This was because we took Jacob's bike with us, and the ditch is pretty much impassible to bikes.

Why a bike? It’s a pretty large park, with soccer fields and a full-size pool, playscapes, a jogging track, the whole nine yards. One of the yards is what we called in my day a BMX bike track. Dirt trails, ramps, and berms, that sort of thing. Totally cool for anyone under the age of 18, or who has not had a recent reminder concerning the laws of gravity. Thus the bike.

On a tree at one corner of the bike trail area was a warning sign. I think you know the kind of sign I'm talking about here.

WARNING! The activity for which this sign is a warning sign is dangerous for pregnant women and people with disabilities. Also, non-pregnant women and men, as well as young children, teenagers, people in their twenties, Sherpas, EMT's, Olympic athletes, Green Berets, Navy Seals, and Spiderman. Anyone who actually gets out here and engages in this activity is a complete fool. Even stopping to read this sign suggests you are in dire need of a refresher course in common sense. Idiot.

Anyway, in addition to all that was this: No one may use these trails without having a permission form on file at the City Park Office.

That last really got to me. A permission form? On file? What else could it possibly have on it that the sign lacked? I suppose the form could be in Latin, just to make it really official and legal-like. As if even that would protect the city from being sued if little Johnny took a jump wrong and scraped an elbow.

I think we really do have too many lawyers in this country sometimes.

Friday, February 11, 2005

Earning My Pay

There are days when I wonder if taking this course (of stay at home dad) is worth it financially. Do I really add as much value doing what I do as I could by holding a "regular" job? The intangible benefits are certainly real, but they are hard to add up.

Still, there are times when I feel like I'm really earning my pay (so to speak). This is one of them

Jake is sick. Apparently, some variety of the flu. Not too bad (though for one 24 hour period the kid was really, really trying to cough up his lungs), but he's been stuck at home for 5 days now. We've been to the doctor's office twice. Rented a lot of movies. Played on the computer. Finally went to the hobby store yesterday to get some things he could do on his own that would at least partially engage his brain.

Oh, and Trish is out of town this weekend. She left Thursday and will be back on Monday. So, except for a couple of hours in the evening, I've been in charge of a sick kid since last Monday.

Okay, okay, its not like I'm facing cancer or people trying to repossess my home because I'm on dialysis and can't work, or lost everything in a tornado. But you spend a week at home with your sick kids, who are unable to play outside, or go to a park, or go and do anything fun out of the house, and see what it does to your brain. Especially if you're an introverted type like me.

I just hope this passes by tomorrow. He could use some air, and so could I.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Sodding Off

So I was going to post last Friday about dealing with The Kids Next Door. Or The Kids Around The Corner down The Street. But I had a problem with my internet connection in the morning (minor bit of winXP weirdness, not worth the effort to explain), and the rest of the day I spent sodding my back yard.

Yes, laying sod. Why? Glad you asked.

In this part of Texas most lawns are composed of a grass called St. Augustine. It’s a reasonably durable grass, and has the added feature of propagating via runners instead of seeds. In theory, a single 12" square chunk of the stuff could eventually spread to your entire yard. Most folks don't want to wait that long, and so new houses have their yard completely covered with these squares of grass, cut up from a grass farm with about an inch or two of dirt holding them together.

I said this stuff was durable but you have to give it an inch of watering a week, more during late July and August, to really make a strong root system. I didn't really water it enough to do that, but it survived just fine. No big deal, except…this stuff goes pretty dormant during the winter. And, we've never had three dogs. Including two very young and active dogs. Who like to romp and play and tear around the yard.

You see where this is going right? A vast strip of yard, about 1300 square feet, was worn down to bare earth. Any kind of rain turned that strip into a sea of mud (it didn't drain well anyway, creating a swampy area that didn't help it hold onto grass back when there was still grass). And in about 1.5 weeks, we'll be having Jake's seventh birthday party. Here.

February weather is extremely unpredictable. It could be 70 degrees and sunny one week and 30 degrees with an ice storm the next (that actually happened last year). We could make do with a swamp, but not a mud pit.

Fortunately, numerous outfits around here will sell you little (in our case, 16" x 24") chunks of grass, and even deliver them, for a reasonable fee. They dropped the stuff off bright and early Friday morning. After lunch, I headed out and proceeded to spend about 5 1/2 hours (with a working break of about an hour -- I wasn't humping grass, but neither was I sitting still) covering the dirt patch that was our back yard with about a zillion (well, somewhere between 450 and 500) patches of grass.

I finished up in pretty much complete darkness, knowing that, as the final pile of grass to be plopped down grew shorter and shorter, if I stopped for so much as a cookie, I might never get going again. I was, as they say, wiped. At Trish's suggestion, after dinner I sat in a hot bath for 30 minutes, sipped on a strong margarita, and ate ibuprofen like it was candy.

I honestly don't know why I wasn't a mass of throbbing, aching, unable to move muscles for the next two days. The bath? The ibuprofen? The margarita? Beats me. But I'm not complaining.