28 July 2010

The Beach


Before the month is out (summer is more than half over, I seriously can't believe it), I wanted to recount the story of our July 4 adventures. We celebrated our nation's independence by taking our first family trip to the beach. So we get the Doozer all decked out in his "baby" suit ("bathing" didn't quite take, no matter how many times we repeated it). It's more of a two-piece swimming costume, like the men wore to the shore in the olden days.

So we packed a cooler, a beach bag, a diaper bag . . . there are a lot of bags. In general. We've discovered a good rule of thumb as parents: any activity which requires leaving the house (with kid in tow) should be allotted perhaps twice as much time as you think it will take, or back when you were Doozer-less and fancy-free. No joke, the first few steps of that journey, from house to driveway to garage to car, can be pretty arduous. If not downright treacherous.

What if we have another kid? Will there be twice as many bags? Who carries them all? Do we get a butler? Do I need to drive separately, because there will be no room for me once the children and all the belongings are settled in the car?

Anyway, as we drive to the beach, I decide to unpack the centerpiece of this excursion, a newly-purchased inflatable raft-type toy in the shape of a colorful turtle. Which, as an inflatable item, needs to be inflated. So I started blowing air into it. And you'd think I'd smoked two packs a day for twenty years. (Which I haven't.) Once upon a time, I was a swimmer. I could hold my breath for at least an entire pool length. What happened? Did becoming a dad really make me this old? I have to keep resting and catching my breath. It's like running a marathon. And my life is now full of such items, toys that need to be inflated. The universe hates me.

Upon arriving at the beach, we parked and unloaded the car. And since there was so much to carry, we had to let the Doozer walk on his own. It was quite a distance from the parking lot to the actual beach, so carrying him would've made the entire operation move much more quickly, but this was not an option. So, what should be a two- to three-minute walk turns into an epic journey spanning at least 10 minutes or more. The Doozer is not only resistant to hand-holding (which didn't matter since, did I mention, our hands were full), but prone to zig-zagging (or staggering like a drunk, take your pick) and getting easily distracted, leading to meandering and frequently ending up off-course.

At last, we make it out to the beach and stake out our spot. I'm ready for a nap, but the Doozer is raring to go. After a quick lunch, we grab the "turtle boat" and head to the water's edge. It's not like we're really going swimming, so we don't find it necessary to wait the requisite half an hour before going in the water. Regardless, we do take the opportunity to explain to the Doozer that normally, one waits half an hour after eating before swimming. He replies with a blank stare. I think that means . . . he understands?

So, we get in the water and the Doozer . . . hangs back. He lets the water's edge touch his toes. He is skeptical. We try to entice him. Cajole him. No dice. We offer up the turtle boat. No interest. The Doozer starts picking up fistfuls of sand from the beach and redistributing them by dropping them into the water. He will occasionally stop and run his hands through the water, rinsing off the sand residue. This goes on for several minutes. Several long minutes. And just when we think that this is the whole day gone, that he will never agree to get in the water . . . he relents. And allows us to gingerly place him inside the turtle boat. And slowly we start moving further into the water.

"Go . . . out . . . there!" The Doozer points way across the lake. He sees sailboats. He is pointing to an area well beyond the designated markers of the swimming area. We inform him we can't go out there.

"Go . . . out . . . there!"

We take him as far as the buoy at the outer edge of the swimming area. We teach him to repeat a garbled approximation of the word buoy. I won't attempt to recreate it here, I wouldn't know how to begin to try and spell his version.

After spinning the Doozer and his turtle boat in circles several times ("Wheee!" he exclaims, the same as he does when we take the curve of an on-ramp onto the freeway--he's a little daredevil, apparently), our day at the beach ends.

But only after a lengthy, paraphernalia-laden, and wayward walk back to the car.

"Hot car!" he informs us. We know.

"Hot . . . summer . . . day!" he goes on. Quite observant. But not quite accurate. Great hot summer day, we tell him. Just the kind to spend at the beach with your peeps.

Can't wait to go back.

22 July 2010

You Don't Know What Words Mean


Just as the Gentlemen's Hunt Club once asked of Edmond Premington, so I turned to my son recently and offered the rhetorical question, "You don't know what words mean, do you?"

As his vocabulary grows by leaps and bounds, as single words become slightly more complex thoughts, as random assortments of words become more involved phrases, and even, entire strings of words that resemble actual sentences, there is still the occasional disconnect when it comes to meaning. The greater context of the words he uses he has yet to grasp. Why don't they understand? How long does it take for comprehension? Real comprehension?

Although, many times, I think he's just messing with me. That he understands just fine and he's pretending not to. He's figured out how to play me and it's only going to get worse as time goes on.

On this particular occasion, the Doozer was in an adjacent room and I heard him call out, "Not a toy! Not a toy!" We've told him this about a great many things around the house and out in the world (perhaps this phrase is losing its impact and we need to find more creative ways of expressing the same idea). He comes into the room with my alarm clock. He holds it up in the air, proudly. Beaming. "Not a toy!"

Right. Not a toy, indeed.

"So, why then," I ask him, "are you playing with it?

"Not a toy! Dada clock, not a toy!"

I'm the one that told you that, you don't have to tell me it's not a toy. I already know.

"Put it back, please."

"Not a toy!"

Why does he keep saying that? And he just keeps staring at me, this wide open grin on his face. So pleased with himself, so proud of this particular accomplishment. It just kills me.

"Just because you acknowledge that, it does not erase the fact that you are still playing with it. Hence, not a toy."

"Not a toy! Dada clock, not a toy!"

This goes on for several minutes. Finally, I manage to wrangle him back into the bedroom and get him to relinquish the alarm clock, placing it back in its original location on the night stand. And I actually find myself saying, "Thank you." Rather than offer an impassioned lecture on the subject of words and their deeper meanings, I simply sigh and thank him for undoing something he should not have been doing in the first place. Really, when we say it's not a toy, what we're really saying is please don't play with that. How hard a concept is that? Come on, Doozer, keep up.

A few nights later, we're all seated at the dining room table, having dinner. Suddenly, I hear a faint, yet insistent, beeping noise coming from somewhere inside the house. It doesn't take long for me to realize the origin of that sound. Poking my head out into the foyer, I'm able to quickly discern that it's coming from upstairs, from the bedroom.

It's my alarm clock.

"Were you playing with my alarm clock again?"

"No."

"Come on. Were you playing with my alarm clock again?"

Moment of silence. Contemplation. Then:

"Yesh."

I'm not kidding, this is how he says the word "Yes." And his voice goes all deep and gravelly when he says it, he sounds just like Karl from Sling Blade. Seriously.

"Dada clock . . . not . . . a toy!"

And here we go again . . .

12 July 2010

A long time ago . . .


. . . in a galaxy far, far away.

Okay, so not that long and not that far. More like, our living room and maybe a few weeks back. The Doozer and I were on the couch, "reading" one of his picture books. This particular picture book he'd had for a while, months possibly, but had only recently shown any real interest in it. And you'd think that I would have bought this book for him, based on its subject matter, but in fact, he got it from his uncle.

It's called Star Wars Spaceships.

Of course, I have to admit, I'm not entirely certain how I feel about this yet. While I'm excited by the prospect of my son showing an interest in Star Wars, I'm not sure this book is the best introduction. The "author" has taken the Star Wars universe and severely simplified it, geared as this book is toward a very young reader. But perhaps it is now too simple, revealing none of the nuance or subtlety of the actual films.

Okay, so maybe there's not a lot of subtlety or complexity. But there's definitely some. Or at least there was until the re-releases and the whole Greedo shooting first debacle. He was only two feet away! How could he possibly miss?!?

Maybe I'm overzealous, but I did feel the need to offer context and further explanation. So I've tried to set him straight, to fill in some of the missing pieces, but he seems too enamored of the spaceship "noises" to appreciate my lessons on the intricacies of this universe.

For instance, on the very first page, we "Blast off!" with the Imperial Star Destroyer. No mention of the moral or ethical background of this ship's commander or crew.

"Imperial means they're part of the Empire. They're the bad guys," I tell the Doozer.

"Blast off!" he responds, enthusiastically.

"Yes, but they're -"

"Blast off!"

Fine, moving on. Okay, now, the Millenium Falcon. My personal favorite. The book tells us that though it looks slow, it's actually very fast. Zoom!

"Okay, buddy, by fast, what they really mean is this is the ship that made the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs."

Blank stare from the Doozer. Then: "Zoom!"

"Yes, zoom, but by zoom, what they actually mean is this ship -"

"Zoom!"

Maniacal, gleeful laugh and then a smile from the Doozer. He's just not getting it. Or he's willfully ignoring me. So I try again. With the TIE Fighter. The book tells us that this ship is small and can fly around other spaceships. Zip! What they don't tell you is that this ship is piloted by Imperial stormtroopers and once they fly around those other spaceships, they turn and fire on them, trying to blow them up. No ethical context. Just, Zip!

"This ship is flown by stormtroopers. And they're very bad. Or at the very least, misguided."

"Zip!"

I shake my head in exasperation. The Doozer replies, "Zip!"

One last attempt. Okay, the Death Star. Its inherent evil is right there in its name: Death Star. And here, the book goes a step further to define the moral context of this spaceship (yes, they call it a spaceship and I really think it's more of a space station, but never mind), when it reveals that the ship has a dangerous laser. Boom!

"Okay, buddy, this one's obvious. It's called the Death Star. It's emblematic of the Empire and all it stands for."

"Boom!"

"Right, it can go boom, but understand, by boom, what we're really saying is -"

"Boom! Boom! Boom!"

"Yes, but -"

"Boom! Boom! Boom! Boom!"

Yes, Doozer. The Death Star goes boom. Fine. You win.

And here I thought those re-releases were a real low point . . .

03 July 2010

My First Rock Show


There comes a time in every young person's life when they just want to dance with abandon, or bang their head, along with a few hundred (or thousand) music-loving compatriots. That's right: the first rock show. A major milestone for many and a high point of one's teenage years.

I remember the first show I was supposed to attend, though I cannot recall why it didn't happen. Of course, it was Lenny Kravitz, so that was probably for the best. My actual first rock show has subsequently disappeared into the youthful haze. Could have been the Beastie Boys at Cobo Hall. Or possibly Luscious Jackson at St. Andrew's. Or maybe even the Steve Miller Band at the former Pine Knob.

(That's a weird band, isn't it? They're pretty much the only band I can think of that seemed to exist for the sole purpose of putting out a Greatest Hits record. Did they even release any regular albums? They must have, but what a brilliant marketing ploy it would be to release just a Greatest Hits album and nothing else.)

While it may not have been on the scale of any these performances, recently the Doozer had the chance to attend his own very first rock show, before he'd even turned two years old.

It was a unique event, a birthday party for a six year-old at a small children's theater venue. After a bizarre puppet show that seemed to have something to do with falling asleep at school, space aliens, and birthday cake (we missed the beginning, but I'm not certain seeing it would've helped to clarify things), the main event (besides cake and ice cream and presents, of course) was a band. A hastily thrown-together Talking Heads cover band (the birthday girl, turns out, was a big fan--imagine her extreme disappointment when she discovers they are not actually a band anymore).

Anyway, there we were, in a small puppet theater, with an audience of maybe 12-15 people, watching a band tear through the repertoire of the Talking Heads. Their energy was infectious and the crowd was digging it. However, I'm not quite sure anyone present (the birthday girl included) enjoyed it quite as much as the Doozer. It's difficult to put into words what it was like to watch him . . . get down, shall we say? Instead, I'll just say that I'm eternally grateful for the video recording feature on our digital camera.

And I will continue to wonder where exactly he learned these moves. Certainly not from me.

Rock on, Doozer. Rock on.


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