The last thing anyone should think is that I'm a perfect father. As proof, I offer this:
I don't recall what I did to prompt my son into making this a few weeks ago but it must have been pretty rotten because he actually presented to me without hesitation.
Did I take his Nintendo DS away?
Make him finally change out of his pajamas on a weekend?
Force him to eat a vegetable?
Eh. Another rite of passage down. Now I feel like I'm getting somewhere in this crazy job.
Beside it was only one sign. I still have one of these:
And TWO of these:
Good me: 3. Bad me: 1. Do I try to run out the clock now?
Here are a couple of Father's Day reads for you:
My fellow dads at DadCentric.com and I each wrote up one memory of our fathers and put them into a single post on Friday. It is really an amazing little collection of work, in terms of the writing and the memories themselves, that you should like.
Over at HotDads, I posted the most recent newspaper column I wrote about the plight of being an American dad these day. It's OK, but what is better is the e-mail response MY DAD sent me about it.
And watch DadCentric.com on Tuesday for a special guest post from My Love. Really. All by herself.
Summer's almost here and we all know what that means: Long, warm sunny days spent hiding in the basement curled up in a fetal position.
You may chuckle, my semi-health conscious reader and please do. For the moment, medical science still endorses laughter as good for you. That is until a researcher chokes on his morning bagel while guffawing at his colleague's latest joke about the two microbes, the rabbi and the pole dancer. Then it'll all be Dr. Oz pushing "Be Dour and Sour and Live Forever!" -- next on Oprah!
Anyway, my personal experience and a few minutes on Google have convinced me that the scenario I first outlined is the safest way to survive summer. After all, this season was once known as the time to venture forth into The Great Outdoors, a venue the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now commonly refers to as Place Where Certain Death Lurks.
The Big Daddy of summertime killers, obviously, is the sun. For years, "they" (and they know who "they" are) have beaten into our beach-fried hides that sun exposure causes cancer and we should avoid it, especially when the ultraviolet death rays are strongest between 7:28 a.m. to 6:57 p.m. If we had to be outside, they advised, lather in sunscreen.
Of course, they never mention that many common sunscreens are filled with what some suspect are potentially deadly, DNA-altering chemicals. In addition, sunscreen is an excellent lubricant that vastly reduces belly to Slip 'n Slide friction, which in recent years has caused an unprecedented number of deaths by human projectile in backyards worldwide.
The alternative to sunscreen, of course, is wearing an oversize floppy hat, sunglasses and a full suit of plate mail. This works quite well, but in extreme heat it can lead to dehydration, exhaustion and some wicked chaffing down under. Nonetheless, it keeps the bugs away.
Bugs (insecticus ickyus) are frickin' everywhere outside. Scorpions, spiders and hedge fund managers -- oh, my! However, it's often the smallest ones that are the most deadly.
First, you got your mosquitoes. In the old days, they spread malaria, yellow fever and encephalitis, which sounds similar to another disease that makes a man's underlings swell to the size of small dogs but it's actually a fancy way of saying "disease that swells your brain" … which, for some of us guys, is one and the same.
In response, some very clever chemists developed a pesticide called DDT and doused everything in sight with it. This killed all the mosquitoes, which made DDT very bored just hanging around in our ground water with nothing to do, so it started killing songbirds and cute fluffy animals instead.
This surprising development caused them (note "they" and "them" are bowling buddies, so watch out) to stop using DDT. The mosquitoes then came back -- pretty peeved -- and brought with them something called West Nile Virus.
West Nile Virus is akin to an Egyptian version of Montezuma's Revenge except it skips the digestive tract and instead just rips apart the rest of your innards. However, depending on your current health, this may be less harmful than Lyme disease, which is carried by deer ticks that actually live on mice not deer, which makes one wonder why they aren't called "mouse ticks." I suspect Disney.
Lyme disease can give you some serious joint pain, making it impossible to actually squeeze a lime into your malaria-preventing gin and tonic (grain of truth alert -- you can look it up), thus causing you to be what is known in medicine as "screwed six ways to Sunday."
But you know what might cure all these ailments? Vitamin D. Vitamin D has everyone all abuzz and not just because of the rampant mosquitoes swarming about their heads. All sorts of recent studies suggest (but never prove) an association (but never a direct link) between having a deficiency of vitamin D and pretty much any nasty condition you can think of: Alzheimer's disease, bacterial vaginosis, 73 flavors of cancer, bad cases of the Mondays, etc.
Whoo-hoo! So let's get some extra vitamin D!
Since vitamin D does not occur naturally in most foods, the best, most natural and organic source of it is … exposure to the sun.
Well, back to the basement until October.
* * *
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Thanks to all of you for your comments and concerns about Thing 1. Her blood test results came back fine, nothing wacky appeared on the X-rays and yes, I'm looking into getting her into a kiddie yoga class and even sending her to my masseuse.
Meanwhile, as I type, she's lying on the floor, arms extended and raised in front of her doing the "Supergirl" stretch the PT/OT folks at the hospital taught her.
(She says to tell all of you, "I @#$%ING HATE SUPERGIRL! SUPERGIRL IS DEAD!" Such a precious child.)
I'm happy to report that it's been a week and she's stuck to her regime -- except for a Saturday night pardon for a sleepover -- with minimal whining.
Except for the inquiries as to how much she's getting paid for doing "all this work." I think we're up to a quarter a day plus unlimited flavorless Sno-Cones (eg - cups of crushed ice). Bless her capitalistic survival instincts.
As to your regular dose of tales of Uncool frivolity, I have two offerings for you today:
The room is painted to resemble an ocean. Seaweed, fish and bubbles fill the bluish walls but I fail to see a single electric eel that could send a jolt strong enough through one's body to make the bones visible to others like in so many cartoons.
There Thing 1 stands, hugging the rotated table of the X-ray machine. The business end of the camera shines a white light that creates a shadow of crosshairs on her back.
There's a loud thump and click and a flash. Her spine -- in shades of black, gray and white -- appear on the imagining screen.
After the doctor's initial excitement over the continued rash-free appearance of Thing 1's skin, she started finding other things.
A shoulder noticeably higher than the other.
A thumb that didn't bend over as far as maybe it should.
Fingers that didn't fold down as much as might be possible.
An arm that didn't seem to be completely straight when locked.
"And nothing hurts?" the doctor asked.
Thing 1 shook her mess of blonde hair.
"No," she added. This is a rarity -- a direct answer to a doctor's question without my prompting.
As we continue to taper off medications, the doctor says, she's concerned that maybe there is something else -- arthritis, for example -- hiding underneath the juvenile myositis that the pills and shots have been beating up.
"Let's get some X-rays," she said.
I will not panic.
I've heard doctors be as wrong as they are right too many times on their first guess, and guessing -- I've learned -- is a part of their job.
The physical and occupational therapy people come in before we head to X-ray and put her through the usual drills.
Lift this. Extend that. Stand. Sit. Bend. Kick.
I run them through the doctor's latest suspicions.
"Most of us can't bend our fingers that way," one said. Moreover, she shows me that she can't.
Thing 1's arm looks fine as do the length of her legs, she said.
"Most of us have one shoulder higher than the other, hers just seems more pronounced," she said. She has her bend forward, once, twice, hold it, so her fingers as well as her eyes can access her back.
"Your daughter's been growing a lot. Parts of her body may not have caught up the other parts yet," she said.
Then the therapists run through their usual findings. Some of Thing 1's muscles and joints are tight. No worse than before, but certainly not better. Thing 1 may never complain about pain but she does complain about work. In this case, the stretching I'm always telling her she should do or the braces she is supposed to wear on her ankles while she sleeps.
"You must do stretches. You must wear your night boots," I want them to chant in unison until it is imprinted as deeply into my 9-year-old's brain as the jingles for online computer courses and "As Seen on TV" gadgets my girl likes to sing aloud.
They do better. They threaten.
"If this doesn't change, you know what the next step is?"
(I know and I nod because I have told Thing 1 this many times before. But now the people with the stopwatches, the special devices to measure range of motion and access to the proper medical forms are saying it. Forcefully. To her face.)
"You'll have to get casts on both your ankles. That means no dance, no soccer, no nothing for weeks, maybe months. You'll need to go around on crutches."
I've mentally drawn a grid to use to check off all the wrist bends and hamstring stretches she'll need to do over the next four months to prove her worth to the therapists. I see a column of white boxes staring at me.
It's the X-ray of Thing 1's spine.
"There's a very slight bend up there at the top. See that," says the technician. "When you have her bend over and follow her spine up her back, it's not even noticeable. See."
"So what do you think?" I ask.
"Oh, I see a lot worse in here every day. This is so slight, the X-ray from this angle is the only way to spot it."
We finally walked around Millennium Park instead of Navy Pier.
We saw the closing matinee of Legally Blonde: The Musical instead of yet another exhibit at the Chicago Children's Museum. (OK, partial win -- I couldn't get White Sox-Indians tickets.)
One meal was consumed in the hotel pub as opposed to the O'Hare airport Chili's.
So today, I'm aiming for the doc to finally say to Thing 1, "Every thing looks great. Your cured, puppy! Go home. You're normal again."
However, I'm pretty sure it will be, "Every thing looks good. Let's wait for the test results, though, before we start to taper off any more medications." This will be followed by the usual "do your wrist stretches more often, keeping wearing your night boots, etc."
That's OK. Not every victory has to be a perfect game.
* * *
Since I ended on a baseball allusion, don't forget to peruse my contribution to DadCentric last week called "How You Play The Game" about my mixed feelings regarding the "everyone's a winner" theory of youth sports.
I see the assistant principal through the window. He's standing beside the cafeteria table at which Thing 2 sits.
I open the door and my boy sprints to me, handing me a note.
In my head, I hear my inner voice of reason say, "Crap in a wrap."
(If you recall the last time there was an incident at school involving Thing 2, the assistant principal and a note you'll know exactly why I thought that. If you don't, read that first note and then the explanatory post about it.)
I look at the paper in my hand. It is in Thing 2's print:
"Too many beans at lunch?" I say.
He shakes his head.
"Oh, is this first word 'guess'?"
He does his bobblehead impression.
"Um, is it something bad?"
"No," says the supervisor of the after-school program. I look over at her and notice the assistant principal has left the room. Ah, a red herring.
I think the thinks that only I can think in relation to my first-grader and most of them involve him crying over the slightest of slights and a failure to wash and wipe.
Good things, stupid brain, think good things!
"Did you lose a tooth?"
Here's a pretty close approximation of how he looked when those words fell from my lips.
"Awesome! That's a big one. Did you pull it or did your teacher?" I ask.
"No. It was really loose. And wiggly. And at lunch, I told Brian. And he told me to do this." The boy balls his right fist and gives himself a little tap in the mouth. "Only I did it harder."
"You punched your own tooth out?"
He nods the nod of triumph and pride that I wish he took in matters of greater significance, such as cleaning a plate of green leafy matter or learning to turn a double play, but it's OK. He's got time before all those things really matter.
"Where's the tooth? You didn't swallow it, did you?"
"Uh-uh. Here. The nurse put it in this."
"That is cool," I say and wonder how many of my tax dollars go to supplying these little plastic bastards every year.
* * *
Morning comes. I'm up a little earlier than normal, working on the computer in my office. I hear his 7-year-old ant-stompers thudding down the staircase.
"Hey, Dad. The tooth fairy gave me $2!" The double-l's in "dollars" sound like w's. He's waving the folded bills I had left under his pillow a few hours earlier.
"That's a lot!" I swivel to face him. "But that was a pretty big tooth. Go back upstairs and put it in your bank before it gets lost."
"No. Here." His big-for-his-age hand offers up the bills matter-of-factly.
"What's this for?"
"It's for the money I still owe you for the DS game you bought me when I didn't have enough on my gift card. I only owe you $11.02 now."
"That's right," I say. "$11.02, you do. Thanks, buddy."
He races off with a one-tooth-shy smile, probably to see if the Electricity Fairy fully charged his precious game player overnight. Which he did.
Later that morning, when my boy is off learning about insects or adjectives or something that will one day be elementary to his being, I slip a couple of bucks down the slot in the metal container that rests silently on his bedroom bookcase.
If hearing me warble "Happy Birthday" in the background of previous videos or getting mental images of me in a paper thong in the past wasn't torture enough, now prepare your eyes and ears for the full-on:
Uncool Audio AND Visual Extravaganza!
The following video -- shot by me, a step ladder, a desk chair with holes in the back and my Canon Powershot SD850 IS -- is my contribution to a special "Meet the Dads of the Internet" edition of Chick Chat, a regular feature on the "Three Bay B Chicks" blog. I'll apologize now in case my voice gives you seizures:
Did that totally ruin our special relationship? Will you never again read my writing and hear in your head that sexy, swaggering tone you imagine to be my real voice?
I thought not. Even my writing has nasally undertones.