The Purge Challenge

Year of the Goat? Bah, more like the Year of Get Shit Done, at least in theory. From the goal setting summit of November the year ahead looked clear and easy thanks to that NaNoWriMomentum, but by the holidays I had started coasting. I wasn’t hitting my write everyday goal and my 3:30am work habit melted to a passive hobby. The little rewards that I gave myself for completing a morning writing session started happening in anticipation of the writing: Twitter time, reading (endless) writing blogs, general cyber wandering. All those time sinks that I granted post-writ started happening pre-write. Oh, I made good excuses for why I deserved them, but like most excuses they were bullshit.

An odd thing was happening though, I felt like a writer. Even though I wrote very little. That writerly feeling kept me going through my slowdown and consciously, for the most part, I told myself this was part of the process buddy! It isn’t. It wasn’t. The only part of the process it belonged to was the not being a writer process. Yet there I was feeling engaged and writerly just by reading blogs, following author convos on Twitter (even subtweets), but doing little actual writing.

After a few weeks I had to admit, I wasn’t getting shit done. That wiped out the writerly feelings and left me wondering about the power of my delusions. I ignored that question and focused on the practical problem, why did I feel like a hardworking writer when I wasn’t.

I had followed a twitter convo between authors about the Ditch Diggers podcast and went looking to see if that post was live. It wasn’t. However, episode 2 was so I gave it a listen and a big ol’ knowledge bomb went off. At about 40 minutes in Matt Wallace starts railing against communities and certain members of communities. He says, “…they want the perception of it. The experience of feeling like a creative person who does this but they are not actually pursuing it because they have this awesome synthetic substitute for it. As long as they can get their community fix they don’t need anything else.” Bing-bam-damn! That explains all the bullshit writerly feelings. I had fallen for the “synthetic substitute” of being a writer.

That evening and the next day I was still rolling this around in my head thinking about what to do when Medium, my good pal, linked me to The Purge: What happens when you unfollow everyone on the Internet by Helena Price. Her story is a powerful read about breaking free from compulsive behaviors that erode our productivity. One of my favorite bits, “I found myself checking my empty feeds out of habit.” Holy shit! This was connecting dots and patterns for me. It made me think of all the times I sat on Twitter aimlessly swiping down like some slot-junky at a casino. Swipe down noise-and-lights nothing good. Swipe again noise-and-lights… repeat until I hit that jackpot of a sweet tweet and then I’ll stop… right after just one more swipe.

That habit exhausted me, usually because I partook when I had downtime. But if this is the Year of Get Shit Done, even my downtime needs to be productive. In her post Helen details all the productivity gained with her unfollow experiment (go read the results they are astounding) and I thought why not give it a try. Only three days into The Purge Challenge and it has been a huge help. I’m reading more, getting more done around the house and best of all writing again. I broke out the first act of Remainders and finished three essays. This post was written on my iPhone as Michelle walked Felix to Sleepyland. That used to be Twitter primetime. Now it’s Get Shit Done time.

First Birthday and Baby Business

We have a ONE-YEAR-OLD!

 

Felix the boy wonder is officially one. It is hard to believe, well easy to believe, but, look time can’t be explained when perceived through the eyes of new parents. I already posted on the metaphysics of babies. Point is he is one and getting into serious baby business, which we’ll get into later. But first, Birthday Business!

The First Birthday, a baby has no idea what or why it’s happening or even what to do. This party is purely for parents, family and friends to celebrate making it through the first year. If we didn’t have to take care of a toddler parents would get pretty drunk at these parties, well my kind of parents. But then you wouldn’t remember all the great times of cake smashing and wrapping paper shredding. Oh wait that didn’t happen.

Nope, Mr. Felix is a fairly restrained baby with a methodological approach to new stimuli. Hence when given cake to smash he pokes, ponders, pokes, postulates and finally into the mouth to test his postulation. Very scientific and not unlike that of the Zoologist from Prometheus, only with much better results. Cake! Delicious cake, that was much better for eating than smashing. So with the dignified grace usually reserved for royal babies Felix indulged in birthday cake for the first time.

Awwwwww. Now it’s time for presents!

When you want a baby to unwrap presents in an excited manner, don’t give them a shiny balloon right at the start. After that nothing matters but balloon. Balloon. Balloooooon! Who cares about decorative paper and ribbons? BALLOON!

To us though it mattered that we controlled the size and quantity of toys as we have a small space that is already over run. Much to our enthusiasm –AND FELIX’S!– he received many awesome books! Great job Framily! Please don’t sue me Sprint.

Felix was so overcome with excitement for one book in particular (I Love You Stinky Face) that he grabbed it and began turning pages. He even gave it a hearty review: A smile and an “ahuh-ahuh” laugh. All books were great, as they had combinations of creative art and design, clever and silly stories, or expressed an early concept especially well. Press Here anyone?

I would like to thank our nieces and nephews who showed up and brought the raucous –Rawkus Records I hate you for killing my ability to EVER spell raucous correctly on the first try, Mos Def– and wild calamity of screaming fun that should be found at every child’s birthday party. For a while I thought we would have to pipe it in, but the 12th crew showed up loud and proud!

Here comes a segue, the hard way.

Baby Business, what is it? Well it’s easy to recognize but hard to understand. It happens when he abandons blocks he was just engrossed in stacking or drops a toy without warning, and then the charge. Fat hands slap the ground like it was a villainous monster about to impede his progress. Barreling over and through any object in his path his Baby Business does not wait! He arrives at his destination –often the bedroom– looks around, babbles, and heads back to his previous task with equal efficiency. Baby Business completed. It’s amusing to watch and wonder about what called him to action? Is this play? Was something on his mind? Did he hear a cat? Is he communing with ghosts in our apartment?!?!?! I hope it’s not ghosts. If there are ghosts, he better be keeping them inline.

Other times Baby Business is understandable. Felix can shut the refrigerator door, and understands us when we ask him to. He has taken this on as his chore. Mainly because it also gives him a chance to play –supervised– in front of the open fridge. Which is literally, pretty cool. So cool that when we open the fridge he drops everything and hustles over. He’ll grab the door with all the authority of a Senior Refrigerator Attendant Local 116 saying, “Whoa pal. This can’t be operated by anyone. Are you in the Union? No. Then step back and let me do my job.”
With Baby Union backed authority he commanders the fridge door and begins pulling condiments from the bottom shelf for inspection. “Condiments check out. Nothing expired.”
“Please put them back,” we ask.
Amazingly Felix puts them back. We believe this is a required stipulation negotiated by the Parents Union, but like to remind him just in case it slips his mind.
“Please close the door,” we ask.
Using a specially orchestrated multi-step-maneuver –that is backed by Baby Union standards–, that is quite similar to backing out of a bumper-to-bumper parking space, he closes the door.
We applaud and say, “Thank you for your fine service.”
Felix just says, “Right pal. Here’s the bill. Due in 30 days.” Waves us off and is back to his previous task or off to more Baby Business.
https://vine.co/v/OTXzMw7m7eO

He doesn’t just bring  this ingenuity, passion and dedication to his thriving refrigerator access solutions business, but also to his phenomenal startup Flooragers Inc. providing organic, locally sourced and sustainable food from your floor to your food-hole. Flooragers just closed a lucrative Series A funding round with mega-angel-investor Monster Towel; for a reported 10 million. 10 million what? That has not been reported, you never know with Monster Towel. With these great accomplishments already under his diaper, In Storyland is proud to announce Felix as our 2014 Infantrepreneur of the Year!


Kudos to you Mr. Felix, 2014 Infatrepreneur of the Year. (Standing applause)

 

The Holiday (W)rap Up and A List of Firsts

Happy New Year and all that jazz. The holidays are behind us, or the big ones are at least. Felix spent his first Christmas like he spends most of his days, tearing paper up and taking toys out of boxes. It didn’t really amaze him, but it was a super big deal for us!

 

A few days before Christmas, Michelle gathered up some of his toys and wrapped them up for him to open on Christmas morning. We were excited to see him open the presents and thought he would go full on maniac baby. He never made it past generally enthused.  In fact after getting back one of his more favorite toys it was difficult to persuade him to open the last present. Lesson learned? Babies got Baby Business and that doesn’t always line up with your holiday plans.

Just another day tearing up things I find.

Just another day tearing up things I find.

We bought him a real gift, a baby-sized push broom. It was given to him the night it arrived which was way before Christmas. Who can deny their children’s happiness? Not us. He loved the broom and he’ll love it even more when he can walk.

The real gift was a gift to all of us. We started a family tradition of getting a Santa photo every year. Only we get ours with Space Santa! Yes, head to the top of the Space Needle and you too can get your picture taken with one of the coolest Santa’s ever. Bonus points on the short line and great views. It was his first trip to the Space Needle.

Christmas In Space

In hindsight Felix did a bunch of sightseeing and visited quite a few of the Seattle Christmas Classics. First he went to the Sheraton’s Gingerbread Village with Michelle’s Aunt Laurie and Uncle Tom. We rode the Monorail to get there, first Monorail ride. After Christmas he took his first trip to the EMP with his Aunt Ashley and Uncle John.

This looks like a  tough crowd, I better take both swords.

This looks like a tough crowd, I better take both swords.

Plus we stopped into McCaw Hall for a few pictures with their Nutcracker display. Hhm, this might be a hard Christmas to top.

Hurry up and take the photo before they realize we didn't buy a ticket.

Hurry up and take the photo before they realize we didn’t buy a ticket.

The best gift of all was spending Christmas morning with Felix and Michelle reflecting on how much our lives have changed and how awesome it is to be a Family.

I think these decorations do come off.

I think these decorations do come off.

New Years passed without much notice. I stayed up until midnight, but it was just to watch a few shows on Netflix and enjoy the “time off” from getting up early and writing. The only highlight of New Years, Felix went to his first fondue party. He was a perfect guest, and so well behaved a couple people didn’t even realize he was a baby.

Felix continues to level up his skills. He’s walking along the walls and cabinets, bookshelves, chairs, exercise ball. You know anything he can gain balance from. The couch is now a climbing toy as he can get up and over the back of it. Luckily it is packed with pillows, blankets, a beanbag T-rex, the usual stuff, so he just rests on the top. His proudest and most amazing skill is the ability to forage food from the floor. Everything, EVERYTHING, is going in the mouth these days. Epicurean? So much it hurts.

The confidence Felix has in his agility now makes boundaries a thing of the past. Nothing is off limit or too hard to get to. Behind the cat tree, behind the curtains and blinds, under the desk, over the couch Felix is there. He even crawls right out of bed and heads to the living room. No time for good mornings; tons of Baby Business due today.

 

 

Playtime continues to be more complex. He went from just knocking over towers, to trying to take just a single block off at a time, and now he is trying to stack blocks. The other day he managed to stack three. It was pretty impressive, like watching the Incredible Hulk play Jenga.

Eating meals is going very well. We just have him eat what we eat. When we have a meal we’ll feed him from our plate. If it’s hot or if he’s only having a single item, or ingredient, then we make a little Felix plate. It works; he doesn’t like the baby mush, as he wants to be master of his own food delivery. It’s worked so well that now when we eat a snack he wants a bite too, or the whole thing. As I was enjoying a pretzel stick he crawled over and tugged on my pant leg. I broke off a smaller than intended piece and tried to plop it in his mouth. As I did that, he grabbed the entire pretzel stick out of my hand and went on his way. Michelle laughed so hard, and so did I.

We are marching ever closer to his first birthday! I can hardly believe it. This year has been a great one. The last six-months at home with Felix have been amazing. Watching him grow, he’s so tall now we have to keep moving the Felix safety zone higher and further back. He’s scooting around so much now, crawling and climbing over anything or anyone. Opening drawers, understanding dangers, understanding words. Turning a corner and learning to be calm in his car seat. I wish I could learn in four years as much as he has in one.

Christmas better be worth this humiliation.

Christmas better be worth this humiliation.

 Here is the tally of Felix’s Firsts:

  • First Christmas
  • First ride on a Monorail
  • First trip to the Gingerbread Village
  • First trip to the Space Needle
  • First picture with Space Santa
  • First trip to the EMP
  • First time holding a play sword
  • First New Year
  • First Fondue Party
  • First list of Firsts

Home From November

November is Big Word Country, with dreams that span beyond the horizon. It is a land of work, and like most work involves pain, sacrifice and failure. All for the maddening glee of working in November, and finishing the job. Which I did, some 99k of it. Most of it was joy, so much in fact that I searched out blog posts, not about the despair of November, but about the joys of kicking-ass and making words. The dark time did come, and I was thankful that I had bookmarked a couple of posts about our shared misery, but for the most part it was all win.

Now though, it’s revision time and I have this 280-page gorilla sitting on my chest. The gorilla keeps me up at night, I can hear it breath, I can feel it watching me. Never-not on my mind, I’ve been up far too late, listening to fears and worries. The land of November is great, because it has a pit you can kick all that first-draft fear into and you get to high-five your fellows as you do it. That’s no longer the case; it’s just the big gorilla and me. Or maybe it is still the case and I’m just scared because so little of my writing hobby, read none-at-all, has involved heavy revision. Whatever the case, the only way to proceed is by getting to work, and Ninety-nine thousand words proved I could get to work!

November is also the land of, the now poorly timed, Thanksgiving. It was Felix’s first Thanksgiving, and we took a plane ride up to Grandma’s to visit Michelle’s side of the family. It was filled with mostly fun times, a little bump, but plenty of good food and cheer.

When I roll through the mall everybody looking at me.

When I roll through Boise everybody looking at me.

I left Idaho with an observation about family. Family is like bath water. It’s nice and refreshing at first, rejuvenates you, cleans all that dirt and pollutants from the outside world off real good! Light some candles, add some bubbles and you can just steep for days. But steep too long and you become weary of the water. It looks a little murky, but it is your murk, so why not linger a bit longer before having to go and face the world. Seriously though it is getting a little gross in here so I think I’ll get out. Do you want to use my bath water?

I missed the Bray Family this Thanksgiving and you were often in my thoughts. It was nice to be so welcomed by the Halby/Jung side of the family. It’s so refreshing to see other families and sit back and go, “humpf just like us. Humpf-humpf.” Nice bath water to ease into and all that.

Now to a more interesting topic, and the reason we are all here, Felix. The almost 11-month-old presents an interesting look at human behavior. My family lives close enough to us so we see them once a month, sometimes more. They met him while he had no fear of others, no stranger danger. We could hand him off to my Mom, Sister, Brother-in-law, Brother, Niece or stray transient, and he was content until he actually had a physical need.

Now he has learned stranger danger, –except strange babies or kids he welcomes them openly– Michelle’s family could barely hold him before he was crying and jumping for Momma. Heck, I could barely hold him at times. What’s interesting is that he had no concept of trust, so he gave it, but now that he kind of understands trust, he’s hesitant to give it out and will work back to a point of being secure with others.

Towards the end of our trip he had a better understanding of who his Grandma Connie is, and even hustled over to her when she had a big stack of paper cups, a favored toy they are. As the week wore by he became more comfortable playing with her and ventured further from us each time. We are hoping he remembers her and is a little more comfortable when she visits us for his first birthday.

Back to the topic at hand unlearning, relearning, expanding knowledge? Whatever we call it, the same is true of sharing. Felix is a social guy. We started taking him to play areas where the kids run wild, and I do mean run! Parents scream after their kids, “Be careful! Share! Don’t take that!” because they have learned mine, and exercise that knowledge greatly. Felix hasn’t learned mine. So even when we brought one of his own toys to the play pit, that is a mistake, and kid after kid grabbed it (sometimes from him), he just laughed. When he learns mine, he will again work back to the point he is now, where it’s okay for others to play with his toys when he’s not using them.

Babies have a neat kind of Zen. It is rooted in the lack of knowledge, but it’s an interesting stage to observe. It makes me wish I could strip away the useless “knowledge” I’ve gained that makes it hard for me to share, trust, or just be a decent human being. One of my goals is to pass as little baggage to Felix as possible. I want him to be a happy, friendly, outgoing dude. A whole person, and not just a baggage handler left unfulfilled by the weight of crap dumped on him. (I wonder if all this baggage talk is supported by our recent trip?)

His little mind is growing, learning, and all of it is through play and observation. He’s playing peek-a-boo with everything, clothes, books, and blankets if he can cover his eyes with it then its fair game. We can already tell he will be a big helper kid. He cries the moment we start sweeping unless we let him help. We bought a mini-push-broom for his birthday/Christmas and think it will be the radest gift ever once he can walk or stand on his own.

I’m looking forward to teenage years when he whines, not about having to sweep, because we will have a robo-vacuum by then, but about emptying/cleaning/unclogging whatever manual task comes with future robo-vacuums. I’ll hand him an old human powered broom and say, “Here you used to cry so much if we didn’t let you sweep. So do it the old way.” Only to watch his eyes rollback with that “ugh, parents” look all children can give, even adult children. Haha, I love you kiddo. 😀

Baby Urgency

LIVE FROM COVINGTON IT’S HALLOWEEN NIGHT

It’s Friday, that means it’s time for another urgent Felix post. A post written in segments as Felix napped! No photos because we’re out and about.

So many interesting things are happening with Felix right now. He’s learning motor control, evident by his incredible enjoyment of: opening and closing doors, standing at the office chair and twisting it back-and-forth or playing ring-around-the-chairsie, grabbing a toy and pushing it all over the house as he crawls like a maniac kid, rolling toys back to us and stealing my glasses every time the opportunity arises.

The first time he crawled over and took my glasses was one of those magical moments where you perceive more depth to what’s happening than there actually is. I had just built him a tower to vanquish and he was having fun knocking it over. So I took the time to send an email from my phone. I was in the middle of composing the message when he popped up looking slightly disgruntled and then grabbed the glasses from my face, raking the skin on my brow just a bit. He shook my glasses and vocalized something that sounded like a declaration.
I looked at Felix and said, “I get it buddy. I need to put my phone away and really see you.”
He smiled playfully and let me take my glasses back. I thought, wow, that was sort of a deep reverse parenting moment we just had. My glasses were barely on for a second before Felix lunged for them again, once more raking my brow.
“Okay,” I said, “now it’s a game, but the first time really meant something.”
He smiled and banged my glasses into the floor. Babies, we can learn so much from them.

And I sincerely mean that. I joke around a lot, but babies are persistent and driven, injury barely slows them down, minor bonks and falls are quickly brushed off and then it’s back on their feet. They have no shame and only seek to do what they want regardless of dangers or foolishness. If babies were like adults most of us would still poop our pants and crawl around safely on the floor. If I have learned anything from Felix it is to be fearless in my endeavors, and push past setbacks. Because in the end that’s how we get what we want and that’s how we learn.

Climbs off soapbox hops back on topic.

Felix is learning to interact with his world and impress his will upon the objects around him. In a previous post I mentioned that he knows our schedule, so with all these knew ways to control his environment and growing abilities to understand the patterns of his environment this should make him the most content baby that ever crawled the Earth. A Super Baby who never cries. Well you know nothing about baby urgency.

Baby Urgency is that irrational need to make 110% goddamn sure we understand that he requires attention. Not just attention, but immediate attention with a swift resolution. Most of his baby urgency happens when we’re getting ready to go, he really wants us to remember him, even though we have a perfect record of always bringing him along.

When it’s just the two of us and I need to do chores, or anything that requires two hands and moderate attention, I’ll put on the Baby Bjorn.
Now, a little bit of background here so there is no confusion on how we use the Bjorn. The Baby Bjorn is only worn if I need to take Felix with me. I do not wear it for fun, or fashion or as a conversation starter. At no point in time has anyone but Felix occupied the Baby Bjorn. It is covered in his drool, it is certifiably his by the Rules and Codes of Baby Law. But, the moment I put it on he starts crying and scoots over to me. Then takes a tight hold of my clothes and tries to make that epic climb all babies dream of; that’s where they grab on at the knee and then using only their bare hands climb all the way up and into your arms.
I’ve always found this confusing given the solid history of only putting Felix in the Bjorn. But then I started looking at it from his perspective. I used to be spend most of the waking day at work, leaving before he woke up and getting home for the last couple of hours before bed, it sucked. So to Felix, I guess he knows I can leave him. That’s a sad thought.
We share the apartment with two cats, and a couple of mirrors. By baby logic I can infer that there might be 2-4 other people in this house. Two, or four, other people who are trying to get in the Bjorn. So like a crazed fanboy he lines up once the Bjorn goes on and screams, “Pick me, pick me!” I always tell him, “Alright Felix, just this once, I’m gonna do you a solid and let you ride in the Bjorn.” It makes me laugh and I time it to when I’m actually loading him into the carrier so he lets out a happy sigh and double arm happy slam like he understands what I said. (On a side note, babies don’t get enough credit for their awesome gestures.)

His Baby Urgency also goes into overdrive when he’s hungry. If I don’t have a bottle prepped and ready it can be a full on cryfest the entire time. Even if the bottle is ready, when I set it down so we can get seated, he cries out, “No you fool! We need the bottle!” So now I just let him hold the bottle as we take a seat.

The baby carrier and feedings don’t happen on a precise schedule, but do happen with consistency. A consistency he should be able to grasp, if he can grasp the general time that Michelle comes home at. Yet, this urgency get’s the better of him and causes him to cry out. One day he’ll know that the Bjorn always means a ride and I’ll be a little sad, because it’s another mile-marker on the road out of babytown.

This is a short post today. We had a very busy week preparing for Halloween and I had to finish a short story submission. I’ll post a new Felix comic, soon, to make up for it.

From the whole Bray Family have a Happy Halloween!

IMG_9827.JPG

Felix Takes A Holiday

I wish I could take a holiday, but it is Friday and this post must be written. Authors note, usually I write these with enough time to do a printed line edit, but I had to skip it for this post because of time constraints.

This pumpkin is too big, and oddly shaped.

“You know there’s a sign right here that says don’t climb on the pumpkin? If we get in trouble I’m telling everyone you put me up on this.” -Felix

This past weekend, between ominous amounts of rain, we managed to take Felix to the pumpkin patch! He behaved himself better than most college revelers, or rioters, but still brought that “I’m gonna do what I want” attitude that is quite charming on babies. This was, what I will consider his second look at celebrated American Holidays. The first one, also coinciding with his first sleepover, was the 4th of July.
On the 4th we were concerned that the loud fireworks would scare him, or keep him up, but neither of those happened. The festivities of fireworks start so late that he was plenty tired when my Mom’s street put on their annual 4-hour show of carnage and eggy farts (Seriously, who puts the fart powder in fireworks?). Felix was outside for only a bit of the show, and would look up to the sky, with an unimpressed look on his face as colorful fireworks exploded in the dark  and powder stained night. We were very impressed. When Michelle took him inside to sleep he fell right to sleep, fell right to sleep for a baby. That was his first 4th of July, I think he would say, “Didn’t suck.”
True, holidays do exist between the 4th and Halloween, but none are observed quite like them. Or we personally don’t observe them quite like the 4th and Halloween. No offense intended to holiday enthusiasts.

What do you mean you don't lick them?

In a moment I shall decide if this pumpkin is the one.

At the pumpkin patch we had no concerns about loud noises and fear, just about the rain. Felix handled the experience very well. He enjoyed a little Sugar Pumpkin that he held onto for most of the day, and tried to keep it covered in drool believing that was how one obtained ownership of the pumpkin. Luckily, his Nana later bought it for him, “I bought him his FIRST pumpkin!” she gloated. My mom is cool like that.

A baby claims ownership by covering the item in drool.

This pumpkin needs more spice.

He helped get his cousin out of an overly long photo shoot. They looked adorable sitting together on a wicker bench staged with all the rustic fall dressings, so we were all snapping photos. Soon though he had enough, looked right at her and said, “I’ll get us out of this.” and then turned to us screaming and crying. End of photo shoot.

“Thanks Felix.” -Cousin E.

Now that Felix is older, he is able to take in the environment more, and I mean that beyond his ability to grasp objects and put them in his mouth. We walked him through the animal pins, and he was impressed by the larger animals. This was shown through grunts, huffs, smiles, bounces and reaching out for the animal. Felix is quite the cat wrestler, number one in the league, and when he reached out for the mini-donkey, he had the same look in his eyes that he gets right before wrestling a cat. Good luck buddy, that donkey is out of your weight class. It was mostly the bigger animals that he liked, the ducks and the baby chickens just didn’t cut it. Mostly, I believe, because Felix thought a wrestling match with them would be so one sided as not to be worth it.
Felix is at an age where he can do way more than ever before, and this will only continue to become more true, but it makes him intent on being part of the experience. While Michelle and I enjoyed an ear of roasted corn, my Mom had to work hard to keep Felix entertained. After I finished my cob I gave it to Felix and he pretended to feed it to Michelle mimicking what he saw us doing. It was a reminder that at times his frustration is from not being included, especially those times when he’s not included for safety reasons, when all he wants to do is learn and understand why or how we do the things we do. Knowledge and understanding are two admirable qualities to get worked up about.

Now the baby feeds you. Power of Revers Parenting.

This is how you eat corn on the cob.

The pumpkin patch was just one part of the Halloween ritual. We still need to paint the two pumpkins we picked up, hopefully this weekend, and Michelle is working hard on some homemade costumes. She’s going to be a wizard (the classic stars on robe kind), I’m going as Black Jesus (because the new show on Adult Swim is amazing) and Felix is going to be a Leprechaun (he’s a short guy with red hair, slamdunk!). The hidden joke here is: a wizard, Black Jesus and a Leprechaun walk into a bar, only one of them is real. Our costumes are super leveled!

We’ll be showing Felix off at Michelle’s work and then heading to my moms so he can see real trick-or-treaters, as they still go door-to-door in her neighborhood. It seems so odd to go trick-or-treating at the mall. We grew up in an apartment complex and basically you would have a solid line/parade of kids going door-to-door, I remember parents just standing in the doorway during the peak hours as their was never a break in the line. As we grew older our boundaries increased and we would go off the complex. The neighborhoods were vast, but  word-of-mouth, and Halloween legend, would always spread about where to get the best and biggest candy so we would make a mad dash for those blocks.

You don't need a car-seat when you're driving a tractor.

“Felix allow me to rant to you as I drive this tractor.” said Pops. “Oh nooo.” Felix said.

(INCOMING RANT) I was one of those kids who was asked, “Aren’t you a little old to be trick-or-treating?” To which my answer is and always will be: No sir, or madam, I am not. Furthermore, in a day and age when too many kids abandon childhood early for young adulthood we should encourage those who chose to remain in the blissful state of childhood longer than their peers. So when you come to my door, if you are a teenager who has taken the time to prepare a costume and say “Trick-or-treat” I will gladly give you candy, with no judgement and no condescending remarks before acquiescing to your request out of fear of your trick reprisal. Because, like you I was a 15 year old trick-or-treater. I know the slings you suffer from friends who are now too cool for kids stuff, and rude adults jealous of the longevity of your Halloween career. Yes, they look back and think damn, look at this kid, I could have gotten two, maybe three more good years of trick-or-treating, why did I listen to my a-hole friends? Why?!?!  So no, you are never too old to go trick-or-treating during regulation hours of Halloween night. (END RANT)

No more door-to-door is a sad loss for childhood, and commentary on the state of child safety here in the US, but maybe that’s being too judgmental. Maybe once I get in the groove of getting free candy from stores and business’ I’ll think it’s pretty awesome and incredibly safe. Because no corporation has ever betrayed the public’s trust, right?
Whatever the case, I can’t wait for Felix to get the real Halloween experience, that is, of course, collecting ludicrous amounts of candy anyway you can. That day is far off, but we’re giving him the solid indoctrination he needs to make it a reality.

Number Two, But Not Doo-Doo: A Ramble

It is not easy being Number Two. Just kidding, it actually is a little bit easy. Michelle is very well read, like books a week well read, and she keeps up with many sites and blogs. So as we’ve been going through the new parent adventure she’s been reading up on the subject quite heavily. She told me about a piece she read where the husband felt slighted by the new born baby, as it felt like he was suddenly second in his wife’s affections, no duh. I laughed for a good long time, and then we made up jokes about what such a person would do to try and gain advantage over a baby. I know it’s not good form to make fun of, or dismiss, anothers feelings, but you’re a grown ass man act like one. In the end the husband did come around and that family is very happy, so all is well.

But that’s not the Number Two I want to talk about, as I think the majority of expectant, and new Fathers, know that they will be second to the baby. As we should be, and from a Fathers perspective Mothers are second to the baby too. That’s how it should be, King Baby he rules all, Number One in our hearts g. The real Number Two this post is about is who’s Number Two in Felix’s eyes, and that honor is all mine.

Felix and Pops

Number Two, I’m thinking of replacing you with this empty bag of chips. It’s amazing!

It’s easy to go you’re dead last pathetic, but let’s remember that I’m 2 out of 2, and the other person can literally feed him from her body. Unfair advantage? Yes. But those are the facts, and unless you’re some sort of super dad you’re most likely Number Two, right now. Number Two comes with a few sad violin moments, where your gut reaction is to feel slighted and say, “I could’ve done that for you.” followed by crying in a corner. Yet, it also comes with a big ace up the sleeve.

First, let’s take a look at the demands of being Number One. Felix  always wants to be around Michelle. Think of it, she tries to do anything and Felix comes crawling over to her, even if we are in the middle of playing. His internal Number One alarm goes off and he makes a beeline for her (a baby beeline is quite squiggly and may involve several pit stops).  I’ll make all sorts of crazy sounds, drum on toys or the floor, even stack towers to the ceiling for him to knock over, and at times it will not be enough to get him to willing crawl back.

(Humorous aside: I can’t even tell you how much he loves knocking over towers these days. It’s my go to method for distracting him, or refocusing his attention. My theory is that he views the towers as an insult, an unwelcome peasant mocking the Kings inability to stand. So he smashes the insolent towers who dare standeth in the presence of King Felix! I always congratulate him for ruling with an adorable and tiny iron fist. Then scold the tower for insulting the King by standing in his majesty’s presence. Now that I’ve taught Felix to high five he validates this theory for me, up top!)

Never stand before a crawling King.

Insolent tower you dare stand in the presence of your King!

Back to our story, he just loves being with Number One more than anyone else. When he’s hurt, or startled by the sudden effect of gravity, he’ll reach out for Michelle. Needs something, sees me, reaches for me, sees Michelle, screams louder and reaches for her. Though, he’s started to make a game of this where he’ll reach for Michelle, spend sometime sobbing with her, then reach for me, spend sometime sobbing with me, then reach out for Michelle again, and repeat until he’s happy. It’s kind of funny. I like to imagine Felix says, “Have you heard how sad I am?” as he reaches for the other person. Once held he quickly forgets he was just being held by the other and thinks, I need to let them know how sad I am, as he reaches out again.

Part of my Number Two status is beyond my control. Michelle pumps, and we give him as much breast milk as possible, but he does get a bottle of formula a day. Every day he gives me the same look when the formula comes around. It’s a startled confused look that gravitates to mild annoyance. I imagine him saying, “Pfft! What is this? You had one job, to get me milk! M-I-L-K, milk! I don’t know what this swill is, but when I’m done, I’m leaving you an angry review on Yelp.” Mumbling as he drinks begrudgingly, “This is why you’re Number Two. Can’t even get me proper milk.” Then he takes the bottle out in a huff, “My Momma get’s me milk. It’s always good, its always the right temperature. And what do you do? This.” Boom! Felix drops the bottle on the ground like a boss. He is the boss, and I forgot to say happy National Boss Day yesterday. Ugh, that’s probably also why I’m Number Two. Oh the sad life of Number Two.

Done eating!

“I wish I could rate this feeding 0 stars.” -Felix B.

What’s sort of amazing is that he knows our schedule. If we have to use formula for his second feeding he drinks an entire bottle. But when that third feeding comes around he’ll only drink half, or less. He knows that Michelle will be home soon and says, “Naw. I’ll wait for the real thing.” Felix’s ability to recognize schedules and determine his own eating habits has been really cool to see. I even tried to encourage him to drink more formula by switching sides and presenting the bottle in new ways (Formula now with more spins!), but he quickly puts a stop to it, because he knows Mom will be home soon. This is awesome, until Michelle’s bus runs late and he get’s real fussy. Then we have some solid food as we wait.

Whoa, we ended up kinda off topic. This was supposed to be about, Number One has some pressure, that Two doesn’t have, and that grants a certain advantage. Right! Advantage! My advantage, back on topic.

My advantage, sleepy time. When Michelle walks him to sleep sometimes he’ll pop his head up and just stare at her, or make soft babbling noises, perhaps those noises are a friendship song he’s made up for his Number One, just like Picard did for Riker. But when Pops puts him to sleep it’s all different. He rarely lifts his head up to make eye contact. Instead of a great friendship song I imagine his sentiments to be, “Oh hey big guy. Guess it’s just us. Well I’m a little tired,” overtly fake yawn, “so I’m just gonna take a quick nap. But we’ll play when I wake up, okay. Who’s my big guy? Who’s my big guy? You’re my big guy. Boop.” then Felix falls asleep mumbling, “Number One set course for the park. Engage!”. And this is wonderful. Advantage, Number Two. Who has advantage? Big Guy.

Being Number Two also means I’m Felix’s second favorite person in the whole world, sorry Mom it’s true, and that’s mighty nice. We do have fun times together, stacking towers and knocking them over, chasing cats, wrestling cats and stealing glasses. There is nothing quite like being the second most important person in a child’s life. The only thing better is being Number One.

Number One and Felix at the park!

Number One we’re having fun!

The Incredible Dynamic Size Shifting Baby or My Biggest-Little Fan

This past January my wife delivered our first child, Felix, in what was an incredibly long and difficult labor. I still recall when he was finally born, and how GIGANTIC he looked. The weight of that moment was so heavy, and meaningful, that my mind actually backed the overwhelming emotions and decided that we were looking at the first four-foot tall baby ever born. It wasn’t until the nurse placed him on the baby warmer, where I watched as they forced air into his deflated lungs that were too startled to inflate on their own, and raised his limp arms just to watch them fall flat, that he suddenly shrunk to the 7lb baby that was born that day. Felix eventually began to breath on his own, and his tiny baby arms stopped falling flat, as he finally acclimated to the post-womb world, but he’s never stopped changing size.

Newborn Felix

New born Felix, such a peaceful little guy.

He’s almost eight months and three weeks old now, and delights in crawling, climbing and cruising. Most mornings I’ll come into our room, after he wakes up, to ferry him via Pops’ Sky Service to the living room. There is a treacherous tiled hallway that one must pass to get there and it can be rough on baby hands and knees. Some mornings he’ll crawl towards me and right past my outstretched arms saying, No thanks Pops I’m making my own way today. As I watch him crawl by and out to the living room he looks so big, like Rick Moranis accidently blew up my baby. Felix will turn to me when he’s past the barren tile lands and give me his big boy smile. Then I’ll scoop him up and give him a big morning hug. It’s only when I’m holding him in my arms that he becomes the average sized eight month old that he is. When I set him down again and he wanders over by the desk, or to a chair and pulls himself up, I wonder how he grew so big, even though he’s still so small.

Toddler-Wobbler

Felix cruising with his Brio!

That dynamic shifting size is just one of the many improbabilities that make him so incredible. Even with all the overly excited eye-gouging, bed hogging, stomach kicking, poop smearing, hair pulling, glasses stealing, wake you up with a slap and dirty face rubbing he’s still the most amazing person I’ve ever met.
This could be explained by the fact that babies are essentially the biggest fan you will ever have, even if you are some rocktor superstar. He’ll get so excited to see you that he falls over, granted standing is not his strongest ability, but still he can hold himself up for days. Yet he falls over when Momma comes home from work.
Even when he’s content and playing with a toy, he’ll notice what you’re up to and he has to do that same thing right now! If you try and deny him he’ll flail wildly in protest, because whatever item you have becomes his number one need! This is the kind of influence companies spend billions of dollars chasing, and I got it. I can sell Felix anything. I’ve traded him an empty bottle to get my iPhone 5s back, all because he’s so fanatical that he has to have whatever I’m interested in. Also, because he doesn’t really grasp their differences, other than their taste and textures, babies are the ultimate epicureans.

What’s truly remarkable is how little you have to try, at times, to get your biggest-little fan to laugh. Lately I sit him in my lap, look at him, but say nothing for about 5 seconds, then go “Boo!” and he laughs his head off, even after the upteenth time. The best part is he knows the joke is coming, and he’ll crack a little smile in anticipation. The most wonderful smile I’ve ever seen. It’s like a review for a series, he’s saying, “Loved the last installment! Can’t wait for the next one! Where does he come up with this stuff! 5-stars!” Then you drop the next “Boo!” and it blows his mind.

Super Felix!

Super Felix!

You do have to put in work for your biggest-little fan, but the work is more than worth the rewards. Feedings and changing clothes, all that is fun “work”. There are two areas that I worried would be tedious; diaper changes and the dreaded sleepless crying baby. The diaper changes became the norm, so much so that if his waste gets on my hand my first thought isn’t, Ewwww! Gross someone else’s POOOOOP! Instead it’s, does the color and consistency look healthy? Let me Google Image Search for a quick reference. Looks good. Then I wash it away. That simple. The dreaded late night can’t sleep crying baby, well we lucked out and he doesn’t do that often. When he has I will admit to feeling a good amount of pride when I finally got him to sleep. That did help, a little, with the overwhelming sense of exhaustion the next day.  There’s also an adorability factor when he’s sleepless, but not a crying-sleepless, he’ll pop his head up as we’re walking and give me a big smile that says, I’m super happy we’re hanging out right now. I’m a sucker for this move and it has earned him extra playtime. What I’ve found is that there is nothing so difficult that I wouldn’t do it for my son. We’ve pretty much given up beer and Netflix for him, if you can do that you can do anything.

These days I get to do anything, and everything, for Felix most days, as this past July Michelle went back to work and I started staying home with him. It was a big change for the three of us but we’ve found our rhythm, and this is the first time I’ve felt like more than just a cog in the machine as I go about my daily duties. I am actually doing something valuable and truly worthwhile.  Felix has been an inspiration to write again, and not just hobbyist-write, but work-the-craft-write, pull out the Chicago Manual of Style and revise-revise-revise-write. I’m up at 3am, mostly working, Monday-to-Friday and 4:30am on the weekends. None of this would be possible without them, and I am so thankful to have my family and this time.

IMG_9440.JPG

A Damn Fine Older Brother

Growing up my older brother Jeremy was a blessing and a curse. Our Father was never around, but that did little to stop us from inheriting his stature. When Jeremy was 13 he reached his full height of 6’1″. His shoulders were broad and his chest was powerful. He always had a daring look in his eyes and confidence to back it up. I was the antithesis to his existence, a fat, shy kid with thick glasses. Even with our differences we were brothers and happily took with it every duty it entailed.

One day we were riding our bikes to the park, in a moment of hesitation and then stupid urgency I cut across a busy street to catch up to Jeremy. A van narrowly missed me as it came to a screeching halt. I stopped my bike to survey the near accident and give an apology. The driver’s door flung open and a man stepped out. He began yelling at me and questioning my intelligence in a rather rude way. When confrontation came the turtle was my totem, and so I sat stationary on my bike hoping this man would stop screaming before I started crying.

Jeremy must have heard him and wandered over from the park. He quickly sized up the situation and said “Shut the f— up, and get back in your car.” The man looked at my 13 year old brother and quickly entered his van. We heard the door lock as he drove off.
“What a bitch.” Jeremy said.
“The punks lucky he left.” I added.
Jeremy laughed deep and loud. That was my brother, the boy who frightened men.

He was a force of nature to the other kids in school. Nobody messed with him, not even our own suburban brand of tween gang bangers. Heck, most didn’t even mess with me and I looked like the fat kid from Hook, you know the one who folds up into a ball and rolls down the plank way. But only most kids, some kids still saw easy prey and jumped all over me like hyenas on a plump and wounded gazelle. The only problem was the biggest, baddest, king of the jungle was this gazelle’s brother.
Jeremy was a good older brother, but we still argued, fought, and made fun of each other. One day we were in the halls of our middle school on our way to the clubhouse to play Street Fighter II. Jeremy was laying into me, mocking me and kicking at my feet as I walked in front of him. Apparently he had deemed my method of victory in one of yesterday’s Street Fighter II games as underhanded, and wanted to know if I thought I could replicate the trouncing in real life. I did my best to assure him that this was not a thought I could ever entertain, and that the very idea was so ridiculous that the words used to form the question were practically unintelligible to me. This seemed to appease his ego, and he changed the subject to the characters I could not use against him in Street Fighter II because of my cheap tactics. The tactic of victory through coercion he held to be a time honored tradition and the beginning of my exposure to meta-gaming. When he was finished I was left with Balrog, a character I never really played because, pointedly, he sucks. “Let’s see you beat me now when you can’t be a cheap pussy.” Jeremy said, and once more he began taunting and mocking me.

One of our classmates decided to join his fun as we passed by and spoke up to contribute an insult. It would have upset me, but I knew something he didn’t. My heckler, this bastion of power that other kids flocked to and followed, the king of the jungle was my brother. Jeremy turned so fast the kid almost didn’t have time to finish his critical commentary on the state of my developing manhood. “What the hell did you just say about my brother!” The kids face contorted into a mask of shock and terror. He eyed the exit 30 yards down, but was either too scared to move, or knew that Jeremy would cut him down like a two ton truck hitting a tricycle. “I… You were…” the kid stammered. In one swift motion Jeremy charged the kid slamming his left arm into the kid’s chest so hard his feet left the ground. Jeremy used the momentum to violently pin the kid against a locker. The protruding handle and lock could not feel good on his back. “Nobody makes fun of my brother.” He said. His voice was calm and certain, as if he was commenting on the truest principle in the universe. This certainty filled me with a momentary sense of pride and self-worth that was often missing in those days. With his free hand he slugged the kid in the stomach, and let him drop to the floor wheezing. Jeremy then pressed his foot into the kids back until he was flat on the floor. “Don’t ever say a f—ing word to him again.” The King eyed his fallen prey and was content with the natural order he had restored to his lands, so we walked on.

“You didn’t have to do that” I said. “Hey, nobody makes fun of my brother.” he said. His face was sincere and filled with brotherly compassion. “Nobody but you.” “That’s right.” His face held a different brotherly look and I thought it best to drop the subject. “F—ing Balrog.” I said in a whine of exhaustion. “Yeah, Balrog.” He laughed, already anticipating victory.

We had our pains, but I wouldn’t trade my two brothers for the world. You should hear the stories about Anthony!

Introduction

Welcome to In Storyland.

This place will be the home of my stories, and thoughts, as I develop my writing skills on the road to authordom. Most of the stories I post will be genre based or stories from my life.  I’m also part of The Midnight Bards, a writers group, and post there on a regular basis.

If you want to know anything else feel free to leave a comment. All feedback is appreciated. Just reading is also highly appreciated.

Enjoy your stay In Storyland.

Areas of Storyland:

Troll Tooth»  Felix & IRL»  Short Works»  QicFic»

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