Wednesday, April 17, 2019

How Not To Dad: Episode 3 - Night Terrors

    How Not To Dad: Episode 3 - Night Terrors

   I spent a ton of time in haunted houses in my twenties and early thirties.  It was what my friends and I did.  Around Halloween time, several local attractions would pop up in our area and we'd travel sometimes out of state to visit the most notorious of them.  We even visited real haunted locations, like Waverly Hills Sanatorium in Louisville.  I think we all loved that constant buzz of adrenaline, that anticipation of what's going to happen next.
    Is a chainsaw-wielding clown going to pop out of the corner and chase me through the trail?
    Is that mannequin really a mannequin?
    What's tickling my leg?
    Do you hear that sound?
    Who's screaming?
    When things get quiet is when the real terror begins.  That's when someone - or some thing - is gearing up to try and scare at least a moderate-sized squirt of piss out of you.  That's when you need to be on your toes, you know?
    Fast-forward to today.  On some nights, I live in a haunted house.  The haunts in my home are unhappy children sent to bed thirsty, or babies mad that they can't sleep in bed with their mommy.
    One night last week my wife and I put our son to bed, and then carried our daughter to her little playpen bed in our room.  After Abby fell asleep, my wife and I laid down and watched a couple of episodes of The Office until we fell asleep. 
    The first phantom appeared before midnight.  A little boy, about five years old.  It touched my shoulder and I rolled over to face it while half asleep and coming out of a dream. 
    "Can I have a cup of water?" The ghost whispered. 
    I motioned towards a bottle of water on my night stand.  "Take it," I murmured.  The thought of this phantom returning to his room and peeing the bed didn't occur to me.  I just wanted my sleep back.  The ghost soon vanished.
    Ten minutes later the second ghost wailed into the night from the foot of my bed.  I jerked out of sleep, my eyes open wide.  The sound dissipated, and I started to think I had imagined it when a rustling came from the same place.  
    Then another moan.
    I laid perfectly still.  I prayed this little ghost wouldn't hear me and wake up screaming.
    After several minutes of lying there stiff as a corpse I finally began to doze again.  The movement at the foot of the bed ceased.  I sank into sleep, feeling its warm arms envelope me as I drifted further and further from consciousness.
    "Mommy!" Something called from the other room.
    My eyelids twitched open.  What time is it?
    My stomach shriveled.  Goosebumps sprouted on my arms.  Some part of me hearkened back to those childhood fears from watching too many horror movies.  There's just something really unsettling about hearing voices shouting from somewhere in a dark house in the middle of the night.
    Even if it is your son.
    I look at my wife, who is shifting in our bed, half asleep.  
    I couldn't tell if I was fully awake or dreaming the sound.  The eerie sensation lingered.  My fear, though, was not of a supernatural entity waiting to harvest my soul the minute I stepped off the bed to go investigate.  My fear was a sick child.  Not only do you not want your kid to be in pain, you also don't want to be scrubbing hurl out of their bedroom carpet at 2:00 a.m. on a weeknight.
    My wife's eyes are half open.
    "What is it Logan?"  She calls out.
    We've got to be careful.  The other little ghost has fallen asleep no more than six feet away.  We don't need a double haunting.
    "Come in here, Logan."  I call, hoping to somehow trick the properties of sound into allowing a shout that is also a whisper.  The delicate balance holds.  My daughter remains asleep.
    A door opens somewhere.
    Footsteps thump across the hall.
    Our bedroom door swings open, spilling light from the hallway across our bed.  A figure stands there.  "My tooth hurts."  He says.
    Nikki and I look at each other, then back at Logan.
    "Um, which one hurts?  The wiggly one?"  Nikki asks.
    "Uh-huh," he whines.  I can tell by his posture that he's half asleep.  His shoulders are slumped, and his head is hanging at an angle like he's trying to hold it up but doesn't have enough energy.  I think it hits both Nikki and I at the same moment that he's sleepwalking.  He'd gone to the dentist that day and had gotten a good report.  His tooth shouldn't be hurting.  (I never verified if he was dreaming about the dentist, but I did ask him the next day if his tooth still hurt.  "Nope." he said.)
    "Go back to bed and get to sleep, baby." Nikki tells him.  "It'll feel better in the morning."
    Logan shuffles off.  We hear his door close.
    While Nikki fell back asleep, I laid on my back staring at the ceiling.  The barrage of waking jolts kept me on edge.  I couldn't help but lay there anticipating the next jump scare.  I was like a kid trying to wait out a storm, knowing that next thunderclap is coming but not knowing when.
    An hour later I finally made it to sleepytown.  The next time I awoke it was to the wail of an alarm clock.  I roll out of bed, the events of last night now a fading memory.  My body sure as hell remembers, though.  I've become a zombie for the day, shambling through the hallways and cubicles at my workplace in voracious search not for brains but for coffee.  That sweet, delicious potion that has the ability to rouse the dead and hold the ghosts of last night at bay.
    At least until tonight.

Moral of the Story: Sleep all you can.  Sleep is good.  Sleep is life.  Sleep.  Sleep.  Sleepysleepsleep.... sleep.  zzzz...  zzzzzzzz....


Wednesday, April 10, 2019

How Not To Dad: Episode 2 - Speedbag

How Not To Dad: Episode 2 - The Speed bag 

    There are two problems I have with furniture at my home right now.  Two things that have come together to cause more pain than any man should have to endure.

    #1: We bought a new bed two years ago.  Not just any new bed, mind you.  A fancy new bed.  This is the kind of bed that comes with a freakin' remote, and can lift your head or your feet to get you in the most comfortable position possible (turns out the most comfortable position possible, by the way, is laying flat).  The thing about a bed like this is that all the mechanics have to be mounted underneath the bed, and that means the bed itself is raised from the floor a foot or so to account for all that excess technology.
    Now, the average box spring is about nine inches thick.  The average mattress is maybe twelve inches thick.  Add the foot of height for the mechanical frame, and that gets you to about 2'-9" from the floor to the top of your bed's mattress.  Let's hold that dimension in the back of our minds as we proceed.
    #2:  My wife bought our six-month-old daughter a bouncy seat. It's basically big plastic ring that is covered in toys, and the ring is attached by elastic bands to three posts that connect to the base of this beast.  In the middle of the ring is a seat where the baby sits.  You have to feed her little feet into the appropriate holes so her legs hang below the ring.
    For an average baby this puts their feet on the floor beneath them.  Our daughter is small, so she just sort of dangled there when we first attempted to set her in it.  To fix this my wife got one of the fifty throw pillows that came with our couch and put it underneath Abby's feet as extra support.
    Abby loves it.  She pushes off the pillow below her and bounces up and down over and over again, causing all the little rattle toys to clatter with each bounce as if it were the Godzilla of maracas (side note: I was today years old when I realized you don't spell maraca like the west African country Morocco).  She's becoming more and more mobile.  Her little legs are getting a daily workout, building strength that will one day help her to take her first steps.
    Okay.  Now we've established the two objects that have caused me such pain.  If you don't see the connection yet, give me one more minute.

    A possible side effect of Abby's love for this bouncy seat is her desire to pretend she's in it when she's not.  Sitting up or laying down, she occasionally goes into kicking fits when she's excited.
    I realize today that my daughter's been training her legs for weeks on that damned bouncy seat, building muscle tone, getting leaner and more powerful, and I can only imagine a Rocky style montage scene of her training for the day she fights her arch nemesis using her legs instead of her fists as her weapons of destruction.  Had I known who (or, rather, what) her arch nemesis might be, I might have trained too.  Maybe learned some dodging techniques.
    We have a changing station that sits on Abby's dresser, covered in the mountains of clothes we've bought or been given as hand-me-downs.  We never use it.  It's much easier, we've found, to lay Abby on our nice expensive bed and change her there.  Not long ago I laid her down, right at that 2'-9" bed height you'll remember from earlier, and began changing her diaper.  I'm 5'-8"-ish tall, which would put my mid-section at just under the 3'-0" mark.  Say, maybe 2'-9".
    I place her gently on the bed, and I stand against the bed's edge.  I have a clean diaper in hand.  Half leaning on the bed facing my daughter, I open the clean diaper like I always do and prepare for a swift change, and my view of Abby is blocked by said diaper.  I am less than a foot away from her.  At this point, unbeknownst to me, my daughter has decided to do her leg exercises.  And here, virtually resting atop the edge of the bed, is her speed bag.
    She kicks.
    I jolt as her feet batter my man bag like Liu Kang from Mortal Kombat doing his bicycle kick.


I almost buckle and fall directly onto her.  Luckily, I catch myself.  My daughter looks up at me as if I were nothing more interesting than a potato.  She has no idea she single-handedly prevented herself from ever having more siblings.
    I stand up.
    Wipe the tears from my eyes.
    Wait for my nuts to come out of my stomach.
    After that I finish changing my daughter, this time giving her pumped up legs the respect they deserve.

Moral of the story: Protect your coconuts, boys.  Just because they don't know what they're doing doesn't mean babies won't knock your nuggets up into your throat if your attention lags for even a second.

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

How Not To Dad: Episode 1 - The Wal-Mart Fiasco

How not to Dad: Episode 1


Travelling From/To: Home in Hanceville, AL / Wal-Mart in Cullman, AL (Approx. 6miles)

Mission Intent: Spend time with my baby daughter, do some light shopping, maybe visit a park and walk with the stroller, return home with a nice little memory of a perfect father-daughter day.

Result: Promising beginning; eventual chaos

Grade: F


    My wife was out of town.  My stepson was at his dad's.  I was alone with a six month old.  This was exciting to me, as I love one-on-one time with my kids.  I get Abby fed, get her dressed in her Batgirl onesie, and even find matching purple pants in the labyrinth that is her dresser drawers.  I'm wearing dad-approved navy blue cargo shorts, a Leprechaun movie t-shirt (I'm a horror movie fanatic) and flip flops.  So yeah, we look cool.
    The first task once we were properly attired was to prepare the diaper bag.  To all who are unfamiliar, the diaper bag is a literal bottomless pit of baby products that you'll need on any quest into civilization.  Things to remember: diapers, wipes, formula, bottles, water, extra clothes, bibs, spit up towels, pacifiers, teething toys, regular toys, sunscreen, blanket, first aid kit, survival knife, rope, harness, helmet, map, compass, lip balm, flashlights, batteries, matches, extra day's supply of food, water treatment system, signaling mirror, walking stick, and a full set of metric deep-well sockets and wrenches.  And you damn well better not forget one thing on this list, or your baby will definitely remind you.
    So I gather all the components.  I fix up a little three compartment canister that holds enough formula for three bottles.  I set it aside and prepare the bottles with warm water.  I do a quick check to make sure there are diapers, extra clothes, wipes, a towel, and all the other stuff, then I zip up the bag and get Abby in her car seat. I bump her head against the seat handle as I ease her in.  This triggers an eruption of tears and I do all I can to comfort her.  Eventually I gave her one of her teething toys and she lost interest in crying so I buckled her in.
    Slinging the diaper bag over one arm (my wife is tiny, and I couldn't wrangle my other arm through the backpack strap), I carry the bag out to the car.  I come back in, grab my cup of coffee, pick up the car seat, and stand at the door for several seconds like a neanderthal as my mind works out how I'm going to open the door while holding both the car seat and a cup of hot coffee. The answer is NOT, I finally realize, to hold the car seat and coffee in the same hand while opening the door with the other.  Eventually my mind works through this problem and I proceed, pausing again on the other side of the door to figure out how the hell I'm going to close it.
    We make it into the car and begin our day.  Abby falls asleep as I drive.  I go through Jack's drive thru and grab some breakfast that I eat in Wal-Mart's parking lot once we arrive, while Abby naps.
    She wakes up when I get her out.  I'm pretty clever, I realize, because I decide to park beside the cart return station.  This way I can get her out and place the car seat in a shopping cart immediately, and don't have to lug the car seat all the way into the store.
    I've got this shit figured out, y’all.  This trip's gonna be a breeze.
    Abby is all smiles as we make our way through the front doors.  I go to the electronics section first and pick out a couple of movies.  Then I head to the men's clothes and choose a few things.  I stop by the arts and crafts section and get some canvases (canvi…?).  So far, so good.  Abby grunts and wriggles a couple of times here and there, but I dismiss it as mild discomfort.  She is content as always.  I even go to the baby section and look at the toys.
    And here is where it all begins to unravel.
    Abby starts to fuss.  I think to myself, she's getting tired of the car seat.  Get her out of the car seat and hold her.  You'll have a free hand to push the cart.  What could go wrong?
    One thing that could go wrong would consist of me banging her head against the car seat handle as I get her out.  Again.  Causing - again - an eruption of crying that I have to try and soothe away while tending to the buggy with my other hand.  So I try the usual method, I begin to walk and lightly bounce her in my arm.  Only now I'm wielding a Wal-Mart shopping cart with one hand, trying to steer it between racks of baby clothes while calmly talking to my daughter the way I do when I want her to go to sleep.
    I knew I was really in trouble when her elephant teething toy didn't calm her down.  Normally you can hand her that and it goes straight to her mouth, and she's immediately absorbed with chewing on it.  Instead she continued to cry and I awkwardly shuffled through the aisles holding a sobbing baby in one arm and pushing the shopping cart with the other.
    Can’t put her back in the car seat now.  It’ll just piss her off more.
    I shamble down the large aisle in the rear of the store.  Finally Abby begins calming down.  Her teething toy is beginning to work its magic, and inwardly I sigh in relief.
    Until I realize I can’t reach my wallet to pay for the stuff in the cart.
    It’s in my back pocket, on the same side where I’m holding Abby.  Neanderthal Luke reemerges, standing in the children’s clothes section with a baby in one arm and a shopping cart full of crap at my side, probably looking like I’m trying to figure out how to add one plus one.
    Hey idiot, let go of the shopping cart and switch the baby to the other side so you can reach it, my brain says after it apparently reboots.  With a clumsy, not-so-swift motion that tried to be a swift motion, I shifted the baby to the other arm and grab my wallet.
    In order to extract a debit card you need two hands.  One hand to hold the wallet, and the other hand to pull the card from it.  I manage to get my wallet into the hand that is holding the baby, and Abby and I fight for a moment over who gets the card once I pull it out.  She fusses a little, but finds her teething toy again and all is calm.  I shove the card in my pocket and head for the front of the store.
    I make it to the registers.  No way in hell am I going to attempt a self checkout like this, so I find a lane and wait my turn.
    Abby does not have the same problem my son Logan had at this age.  Logan hated standing still.  We always dreaded getting to the checkout lines because the minute we stopped he started pitching a fit.  Abby, on the other hand, sits on my arm and gnaws on her toy elephant, and just looks at everything.  She’s back to her old self, content and happy.
    There’s a light at the end of the tunnel.  I see it.  We’re gonna make it, little sis.  The day is still ours.
    We check out.  The lady at the register and the elderly lady behind me make a fuss over how cute and little Abby is.  They talk to her and she looks at them and even half-ass waves at them as we walk away.
    Feeling the weight lifting further off my shoulders by the second, I proudly carry my daughter into the parking lot like a mighty warrior returning from battle.  Yes, I’ve lost a few men, we’re both wounded and beaten down, and she’s got a head injury, but we survived.  We fought the good fight and have lived to see another day.
    Neanderthal Luke makes a final appearance once I stop the buggy at the trunk of my car.  With but a moment’s hesitation, I sweep the dumbass side of myself away, grab the fob from my keychain, and push the button that pops the trunk.  I sling the bags in the trunk with my free hand.  I grab the car seat (much lighter when it’s empty) and set it on the base that’s strapped into the back seat, return the buggy, and stand there with my baby in my arm, feeling successful.
    Triumphant even.
    Hell, let’s get her fed before we do anything else, I think.  We’ve got a few hours worth of water and formula and spare diapers.  Let’s brush off the problems we’ve had and make a day of it.
    I slide the driver's seat as far back as it can go, and then ease into the car with the baby.  Abby slaps at the steering wheel as I reach for her diaper bag so I can make her a bottle.  We’re having fun now!  I unzip the bag and open it up, pull the bottle out (already filled with water because I’m a genius), and then reach in for my canister of pre-made formula that I so precisely measured and filled for three separate bottles, and-
    Hmmm.  Don’t see it. 
    Nah, it’s there.  I remember packing it.  It’s probably underneath the spare clothes.  I shuffle things around a bit in search of the little container.
    Confusion leads to uncertainty.
    Uncertainty leads to panic.
    Panic eventually leads to realization.
    I thought back: I had measured all the scoops of formula, snapped the lid on, and then set it on the kitchen island so I could make the bottles, then I put the bottles in the bag, checked for diapers, wipes, clothes, and burp cloths.
    Here’s the kicker:  Nowhere in that list of activities did I place the damn formula in the diaper bag.  So now I’m sitting with a time bomb in my lap.  A time bomb that might speed up if I put her back in her car seat.  And I do indeed have to put her back in the car seat, right?  Yes, I have to remind myself half jokingly.  (Okay, okay, I know you can't drive through town with an infant in your lap.  Still, there's that voice that sneaks in, whispers shit like you're a good driver, don't worry the cops'll never see her.  Just drive.  I hate that guy.)
    This is where my daughter comes in clutch, and saves the day.  I had resigned myself to facing a car ride home to the tune of my daughter’s rageful cries.  Instead she calmly looked at me as I placed her in her car seat and allowed me to buckle her in.  We rode home.  I still held a tiny ray of hope that I would be up for going back to town after we’d been home for a while and Abby had gotten a nap, but I think I knew our trip was done.  Still, my daughter is amazing.  She goes with the flow more than any child I have ever seen.  She proved that by remaining calm on the ride home, though she must have started getting hungry.  I don’t know if I thanked her out loud for not losing her shit, but I did in my mind for sure.  And I thank her now.

Moral of the story:  Dudes, check your diaper bag.  Double check your diaper bag.  Triple check your diaper bag.  At minimum food, diapers, wipes, and extra clothing absolutely must be with you at all times.
    Or you will be destroyed.

How Not To Dad: Episode 2 - Speedbag

How Not To Dad: Episode 2 - The Speed bag       There are two problems I have with furniture at my home right now.  Two things that have ...