Monday, November 30, 2009

It's a Long Time Until July

I'm struggling to be the parent I want to be. Thumper is exhibiting all sorts of stereotypical two-year-old behavior. He wants to do everything himself. He throws himself on the floor and screams at just about anything I say, even if I'm suggesting something he wants to do, even if he suggested it first. He bit Aerie hard enough to leave blood under the skin, though I think he was as shocked that it happened as she was. At first I thought tantrum behavior was kind of funny, as in, "Hey, look at that! Two-year-olds really do that! Cute!" Now I'm just tired.

I want to be the parent who acts calmly. I want to be the...

Jesus Christ, will someone shut that goddamned dog up! He's been barking for 45 freaking minutes already!

What was I saying? Oh, yeah, the parent who responds to behavior rationally, not emotionally. But apparently I can't do that. He throws his food on the floor and bangs his fork repeatedly on his plate, and I snatch it away from him. He screams and throws his milk cup across the room, and I yell at him. He hits me with a Tinker Toy stick, and I put him roughly onto the timeout stool. I have never hit him, though, and have no fear that I ever will. I've just been doing a lot of yelling, and he's doing a lot of screaming. Did you hear us in WalMart this morning?

Oh, great. The cat's throwing up in the other room.

Anyway, there you go: evidence that it's not all peaches and cream in the Rodius household.

Dealing with Toddler Tantrums


Robert McGee's 10-and-under baseball team has an opportunity to go to Cooperstown, home of the Baseball Hall of Fame, to participate in a 96-team tournament. Unfortunately, travel, hotel, food, and registration costs run around $2,000 per kid, and without a little fundraising help, they're not going to make it. If you have a few bucks to spare and want to help make a dream come true for some hardworking elite little league players, I'd be ever so grateful. Thanks!

The 2010 Hill Country Hurricanes!

By the way, the page is still under construction. The P.O. box for mailing a donation will be coming soon, and more of the boys' names will be appearing shortly. The PayPal option for donations is up and working, though. Thanks again!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Way to Man Up

During a week that contains a holiday, things get odd. Last night, out on our street, I had the conversation that I thought I'd have a lot more frequently when I started this stay-at-home dad thing. I've actually only had it a couple of times in the two years since I started. The father of the kids two doors down from us was out watching his 7- or 8-year-old daughter.

"I guess my wife's decided to let her roam around the neighborhood by herself," he says. "I don't really agree with that, but..." He trails off, sounding wistful.

"There's lots of kids in the neighborhood," I say, not knowing quite what else to say.

"So, did you get a few days off this week to spend with your son?" he asks.

"No, I spend every day with him."

"Oh. Got laid off, huh?"

"No, I stay home with him full-time." I answer. Now he's the one who doesn't know what to say. And then, because I feel like I have to justify myself, I add, "I work a couple part-time jobs nights and weekends."

"Oh," he says, and conversation comes to a halt.

During a holiday week, it's much harder to play "Spot the SAHD" at the playground, too. There were lots of dads at Central Market today. Stay-at-home and otherwise. One dad was kicking a soccer ball with his kids, and without hesitation, Thumper ran right into the middle of their game. It was one of those moments when I wonder if I should stop him, but then I don't. Will they be annoyed by him getting in the way? Will he take a shot to the face? If I have to take him to the emergency room for a broken nose and tell the story of how he got it, will the doctor wonder what kind of idiot I am that I couldn't see that coming?

So he runs into the middle, and everyone is kind and patient with him. They lightly kick him the ball now and then, and encourage him to kick it back. He runs and runs, chasing the kids who are chasing the ball and yelling as they yell. Eventually, inevitably, the ball hits him in the back of the head and lays him out, face first. The other dad and I both run over, and Thumper just lays there for a moment, stunned.

I help him up and ask, "Are you OK?"

"Yeah," he says, and claps his hands together, brushing the dirt off. He looks a little dazed, but after a few seconds, he's off again, running and yelling.

The boy who kicked the ball runs over, too, and apologizes profusely. I tell him if Thumper chooses to run into the middle of a soccer game, it's bound to happen. It wasn't the kid's fault.

"Geez," the kid says. "He's tough!"

"Wow," the dad says. "Not even one tear."

And part of me, the part that believes in gender equality and the acceptability of boys crying, the part that doesn't want to raise him up with a bunch of stupid macho bullshit hang-ups, that part of me is appalled that I flush with pride when someone calls him tough.

And speaking of manly, I'm baking, though not in an apron. I'm making Brandy Snaps, and like most projects I undertake, it's harder than I was expecting. Thank God for the internet, because my Better Homes and Gardens recipe card neglects to mention just how long and at what temperature I'm supposed to bake the batter.

Oh, and this has nothing to do with anything, but it's cute: When we're getting lunch at the salad bar, Thumper sees the gelato display. "Can I have ice cream?" he asks.

"After lunch," I say. "For dessert. But it's gelato." I don't know what the difference is, but the sign says gelato.

He contemplates the stuff in the freezer. "Is it ice cream?" he asks, eyebrows raised and nose wrinkled in puzzlement.

"It's gelato," I say.

"It's ice cream," he says, with a finality that clearly indicates the subject is closed. "I want the pink one."


Brandy Snaps!

Monday, November 23, 2009


I just finished reading Margaret Atwood's Surfacing and listening to the audiobook version of Anne Rice's Christ the Lord Out of Egypt. The one is a haunting tale of a woman's return to the land of the living after years of self-imposed exile after aborting the product of an affair with a married man. The other is a reborn Catholic's imagining of what it may have been like for the young Jesus to discover his own divinity and God's purpose in having him live a human life. Pretty cool stuff, the both of 'em.

As I was reaching the climactic moments in Surfacing while I got paid to sit quietly by myself in semi-darkness and read (I was posted at the doors of the arena to inform patrons who hadn't heard that the concert had been rescheduled to almost two weeks ago; I only had one couple show up on the wrong day), I pulled out my notepad and wrote this:

The lie is that books, that the fictions within them, are Art, are Truth. The truth is that they are small things, trifles. We tell ourselves they teach us something meaningful, that they help us understand the world around us in a deeper way. But the only things we can see in them are the things we already know to be true. When the tone sounds and vibrates through our souls, it is recognition, it is familiarity, that is the hammer striking the bell. What we seek when we read Art, Literature, is not enlightenment, but only validation that we are right to be who we are. Perhaps this is true for those who write books, as well, for if you can read it and recognize yourself and draw comfort from the recognition, then maybe they are comforted that you recognize them as well.

But no; that's only part of it. All things exist simultaneously and each of them is true.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

What Was the Score, Anyway?

It's late on a Saturday night/Sunday morning, and I'm blogging again to stay awake for a bit in the hopes that maybe I won't dream about work all night. Here are some random thoughts presented in a disjointed and aesthetically displeasing manner:

Farewell to another season of football ushering. It was a good time. It occurs to me that while it's true that supervising new employees each week who've never worked a game presents challenges, supervising returning employees who've grown comfortable with their position and their supervisor presents challenges of its own. I love working football, but I can't say I'm sad to see the last home game of the season come and go.

Maybe next season I'll write notes so I won't forget to tell them things during briefing.

The French professor who forced Aerie and me to like each other died suddenly. Three years ago. I've thought of him periodically in the years since we lost contact, and I Googled him now and again. It turns out he died more than a year before I wrote this, in which I should have featured him more prominently. He had a laugh that could send birds fluttering madly from the trees and make strangers many yards away jump in alarm. He, like the incomparable suttonhoo, lived life in a way that I admire, with art and books and food and travel as his meat and his bread. He was a joy to spend an evening with, and the world is not a better place with him gone. Bonne nuit, Monsieur le Docteur.

Well crap, now I'm feeling sort of morose again, as I was last night when I heard about the good professor. Uh, hmmm, a cute toddler anecdote... OK, here are some thoughts on the toddler:

I don't know where he learned it, but he likes to clasp his hands together next to his cheek and declare, "I'm the cutest boy."

Cooking has become one of his favorite pastimes. "We can cook," he says. "If we want to. Come on! Sit on the carpet?" He says that a lot: "Come on!" And I realize that I say it a lot to him. His has more enthusiasm, though, and mine has more exasperation. So I sit on the carpet, and he cooks for me. He makes meatballs of the many marbles, golf balls, etc. in his toy collection, or cracks plastic eggs left over from his Easter basket. We make "vegeble beef soup" and cakes and cookies of all sorts. Strings become noodles. "I'm a good cooker," he tells me, and he is. "I'm Iron Chefing."

If the language he uses reflects the language we use, I think we can be happy with our efforts. While I'm not so proud of the "dammits" he throws around, I think Aerie and I can be proud that he often uses "please" and "thank you" unprompted, that when I drum or play the piano or the harmonica or the "phylozone" with him, he tells me "That's a great song, Daddy! Good job!"

Well, anyway. That's enough of that. As I've mentioned, he's brilliant. He's beautiful. I love him. Yadda yadda yadda.

OK, I'm in a better mood now, and I think I can go to bed.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Cognitive Dissonance

So a couple days ago, my brother tells me he heard a story on NPR that mentioned in passing that the price of rice, the world's most widely consumed grain, is set to double. Then today, while on the treadmill at the gym, I see a news story on News 8 Austin that focuses on the Harbor Master of the Austin Yacht Club complaining that he has trouble keeping their docks afloat because rice farmers downstream use the Colorado River to irrigate their crops, lowering water levels in Lake Travis. Somehow, I'm having difficulty summoning up much sympathy for his predicament. He is quoted as saying, "If you just look at the population, we're talking 1.5 billion gallons a day going downstream to support a community the size of, what, maybe 10,000 people, 20,000 people? Versus the 220 million supporting a community of over half a million," Dwight said. "Those ratios are amazing when you think of the number of people and the number of gallons."

Judging by the greenness of my neighbors' grass over the summer when drought conditions were horrific, I'd say that those 10 or 20,000 people downstream growing rice may be putting it to better use than we half million who are growing lawns. And floating our yachts in Lake Travis. Just sayin'.

Thursday, November 12, 2009


Katherine Fleischer Park on Elementary School Field Trip Day can be a treacherous place. All those kids appeared to be doing some sort of math scavenger hunt, running around with tape measures and questionnaires. Thumper followed them around in absolute awe. He went into the little wooden playhouse, and I'm not saying he was pushed necessarily, but he fell off the bottom step of, hmmm, let me see, Google Google Google, ah yes, these stairs. I ran over and scooped him up while two other adults helpfully told me that he fell down. Really? You think so? I laid his head on my shoulder while he made that long, silent, preliminary cry.

You know what turns a laid back, let-him-explore-for-himself kind of dad into a nervous helicopter parent for the rest of the day? Laying a comforting hand on his child's head and having it come away bloody.

It was a small cut, and he was over it in a minute or two, but man, half an hour later when the five-year-old who's been kicked out of three daycares for "aggression issues" decided it was time to "help" Thumper bounce on the rocket, I may have yelled a little louder than was actually appropriate.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Gorillas Touching Socks

So I've kind of fallen off the Weight Watchers dietary wagon lately, but I'm still working out, so that's good. In fact, I jogged outside today for the first time in a long time. The boy's got a bit of a snotty cold that I didn't think the gym child care ladies would appreciate, so we jogged the four-mile neighborhood circuit this morning instead. Apparently all the working out on the treadmill is getting results; the last time I ran the circuit, I was walking three and jogging seven out of every ten minutes. Today I jogged the whole thing without stopping, and knocked six minutes off my best time. Maybe I should start thinking about finding a 5K or (gasp!) a 10K to start training for.

And when I was dressing the boy to go out on our jog, as I pulled his socks on, he said to me, "There's no gorillas touching my socks." Not sure that I heard him correctly, I asked, "No gorillas touching your socks?" "Nope," he said. "Not today."

Saturday, November 7, 2009

That Rodney, He's a Card

So there's this thing that's occupying most of our mental and emotional energies lately, leaving both Aerie and me somewhat useless at the end of the day. The thing is, it's not something I can really write or talk about much; it's a painful family situation that's not my story to tell, but it makes us both sad. And it sends ripples across the family pond, creating other situations that need resolutions. Since Aerie is the World's Most Capable Woman, she's the go-to gal for resolutions, making her more sad, and more tired, and it's just kind of wearing us both down a little bit.

Luckily, the sun may be coming out tomorrow, etc. etc., and everything will be fine, though different. In the meantime, I'm wasting my free time blowing up jewels on Facebook and robbing drug dealers and taking over gang territories on Playstation 2, so I'm not posting much. So here are a couple of amusing anecdotes about my day ushering at the big football game. Smiles everyone, smiles!

So as I may have mentioned, I supervise one of the gates through which students enter the stadium. Rodney's my bullhorn man; it's his job to work the crowd when the lines build up, reminding students to have their student ID's out and working to redistribute the lines evenly. For some reason, whenever people see a line, they think they have to stand in it, even if there are shorter lines fifteen feet away.

Anyway! That's Rodney's job: working the crowd with a bullhorn. I tell him, if the students ask him to use his bullhorn to get a good fight song going, or other school cheer etc. etc., that's great, that's just good customer service, by all means, indulge them. Just never ever, as in never, hand over the bullhorn.

So the rush comes, and I look up, and I see Rodney standing out there, surrounded by four hot, scantily-clad college girls. And one of them is holding his bullhorn. So I go out there and ask him, "Rodney, what happened to not relinquishing control of your bullhorn?" And he grins at me, looks down, and quietly says, "I know. They just smelled so good."

So there's that.

And then! Around halftime I notice a group of adorable little girls in blue cheerleader outfits enthusiastically belting out a cheer routine. I wouldn't guess that elementaries have cheer squads, but they certainly didn't look old enough for middle school. So they're out there doing their thing, and there's a bucket in front of them, and one of their mothers is holding a giant poster board that quite clearly solicits donations to help them travel to somesuchplace or nother for a cheer competition of some kind.

Well, crap.

I know this is not allowed, but I call on the radio for confirmation from my higher ups that I'm going to have to be the heavy here. I describe the situation and ask, "Do I have to put a stop to that?" I get the one word reply: "Yes."

Well, crap.

So I approach the mother with the sign, and I tell her, "I hate to be the guy that has to tell little girls they can't do their cheer routine," etc. etc. "It's against University's Rules and Regulations," etc. etc. "But they can't do that here." She was very nice. She understood. We watched them finish their chant, then she gathered up the girls, who were very excited to be doing their thing outside the giant stadium, and they moved on. I hope they didn't move far, just far enough to be off of University property and still well within reach of lots of potential donors. Or at least out of my sight range.

So there you go. Those are my Bad Guy stories for today. The game was too early and the opponent too unranked for the students to come out in drunken droves, so I only got to anger a mere handful. But at least I got to crush a middle-aged man's flirtations and chase off a gang of adorable little girls.
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