“Yes, they are my new glasses, gentle please- give them back to me please.”
“Neeeuw ghasses Papa!”
“Yes buddy, new glasses- they are Papa’s- No! No! Don’t bend them like that please! Those are my new glasses!”
This is not the first time this scenario has played out in a week. You’d think I’d catch on, but this kid is sneaky. We might be playing with trains on the floor or reading a book and he’ll nonchalantly nudge closer to me, acting all affectionate-like, and then boom! He lunges at my glasses and grabs them off my face like one of those 25 cent sticky hands snapping a sheet of paper.
This time we weren’t doing either of those things- this time we were playing karate man. Karate man is a game consisting of me saying “Heeeee-yaaa!” and either lightly hitting or kicking him as if we were in a very important karate match. I just realized how bad that sounds when I write it out. It’s actually very disciplined, and honestly, I’m barely touching him- but at lightening speed.
Trust me, it’s not a one way match mind you- he retaliates. He comes at me with kicks announced with “Hheeee-hha!” Sure, his kicks are slow and drunk, and most don’t land- but he’s learning the sport. And he practices a lot, mostly on our new refrigerator- he walks right up to it and points at it, “Nuuee fwidge,” then karate mans it with his chunky foot, “He-haaa!”
“Okay buddy, can I have my glasses back now please? Please?”
He holds them up proudly in his fat greasy fingers like a new shiny trophy, “Neuww ghassis!”
“Aw please buddy, just give them back- I need them to see.”
He points to my eyes, “Iiiiyeeeeeees! Tuuuuuee iiyeees!”
“Yeah buddy, two eyes. How about those glasses, huh?”
“Bubo. Yes. Two eyes. Can I have my glasses back? Please.”
He ignores my plea. “Alright Bubs, I’m gonna count to three, and then you NEED give them back, okay- I’m counting to three. ”
“Tue iyeeeeeeeeees,” he points.
I honestly began this withoutthinking about how it might end. But how can it endreally? I’ll tell you how- it ends with mewith my glasses on my face- that’s the only way this ends- I mean, I started counting- I’m a goddamn disciplinarian now.
Upon hearing “one” he furiously hits his belly button with my glasses, “Whaaann beeeboe!”
I hold back a proud smile and feign furrowed eyebrows.
“Whan nosssseeee,” he points to his nose.
“Twooooooooo,” I draw out.
But really, I only have one more digit to count and then he finds me out- I should have counted to five- he’ll comply though, right? I mean, I‘M COUNTING- that’s real. Kids know that’s real. But what do I do if he doesn’t let them go? I can’t grab them out of his hand- he’s holding on too tight- He knows! He knows I got nothing!
“Tuueee feeeet! Whaan, tuuuee… tuuee feet!”
All those books I’ve read over the last couple years on child rearing and disciplining- none of them prepared me for this moment- sure, follow though on your directives they said- set boundaries- let your child use his whole brain or some shit like that- what they don’t tell you is how to take your glasses out of your toddler’s hands when he’s holding them hostage! This kid is not showing any signs of budging- in fact- he’s just smiling at me like he knows something I don’t- like he’s got me right where he wants me.
So this is how you’re gonna play it, huh Arlo…
We size each other up with our eyes and I give him a moment to decide our fates.
“Heeeeeeeeee-Yaaaaaaaaa!” I resort to my secret karate man move left only for rare situations like these. Palms up, both my hands sink into either side of his neck. It’s his most ticklish spot- he has no defense for this move- in fact, he loses all motor skills and his chin rolls clamp down on my hands and he throws my glasses. He has no choice but to giggle uncontrollably until I relent, which I do after a few moments of listening to his contagious toddler laughter.
He recovers. I pick up my glasses and look at them. Other than looking like they’ve just been slimed, they survive another attack.
“Good god kid, we’ve gotta wash your hands!”
He pops up and scampers down the hallway to grab his hand washing chair.
I clean my glasses on my shirt and listen to our dining room chair being dragged across the kitchen to the sink, while he sings out the new family motto, “Wash haaands! Wash haands!”
Arlo said his first curse word today. Shit. No, I’m not saying shit because he said a curse word- I’m kinda proud actually- but that’s what he said- “shit”- with fantastic pronunciation by the way. I could blame it on his weekend away in Idaho visiting his grandparents- but I think he and I both know it came from an incident this morning- he was starting to fuss and wanted out of his highchair. I told him “Just a minute buddy, I have to clean up all this shit that you threw on the floor.” And then he said “shit”.
It’s a pretty clear cause and effect. I have nobody to blame but myself. It’s funny, a month or two ago I stopped listening to rap around him unless I could find edited versions- I didn’t want Kendrick and Mac to influence his speech- and they didn’t- I did. I’ve been trying to tone it down around him and I don’t really curse too much in front of him- actually, I only realize I do when Kylie is around and her eyes meet mine after I slip- her eyes can say a whole lot- her eyes can curse.
As you might have gathered, Arlo is repeating words now. I wouldn’t call it talking- it’s more like commanding. He points and says “water” (wah wah or awah). Or he points to the fridge and says “cheese” (sheezz). Or he points to the cabinet and says “cracker” (Krah Kah). He says “dada”, “mama”, and “mamee” for Mazzy. He recently started pointing at the moon (Mmnn) and stars (staahs) in the night sky or when noticing them in books. He seems to understand almost everything. I ask him, “Arlo, where’s does the poop go?” “Potty,” he replies, pronouncing it, “pah-yee”. I can tell him to put his diaper in the trash and he either takes it to the bathroom trash can or to the kitchen where it has a 50/50 chance of going into the trash or the recycling. I guess he doesn’t understand everything though- he still throws food on the floor when I tell him not to.
Anyway, he has a whole slew of words and seems to learn ten more everyday- like I said, today we started with four letter words. But he does have a very favorite word right now. That word is “Vacuum”. He says “AcK uUUuum”. And I have to write about it because this one has been around for almost a month now- that’s right- a month. And it’s not just the word that he’s obsessed with- it’s the actual vacuum.
At this point, every morning, just after waking up in his crib he says “Ack uUUuum” and points to the hallway. Our vacuum lives in a tiny closet in the hallway, and since Arlo can’t reach doorknobs yet, he enlists our height to open the door for him. Sometimes he nudges the vacuum out of the closet himself but usually he directs one of us to roll the vacuum to the living room where he can admire it throughout the course of the day. At some point during the day he likes to have it moved into the kitchen, or into his room.
He calls it by name every time he walks by. He might stop and press some buttons or flip some levers. Sometimes he hits it with its own accessories like the brush attachment. But if you tell him to give it a hug he blushes and shyly walks up to it- he sticks out his butt and puts the vacuum between his hands and rests his cheek on the dust reservoir. If we are out and about and and I tell him it’s time to go home he automatically says “Ack uUUuum”- sometimes he follows it with “Mama,” but not always.
Today I walked into his room and he was pretend vacuuming Mazzy with the wand attachment- making the vacuum noise with his mouth. Mazzy didn’t look too appreciative- Arlo does get a little aggressive with that wand sometimes. What’s ironic is that Arlo is actually scared of the vacuum when it is running- so much so that he needs to be picked up or worn in a backpack. Even if I just start walking the power cord over to the outlet he will freak out. It’s quite the complicated relationship.
I don’t know what Arlo’s attraction is to it. Maybe it’s because without the towering handle it’s about the same size as Arlo- it’s short, round, and a little bulky. It does almost look like a robot- kinda like a white R2D2- but Arlo doesn’t even know the concept of a robot yet. I don’t know, maybe Arlo yearns for a sibling so bad he has made up an imaginary one. Hmm… I guess while we are on this topic what a great time to make an announcement…
Arlo met his new cousin Desi in September! He was born August 30th. We made the trip to California to meet him when he was about six weeks old. Up until Arlo’s vacuum infatuation he had an infatuation with babies- It took Arlo a few days to warm up to Desi- he was a little scared of him- but very concerned- if Desi was in the same house with Arlo then Arlo would make sure to check on him multiple times to see where he was laying, and then usually just point at him and say “baby”- actually, just like he does with the vacuum. Hmm. I didn’t get permission from Desi’s parents to post a picture of him so I’ll just post a picture that portrays the love between Arlo and his uncle…
Well, that’s it, just a quick one today- my new goal is to write more posts- but shorter ones- ones that I can start and finish in a nap time. This one fell close to that, but then he woke up, and then I couldn’t get back to it for two days. So we’ll see how it goes.
I was planning to end this post by sharing a lesson I learned recently- I’m not going to tell you what the lesson was now, but I will say it had an accompanying photo of a wall in Arlo’s bedroom. The wall had a three foot vertical streak of poop that led down to a full diaper sitting on the floor. I will spare you the details and the actual image only because I would feel like I have cheated you if I left you with a disturbing picture like that instead of a more relevant one like this…
I’m sure all parents have a little bit of fear about how their child might turn out as an adult- or just as worse- an adolescent. I mean, could I really still love Arlo if he turned out to be a dickwad like Justin Bieber? I know I am supposed to say I will- and I will- but will I?
I remember seeing Justin Bieber on The Today Show when he was really young. His mom was his chaperone and she did most of the talking for him. Honestly, Justin seemed like a sweet little boy with an amazing voice. Excuse me while my embarrassment fades following my admission of watching The Today Show one time ten years ago. Hey, Matt Lauer was still cool then… No he wasn’t.
Anyway, back to the point- Justin Bieber is a dickwad. So, Arlo, if you ever come home with any haircut resembling Justin Bieber’s, I will punch it off your head.
Well, except for maybe this one- you can slide with this one.
Sorry folks, sometimes I digress. But lucky for us, I started with my digression today- I have a more serious type of fear to tell you about. I don’t even know what to name it- I don’t think anxiety would be correct- I’m not walking around feeling anxious all the time- it’s deeper than that, like way inside of me and most of the time it’s hard for me to recognize. It’s not necessarily worry either. I don’t know what it is- I know it’s there though- and it first started happening in conjunction with fatherhood.
I’ve never been one to live with much fear- being who I am I have always been overly cautious- meaning why should I be scared if I’m so careful. Ever since I was a kid, I have always taken too much time to analyze a situation before taking action- I think that’s why I could never learn to ollie. Instead of actually trying to ollie with the skateboard, I would sit and stare at the board and try to figure it out in my head- I mean why fall over and over when I could just figure it out in my head first- that approach probably ended my professional skateboarding career.
I can’t say that I have never really avoided dangerous things either- I mean, minus the ollie- that was just a case where the cost/benefit of ollie(ing) for the admiration of friends did not outweigh the possibility of broken bones (which I still have never had to this day).
I have done semi-dangerous things though. I motorcycled for a while- once even back and forth across the country. On a separate occasion however, I did have an accident with a pickup truck- it ran a red light- and I ran into it (that was five minutes from home though)- it totaled my bike and I got pretty banged up- but I bought another one and rode again. But I don’t ride anymore though- I traded that in for a welder (which can be dangerous if you look at the light).
I also fought forest fires for six seasons. While doing that I did not have an incessant fear like the one I have now. For the most part I felt safe while doing that job with the exception of a couple occasions. But there was never a wiggling seed of fear buried deep within me like there is now.
Here, I’ll give you an example by telling you what happened a few days ago…
On Wednesdays during the summer in Missoula there is an event called Out to Lunch. Arlo and I check it out about every other Wednesday. We like to dress up in bright outfits, ride our bike there, listen to whatever live music is going on, and split an açaí bowl while we people watch. Yes, we both like açaí bowls- we eat more than just sardines together.
Well, this story is not about the event itself, but what happened on the way there. We ride the bike path from our house to downtown- it’s probably three miles- it cuts straight through town at a diagonal and we have to cross many busy intersections and end up on the riverwalk. This particular day we were riding we came upon a transient- he was middle-aged and scrubby with sun leathered skin. He was sitting on a bench looking through his bag and talking to himself over the blasting music from his transistor radio.
I remember all these details because when I’m with Arlo I have a tendency to analyze potentially dangerous situations- I usually (always) overanalyze and imagine every possible horrific outcome. (Like I said, I’ve never broken a bone)
Well, as we passed this man he looked up at us and gave me a bit of a crazed straggle toothed smile and said “Hey.” I looked over my shoulder and said “Hey” back and that was that. But then he yelled “Hey!” as if he wanted me to stop- I was ten feet past him now and thought about his crazed smile- nope, not stopping– instead I yelled back “Hey!” again and kept going. And then guess what happened? He yelled “HEY!!” again! I turned to look over my shoulder and he was running after us!
Yeah! With that brief glance I saw he was holding onto his lived-in filthy baggy blue jeans with one hand and his other hand was outstretched reaching toward us- running- not jogging- RUNNING!
I didn’t know what to do except pedal faster- and it’s hard to get some speed going when you are dragging a trailer with a kid in it who likes to collect rocks. Somehow (newfound dad strength) I gathered speed but I had to cross a road up ahead- but there was no way he would/could run that far that fast right? WRONG! He was still running after us- not yelling hey anymore, but screaming unintelligible words! And he was fast! Like former olympic athlete fast!
I readied myself for the road crossing- I either had to cross full bore and dodge a car or two- or slam on the brakes last second- Hopefully it would just be simple and there would be no cars coming and we could glide straight through to safety.
As I was about to hit the road I glanced back- he was still chasing after us and actually closing the gap. I turned back to the road and there were multiple cars coming each way- I slammed the brakes- well, squeezed them- it’s a bike- and there’s not much drama when saying I squeezed the brakes real hard. Anyway-
I jumped off my bike and let it fall- before it hit the ground I lounged for the bear spray I keep in the front of Arlo’s trailer- I stood up while pulling the pin ready to face my attacker who was just upon us.
“Hey man, I think this hat fell out of your bike trailer.”
He had a gasping but soft and reassuring voice. I looked at his outstretched hand that held Arlo’s blue hat. Arlo must have thrown it out when we were passing him.
I looked at the man. I looked at Arlo. I looked at the bear spray in my hand. I looked back at the man. He looked at the bear spray in my hand, “Don’t worry man, I’m an undercover cop- I used to run track.”
I sheepishly took the hat from his hand and put it in the bike trailer. I put the pin back on the bear spray and tucked it away. “Thank you,” I said, “You would never believe what I thought was happening.”
“Yes I can, I’m a father too.” He turned around and started walking back to his bench.
So, that was the happy ending that I just imagined right now while I was writing.
But the ending that kept going over and over in my head that day that I actually passed this guy was him chasing Arlo and I all the way to the river where the only way to get away from him was to plunge ourselves straight into the river where we were swept away to die tragically.
So, yeah, none of that happened except for riding by a strange transient sitting on a bench on the bike path on the way to lunch.
Sorry to take you all the way through that- BUT THAT’S WHAT IT’S LIKE FOR ME NOW IN MY HEAD! And that was truly the only way to make you understand.
I feel a tiny bit slimy and deceitful now. Sorry. Oh- and that’s actually Cate Blanchett, not a picture of the guy I was talking about.
I don’t know where this fear comes from. Maybe it’s biological. It obviously has to do with our new family sect and me not wanting to lose it. Before Arlo, I was fine walking down the street- now when I’m walking down the street I wonder if the next car is going to barrel right over me for no reason whatsoever. Maybe I’m not so crazy to be thinking this way though with all the random acts of violence happening everywhere.
Growing up in California we used to have earthquake drills at school all the time- alarm goes off, everyone under their desks. I’ve heard it’s changed- now it’s active shooter drills- lock the doors and hide. It’s scary to think I’m going to have send Arlo off to school in a few years and he’s going to grow up with these safety precautions as normal. Is he going to come home and ask me, “Papa, why do people want to shoot other people?” Or does/will our culture already have that answer ingrained in a five year old’s head?
Geez, I really just bummed myself out- I didn’t think I would actually feel what it might be like in a few years when Arlo asks me those kinds of questions- but I do. Maybe I’ll explore this topic at a later date, but for now I need a lighter ending…
I know at the beginning of this writing I said I would punch your Justin Bieber hair right off your head. I guess I just meant I don’t want you to become like Justin Bieber- you can still have a similar hairstyle as him. Also, it would be hypocritical of me to tell you that you couldn’t have a haircut like him, because I too, have had a Justin Bieber haircut. In my defense, it was sixteen years before he had it. I’m pretty sure he copied me…
Also Arlo, your Nana made me retake this Senior yearbook photo- don’t know why, but she did.
One last thing- this is how you are sleeping this very moment- it looks like you were struck down by a lighting bolt, and then it just decided to take a snooze on you.
Arlo turned fifteen months old yesterday- that’s right, fifteen- One Five. Which isn’t really all that old- but if you ask me it feels like he’s been around a lot longer. In fact, I honestly don’t remember what my life was like before he was around. I do remember I used to drink a cup of coffee for the first two hours of my morning while looking out the window as the neighbor mowed his lawn (Routine). But whatelse did I do with my time? Really! What did I do with my time? I used to have a lot of it- like an abundance of it- truckloads of it- like if time was money, then I used to make it rain all day and all night.
I honestly wish I could go back in time and arrest myself for time mismanagement- or at least punch myself in the throat and tell myself not to be such an idiot with my time. And what’s up with the gold chains I used to wear- what ever happen to those?
Time feels different now- it goes by so fast… but so slow just the same. The day to day seems somewhat monotonous with not much happening but then I look back a week or two and all of a sudden I have a kid that is walking- full on walking and running away from me- Often I look up to see a poop-smeared-bare-ass running away from me in the middle of a diaper change. When did that happen? He used to just lay there and enjoy a change- now he flips and hees and haws and I have to perform a diaper change like I’m a championship midget wrestler- I mean I have to be- the kid is semi-professional now- which makes me a super proud Papa.
Don’t worry, the tattoo is not real- he just uses it for the show. (No real tattoos until he’s 12 years old- I’m strict on that)
So… um… yeah… thanks for letting me pull you into my gutter fantasy for a moment… but, yeah, he’s walking now- full tilt. I think last time I wrote he was dragging himself around like a sloth- he went from that to some fancy knee crawling for a moment- but then we took him out of town and away from his wheelie bug walkers for a weekend and he just started walking- that was Father’s Day weekend. Now he’s unstoppable- no holds bar.
Last week I unknowingly gave him his last bottle ever- which I am super sad about. Apparently you are supposed to ween kids off the bottle sometime around now for the sake of their growing teeth. Anyway, we went out of town for a long weekend and disrupted our usual bottle routine so he didn’t have one for a few days- which meant it was a good time to just continue the absence of the bottle. Unfortunately, for me, it was my favorite time of the day (except for nap time). It was the one time that him and I could curl up together on the couch- He’d calm down and we’d quietly cuddle while he drank his warm bottle before nap time. Sometimes if I was lucky he would fall asleep on me. Gone now are those days and I didn’t even get to say goodbye. (Insert tear here)
He’s just growing up so fast! (insert another tear here)
He’s even actively communicating now. We’ve been teaching him American Sign Language since he was around nine months old and in the past couple months he has started signing back. He started out saying “more” (which for him just means ‘I want’). His signing vocabulary has expanded to water, airplane, milk, strawberry, cheese, bird, nap time, food/eat, and he signed “dog” today. He signs fishy to me when he wants sardines- his all time favorite food. If prompted, he can also point to his belly, his noggin and Mazzy- and if he’s hanging out with his pants off he can point to his peener- I don’t know who taught him that.
Don’t worry though, he’s not any kind of super child though. He still shits his pants on a regular basis- often twice a day. He also has a terribly annoying scream when he is not getting what he wants. He is horrible at car rides and he turns into a bowed wooden plank when I am trying to put him in his carseat. When he has a tooth coming in he can be a real whiney pain in the ass. And to top it off, sometimes he wakes up with boogers stuck to his forehead. So he still has some work to do.
I don’t know what else to say. His favorite thing to do right now is to walk through the garden and pick ripe strawberries and raspberries- in fact, we were just visiting his grandparents in Idaho and he had a wonderful time picking huckleberries with them. He also loves to terrorize Mazzy. He likes to hang out and look at books- His favorite right now is Cuddly Dudley. He likes to dance to music and clap his hands. He’s becoming something real now, not just a baby that does baby things, but a toddler that does toddler things. He’s becoming a real boy… and it’s happening so fast.
Today Arlo blew the biggest bubble of snot from his nose I have ever seen. Instead of running for Kleenex, I ran for my camera (it was worthy, trust me). But as soon as I got back he gave me a quick smile and smeared it all over his face.
He’s been a little under the weather this month- mostly just a runny nose and a little congestion on some days. He can’t seem to kick it completely- I have succumbed to the idea that he will stay sick until the warm days come back.
Luckily (luckily?) we have a Nose Frida to help unplug his nose. What’s a Nose Frida? Well thanks for asking- A Nose Frida is device used for sucking out snot from a baby’s nose- powered by your own mouth- that’s right- it sucks- I mean you suck- well, I suck. Basically it’s a surgical tube about eighteen inches long with a removable filter at the end of it. At that end, you attach small hard plastic tube that is tapered to fit into the baby nostril. So you put it in his nose, and suck. It’s that simple- except for it’s not- because he hates it- don’t know why, but he hates it. So much so that it has become a game of sneaking up on him to suck his snot. Because he hates it. If he knows what you are up to he turns into “Arlo the Octopus on Meth”- limbs start flailing and his neck begins turning 195º back and forth at a rapid pace. His first words in life will most likely be expletives during one of these encounters. The kid’s got some fight in him.
Oh, are you still stuck on the gross aspect of it? I was the same way, trust me. When the Nose Frida was brand new and still in the box I remember looking at it and saying, “Yeah fucking right- that’s disgusting.” But now… Now I’m like “MY TURN KYLIE!” It’s basically exactly what hunting is like- and baby, it’s open season- I begin by making sure he is upwind and then I get real quiet and low- if he’s on the floor I approach in an army crawl with the mouthpiece in my mouth with the tube dragging at my side. The hard part is springing on him- I have to get both of his arms locked to his body with only one of my arms- leaving my head to pin his head to the floor or my shoulder- If I manage to do that then I have a 85% chance of lining up the Frida to his nostril and getting a clear suck. If I miss my opportunity, I have to pretend I was just playing around and sheepishly return to camp to regroup and debrief.
Sometimes it goes perfectly and there is a moment of pride when I’m walking to the sink to look at my bounty- sometimes it’s a good catch and I feel like I’ve done a good deed- meaning, he can breath happily again. But sometimes there’s not much in the tube and I have to wonder- What went wrong? Did I hit mostly septum? Do I try again? Or maybe he just doesn’t have much in there? Honestly, it’s a very thin line that I’m still learning to walk. I should have it figured out by the time he is fourteen.
OH! But here’s the grossest part, I think they make a Nose Frida for the bum hole.