Sunday, October 30, 2011

You Make Me Sick

Just 10 days shy of the Little Dude’s 2nd birthday we had a big “First” milestone this weekend. And everyone has been shocked to hear that we got by this long without it happening already.  After skating by for 721 days unscathed BC somehow managed to acquire his first fever. 

We took BC to the park on Saturday morning where he ran around for a while and went on the slide about 62 times.  We hoped to tire him a bit before taking him on a really fun errand: quality time at the Sprint store.  Obviously we didn’t spend enough time beforehand at the park, because he proceeded to run around the store and pick up chics for 2 solid hours afterward. And I got to be the chaser.  

Needless to say when we left the store, I was tired and hungry.  But I’m an old Dude.  I looked at BC in his car seat and his eyes were glazed and he was starting to doze off, which is not something he normally does in the car. In fact he rarely does it when we want him to (like on a long car ride), but sometimes does it when we don’t want him to, like in this circumstance before lunch.  I reached back and touched his leg which felt like it was on fire.  If it was any hotter I probably could’ve fried bacon on it.  

When we got home, I dug the infant thermometer out of my makeshift medical kit. The only other things in there are a couple Q-tips and a pack of Juicy Fruit* so it was easy to locate. We’ve used it a couple times when we thought he was sick, only to be disappointed by a reading of 98.6. One thing I’ve learned about kids and thermometers: they generally don’t get along.  

*Side note, what kind of fruit is Juicy Fruit supposed to taste like? I've never figured it out. 

Knowing he wasn’t feeling well we thought he might be easygoing about having his temp taken  this time. In the past he’s acted like fraternity kid on a mechanical bull: flailing and bucking to the best of his ability but in the end standing no chance against the bigger stronger opponent.  Nope, same thing.  

The unfortunate thing about trying to take a 2 year old’s temp is that he doesn’t understand that he could be dealing with a much less attractive option.  Since he’s not quite old enough for the oral thermometer the best option is under the arm pit.  Well, actually the doctor said there is a better option in terms of accuracy but it’s really not a better option for either the child or the parent. Or the thermometer.

We finally got the reading and it said 101. Uh oh. Weekend plans were suddenly 86’d. Too bad, because we were supposed to go watch the Ohio State/Wisconsin game at a Badger friend’s house.  I missed my chance to rub Buckeye victory in her face.  

The strange thing about a sick kid is he doesn’t know he’s supposed to change his routine and relax.  If an adult discovers his temp is even 98.7, he’s going to call off work for 3 days. With kids you need to lasso them in to force them to chill out.  I learned that Popsicles make good lure.

After sleeping for 11 hours overnight I figured he’d be feeling better today, but alas the temp lingers.  He ran around this morning like Lindsay Lohan at Kleptomaniacs Anonymous. Full speed.  He normally naps for about 3 hours. Today I spent the better part of 2 hours getting him to nap for less than 1. Clearly not effective nap time for him -- or me.  After trying to get him to nap for that long, I suddenly needed one.

Halloween is looming and I don’t think he knows what’s at stake if he’s sick. My chocolate supply for the next 3 months.  So I hope that he gets a good night sleep and tomorrow feels like a brand new Dude.  

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--JJ aka The Dude of the House

Monday, October 24, 2011

All By Myself

I’ve learned that a lot of people don’t like doing things by themselves. They get freaked out or nervous or scared. Me?  I have a great time.  Whether it’s going to a movie or a restaurant or the mall, I really don’t mind.  I don’t want to give you the wrong impression, though. I’m not anti-social or a hermit or a leper. For the most part.

I don’t mind being alone.  I lived alone for two years in college, which was quite different from many of my friends who shared houses with 9 other Dudes.  I’m the youngest of three siblings by several years so my brother and sister were in college before I was even in high school. When I moved to California a dozen years ago I lived with my brother. Technically. Really he spent most of his time at work or his girlfriend’s house so I had the run of our 900 square foot palace including my luxurious futon and papasan.  I guess that worked out for everyone since they've been married for over a decade. Sadly the futon and I went our separate ways a few years ago.
My first home in Los Angeles: 802 West Knoll

SS and I have co-habitated for nearly 6 years.  It took a lot of getting used to for a variety of reasons but I’ll get to that in another post soon.  Over the last almost-two years however, I never knew I could enjoy living with someone as much as I do.  It’s cliché to say that since BC was born, my whole world has changed.  Not only is that very true, but so has my general outlook on life. And not just because his fingerprints are usually all over my glasses.  

Given the nature of my occupation, I’ve been fortunate to spend more time with my son than most fathers do. And it’s been great.  Even when he’s screaming like Richard Simmons at a glitter factory, I know what to do to make him laugh and suddenly everything is OK with the world again.  Sure, I could do without an extra person in my bed at around 6:30AM and the “Little Einsteins” playing in the background of my waning moments of slumber. But I wouldn’t trade it for anything.  

So in an interesting twist my wife took the Little Dude to see her sister, brother-in-law and our infant nephew in San Francisco recently.  If you know me well you know I loathe the Bay Area but will go for a few days to see family every so often.  Or if I'm promised pizza. I had a conference to attend in LA so I couldn’t go with them on this trip (DARN!) but I figured I’d be so busy that I would hardly notice they were gone.  I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Their trip was 5 days long and it felt like 50. Yes, I talked to them every day and Skyped a few times but we were on different schedules and it seemed like different planets.  I had obligations to occupy me during the days, but at night when I’m usually the Dude on Duty (and often doody, too) I was a free man.  I didn’t have to worry about slicing turkey dogs into bite size pieces or giving bubble baths or watching Elmo. Well, at least for BC, that is.

Sure, I got to watch whatever I wanted on TV and stay up as late as I desired, but there was an obvious void around the house.  I had the dog to keep me company but she’s basically an 8 pound lump.  Regardless, I figured I could work on some blog posts, catch up on some other projects,  get some sleep  and generally have a mini-staycation.

Free time never quite turns out to be as free as expected for me though. My car had issues.  I had to attend the conference.  I had to work. I intended to do a few important tasks around the house that needed to be done: cleaning, laundry, sleeping. Of course that stuff all got put off until the night before they returned. Somehow after a couple days, I thought I needed 5 or 6 more to get caught up on life. And when I went into BC’s room to straighten up, it hit me how much I really missed him.  Sure, getting drenched during his bath and having to chase him around afterward while hoping he won’t pee on the floor aren’t my primary ideas of fun. But either is chasing the lunatic dog around at all hours of the night because she guesses (wrongly) that SS is coming to rescue her from my evil grip as though I was Buffalo Bill and she was Precious. 

This trip was the longest period that I have gone without seeing BC since he was born.  When he returned he seemed like a different kid. He said new words. He ate new foods. He seemed taller. It had only been 5 days. I can't fathom what it will be like when he goes to college.

While I was glad to have a little free space for a few days and reminisce about my days of bachelorhood, I was happier to have my Little Dude back in the chateau doing the things he does best: poking me in the face while I’m sleeping, spilling Cheerios all over the floor and grabbing the dog’s tail then squealing in delight. I was very glad to have him back. Not sure if the chihuahua would agree, though.

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--JJ aka The Dude of the House

Monday, October 17, 2011

Small World? Yeah Right

A friend recently gave us tickets to take BC to Disneyland for the first time.  My wife had been very excited about his first time and wanted to make it special. As a SoCal native, going to Disneyland was an almost-annual rite of passage to her while growing up.  This trip would mark my third time there over the course of more than 3 decades.  I was happy to go, but I was more excited to not have to blow $200 just to walk in the front gate. 

The tickets we received were for a special Halloween event at the park.  I wouldn’t realize how fortuitous that was until later, though. But before we got to the good stuff there was a long road ahead.  Our tickets didn’t allow us to enter prior to 3:00pm, and the festivities began at 6:00pm. The catch was that BC usually naps in the afternoon from roughly 2:00-5:00pm.  We faced an interesting conundrum. If we waited until after his nap to leave our house we wouldn’t arrive at the Magic Kingdom until at least 7:00pm, which wouldn’t leave much time for the park.  But if we didn’t give BC a chance to nap, it was possible he might turn into Regan from The Exorcist.  

We took a leap of faith and left the house during what would have been BC’s naptime, hoping he would sleep during the 60 mile drive. He was about to fall asleep after 15 minutes when some putz cut us off, forcing me to slam on the brakes, which jolted BC back to life like Elmo on Meth.  Sigh. I had a feeling it was going to be a long day.  He finally fell asleep for the last half hour before we arrived in Anaheim.

When we parked and got out of the car, we were in an unfamiliar place.  And I don’t mean the parking garage the size of New Hampshire.  BC had taken the short road to Crankyville. Uh oh.  Would that short nap end up biting us in the Goofy? Only time would tell. 

Time spoke quickly. When we got on the tram to the park there was one child who stood out among all the kids on the train, screaming his brains out. Yup, my kid was “That Kid”.  I was put in an unfamiliar situation  because I’m usually the first person to give That Kid’s parents dirty looks while they scream in a restaurant or mall.  There was only one thing I could do in this scenario. Pull down my hat and hide. And try to spot another “That Kid” whose parents I could berate with my eyes.

My last visit to Disneyville was for SS’s birthday 8 years ago. She’d been there countless times so I let her lead the way.  We headed straight for It’s a Small World.  Once we sat in our little boat, BC’s eyes seemed to light up as he assessed his surroundings.  Suddenly we began to move as the song began to play over and over. And over and over.  The world didn’t seem so small after listening to that song for 15 minutes.  After I minute or two though, I had déjà vu of having been there before. My mother took us to Disneyland when I was a toddler and as I sat with my son in my lap, I flashed back to the moment I first rode that ride.  So much seemed familiar, and not just the song, though I don’t remember seeing Woody from “Toy Story”  there the first time around, circa 1979. Not sure why though.  

Since BC is still a little Dude our selection of rides was somewhat limited. We took him on Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, Alice in Wonderland and a few others.  The principle is pretty much the same for all: Get in a too-small vehicle for our group, get jerked around in the dark, see some scary looking creatures in bright colorful outfits and exit leaving semi-nauseated.  Sort of reminded me of prom night.

One cool thing about the Halloween event was that they had trick or treat stations scattered around the park.  I expected it to be a crappy mix of apples and pennies, so I was pleasantly surprised when it was the real deal.  And they weren’t stingy. But for some reason I kept getting the repulsive Almond Joy, until I started saying “Twix or Treat” to the workers.  Each station also had a healthy option for kids, like Craisins or carrots.  Because that’s what kids really want.  

As we waited in lines throughout the park I felt something I hadn’t felt in years. No, not joy.  Thin. If you ever want to feel good about your body image, go to Disneyland. Unless you are the size of Dumbo, there are thousands of people there who will make you feel svelte. I kept looking for Jillian Michaels & Bob Harper because it seemed like I was at a tryout for The Biggest Loser. 

As the evening progressed, we were having a great time. Other than his overtired outburst on the tram, BC was perfect all afternoon. And he was rewarded accordingly. Of his own volition. It only took BC 4 seconds to grab & unwrap a Banana Tootsie Pop from our Treat bag, though it took him half an hour to devour it and drip slimy banana goop all over his shirt.  

On our way out, we wanted BC to have a memento of the day, so we sought a pair of Mickey ears. After locating and trying them on, we settled on the adult size which was a hair too big for his melon and curls. Since he’s almost 2, I bet he’ll grow into it. Or we can just let his ‘fro expand accordingly.  

All in all, it was a fantastic day. We were able to crank through the park in 5 hours and avoided traffic both ways. And most importantly, BC had a blast. Actually, most importantly, BC fell asleep on the way home and slept till 8:00 the next morning.  And I figure that based on my established pace, I’ll look forward to going back to Disneyland sometime around 2033.

Thanks for reading The Dude of the House! Tell your friends... 

--JJ aka The Dude of the House

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Monday, October 10, 2011

A Sticky Situation

Though I’m a big Dude, I have to admit there is a certain tiny object that I have an enormous phobia of.  As long as I can remember, I’ve had a fear of needles. It’s not something I have any control over but if I see a needle headed for my epidermis we’ve got problems.  

What kind of problems? Well, if I get too good of a view of the needle there’s a good chance I’ll start getting clammy hands. If the nurse doesn’t move fast enough, my forehead will begin to perspire. So on and so forth. It’s just not a good situation. It’s an involuntary reaction that is irreversible. Not that I have any real desire to start watching people get jabbed.

Over the last couple of years I’ve been exposed to many more needles than I ever anticipated.  It all started when SS got pregnant.  When we’d go for her monthly OB checkups, they always had to take her blood.  Blech. As her pregnancy progressed the doctor was concerned that the baby was going to be a giant like I was (as I wrote in “Can I see some ID?”) so there was a risk of gestational diabetes. Honestly, I think I was more at risk for gestational diabetes than SS was, given the amount of comfort food I ingested during that 9 month buffet of fun.  We had to go in three separate times for her to get tested for the diabetes. She passed every time.  If passing is not having it.  

I was very concerned before the delivery about the epidural SS was going to receive. We had a scheduled C-Section, so it was a matter of when it was going to be performed, not if.  My concern was two-fold. First, just the thought of her getting a needle inserted into her spine literally made me want to vomit.  Second, I thought I would have to be there by her side as it occurred.  I was relieved when the anesthesiologist told me that I had to wait in another room while she poked that silvery slice of pain relieving goodness into my wife’s back. But only because if I had been there with her, there’s a good chance I would have missed the delivery. Because I was passed out cold on the operating room floor.   

One of the most difficult things about being a parent is watching your child when he is in pain. I learned that quickly when literally moments after birth, the nurses started sticking, poking and prodding my son. And I said “my son” instead of BC because he didn’t even have an official name yet, that’s how fresh out of the oven he was.  

Over the last couple of years, I’ve been exposed to many more needles than I could ever imagine. Starting at two months old, BC started receiving his immunizations at the pediatrician’s office.  I have to admit, his reaction to the shots has been as good as they could be.  Every single time he’s cried for 30 seconds or less and that was it.  Obviously we know where that calmness comes from and I’ll be the first to admit it’s not from me.  

This might all date back to a traumatic incident from my childhood. At my first visit with a new pediatrician, when it was time for my annual booster shot I refused. Surprisingly the doctor said that he would wait until I was ready. I assumed he meant a minute or two. Then he got up and left the room.  And made me wait for an hour.  My mother was not happy.  With the doctor who acted like a jerk. So when he came back and asked if I was ready, I decided to spite him and said no. So I had to wait another half hour.  And this was before the advent of Angry Birds. Finally my mother convinced me to just get it over with and that was the last time I saw that (idiot) doctor.  His bad attitude made me want to stick a needle in his…tires. 

Shortly after BC’s birth, something unexpected happened.  The pediatrician told SS & me that we needed some shots, too.   My Little Dude was born during the Swine Flu epidemic in 2009 and you probably recall that it was very communicable.   For his safety, we needed to get the Swine Flu vaccine, the regular Flu vaccine and the TDAP vaccine.  That was more shots than I’d had in years. Intentionally.

But now the pressure was on. If I refused, I would possibly be putting my newborn at risk if I came into contact with a sick friend or a large meat lover’s pizza.  We told the doctor that we’d do it. For SS, it was obviously no big deal given her recent history as a pin cushion. So I let her go first.  Have you ever noticed how fast those pediatric nurses maneuver? They’re like snipers protecting the president.  

Before I could even debate the issue in my head, it was my turn.  My mind was racing: should I back down and put BC at risk or face the humiliation of nervosity caused by a small piece of metal? I could feel my palms moisten.  And as I tried to come up with a good reason not to do it, my newly installed parental instinct kicked in and I acquiesced.  I got the two flu vaccines, one in each arm. The nurse then covered the wounds with SpongeBob band-aids, which I must admit looked mighty impressive on my bulging biceps.  

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--JJ aka The Dude of the House

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

What is a Dude?

While at dinner recently with my wife and son and another couple and their two kids, an interesting question came up.  While the wives were making sure the kids were eating, the husband (we’ll call him Doc) was asking me about this blog. He posed a question that really intrigued me and captivated us throughout the meal. The question Doc asked was “What is a Dude?”

Since I am the “Dude of the House” he wanted to know what constitutes a Dude and distinguishes him from the average “Man”.  Full disclosure: when I first started writing, my original handle was “Man of the House”.  Then after a little online research, I discovered that “Man of the House” was a super-lame movie from 2005 starring Tommy Lee Jones* where (according to IMDB): “A Texas Ranger must protect a group of cheerleaders who have witnessed a murder”. Because that happens a lot in real life. 

My first thought was that a Dude is a guy that you want to hang out with. But why?  Doc and I started discussing the criteria of who is a Dude and what constitutes a Dude and we came up with a few ground rules:

The Dude abides. 
·          A Dude is independent minded.  He’s confident, not afraid to be a trail blazer and marches to his own drummer.  I think to anyone of my generation, there is one man who comes to mind when you mention the word “Dude”.  Without a doubt it’s The Dude. Duh. Jeff Bridges’ Jeff Lebowski never hesitated to wear his bathrobe while cruising around LA and carrying his Ralphs’ card as his only ID. He stood up to Walter and was not afraid of the nihilists. And when he got jerked around by The Big Lebowski, he simply chose a replacement rug and made it his own.  
·          A Dude is cool without trying to be.  On the great “Modern Family”, of the six main male characters there are two Dudes. You might think that Phil is one, but he is clearly not.  He really doesn’t possess any of the traits I listed above and he follows his teenage daughter’s boyfriend around like a lost puppy.  I wouldn’t mind hanging out with him for comic relief, but he’s not a Dude.  The real Dude is Ed O’Neill’s Jay (and not just because of his name).  He owns a successful business, married a woman much better looking than he is and is open minded & clever enough to subtly reason with his crazy family. This is not O’Neill’s first brush with being a Dude, as Al Bundy was also one but for reasons more like the aforementioned Mr. Lebowski .

·         Age is irrelevant to Dude-liness.  The second Dude from Modern Family is Rico Rodriguez’s Manny. Even though he’s a pre-teen Manny fences, drinks espresso and wears a burgundy dinner jacket on a regular basis. He’s also not afraid to pursue the older girls that he is attracted to, even though one of them is his 17 year old step-niece and another was in her 20s that he met in an online forum. Never change, Manny. 

      Another person for whom age has no bearing on being a Dude is Jack Nicholson.  Jack is still as much of a Dude now that he’s in his 70’s as he was when  during the 70’s.  He’s still the kingpin, the alpha dog and the guy who spends $5,000 per game to sit courtside at the Lakers’ games while wearing his shades.

·         Dudes are real people, too.  My explanation has mainly talked about fictional Dudes so far, but there are plenty of Dudes in real life too.  Our two most recent ex-Presidents are both Dudes, but very differently. Bill Clinton was a smooth character who redefined the public face of a politician when he played the saxophone on  the Arsenio Hall (who is not a Dude) show. Born poor in Arkansas, he ate at McDonalds and overcame rumors of infidelity to become the most powerful Dude in the world. His successor, Dubya, is a literal Dude but mainly because he lives on a ranch in Texas.

·         Women can be Dudes, too.  Melissa McCarthy in “Bridesmaids”. Enough said. 

Pop culture is where we find many of our Dudes these days.  Dr. Drew tries to be a Dude, but falls way short. Yes, he hangs out with rock stars, acts hip and can sort of relate to the younger generation, but he’s also the most vanilla looking guy on earth and just thinking about him makes me almost doze off. 

At the end of the day, your Dudeliness is what you make of it. You can be a free-thinker, independent and a revolutionary innovator and still not be a Dude. Just ask Mark Zuckerberg.  Yeah, he’s the world’s youngest billionaire but he also ripped off the Winklevosses for hundreds of millions of dollars. Not cool. And he keeps changing how my Facebook page looks, which is also not cool. 

In my house, there are two Dudes. I’m the Big Dude and BC is the Little Dude.  He’s not even two years old yet and he already regularly flirts with women 10-20 times his age while out and about.  I guess I’m a good Wingman for him, which is another important trait for a Dude to possess.  Over time, I will teach him the ways, but like Mr. Miyagi to Daniel-san, it will be so smooth that he won’t even realize he’s being taught.  

So after much thought, I’ve learned that Dudes come in all shapes and sizes, colors, sexual orientations, religions, etc. There is no hard and fast rule but one thing to keep in mind when you’re trying to figure out someone’s status:  If they fall short of being a Dude, they are just a Dud. 

What do YOU think a Dude is? Who are your favorite Dudes?

* Tommy Lee Jones played Dudes in both The Fugitive & No Country for Old Men
**Special thanks to MK for the thought provoking question that inspired this post**

Thanks for reading The Dude of the House! Tell your friends... 

--JJ aka The Dude of the House

I am participating in the Dude Write Starting Lineup this week where you can find some excellent posts by bloggers who happen to be dudes.