Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The Dude Gives Thanks

With Thanksgiving upon us, I’ve been thinking  about some of the things I’m most thankful for. All of us, no matter how fantastic or awful our lives may be have much to be thankful for.  Even though the backstory of this holiday with the turkeys and Indians and all that jazz is a bit politically incorrect these days, it’s still a great time to be with friends and family. And, more importantly, plan trips to Best Buy at 3am for a $199 HD TV that will probably be both outdated and broken by New Years Eve.

My little family and a new friend.
Here are just a few things I am very thankful for:

·         My son, The Little Dude.  He is the reason I get up in the morning & I don’t just mean because he climbs on me while I sleep.  He has an infectious laugh, fantastic curls and his mother’s patient personality.  And people say he looks like me, which doesn’t hurt his case.

·         My wife, The Dudette.   Her willingness to go above and beyond the call of duty, including while changing all types of doody, really set her apart as a person, wife &  mother.   And her banana bread could bring the Pope to tears.  

·         The rest of my family. All terrific, no matter the situation. Life hasn’t always been a piece of cake for us, and from the look of us you can tell we’ve obviously eaten our share of cakes.  Through good and bad, we have survived. Much like Gloria Gaynor, but actually quite different.

·         Five Guys Hamburgers.  Having lived for 12 years in a city where In’N’Out is hailed as the second coming, it’s nice to have a place that actually makes good food hit the west coast.  And extra thanks to Five Guys for not opening too close to where I live, or else I might weigh 500 pounds.

·         Parks and Recreation. The funniest show on TV always brings a smile to my face, no matter the mood or how late at night I watch it.  Bonus thanks to Nick Offerman’s mustache and Jim O’Heir’s sweaters for pretty accurately reminding me of life growing up in the Midwest even though the show films 2500 miles away from there, coincidentally just a few miles from where I now live. 

·         Los Angeles Traffic.  Though I completely despise you, you make a great excuse for being late that is always accepted unconditionally by other locals. Even if you are stuck on the 405 for 3 hours at 2am on a Wednesday people don’t flinch when you tell them, for they have their own war stories to share of the 101 gone wrong.

·         Southern California Weather.   You can wear a t-shirt and shorts outside in most places in the US during July.  (Except San Francisco.) It’s great living in a place where you can do the same in January.

·         iPhone 4S. Though I was reluctant to get it, kudos to my wife for both pushing me into it and buying it for my birthday and Hannukah gifts.  For the next 3 years.  

·         Diet Mountain Dew. Without you, I would probably fall asleep at 9:30 every night and this blog wouldn’t exist.  Also, my bloodstream would contain a lot less aspartame.  

·         The Penn State Scandal.  While what happened is obviously horrible, it has made the misdeeds by those at my alma mater seem much more palatable in context. 

And last, but not least, I’m thankful for all of you who take time to procrastinate at work and read this blog. Sometimes I wonder if anyone actually reads what I write and then you surprise me with great comments and emails.  I’m very thankful for those of you who have told your friends about me. It’s your support that keeps me going.  Cash helps, too.  Sincerely wishing you  a very Happy Thanksgiving!

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--JJ aka The Dude of the House

Monday, November 21, 2011

Traveling for Turkey

With a long way to go and a lot to see and do, we departed L.A. a few days early for Thanksgiving this year.  Though BC has been to Ohio several times before, his most recent journey was almost a year ago and before he could walk and talk. So we had no idea what was in store for this 4+ hour flight with the Little Dude, but hoped for the best.

A lot of people suggested we use Benadryl or some other sedative to help make it through the flight. But the thing I didn’t understand was if we tried one of those and it worked, who would watch BC for the duration of the flight? We decided to just hope for the best. And bring a lot of candy.

We left the house early and arrived at LAX 90 minutes before our flight.  We checked our bags and headed to security.  With a slew of lines, we were quickly pointed in one direction by the lead TSA agent. After not moving for a few minutes, I looked ahead to see what the problem was. It was then that I noticed that we’d been profiled by security. As parents. We’d been directed into some sort of “family line”, which I guess is intended for people who’ve never been to an airport before and don’t understand how metal detectors work.  After we made it through the line, one of our bags was flagged by the x-ray machine and had to be searched.  The Little Dude’s Elmo sippy cup appeared threatening to the TSA agents.  Fortunately the water inside was non-lethal, which isn’t always guaranteed in Los Angeles.  

For several months, the Little Dude has been obsessed with airplanes.  Any time we see one, whether in the sky, on TV, or even in a book he feels compelled to point it out.  So taking him to the airport was like leaving Kirstie Alley unattended at The Cheesecake Factory. He went nuts.  Roughly every 7 seconds we heard exclamations of “Airplane! Airplane!”.  I tried to explain to him that we were actually going on to be on an airplane shortly, but the excitement continued even after we boarded.  Good thing the flight was only supposed to be 4 hours.

Once we found our row it was a thrill to notice that there was a 3-month old sitting right behind us and a 6-month old 2 rows in front of us.  For a change we could be the dirty look givers, not receivers.   

BC had a good time once he was reunited with an old friend: Elmo on the portable DVD player. Like a lot of parents, I don’t think using TV as a babysitter is a great idea.  More like fantastic! We got to watch several episodes of Elmo’s World and afterward I figured we were almost to our destination. I checked my watch and it had only been 2 hours, with 2 more to go.  Where’s that Benadryl… 

We played games, colored, ate and it was only another half an hour. What to do next? I volunteered for every traveler’s favorite activity: walking the kid up and down the aisle.  Either people are much larger than they used to be or those aisles are more narrow, for even the Little Dude had a hard time wedging through some of the herd who opted to clog up the passageway.

We finally arrived in sunny (I mean grey and cloudy) Cleveland. Since BC had been cooped up for quite a while, we wanted him to get some exercise.  Fortunately, the fine folks at Continental Airlines helped us out by taking 40 minutes to spit our bags onto the conveyor belt.  After a shuttle bus ride that would have reminded me of Space Mountain if it had been a little more smooth, we arrived at the car rental station. Again, we had great cooperation from the Budget agent who unsuccessfully tried all kinds of shenanigans to get me to “upgrade” and overpay for an unimpressive Dodge SUV, so BC got another 45 minutes to run around the rental area.  He got so much exercise that if he ran any more, people might have confused him with Forrest Gump.  

All in all, it was quite a day.  BC behaved very well and we all survived the journey. Even better was right after leaving the car rental place, I had the foresight to order my favorite hometown food to be delivered to our destination and the driver arrived about 5 minutes after we did. Check out this pic of the world’s best fried chicken from Rizzi’s in Copley, Ohio. If you’ve never had it, you are missing out.  And probably much thinner than me.  I’m not a big turkey fan, so now I can honestly say that I ate a terrific bird while on this trip.  Let’s just hope the next few days go as smoothly as getting here.  

Happy Thanksgiving! What are you Thankful for this year?

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--JJ aka The Dude of the House

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Another Birthday

Today is my birthday. In lieu of gifts, please just send cash*. Birthdays have always been a weird day to me.  Growing up in the Midwest and having a birthday mid-November, as a kid I always associated my birthday with the first snow of the season. Maybe that’s why I hate snow. As for birthdays, my opinion is mixed.   

I always wanted to have a summer birthday so that I could be outside or have a pool party or, best case scenario: a pool party outside unlike the indoor pool party I had one year. Like most Midwesterners we went to a community pool where on any given day you could see little kids force grownups to wait around for hours while a miserable teenager cleaned out the Baby Ruth filled water.  OK, maybe that wouldn’t have been so fun after all.  

Instead of a bathing suit I usually got to bundle up in a sweater, moonboots, scarf, hat, and snow jacket to go to my birthday parties.  By the way, some people might call it a ski jacket but along with my dislike of snow comes an inherent aversion to going really fast down a slippery incline while it’s 14 degrees out. Surprisingly, the potential for broken bones and/or maiming doesn’t entice me much either.

I usually got to celebrate my birthday at an exciting location like the Ground Round. The incredibly exciting attraction at that place was that you could eat peanuts and throw the shells on the floor while watching 50-year-old Three Stooges movies. Even as a kid I didn’t think they were funny.

Another local fiesta hot spot was Showbiz Pizza. If you aren’t familiar, Showbiz was where Chuck E. Cheese rejects got shipped for bad behavior. They had those same creepy animatronic creatures who sang while their heads swiveled no more than 45 degrees.  You also got the same crappy pizza as served by Senor E. Cheese. Then again, I don’t think kids under the age of 10 actually realize that any pizza is bad, even if it is literally just a piece of cardboard covered in ketchup and confetti.  At least they had Skee-ball. 

As an adult, birthday celebrations evolve. For several years after college I’d have a birthday dinner with five to twenty-five of my closest friends. You know these types of celebrations.  It usually consists of a bunch of people in an overly loud space with food that takes forever and the honoree somehow ends up stuck at the end of the table. There are overpriced cocktails and at the end of the meal there is major squabbling over the bill depending on which style of “Restaurant Math” is applied.

If you aren’t familiar, there are two primary formulas for calculating a bill when at a restaurant with a  large group.  The one certainty is that both ways irritate the majority of the group the majority of the time. 

The first is “Uneven Division”: this is when you divide the total bill by the number of people at the table.  As a result of this style the people who drink heavily usually come out way ahead of those who arrive late or only eat a salad or entrée.  The second style is “Remedial Adding”: when everyone chips in a certain amount of cash based on what they ate. Somehow this never works out and the pot usually ends up at least 30% short. Even though the bill is self explanatory, someone who ate only a salad ends up paying $50 to compensate for the drunk cheapskates in the group. 

BC was born 9 days before my birthday two years ago so that year my birthday was spent helping him get over the trauma from his Bris the day before. But otherwise for the last several years, I’ve mainly had quiet celebrations with my wife. Since she is a mathematics professional we have very little squabbling over the bill like the annoying situations I described above. On this night, I let her pay.

*= Or if you really want to be my friend, you can “Like” my Facebook or Twitter pages as a gift.  

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--JJ aka The Dude of the House

Monday, November 7, 2011

Get Ready to Rumble

Marathon + Childbirth = Loco

In honor of the Little Dude’s 2nd birthday, I’ve been thinking a lot about the day he was born.  In movies you always see immaculately dressed women’s water breaking in the middle of the street.  Maybe you heard the recent story about the woman who ran the Chicago Marathon and then a few hours later delivered a baby girl. Our story was not hugely exciting like those ones.  Actually it was sort of boring. Relatively.

Because BC had been breach for much of his gestation we scheduled a C-Section in advance. And because we lived 20 miles from the hospital (long story) we scheduled it for a Saturday morning so we could hopefully avoid insane LA traffic.  I already told you about my biggest fear related to the pregnancy in "A Sticky Situation".  Even I think it’s pretty sad that my 2nd biggest fear in regard to the birth was that my wife’s water would break and we’d have to fight traffic on the 405 to get to Santa Monica at 5:00pm on a Friday.

Little Dude ~ 20 weeks in utero. Looks cozy. 
Fortunately that didn’t happen. The whole process was actually pretty painless. For me at least. That’s not to say there weren’t complications. Things actually got pretty scary for a few minutes in the operating room. They told us the whole surgery would take 10 minutes, but it seemed to be going much longer. I thought I was imagining it, like how anticipation makes a short drive somewhere seem like it’s taking an hour. But then I checked my watch and it actually was taking a while.  I heard the doctors conferring and they sounded concerned so I got concerned.  So I did something really dumb.  I looked over the barrier drape they put up so that you won’t look at what they are doing. Bleccccccchhhhhhh.  After all the ultrasounds we’d had over the prior 9 months I thought I knew what my wife’s insides looked like. Boy, was I wrong! I’m not going to get too graphic but now I know to respect the drape and keep my eyes off the prize.  And the intestines on the table.  

The complication was nothing big. It turned out that BC’s umbilical cord was only about 12 inches long and normally it’s double or triple that length. I hope that’s not a sign of things to come for him. Anyway, the doctor was having trouble getting enough leverage to remove the Little Dude from his cozy sac of a home.  I soon learned why the doctor was covered head to toe in saran wrap before entering the OR.  

As I said earlier, when people give birth in movies it’s always way over-exaggerated. There was one thing that you see in movies that I actually wanted to do.  In movies the father always gets to announce the baby’s gender. We had waited 39 weeks to find out the baby’s sex and I wanted to be the first to know. Or at least one of the first two. Nope. That was squelched when the anesthesiologist had to open her big yapper and say “oh, he’s perfect” after the OB had finished playing tug of war with my wife’s uterus.  Of course the anesthesiologist was the person who made sure my wife didn’t feel anything that happened that day so I couldn’t completely despise her. But I was pissed. Of the 7 or 8 people in the room, I was 7th or 8th to find out.

Once everything was OK the nurses let me cut the umbilical cord, have a photo op with the Little Dude and take him over to my wife so she could see the fruits of her labor, sans labor. The end result was that my wife did an amazing job of laying on the table and we suddenly had a beautiful baby boy.  Everything went smoothly, we eventually picked a name and now two years later we have a toddler. I can’t imagine life without him, nor can I really remember life before him: BC, BC if you will.    

BC - just a few minutes old 11/7/09
BC - 2 years - 11/11

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--JJ aka The Dude of the House