The Adventures of Lap Child & Super 80!

Harvey Millican:

Throwback as I’m once again traveling between the same two airports. Enjoy, and perhaps I’ll bang out a sequel.

Originally posted on Harvey Millican: Raising Your Kids Without Lowering Your IQ:

Tonight, my dear ones, I am back in the air. I write this from about 35K ft and somewhere, from the looks of it, over the northern reaches of Virginia. The pilot informed us we had a “strong tailwind” so that means we should be landing in the Fatherland within the half-hour. While I’m sitting here I thought I would write a purely fictional account of my travels aboard this swingin’ luxury jet. Then I realized the truth was stranger.

20121120-025211.jpgFirst of all, the MD-80 (also known as the Super 80) is the workhorse of this particular airline’ fleet. I do believe it is the only plane I have ever flown with them, and I’ve flown quite a bit. In fact, if you live within a hundred miles of DFW International Airport, this one airline is pretty much the only game in town. My wife and I happen to live…

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How To Father A Daughter

Again, this is not that kind of advice.  I mean, really, for that one just make sure only to fire off the Y’s and not the X’s.  Or is it the other way around?  No matter. I’m here to talk about what it’s like to be a father to a precious five year-old girl.

My kids have busier social calendars than…  Crap, I can’t think of someone with a busy social calendar who’d also be relevant today.  I was going to say Ivana Trump but who’s heard from her in like a decade, right?  My two angels have piano and violin lessons, art classes, basketball, ballet.  And that’s just on Tuesday’s.  Imagine my horror, then, when Daughter recently expressed a desire to…

“I wanna’ do gymnastics!”

OK, well first, it’s “take” gymnastics but I suppose we’ll see what we can do.  And of course my wife, the most wonderful of women, found a local gymnastics class where the first month of classes were free in order to discern whether this was something we actually wanted to pay for.

And being the good dad I am, this meant I got the chance to run out the door on a Saturday morning to “do gymnastics”.

I had not nearly enough coffee.  I was wearing jeans and a tee shirt.  My baby girl was wearing something quite different.  In fact, I’m not even sure where she or my wife found such a combination of clothing.  Just as I was calling out to her that we needed to leave; she presented herself to me in what looked like puffy shorts and a unitard — all in five different shades of lamé.

“Sweetheart…  You look like a backup dancer on Star Search.”  She looked puzzled.  “That just means you look beautiful as always!”

We hopped in the minivan and drove across town, stopping at the library first to drop off some overdue books.  Along the way my daughter, excited and nervous at the same time, spoke up from the back.

“Daddy?”  “Yes, baby,” I said.  “I love you.”

Forget the coffee.  Life is beautiful right here.

We got to the gym and…  You know what?  Let’s back up for a sec, OK?  That last exchange is why I live.  OK so…

What am I doing here and where’s my coffee?

I signed her in and she went with the coach across the floor while I watched from the bleachers.  For the next hour I watched as my daughter followed along with four other girls.  They ran and jumped and that was about it since it was a beginner class.  “You’re doing great girls!” shouted the coach.  From my seat I interjected (somewhat under my breath) “Only another few years and you’ll be slightly taller than a primordial dwarf with no sign of menses in sight!”

Maybe I should have had more coffee.

And then there was the music.  It wafted toward my ears softly at first.  What is that playing, I wondered.  But it became all too clear.  It was Call Me Maybe, the repulsive pop ditty of a few years back.  After a few minutes it was evident that I’d be trapped in Carly Rae Jeppsen hell until the girls came off the — wait, what is that thing?  Looks like she’s got rappelling from a rock wall.  OK, I’m impressed.  On the music front, it got worse.  It wasn’t Jeppsen.  It was… Kids Bop.  How about I stand under that rock wall and one of you kids could fall on me?

Time was winding down and it looked like I’d escape my Saturday morning with a shred of dignity.  And then I got a text from my wife.

Can you stop at the address below and pick up two 50 lb. bags of san mixed with chicken manure?

Little Miss Solid Gold came over to me and put her shoes on.  She had enjoyed herself.  I strapped her into her booster and we drove off together.

“Um, this isn’t the way home…” she said.  “No, sweetheart,” I replied.  “We have to pick up something for Mommy.”  She thought about that and then asked “What is it?”

“Just a few hundred pounds of chicken shit, dumpling.”

I then explained to her that Mommy is gardening and that chicken waste was apparently good for plants.  She wasn’t buying it.  Neither was I.  And so we both started laughing, my little gymnast and me.

The sand and manure mixture.  Heavy stuff, that chicken poop.

And with a enough poultry poop to fertilize the Adirondacks we drove home laughing.  And when the laughter stopped she did it again.

“I love you, Daddy.”

I love you too, sweetheart.  I love you too.

Realizing You’ve Been Punked by Your Dad… 32 Years Later

In looking for some background information for my most recent post I uncovered something remarkably evil.

My father totally pranked me when I was six and I’m just finding out about it now.

Ages in Chaos

So that book, Ages in Chaos?  You remember, the one he told me he had read when he was my age.

Yeah…  It was published for the first time in 1952 when Dad was 16.  I bet he laughs about that little joke to this day.

I may yet inflict harm on him.

How to Father a Son

I know what you’re thinking.  And if you want that kind of advice [on how to father a son, or daughter for that matter] then you might want to check out Wikipedia, Urban Dictionary, or, well, just go ask your parents.  There is always the ultimate option of “finding these things out on the ‘street'”.  Ooh…  Sounds positively dirty.

What I’m talking about is being a father to one’s son.  And I have just the story to share on the subject.

A few nights ago my wife had to go out for a few hours.  She left me with the usual instructions.  “Make sure Son reads two chapters from his book to you, make sure Daughter takes her shower, and carve that turkey on the stove.”  Yeah, I’m still puzzled about the turkey.

I got this, I thought to myself.  They are, after all, my kids and I’m pretty decent at taking care of them.

I proceeded to tackle things in reverse order.  The turkey?  Well, he was pretty tough and I couldn’t find the electric carving knife so I gave up.

Daughter’s shower?  “Sweetheart?  You stink.  Hit the showers!” I called from the kitchen while placing the tin foil back over the turkey.  Done.

“OK, Son, where’s that book?” I asked.  He approached me with a copy of something called A Cricket in Times Square.  Looked simple enough.  The pages were small, the text was big.  I hate crickets but I love Times Square so maybe there would be a balance.

The thing is that Son began to mildly complain.  “Daddy, this book is sooooooo big and I want to watch the Turtles!”  I laughed out loud at the thought that Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are still on the air.  “Listen young man, quit complaining and let’s get it knocked out together.”

While we sat on the front porch together, he reading and alternately asking me how to pronounce difficult words like Connecticut, I sipped my glass of wine and realized how much fun this is.

And the experience conjured up an isolated memory in my mind of my own dad and his quirky awesomeness in how he fathered me.  I’ve got to find a different phrasing for that.

I was six years-old (same as my son is now) and my dad was home so it was either a weekend or he took some vacation time.  For some reason he decided I needed to read a book.  I’m guessing it was a Sunday and football was on.  Did he hand me The Cricket book?  Nope.  My savant-esque, genius of a dad placed into my hands a gem called…

Ages in Chaos: A Reconstruction of Ancient History from Exodus to Akhnaton by Immanuel Velikovsky (1952, Doubleday, 350 pp.)

He claimed to have read it when he was a boy of my age and was fascinated by.  The book, for the record, weighed more than my head.  The first thing I noticed was the lack of pictures.  The second thing I noticed were the handwritten margin notes penned by my father and dated 1820.  OK, so he’s not that old.

For the next three hours I slogged my way through the first five pages.  As you might imagine the text is dense and the words near-impossible for the average six year-old to digest.  But, the old man had told me to read the first chapter and being the obedient son I was, that’s what I did.

Bringing the book back to him I awaited his round of questioning to insure that I had read this piece of crap wonderful work of scholarly scholar-ness.

“Son,” he said, “Give me your summary.”

I stared blankly for a moment before attempting to string something cogent together.

“What in the hell are you talking about?!” he finally said.  “What were you reading?”

“This book,” I replied.  “This… Ages in… Chah-ose.”  And that’s when he realized that I hadn’t a clue what I was doing.

His next clue came when he began to ask about the Middle Kingdom of Egypt and its “garbled history”.  Again, I attempted an answer that made no sense.

“Where exactly were you reading?” he asked.

Ages in Chaos

Now, my veracity called into question, I boldly yanked the book from his hands and, grabbing the first few pages between my thumb and index finger, I exclaimed: “This, Dad, the first chapter!”

He wasted no time.

“Son, that’s the damn foreword.”

And with that we gave up.  I never did read that book though I did study the art and archaeology of the ancient Near-East as part of my religious studies degree.

Coming out of my trance, I looked down at my own little boy.  “Cuh-NET-i-ket, Son,” I said.  “Huh, Daddy?”  “It’s a state near New York.”

He looked at me like I was crazy and returned to his book, clearly having moved several pages ahead while I was daydreaming.

And as he continued reading about the cricket I returned to my thoughts.  So he challenged me.  I seem to have turned out OK.  God bless him.  From that one experience I at least knew there was an ancient Near-East.  None of my friends knew that.  And he did discuss that book with me as time went on, though I never read it myself.

But to this day I have never read the foreword to a book.

And I still chuckle ever time I hear the word chaos.

A Preview of Things to Come (And An Inside Joke)

Someone figured out how to get pictures back into his posts…

Thank you, Debbi!

To kick this off (anew), I visited a place this morning where the Rolloff’s practice gymnastics.

Moon Madness or My Life Among the Crazies

We had been hearing about it for some time, this lunar eclipse.  After attending a Good Friday liturgy last evening I even mentioned it to my kiddos.

“Who wants to see the eclipse tomorrow morning?”  They both sounded excited in their response even when I told them they would have to rise before 6:45AM.  “Yes, Daddy, we can do it!”

Something strange happens to both man and beast, though, when the moon dips in and out of earth’s shadow.

At precisely 5:46 this morning my Jack Russell started going bonkers.  This was not the normal “wake up and let me out into the yard” type of barking.  I got out of bed and stumbled to the back door where I watched as the dog bolted past me.  He ran ahead a few feet and then simply stopped and sat, eyes fixed toward the western horizon.  I looked up with him and saw it.  There it was; a bright yellow disc with a big bite missing.

“OK,” I thought, “give the kids about an hour and then this thing should be in full swing.”

The time came to wake them.  I tried gently waking my son.  “Don’t you wanna’ go see the eclipse?!” I said, channeling what I thought would be my six year-old boy’s excitement.  FYI, it’s not hard for me to channel that since I very often have the mindset of a six year-old little boy myself.

He rolled over and mumbled something about sleep and how he’d rather stay in bed.

Let’s try the girl.

“Sweetheart,” I said, “Do you want to see the lunar eclipse?!”

She was a bit more expressive in her hatred for my actions.  She was also a bit kinder too.

Opening her bleary hazel eyes she looked intently at me.  Actually she was squinting because she didn’t have her glasses.

“No!”  She rolled over and then back toward me.  “What’s a eclipse again?”

Never missing an opportunity to set my children up for success from a grammar standpoint I replied: “An eclipse, sweetie, and it’s when the moon goes inside the earth’s shadow.”  She thought for a moment.  “No.”

To hell with them.  I’ll watch it myself and then they’ll be sorry.  Yeah.  I’ll show those two.  I’ll even get a picture.  A great big selfie with the moon!

Only, when I stepped on my porch this time I could not see the moon.  They did say it would be low on the horizon.  I got in my car and drove around.  The problem was that the sun had already made her way mostly over the eastern horizon.  No worry, though, as the meteorologists had promised this thing would be visible.

A moment later I had found it.  And I found myself in a neighborhood 7-11 parking lot staring at it.  It was beautiful, though not as impressive as I had hoped.  They promised this one would be a “blood eclipse”, that the moon would be cast in shades of crimson by the diffusive light.  Still looked kind of yellow to me.

In fact, it looked kind of white.

After five minutes my wife texted me.  “Where is it?  I’m at home and I don’t see it.”  I wrote back that it was there, just low in the sky.  “I’m looking at it right now,” I said with an air of superiority that I alone of our family had resolved to see this thing.

Boy won’t they be sad they missed this.  They totally missed their chance to see a neat little white disc get gobbled up by a dark shadow.  They will not be able to say “I saw that little disc that doesn’t appear to be moving anywhere.”  Come to think of it, shouldn’t it have set a little further by now?  That’s OK.  It’s the moon.  It can do as it pleases.  It can reverse course for all I care.  I’m the one looking at the eclipse, not them.  Ha!

I felt confident in my astronomical photography skills enough that I aimed for another picture.  As I adjusted the camera on my iPhone something came into focus – not only in my mind but also on the screen.  I asked myself aloud:

“Since when has the moon been propped up on a 30-foot pole?”

And then like the sun speeding into her place in the sky at my back, it dawned on me.

I had spent fifteen minutes of my life staring at a tornado siren in the distance.

Dejected, I drove home.  Along the way I came to some conclusions.  First, we need a doggy-door.  Second, despite my lunacy (did you catch that?) the moon can still do as she pleases.  Finally…

The children must never know.

For You, Daddy

Tonight my son lead all five decades of the holy rosary. The Lenten prayer intention for our family prayer time tonight was for yours truly. I asked him “Son, why did you want to lead the whole thing?”

“Because, Daddy, it was for you and I love you.”

That was about the nicest thing anyone has ever done for me.  I love that boy.