Thursday, September 15, 2005


In Which We Dive Head First...

When I was in college, by the greatest stroke of good fortune, I managed to acquire a second-hand video camera, something I would never have been able to afford had I not got such a great deal on it.

I loved that thing, and at the time I naturally assumed everyone around me loved it too.

For example, I frequently drafted my best friend, who I roomed with for two years, to star in my spur-of-the-moment productions. He'd be minding his own business, doing homework and I'd show up in his room and ask him to host a cooking program ("Here, put this cake in your underwear drawer. Careful! It's still hot."). Or he'd be playing his guitar and I'd decide to do an adventure show and train the camera on him ("You're the balladeer, like the narrator on Dukes of Hazzard. Sing something!"). Or perhaps he'd be enjoying a rare quiet moment with his girlfriend, and I'd appear out of the closet with yet another asinine request ("Okay, arch your back a little more. Come on you two: Let's see that strong, pure, love...thing!").

My pal always went along with it, and I just assumed he did so because it was as fun for him as it was for me. It never dawned on me for a second that he was instead a good friend with a superhuman reservoir of patience for my bullshit with the camera.

So I hope it will bring a smile to his grizzled old face to know that, finally, on the weekend Her Lovely Self went off with the Yummy Mummies, I got my comeuppance. In an injudicious moment, I had shown Thomas how to operate an old digital camera we have, demonstrating how to take both still and moving video on it. His learning curve on the technology was about 3 millimeters long. By dinner, he was snapping like crazy with the thing (any of the posted pictures here in which he doesn't appear are likely ones he took himself. And he even took a few of the ones he does appear in. I never knew the camera had a timer).

When I had finally trundled everyone off to bed, I left the camera in Thomas' room, figuring that, like my kids, I wouldn't see it or them again til morning.

But then the Brownie awoke in the middle of the night for what had to be the world's longest tinkle (she can, of course, take herself to the bathroom any other time, but not in the dead of night). And I can only assume that the intoxicating pleasure of an empty bladder when straight to her head, because then she wouldn't go back to sleep.

"Dad, let's stay up all night and have a lumber party!" she whispered. And I would have, you know, but all the saws and axes and plaid shirts were out in the garage. So I patiently led her back to bed, then turned to go off to my own.

"Smile Dad!"

There was no flash of light, but the shrill cry from the dark hallway right in front of me made me jump about 12 feet backwards. Thomas stood there in his jammies, pointing the camera at me.

He fiddled with the controls. "Hey, the picture is all in the dark," he moaned.

Picture's not the only one, I thought groggily. "Thomas? What are you--? It's, like 3 AM."

My son interrupted me with a high-pitched double beep. I can only thank God he hadn't figured out how to turn the autoflash back on. "Hey, it's doing video now!" he said. "But it's still dark. Let's turn on the light. And let's get the dog too! Blazey!" He plunged off down the hall in the direction of the lightswitch.

And I thought, So this is what it was like to live with me in college.

I caught Thomas before he blasted my retinas with bright hallway light and promised him he could take some pictures in the morning. This placated him--barely--and he went back to bed.

For exactly two hours and 52 minutes. When I said "in the morning," Thomas must have heard "at the first particle of light to cross the horizon."

The next words I remember hearing were, "Dad, say cheese!"



When she saw it later, the Brownie said, "You have good eyes, Daddy."

"Thanks," I said. "Bet you didn't know I could sleep with them wide open."

What the picture doesn't show, incidentally, is that I wasn't alone. Not by a long shot.

Because about an hour after the world's longest tinkle, I awoke to find myself smothered in stuffed animals--the Brownie's entourage, still warm from the dryer. At one point, my daughter herself was lodged halfway up the back of my t-shirt, one of her tiny arms sticking out the neck of the thing, like a bizarre periscope coming out the back of my head. I couldn't move for fear of rolling and crushing her.

But I had to move, because directly opposite me, on my Her Lovely Self's pillow, clutching the camera and blubbering moist bubbles in my face, was Thomas. How does a kid get such awful breath? I marveled. I reached out to move him, and my hand hit something cold and wet. Thomas was sleeping on top of the dog, who was UNDER the covers, head under the pillow, nose sticking out by Thomas' head like...well, like a periscope. I dozed again.

Until the CLICK! awoke me and I saw Thomas standing more or less on the headboard of the bed, looking straight down on me.

Helluva wake-up call.

With the Brownie still asleep, I extricated myself Houdini-like from the Bed of A Thousand Creatures, and went downstairs to get coffee. Meanwhile, promising to be quiet and not wake his sister, Thomas busied himself snapping pictures of the dog out in the hallway.

No sooner was I down in the kitchen taking the first sip of life-giving coffee and surveying the congealed dishes from last night, when I heard a blood-curdling cry of pain and ran back up.

Thomas and the dog stood by the side of the bed, the camera forgotten for the moment as they watched the Brownie in surprise, since she was now awake and making like a little screaming alarm clock.

"She just woke up and started yelling!" Thomas shouted over her. "I didn't do anything."

I tried to calm the Brownie down, but she was agitated, thrashing in the sheets, crying in obvious pain. "What is it, honey?" I begged her.

When she looked at me, she seemed more furious than pained.

"My BUTT hurts!" she bellowed.

Oh no.

"Do something Dad! Her crying is making my ears fall off!" yelled Mr. Sensitive.

Well, all I can plead in my defense is that it was morning and I was completely without a clue. Really, non-specific ailments of a butt-based nature are not my department.

My mind raced (well, not raced. It was early). Is she constipated from the milkshakes and corn dogs and chocolate? Nah, not that.

Is she having sympathy pains for the dog and his poor ol' bunger?

God help me, is this...some kind of...of GIRL thing? Is she feeling
not so fresh? What am I gonna do if it is? I'm not an original equipment owner here!

And I'm not a squeamish dad when it comes to problems of a, um, delicate nature (or a gross one either). I've changed plenty of diapers in my time, and not just the Number Ones and Number Twos. I've changed Number Threes (forget changing the diaper, you have to change the baby's clothes) and Number Fours (you have to change your clothes too). I've done my tour on vomit detail. I've dealt with freak accidents involving private parts, too. If your toddler son is unfortunate enough to shut his tiny scrotum in a dresser drawer, I'm a pretty useful guy to have around for humorous distraction. And also for figuring out how to get a Band-Aid to stick there.

But this...

Well, after a long, teary interlude--for all of us--I reverted to basic training and pretended we were dealing with diaper rash. I soaked her in the tub. Thomas wanted to document the event, as though it were an episode of some medical drama, but instead I sent him and the dog to the guest room to retrieve baby powder and soothing unguents from the old dresser in there. I coated the Brownie good and figured that would keep her until the local authority on the matter returned later that day.

(Yes, yes, I'm sure I handled it all wrong, but it was a triage situation, people, and it worked. Although even now, I have no clue what precipitated this mysterious case of non-specific buttitis, or what its final resolution would be. Later, Her Lovely Self started to talk about a whole catalog of problems, including remedies involving Vaseline, anti-fungals and plain yogurt(?!?). But, really, I heard all I want to hear. We'll just say the Brownie's perfectly fine and put this, er, behind us.)

Between my bruised hip and the Brownie's ailment, we didn't feel like running around outside or doing much inside either. And I didn't want to be the star of some new documentary--My Dad, My Couch Potato, perhaps--so instead, we played an obscene amount of video games and were soundly beaten time and again by Thomas.

If butt-based problems render me utterly useless, video games can be counted on to reliably induce a feeling of decrepit obsolescence in me. Like the camera the day before, Thomas learns to navigate new games with drop-jawed ease. It's like he's got a built-in WiFi connection to the things.

I, on the other hand, spend half of any given game running full-tilt into doors that won't open and flailing off of catwalks. When my on-screen opponents crash in for some digital mayhem, I instantly launch a devastating series of attacks on any nearby crates, barrels, chairs, and curtains, before accidentally shooting my sidekick. Then some passing alien death ray reduces me to a skeleton and it starts all over again.

After a few hours of this, even I felt slothful and loathsome enough to do a little exercise. So I rolled one of our giant bean bags into the middle of the family room floor and we had a diving contest. Naturally, the camera came back out for the event.


As you can see, Thomas displayed excellent form, getting good clearance, and finishing with a tuck-and-roll that earned him high marks from the judges.

The Brownie, however, having significantly shorter legs, and being unable to run due to butt-related complications, wasn't quite able to actually leap into the bean bag.

Fortunately, her trainer was there to help. Even though he was favoring a hip injury, he displayed good attitude, if not good form.


In the end, the dark horse of the competition--the dog--won paws down with a terrific four-point landing from the direction of the sofa.

Sadly, it happened too quickly to photograph.

While we were having a post-event round of juice and granola bars, I realized with a slow-dawning horror that I had pretty much run out of ideas. Not to mention corn dogs. And ice cream. And chocolate.

God, what do I do now? I wondered.

Well, I guess my old pal God was listening, because as we were finishing our snack, the door opened and in walked Her Lovely Self, still looking pink and well-steamed from her hours in the hot tub (but did she have pictures to show from her trip? Sadly, no).

My children abandoned me like I was a hulled boat.

"We missed you SO much!" cried Thomas, There was a flurry of hugs and kisses from the kids, and it was all so sweet and idyllic, watching them reunite with their mother after the traumatic 36-hour separation. I just sat there, covered in granola crumbs, grinning like a fool at my great good luck to have such a wonderful family.

Then Thomas drew a deep breath, and said in a gush, "Dad tried to make all our friends clean the whole house, so they ran away! Then he made me put a bunch of wet animals in the laundry. And clean up the whole kitchen table! And he let someone paint the wall!"

"And my butt hurts but Daddy didn't do anything! All's he did was play video games and watch TV!" the Brownie chimed in.

They say nothing you ever do for children is wasted on them, but wasted was pretty much the only word coming to mind right then. I didn't even try to mount a defense.

"I'll just be in here if you need anything," I told Her Lovely Self, as she was quickly engulfed in a babbled (and rather editorialized) version of the weekend. I walked into the room where the dog was dead asleep.

And in a moment, so was I.


Did I mention how glad I am that I showed my son how to use the camera?

From Somewhere on the Masthead

I'll bet you're glad the weekend is over, but not so glad that Thomas has the camera.

Ok, great. Now that Her Lovely Self is home, can everybody PLEASE put on some clothes?

It's been three days of chocolate, corndogs and underpants.

Ok, I'll admit it, my jealousy has turned to bitterness. What of it?

Pass the mustard.
Haha the shot of you and The Brownie mid-dive is a classic! Thomas is such a natural with the camera. The shots are all framed so well!
As an x-gymnast I must applaud Thomas' form as well as yours. Good job Dad and good night. Sweet dreams- you earned them.
I'm exhausted from your weekend!

Your kids will remember all the fun with Dad. It's just more important to get you in trouble first, that way, the little stool pigeons have plausable deniability. HLS is way too smart to fall for that though.
The lumber party line is an instant classic. The house looked kind of messy. I hope you helped HLS pick up. I also must concur on the kid's breath thing. Yeesh. What the hell do they eat? Poop?
The beanbag pic was great, but the shot at the end of you sleeping was my fave. Thomas definitely has lots of artistic talent with the camera in addition to his drawing skills. Glad you had a fun weekend!
you had it easy with the camera wake-up. my dad made the mistake of introducing us to the bugle.

LOL-- you sure know how to recount a story! Hilarious! :-) These are read-aloud treasures-- Thank you.
That first picture just made me think of Richard Mayhew. XD Thomas is really good with that camera!

Such a busy weekend. Even if the kids did rat you out. X3
oh my god. i just spewed hot coffee OUT MY NOSE when i read this post. how unattractive. that was too funny. oh dear, its on my keyboard now. must go.
thanks for the tip, now I know NEVER to lend my son my camera!
My favorte - I love lumber parties. I wish I had corndogs at my lumber parties.

It worked. Brownie is truly sawing logs at the table.
okay, payback time --- coffee did indeed come out of an orifice or two, but I am wearing black, so it's not so noticeable ....

are the three of you on a detox clease?
Sounds like you had a great time with the kids...
God love you, Magazine Man. I love how much of the story you always tell us. It's like we live with you.

Only we don't have to clean anything.
Ahh, camera's a beautiful thing, isn't it?!
Aw crap. This means there will be some serious badness headed my way when my kids learn to use cameras.
Thomas is wonderful--is there anything that boy can't do?
Video games and bean bag diving. Definitely the best way to spend a weekend.
I feel Thomas is a kindred spirit with the camera, too. I can actually hear my friends roll their eyes when I get my camera out!
Geez am I the only one who saw those beanbag pictures and thought to scold you about broken necks and poking eyes out and such?!

I must be getting a little too... vintage. :)
what a wonderful post! you write really well and it's a pleasure to be able to see a glimpse into your life. :)
Depression setting in. Numbers way down on Site Meter. Can't stop checking. Have begun checking other people's also. Must check yours, can't, not allowed. Help me!
Reading about your days is like spending the day at the best amusement park- you live in the Fun House.

What a perfect dad you are- will you adopt me? I can promise that I will most likely never have any Number Fours.
Those 'action shots' are killing me. Kind of reminds me of how video cameras and early-teen-aged-boys and skateboards seem to go hand-in-hand. On my way home tonight I walked past some kids with an intricate, elaborate (and incredibly precarious) ramp set up in their driveway, getting ready to immortalize their fellow beginner skateboarder as he jumped into...well, glory, clearly.
I have hear of "cat nap", but think the new term here on the "dog nap with pop".

Enjoy your blog!
I've been working through your archive for the last couple of days but this bit "Dad, let's stay up all night and have a lumber party!" she whispered. And I would have, you know, but all the saws and axes and plaid shirts were out in the garage." just killed me. I love it (and I've still got nearly a year to go!)
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