nav·i·gate - v. nav·i·gat·ed, nav·i·gat·ing, nav·i·gates v. tr. a. To make one's way

Monday, March 09, 2009

Chaos, thy name is toddler.

When was the last time I wrote? January? Strange, but I haven't been able to put words to events recently. Not exactly sure why this is, but maybe it has to do with the fact that:


As I look over all of my previous entries, I find the common thread through them all is one of goodness and wonder and, well, simply an overall feeling that I have something like a grip on this whole business of raising children.

Tsk...tsk...tsk....silly me. In fact, I have been introduced to a whole new spectrum of experience that has washed away some of the naivete that is inherent to anything new we find ourselves involved in. The early days, the salad days, regardless of the details are filled with vigor and an untested enthusiasm. That is until the day you meet reality. It goes a little like this:

Life: Hello there Scott, I'd like you to meet someone new. This is Mr. Reality.

Me: Hi, nice to meet you.

Mr. Reality: You too, by the way I just wanted to let you know that from now on your kids are gonna kick your ass.

Me: ......OK thanks.

The boys are three now. They just turned this milestone a few weeks back and with this age comes their own concept of "self". It's like for the first time they are beginning to realize that they are indeed people with their own thoughts and desires.

How dare they! How dare they have thoughts of their own! Nobody told me that my kids would actually be their own people and not lock-step in behind me, like, all the time!

Life: Uh...excuse me Scott. That's the way it works with raising kids.

Me: Really!!??!! I had no idea.

Life: Yeah, it's in the manual. The How To Be A Successful Parent and Raise Good Children manual. You didn't get it?

Me: You're lying. There is no such manual is there? You're totally making that one up.

Life: Yeah, you're right. Sorry. You just gotta figure it out as you go along. Ask your parents.

In truth, I find it hard sometimes now. The boys test my patience to no end. Someone must have come along and dumped a whole bucketful of self-awareness into them because sheesh, they sure like to talk about themselves A LOT. There is a great deal of "mine!" and a goodly portion of tears when things don't go their way.

Whoever said all of this business about "terrible-twos", yeah well, they must've never had kids. It feels like now that they've hit three that it's all gone a bit more complicated. At the end of it all, I simply want to feel like I'm doing a good job.

In some ways, all that has passed up to this point was just a primer. Now is when the real parenting begins.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Bay Area Christmas 2008

I have never been a big fan of winter.
Growing up as a kid in Florida just knocks the zeal for snowy days right out of you I guess. All those cold temperatures, slushy roads, and wearing far too many layers of clothes simply don't interest me anymore. I suppose that's why the Bay Area suits me just fine. If you want snow that's no problem, just drive a couple of hours into the mountains and you can get your fill of the stuff. Once you're done, drive back home to balmier temps. Very civilized.
On the other hand, if you want to go to the beach without freezing your tooties off you can do that as well here (photo evidence above). Yeah OK, it's not like you can lounge around in a swimsuit or anything, but at least you can be outside at the sea without the risk of hypothermia.

Christmas this year saw my my mother and stepfather come out to stay with us for a couple of weeks. We had the big meals, we opened all the gifts, and the boys are now old enough to grasp the concept that a large man in a red suit will come down the chimney to bring them toys.
That was great. The fact that my sons implicitly believed that in the course of one night a single guy would fly around the world and stop at each and every house to deliver the Christmas goods was pretty interesting. There was not a single question from the kids of how this was possible. The physics of it all were not challenged, they simply believed. How cool is that?
They're still not old enough to get the whole idea of this Santa thing, but next year? Hoo-boy, it'll be full-on indeed.

Through the entire escapade of the holiday season activity and all that it brings, my best memory of Christmas this year though is a little one. A simple one. Something that says more about this time of year than any amount of gifts, or meals, or visits to Santa at the mall will ever convey.
On the day my mom and stepdad were leaving, they were busily packing up and loading the car for their trip to the airport (they were returning back to frigid Michigan where it was like, minus 20 or something with snow up to the armpits - hence another reason I like the Bay Area in winter). There was a lot of coming and going as the suitcases were packed and shuffled out to the car. The boys looked on all of this and understood that Nana and Grandad were leaving.
Now, during the course of their stay my mom and stepdad were great with the kids. They engaged with them as grandparents should and showered them with the kind of attention that only grandparents can. My stepfather spent a lot of time on the floor with the boys playing cars with them. We're talking about a 6'4" man in his sixties rolling about with two little boys pushing toy cars around ..... for hours. That's some real Grandad dedication.
So anyway, as they were getting ready to leave, my stepfather went to say his final farewell to the kids. They gave the hugs and said their goodbyes. As he turned to leave, Finn walked back to my stepdad, held out his arm and said: "Here Grandad, this is for you".
In his palm was a little toy car.
No one told Finn to do this. There was no prompting. It was a simple act of pure giving on his own part. His Grandad had spent all of that time playing cars with him and now he altruistically wanted to give back in a way that makes sense to a 2 1/2 year old. Looking on at this, I felt a tweak in my heart and knew right then that this was the best thing I've seen all Christmas.
My stepfather was a bit surprised as well and didn't know what to do right away either. He sort of went to give the little car to me, but Finn said: "No grandad, it's for you". My stepfather and looked at each other and I told him to put it in his pocket. He did, and Finn went back to watching TV or something.

In a flash that moment was over, but it will stay with me for the rest of my life.
The extra bonus was that all of this happened on a 60 degree sunny day in California. The true spirit of selfless giving AND good weather? Yeah, that's a win.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Post-Halloween wrap-up

When I was a kid, I loved Halloween more than Christmas.
There was something about this holiday that caught me. The spooky, dark side to it simply spoke to me in a way that a fat guy in a red suit who gave out presents never could. That's saying quite a lot as all kids LOVE presents. That whole "better to give than receive" shtick certainly does not apply to a child's worldview.
In any case, Halloween. The autumnal air. Talk of witches and ghosts. The chance for one night to dress-up in a costume and walk around in the dark. All of these things fully sanctioned by parents and adults. It just seemed to good to be true. The collected candy at the end was simply the bonus.

My brother and I would spend weeks deciding what our costume would be for that particular year. With great aplomb we would announce our choices at the dinner table a few days before the 31st. "This year, I am going to be ........... a WEREWOLF!". We would sit back after our declarations with great satisfaction at the wisdom we had displayed to our parents. Who in turn, would smile and then tell us to eat our green beans.
And so, this ritual continued until the age of 13 or so. The time when trick-or-treating feels like the stuff of little kids and no longer appeals. We had a window of about 8 years or so when it did, but although we all end up retiring our candy bags eventually, the allure of Halloween stays with me to this day. I still love it all.
This year was the first time I took my own children out trick-or-treating. Another great wheel in the cycle of life has turned.

Being twins, they both wore the same costume. Not so much because they wanted to, but being the incredibly wise parents that we are (said with tongue firmly stuck in cheek), we realized that at this age if the boys had different costumes then they would inevitably squabble over one of them. So, they were both Spiderman. A good first costume though I would say.
The night arrived and I moved through the same motions that my parents, and their parents before them, have always done. We lit the candle in the pumpkin, we put their costumes on them, and gave them their candy bags. We all set off into the night.
Now, since the boys are still not even 3 years old, I thought it would take some serious coaching to tell them what to do when they got to someone's door. "OK boys, knock on the door, shout "Trick or treat!", and open your bag. When you get your candy make sure to say thank you!". I assumed I would be conducting this coaching throughout the night. Well .....
I suppose that when highly sugared sweets are involved, the learning process takes root very, very quickly. I had to run through the whole trick-or-treating process with my children the sum total of .... once. Man, they got it all very quickly.
We tramped through the night. My wife and I drank wine as we shepherded (it's a word, I actually looked it up) our sons from house to house. When it was time to finish, we guided our little Spidermen home, took off their costumes, and put them to bed.
I can't wait for next year.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008


I woke up this morning to a different country.

A country that spoke its voice, made a decision, and changed history for everyone. The world feels different right now. Indeed, a feeling of hope now exists where there was once only confusion, frustration, and a kind of darkness. The 44th President that is Barack Obama symbolizes many things. It's about more than just one man, but he does carry all of our expectations, and some incredible responsibility sits squarely on his shoulders.

Who is to say how this story will unfold. Perhaps the status quo of politics will mire the message that inspired so many people as his term carries on, but suffice to say, our country changed overnight. A change that I am overjoyed to raise my sons within. They are too little right now to understand what has happened, but years from now, I can point to this day and say that they were alive when their country decided on a different course to follow.

The words aren't coming out right now as well as I'd like them. It's all a bit overwhelming.

So, essentially what I want to say is that for the first time, in a long time, I am proud of America.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Because I said so

On October 23rd, 2008 I spoke those very words.

One of the boys was messing about and getting up to some kind of tomfoolery. I told him to "Stop doing that!".

He looked at me and simply said "Why?".

It was at that moment that the great wheel of parental karma turned a full notch and landed squarely on my shoulders. I uttered this most infamous of phrases so often used by beleaguered parents when their offspring are indulging in nonsensical shenanigans.

It was towards the end of the day, I was tired, and well, ...... I just couldn't help it. Those four words just fell out of my mouth.

So, for this reason, I give myself over to the fact that silly parental logic is simply a shared universal trait that spans all time and generations. We can hide, but it will find us.

I still ain't gonna walk around the house in my underwear though. I always hated when my Dad did that.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Time travel does exist....sort of

There are occasions in life where we are offered the rare opportunity to return back to a certain time in our lives. I suppose for many people this would happen with like, I dunno, high school reunions, or homecoming games I guess.
But as I essentially remain a punk rocker, those kind of events are not the kind of things I participate in. They're too structured, too expected. Although I'm 38 years old, I still rail against certain things that smack of convention to me. It's silly I know. But we are who we are, and I still have a punk heart that beats within.
Last week a band from my "days of yore" played in San Francisco. They're called Radon, and I basically grew up through college with these guys. I was in a band back then as well. We were called Spoke. Spoke and Radon were like brother bands. Based in Gainesville, Florida we as college students didn't have a lot of local music to turn to back then. The town was awash with jam bands and your typical college jangle pop outfits. In the early days not many bands came to play our little sleepy northern Florida town either. In short, we were left to our own devices to make our mark.
Radon and Spoke started out at the same time respectively and, in some ways, were the first bands that unleashed what is now referred to as "the Gainesville sound". I don't really know what that is, and I feel a bit preposterous by attributing my own personal impact into anything musically, but the truth of it was that we all did something fairly miraculuous. We created a scene.
Well, that scene grew and since then quite a few "named" bands came out of Gainesville. It is on the map, so to speak, within punk rock circles and by the time we all left the place any punk band touring that was worth its salt would play Gainesville. Radon and Spoke kinda started all of this. It's weird to write that, but I'd hazard to say it's true.
Incredibly, those days still linger. There are (unbelievably) people out there who still remember the band I was in. We still get played on college radio stations. I've met complete strangers who bought our albums. We did a couple of CDs and a couple of tours, but man, it was all in the name of fun. Guess that somehow just worked.
Radon however carried on in a fashion. They still play shows every now and then. They released a new album last year. I couldn't believe my ears when I first heard it. It's nothing short of a masterpiece.
ANYWAY, these guys in Radon were first and foremost my friends. Everyone who lived in Gainesville back then, and were into the punk stuff, were all pretty tight, but the Radon guys were my good, good pals. I've stayed in touch with them through the years. Our lives all mirror each other's in many ways. Basically, we're all getting older and making our way in the world, but that period of 1990 to 1993 was a kind of magic time for us all.
So, when I got the news that Radon were playing in my own town I was uber-enthusiastic. I knew it would be fun. What I didn't know was how much fun it would turn out to be. It was undeservedly fantastic. Seeing all of these guys in one place again, and playing the old (and new) tunes was almost too much. Like finding a pair of favorite jeans that you thought you lost years ago only to discover that they still fit and are so darn comfortable. That's how the show was. People came out of the woodwork for this gig. I mean, people from my Gainesville past that live in San Franciso and I didn't even know it were there. One fellow flew up from L.A. Incredible.
For that brief few hours, it was our reunion.
The added bonus on a personal level, was that my knucklehead pals in the band actually let me jump on stage to sing their last song with them. It was something that I used to do with these guys back in the day. I say that "they let me", but in truth I think my insistent drunken heckling made them want to do it if only to shut me up. Either that, or they knew that the sight of a late 30's balding guy in a Hawaiian shirt (refer to photo above for comic reference) sreeching out a song was entertainment for the masses.
I like to think they made a wise choice, but regardless, it made my night complete. So anyway, an immense thank you goes out to the Radon fellows. For one night they made it happen. Time travel that is. For a large group of people we were given that chance to recall just how great of a time we had in our youth. And just how great life has become since. We're all able to look back on those days with real fondness, while at the same time, being secure in the knowledge that our lives today are equally as good.
We had a few beers after the show just catching up and telling tales. We laughed a lot. I felt the glow of friendships forged in the years before, yet still remain sound and true. You gotta hold onto those times because they don't come around as often as we'd all like.
It was like medicine for the soul.

Radon are:


Bill and Mike

I wholeheartedly suggest you buy their latest album:

Thursday, September 25, 2008


A pea.

One of nature's most innocuous foods. So utterly non-descript, and dare I say bland, that no one suspects that they are actually the king of vegetable villians.

How can this be? How can something that amounts to basically being a little green sphere of ..... well, whatever peas are made of, be so darnright sinister?

Perhaps the reason rests in the fact that they are the perfect size to fit right up a little kid's nose.

Which is exactly what happened two nights ago. My undeniably brilliant, and certain genius of a son, Lachlan stuck a single darn pea right up his schnoz.

Well, how can that be the fault of the pea? If my child is so dang smart why didn't he have the sense to refrain from placing vegetable matter into his head? It's because those little peas are ... crafty. Yes, crafty. Take a look at a pea sometime. Their innocent little green shapes just rest on your plate looking as if they would never harm a fly. But their innocent appearance belies a dark hidden agenda. They want to be put up kids noses. They cry out for it.

I can only imagine that to a 2 or 3 year old, the mere existence of a pea calls out for some nasal spelunking. "C'mon kid do it, stick me up there, it'll be fun!!!!" It's simply the absolute perfect shape for this activity.

Or maybe not. Maybe peas are indeed non-sentient beings, and my son falls into a long line of kids who just do stupid stuff sometimes. Whatever, the fact is, he put a pea up his nose.

Man, that sucker was right up there. At first I thought I could just sort of fish it out by pushing down on his nose, but nope, it had somehoow gone really far. I got a flashlight and could see its evil greeness (see? there I go again with the dark agenda stuff again) hiding well into his nasal ..... uh... cavity I guess you'd call it.

So, I did whatever any semi-panicky parent would do. I pushed it up into his nose even further. Somehow the logic of this made sense at the time. "If I push it up further, then it'll fall down the back of his throat and he'll spit it out".

But, it didn't work out like that at all. It was just stuck further.

I then did whatever a now medium-panicky parent would do, I checked the internet. Of course I received a bazillion hits on the key word search: "toddler, pea, up-nose". Per usual, the overwhelming first piece of advice from these esteemed medical websites I hurriedly perused was: "Whatever you do, do not push the object further up the child's nose."

Fabuluous. My wife however, was her usual calm self during this whole escapade. She put both kids in the bath (which helped calm poor Lachlan down), left me to look after them, and then went onto the internet to do her own virtual investigation. I imagine her key word searches included the terms: "husband, doofus, remedy".

Whilst in the bath, my pea-inflicted son did indeed calm down and I kept trying to get him to put his finger on the opposite nostril and BLOW! Some seriously ridiculous pantomiming took place on my part. Bless him, he tried and tried, but without success.

I was about to give up hope, gird myself for another trip to the ER (Good evening Mr. Huegel, what dumb-ass thing did you let your kid do now?), and started to finish up their bath. I implored with Lachlan to give it one final shot.

It happened as if in slow motion. A tiny green ball flew through the air and landed in the bath with an unceremonial plop. He had done it. He had ejected the Offending Pea.

I let out a whoop of victory. Victory over vegetables! I was high-fiving myself. I don't know why I did this, but I did. I high-fived my kid. No trip to the ER, no insidious co-pay, no admission of failure. My kid sorted it out himself. I was elated.

My wife came back into the bathroom, smiled and sensibly congratulated Lachlan (no high-fives), pulled the kids gently out of the bath, and got them ready for bed. Ah, life. It really is beautiful sometimes.

I still have reservations about the innocence of a pea though.