Saturday, April 24, 2010

Trains, Planes, and Automobiles

So today, despite the downpour of rain, high winds, and the threat of tornados, we went to see Thomas the Train.  My 4 year old son is a rather large fan of this English immigrant, although I am not sure where Sodor Island is (this relatively obscure reference confuse you?  Take 10 minutes to watch the beginning of any Thomas the Tank Engine episode for clarity.) and not sure what country this little island would claim association.  But we went beyond just seeing Thomas, we bought tickets to RIDE Thomas (this is the "Trains" in the title of this blog).  This is an experience that a train lover like my son could not forget.  We went last year when Thomas came to Chattanooga and we had a similar experience and my son never stopped talking about it.  However, driving to and from this event was not an exercise in entertainment as we traversed the 26.2 miles (according to the precise measurements of of slightly flooded roads and blinding, horizontal rain (this experience represents the "Automobiles" in the title of this blog).  But the best part of it all was the fact that I was there with my family.  Not just my wife and kids (one train addicted boy), but my mother-in-law, father-in-law, brother-in-law (the famous rock star for those of you who know my family.  If you don't know the name of his famous band, visit Genesis 4:2 NIV and add the word "Saving" after the word "brother" and you'll see the name of his band - cheap way to get you to open your Bible), sister-in-law, and their child.  It was a spectacular day and unbelievable weekend.  As far as the "Planes" in the title of this blog . . . boy, it would be tough to fly a plane in this weather (sorry, it was the best I could do.)      

Monday, April 19, 2010

The crack of the bat, the smell of the grass, it's opening day!

Spring brings new life, warm weather, and baseball. I remember as a child, sleeping with a baseball and my mit at night. I can remember faithfully praying through the threat of rain in hopes of avoiding a raining-out of my games. I loved baseball. However, I didn’t want to be one of those dad’s who pushes his longing for his own glory days onto his son. But one day recently, my son said, “Daddy, I want to play baseball.” So we signed him up.

Last week was opening day. I was excited, especially since my son ended up being drafted by the Braves, my favorite team. When I say “drafted”, what I mean is he was placed on the team named the Braves, nonetheless, I felt it was fortuitous.

Well, the Braves batted first and my son was placed third in the batting order. The third spot in the order is normally reserved for the best hitter on the team. Considering this was tee-ball, and the attention span of a bunch of 4 year olds was 5 minutes ago, my guess is he was the third closest child to the coach when she made out the order. His turn at bat quickly came about, and even though I was recruited to serve as the third base coach, there was only one thing on my mind, my son’s first at bat. To his credit, he hit the ball on the very first swing and he hit it hard, it actually crept into the outfield. As I watched the ball and cheered with our family and friends, my son was doing the same, watching the ball and still standing at home plate.

As you might guess, in the world of 4 year old baseball, this scene is not uncommon, in fact, it is the norm. Nearly every at bat featured the same scene. The child (after knocking over the tee several times) would hit a slow dribbler onto the field only to send the defensive team into a mad scramble with every child launching at the ball resulting into a pile of 4 year olds nearly 3 feet deep. You have dads spread throughout the infield attempting to coach the children, but more realistically acting as a babysitter. Kids playing in the dirt, picking grass, picking noses, putting mits on their heads, and generally becoming distracted.

About halfway through the first inning we started seeing players peeling off. A little girl refused to swing because she was deep in tears (maybe she felt she would hurt the ball), another boy on our team refused to run, so mom picked him up and rounded the bases with him. Our son actually made it through one full inning (for those of you who are keeping score, one inning took 50 minutes), before I heard, “Daddy, I want to go home.” We convinced him to bat again and although the tee took a beating this time, he had another big hit (2 for 2, batting 1.000 for the season), but that was it. We couldn’t make it another inning. He was tired, hungry and just done with baseball.

Maybe baseball isn’t the best game for a 4 year old with a short attention span, but it is America’s past time (and if he never plays again, his career batting average is perfect).

Who has been feeding the dog?

I love food. In fact, simply saying I love food, is probably an understatement. Just ask my wife, ask anyone who I’ve gone to lunch with, or ask any all-you-can-eat buffet restaurant I have visited in the past (you should see the look on the managers face when I walk in the door – I get my money’s worth). For exercise, I ride my bike a few times a week. But the real reason I exercise is to allow myself the ability to eat whatever I want (which I am well aware is not a good wellness strategy).

However, this love of food did not always exist. When I was young I was actually a very picky eater. I was also very stubborn. This, as many of you parents know, was not a fun combination for my mom and dad once dinner time arrived. Nearly everything my mom put on my plate, I refused to eat. In fact, the battles that were waged at the dinner table are legendary. My mom often regretted the phrase, “You will not leave the dinner table until you cleaned your plate!” This only led her to find me still sitting at the table, not one bite eaten, as bedtime arrived.

There were many foods I would refuse to eat, all the usual suspects – spinach, beets (I would often would sacrifice a few tasty macaroni by building a wall to prevent the beet juice from spreading to the foods I actually liked), broccoli, and most anything any color other than white (why I was so color specific is beyond me). In fact, it became a running joke in my family at Thanksgiving that my plate would be full of almost all white foods (white turkey, white mashed potatoes, and white rolls). But there was one food that I was particularly offended by – roast. Why roast? I think it was the texture more than the flavor, but nonetheless, I would gag every time my mother would force me put a bite of it in my mouth.

As I grew older, I began to understand that I was losing the dinner table battles. Not that I ultimately ate the food (because I didn’t), but I would waste all my play time sitting at the dinner table being stubborn. This led to a different strategy, a more devious strategy. I would start the meal refusing to eat the offending food, sitting stoically as if I was settling in for the night as I had many times in the past. Eventually, the family would clear the table, leaving me alone at the table with my plate of cold roast and beets. We did not have a family dog at the time, so I had to search the room for another opportunity to dispose of the evidence. This is when I realized my mom had decoratively placed a fern next to my seat at the dinner table. Why she didn’t see my next move coming is beyond me, but my guess is that when I called her back to the kitchen 20 minutes later she was simply overjoyed to see a cleaned plate. When the fern died a month later and she found a pile of rotting food in the pot, it was simply too late to punish me. It was shortly after this incident that we got a family dog; I guess she preferred me to feed the dog than kill the plants.

Have any of you ever wished upon your children that they, as parents experience the same difficult challenges you experienced as a parent? Well, I am happy to report to my mom, that my son has inherited that same “picky eater” gene. We’ve moved all the plants away from the dinner table, but come to think of it, the dog has gained a few pounds.

Where have you been?

When I was a kid, the rule in our house was that you always got home before the street lights came on.  In my neighborhood, the street lights clicked on at dusk and took about 5-10 minutes to warm up, so you had a good opportunity to make it home (it seemed that the city and my mother collaborated on that plan).  Occassionally, I would not make it in time, it would be fully dark and I would be walking in the door.  My mother would yell, "Where have you been?"  The funny thing is that the answer did not matter.  I mean, really, what could I tell my mom that would get me out of trouble for coming home an hour after dark?  "Mom, there was some bandits that were attempting to rob a stagecoach and I rode my Schwinn Stingray to the rescue!"  Not likely going to get me out of trouble.  So, when I had a few people email me saying they read my column regularly, but noticed that I had not updated my blog lately, all I have to say is . . . there were some bandit that were attempting to rob a stagecoach . . . not working?  Well, I guess all I can say is sorry.  I'd love to say I had better things to do, but that would be silly as well, my life just isn't that important.  But I will say, I've had a GREAT few months spending time with my family.  Since this is a blog mainly about families, that should be a good enough - thanks for reading and get ready for several new blogs!