Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The flower girl and the ring "bear", Part II

My column last week highlighted a family wedding we had over the weekend and the frightening invitation for our children to participate in this special event. You may be wondering, why would I use the term “frightening” in relation to my children being asked to be a part of this special day? Well, my children are 4 and 2 years old . . . enough said? My son was serving as the ring bearer (or ring “bear” as he preferred it) and my daughter was the flower girl (as we travelled to the wedding, she had only been willing to try the dress on one time; all other efforts resulted in a crying fit . . . not a good sign).

The day of the wedding started well; in fact, my son loved the suit he would wear (which he kept referring to as his “costume”) during the wedding. However, on the drive to the church, my daughter started yawning. Now let me pause here to explain something that many of you parents already know. A yawn to a 2 year old should be considered in the same manner as a meteorologist views dark black clouds on the horizon, particularly on a day where a special event is planned. But, the wedding was too close and it was too late for a nap, so we pressed forward.

When the moment arrived, the wedding party was dressed and lined up (including both the kids) at the end of the aisle. I had positioned myself as the “receiver” toward the front of the church to collect the kids once they completed the walk. That is when I noticed my wife (who was a bridesmaid) walking down the aisle, carrying our daughter (the dark clouds were starting to thunder). While this was not the plan, it seemed like it still might work.

My son, despite being distracted for a moment by me taking pictures, was in perfect form. They both successfully completed their walks and just before the bride started her procession down the aisle and as I collected the children from the front of the church is when the dark clouds finally erupted with thunder, lightening, and torrential rain in the form of a 2 year old letting loose a blood curling scream. Now if you’ve never heard that type of scream in a church, it really has an incredible carrying capacity as the high ceilings and tile floors are very conducive to carrying sound. Too bad that is NOT what we were looking for.

I immediately ushered the children out a side door in an effort to avoid stealing attention from the beautiful bride. Once outside, I thought my daughter would calm down, however, she turned it up a notch, reaching an octave that I thought only dogs could hear, but that was alright, because our duties were finished and for the most part (minus one, age appropriate scream), were successfully completed.

At the end of the night, as I was putting the kids to bed, my son turned to me and said, “I was the best ring ‘bear’, wasn’t I daddy?” And with joy in my heart and a smile on my face, I confirmed that he was, both the kids were incredible. The night was a success for the entire family, bride and groom, as well as, flower girl and ring “bear”.

What’s the next formal family adventure you ask? Well, my other brother-in-law is getting married in June and the kids will be in the same familiar roles - ring “bear” and flower girl, so stay tuned (do I hear thunder on the horizon?)

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The girl in the flowers and the boy in the bear suit.

A momentous family celebration is fast approaching our tribe. We have a wedding in the family. As an additional honor, my wife and children have all been asked to serve in the wedding ceremony in some capacity. This is a wonderful time and we were thrilled to play any small part of this couple’s special day. However, the excitement for me quickly wore off. You see, we’ve been down this road before and it most closely resembled a three stooges comedy.

Allow me to rewind the tape a few years, when my son was only 18 months old. He was asked to serve in one of our closest friends wedding as the ring bearer. That time too, we were excited and honored that our son was asked to be a part of the special day, but we quickly learned that giving instructions to a one year old is a little like giving instructions to a cat. They may listen closely and do exactly as you ask. Then again, they may not (in fact, the latter is probably more likely).

The truth is, you don’t ask an 18 month old to serve in your wedding because of their reliability; you ask because they are cute and potentially entertaining. Well, our son was both. He started down the aisle and immediately got distracted by someone he knew in the audience and ambled in that direction. At some point, he realized that a huge crowd of people were staring at him from all sides – he was surrounded! He immediately looked for an escape route and found Daddy in the back and ran back to me. Mission aborted.

Well, now he has an opportunity to redeem himself. We didn’t get off to a good start when he recently saw what he was going to wear. Now the suit was beautiful, so when my wife asked him what was wrong, he said, “It doesn’t look like a bear.” Clearly we had not enunciated our words clearly and he had misunderstood the term ring bear-er for ‘ring bear’. Apparently, he thought he was going to be delivering the ring to the alter in a bear costume. Which, now that I consider it, would have been pretty cute AND entertaining, but may not have tied into the wedding theme very well.

My daughter, who is serving as the flower girl, unfortunately had an even worse response to her dress. When she first saw her dress, she had a serious grimace on her face and yelled, “I no want it!” If you’ve ever tried to make a 2 year old wear something they don’t want to wear, you understand our concern. We assume, like my son, she thought she would be able to wear or play in flowers (playing in the flowers is still a strong possibility). After several introductions to the dress, she finally gave it a hug one night before going to bed. We aren’t totally sure what that means, but we are hoping it’s a good sign.

What should make this event even more interesting is that my wife is also in the wedding. Why is this interesting? Well, that means Daddy has to direct, coordinate, adjust, motivate, and guide two young children. And if I have any parenting weaknesses, they are; directing, coordinating, adjusting, motivating, and guiding. So, this should be really interesting. If nothing else, it should be good for at least another blog, right?

Friday, November 12, 2010

Whose says you can't go home again?

Recently, I took my wife and children to visit my family in Ohio. This is always quite the family adventure as you can imagine spending nearly eight hours in a vehicle with a two year old and a four year old continuously asking, “Are we there yet?” Fortunately, times have changed since my childhood. I remember sitting in the back seat of a van with no air conditioning with my brother and nothing to do other than counting license plates from different states and play with our Star Wars figures. Too often, during a long trip, my brother would fall asleep, lean over and accidentally touch me in some manner, leaving me with only one alternative . . . to punch him in the arm as hard as I possibly could manage. This often led to yelling from the front seat with the clear threat, “Don’t make me pull this car over!” Today, my children have toys like hand-held DVD players and video games, interactive toys, and hard top coloring boards.

During our visit, we experienced the ordinary adventures any sleepover with family would include; boys sleeping in the basement, watching movies and staying up late, going to Bounce World which is filled with bouncy inflatable’s for the children (and maybe the adults) to play in, and the always entertaining trip to my home town.

To return to your home town after many years usually raises a number of emotions. Memories come flooding back as you see familiar places and people and you are always surprised at how different things look and simultaneously, how they haven’t changed at all.

Seeing your family after an extended absence is always an exciting event, but this visit was even more exciting. You see, my brother and I were helping my mother winterize her home and in the process, cleaning out some items that needed to be taken to dump. In the midst of the process, we found some ancient, buried treasures in the attic. A couple of old football helmets we used when we played tackle football in the yard (I can’t believe we didn’t suffer any permanent brain damage . . . although my wife may feel that this would explain a lot) were buried in an old bucket, along with dozens of hard-hat baseball helmets you could win at the local amusement park speed pitch. But the real treasure laid a little deeper in the bucket – a Darth Vader carry case filled with the old Star Wars action figures we played with in that van on the long road trips decades ago. They were in almost the same condition as when we originally put them in that case more than 25 years ago; it was like a time capsule. Only the laser guns and light sabers were missing (which I immediately, as if suddenly returning to my childhood, blamed on my brother).

We took this case to our sons (who are both 4 years old) and opened the treasure as if it was a chest of gold coins. To my surprise, the boys tore into them like they were winning lottery tickets; they loved the playing with Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker almost as much as we did when we first brought them home from the department store.

This trip home was tremendously successful. I got to see my childhood home, visit with family, and take a stroll down memory lane. Even better, I had the experience of watching my son’s face as he excitedly played with my childhood toys and gave them a second life . . . who said you can’t go home again?

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Who says customer service is dead?

Many who know me have commented on my impeccable sense of style, particularly my fashionable haircuts (insert sarcastic tone here). Now I know you are asking yourself, where does someone like that go to get his beautiful locks cut? Well, believe it or not, I typically go to whatever local discount chop shop that has the shortest line. For my basic needs, which includes getting out the clippers and going to town, I don’t need a beauty shop or a stylist, a simple barber will do.

So, on a recent trip to visit family in Mississippi (you didn't think I'd criticize a local business did you?), I went to visit just such a haircut establishment. I went to the desk, gave my name and was assigned to Betty's chair for my haircut. Betty was a middle aged woman who immediately explained to me why she was late to work that day. She took full responsibility by explaining that she had locked herself out of her house and had to climb in a window. I'm still unclear why that made her late for work, but when someone has scissors near your scalp, you don't ask a lot of questions.

She immediately began formulating a number of explanations (lies) she would give her supervisor that night to avoid getting in trouble. After coming up with a number of scenarios (one of which included running down an elderly woman in the Wal-Mart parking lot), she settled on a story where she hit a deer on a back road near her home (how she would explain the lack of damage to her vehicle was a detail she clearly had not considered). Once she had settled on that . . . fabrication, she asked me my opinion.

Now normally my advice to anyone in a similar situation would be to take responsibility as truth is the best policy, however, at this point she was trimming my sideburns and the fear of having a mohawk overruled my interest in giving good advice and I confirmed that the dead deer scenario really seemed like a great plan (I assume she is no longer employed there).

Now I've got to tell you, cutting my hair is easy, normally it takes between 4 and 10 minutes. Unfortunately, on this occasion, my haircut along with the development of a cover story for being late, took significantly longer. In fact, at the 30 minute mark, we were only about half way through.

However, I remained optimistic, we had settled on a story and she seemed to feel confident she would be excused, so I thought we'd zip through the last few minutes. Unfortunately, that was simply not the case. My haircut experience was quickly sliding into what any law enforcement professional would classify as a hostage situation. I mean seriously, I was in a chair with a tarp tightly wrapped around my neck and sharp blades circling my head and neck, I was ready to call SWAT.

Fortunately, after another 20 minutes in the chair (my legs had gone numb at this point), we had mutually agreed that she should not marry her boyfriend as he was clearly not putting her needs before his own, and she released me. After refusing an offer to wash my hair (how long would that have taken?), I quickly walked to the counter and paid for my . . . experience. I left my customary tip and she thanked me and closed by saying, "Hey, next time you need a haircut, call first to make sure I'm here. This was very helpful." How was I supposed to respond, “Glad I could help?” Despite all of that and as much as I hate to say it, it was a great haircut. So, who says customer service is dead?

When I returned home, my wife asked what had happened to me and why I was gone so long.  I simply said, "I hit a deer on a back road . . . or was it an elderly woman . . . I can't remember."

Monday, November 1, 2010

Who is the owner and who is the pet?

My dog is a sorry excuse for a dog. If there were a licensing agency for dogs to call themselves dogs, his would be revoked. However, the truth is, we are sorry excuses for owners. We baby and coddle our dog to the point that we have effectively convinced him he is not a dog. So ultimately, we are to blame. We have trained our dog to not be a dog.

To give you some background I bought this dog shortly after my wife and I got engaged. We didn’t want to jump into naming him until we got to know his personality, how he looked and how he acted so that we could find a name that best suited him. Ultimately, we landed on the name “Tucker”.

Since we did not have children at that point in our relationship, Tucker was that child. We took him everywhere, we talked to him, and he slept in the bed with us. Then one day, our son arrived. This meant that Tucker was going to be removed as our only child. In fact, not only did he lose the status of “only child”, but it quickly became apparent to us that in fact, he was not a child at all, but a family pet. We quickly adjusted our lives to treat our son like a child and Tucker like the family dog. Unfortunately, Tucker did not receive that memo. Looking back on the situation, I remember having that conversation with Tucker, but I noticed a far-away gaze in his eyes, almost as if he was ignoring me. Now, four years later, I recognize that he wasn’t ignoring me, he heard me loud and clear, he was simply saying, without words, “Thanks, but no.”

The good news is that Tucker didn’t decide to punish our children for this sudden slide down the family hierarchy. He had a more effective and well-thought out strategy, he became more needy. It wasn’t long after this that Tucker developed allergies. “A dog with allergies?” you may be asking yourself. Well, I too was suspicious, so I asked our vet if it was possible. Yes, says our vet, it’s actually more common than you might think. In the old days, they’d laugh at such silly nonsense. But what do we do? I give Tucker allergy medicine twice a day. I’d say he is pathetic, but I think I am the pathetic one. I don’t give my children medicine twice a day.

Tucker has employed other, more devious and distracting methods of getting our attention. Like recently, he started getting cold at night. “A dog getting cold at night?” you might be asking yourself. Well, I asked myself the same thing, but the vet once again assured me that this too is not that uncommon (is it possible that the vets are in on this little conspiracy?) So, we went out and bought him a pajama top. Yes, I own this humiliating act. But wait, it gets worse. Recently, he became so cold he could not stop shivering until we got him underneath the comforter with us. I awoke the next morning, lying nose to nose with our family dog. He was laying there, head on the pillow, comforter tucked snugly around his torso, eyes looking drowsily into mine. Pathetic.

Well, I am on to these animals. My belief is that these canines are actually intentionally playing on our sympathy and therefore getting our attention by acting needy. So next time you are tempted to read them a bedtime story, or leave the television on while you are out for the day, don’t be fooled, the conspiracy is upon us. I’d tell you more, but Tucker needs his teeth brushed.