BroboCop

So right off the bat I want to say that I’m not 100% okay with the title of this post. I wanted to make a funny play on word with the movie RoboCop involving some sort of dad to dad tie that will make much more sense after you read the actual story. The best thing I could come up with was “RoboPop” which feels more like a nod to the idea of a robot father. I have nothing against robots or robot fathers and just in case a robot overlord reads this in the future, I want to add that I LOVE ROBOTS, but this story involves dads and cops, so that title didn’t really seem to work either. After some thought, the officer involved in the following story was being a bit of a bro, so the title stands. Enjoy.

————————

It can’t be overstated. When you are an at-home parent, getting out of the house is a must. You need to find adult connections, and have adult conversations. If that means meeting for coffee with a friend once a week, that’s better than nothing. Most of the time though, I’d recommend something a bit more lengthy. The first full year of being home after William was born, I found I had done all the normal things to keep my mind occupied. I had made detailed lists of smudges on the wall from dirty kid hands. I had found all the places in the carpeting that was trampled down to make a recognizable shape. I began the process of diving far too deep into the world of the cartoons that William liked and created back stories which lent themselves to the interactions of the characters on screen.

What I wasn’t doing was keeping up relationships with real people over the age of one year old. It’s something I still struggle with doing. I even feel a little self-conscious talking to adults lately because I’m not sure I remember how exactly to interact. After that initial year, I was concerned that while I may not be losing my intelligence (for whatever that’s worth), I was losing the ability to communicate adult thought with adult words.

Eventually, Melissa was very aware that I needed a break. So we came up with a plan for me to take an extended period of time to get out into the country and relax. The idea was for me to take a few days to get out and go camping. I was going to be joined by one other friend, and after two days of camping and exploring Idaho, we’d meet up with our wives and kids at another friend’s cabin in the beautiful city of McCall. After another night away from real life, we were going to head back as a happy, relaxed group. A great plan. This would be where I say something like, “What could go wrong?”

After a whirlwind, two day tour of the mid-area of Idaho, we made our way to McCall, anxious to see our friends and family. I tried my best to shut out the world while we were out exploring, but after a year of nothing but William, I already missed him. Our reunion was bitter-sweet in a way. I was excited to be with my family, but I was instantly back in my role of dad. Don’t get me wrong, I understand that, in a way, you give up the right to be truly selfish when you begin your life as a parent, but I had not quite cleared my head after two days. C’est la vie.

Bedtime for William came quickly that night. A sudden realization for me that before I knew it, we’d all be back in reality. I had no clue how true that was. William was situated in our room in the upstairs of a little cabin. We had brought along his “Pack N’ Play” for him to sleep in, which he had done several times without any issues. We put him down, said our good nights, and listened as the cries and fussing turned to quiet. We spent a few more hours with everyone before making our own way up to the room. There, quite happy, was William. Wide awake and playing games that babies play when they’re alone. As we entered the room as quiet as we could, he saw us instantly and began to make a lot of noise.

The next few hours were painful. He grew louder in protest to the fact that we had not engaged him and joined in his baby games. So, we tried to rock him back to sleep, nothing. We put him in bed with us, which made him all the more riled up. William, it seemed, was far to excited about his new surroundings to simply go to sleep. I’m sure if he had been able to talk at the time there would have been a great deal of, “Dad! Did you see this lamp?! This isn’t our lamp! I like it! Knock it over Dad! Dad! Mom! Did you see how this room isn’t one of our rooms in our house?! Where are we?! I like this room! Let’s scream at the walls and see if they make different noises than our walls! YAY!”

As the hours passed, and people had definitely gone to their rooms to try and sleep through the noisy little boy upstairs, we began to feel very self-conscious. No one had said anything and no one came to check on us, but we couldn’t help feeling like this situation was going to keep everyone up through the night. At 3am we decided to pull the plug. I packed everything up and loaded the car, while Melissa dressed William and put him in his car seat where he instantly proceeded to cry. We said very brief good-byes and began the two hour trip back home.

McCall is a very small town. Small enough that the speed limit on the main street is, I think, 25 miles per hour. At three in the morning, with a screaming child in the backseat, and exhaustion setting in from the past three days, I just wasn’t paying attention. In the sea of darkness, very suddenly we were illuminated by color. Red and blue. I look behind me to see a police car in tow, and check my speed, only to realize I was doing almost 40. This was gonna hurt.

I’m sure he heard William before he was able to see much of anything in the car. He surveyed the car’s interior with his flashlight before asking politely for my licence and registration. Without much of a glance he asked what was going on. I explained that we had made an attempt to stay with friends at their cabin in the area, but our little boy was just a little too overwhelmed with the exciting new surroundings of McCall to go to sleep, and that mom and dad were too tired to keep the party going.

Keeping in mind that all he had done with my licence and registration was hold them, he turned back at William and smiled a little. I wish I knew exactly what he said at that point, and I wish I had grabbed a photo with him because it was one of those moments you think should happen all the time. He looked at me and told me that he knew exactly what we were going through. He was a father of two kids and had to make the early am trip a few times over the years. He reminded us that we have especially precious cargo now, so to remember the need to be extra cautious since we would be heading along a dark road that runs by a nasty river. He made sure that I was with it enough to last for the two hour drive home and sent us on our way without so much as the typical, “Watch your speed, now.”

I didn’t get his name, and I’ll never be able to let him know that he did a really great thing that night. It’s not about skipping the ticket. If he had given me a ticket, I certainly couldn’t have argued against it. Parents need to be there for other parents sometimes. Offer a reminder to slow down and collect yourself. Parents need to have each other’s back a little more instead of judgemental comparing of what you think you do better. I hope, really, that someday I can pay it forward. Maybe this blog will allow me to do that for someone. Maybe it will be as simple as offering a hand to the frazzled parent on the playground.

We’ve all been there, and we will all be there again. Tired and stressed. Hopeful for a little slack from people. So when we’re on the outside, we all have to decide if we’re gonna be the people who roll our eyes and say, “Too bad, I got through it with no help” or be the BroboCop who knows that even a few thoughtful words might get that mom and dad back on the right track.

I fricken love robots.

Continue Reading

Family Puzzles

Jigsaw puzzle on a tableWhen the kids got old enough, we pretty quickly realized that doing jigsaw puzzles as a family is a fantastic way to get some quality time together.  Initially, they were the easy puzzles with only a few pieces.  Even so, it was amazing to see how quickly they latched on to the concept of fitting the pieces and creating the final picture.

As the kids got older, we were able to progress to more and more challenging puzzles.  We now do 500 and even 1,000 piece puzzles with some regularity.  The kids have developed their own unique strategies for solving, but everyone loves the initial “find the edges” party of the process.

One tip for other parents is that it’s pretty important to have a good puzzle table.  The chaos of daily life with kids means things get messy, and having a dedicated space to keep the puzzles is pretty important.  Otherwise you end up with partially completely jigsaws that get messed up.  Having a nice table means you have a place to work on the puzzles, and the house doesn’t get littered with random pieces.

We’ve also found that picking the right subject matter is important.  The kids don’t get as excited with landscapes and photography as they do with cartoon characters.  We’ve been on a Nemo and Dory puzzle kick lately, and there’s no end in sight.

If your family doesn’t do jigsaw puzzles together, give it a shot.  It’s a great way to bond and is intellectually stimulating for the little ones (and sometimes the adults 🙂

Continue Reading

What a Croc! Get it?

I’ve been trying very hard to cook more throughout the week. With the addition of Bonus Baby, time has become a major issue for trying to get meals ready after I’m cut loose from all the kids. As a professional fake chef, I never spent much time with crock pots during my cooking endeavours. Several years ago, a friend decided it would be funny to give Capn’ Fakecookin the devil’s cooking pot. After I made the leap to being at home with the kids, I realized that they are in fact quite useful. My apologies to people who I may have insulted over the years based on nothing more than their ownership of this appliance.

Melissa and I are picky eaters, so most recipes need a little adjustment and some just won’t work. Plus, many of the foods we want to eat most often don’t get the best results from hours in a crock pot. Things like…BBQ. I have looked up a great number of recipes over the past year, all promising amazing pulled pork, ribs, BBQ chicken, and basically every cut of everything from nothing more than the Ronco philosophy of set it and forget it. The principles of the recipes have all been the same. A little seasoning, perhaps an onion, and then dump a bottle of BBQ sauce over the meat and leave it on low for however many hours.

Review after review gave top marks to many of these recipes as a way to get all that BBQ flavor without the constant tending needed for smoking or grilling. Personally, I never saw these results from any of the recipes. Some of them were…okay, but I wasn’t looking for just okay. I needed something awesome. One day, with great hope, I found a crock pot rib recipe that had one of those pictures designed to make you hungry. It worked. I added ribs to our meal plan the following week.

The recipe was ultimately the same as most crock pot BBQ recipes, but I had a plan! I was going to use my home-made dry rub on the ribs AND I was going to use a glazing sauce I had made up when I did some real smoked ribs earlier this year. I figured that the taste should be pretty amazing, even if the results were a little underwhelming.

Meticulously I followed the directions which promised that “fall off the bone” tenderness that some people really get excited about. Fake chef cooking tip: If you are unable to take a bite of the rib without all of meat falling off – you shouldn’t be bragging. Likewise if you can’t pick up the rib by the bone without the meat falling off – you am cook it wrongbad.

As usual, the great thing about this was being able to keep up with three kids and know that dinner was working the whole time. The house smelled amazing all day, and I’m happy to take the credit there. After almost ten hours (the recipe recommended twelve) it was close to our slightly sad, early-bird special, dinner time. So I checked the ribs to see how things were progressing. I used a big set of tongs and gently lifted a set of ribs out of the sweet and spicy sauce. It was already far gone – just way too tender. The meat just sort of dissolved as you picked it up, a great idea for pulled pork perhaps, but not ribs. Additionally, the sauce and spices had clearly seeped into the meat, which you would think is great, but there just wasn’t the flavor. It was just color. We had to use extra sauce just to get any form of “BBQ” flavor.

I will not give up, though I will put out the call. If you have a great crock pot recipe – particularly one for BBQ – that you really love, please share it!

Also, when I have perfected my crock pot pizza – I will let everyone know.

Continue Reading

A Special Performance

If you haven’t figured it out yet, music is a big part of my life. It’s something I actually had to fight to keep involved with. Not in a “Fight Club” kind of way, but there was a period of time where it would have been very easy to cut my losses and say farewell to being involved in any form of music aside from iPods and youtube videos. Lucky for all of us, MTV has taken the steps to remove it from television.  Aww….poor VJ’s….remember VJ’s?

About a year after we moved to Idaho, I went to the local Highland Games. If you’ve never heard of a Highland Games, feel free to consider that normal. It’s a Scottish festival consisting of music, food, dancing, and the actual games (yes, one of the events is where they throw the big stick). It’s a great time, and a place where no one looks at you funny for wearing a kilt. A rare thing indeed. It was there that I happened upon the Boise Highlanders, a very established bagpipe band here in Idaho. Here’s where things get, well, slightly insulting. In a way.

I’m a drummer. In the most loosely formed sense of that word. I don’t consider myself amazing to watch. I’ve had almost no real training. What I know has been gleaned from years of being in contact with people who are better at this craft than I will ever be. I’m okay with it. Is that the insult? Nope!

When I saw the Highlanders for the first time I looked at Melissa and said, “I could play with those guys.”

It’s not that they are bad or anything, but particularly from a drumming standpoint they do things to be on the easier side. We play slightly basic bagpipes tunes, and we do it as well as we can. We even have fans! It’s been an amazing experience so far, truly.

Along we our fans, certain organizations have become very attached to having us perform for them. Which brings me to a story that leads to a very special performance this weekend.

Every year we are invited to perform at a festival in Ontario, Oregon. It’s called “America’s Global Village Festival” and from an entertainment standpoint, the Highlanders are certainly a main attraction. This year I was unable to attend to due to some things we needed to do with the boys, and perhaps someone was looking out for me and my family.

Barely into the performance this year, a little punk kid and his cousin, who were high on god knows what, jumped the curb onto the grass in their car and drove directly into the grand stands.

Let me say that again. They drove into a crowd of people with their car. Smashing a section of stairs that sent metal shards flying, hitting a member of the band, and pinning a THREE YEAR OLD BOY, between the car and bleachers. A 91 year old woman was hit. No deaths, but once all the counts and recounts were finished, almost 30 people ended up in the hospital. Most with minor injuries, 3 severe, one enough to be air-lifted to a larger hospital.

The driver was laughing and smiling during, and after, this terrifying ordeal. Laughing. While a 3 year old boy cried for help.

His passenger attempted to get out and simply walk away. He was “placed” back into the car and kept there by a member of the band. Two other members of the band, who are police officers, ran and shut off the engine to the car, taking the keys, and began to move the car back so people could get free.

The park is located directly across the street from the local hospital and first responders were there in minutes. Lots of luck that day.

This weekend the Boise Highlanders are putting on a free concert, at the same park, in the same location. While it’s open to anyone, we have made attempts to ensure that those involved with the crash have been invited. As well, the city will be honoring the first responders.

I don’t put this information out there to brag about the group, though clearly while we may be small, we have some amazing people involved. I want to put out an invite to anyone reading who might be in the area, and perhaps one of those reminders that we all need from time to time.

A three year old boy…that’s William. The bleachers…that’s where Melissa and the boys would have been, no doubt about it. Think of it as circumstance, luck, divine intervention…whatever you want. The point is that you never know what might happen next. Hug your babies.

For the concert: It starts at 3pm at Lion’s Park in Ontario, Oregon. If you find yourself close enough, and have the time, I hope you’ll come out and support not only the police and medical units involved, but the people and families hurt by this.

I don’t know what will become of the driver or his passenger, and I wish I didn’t care. After hearing several people describe the face and the laughter from the driver, and the look on the face of the little boy before the car hit the stands…

…hug your babies.

Continue Reading