Dad of All Trades, Master of None

Domesticated, Not Demasculinized

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Posts Tagged ‘French Fry’

Happy Birthday, French Fry.

Posted by doatmon on August 27, 2009

Today is the fifth anniversary of what I consider to be my greatest accomplishment.

French Fry.

My greatest TRICK might be the miraculous hypnosis that has forced Coke to remain in my presence for over 12 years.

But my greatest accomplishment is French Fry.

And today is her fifth birthday.

Half a decade ago, my life was just a bit different.  I lived in a ramshackle Clintonville abode which devoured half of my wife’s childhood and half of our wardrobes in intermittent flooding that plagued the basement.  My biggest concern each week was what days (yes, plural) I was going to Crosswords to work diligently on what were then my TWO greatest accomplishments: my Golden Tee game and my reputation as an “active” member of the Winking Lizard Beer Tour.

Mmmm…Chimay.

I was married and I had been for seven years.  But I don’t think I was yet a husband.  Check that.  I know I wasn’t a husband.  Fantasy football consumed my weekends.  In June.   I don’t think I had cleaned a toilet or dusted an end-table since puberty.  And the only thing I wrote those days was e-mail re-caps of various weekend shenanigans involving digging large holes in my backyard, exploits at high-end establishments in town (i.e. Ruckmoor) and consuming copious amounts of meat in a given time-period.

Now, those days are gone.  And I couldn’t be happier.

It is weird when I look back on that time in my life and realize that I was 26/27 and essentially still a collegiate bachelor who happened to be employed and married.  I was embattled in a Sisyphusian struggle for “happiness” and yet I had no clue what I was aiming for.  At the time, all I knew what I was struggling AGAINST.

With increasing frequency, Coke and I were entering into arguments about the next phase of our lives.  She wanted children.  I did too, but I mean, good lord, not then.  Life was FUN.  Car trips that had once been among the centerpieces of our relationship, were now miserable.  They had turned into rolling battlegrounds with opposing forces holding ground on opposite sides of the parking brake.

As is so often the case, the ongoing argument was taken out of our hands.

Following a particularly raucous December 23rd outing together, Coke informed me that there was an OFF chance that she might be eating for two.  We didn’t yet know for SURE, but as I sat in a bland Methodist Church last night where I didn’t know a soul that didn’t share my last name, each hymn began to embody the internal struggle I was feeling.  Good lord did the annual cheese soup taste odd that Christmas Eve.

The next day, Coke’s entire family was coming to Clintonville for Christmas dinner.  A dinner I was cooking.  Turkey and all.  My plan was to inject eggnog with enough Holiday Spirits to make them ignore the trichinosis.  First I had to drive from one end of Columbus to the other looking for an open drug store.  I can think of better days to try to find a pregnancy test.

I remember the confirmation.  I remember being huddled in my closet talking to my mom on the phone about an un-done turkey and her un-done son.  I remember telling my in-laws.  And driving to tell my family.  But I wasn’t as excited as I was frightened and completely overwhelmed.

And I don’t care about the clichéd nature of this next statement, but I genuinely remember very little of the next nine months that weren’t related to the birth of my child.  Without looking at my now irrelevant resume, I couldn’t even tell you where I was working.  I went through the motions of OB/GYN appointments (hers, not mine), registering at the formerly foreign Babies R Us and even of selecting and moving into a new house for the new baby.  One without a basement.

On August 27th, following a Fujiyama feast, French Fry was born.   And so was the man I am today.

We grew together.  I wasn’t immediately a man and she wasn’t immediately a brilliant princess.  We had our ups and downs.  I was a better sleeper than she was.  We were both solid eaters.  I cried more than she did.  We both relied on Coke for our very existence.  But we grew.

She graduated pre-school and at the same time, I feel as if I graduated life.  I had gone through job after job.  I was sometimes successful.  Sometimes not.  I now had a Chicken Nugget as well as a French Fry and life logistics were more complicated than ever.  And yet, after years of searching and despite a life with more moving parts than I had ever experienced, my search for happiness became simple.

My happiness was inextricably linked with my family’s happiness.  It sounds so simple.  I assure you, it was not.  It was a painful and arduous process and yet as I type, I have never been more confident of anything.  This decision to stay home with my children has provided peace that has long eluded me.

Today, on this fifth birthday of a present I first learned of on Christmas and received in August, I celebrate the life of my French Fry. And I celebrate the life she has given me.

Happy birthday, stinky butt.

If interested, here are a few other blogs focused on my French Fry.

Wishes for French Fry via Marc Broussard lyrics.

Her first buffet.

Her trip to see the Wiggles.

Posted in Being a Daddy, Being a Husband | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Kayak Story: The War and Peace version.

Posted by doatmon on August 25, 2009

I am going to break my own rule of no more than one post per day while I’m beginning this blog.  I am first going to post the kayak story for those who have asked.  I don’t think the story is worth its own post, but I have been asked.  So I’ll bury it as the first of two posts today.  The second will follow-up on yesterday’s response-generating diatribe.

The kayak story.

So a few weeks ago, I was in the Outer Banks with my entire family.  Part of the reason was for my Coke and I to renew our vows and part was pure vacation.  As you may have guessed by now, physical activity isn’t exactly part of my daily routine.  So any time I show any interest whatsoever in something cardio in nature, my wife and her physically-conscious family jump on my attempt (no matter how brief) to reduce my, um, bulky frame.

Lately, my obsession interest has been kayak fishing.  I think the concept is brilliant and something I desperately want to explore.  I consider the out of doors to be the closest I will ever get to any sort of deity and as so many have acknowledged, when it comes to boating and fishing, there’s nothing that gets you closer than kayaking.  You’re sitting inches above the water, not leaving any carbon footprint whatsoever and can glide silently across any body of water so as to not disturb the heron, otter or topless sunbather you may be trying to observe.

Sounds perfect, eh?

Well, I have neither a kayak nor access to a kayak and before I spent any money I wanted to test my prowess at both paddling and multi-tasking with a fishing rod in my possession.  Now, the real kayak fishers (really? Fishers?  Is that the best we can do? I shy away from fisherman for obvious reasons, but refuse to use fisherpersons for equally obvious albeit different reasons) use long kayaks with rod holders, GPS, depth finders, refrigerators and bidets all loaded on.  But for purposes of my test run, I would just have a rented kayak and a paddle and a PFD that was unlikely to be used.  My chest is bulky enough thank you.  The rest would just be myself and my trusty, 5.5 foot ultralight rod.

My brother-in-law who is an avid kayaker brought his down to the beach and went with me to select my mode of transportation for the week.  Upon walking into the store, I immediately gravitated to a certain brand for which I had read many positive reviews.  It was the sit-on-top version of a kayak as opposed to the sit-in version that my B-I-L both had and recommended.  But I had read reviews.  On the internet.  That had to be better than familial experience, right?

We wasted no time getting wet and drove immediately over to Currituck Sound.  This body of water lies between the mainland of North Carolina and the barrier islands known as the Outer Banks.  It rarely, if ever, gets above six feet and is for my money among the most beautiful bodies of water I have ever seen.  What a perfect place to kayak, eh?  We set off, sexy water shoes and all, at a brisk pace.  Well, my B-I-L was at a brisk pace.  I was too, it just wasn’t straight.  With a bottle of water and small tackle box strapped to the back with the PFD, my pole resting in my lap and the paddle flailing about in my already weakening arms I was proceeding in a zig-zag pattern that could be at best described as a tacking maneuver and at worst the line an intoxicated Canada Goose might take to a stray piece of bread.

I eventually straightened myself out and slowly but surely made my way north along the shoreline.  We approached a duck blind set out in the water and it was silently screaming at me to throw a lure in its direction.  So I did.  The kayak wobbled a bit, but I was pleased at my distance and my accuracy.  And if my B-I-L hadn’t paddled up there to see that I had casted in about 4 inches of water, I’m sure I would have caught a fish.

But I was 1-1 in casts without tipping my plastic steed and I was puffing my PFD-free chest.   We paddled out a little further in an attempt to locate deeper water and water devoid of the thick vegetation we found all over our paddles after each stroke.

About 10-15 minutes later we were quite a distance out in the sound and came upon another duck blind.  This one was clearly in deeper water and was veggie-free.  I steadied myself and tossed my shallow-running crank at the structure.  As I did so, the wind kicked up and knocked my cast offline.  I reeled back in quickly, determined to impress my B-I-L with my internet-honed kayak fishing skills.  I launched what was sure to be a brilliant cast…and I’m sure it would have been had I not found myself under water.

The wind had kicked up a little, baby wave and knocked me right over.  Now, this in itself isn’t a HUGE deal.  It happens to the best of us and given the relatively small kayak upon which I had been precariously perched, it’s somewhat surprising it hadn’t happened previously.  But as my butt hit bottom and I launched myself back toward daylight I realized that I wasn’t alone in the kayak and began flailing for my fishing pole.  To no avail.  It was gone.  I tried to feel around with my feet, but the silt and sediment bottom wouldn’t give it up.

My B-I-L paddled over and helped me right my kayak.  I checked my tackle box, bottle of water and rented PFD.  All were fine.  In a stroke of brilliance, I handed my B-I-L my tackle box for safe keeping just in case something freaky like that happened again.  The chances were remote, but without a pole, I certainly didn’t need a tackle box.  I set about the difficult task of mounting a piece of plastic in chest-high water with aquasocks buried in muck.

It took some maneuvering and some upper-body strength I didn’t know I had, but I shimmied myself back aboard, grabbed my paddle from my B-I-L and took two stroke toward shore.  I felt a little wobble but I didn’t give it another thought as I had felt many of those previously.  I gave it a little more thought as I was resurfacing, however.  One wave and I was back in the water.  Odd.  Infuriating.  But not debilitating.  My ego was bruised, but thankfully that was all.  I grabbed my paddle and hefted my considerable girth back on the culprit.

I never made it.

I had barely lifted my feet out of the muck and I was back underwater.  Okay, nothing to do now but laugh.  I mean, this was ridiculous.  I am a little heavy, but come on!  I was more than a little embarrassed, but I will give my B-I-L credit…he never cracked a smile (while I was above water anyway) and dutifully returned my paddle.  Just as he did the next 10-15 times I tried to get in the kayak and ended up in the water after two or fewer strokes of the paddle.

I was no longer amused.

It was at this point that I realized I may never get back into this kayak.  I had lost my bottle of water, but thankfully my PFD was floating, cackling at me after every ill-fated attempt to recover my dignity.  I begged my B-I-L to just go ahead, but he paddled slowly and sometimes in circles waiting for me.  After another few tries, I was simply out of energy and in-able to hide my frustration.  I came to the harsh realization that it wasn’t the paddle that was going to get me back to shore, but my legs.  What else was I to do?

Thankfully my B-I-L took pity on me and left me to wallow in my weight and inability to float.  He became a tiny spec as he paddled for the dock and dry land.

I started walking.

And cursing.

Cursing the kayak, the kayak company and most importantly the store that rented it to me.  How DARE they rent a kayak to a portly person that may or may not be able to get back into said kayak should it tip?  They were going to pay for this.  They were going to give me another kayak, one more sturdily built for today’s American population.  And THEY were going to pay for my post-traumatic stress counseling.

I will readily admit I shouldered some of the blame as I walked.  How could I let myself get so out of shape that I couldn’t even get in a boat that the ESKIMOS invented for God’s sake.  I mean, how many skinny Eskimos have you seen in cartoons?  And those are culturally correct, right?  I convinced myself to diet.  To get my upper body stronger.  It was a turning point in my life.

About halfway back to shore, I looked down to see a blue crab climbing from a plant to my chest.  I did what anyone else would do and screamed like a three-year-old girl and started jumping up and down while he scrambled for a foot-hold on my torso.  I managed to fling the SOB into the kayak as a souvenir.  At least I would have something for my daughters to see.  That was short-lived as the crustacean chuckled and crawled back to the amber abyss.

It was that abandoning that led me to try again to get in the kayak.  The first attempt went relatively well.  I got in the kayak, righted myself and even got an oar in the water before I started to shake.  I dropped a leg over the side to help even out the wiggling and promptly dumped myself backward.  The kayak flipped over my head and smacked me in the forehead for good measure.  This was progress though, right?  I didn’t barrel-roll.  I flipped heels over head.  I’ll get it next time.

Subsequent attempts did not improve.  I went back to my Bhutan Death March over my Trail of Tears.

I put my head down while I walked, not wanting to see the distance I had yet to go and hoping that nobody would be able to make out my face during this shuffle of shame.  I began daydreaming at this point.  Could I really die out here?  I mean, sure, it was like four feet of water, but I was pretty tired.  And if an infant can drown in six inches of water, surely someone resembling a weeble-wobble could roll to its doom in these depths.  Or what about the Osprey?  Nature’s perfect predators could mistake me for the world’s biggest muskrat and decide to try a new delicacy.  That could happen, right?

Whether it was these thoughts of impending doom or delusions of grandeur, I decided to try again.  This time, I removed my shirt and tied it to the PFD.  Then I tied the PFD to the front hand-hold of the kayak.  This would have to balance out the front and back, right?  That’s what Bear Grylls would do, right?  Feeling confident and casting my life story in my head, I lept up only to watch the world continue to leep as I tumbled backward.

Back to walking.  And walking.  Walking back toward the dock from which I came.

I couldn’t see my B-I-L anymore, but I was sure he was there waiting on me.  Perhaps he had driven home, had dinner and come back, but he was there.  At the dock.  The dock where the wedding was taking place.  Oh CRAP!  I had seen a sign that the dock was going to be closed for a wedding.  The only thing I could imagine worse than this ordeal would be stumbling up to the bridal party, dumping out my aquasocks as the Preacher prepared them for a life in holy matrimony.

Nope.  Unacceptable.  I would HAVE To at least retain my dignity if not my masculinity and urge to kayak.  I shifted course and began to head toward the closest shoreline.  As I got closer, I began collecting golf balls that I found on the bottom.  It was mindless, but helped the minutes pass.  That’s how long I walked.

When I was about 100 yards from shore, I decided I was going to paddle in whether this kayak liked it or not.  After all, I was in about six inches of water.  How could I not sit down in the kayak and at least pole myself in?  So I did.  And the kayak laughed and flipped me once again on my back.  In six inches of water.

It was at that moment I realized this might not be my weight or my lack of athletic ability.  It was the kayak.  It was flawed.  It was purely the kayaks fault.  I puffed out my chest a bit more and walked the last football field to shore.  By this point, my B-I-L had unloaded his kayak back from his car and paddled out to find me.  He got to me just as I was beginning to lift the floating bastard onto shore.  But I couldn’t.  My God.  I was dehydrated.  I didn’t have any strength left.  I had one-foot in the grave.  Heat stroke?  Snake bite that went undetected?  Regardless of the cause, I was clearly losing consciousness.

I mumbled something to my B-I-L and he got out to complete my feat.  Except he couldn’t either.  It was too heavy.  He began looking around the kayak and found a circular plug in the back.  He unscrewed it and a flow that would make Niagara Falls blush began pouring out of the under-side of my kayak.

Did you know that kayaks had a “ballast” compartment?

Yeah, neither did I.

Apparently the convenient “cup holder” in which I had placed my bottle of water and tackle box was actually the entry point for water into the kayak.  Each time I had dumped myself, I had filled the kayak a little more with water.  Subsequent attempts to get into the kayak served to slosh the water from one part of the kayak to another and quickly dump my fat posterior into the water.  It was not my weight that kept me from kayaking that day.  It was my stupidity.  All I had to do was drain the water.  Or not put a tackle box into the plug.

As I sat on the stoop of an abandoned house waiting on my B-I-L and his Nissan Exterra to extricate me from this miserable and humiliating experience, I thought, “I will have to do everything I can to keep this story from getting out to my friends and family.”

Sure, some were going to find out and my B-I-L was going to have to relay it to some for a few belly laughs.  But it was at that moment that I vowed to make the story so long and so boring that NOBODY would be able to read to the end.

And at least in that, if not in kayaking, I have succeeded.

Myself and French Fry in happier times

Here is myself and French Fry in happier times.

Posted in Being a Daddy | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

As of today, I am the father of a school-aged child

Posted by doatmon on August 20, 2009

I’m the father of a school-age child.

That’s right, Kristen and others who repeatedly remark on my self-centeredness.  French Fry went to Kindergarten today.  And yet it’s still all about me.

I have a child in school.  I’m not going to lie to cyberspace.  Wasn’t handling it well.

Okay, okay, okay…let me start by saying that she’s fine.  Got it? No problems with her.  She is even more talkative than her father.  As beautiful as her mother.  And as intelligent as the two of us put together.  She was in an all-day preschool last year where she was a “peer model” for children who were developing at a slower rate.  She’s fine.

This is my blog and I’m going to talk about me.

This may shock you, but I’m not exactly an emotional rock.  I know, hard to believe.  But it’s true.  I bawled uncontrollably when Sidney was born.  Most sports movies leave me in a state of allergic agitation somewhere toward the end.  I am also a sucker for milestones.  And cameras.

“Look honey, she just spit out her first spoonful of peas. [snap]”

“Oooh, oooh, I think she just laughed for the first time. [snap]”

“Oops.  Nope.  Not a laugh.  But she just snorkeled for the first time. [snap]”

So if I react that way to those major/minor milestones, you can only imagine that the batteries literally died in the middle of the photo session this morning.

But my issues started well before this morning.  On the first day of daycare, back when I was employed, I remember strapping the little peanut into her car seat and heading the five miles to Enchanted Care.  Approximately 45 minutes later, I had stopped twice to re-adjust her fragile skull to ensure it was safe and twice to unzip her jacket further to ensure she continued to inhale and exhale appropriately.

I cried all the way downtown.

Then there was her acceptance into the preschool.  It was all-day for God’s sake.  Coke got to take her to school every day, but it was my privilege to pick her up every day at 3:30.  I all too often gave in to her wishes of McDonald’s nuggets and sweet teas because that quick drive-thru stop allowed me to pry details of her day while she was sugar-drunk and stuffed.

She was interviewed on Channel 10.  Her name was up in lights.  At the ripe age of four.  To this day, I’ve been only on TV twice.  Once was completely forgetting King and Jackson when interviewed on the names of the “Fab Five” by an Ann Arbor station at the Michigan-OSU game in Lexington.  The other, well, it was closed-circuit television.  And I was giving out handicapping advice.  Not something you want to share with your children.  I was so proud of the little devil I bugged one of my many media friends multiple times a day before she caved and sent me a CD of French Fry’s debut.  Thank you again, Lindsay.

Did you know the child actually had a graduation for pre-school?  There were songs, emotional videos and slideshows.  Processionals and recessionals.  And she tied Coke for most bunches of flowers purchased by me in the year 2009.  Damn that Columbus School for Girls and their budget cutbacks.  There was so much dust in that auditorium, my eyes wouldn’t stop watering.

And that brings us to this week.  I was somewhat prepared for today.  I had gone over it in my mind for weeks.  I had properly ignored her need for a first-day of school outfit.  I had sufficiently put off thinking about the logistics of today.  I had been able to successfully repress any memory of my mom’s opining on what I could expect.  See?  I was dealing well.

This week, I was ambushed by “Meet the Teacher” day.  I was not prepared.  The sickeningly sanitized smell of the school, the prowling PTO Nazis, the loudly, color-emblazoned bulletin boards accosting the eyes, I was overwhelmed.  Yes, she was fine, but remember, this is about me.

Coke, Chicken Nugget and French Fry strolled down the “Green” hallway to her classroom while I stalled, shuffled and stifled a sob.  Okay, there were a few sideways glances at the potential MILPs, I’m man enough to admit it.  But mostly, I was miserable.  Her teacher is brand new.  The school is relatively new.  Can they possibly comprehend the precious person now under their care?  Her old teachers did.  Maybe I could pay them to come be Assistants in this classroom.  I know, I know…stupid.  I’m WAY too broke to afford that.

Then there were the kids.  Some looked ornery.  Some looked like straight out of “Mean Girls 2020” casting.  One might have been an undercover cop.  I think I saw a beard.  Regardless, all were suspicious.  Judging the teacher, the staff, the kids and still trying to check-out the scrub-clad redhead who looked to have a little one about Chicken Nugget’s age.  If we hadn’t left, hyperventilation was imminent.

Last night, each well-wisher dialing our phone number almost put me over the edge.  I finally had to turn off the ringer in the den and fire up the computer.  I couldn’t deal.  This morning, I begrudgingly got up with Chicken Nugget. She helped make sister pancakes.  Just like my dad did for me.  We were dressed, showered and ready 45 minutes before it was time to walk over.  So we waited.  And we waited.  And I sweat.  And I tapped my foot.  And I bounced my knee.  And I checked Facebook.  And I drank coffee.  And I checked Facebook.

Then something happened I wasn’t even remotely prepared for.  I was at peace.  We walked her over as a family and joked and laughed and beamed at our “little” girl.  Her confidence, willingness and readiness put even a neurotic father on an even-keel.  She disappeared into the school, pink backpack covering everything but her shoes.  I waved goodbye to the backpack, gave Coke a knowing hug and was shocked to realize it was more for her than me.

Yes, this was another milestone.  One which was as visceral and painful as the others.  However, these milestones, they’re not my milestones.  They’re not about me.  They’re her milestones.  And I’m privileged to witness them.  And to share them.

I’m the father of a school-aged child.  I couldn’t be more proud.

Posted in Being a Daddy, Being a Husband | Tagged: , , , , | 3 Comments »