Archive for the 'Low-hanging fruit' Category

Free vacuum!

March 13, 2011

Andrew Hicks

We did not end up going to the Magic House today. The drive in and the trip to the zoo wore me out more than I’d anticipated, and then I still went out for awhile last night. Just over to a really good old friend’s house. Sat outside for a little bit and talked about people I haven’t seen in months or years, then we went inside and watched the new SNL with her boyfriend. Also caught an end-of-season highlights episode of “An Idiot Abroad,” the show Ricky Gervais produces that features Karl Pilkington, who is a true reality-comedy personality. I’ll be watching more of that show soon.

On top of it, last night was the night you push your clocks ahead an hour. So it became 3 am pretty quickly, and aside from a couple wakeups from baby Silas, I stayed in bed far past the Saturday morning cartoons. Lazy stay-in-bed catchup sleep happens sometimes, and Magic Houses go unvisited. The zoo felt like plenty, though. None of this is the buildup to a joke, either. This is one of those paragraphs that looks like a nice, full-bodied chunk of writing until you get deep enough into it to realize nothing of substance is actually being said.

I spent some time today rooting through my old supply of floppy disks. I have backup disks that go fifteen years or more into the past, and nowhere along the line did I convert it to CDR or ZIP or any form of storage technology popularized in the new millennium. I have a laptop new enough that there’s no A drive, so I haven’t been able to get to that stuff. Now it’s on my in-laws’ hard drive and I’ve beamed it up and back down onto my hard drive. I’ll be combing the archives. From now until May, I may be slipping in jokes from 1997. Beware any forced reference to Chumbawamba.

This afternoon, Tiffany and I drove to a popular landmark in St. Louis — the gas station/car wash that has like 8 free vacuum stations. We’ve been there a few times and have always had to wait for a spot. Access to a free vacuum for your car is perennially in high demand. In-laws were watching the kids, so this was our most thorough visit yet. I was pulling stuff out of the trunk that I haven’t seen since George W was in office. A Six Flags Season Pass coupon book from 2007 and sheet.

Walked over to Lion’s Choice for a bathroom break during all this suction, and I spotted a seed spreader garden implement emblazoned with the brand name “Viagara.” One letter off from Viagra, and it made me wonder if anyone’s ever misspelled the name of the popular ED treatment pill and ended up ordering a garden tool by mistake. Then I Googled Viagara and got nothing but Viagra matches, so that thought was thereby scratched.

BABY PICTURE OF THE DAY


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Magic zoo

March 12, 2011

Andrew Hicks

This morning, bright and early, with the sun shining and everybody in a great mood, Tiffany and I started talking about taking Sarah and Silas to the Magic House.

For people in their thirties who grew up in St. Louis, the Magic House is frozen in time somewhere up in their cerebral cortex. I haven’t been since junior high probably — the place is synonymous with school field trips and time-killing day camp visits. It would be weird for me to travel to the Magic House any way other than yellow school bus, with a turkey sandwich sogging itself up in the Peanuts lunchbox resting in my lap.

If you’ve never been to the Magic House, it’s basically like a Science Center in your grandma’s house, if your grandma’s house was three times its current size and had a curly slide behind Plexiglass that extended from the fourth floor down to the basement. We’d all go to grandma’s house more often if that was the case.

So at 9:30 or so, we made impulse plans to drive down to St. Louis and take the kids to the Magic House. At 12 or so, we finally left the house. Had to stop to get gas. Had to stop to get ice. Had to pull over so we could get baby supplies out of the trunk. It was 2:30 when we got into town, and we had one baby crying and one without a nap.

Time for a change of plans. Time to go to the St. Louis Zoo. See, we live in Springfield, where the zoo costs $4.50 a person and doesn’t actually have any animals. It reminds me of Noah trying to half-ass his way onto the ark. (“Well, God, I know you told me to get two of everything, but that’s a lotta work. So I got you one apiece of some animals, cool? Over here is our endangered red wolf… What’s that? Okay, you got me, it’s just a stray dog.”)

We drove around Forest Park a couple times, finally vulturing our way into a decent parking spot next to a couple dozen empty picnic benches. Ate a picnic lunch, took Sarah on a short walk, got our stroller supplies packed up, started walking toward the zoo, realized we’d forgotten something, walked back to the car, then back to the zoo.

The best thing about the St. Louis Zoo is, admission is free. It’s second nationally to San Diego’s zoo in awesome freebieness. So despite it being late afternoon with a no-nap toddler, it didn’t seem like a gamble. Say we had 15 awful minutes at the zoo. We still weren’t out any money. We could still go to the Magic House in the morning and pay to put our hands on the giant electric ball.

When you’re out with one kid, stuff takes twice as long. With two kids, you can double that figure again. Every five minutes, we were stopping to change a diaper, to put the little monkey leash thing on Sarah, to calm down Silas’s crying or to put Sarah back in the stroller. Two hours we were there, and I think we saw about as much stuff as a childless couple sees in a half-hour.

This was the second time in a row we hit the zoo at late afternoon. Half the animals were off napping or devouring caribou out of sight. Sarah enjoyed checking out the tiger and the exotic birds* and particularly the monkeys. Two of the monkeys were walking around while having sex, forming a two-backed beast with poor posture**. Also, the burrowing owl was nowhere to be seen, but that’s a no-brainer***.

Anyway, it was a very laborious form of relaxation. Our “packing up the kids and going to see some sights” routine is not as streamlined and efficient as it could be. The fact that we don’t often pack up the kids to see sights — usually, it’s just a short trip to the park or the store or a restaurant — has a little something to do with that.

*Which all had hilarious, bottle-of-wine-sounding names. Picture the middle shelves of your supermarket stocked with affordably priced White Ibis Chablis, Ruddy Duck Cabernet and Black Crowned Night Heron Merlot.

**For those of you marveling at yet another immature, needlessly included detail that has nothing to do with my family or kids, I should add that all my wife, stepson and I all giggled at the informational sign pointing out the “Somali Wild Ass” exhibit. I’ve got this whole idea now of a person of Somali descent being trapped outdoors in a zoo exhibit and doing wild-ass things. You know, binge drinking, flashing for beads, cutting tags off of mattresses. That kinda stuff.

***I stole those last five words from one of my absolute favorite SNL cold opens, in which Will Ferrell as George W. Bush explains who all is in the Axis of Evil. (“Evil Kneaval’s in the Axis of Evil, but that’s a no-brainer. But Dr. Evil, no, he makes me laugh, so he’s out.”)

BABY PICTURE OF THE DAY

Smiley Silas

Super Bowl kids

February 6, 2011

Andrew Hicks

EDITOR’S NOTE: Andrew once again dashed his daily productivity goal and did not have this blog posted before midnight. The culprit this time? Super Bowl XLV. Now, don’t assume for a second that Andrew cared a thing about the game. He had to double check which teams were playing before the game started so he wouldn’t look like a moron at the party. Andrew never watches football and, in fact, spent most of his high school years at a Christian school whose homecoming game took place on the soccer field against schools with names like Because He Died For Us Central.

Let’s not forget, though, Super Bowl is one of the major party days every year, and until just a few months ago, Andrew was a major partier. Super Bowl is only partially about the game. It’s also about gathering, eating a ton of food and talking over the game. Andrew estimates that this Super Bowl, the first since he quit drinking, he paid less attention to the game than when he was matching Anheuser Busch ads one beer per commercial.

The domestic takeover of Andrew’s life, though, was ever-apparent at this year’s Super Bowl party. He went with his wife and kids to the next-door neighbor’s house. Andrew’s two kids plus the neighbor’s four kids plus the neighbor’s best friend’s two kids plus another neighbor’s kid outnumbered the adults in attendance. Seven adults, nine children, and it was a completely new experience for Andrew to have his child playing in another area of another person’s house with other kids.

He had to frequently quit watching the game — no major sacrifice, but still — to go upstairs and check on his 2 year old, who was perfectly safe the entire time. Oh, and when one kid climbed up on Andrew’s shoulders during one of these visits and begged Andrew to take him for a ride, Andrew obliged him, not realizing that all the other young kids were going to see this, think it was awesome and each want their own turns. Then beg for second turns directly after completing their first turns.

Andrew quickly felt every bit of how out of shape he was, which he supposes is some kind of basic irony, considering Super Bowl is supposed to be the ultimate show of the atheletic strength and agility of the few contrasted with the passive, indulgent consumption of the many.

Oh, and Andrew wants to add that he was tired of people talking about Christina Aguilera messing up the national anthem immediately — partially because he couldn’t come up with an easy, decent joke about it. He is grateful, however, that the Aguilera incident caused entertainment gossip shows to dig up a hilarious 2003 clip of Michael Bolton having to check the lyrics of “The Star Spangled Banner” that he wrote on his palm. Funniest part was, people were still asking Michael Bolton to sing the national anthem at major events in 2003.

FAMILY PICTURE OF THE DAY

Baby Silas, ready for transport.

Milk-chunk vomit

January 4, 2011

Andrew Hicks

My family has been fortunate enough to be in good health in our journey thus far. The ankle break incident was my first time as an overnight hospital inpatient since I was a newborn. Before that, I had two in-and-out admissions for stitches on accidental cuts, and I broke a metatarsal in my foot when I was 10. No disabilities, no congenital conditions, no allergies, none of that.*

My wife Tiffany has had basically the same clean track record. She had an ovary removed in 2003 after years of unsuccessful attempts with her first husband to get pregnant** again. And my kids have fared well so far — Silas has had a couple cry-all-night episodes where whatever was bothering him quickly went away, and Sarah has been healthy and happy aside from contracting RSV*** from one of the other daycare babies when she was 2 months old.

So it was a surprise to me to have Sarah bound into my room and wake me up at 3:30 this morning with wet hair and a new sleeper on. I’d only been in bed for about an hour, just long enough to enter that stage of REM sleep where “Shiny Happy People” starts playing in your head.

Tiffany told me Sarah had woken her up screaming, and when she went into Sarah’s room, Sarah and the bed were covered in congealed milk-chunk vomit. If you’ve ever accidentally left a half-consumed baby bottle in the car for a week, then opened the top and dumped out the contents, you can visualize the consistency. If you’ve ever handled uncooked cubes of tofu, your mental picture is even more three-dimensional.

Sarah, for being sick, was one happy little girl. She wanted to read books, play with toys and jump up and down on the bed. I wanted her to lay down next to me and fall asleep so I could go back to being a shiny, happy, unconscious person. I got her back into her own bed pretty quickly, but minutes later, followed the unpleasant noise into her room and found she’d puke-soiled her second outfit and batch of clean sheets with more tofu-milk chunks.

We were up another couple hours after that time, and there was more throwing up and dry heaving. She wasn’t holding down water or ice chips. Tiffany took off a half-day from work, and there were fleeting moments, maybe up to an hour, were everybody got some sleep. It was the first time Sarah slept in bed between mommy and daddy, which was super cute and sweet, etc. but isn’t a habit I want her to get into.

Sarah shows signs of being better now. And the upswing of this is, with the lack of rest from last night, she’ll most likely go to bed early and sleep the length of a waking day. Give dad a little break. It’s also, as a layparent, assuring to see her symptoms get better, not worse. The general health of my family and myself is something I mostly take for granted as a given, but the occasional brief reminder pops up to make me give thanks for the basics.

*Okay, I am known to chronically reach for the easy joke, but I’m turning that experience into a positive by authoring a cautionary children’s book called Andrew and the Low-Hanging Fruit.

**The missing ingredient from that equation? My single-ovary-shattering super sperm.

***Previously, as a church kid, I’d only known the letters RSV to signify the Revised Standard Version of the Bible. You know, the one that changed “Jesus wept” to “Jesus sniffled and cried a lil’ bit.”

BABY PICTURE OF THE DAY

Sarah and Grandma Ginny greet newborn Silas in the hospital.