Saturday, December 25, 2010

Some Assembly Required - Epic Failure

Christmas Eve snuck up on me, only in that after a long evening of church, dinner and socializing, having settled into the idea of closing my eyes soon so that Santa could work his magic, I was presented with my first late evening parental experience with a cardboard box full of pieces of plastic and metal that in 34 simple steps, the use of a hammer, a screwdriver, a drill and a file (this one was not listed as a needed tool, but ended up being critical) would turn into something Thomas would treasure for at least as long as it ended up taking me, my father-in-law and my brother-in-law (also not listed in the needed tools section) to assemble.

The torture device in question is a Cozy Coupe, a nice little 4 wheel push car, no motor or any moving parts, save for the wheels. And not just any cozy coupe, but the 30th anniversary edition, which means they've had 30 years to get assembly down to a science. To keep things simple, there are no words in the instructions, its all pictures, letters and arrows. Issues #1 was the precise fit (or lack there of) of the pieces. A simple axle through a wheel proved to be a mix between an optical illusion and a defiance of the laws of physics. Some quick file adjustments got us over that hump. Issue #2 was all me. To secure the wheels to the axles requires the use of a metal cap and a hammer. Initially, not wanting to brave the sub freezing temperature in my Homer Simpson pajamas, I attempted to apply the cap to the axle delicately in the living room. This approved both inadequate to attach the cap and excessively loud enough to wake Thomas. So I was forced to brave the cold each time I needed to hammer (6 trips in all). As I was distracted, frustrated and flustered by 5 other people watching my exploits, I managed to apply a cap to an axle without sticking the plastic hubcap on first. An irreversible oversight that has left a blemish on the Cozy Coupe. Basically it looks like Thomas is riding around with a spare tire. Theoretically we can dremmel that cap off. Part of me wants his car to be perfect, part of me wants the reminder of my first attempt.

So Christmas morning went very well. As my dad is recovering from his surgery, they were stuck in Cincinnati rather than making the trek to my sister's in Virginia. Although judging by the weather, that may ultimately have been a blessing. To help my parents get a little Christmas excitement, we brought a laptop into the gift room and used Skype to let my parents watch Thomas enter the room and open his presents. I'm happy to say that he went right to the Coups and really enjoyed it. And he was not overwhelmed by the toy store that lay before him. He took the time to check out each present and enjoyed himself all day. He seems to be impervious to being spoiled so far, but now I have to figure out how to build another room onto the house for all of his stuff. Pledges have been made all around that next year there will be restraint, but that's a long way off and by then, he'll start knowing what he wants. And his birthday is a week away...

Monday, December 20, 2010

Twas the Week Before Christmas...

It really twas...Christmas day is 6 days away and we have a spoilage alert! Thomas is about to get bombarded with gifts from grandparents that will be beyond his comprehension or ability to fully enjoy before he outgrows them. I have been as stern and disapproving as I can be. Lots of harrumphs and eye rolls but nothing seems to work. I'm afraid that my beautiful wife is also complicit in this act of treachery. Alas, I've seen the home videos of her childhood and its written that we are doomed to repeat what we have experienced. So I will stand back and watch as Thomas spends as much time playing with ribbon and wrapping paper as what was inside them.

I will provide an update of the festivities later this week. In the meantime, I wanted to touch on a couple of things that are less humorous, but have been on my mind. The first concerns Thomas' grandfather, my dad. Let me just spoil the ending and let the reader know that this has a very happy ending, but over Thanksgiving we learned that my dad had prostate cancer. It was very sobering and scary for all of us. Fortunately prostate cancer is the kind of cancer that you want to get, if there is such a thing. My dad and his doctor were on top of things and caught it early. They went in last week and removed the cancer cells and everything looks really good.

The month that I was aware of the challenge my dad faced and the possibility that things could have turned out much worse were obviously scary. Not only for me as his son, but it brought to mind how important and impactful both of my grandfathers were on me and the possibility of Thomas missing out on spending time and learning from my dad was not a prospect I wanted to deal with. Thomas already has a natural connection with both of his grandfathers. Goes right to them and truly knows them to be something more than the large number of people that fawn over him (he is not want for attention). I am thankful that things turned out ok, because Thomas has to learn the tradition of making waffles from scratch on a random Sunday morning from my dad. Not only because its a memory I treasure, but also because my dad does the recipe from memory and by the time I get up these days, the waffles are already done. So someone needs to get that recipe for me. Best waffles in the world.

The other thing that has me bothered/thinking these days is my little brother in the big brother/little brother program. He just turned 16 and he has reached a point in his life that is truly a crossroads. He's making some really bad choices that will have far reaching consequences. For the first time in our relationship, I am finding myself acting like a parent more than a friend. Unfortunately, I can see in his eyes some of the same "you don't understand or I don't want to talk about this" look that I know I would have had at that age. He's still just a kid and I know he just wants to ignore bad things in the hopes they'll just go away or resolve themselves. The choices he has made, I've warned him against and tried to show him the opportunities and alternatives that are there for him if he wants them. There's really not much more I think I could have done, but I can't help but feel I'm failing a bit. Thomas could easily be him, sitting across from me, not wanting to look me in the eye. In just 2 years, I've seen my little brother change dramatically. In some ways, he's exactly the same, but in others obviously not. He's grown alot. Thomas, too, has grown so much. I worry about the choices that Thomas will one day be faced with and if I can properly prepare him to minimize the mistakes that he will inevitably make. Why do people sign up for this stuff?

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Short Stories of laziness

So, I was supposed to post a video of Thomas climbing the stairs last week and I was supposed to post a new blog entry this week. Well, I didn't get around to last week and here it is this week and Thomas didn't do diddley for me to write about (actually he was awesome, is growing and took a bunch of steps, but go with me here, I'm laying out an excuse), so I'm forced to cover for him by posting, not one, not two, but three big time videos. I will have a very stern conversation with Thomas about his responsibility in regards to this blog. I'm pretty sure that will tide everyone over for a little while. I'll be back soon. Thomas says hey.

Thomas climbing stairs

Thomas playing with Tyler

Thomas walking with balloon