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May 15, 2013

Meg and the boy visited some friends the other night. While the kids played, the ladies gossiped, exchanged recipes, and discussed how best to darn a sock. (Ok, I don’t know that sure, but based on my understanding of 1950s television, I assume it’s along those lines…. Though if the evening followed a 1970s theme, there may have been pillow fights. Hard to say.) Based on police records and Megan’s retelling of events, Owen, fortunately, was “good” — meaning he only manhandled the smaller children “a little.” No blood was spilled, so a good time was clearly had by all.

Their absence allowed me a little of what I affectionately refer to as “sitting-on-my-butt” time. Rather than reacquainting myself with my well-formed ass-groove on the couch, however, I decided to toss life a curve and spend my newly-found free time at the pub with my friends, wings and beer. I was even introduced to beer’s twin, “‘Another round.”

Save for wing’s suicide-flavoured brothers, the joint was empty. The bartender had a day-old NBA game on the tv, and the lone guy at the bar was a jovial and somewhat inebriated Scotsman who felt it important that everyone understand that the Maple Leafs coach was a “tosser.”

Good to know.

Still, despite the lack of company, the evening was shaping to be a relaxing time. It occurred to me somewhere between dunking my ninth wing in dill sauce and finishing my first pint that, prior to Owen, and even prior to living in the vast urban sprawl that is The Vaughan, a few hours alone at an empty pub might be considered by some to be almost, well, sad. Now, you come to appreciate that these rare ventures into the world, baby-less, are like living the compressed equivalent of a week’s vacation – a vacation whose pinnacle is sucking the tiniest morsels from your last chicken wing.

Mmmmm.

After a while, I’d had my fill of beer and couldn’t stomach another wing and got the bill. As I waited for the server to bring me my change, a cover version of The Beatles’ Yesterday came over the house radio. It’s such as sad song. It’s such a beautiful song as well. I’m not sure who did the particular version I was listening to, but they perfectly captured the song’s true majesty.

I remember once, as a teenager, stopping to listen to some nameless, faceless musician play Yesterday in a subway station. His guitar screamed and echoed through the corridors and I was completely mesmerized by not only the power in his voice, but also at the simplicity of the song. His performance not only turned me onto the Beatles it, more importantly, introduced me to that song.

Years later, when Owen was only a few months old, he started having difficulty falling asleep. Megan and I would have to hold him in our arms and walk with him, sometimes for up to an hour, before he would finally nod off. To help soothe the boy, we would sing a medley of songs to him. Whereas Megan would often sing Twinkle Twinkle, I would snort Bon Jovi power ballads and chortle Metallica’s “slower” songs. Surprisingly, neither Livin’ on a Prayer nor Fade to Black did much to help our son sleep.

After some trial and error, we’d both eventually discover that Yesterday would calm the boy. I loved that, the more we sang him those lyrics, the faster he’d settle and the faster he’d fade to sleep. Owen sleeps better now and we don’t often have to sing to him anymore. So there I was, listening to this song again at a lonely bar, and I smiled. I hadn’t heard Yesterday for a while and I remembered why I like it. I understood why I liked singing it to Owen.

I left my tip and made my way to the car. My night was over. I needed to get home. It’s funny what a single song can do. I remembered that, no matter how much I enjoy the idea of “being on my own,” I enjoy being a dad more.

[Queue video of Megan and her friends darning socks when, out of no where, a pillow fight breaks out! Insert cheezy 1970s music…]


May 14, 2013

Meg, the boy, and I are planning a trip out west soon to visit family. Beyond the need to get away and hopefully relax, this trip will mark the first time Owen has been on an airplane. My wife has planned our trip in exquisite detail and, short of packing more than a month in advance, has taken care of everything we could possibly need while we’re away. The wild card in our trip, and what has us most concerned, not surprisingly, is how the lad is going to handle being cooped up on the plane. Some parents fret over how their kids will react during takeoff; others worry about the pain they could feel during landings; we, on the other hand, are concerned with how our fellow passengers are going to handle Owen, in a small confined airplane, for more than four hours.

At this point, I have the odds of an unscheduled landing at 4-1.

At the best of times, eighteen-month-old children have trouble keeping still. They get bored. They want to explore their surroundings. It’s to be expected. The problem is, Owen doesn’t keep still, let’s face it, ever. And if Monkeynastix is indicative of anything, it’s that Owen won’t be quiet when he’s not keeping still. (“Uhhhhhhhhhhhh….”) Nope, he’s gonna be loud, which the passengers looking to get some sleep should appreciate.

And, to make sure he’s best positioned to disrupt as many people as possible, Owen is teething again. While we’re all hoping he works his way through this before we leave, the boy’s slow to cut his teeth and we’re resigned now to the idea that his mouth is going to hurt. In addition to making him irritable, Owen has shown the propensity to gnaw on anything he can get his mouth around when his gums are bothering him: his fingers, the furniture, people… Sadly, that he’s bitten the cat more often than she’s bitten him is ominous, and more than a little disturbing.

That Owen isn’t required to have a paid seat, however, is an advantage of travelling at his young age. Babies are merely required to sit on their parent or guardian’s lap. (Meaning, in theory, I’ll be expected to try and strong-arm my frenzied Buttlerball into sitting on my lap for the better part of the trip… The relaxation begins almost immediately!) Fortunately, friends gave us a great tip: pay the extra cost to pre-select our seats — the aisle for me and the window for Meg. Then, when we check in, hope that no one is assigned the middle seat and, if someone is, hope (i.e., kneel down and pray) that they’re somehow reassigned elsewhere, thus leaving the seat empty. While brilliant on paper, the danger lies in the chance that some narrow-minded numb-nut will want to keep their assigned seat and refuse to either take our window or to even move at all.

Can you imagine the four hours awaiting that clueless bastard if they choose to sit tight?

We’ve discovered that one of the few things that stifle Owen’s need to wreak havoc is the cartoon, Fireman Sam. (Fireman Sam chronicles Welsh firefighter Sam’s adventures in the town of Ponty Pandy. Stuff burns and he puts the fires out.) I’ve loaded our tablet with a couple dozen episodes and we’re currently training the boy to watch them wearing headphones. It’s a slow grind as he tosses the headphones every couple minutes. Still, Fireman Sam may ultimately be our only real way of calming him for any period of time. Not sure what it says when we’re placing our hope for a quiet flight in the hands of a Welsh cartoon about a town filled with inept pyromaniacs.

I’ve had a recurring dream lately where, mid-flight, I find myself unable to hold the boy still. He escapes my grasp (duct tape, in my dream, is prohibited from the flight deck… thank you War on Terror) and runs down the aisle — “Uhhhhhhhhhhhh….” Before anyone realizes what’s going on, Owen crashes headlong into the refreshment cart. In some dreams, he sends the passengers into a panic after the flight attendant careens through a latched door. In other dreams he drops down and, still teething, chomps down on someone’s ankle. Things get fuzzy after that, but I’m always left with the feeling that an international incident just occured.

I told a friend about this dream. His comforting words were, “Boy, I hope that doesn’t happen.”

In truth, I just hope we aren’t forced to land with a fighter escort.


May 10, 2013

In what can best be described as an "interesting" turn of events, no one it seems can agree on who built the fence along the side of my house. It’s murky genesis is stuck in some sort of fence-purgatory. Well, that, or someone isn't being completely honest.

A quick recap, once again, for those that didn't follow the epic fence saga on Facebook (click HERE to read the series in its entirety). After waiting nearly 24 months for construction to begin, once started, it took nearly a year to erect a simple iron fence along my street. The absurdity that followed this construction escapade, frankly, borders on the surreal. Nonetheless, once completed, a patch of grass in front of my house was left damaged by a back-hoe and by the heavy stone they stored on it during construction. This grass needs to be fixed and I don't feel compelled to be the one to do it (Megan maybe, Owen perhaps, but not me).

After failing last week to get this parcel of land repaired (or finding anyone with the faintest idea of what I was talking about), I was successful in sending off a carefully-crafted email to the person within the City of Vaughan responsible for the region’s grassy-bits. His response was not what I expected. I had anticipated some sort of reply blaming me for the damage. I half expected him to assert that I had damaged the grass with my family-owned back-hoe and that it would be my responsibility to fix it.

Nope.

Instead, the grassy-bit dude said “it was your developer/builder who installed the fence,” not the City of Vaughan, and that it was the builder's back-hoe and stone that did the damage. He forwarded my email to some other guy who would see to it that the developer rectified everything.

Sorry, what?

An important aspect of this story dates to 2010. In actuality, I had initially assumed that the fence was the builder's responsibility. They tackled much of area’s landscaping but, during a conversation with one of their workers, I was told that they had been instructed to remove their trucks, tools, and scrap material from the area so the city could start building the fence. By 2011, however, work on the fence had yet to start, so I emailed the developer to see if they knew when construction might begin. In their response, the builder told me that they didn't know as it was the city that would be constructing the fence.

Seems the City would beg to differ. Much of my — what shall I call it — "pointed criticism" towards Vaughan over the past year was based on the above conversations.

Uh oh.

The builder says that the fence is the City's deal. The City says the fence is the builder's deal. I had assumed this sordid tale couldn't be any more, well, sordid.

But then it was.

A second person from Vaughan emailed later to say, “The contractor should be on site to complete the boulevard in front of the wrought iron fence shortly." (Which, depending on who really did build the fence, "shortly" could mean "when we get around to it next year.") But here again, I’m not even sure what this person is talking about as a large swath of my street hasn’t been landscaped. Is he talking about that ("to complete the boulevard" — which in no way is a small patch of grass) or my little patch of divoted, weedy grass (clearly not a "boulevard")?

Is the City of Vaughan as incompetent as I have portrayed them? Have I been wrong about them all this time or could they be so dim as to forget they built a fence? Why would the builder lie? And if that turns out to be the case, what else have they lied about?

I'm so confused.