Saturday, October 31, 2009

Pumpkin Patches Are Not Just for Charlie Brown

I was visiting my friend PJ Mullen’s blog a few weeks ago when he put the thought of pumpkin patches in my head. I commented that we didn’t have things like that in small town Arkansas. Then I thought to myself that statement didn’t make much sense. If you can’t grow fruits and vegetables in rural America then where can you grow them? So I went home and asked Arica if we had any pumpkin patches in our area.

She proceeded to do some research and found that we had two within about 20 miles. She did some more reading and told me which one was the best. We went and had an awesome time. The results of our visit are detailed below.

Here we are upon arrival.

After that we visited the petting zoo. Braden did not like the horse.

He did like the rabbits.

He didn’t really care about the baby ducks. He was too busy looking at the scary chickens to his right.

Then we went to the pumpkin patch. Braden picked out two pumpkins right away.
Then we visited the hay covered playground. Braden could not go on the slide, but he had fun anyway.
Then we moved on to my favorite part of the day. The pumpkin patch had a John Deere lawn mower pulled train. The cars were made from 55 gallon drums that were painted John Deere Green and turned into train cars. There were several kids on the train. Braden was the youngest by far, and he was the only kid riding all by himself. At first I thought maybe Arica and I would be voted parents of the year by our fellow pumpkin patchers. Then the ride started and it was all ok. Braden had so much fun. He rode around the entire premises with his arm resting on the side of the cart. He smiled and laughed the whole way. The only time he got mad was when we took him out of the car at the end of the ride. It was awesome.

Finally we closed out the day with a hay ride. Braden fell asleep for part of it. Of course after all this fun he was a very tired boy.

This was my first visit to a pumpkin patch. Before this my only knowledge of a pumpkin patch was Charlie Brown camping out all night looking for the Great Pumpkin. Needless to say I had an amazing time even though we didn’t see the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, or even a pumpkin pie. I am certain that this will become a family tradition for Braden, Arica, and I. When we have another rugrat we will bring them too.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Airports Can Be Fun

I have been around the world several times by now. I have spent what must be weeks or even months waiting in airports. I have been in JFK, La Guardia, and Newark. I have been to LAX. I have been to O’hare dozens of times. I have been in the airports in Miami, Rome, Paris, Tokyo, and many, many others. Still with all this time spent in the wonders that are modern airports, I have never seen a famous person. I haven’t even seen a relatively well known person. I only see the other weary eyed travelers struggling through their ordinary lives.

Monday night I was sitting at an airport bar in Detroit, drinking a beer, watching Monday Night Football, and reading the menu. Someone approached me on my right so I turned to see this would be bar friend of mine. I looked up at this mountain of a man and all I could muster to say was….Dave…..Winfield?

He looked down on my awestruck person and said, “Yeah, how are you?”

I am sure there are many of you who think I have still never met anyone famous. Who is this Dave Winfield you ask. I also know that I have some readers who are baseball fans and know exactly who sat by me the other night. Dave Winfield is a Major League Baseball Hall of Famer. He currently works for ESPN and is on TV quite often. I watched him play as a kid. While he was never one of my favorites any baseball fan can admire the exploits of a Hall of Famer.

While we ate our dinners Mr. Winfield and I talked. We talked about how terrible the Redskins are this year. We talked about our travel plans. He remarked to me during a commercial about lawn care that he wouldn’t want a yard that required that much work. I think he probably has a big yard, but pays someone else to care for it. Maybe he doesn’t. What do I know?

So I sat there at the bar carrying on a friendly conversation with a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame. I was like a kid on Christmas morning. Then he left and said, “Have safe travels my man.” That was it. My brush with greatness was over.

Before Mr. Winfield sat down by me Monday night airports only meant delays, waiting, more waiting, and time away from home. At least now when I walk through an airport I know there is at least a small chance that something fun will happen.

Friday, October 23, 2009

I Can See Clearly Now the Seat Has Turned

I don't have much to share today. I only have a short post. So when you are done go by Dad Blogs and check out all the other great blog posts on this Fatherhood Friday.

Fatherhood Friday at Dad Blogs

In my last post I wrote about our trip to the doctor. I claimed the good news was that Braden was disease free. That is true, and we are very thankful for that.

There was also some other good news. We were granted permission to put Braden in a forward facing car seat. We have had one sitting in a box since before Braden was born. Now we can get that plush, stylish Eddie Bauer chair out of its cardboard prison and into our car.

That means no more forcing a large kid into a small car seat. No more struggling to get the buckles snapped together over Braden's stomach. No more lugging that stupid car seat from car to car. No more keeping up with the bases for the seat. No more looking into a myriad of perfectly placed mirrors aligned at very precise angles to see Braden in his seat.

It means even more to Braden. Now he can see where we are going instead of where we have been.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Waiting for the Doctor

We took Braden to the doctor Monday. The place more closely resembled a circus or maybe even a family reunion for all the mountain dwellers in the county. After an hour and a half with all the sick hillbillies we had to reschedule for Tuesday and leave.

Tuesday was more of the same. The parking lot was full. There was standing room only in the waiting room. There is nothing quite like standing and waiting. There have been a large number of documented cases of H1N1 in our town so clearly every kid with a runny nose was in the doctor's office. There is notching like spending an hour with every diseased kid in a 30 mile radius.

Braden finally got in to see the doctor. It turns out he has allergies. I don't know how that feels because I don't have problems with ragweed and other airborne allergens. Arica does, and it looks like she passed it on to Braden. The telltale sign according to our pediatrician is the "allergic black eye." I love that term and have used it repeatedly. It's not every day that I get to learn a new term, much less a medical term that sounds like pure silliness. That was a good find.

The good news is Braden has no fever. He has no pig virus. He is disease free. The bad news is that every year for the rest of his life he will have allergy problems. Right now Arica spends plenty of time with the nose plunger sucking snot from the far reaches of his brain.

I guess the even further reaching good news is that one day he will learn to blow his own nose.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Random Tuesday Thoughts

I am trying to get back to a regular blogging schedule. Doing that means returning to one of my all time favorite formats, the random thoughts post. So buckle up and enjoy the random musings of the man who spends his days cyphering on how to turn poo into energy and his nights consistently getting outsmarted by an 11 month old.


  • People walk up and down a street near our house all the time. There is no sidewalk, but the foot traffic is pretty heavy. The reason for all the walking is, of course, to get to Wal-Mart. Every day when I pass these people they stop walking and move over off the road. Moving over is obviously a great idea, but why do they stop and stare at me? I will never understand this behavior. I think it is safer to keep walking because we all know it is harder to hit a moving target.
  • Why must we say I write well, he plays well, or she sings well. Why can't we replace well with good. Why is good an adjective and well an adverb? To me using well sounds uppity and snobbish. Can't we get this rule changed? Who are the adverb police? Who do I need to call? Mr. Webster? King James? Tiger Woods?
  • I put one of our refrigerator magnet letters on the dish washer the other day. When Braden passed by yesterday and saw it, he put it back on the refrigerator. Now if I could only hone this ability to be used for putting up his toys.
  • Every day at lunch I feed the dogs. As soon as Braden hears me getting the dog food he races for the sliding glass doors. He likes to watch me go out with the dogs. It is a silly little thing, but it has become a fun ritual for father and son. I think it is cool that he can recognize what is going on too.
  • I will be returning to Scotland next week. With any luck this will be my last overseas business trip ever. I hope so.
  • I went deer hunting last weekend and killed nothing. I saw a doe, a deer, a female deer. Actually I saw several, but I chose not to shoot them in search of the illusive buck deer. I think there is a lesson in there about birds in a bush or something.
  • Arica stayed overnight at deer camp with me on Friday night. This was the first time she has ever done this (and probably the last). She slept in the freezing cold camper because our heater went out. She slept using other people's blankets because I forgot to bring blankets of our own. She slept on a bed too small for us both. Actually I don't think she slept at all. The point of this is to say thank you Arica for being such a good wife. Thanks for putting up with the atrocities of deer camp to spend some time with me.
  • Monday, October 19, 2009

    He Walks, He Carries Things, He Dribbles, He Rocks

    Two of my most loyal followers and great bloggers themselves, Weasel Momma and Surprised Mom, suggested a little while back that I give them some video of Braden.

    Well I have tried for a long while to get what I thought was blogworthy video. Every time I get out the camera Braden ceases whatever great activity he is doing and comes after me and the camera. I can never get anything.

    Finally I got this.

    An optimist might say he can walk so well that he is able to carry things. A pessimist might say he is using the ball to help balance and prevent falls. The all knowing friend or relative that likes to predict the future might say he is going to be a basketball player.

    Arica and I say that he is amazing.

    Friday, October 16, 2009

    Our Baby is Growing Up Too Fast

    Braden is growing up faster than I can track. Every day he is on to new skills and adventures. He has transformed from crawler to full time walker in the past week. Now when I am looking for him I have to raise my gaze to a few feet off the floor rather than scouring the hardwood for the little guy.

    He continues to eat more and more foods. He often eats at the table with Mommy and Daddy these days. He loves to drink water from his sippy cup. I am using love here in the way that Pooh loves honey or Norm loves beer. He gets a little juice from time to time which he obviously likes as well. He has nearly completed his metamorphosis from baby to one year old. I can hardly believe it.

    This morning Braden practiced one of his new favorite skills. That skill is pointing. When kids are older you will hear many a parent say don't point. Pointing is rude. But for a baby it is an important step in communication. Braden constantly points at things he wants. For those of you who have forgot babies want everything. He points at the lights, the fan, the pictures on the wall. He points at toys out of his reach, food he wants, and even toothbrushes by the sink. Last night I was reading him a book when he started pointing at his bookshelf.

    I am not sure if this means he was enjoying reading time and he wanted more books, or he wanted me to shut up and put the book back where it belongs. Until he can talk I will be optimistic and assume he only means nice things.

    Now to the pointing story that started this discussion. Most mornings I feed Braden a bottle when he wakes up around 7:30. After his bottle I put him back to bed before I go to work. This morning I tried to hold him for a little while before putting him back to bed. He kept struggling to get away. He struggled and turned around while standing on my lap. I figured he wanted down, and I would have to take him back to bed right away. Then as he turned around he pointed to his stuffed monkey laying on the ottoman. I gave him the monkey. He hugged it tight and laid down on my chest. We sat like that for a few minutes in the dark. It was a wonderful moment that I will never forget.

    These type moments are the ones that Arica and I are trying to cherish every day because our baby is growing up too fast.
    Fatherhood Friday at Dad Blogs

    Thursday, October 15, 2009

    Deer Hunting With Dad

    I feel it is my duty as a card carrying southerner to let all you city slickers know that deer season in Arkansas opens on Saturday. Actually archery season is already open, but muzzle loading season opens this weekend. I don't bow hunt because it is just too much work. You have to get the deer too close before you can shoot them. Many of you might think I should give the furry woodland creatures a better chance, but I say you are wrong. I am not hurting the deer population with my gun toting ways.

    Just to give you some proof that I am actually a hunter and not someone posing as such, here is a picture of the biggest deer I have ever killed. It was several years ago but is still a fond memory. Actually I am just showing this picture because like all hunters I like to show off my trophies. What kind of hunter am I if I can't use the power of the internet to show my kills to strangers.

    If the dead animal depicted here makes you feel squeamish don't worry. My wife and mom have never liked looking at them either. When I stop and think about it I have to laugh. What sensible person carries around dead carcasses to show off to all his family and friends.

    A deer hunter, that's who. Stop judging us.

    I am excited for this season because it is the first one I will get to share with my little buddy Braden. I have already taken him to deer camp twice this year just to hang out. He loves being outside and with years of deer camp fun ahead surely he will take up hunting like me.

    I can already see us spending time in the woods together. I will teach him about the different types of trees. We will learn the names of all the birds we see and most of the ones we hear. We will watch the squirrels scurrying about tending to their daily business. You never know what we might see...bears, raccoons, foxes, coyotes, or something even wilder.

    I will teach Braden gun safety. He will learn to hunt with me. Hopefully one day we will get a deer close enough for him to shoot. I killed my first one when I was nine years old. I still have the youth model shotgun that I used. I am already excited to hand that down to Braden as well. Bonding over manly things is something all fathers dream of doing with their sons and I am no different.

    For a country boy there is nothing quite like deer camp. You get to hang out with the guys in the woods. You ride 4-wheelers and 4x4 trucks. You can explore. You build fires. You shoot guns. If you are lucky you can take home a trophy buck. Even in those down years you still have the camaraderie to make the time special.

    Deer hunting is one of my enduring hobbies. I hope to keep hunting as long as I am physically able. Sharing a lifelong enjoyment like this with Braden will be amazing. With that in mind we will dress him up in his camouflage and take him to deer camp this weekend, and we will be coming back often.

    Wednesday, October 14, 2009

    What is Date Night?

    Date night is something Arica and I planned while Braden was still cooking. We enjoy a close relationship and relish the opportunity to spend time together. We knew a baby would make it difficult to focus on our relationship on most days. For this reason we wanted to plan a day every week just for us. This way we could stay connected as a loving couple rather than becoming only partners in child raising much like Smith and Wesson were partners in gun making.

    I know many people follow this same type of plan. If you are a couple that does not practice a regular date night then I highly recommend it. It works wonders for stress reduction and happiness production.

    Tuesday night is our regular date night. Sometimes we do the traditional dinner and a movie. Many nights we just stay home and cook a nice meal for each other. I like to cook theme meals for Italian or Japanese nights. Not long ago we had a Caribbean night complete with Rum punch. Other nights Arica will cook some of my home cooked favorites. We may go shopping. We may on that rare occasion even head out of town to Little Rock for the evening. The only thing that is important is that we spend our time focused on each other.

    Of course you need someone to watch the kids for this night to be successful. Arica and I are lucky to have her Mom living nearby. She takes Braden on Tuesdays for us. Without her date night would not be possible.

    We need date night because life as a parent is sometimes so difficult that your inner parent will destroy and eat your inner husband or wife. Obviously you cannot kill the inner parent. You need him. So the only way to keep a balance is to strengthen your inner spouse so he can live alongside the inner parent. Romantic dinners, flowers, movies, walks in the park, live music, or anything else you and your partner enjoy is a great way to strengthen your inner spouse. Romantic outings are to the inner spouse what spinach is to Popeye.

    My inner spouse loves spinach, and I love date night. It gives Arica and I a needed break from the stress of full time parenting. It also allows us to remain strong in our relationship so that we can provide a happy home for Braden. I think that is one of our most important responsibilities as parents.

    I encourage you to set a day this week and spend some quality alone time with your significant other. By doing so you are saving your inner husband or wife. If you don't care for that relationship then it can die. So don't wait until it's too late.

    Friday, October 9, 2009

    Modern Family

    I love the new ABC comedy Modern Family. It is one of the funniest new shows I have seen in quite a while. Besides being funny it also gives us real proof that Ed O'Neil did not fall off the face of the earth after "Married With Children." If you are a fan of the nearly extinct genre once known as the sitcom I highly recommend that you watch. Below is a clip from the show.

    The show also has me thinking today about how families welcome new members and how they survive many of the changes in today's family life. Families like the one depicted in the show are more and more common. Our family is pretty normal, but we can learn a bit from the show as well.

    My family growing up was very conservative. They still are. I was raised inside a tight knit group that very rarely welcomed any outsiders. If you married someone unlike the rest of the family you were asking for trouble. The new blood would not be turned away, but they might not be treated as well as they should.

    I am not talking about differences anything like you see in the show above or anything like you see in much of America. I am talking about a different home life, a different way of handling conflict, a different church life, different parenting, or any other number of minor differences. I don't mean Muslim vs. Christian, heterosexual vs. homosexual, or vegetarian vs. carnivore. The differences need only to be minute to raise an eyebrow.

    As you may have guessed by now I have been a victim of this type of behavior. Arica and I have struggled with my family for years now. It is a difficult thing to go through for anyone. I can't help but watch this fictional TV show with all their problems and all their differences and wish my life more closely resembled their dysfunction. I can only dream of a situation where differences can be accepted and even celebrated. Most importantly I would love a situation where differences made us stronger rather than tore us apart.

    I have never written a Christian message in this space before. It is a big part of my life, but I am not comfortable preaching as I am sure most of you are not comfortable being preached too. For once I will break that rule. My daily bible reading today was 1 Corinthians 13. Most all of you readers are familiar with this text whether you are Christian or not. It was even recited in the decidedly non-religious movie "Wedding Crashers."

    The part I want to share today is this "Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails"

    Any "Modern Family" can be strong and accepting of anything as long as they have love. I hope all of you experience this type of love in your family life today and always.

    Thursday, October 8, 2009

    No Hitting

    Arica and I watched the nursery kids at our church last night during the weekly bible study classes. This is not our normal role, but there was an emergency and my dear wife stepped in to help. Basically she watched the nursery kids, and I did my best to keep up.

    We had a 3 year old boy, a 4 year old girl, and Braden. Dealing with other people's kids is not my specialty. I am still learning how to deal with my own nearly one year old. I have not reached the 3 or 4 year old stage yet. Unlike my wife I was not born with any innate parenting skills. I, like many men, have to survive with a learn as you go strategy. Our adventure last night allowed me to learn a few things first hand.

    I learned that little girls are quite bossy. Our girl spent most of the night saying that's mine.

    I learned that kids around the age of 3 and 4 apparently don't like babies. The phrase of the night was "no baby." I would prefer the Austin Powers inspired "Yeah baby!", but that was not to be.

    I felt sorry for Braden. All he wanted to do was play with the other kids. He sometimes tries to grab toys from the other kids, but that is expected from a baby. More importantly he doesn't fuss when you correct him. He never cries when the other kids take things from him either. I think he likes to share. He is very sociable and just wants some attention from the bigger kids. I was very proud of him. He played nice as always. Apparently "no baby" doesn't have an affect on Braden.

    The final thing I learned is that I can actually see another kid hit my child without violently throwing said kid through the window. I am proud of myself for that one.

    Braden had a toy and was shaking it around and yelling. He tried to show it to the bigger boy and accidentally hit the kid in the eye. I stopped him, and immediately apologized to the other kid. He went on and on about how the baby hit him. Then when I let my guard down he smacked Braden in the head with his hand. I grabbed his hand and instructed him that we don't hit. I tried for several minutes to explain that Braden was a baby and he didn't mean to hit him. I might as well have been explaining the fundamentals of Calculus to this kid. After he decided I was not going to ring the bell for round two he started sharing how he hit his head at his Grandma's house. I guess this qualifies as disaster averted.

    During this entire time Braden kept right on playing. I guess it takes a lot more than a punch to the head to slow him down.

    Friday, October 2, 2009

    Climbing Mount Everest

    I have no desire to climb Mount Everest and this post is in no way related to that topic either. It is about climbing, and I thought maybe the title would be more catchy than my actual life.

    This post is about climbing everything other than mountains. I grew up in southeastern Arkansas where the highest elevation for hundreds of miles was the pitchers mound at the high school ball field. The land was flat for as far as you could see. Actually it was flat farther than you could see. So I was not climbing any mountains, but I did love to climb trees.

    I think I first started climbing trees at my Grandma's house. She had a tree that was easy enough for anyone to climb. I think the dogs could have climbed it if we in fact had dogs. I liked climbing that tree, and I went from there.

    My best childhood buddy, Evan, and I climbed trees all the time. We lived near a patch of woods where we played pretty much every day. The patch of woods sat between our neighborhood and the nursing home/hospital. One summer we got into taking all the old junk from the nursing home to make our little club in the woods. We had couches and chairs and other furniture. We also took old wooden pallets that we decided would be our tree houses. So my friend and I dragged these pallets up into two different trees. One we got about 30 feet off the ground.

    Yes it was stupid, and it was very hard for two small boys. Despite our best efforts neither of us got hurt. We never fell from trees and got hurt unless you count the time we were swinging on a vine and the vine broke. Evan flew 20 feet through the air and broke his arm. That is not falling from a tree though.

    I am thinking about all this climbing because I have a miniature Sir Edmund Hilary living in my house. Braden tries to climb everything. He has a little toy chair that he practically never sits in. He stands in it. He climbs the back of the chair and couch. He climbs into our entertainment center. He hasn't started climbing the drawers in the kitchen yet, but it is only a matter of time.

    When Arica or myself hold Braden he tries to climb us. He walks right up our body with his little feet going at a lightening pace. We took him to the park recently and he climbed the steps on the slide. They were really big for him, but that didn't even slow him down. When he got to the top he climbed on some bars and wanted to hang out over the slide. He has no fear.

    All this climbing will no doubt affect both his mother and I. Arica will probably never rest easy again because of Braden's adrenalin junkie type attitude. On the other hand, I was thinking that some day he could really help me out putting up my deer stands.

    Fatherhood Friday at Dad Blogs

    Thursday, October 1, 2009

    Fantasy Sports: Good or Bad?

    I start every morning at work with a cup of coffee and a quick perusal of my fantasy sports teams. I play fantasy leagues for all three major sports. Right now I am in the finals of a baseball league hoping to reap the rewards of my hard work by hoisting the virtual trophy and having a champagne bath. That will probably be a "fantasy" celebration to keep with the imaginary theme of these games. I also am in a football league with some friends over at Dad Blogs. In that league I am playing a pretend game with friends that I have never met. You have to love the Internet.

    I know that the fantasy sport nerd stereotype is out there. I reject that characterization of myself. To me the real games are immensely more important than the pretend ones. Fantasy is just another way for me to stay in touch with my favorite sports. It helps me follow the sports as a whole rather than just my favorite teams. Also it gives me something to do at work while I try to wake up. For others though it is much more. The fantasy industry is worth hundreds of millions of dollars. It is all quite surreal.

    What will Braden think of fantasy sports when he gets older? They are such a way of life now for a sports fan that he will probably join in without a second thought. He will have no idea what it was like to become a true sports fan based solely on the merits of the game played on the field. Now with the Internet gambling and fantasy aspects are as big as anything else.

    I hope he likes to play. I would love to talk a little trash and show him how fantasy sports are played by us old veterans. Surely this will be another way that dad and son can connect and share even as he gets older. I only hope all these side attractions don't take away from Braden's or any other kid's love for the games themselves. The last thing we need to encourage is further travel down the path towards virtual existences.

    We need to always remember real sports, real exercise, real friends, and a connection to the real world.