February 29, 2008

Indiana Klems and the Holy Remote

It was a brisk eve in Klems Manor. The wind rattled against the shutters, whistling like a person who doesn't know how to whistle. An off-white lampshade dimmed the glow of the 60-watt light, slowing the pace of our shadows but brightening the screen of the television. Our eyes fixated on one program and one program alone. After moments of silence, the sound of my wife's voice drummed through the air and sparked some heated, though thought-bending debate:

"No doubt in my mind, the guy getting hit in the do-dads by his daughter deserves to win."

"Are you crazy?" I said. "The woman bouncing off the trampoline and onto the picnic table was way funnier. But yours will win. The lame one always wins."

Ella (inner monologue): "I don't know what they're talking about or why they're watching 'America's Funniest Home Videos,' but they left that remote completely unguarded. If only I could find a way to get over there without their help. What if …"

And then it happened.

The remote control has been Ella's Holy Grail since birth. She'll drop any toy, doll or bottle if it's within reach. We're not really sure why. I like to think it's because of its brightly colored buttons and ergonomic shape, but Brittany has a completely different (and much more likely) theory: "The minute we walk through the door, the first thing she sees her father reach for is the remote, so in her mind it must be magical."

And it is magical. (Am I right fellas?)

Now I've worked hard to keep the remote out of Ella's reach, but she's crafty. One time I left it unguarded on my lap and she grabbed it, gnawed on it like a teething ring and then successfully found a mystery button that made our TV volume-less for 3 days (Thank you, Will, for fixing that). This time the remote was across the room, well out of her reach. Or so we thought.

First a right knee, then a left knee. Then both arms moved forward. Suddenly the pale look of doubt vanished as a confident smile washed over her face. She knew this was a special moment. She accomplished what she'd never accomplished before. And in just a few more steps she'd have the prize, the Grail.

Obstacles were no match for this crawler. She climbed over her rings. She used her butt to knock Freddie the Firefly out of the way. She stumbled but once, falling head first into the carpet—though only for a moment, as she waved off discouragement and trudged forward.

Finally, she was there. It was within reach. Lunge, lunge, lunge. An arm stretched like an 8-month-old in a 7-month-old's body, landing not one, not two, but three full fingers on the prize. Her grasp firmed and she gave it one swift tug. The remote glided under her body. It was hers. The Grail was hers.





Ella (inner monologue): "Mother#)%*@"

With that, the Grail was moved to the other side of the room offering a new set of obstacles to overcome. Ella may never fully remember her first quest for the Grail, or the whistling wind that breezed past the brick of our house, or that her mom was right—guy getting hit in the do-dads always wins "America's Funniest Home Videos." But she will remember the confidence she gained by finding her independence.

And that's more magical than a remote.

The Life of Dad is updated every other Friday (barring the call of family duties). Thanks for stopping by and following my attempts to be a good dad, husband and co-ed softball player. I hope you visit again. -- Brian

February 15, 2008

Home Remedies ...

Some days you wake up walking on sunshine, while other days you wake up fit to be tied. And some days you wake up with your child's snot crusted to your face.

A number of weeks ago, Ella came down with a cold—the first cold of her life. It was endearing in so many ways. She had a cute little cough, teeny tiny eye boogers and a small drip running from her nose. Her sneezes were as soft as her cheeks, and when you tried to wipe the remnants away she'd wiggle like a bobblehead. And, throughout it all, she never once stopped smiling.

Then early one morning, after letting her sleep on my chest, I woke up and noticed her entire face was covered in snot. Worse yet, so was mine. And like any logical, well-educated dad would do, I handed her off to her mother and tried to keep the calm by uttering this combination of words:

"Oh my God, what's wrong with her? Infection? Pneumonia? It's West Nile, isn't it!?!"

"Calm down," said my wife. "It's just the congestion escaping from her… What are you doing?"

"Seven, Six, two … Wait, what's our doctor's number again?"

Brittany gracefully took the phone out of my hands and shoved the receiver where receivers shouldn't be shoved. And it hurt. She then calmly explained why the doctor wouldn't appreciate a call at 5:30 in the morning over the sniffles. If it got worse, she said, we'd call and schedule an appointment during business hours. Until then, we'll try all the home remedies that we know.

I hate it when she makes sense.

So we tried each home remedy to help our suffering babe feel better. We sat her in the bathroom with the hot shower running. We laid her in an upright position when she napped. We even put on back-to-back-to-back reruns of "Saved by the Bell" (always made me feel better when I was sick). Unfortunately none of those seemed to work, so we scheduled an appointment with the doc.

Turned out she not only had a cold, but was also suffering from a double ear infection, which I'm told is about as painful as an angry wife on Valentine's Day. To get Ella back on the healthy horse, the doctor prescribed medicine, rest and more "Saved by the Bell" (who knew?). He also told us that it's very common for children under the age of one to get colds and earaches throughout the winter, and we should be thankful our kid takes it in stride with a grin. And we are thankful.

Meeting with the doctor helped calm my nerves a bit. I still plan to overreact to all future sicknesses, but I plan to overreact in smaller doses. It's just what parents do. I've forgiven my folks. You've probably forgiven yours. Hopefully Ella will be able to forgive me as she grows up. If she's like her father, she certainly will.

But if she's like her mother, I'm going to have to remove all phones from the house.

The Life of Dad is updated every other Friday (barring the call of family duties). Thanks for stopping by and following my attempts to be a good dad, husband and co-ed softball player. I hope you visit again. -- Brian

February 1, 2008

A Video is Worth 1,000 Pictures ...

Memories are much simpler to remember when captured on camera. It's true. Think about how many embarrassing moments you've had in your life, and how you would've easily forgotten those moments if it hadn't been for Kodak. In fact, your parents probably have albums full of pictures called things like "My First Bath" and "Photos of Brian on the Potty." Yikes!

I think we're all thankful that when we were teenagers, e-mail forwarding didn't exist.

Today, photos are easier to take than ever. Instead of having only 20 pictures per roll on your old Polaroid, you now have memory cards that can store up to 17-hundred-billion photos—which is about half the number you took last Christmas. You can store them on your computer at zero cost, browse through them and delete all the ones where you're giving the wonky eye.

Technology is a wonderful thing.

Some cameras, like ours, even have the option of recording short videos. This, of course, leads me to last night. As my wife was off doing unimportant things like cleaning dishes, washing laundry, feeding us and putting together our new two-ton fireplace cover, I spent my precious time doing something 100-times more valuable: learning how to use iMovie on my MAC. This program allows you to create edited videos with unbelievable simplicity and gives you the opportunity to immortalize your daughter while completely ignoring her as she eats your shoe. Had George Lucas known about this program, he probably could have made Star Wars: Episode 1 for about $20.

Anyway, after about five hours of playing with options, fooling around with effects and yelling at the computer, I finally came up with three and a half minutes of video that are sure to make my wife and daughter proud. So without further ado, please join in watching my directorial debut. Eat your heart out, Spielberg.

(Note: There's music involved. Plus, you may have to pause it at first to give it a minute or two to load. And be sure to watch until it's completely over. It's worth it.)