Sunday, March 21, 2010

Yard O' Death

Yesterday morning I looked out our bedroom window and swore; I thought the dogs had scattered our garbage across the lawn again.  I envisioned spending the morning picking up smelly diapers, coffee grounds, and old Lotto tickets.  I even entertained the option of trying to mow up the garbage like it was fall leaves.  It was early -- maybe 6:00 AM -- and my eyes were a little blurry and when I rubbed them clear I saw that the "garbage" was nothing more than the usual assortment of dead and decaying things that litter our lawn all winter.

It's disgusting, and quite possibly unhealthy, but we have four dogs that feel it's necessary to provide us with lawn ornaments.  We'd settle for gnomes and flamingoes, but they prefer the macabre.  Yesterday, as we all sat outside and soaked in a little afternoon sunshine, I heard Regina gasp.  I looked up to see Chowder bringing in a fresh decoration.  Horses, like dogs and good cats, are buried on our ranch, but somehow Chowder, or bears, or the wild neighbor boys, dug up one of our old faithfuls and exposed an entire foot for the dogs to bring in.

Currently on our lawn (and I just inventoried), we have parts of the raccoon that attacked Chowder the day after Christmas, a complete coyote skull, half a cow skull, an assortment of large bovine bones, twenty or thirty chewed up shed antlers, several freshly killed squirrels, the hoof, and a pile of feathers from some dim-witted bird (the cats felt like they needed to contribute as well).  It's like a touch-and-feel Natural History Museum.

I have great promise for Dylan's soccer skills because she's A) 1/4 Brasilian, and B) has learned to run and weave around the bones like Pele through defenders.  Aside from the smell of rotting flesh and the flies they attract, the upside is that our kids are getting terrific anatomy and skeletal lessons.  Dylan can differentiate between coyote and cow teeth and Grady can tell you that magpie feathers taste very different from pigeon feathers.

I'll have the lawn mower ready soon, but if I want to save my blade, I'll need to clean up the bones first.  It's amazing what a little spring-cleaning will do.  The smell will go away and friends will feel that it's safe to visit again.  I'll probably bury the bones and carcasses so they don't keep reappearing and someday, a thousand years from now, some robot-archeologist will excavate them and conclude that a horse-cow-coyote-bird-raccoon creature once ruled Hartstrand Gulch.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Boys Night In

With Regina out of the house for the weekend, I did what any guy would do: I called up my friends for a guys night out.  Sounds wild, right?  And just a few years ago, it would have been "Fight For Your Right (to Party)" crazy.  Things would have gotten broken, blood would have been spilled, feelings would have been hurt.  Now, it means calling up your friends whose wives are also out of town and telling them to bring their boys over for pizza and Coors.

Immediately after the wolf-pack arrived (four boys, two dads), the power went out, which turned the party into a Man vs Wild survival-fest.  Grady's food was warmed on the wood stove and our night out for pizza changed to a night in for crackers and cheese.  We considered BBQing some road-kill or eating one of the horses, but when someone mentioned that Coors has the nutritional equivalent of a "pork chop in every can," we decided we'd leave the grill off.

Dylan passed around flashlights and I dug through our pretty-smelling candle and sharp-knife drawer until I found enough Christmas candles to illuminate a runway.  Flashlights and open flames are the ultimate in fun for little boys, and it was easy to keep track of where they were playing (we'll include Dylan in with "the boys" henceforth).  Finally, the batteries died on the last flashlight and one of the boys started singing "Happy Birthday" and blew out all the candles.  We were in total darkness.

Our manly survival instincts kicked in as we found our way through the dark without running into walls, tripping over toys, or colliding with each other.  The boys found their sleeping bags, Dylan found her princess bed (which instantly removed her from the wolf-pack club), and the adult-boys found the cooler for more Coors, or pork chops, whichever.

When our wives returned we had soot on our faces, awesome B.O., and beer breath.  They regaled us with stories about pedicures and wine tastings and when we were asked about our evening, we just grunted as a reply, 'cause that's what wolves do.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Baby Olympics

Now that the winter olympics are over and I no longer have an excuse to check my trap-line for Johnny Weir's next costume or quit work at noon so I can catch the China v Sweden women's curling semi-finals, I've actually had to spend "quality" time with my family.  Realizing that I can only stand losing so many straight games of Candyland without having a breakdown, I've come up with the Baby Olympics.

Baby Olympics were inspired by Steve Holcomb, pilot of the US men's four-man bobsled team, which won a gold medal.  He looks like a meatball stuffed in a spandex body suit, with a beard.  In short, he looks like Grady in thirty years.  And I thought, if Steve can do it, so can we.

Actually, I haven't told my family about our olympic training regimen yet.  Right now, I'm scouting out the competition to see if we have a shot at the podium.  I joke, but parents do this all the time.  "Oh, your little Joey walked at five months?  Our Zeus walked at five weeks, then composed an original song about it."  I figured if parenting is always going to feel like a competition, why not get corporate sponsors and train for it?

As a baby, Dylan was always a heavy favorite for gold, or at least a strong contender.  She teethed, sat-up, crawled, walked, and spoke on or before the "normal" range.  She kicked a lot of diaper in most categories, but one friend of hers started walking at seven months old.  We had the IOC investigate and they found he was using performance enhancing formula and stripped him of his gold medal.  Dylan came out of the '08 Baby Olympics like Michael Phelps (with a lot of medals, not stoned).

Grady is another story.  He's the Uganda of slalom, the Jamaica of bobsled.  At eight months, he's toothless and can only sit up if you form his body into a tripod, and even then he topples.  Someone recently asked me if he was crawling and pulling himself up on things yet.  I just walked away.

Baby Olympics even extends to parenting.  I once read that Dave Grohl (see: Nirvana, Foo Fighters, Them Crooked Vultures, etc.) could change a diaper in seven seconds.  "I can top that," I told Regina.  I can, but when I do the diaper is so loose that it leaks pee like a crab pot.  I'll have to be happy with the silver on this one (see: US men's/women's hockey).

The Eastside Gang might not make the podium every event, but we've got lots of grit and try.  If you come to visit and hear Dylan humming the National Anthem while Regina's mixing a bottle (another new competition), and I'm changing Grady out of his jammies and into his red, white, and blue spandex body suit, just put your hand over your heart and sing along, it'll be quite a show.