Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Casa de Skim is Shutting its Doors

In a move that has been too long in coming, I have transferred Casa de Skim over to a new URL. The new address is NowPlayingAt.Blogspot.Com. Or http://nowplayingat.blogspot.com. All posts have already been moved and everything is good to go. The short of why I moved is on account of how this blog was set up, which gave me limited control. Also, the name I liked but was not conducive to anyone stumbling upon it if they were looking for movie reviews. Since this will affect all five of you who read this blog, please update your settings accordingly.

Don't worry Mom - I'll take care of yours while we're down there on Christmas day.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

No Need For An Alarm Clock

I have my stomach! I was sound asleep this morning. Dead quiet throughout the house. All of a sudden I hear this:

Brrrrrrrp. Mmmmmmrrrrppppp. Repeat.

I snap awake. Angry. I roll over. That only muffled it slightly. Whatever else, my stomach was running on empty and apparently felt it was its solemn duty to inform me of its displeasure.

At 5:50 a.m.

I get up and scarf down a piece of bread. Lay back down. My stomach growls less and less until finally it’s quiet again. Some people hate their bodies for various reasons. I hate mine when it wakes me up. Self preservation takes a back seat to a good night’s sleep in my book.

But I’m weird like that.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Ixnay on the Raspberry-ay

One thing I love about my office is the abundance of sweets that find their ways into our hands. Someone is always bringing cake or cookies up here and it rules on a number of levels. However, a co-worker offered me some cake recently and I had to decline.

“What’s in it?” I non-chalantly asked.

“Oh the good stuff. Vanilla, and raspberry, and…”

I cut her off with a stern head shake.

“Nope, can’t do it then. But thank you.”

Not sure if it’s a food allergy or just revulsion, but if I have a small taste of raspberry I get a migraine. More than a taste adds extreme nausea as a topper. Been that way my whole life but took me forever to figure out what the specifics were. My problem is an addiction to all things chocolate. Chefs the world over have the same problem: Thinking raspberry drizzled over chocolate is a good thing.

Now you understand my predicament.

I remain puzzled by people who love, love, love raspberry on chocolate. Everyone enjoys different flavors, but that one is just disgusting. Not to mention headache inducing.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Two Weeks Later...

Max 0.05 entered our world on 11/20/08 and our lives remain uprooted. But in a good way. Sorta. Right from the start, evidence surfaced of him one day evolving into a clone of Yours Truly. This is both a good and bad thing. The good thing is I feel I’m a pretty level headed individual who could have been better were I less shy and more self confident when I was younger.

The bad is I was a holy terror as a child who only mellowed out when I was overtaken by extreme shyness. At 12.

Infants traditionally have three tasks:

1. Eat
2. Sleep
3. Poop
Not necessarily in that order, either. Or sometimes they manage the trifecta and accomplish all three at once, which is something no one outside of new parents should ever bear witness to.

A fourth dictum is conveniently left unspoken, lest skittish folks decide children are not for them:

4. Scream/cry like crazy
This last one manifested itself quicker than we suspected and continued through the holiday week while the in-laws camped out at Casa de Skim. Every night starting at about 8 p.m. and going through midnight, Max 0.05 would scream holy hell with only a slight respite occurring upon feeding. He would exhaust himself, we’d stressfully rock him and work to comfort him and it was all for naught. Frustrating doesn’t begin to convey the anxiety a new parent feels anyway, so when you add screaming fits as a capper, you find yourself frazzled beyond belief. During the day he was a gem, an affable baby boy with the biggest and most alert eyes you’ve ever seen. At night, he’d morph into Holy Screaming Fury™.

When you come to dread the sun going down, you’re either in a horror film or living with a newborn.

We worried we were overfeeding him at first. A newborn’s stomach is about the size of a small marble and he was packing a mean amount of acid reflux. Turns out this is entirely normal and goes away on it’s own after two weeks. Again, this is information that might have been useful AHEAD OF TIME. So we tried over-feeding him to see if that calmed him down.

8 p.m. came and went with no screaming. Ditto 9 p.m. Ditto 10 p.m. Then 11 p.m. and he started fussing, so we fed him again.

It was like someone flipped a light switch off and he sacked out until his next feeding at 2 a.m. It was the first night in literally two weeks that My Fair Lady and I got a solid amount of sleep. We actually felt human the next day.

In short it’s been incredibly stressful but surprisingly enough we’ve enjoyed it. Max 0.05 is a gem when he’s not crying. He has the biggest eyes and is so alert it’s scary. He knows both of us by now, or at least enjoys listening to our voices. He’s already developing a personality quirk that’s hilarious. When he stretches out and yawns, he goes all out. He has his arms down at his sides, he stretches his legs out, then he stretches his neck out and yawns as wide as his mouth will allow. It’ll be wild to see if he still does that later in life.

When we threw our list of questions at our pediatrician, she offered some sage advice about the first month – survive it. Doesn’t matter what you do, just survive it. After that, it all gets better.

We’ll see what happens.

P.S. For the last two nights, he’s been up and at ‘em every 15 or 20 minutes. I took the first shift last night and rocked him in a pouch until 2 a.m.-ish. My Fair Lady took over at that point and is, I believe, close to collapse. She’s a trooper but believe me when I say that watching a newborn would exhaust Patton’s 3rd Army. We’re almost through the first month and we are watching that calendar like a pair of hawks.

Deadman Switch

A co-worker observed in the lunch room the other day that I got a haircut.

“No,” I replied, “I got a lot cut.”

“Well, it looks really good.”

“Thank you. I just wish they got the white ones too.”

I recently found three white hairs on my head. These were not gray, or pseudo-white. These were Anderson Cooper white.

“Why don’t you just pluck them?” my co-worker asked.

“Are you crazy? They plan for this. All white hairs come with a deadman switch attached. Pluck one, and it sends out a signal for reinforcements. I’ll be white haired by Christmas of next year. All I’ll need is 100 more pounds and a beard and I’ll have a line of kids demanding toys.”

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

"We've Got a Gusher!"

I feel like I’ve aged 5 years from the last week.

We checked My Fair Lady into the hospital Tuesday night and she began the fluids necessary to initiate induction. The induction proper commenced at 6 a.m. Wednesday morning. When no progress had been made by noon, Doc burst the bag of waters (yes, with an ‘s’) and out flowed enough water to render My Fair Lady a tributary.

“Oh wow, we’ve got a gusher!” is not normally something you expect a doctor to say in a cheery tone of voice.

Six hours later, no progress. My Fair Lady had been under Pitocin (which induces labor, or more specifically, labor pains in a big, big way) for 12 hours by that point and only progressed to 2cm. This is what’s known as a bad thing. She of the iron cervix was apparently having nothing to do with delivering our child. But she would warily take the epidural, thank you very much. This may have made her feel significantly better but the baby still wasn’t coming. Nor was it about to, ever.

Then we had our second gusher of the night.

The epidural brings large scale pain relief to your lower half and based on the dosage you may or may not feel your toes for the next few hours. I feel sorry for women going through it because it literally looks like they're being plugged into the Matrix and have sit still and lean forward over their belly for roughly half an hour. All well and fine by itself if you're not pregnant and in labor. If that's the case, then you have to lean over and sit very still while in the throes of massive labor contractions so the joy adds up quickly. Once the drugs started it took about 10 minutes for her pain to subsist.

At one point, My Fair Lady tried to sit up and her elbow came back on the bed and broke one of the plastic vials on the IV line. We saw clear fluid spill (a small amount) onto the bed, so I left to get the nurse. I returned 30 seconds later to find My Fair Lady covered in blood, the baby monitor was going off the chart and she was clutching her arm while forlornly looking at me.

This is exactly the combination of look and circumstance you never, ever want to be in.

The nurse came in right behind me, saw what was going down, and sprang into action. She called in another nurse who in turn brought another doctor with her. The mighty trio sealed the wound, removed the broken IV, and replaced it all within two minutes give or take. Apparently this never happens, as one nurse kept repeating, and my guess is that for some reason the broken IV triggered a blow-back from the vein. But all was cleaned up and My Fair Lady and Pending were declared just fine.

Thirty seconds later Doc walked in from her rounds and asked if anything was going on. It was one of those sitcom moments life throws at you every now and then to break the tension.

Following another six hours of non-progress, a decision was made to schedule a c-section at 6 a.m. Thursday morning so I went home close to 1 a.m. to get some sleep. I’m laying down and not five minutes later the phone rings. I saw it was My Fair Lady. Now, take into account all that happened that day and tell me what you think she might want to tell me.

Good night? Sweet dreams? Oh no.

Apparently the baby’s heart rate had started dropping while they were administering a new batch of Pitocin right after I left and since Pending wasn’t engaging at all then Doc opted to release Pending a few hours in advance of his/her street date.

Fortunately we live literally five minutes from the hospital. I’ve timed it.

I get back just as they've finished prepping My Fair Lady for the surgery, and she's understandably terrified. It's been a day from hell and the capper is highly invasive surgery to remove a large parasite from her insides. I again gave thanks to the Creator for letting me be the cause of this chaos and not the recipient. As they wheeled her out, Doc tossed me some scrubs.

This proved interesting. I threw on the scrubs followed by the hairnet then looked at the blue shoe covers. I was assured they would fit just about anything. I compared them to the Merrill hiking boots I was wearing. If those fit over the shoes I was wearing, then I was a WWII fighter pilot (Ret.) So I opted instead for the white boot covers and when I stood up I looked like part of a hazmat team. Doc's assistant came to get me and after sanitizing up, into the OR we went.

Doc had me sit next to My Fair Lady’s head while the rest of her remained thankfully obscured by a large drape. I comforted her and told her everything was going to be fine. Meanwhile, all I hear is a giant vacuum going strong on the other side of the curtain. Suddenly an urge struck me. It was the urge to stand up and see what was going on. I just had to see it if only for the sheer novelty of...

I promptly stomped that urge into the ground then rolled over it like Kent did to Otto in “A Fish Called Wanda.”

All of a sudden we heard a loud cry. We stared at each other. Then Doc spoke:

“Oh! It’s a boy!”

Pending had officially hit Release Status. We welcomed Max 0.1 into this world on November 20, 2008, at 1:47 a.m. My Fair Lady was confined to quarters until Sunday when we brought him home to Casa de Skim. Thus far he’s doing well, but Sunday night and Monday night screamed and cried to all hours of the night pushing My Fair Lady to the verge of insanity. That’s how I wound up carrying him for an hour before collapsing onto the couch with him on my chest... a position we remained in for the next three hours. Repeat the following night.

Welcome to parenthood.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

It's a boy!

I've written up a much longer post than this but it's on a flash drive at the house so I'll have to post it later. But for the world of the internets, I now have a son named Max 0.1 and he's an absolute doll. Sort of like a Chatty Cathy only everytime you pull the string it screams bloody murder at you.

For the most part, he's pretty laid back considering he's only five days old at this point. When he gets worked up is at night which has resulted in a sum total of 6 hours sleep for Yours Truly out of the last 72. I'm having to type this slowly because I see three keyboards when I look down. Were I any groggier, the spell check would even say, "Sorry dude, I have no clue what word dfadhsfda is supposed to eb."

But he's a keeper. I understand now the sheer absolute panic only parents are capable of experiencing, and if you've heard the stories but blown them off then you have no clue what it feels like. The first night he was home, things were cool during the day. Then 8 p.m. rolled around and he started fussing. By midnight it was into full out crazy and by 3 a.m. we'd lost our minds. More specifically My Fair Lady actually had because she'd been in the hospital the previous five days and was already beyond exhausted. I wound up with Max 0.1 around 4:30 a.m. and he and I wound up on the couch where amazingly enough he slept like a champ in my arms.

Rinse-repeat last night only change my final location to my desk in the office. Whoo-hoo!

We're excited though and after his first pediatric appointment today are proud to note that he's regained most of the initial weight and is progressing quite nicely. He may also have his days and nights mixed up slightly which means this week and next should be filled with fun as we try to correct that. If we can get him to be on a three to four hour schedule at night we'll be in good shape.

In the meantime, I think My Fair Lady will actually hold a gun to my head should I be remiss in future blogging so I may be picking this back up on a more routine basis. I'm sure this week will also net itself plenty of stories worth relating via my skewed perception.

But we got the best present two people could ever hope for - a fully healthy baby that is a bundle of joy. We love him absolutely and I'm looking forward to warping him with my film library. I can hardly believe that I have a chance to see Star Wars and Monty Python through my son's eyes at some point and it should be interesting to see his reactions.

Then again, there's always Kung-fu Panda which I instinctively know he's going to go simply bonkers for.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

I Drink From the Keg of Glory

Note: This tale is from April, 2008. Enjoy.

This weekend, My Fair Lady and I drank from The Keg of Glory. Waaaaaay back in 2002, a race of sorts popped up in Dallas. It was called the "Urban Challenge" and it was a scavenger hunt of sorts. The point was to start the race with a set of clues which you would need to decipher in order to find certain locations scattered across the city. Only public transportation, i.e. DART buses and the rail) were allowed in terms of transportation. No bikes, no cars, no nothing. Just your feet and your DART pass. You could have friends standing by in their homes with Google at the ready, and both Crayola and Fireball proved invaluable. Once you arrived at your destinations, you had to take a picture of yourself and your teammate at those locations.

The challenge was not so much in the finding of the locations that year as it was surviving the heat. The organizers, who were clearly not native to the area, thought it a a great idea to hold it at the first of September which is still in the Texas summer. So it was that we journeyed forth in 100+ degree heat, all chipper and excited. Our pictures that year were hilarious because the first one showed us excited, the next one showed us to be a little less excited, then the third one showed us already sunburned but kinda gung-ho, and so on and so forth. The eighth picture, also the point where we gave up, shows us completely melting. Think the ending of "Raiders of the Lost Ark" in t-shirts and backpacks and that's it.

Fireball was kind enough to answer his phone that year and not ask any questions when all he heard on the other end was "I'm melting.... MELTING...." I don't recall much after that but apparently in my incoherent ramblings (which come from having to hold the phone with one hand and paste your lips back onto your face with the other) I gave him the address we died at. He drove over, poured us into his car, and drove us back downtown where we crawled across the finish line along with another couple of teams in, believe it or not, worse shape than us. With only a few fatalities that year, the future looked bright for more races to come.

Fortunately, the weather the following year was fantastic and we placed 19th thus qualifying for the National Championships in New Orleans, which we had to forgo since that was right in the middle of My Fair Lady's law school exams. The next year, the contest mysteriously vanished.

Fast forward to this weekend...

The newly christened "The Urban Race" was upon us and of course My Fair Lady would not allow us to miss it. So it was that we arrived at Dick's Last Resort in the West End (i.e. the family-style party center of Dallas) and stood around looking at the other teams. This year, organizers thought to hold the contest in APRIL which proved a wise decision because the weather was in the high 60s, and it was a beautiful, cloudless day. The prices this year included an award for "Best Costume," the result of which was a high number of people wearing all manner of elaborate, and not so elaborate, crazy-wear. We spied a man and woman dressed as Mr. and Mrs. Rambo complete with war paint, inflatable weapons, and bullets wrapped around their chests. Another team was dressed in suits (yes, suits) while two others were dressed as ninjas. I was, frankly, surprised to see them so I assume they were training ninjas who had not yet received details on being covert.

The announcer called to us and gathered us in the square outside Dick's and assistants passed out envelopes containing clues. The good news this year was that we could team up with another couple, and our good friends M&L joined us. They had run in the previous races with us, so it was fun to have fellow veterans on our side. At high noon-ish, the buzzer sounded and all of us tore into our clues. We could do the clues in any order, and we could skip one of them. Two of the clues, however, were mandatory and skipping those was obviously not allowed. Should we miss or mess up on any of the clues, we could still finish and take a 30-minute penalty. The clues broke down as follows:

1) Find someone with an out of state drivers license
2) Find the number 225 on any building and yes, it could be part of an address (i.e. 12256 Somewhere Dr.)
3) Find a Mexican flag
4) Go to a specific carnival inflatable ride place, run their inflatable gauntlet and take a picture coming down the slide at the end (Mandatory)
5) Find a specific tae-kwan-do place and take a 5-10 minute lesson, noting that only groups of 10-20 would be accepted at a time
6) Find a place that made concentric circles in the sand every 24 hours
7) Get to a specific stall in the Farmer's Market, take a banana, then feed it to your teammate (Mandatory)
Cool Decipher an anagram to find a location, then arrive there and hold up the number of fingers that matched the Cowboy's win record last season
9) Get to Flag Pole Hill and take a shot of the flag pole while holding up the number of fingers of the surrounded picnic tables
10) Decipher clues to get an address, then once there high five one another over the address
11) Find a specific bronze cow and take a picture showing its hoofs
12) Do a crossword puzzle included with the clues

AND WE WERE OFF!!! Like the wind, some might say. I'd say more like a subtle breeze. We spent about half an hour or so cracking the clues and between the four of us we figured them out, locations and all. We recognized that the inflato-course and Flag Pole Hill were hell-and-gone from downtown Dallas, but that everything else was within walking distance of the finish line (also Dick's Last Resort). So we figured it would be wise to do the furthest ones out first, then come back downtown and knock out the rest. We headed down a thin alley towards the rail station when My Fair Lady was struck with inspiration. It occurred to her that while we were in the West End that we should start asking people if they were from out of state. So it was that we found this lovely lady right at the start:

We interrupted her lunch but she was gracious enough to be from Pennsylvania and to share that bit of geography with us for our first clue. While we were taking this shot, one of our cohorts ran inside only to come back out and let us know there was a Mexican flag hanging from the rafters. We checked with the gal at the front counter and she waved us through, already tired of our fellow racers hustling past people concerned only with their enchiladas. The result was our second clue:

Viva Mexico! After a quick pit stop, it was on to our next clue. We raced out of the restaurant ignoring the stares of people expecting to see a camera crew following us. We ran to the rail stop and patiently waited for the Blue Line to arrive. It's promptness did not disappoint for it pulled up alongside us and we elbowed our way on board. Roughly 15 minutes later, the train pulled to a stop near where Flag Pole Hill was, twenty or so teams hopped off, but M&L insisted we stay on to the next stop. The next one would put us in striking distance of the inflato-course, which was the same train of thought exhibited by three other teams. The Browns, Mr. & Mrs. Rambo, the Greens, and us all piled out of the train at the next stop and bolted. It was exactly like on the Amazing Race because every team ran full out... for about 30 yards. Then we all remembered we were in Texas, we were not racing for $1 million, and where we were headed was any one's guess.

We all knew vaguely where this inflato-course was, but not specifically. We all made it to the intersection of 635 and some random street which is where our paths diverged. The Browns turned south and opted to follow 635 all the way to the course. We, and the other teams, opted to go north to a major street where we would turn right then follow that around to our location.

While the Greens and Mr. & Mrs. Rambo went further north, we hooked a right and cut through the warehouse row to the far side. We arrived at the major street the inflato-course was off of well ahead of the others. The two teams were behind us and the Browns were no where in sight. Neither was the inflato-course, for the record. We headed south, and amongst much swearing and bickering (entirely from me) we finally came in sight of the cross street we'd all been looking for. My Fair Lady encountered a random piece of metal, cast off from a truck, that whacked her a good one on the shin. Her latest tetanus shot was, fortunately, just a few years back so we pressed on rather than amputate on the go. The other two teams were catching up to us because they'd decided it was a good time to run.

We booked it to the inflato-course where we were warmly greeted by the proprietor and his merry band of people. I yanked off my shoes, then dove headfirst into the course roughly 15 seconds after Mr. Commando had entered. I raced through the course, my years of gaming bringing to me the skill to make split-second decisions on how best to go over/under/through the course. Mr. Commando lacked for such awesome prowess, for I blew past him, scaled the final inflatable ladder, then heard My Fair Lady ask me if I was ready for my picture. The result is such:

I hurled myself out of the course, catching the camera in midair as My Fair Lady hurried off to begin the trial. Moments later she flew down the slide. We were then waylaid by M&L who struggled mightily to get "the perfect shot" of her coming down the slide. Finally, they finished the course (I think the fourth time) then just stood on the slide for the shot. Good enough, we thought and then moved it. With the generously provided lemonade slushies firmly in hand, we were then off and we were forced to make a decision - head back to the train or continue walking south to Flag Pole Hill. Our numbers crunchers did the math and found it to be six to one, half a dozen to the other. A half hour walk back to the train, only to wait for it followed by another 10 minutes south and then to walk over? Or should we just hike south?

We opted to hike south.

Along the way, we cut through a few neighborhoods and went off the beaten path. One team of racers ran past us as they headed from Flag Pole Hill up to the inflato-course. It should be noted here that we were walking downhill this whole time and they had been running up hill. Heh heh heh. After exiting the neighborhoods, we found the hill, counted the lone picnic table, and here was our victory shot:

It was then on to the train, and southward bound once more. As we arrived at the train, a few other racers were exiting and asked us directions. We were kind enough to share, knowing it had taken us roughly two hours to do this circuit that netted us exactly two shots. We figured we'd be in good shape if we could knock out the rest downtown. Once the train started south, we began to formulate our strategery.

Since we exited right next to the street of one clue, we worked to find the address. We stumbled onto it, lay down and high-fived one another as seen below:

We decided to head to the Farmer's Market next since the rest seemed to be grouped together near the finish line. We recalled a previous race where we spent a good hour and change looking for a stall with "Little John's" on a banner, and hoped this time it would be quicker. Fortune smiled upon us because we quickly tracked down the stall, which resulted in my favorite shot of the course:

Potassium firmly in our stomachs, it was off to the other side of downtown. At this point, the nagging sense of doubt began. Where the hell would we find 225 on a building, we all wondered? This part genuinely scared us, more so than finding someone with an out of state drivers license which we admit had been an awesome stroke of luck early on. We continued onward and past Dallas City Hall (aka OCP Headquarters) we came to the bronzed cattle drive. The clue told us to look for one cow with its eyes closed, its tail between its legs, and its hooves in a certain position. No trouble! Only about 30 of these suckers to look at. Between the four of us, we canvased many a cow that afternoon and when I look my grandkids in the eyes and relay this tale to them over hot cocoa many moons from now, I'll be able to tell them with perfect honesty that yes, granddad did spend too much time of his life looking at the underbellies of bronzed cattle.

"HEY!" shouted a female voice. It turned out to be some girls at a quinceanera. My Fair Lady waved frantically over the cows (how she expected me to hear her waving I don't know) and we all ran over to find the cow we'd been looking for. As seen below:

ONWARD! We hustled across a few streets to find the below image:

Apparently, this giant-ass screw makes perfect concentric circles in the sand every 24 hours. Basically, it's a Zen garden by way of Texas oilmen and it's hilarious to behold in person. Following this, we ran on to the next clue. The anagram we'd deciphered pointed us to the Old Red Courthouse, and the result was this picture:

13 wins by the 'Boys last year. Too bad the three loses were, you know, IMPORTANT games. PeteRock no doubt is snickering as he reads this part.

At this point we were down to our last clue - find 225 on a building. It was roughly 3:40 p.m. and we hadn't seen another team in some time so we had no idea what our place was. We scrambled, we talked to people on the streets, we even split up. Nothing. Then, My Fair Lady and I got a call from M&L who'd found it. We ran to where they were - right at the head of the tiny alley we'd walked through at the beginning of the race. The number 225 was scribbled on the wall right there as seen below:

If we'd looked to our right as we entered that at the very beginning, we wouldn't have experienced any panic. With the final shot snapped, we raced back to Dick's and landed on the finish line. We showed them our pics, and they told us we'd placed in the top 25 which meant automatic qualification into the Nationals. An hour later, we found out that My Fair Lady and I placed 16th on the list of north of a 100 teams. Hell yeah. Our final victory pose was with our medals at the finish line:

We have drunk from The Keg of Glory and damn if the taste isn't sweet.