The Pursuit of Happiness

Now, where did I leave that mother of mine…

There are some mysteries of the cosmos too great to be understood by mere mortal minds. From the deep fathoms of infinite knowledge there exists an immeasurable chasm between the gray matter of our awareness and the dark void of the beyond.

For our newborn, that mystery of all mysteries lies within the realm of one of the oldest, most cherished past times of humanity: peek-a-boo.

Yes, peek-a-boo, I see you! Where’s baby? There he is! Peek-a-boo! Philosophers have engaged in this very discourse of reality and existence for millennia. What is real? What does it mean to be alive and to exist? Questions that haunt our temporal beings. And then at the moment of bleakest thoughts, a bright light shines forth to illuminate our hearts and cast away the cobwebs of the corners of our minds. Peek-a-boo! Oh, there you are Mommy! Where’d you go? You sneaky, sneaky mommy. What is this dark magic? I know where you are; you can’t hide forever… gotcha, peek-a-boo!

What once was lost, now is found. And there are few things that can make our baby boy more giddy than by slyly covering our faces and then popping out like a jack-in-the-box. Like a fox in socks jumping out of a box, or so said Mr. Knox.

The only other thing that can calm and soothe the fears and frustrations of my son is a nice shiny, sharp object. He loves them. Interior fire sprinklers, hanging light fixtures, and freshly polished cutlery. All his favorites and perfectly, suitable educational toys for a baby. My parents gave me my first hatchet when I learned to walk. I was so proud when our newborn held his first Cutco knife.

But his absolute favorite is this little eye-and-hook latch that we use for our sliding barn door. Whenever he gets upset, I just walk him over to that little piece of pointy, protruding metal, and he immediately starts to grin with devious delight. At first, he simply stares and glances, not wanting to be too forward. Then as he warms up, he just barely reaches out towards the lock, careful not to touch yet; only to flirt and tease. He’ll play hard to get and shyly look away with a blush. Finally, after the courtship, the moment of waiting comes to fullness as he starts—not to caress tenderly—but to slap like a whack-a-mole hyped up on pixie dust the dangling lock with squeals of laughter and raptures of pure ecstasy.

Don’t even get me started on ceiling fans. Every baby loves them. I assume, it is because ceiling fans seem to have an awfully close resemblance to the Bible’s depictions of angels. So, babies must be remembering the beautiful sight of singing angels that they knew before knowing while their souls were formed and knitted by the Great Artist outside of time and space. Or something like that. What do I know?

Our daughter says that Pikachu’s last name is Peekaboo. What a missed opportunity to have named our child…

Newton’s Three Laws of Bouncing Bundles of Babies

or The Opposite and Equal Reaction of Everything Hitting the Earth

Bring on the memes…

Our 8-month-old is an adorable rascal and a vandal. Gets it from his mother’s side—obviously. Or maybe he’s just destined to be a ball player because he throws. Everything.

When you hand something to him, he only does one of two things: tries to eat it or throws it on the ground. Usually, it’s both. He will try to eat it (doesn’t matter what “it” is), throw it on the ground, and then stare at its new spatial context with whimsical curiosity and meditative inquisitiveness. You could say, he has a “flooral” fixation.

Sometimes he really gets in the zone. He can throw items quicker than you can hand them to him. Then he will sit in introspective reflection, gazing at the graveyard of plastic and polyester before him, and ponder over the laws of gravity. He’s clearly a prodigy of Newtonian physics. Probably mentally measuring the forces of gravity, drag, buoyancy, and the Magnus effect on the flight and motion of each object as it falls and bounces; the motion of each projectile which typically constitutes a characterization of the coefficient of restitution and ergo can be affected by the nature of the item and the impacted surface along with density, velocity, rotation, temperature, and pressure; of which the aerodynamic properties and physical behaviors of the matter in motion before, during, and after collision with the mass of another body serve as the mechanics of near-parabolic patterns that are engineered; all of this which encompasses what is scientifically known as: “bounciness.” At least, that’s what I assume he’s thinking (I may have used Wikipedia).

Sometimes, we try to tether things in a way that he cannot throw them away. He doesn’t like that. Hand him a toy car. Throws it on the ground. Hand him a cup. Throws it on the ground. Hand him a baby. Throws it on the ground. Hand him an electric waffle maker. Throws it on the ground. Oh wait, are you not supposed to give babies electronics?

If you’re holding him, he tries really hard to rip your ears and eyelids off—clearly so that he can throw them on the ground. He’s got quite the arm. I’m so proud.

Plus, now that he’s crawling all over the place, each day appears to be an adventure as he is on a constant quest to find new artifacts to chew on and throw. He is like Indiana Jones except instead of searching for treasures for a museum he is searching for treasures to smash. Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Noah’s Ark wooden animal play set because our son has strewn them all about the house. Indiana Jones the Temple of Doomed toys that have all died the death of a thousand falls. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade to find and throw everything in the house. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom the Crystal… never give a crystal to a throwing-obsessed baby unless you want crystal shrapnel in your shins and shards all over the floor. And also, with a diaper instead of a fedora.

The moral of the story: don’t be a litter bug because it’s not cute unless you’re a chubby, chunky baby.

Corona-crappy-diem

First chicken pox, then bird flu, and now this‽

The following is inspired by true events…

The other morning when my wife was taking our three-year-old to the bathroom, I overheard a brief exchange that went something like this:

Toddler: “We can’t see grandma n’ grandpa right now cause a’ da carvana virus.”

Mommy: “Yeah, the coronavirus really stinks.”

Toddler: “But why does it stink? Did it poop? Stinky poo corazon-virus!”

It was something like that. Either way, yes, the coronavirus is stinky poo. Remind humanity never to do this again please. The kids have a cabin fever of 110o and are losing their little minds. For me, I’m an introvert, so it’s been great having a socially acceptable excuse to socially distance from people. It’s totally not weird now when I refuse to shake strangers’ hands or I ask them to please stay away from me (at least six feet of course).

The moral of the story? Don’t be like the coronavirus unless you want to be flushed down the toilet.

Alexa, Tell Me the Story of “I, Diaper”

So, after posting a recent blog admonishing Huggies for their superior diapers, we were sent a generous gift of, wait for it… two separate $1 off coupons (that cannot be used simultaneously).

Preeettyy exciting I know. And honestly, it’s appreciated because I didn’t expect anything. But here’s what’s funny:

Just a week or so after, Pampers sent us a free coupon in the mail for $5—oh yeah, that’s right, 2.5 times more in diaper purchasing power! Pampers just declared war. Or I suppose it’s a diaper war that has raged for eons. (I wonder if we could get more free stuff by complimenting other company competitors…?)

In other recent events, our now totally three-year-old has figured out how to make purchases using Alexa. Now, her and Alexa go way back and have been conversing for some time, having become quite chatty friends and quite the fans of the Disney princess soundtracks. So what did she do with this newfound super power?

She ordered the Extreme Farts Extension Pack. She loves it and thinks Alexa’s medical-grade flatulence condition is hilarious. This lovely compilation includes the all-time greatest hits such as: crispy fart, cheeky fart, engine rumbler, wet and squeaky, quick and squelchy, short and gassy, ketchup fart, triumphant fart, happy birthday, Beethoven, farting around the house, machine gun, unicorn fart, dinosaur fart, shy fart, donkey fart, the dreaded pants ripper, and of course, my favorites, Sir Farts-A-Lot along with Farty McFartems. Yes, hundreds of on-demand wind breaks of which the combinations and permutations are infinite.

And just in case any of you were wondering, Amazon does not let you return digital purchases.

This is capitalism at its zenith my friends—both the light and the dark. A world where diaper design battles it out on the frontlines of bowel movements in a complexity comparable to Leonard Read’s famous “I, Pencil” essay, and a world where your toddler can order the ultimate farting album just by talking to a little, glowing hockey puck.

Stay safe and dry my friends.

Double Entendre Diapers

Don’t judge—we all have our regressive states during a crisis!

Now that we’re on our second child, we’ve obviously become baby-rearing champions. We know basically everything there is to know. Just don’t ask us any specific questions.

However, if there’s one thing we have learned over the past few years, it’s this: Huggies “Little Snugglers” are literally the only diaper worth it (by it, I mean your money, your carpets, your laundry, and your sanity. [Also, Huggies company, feel free to pay in diapers for this unsolicited endorsement!]).

Look, we’ve tried them all. Every variation of protective baby-bottom wear that you can imagine. We’ve done all the major and minor manufacturers. We’ve tried reusable and all-natural. And by the end of it all, only the Little Snugglers worked consistently at keeping the floodgates at bay and secured within the fluffy, absorbent folds of the package. In other words, they’re not as prone to leaking out everywhere.

There are few things more frustrating than going to all the trouble of putting a diaper on a spastic baby just for that diaper to not do its job. Our first child was like trying change a tornado. She squirmed, rolled, and rotated throughout the entire process. Our second, now he is like a broncing, bucking bull. He kicks and flares like he’s playing in the World Cup. Changing a diaper is like performing a medical procedure on a patient without anesthesia. Like playing the game “Operation” but if you lose, instead of a red buzzer going off, you get poo everywhere. It’s like disarming a bomb rotating in three-dimensions that even after you think you’re safe, it can still go off again.

But the real reason why the Little Snugglers are my favorite? Because they’re the Winnie the Pooh brand. Winnie, his friends, some balloons and clouds, and other happy designs decorate the plump potty pockets. The pun possibilities are just too perfect. The wordplay is whimsical. The innuendo is ingenious. The snuggly suggestiveness is simply stupendous. A paradox of pint-sized people-pollution packets.

In case you missed it. Let me spell it out. There are pictures of Pooh Bear on the diapers which are meant to contain baby poo. Pooh on poo. I can’t help but giggle like an immature middle schooler. For Huggies to obtain the rights to print Pooh on their poo pouches has got to be one of the best investments a company has ever made. It’s just the best.

It’s also, potentially, very philosophical. Where does one Pooh start and the other poo end?

So, whenever life feels weighed down by excrement, don’t be an Eeyore, be a Pooh.

For those that are familiar with the story: I now want to play Pooh Sticks. For everyone else, I leave you to the Internet.

Weeds are flowers too, once you get to know them. – A. A. Milne (aka Winnie-the-Pooh)

Thai Tickle Torture Trip

Phew, I really needed this spa day…

I have this secret about me that I’ve always been hesitant to share for fear of the social consequences that inevitably come about at such a reveal. I’m ticklish. I mean, like, I’m very ticklish—arguably, unreasonably so. Like I have an unhealthy, debilitating fear of all things feathery and fluffy. I hate soft, cuddly things so much so that after a shower, I forgo the towel and dry off with sandpaper instead.

And now, I fear, that I’ve passed on this incurable condition to my son. I never thought being ticklish was genetic. But I also didn’t think newborns could be so ticklish. Alas, he has inherited my burden; suffering from generation to generation, which sin of the father I do not know. I pray that he will be strengthened in the years to come as others seek to take advantage of this ailment. Humans, after all, are anti-fragile. We must experience the purifying crucible of trials and tribulations if we are to become who we are meant to be. Stand firm and courageous, my son, as I have had to do…

Such was a time as this, years ago, in a faraway land of Pad Thai and spring rolls that I overcame a significant trauma: a full-body Thai massage (loud, ominous music plays in the background).

One summer for a college program, I led a team of high school students on a mission trip to Thailand. We were mostly in Bangkok and Chiang Mai, working with different student ministries, teaching English camps, and serving in mountain village orphanages. At the end of our monthly stay, the national missionaries that we were partnering with took us all out for a day in the city. We experienced many of the fun and joyous activities of both locals and tourists: riding elephants, haggling in the market, drinking Thai tea, eating locusts, finding pirated DVDs, and eating at McDonald’s. Don’t worry, I’m just joking about some of those. Of course, we didn’t eat McDonald’s—this was a mission trip after all.

But before the night was done, my team asked the local missionaries if there was one more thing that they should all do before leaving the country. One unique Thai experience to take home with them in their cherished memories forever. After thinking for a bit, they said, “For the time and cost, you should all get an authentic Thai massage and/or pedicure!”

Immediately, I protested, “No thanks! Y’all enjoy that and I’ll stand guard outside to make sure no one steals our bootlegged merchandise.” I should have known better. The team of irritating teenagers immediately started to taunt and bully me. Sometimes, being a leader means doing inspirational and sacrificial things. But in my experience, most of the time, being a leader means doing ridiculous and embarrassing things.

Eventually, I coalesced and accepted my fate. I cannot exaggerate when I say it was pure torture. It was supposed to be on the condition that I just got a normalish back massage. I didn’t want someone touching my feet or putting weird oil on me or anything. But oh, how self-deceived I was. The whole team was so excited. Some of them got full pedicures and some of them tried other bizarre spa treatments. Afterwards, they all expressed such refreshing delight at the pampering and relaxation they received.

But me, the horror, oh the horror. Mind you, this was one of those institutions where you weren’t allowed to wear your own clothes. Everyone had to change into these designated pajama uniforms. It felt like prison clothes. As I walked with a few of my team to one of the massage parlors, I thought we’d all be in the same open room with chairs. Looking back on it all, I believe it was a cruel conspiracy against me arranged by the missionaries. As my team was seated, I was coaxed farther into the depths of hades to a back hall and then a back room where I was instructed to lay down on a mat. Just moments later, a sadistic employee of torment entered the room of which the cruelest war interrogators would cringe. There was no escape from the five foot, ninety pound executioner with her iron, spear nails and torture death hands (and feet, oh yes, and they stand and jump on you). I’ll save you from anymore imagery. Although the imagination is probably the most terrifying. I shouted for help. I cringed and flailed like a fish suffocating on a sun-beaten concrete slab. I pleaded for mercy but there was none as I was twisted into a pretzel and contorted into an abomination of humanity. It became one the most spiritual moments of my life as I sought God’s forgiveness for any and all of my transgressions.

I literally could not stop laughing for the entire thirty minutes (felt like thirty years). And the lady—well, she just thought it was hilarious. Half-way through, I don’t even think she was trying to massage anymore. I think she just switched over to straight-up tickling. I could hear from the other rooms my teammates laughing as well. Death by a thousand cuticles.

But I have survived to tell the tale. My son, listen to me, heed my warnings: never, ever under any circumstances repeat your father’s errors. Never get a Thai massage… so that you may live a long, prosperous, and blessed life.

Birthdays

I had a birthday a little while back. I don’t know, sometime ago or something. Some people are all about birthdays. They live for it (I guess literally, they live because of it). Like my wife: she doesn’t have a birthday—she has a birthweek. And then she also has a half-birthday and extra special celebratory milestone birthyears like when numbers match or add up in some weird way. But me, I’ve never been really big into my birthday. Most years, I completely forget until someone else reminds me. When I was a kid, I couldn’t remember when my birthday was. It always made for a nice surprise.

Like this one year, when my grandparents took me to the toy store to just “look around.” I asked them if they could please get me this action figure for my birthday. They then proceeded to put the toy in the buggy (shopping cart for those of you linguist sheriffs out there).

I said, “No, no, it’s okay. You don’t have to get it now—for my birthday.”

They replied, “Oh yes, fine, well we’ll just get it now and save it until then.”

Later that day when we arrived back home my extended family was all there waiting, and it looked like there was some kind of party or gathering. I asked, “What’s going on? Why is everyone here?”

“Umm, Finley… today is your birthday.”

“Ohh… wow. Cool.”

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t have anything against people who love their birthday. And it’s not like I hate birth or days or fun. I just, I don’t know, I never really got into it. For one, I hardly even remember being born. It’s pretty hazy, so how am I supposed to properly celebrate some occasion that I don’t recollect. It’s not like I have all these fond memories of exiting the womb and entering the cold, chemically disinfected hospital air. For two, I don’t like having so much attention on me and everyone being soo excited that I’m another year closer to death.

I have heard though, that those who have more birthdays tend to live longer. So that’s a thing.

And I do love all the free coffee and donuts I can get on my birthday. Makes it worth staying alive for another year.

A New Year’s Disenchantment

I remember the first time as a kid that I was allowed to stay up until midnight for New Year’s Eve. My family watched the ball drop in Times Square on the tube (although this TV probably didn’t have tubes, I don’t know).

I remember being so excited, thinking, “Wow, that’s a really big disco ball! And it’s dropping down to the ground while there’s a countdown! Everyone’s shouting and counting in excitement and anticipation! The ball is getting closer. I know what this means… obviously, that ball is going to explode! Oh yeah, it’s gonna blow up with lights, confetti, and sparkles when the clock hits midnight! This is so awesome!”

And then…

Disillusionment.

I was like, “Wait, what? That’s it? How anticlimactic (yes, I’m pretty sure that’s what I thought even at such a young, prepubescent age)!” Nothing happened. Not even a wet noodle of a toot. The ball just drops and then goes back up I guess. It was then that I realized the world is full of disappointments. Vanity of vanities.

I also thought, “I stayed up for this? What a rip off! I’m tired and grumpy. What’s wrong with adults? They think this stuff is fun? Why would they keep themselves awake just to watch some lame ball slowly descend while waiting for the clock to change numbers? It’s all rather ambiguous, actually, the whole new year thing. You know what’s fun? A piñata. They should make that ball a piñata and fill it with candy and prizes. Now that would be a New Year’s to celebrate!”

So yeah, I hope everyone has an awesome end of the year into the new of the year these next couple of weeks. Whatever that means.

Convalescence Coalescence

FREEDOM!!!

Disclaimer: Some readers may find today’s post slightly insensitive and/or politically incorrect. Please consult your doctor before reading if you are pregnant, nursing, take heart medication, or in general just have a weak countenance.

When I was in high school, my youth group occasionally served with a convalescent ministry. Basically, we would visit assisted living facilities and meet with the residents. We might sing songs or help serve lunch or something, but mostly, we were there to bring the warmth and kindness of genuine human interaction to those that many in society are comfortable to ignore because they’re kept away in forgotten places.

Believe it or not, these visits were always events of hijinks and hilarity; mischief and mayhem; shenanigans and silliness. Something interesting was always bound to happen.

On one such particular occasion, a friend and I were walking down one of the hallways to find someone to visit with when we heard a call from one of the rooms. A crispy voice implored us to come inside. We turned and looked inside a room with the door wide open to find a petite, elderly woman sitting in a chair. She reached out one feeble hand and with one wrinkled index finger curling in and out, she beckoned us to come inside.

As she was summoning us, she said with a soft, crackled tone, “Come here young man. Come closer. Closer.”

We obeyed. “Yes ma’am, how are you today? Can we help you with anything?”

With sharp, piercing eyes and firm, raspy voice, “Do either of you boys have a pocketknife to cut me out of this chair? I gotta use the bathroom.”

It was then that we realized that she was harnessed into the chair with straps across her lap and torso. I stuttered a reply, “Umm, no ma’am, I’m sorry, but I don’t have a pocketknife. Would you like me to go get a nurse to help…?”

“No!” she exclaimed, quickly cutting me off. “No, no, no. No need for that. Just come here closer. Closer. See if you can loosen these straps for me.”

I cannot justly describe this scenario in words. But the combination of her calculated mannerisms, her menacing tone, and her unblinking stare of death had us terrified. The entire time she smacked her lips as if she was about to savor more than just the sweet taste of freedom from her shackles. Was this a Hansel and Gretel situation? Which was I—Hansel or Gretel?

I can still hear those smacking lips. In my nightmares.

As we spoke, we inched our way methodically backwards. “Sorry ma’am. I think we should get some help…” As soon as we were out of the doorway, we sped down the corridor to find a staff person. When we recounted our encounter with a nurse she coolly stated, “Oh yes, her, don’t worry about her. She’s always trying to escape.”

As odd and as frightening as this incident was, I’ve also found myself inspired by this woman who’s name I never caught. She lived in the moment. She lived with purpose and intention. She had a plan and goal. Many of us are content to live in our self-made prisons and self-locked chains. We’re okay to just let life happen to us and never take charge. We let circumstances define us, sitting in the cuckoo’s nest and never taking a chance to fly. We’re spoon-fed the soylent green of the media. We’re too consumed by our past and too preoccupied with our future that we never truly live in the present. Be thankful for your life. Be thankful for today and the time you have on this cherished earth.

As this elderly woman’s words have lingered over—haunted me—I am motivated to strive to live everyday full and free. Also, if I ever need to live in a nursing home, I’ll be sure to stow away a pocketknife just in case.

“All good things are wild and free.” – Henry David Thoreau

A Suitable Sunday School Shape-Sorter Sermon

Fits like a glove… if chickens wore gloves…

We have this little, wooden Noah’s Ark shape sorter—a toy set with pairs of animals that match slots in the ark so your little one can put the animals inside. (God’s judgment poured out on the entire earth always seemed like an odd choice for nursery paintings and children toys… but I guess it is a convenient way to teach animal names?)

The other day, our two-year-old (or two-and-a-half, thank you very much) was playing with this wooden ark toy. What transpired was equal parts hilarious and horrifying. A sight to behold; a just can’t look away at the impending disaster moment.

In her infinite creativity and premature cynicism, our cute, precious, little child was grabbing the various animals out of the ark, one by one, and throwing them out into “the ocean” and commanding the wooden figurines to “Swim you animals! Swim giraffe! Swim zebra! Swim lion! Swim!” The only thing missing was a maniacal cackle.

I guess these animals had been found wanting, and now they would feel the full measure of wrath of 26 pounds of pure, unbridled princess rage. The day of reckoning had come.

I’m really not sure what lesson to take from this. Don’t mess with the princess, I guess. You shall rue the day. But everyone already knows that. Also, learn to swim just in case you ever find yourself in an Aqua-Armageddon scenario.

One of the Four Horsemen of the Toddlerpocalypse.

Do you have a terrifying toddler tale? Let me know, and we can commiserate with one another on that true life.