Jayna: 11 months

Jayna, 11 months

Not too much new to report since last month, and I suspect that I’ll be writing a lengthy entry to mark your soon-to-be-celebrated first birthday, so I’m going to try to keep this relatively brief (which, when it comes to my writing, means that there’s a small chance you won’t die of hunger before you finish reading it).… [read the rest]

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Zan: 3 years

Zan 3, close-up

Nine days ago, you turned three. I am just now writing about it, and the delay is due largely in part to us marking the milestone with not just a birthday celebration, but rather a birthweek extravaganza. You, in fact, were feted with not one, not two, but three—count ’em: three!—parties. I’m hoping it is only a coincidence that you had as many parties as the number of years being celebrated, and not the start of a tradition, because I don’t feel capable of keeping up with that past, say, three.… [read the rest]

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A hiatus of biblical proportion

Hi. Remember me? Let’s catch up, shall we?

Flood: You know how sometimes during your average, run-of-the-mill rainstorm, there’s a sudden-but-brief burst of torrential, sheet-of-water, holy-mackerel-it’s-really-coming-down-out-there rain that makes you stop and take notice until it passes? Yeah, well, that happened here the week before last … except, instead of passing after only a few seconds or minutes, it came down with that same degree of sustained ferocity for five days.

The psychotic amount of rain that fell resulted in the worst flooding the region has seen in 70 years. One family we know ended up with so much water in their basement that it rose high enough to destroy their furnace and electrical box. Yikes.

And so it is with tremendous relief that I can report that my basement remained dry as the proverbial bone. The symphony of sump pumps and parade of plumbing trucks that became the hallmark of our neighborhood in the days following the flood made me suddenly feel that our modest little Cape, complete with its cramped quarters and Lilliputian second floor, had transformed itself into an awe-inspiring fortress, and I now have a new love for both our home and the little hill upon which it sits.

(Worth viewing: flood photos, and more flood photos.)

Locusts: Well, not really. Moths and inchworms, actually. (I’m trying to stick with the biblical thing, OK? Work with me, people.)

In the late fall/early winter of 2004, during which time we were just settling into our house, I would sometimes look out the window at night and take note of the fact that there were a number of moths flying about. “That’s odd,” I thought to myself. “I don’t recall seeing moths flying about during the late fall/early winter of years past.” I didn’t dwell on it. They were moths, they were little, and they were outside, and so who gives a shit, right?

Almost exactly one year ago, during our first spring in our current home, we began to notice an alarming number of inchworms in our yard. They were multiplying faster than the U.S. national debt, and were rappelling down from the trees onto just about any surface where one might cast one’s gaze, to include all over Zan’s then-new swing set/slide/play-gym thing, which required a daily inchworm extermination detail.

After a little investigating, I discovered that these inchworms are known as winter-moth caterpillars, and that they are the new-millennium equivalent of the ’80s-era pest known as the gypsy-moth caterpillar. Of course, back in the ’80s, I wasn’t a homeowner, and so the gypsy-moth caterpillar infestation was disgusting, sure, but I was busy being an awkward, geeky adolescent, so who gives a shit about gypsy-moth caterpillars, right?

According to an article I came across during my investigation, it is estimated that these winter-moth caterpillars can infest one’s yard to the tune of about a quarter of a million per tree. We have several trees that cover a significant part of our back yard, house and front yard, so it’s probably safe to assume that, for the second consecutive spring, our yard is under siege by over a million winter-moth caterpillars.

So here’s the thing: 1 million-plus winter-moth caterpillars who do nothing but devour all of the leaves in our yard create a positively staggering amount of winter-moth caterpillar shit (which, by the way, I’ve learned is called “frass,” just in case you’re ever on “Jeopardy” and the category “Insect Excrement That Starts with the Letter ‘F’” comes up). For those not familiar, this makes one’s yard, home, cars, trash barrels, outdoor toys, swing set, etc., look as though someone hovered above your property in a large helicopter filled to the brim with 100-pound sacks of poppy seeds, cut said sacks open and heaved their contents into the air. Of course, unlike poppy seeds, caterpillar shit has the added bonus of being just moist enough when it first falls to stick to whatever surface it lands upon. For example, my lovely white car looks something like this right now.

Supposedly, it’s only going to get worse each year between now and 2010. If anyone owns a party-tent business, it’d be swell if you could hook me up with one large enough to completely cover my home and yard, OK? Thanks.

Tequila: I was gonna go with the heading “Blood,” but I already pulled a bait-and-switch with the locust/caterpillar thing, so I’m abandoning the biblical-plague theme.

In the years prior to the arrival of my children, I would occasionally utter the phrase “I need a drink.” Now, roughly three years into the adventure of parenthood, I have a bulletin that I’d like to share with the childless among you who have invoked that same phrase:

Guess what? You don’t know from needing a drink.

Each day at Casa de Scratches, from about 5 p.m. until about 8 p.m., Wonder Woman and I live through a three-pronged hazing ritual known as “Family Dinner, Bathtime, Bedtime.” I have discovered in recent months that, on those days when I have run out of nerves for my children to get on, few things make this period of time more tolerable than the magical elixir known as alcohol—the preferred form of which is a Cabo Wabo tequila-filled margarita … and, thanks to my recent discovery of the most delicious ready-made margarita mix I’ve ever tasted, why, “Family Dinner, Bathtime, Bedtime” has never been more enjoyable.

———

Alrighty, then. This long-winded, stream-of-consciousness ode to Moses is my way of saying: I’ve been gone. I’m back. Sorry for the eternity between posts.

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Zan: 2 years 11 months,
Jayna: 10 months

Zan: 2 years 11 months; Jayna: 10 months

It has been an eventful month, kids … so much so that I am again writing you a combined letter—a format I may just stick with from here on out. You were born on the 11th and 12th days of your respective birth months, and writing separate, lengthy, back-to-back missives is proving to be a challenge for me. So challenging, in fact, that, not only am I combining this month’s letters—I am also writing to you four days after Zan’s monthly milestone and three days after Jayna’s. (I’d like to be more punctual, but raising you keeps getting in the way of writing about raising you. It’s really annoying. I think you should start fending for yourselves more.)
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Canyons and cupcakes

Wonder Woman & Jon in the Grand Canyon

Six years ago, while living in Arizona, Wonder Woman and I celebrated her 30th birthday with a trip to the Grand Canyon. We camped out near the South Rim on Friday night, got up early Saturday morning, consumed roughly 25 million grams of carbohydrates and tackled a 12-mile roundtrip hike down Bright Angel Trail and back. That picture up there shows us at the 6-mile mark, a scenic stop known as Plateau Point, which is as far as you’re supposed to go if you’re not spending the night in the canyon.

So, there we were. We had reached our destination. As you can see, it was breathtaking. Mission accomplished—sort of.

The hike in, as one might imagine, is much easier than the hike out. Something to do with that whole “gravity” thing. (Park officials advise hikers to assume that getting out will take about twice as long as getting in.) As we began heading back, the temperature was hovering somewhere in the mid-to-high 80s.

The 6-mile death march from hell—I mean, return trip—was largely comprised of vertical miles along switchbacks that lead up the canyon walls. To our credit, we did pretty damn well until the last couple of miles, at which point we began to, um—how do you say?—suck wind.

By the last mile, we had intentionally reduced our stride to little baby steps, since trying to walk normally had become physically impossible, and lying on the ground, while tempting, seemed not the way to go, either.

Finally, we made it to the top, and, boy howdy, were we ever thankful we’d had the foresight to make reservations weeks in advance for a room at the hotel closest to the trailhead.

After checking in, bathing, lying in bed comatose for about two hours, and sucking down every bottle of Powerade within a 100-mile radius, we were even capable of hobbling to the restaurant for a nice birthday dinner.

It’s hard to believe that was six years ago—except when I think of how much things have changed since then.

Last Sunday, we celebrated Wonder Woman’s 36th birthday. It did not involve conquering any of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World. Not by a long shot.

Zan—a.k.a. The Secretary of Birthday Celebrations—had stipulated that mommy would be feted with a Curious George-themed party, the centerpiece of which would be the massive, chocolate-chip-covered cupcakes he had seen two weeks earlier, and had not stopped talking about since.

Zan at Wonder Woman's 36th birthday

Wonder Woman's birthday cupcakes

While certainly nowhere near as adventurous as her 30th, it was a lot easier to recover from.

Still, despite the degree of difficulty, I look forward to making that hike again—presumably with our two teenage children. We have a few more cartoon-character-themed birthdays to cover before that happens, though.

Happy Birthday, honey. I love you (even more than frozen peas).

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