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Happy Birthday To Me: Looking Back At The Year

19 Jul

Today is my birthday and I’ve turned a mere 35.  However, it seems like so much has happened in the past year and instead of trying to recap it I’m just going to post a gallery of photos in chronological order that capture how much fun life can be.  Cheers!

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Toddler Quotes 6/26/2014

26 Jun

A conversation with my 3 year old Max and 1 year old Dodge as I get them buckled into the car at my office.

ME: “Max, I’m not going to be home til late so I expect you…”

MAX: “I respect you too Dada.”

ME: “No. Okay, thank you. I respect you too Max.”

MAX: “Thanks Dada.”

DODGE: “Dada!”

ME: “Yes Dodge, Dada.”

MAX: “Dada!”

ME: “I was saying, I expect you to be on your best behavior.”

MAX: “I respect I will.”

ME: “You suspect you will?”

MAX: “Yeah.”

DODGE: “Yeah!”

ME: “Okay…good enough. Love you Max.”

MAX: “Love you too Dada.”

ME: “Love you Dodge.”

DODGE: “Yeah!”

ME: “Yeah, do you love me Dodge?”

DODGE: “Again.”

ME: “Love you.”

DODGE: “Drink.”

ME: “Yes, when we get home. Love you.”

DODGE: “Up?”

ME: “No. Love you.”

DODGE: “Splug flooooshpffft.”

ME: <sigh> “Splug flooshpft you too.”

Max & Dodge Back Seat

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Babies Don’t Float

17 Jun

KenmoreRedGrillThis past Sunday was Father’s Day and my wife made sure I had a relaxing weekend because she’s the best wife in the world.  I joked a few weeks back that Mother’s Day should be renamed to “Wive’s Day” since my kids are 1 and 3…so I did all the Mother’s Day activities and gifts.  Well, Kate made it a splendid Husband’s Day Weekend.  Saturday I got to sleep in, the boys (and Kate) got me a new grill, Kate baked butterscotch cookies, I played golf with my dad, slept in Sunday, had a pool day with my family and my folks, watched the Heat lose the NBA Finals (I don’t like the Heat), and a fun night with friends.  But…lets go back to the pool day.

Max (3) is very much a fish and can navigate around the pool and other bodies of water just fine with his safety vest on.  He’s fearless.  On Sunday he declared that we was ready to jump off the diving board without me there to catch him and that he wanted to go under water.  This kid loves the pool but hates going under water so I was shocked.  Sure enough…Father’s Day was the day he started doing cannonballs off the diving board into the deep end with no issues around going under water and popping back up to the surface.  Awesome.  Dodge (1) was in my dad’s arms gently splashing at the water and still figuring out the whole pool thing.  I’m pretty sure I ate a pound of cheese & crackers since I skipped lunch and the ladies caught up on art gossip.  When the boys climbed out of the pool for snacks and drinks all flotation devises were shed and the parents and grandparents went on high alert keeping close eye on the edge of the pool.

Then it happened.

Max sat down on the edge of the shallow end and stuck his feet in the water.  Dodge, naturally, did the same.  They began splashing each other with their feet.  Dodge decided he’d stand on top of the water like a puddle to splash Max better.  Everyone saw it and shouted out as Dodge began scooting his little booty into the pool.  I calmly took off my shirt, emptied my pockets, and jumped into the pool as Dodge fell in with a splash…and sank to the bottom of the shallow end.  I scooped him up and raised him out of the water where I greeted him with a smile.  He coughed and looked around in shock but was happy to see I was smiling and there to hug him.  We swam for a minute and then I placed him on the steps where he played in the very shallow water then exited the pool and left the edge alone for the rest of the day.

A healthy fear of water.

Summer in Lake George

Summer in Lake George

Kate and I love swimming but we understand it has dangers.  I’ve cracked my skull open running next to the pool and fallen in, I’ve been hit by a JetSki and knocked out, I’ve tangled my feet up in rope 10 feet under water, I’ve had my regulator stop working at 40 feet while scuba diving, I’ve breathed in water playing water polo, and I’ve lost my bearings swimming at night.  Yet every summer I dive head first into Lake George like an otter and happily swim along the rocky bottom shores at about 7 feet.  Its my happy place.  Both boys have had safe accidents in the pool where they learned water can be dangerous.  Max’s was almost the exact same scenario just over a year ago.  Instead of grabbing them at the edge and risking banging their heads into the wall I let them fall in and realize they don’t float.  It is an important thing to know – and like learning things such as the oven are “hot,” a minor and controlled “accident” is sometimes the best way to learn.  Both Max and Dodge as babies touched the oven at some point and realized that the word “hot” went with the sensation of “ouch!”  Same goes for water, they both figured out that they don’t float.

It is important to note that I don’t condone throwing kids into bodies of water or letting them sink long enough to breathe in water.  No.  I’m just saying…sometimes its good to fall in.  I fell into the duck pond as a kid and my mom let me so I’d learn to stay away from the edge.  Same thing…only no ducks and cleaner water.

To cap off the pool day Max let me show him what to do if he fell in.  He said, “Dada, I don’t float I sink.”  I agreed and asked him if I floated or sank.  He said, “You float because you are a grown up.”  I got in the pool, stopped moving my arms and legs, and sank.  Then I came up and asked him again if I floated or sank.  He asked why I sank.  I replied, “I sink.  The reason I don’t sink is because I swim.”  You could see the light bulb go off in his head and he understood why I was always trying to teach him how to swim without the life vest.  So we ditched the vest, I gave him simple instructions about what to do, and I tossed him into the pool.  He popped back up and stood in the shallow end.  The light bulb got brighter.  “Dada!  I can stand!”  He began running around in circles and found that doggy paddling got him from point A to point B faster.  He was so happy.  I got in with him and asked him to walk toward me (the deep end) and feel where it gets deeper.  He did and found the visual markers that clued him he had gone too far and returned to the safety of the shallow end.  He’s ready to learn to swim!  But that’s for another day.

Sunday, Dodge learned he didn’t float while Max learned he could stand in the pool.  Dodge learned to say “Papa” for my father which made my dad very happy.  Dodge also figured out how to give a proper kiss and began kissing all of us on the cheek.  Both my boys played very nicely with each other and while Dodge fell in the pool he was not so scared that he wouldn’t get back in.  That night I got a kiss on the cheek from Dodge before bedtime, Max during his bedtime, and Kate when we went to bed.  That’s a pretty great Father’s Day and the best gift I could ask for: My family’s affection.

GatesBoys

 

No babies were harmed in the writing of this post.

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So Long Ornate Box Turtle

11 Jun

Kansas Ornate Box TurtleFor those of you that have been following along, we picked up a hitchhiker about a week ago as my family drove back roads home from St. Louis to Wichita.  We acquired a female Ornate Box Turtle which my boys named Flora.  Upon bringing Flora home my wife Kate and I did some research and came to the conclusion that the right thing to do was return Flora to her home since Ornate Box Turtles are protected reptiles in Kansas and tend to have shorter lifespans in captivity than the 50-100 years suspected in the wild.  So…last Saturday we packed the boys into the car and made the 3 hour round trip drive to Flora’s home:  A bridge just north-east of Toronto, KS on highway 54.

Flora spent her 6 days living in our back yard plotting multiple escapes and nearly succeeding twice.  I was in awe of her burrowing capabilities and her complete distrust of me despite feeding her multiple leaves, watermelon slices, and apples was a good reminder that this was a wild reptile that belonged in her own home.  When I found her the week prior I was convinced I was doing the right thing by saving her…keeping her from being squashed in the road.  After seeing her desperately looking for her home and being miserable in an enclosure it was a clear decision.  Flora needs to go home.  We told the boys, “Flora has had a nice stay with us but she needs to go home to her mommy and daddy now, her family misses her and she misses them.”  Max (3) understood this while Dodge (1) smashed a cracker into the seat.

20140607_110809Without much fanfare I placed Flora under the bridge by the river that fed into Cedar Creek and eventually Toronto Lake in hopes she might go under the bridge this time instead of over it where cars and trucks rumble by.  She thanked me by peeing on me one last time before scurrying into the deep grass she seemed to know so well and hiding in the mud of her home.  She did look back to study me and I like to think she was thinking, “Thank you…thank you for bringing me home.”  When in fact she was probably thinking, “Don’t ever touch me again you stupid flesh bucket!”  More than likely she was thinking, “Muhlbc;hu elsf h;FH…” because turtles can’t speak.

20140607_141435 (1)

Highway 54

We counted 17 turtles in the road that day, one of which was about the size of a basketball and trapped on the median of the Turnpike as cars whizzed past at 80 miles per hour.  We didn’t count the squashed ones but we did watch one get killed by an unsuspecting mini van.  I narrowly missed one making a break for the other side and was impressed by it’s speed…which gave me hope.  The whole thing made me feel sad and acutely aware of how something as simple as a road bisects animal’s habitats and changes migrations and nature forever.  It reminded me of Robert Moses and how the Cross Bronx Expressway forever changed neighborhoods like Tremont in New York City when neighbors were suddenly divided by a seemingly endless 6 lane highway.  I like to think Flora went home that night to her tribe and forever told stories about that wild week she survived among the flesh buckets from outer space!  I like to think she’ll live for decades…longer than me.  I like to think she made it to the other side of the road.  I like to think a lot of things about Flora the Ornate Box Turtle…but the one thing I know is that my family and I did the right thing.  So, if you see a turtle in the middle of the road…don’t take it with you.  Pull over, gently pick it up and place it on the side of the road in the same direction it was facing or heading.  Its like helping a little old lady across the street.  It takes a few seconds out of your busy, busy, busy day…but its the right thing to do.

Flora's Home on highway 54

Flora’s Home on highway 54

Flora hiding in lower right corner

Flora Looking Back Before Going Home

So Long Flora...

So Long Flora…

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Flora The Ornate Box Turtle

4 Jun
Kansas Ornate Box Turtle

Flora

Last weekend we “rescued” a turtle from the middle of the highway on our way back to Wichita from St. Louis and named him “Dusty.”  Dusty turned out to be a girl so now she’s “Flora.”  Flora turned out to be an “Ornate Box Turtle” which is the State Reptile of Kansas so we needed to figure out what to do.  At first we made Flora a nice box with water and food but she seemed miserable so we moved her to a 6′ x 6′ enclosure under the playground where she could walk around and explore.  She did 2 things:

  1. Try and escape from the NE corner all day
  2. Dig and hide under the SW corner all night

She almost dug her way out (I was not prepared for how well she digs) so we moved her into a smaller enclosure where we could control the temperature and conditions better without worrying about her getting out.  She has dirt to dig in, grass to hide under, water to drink and bathe in, sun, shade, bugs, and food.  Everything is fertilizer-free so she is in good spirits other than the stress of being in captivity…which she will not need to stress out about much longer.

Flora is going home.

20140603_195100This morning she chowed down on a hunk of watermelon, took a bath, then dug a hole and hid in the dirt.  The kids could care less that there’s a turtle in the back yard because they can’t hold it and play with it.  That’s how turtles die.  Kate and I are checking on her throughout the day and making sure she is as happy as can be in her enclosure…as happy as one can be in an enclosure.  I felt responsible to bring her home because she was in the middle of the highway and going to die.  My fear of taking her back is that she’ll just walk out into the highway again and get killed…so is she better off living with us?  No.  I have come to the conclusion the answer is “no.”  Everything in this world has a purpose and Flora’s isn’t to hide in my backyard and eat watermelon.  She may live  a longer life in my yard then she would near the highway, but would it be happier?  If you were going to die would you want to be trapped in someone’s yard, or would you rather be home…free…living on your own terms.  I’d want to be home.  So this weekend we’re driving back to Toronto, KS to set Flora free where we found her…though we’ll place her off the highway in hopes she’ll steer clear of it for a while.  I know the exact spot where we found her on highway 54 by the river and that’s where we’ll put her.  Her home.

Flora's Home

Flora’s Home

For the boys, we’re taking a page from Kate’s parent’s book and telling them Flora has had a nice week visiting us be she needs to go home to her mommy and daddy to be with her family who misses her.  For me, I’m 65% positive she’ll die from getting squashed by a truck…but 35% says she’ll live longer out there where she belongs vs. with us where she doesn’t.  Who knows, if she lives long enough she could get big enough that cars would see her coming from far away.  Ornate Box Turtles can live 50 years…some say up to 100 if left alone in the wild.  I want to give Flora that chance, and if she gets splatted by a truck tomorrow…at least she’ll die doing what she loves…sun-bathing on highway 54.  Much better way to go than dying of stress in a small enclosure in suburbia.  As someone who suffers from anxiety and often contemplates the end this brings great comfort to me as I hope when its my time to go I’m staring at the waves on Lake George, or listening to the sound of Kansas wheat in the wind, or the sound of my wife’s voice telling me about her day.

"Get me out of here and take me home!"

“Get me out of here and take me home!”

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