This past weekend has been circled on my calendar for months. I knew was going to be hectic…I just didn’t realize how hectic it would be. Like the perfect storm of to-do lists…the launch party of our new nonprofit, the Wichita State Shockers final game of the season, my son Dodge’s first birthday, my in-laws, the Oscars, and a winter storm all collided within 72 hours for a strange (but awesome) weekend. It was a weekend of firsts.
Over two years ago my wife Kate and I started a program called *asterICT to bring visual arts to Wichita, KS via our digital nomadic business, CreativeRHINO. Last year Kate turned the project into its own separate entity with her business partner Kristin and it evolved into Harvester Arts, a fiscally sponsored 501(c)3 under the umbrella of Fractured Atlas. Friday was the launch party. Months of planning, fund-raising, programming, paperwork, painting, etc. were all set to happen in our 5,000 square foot space and there was of course nervous energy. We split the space in half, themed the party “Under Construction,” and through the AMAZING work of our volunteers threw a fantastic launch party. I had told myself I would be happy if 100-200 people came…the weather report was very cold and there were hundreds of other things going on in Wichita for Final Friday. Then it happened…over 300 people came in the first half hour. Then we ran out of space. Then over 500 people were there! It was a HUGE success and everything from the tech, to the music, to the awards show, to the crowd went perfectly and I couldn’t have asked for a better night. It was a great weight lifted off my shoulders! I relaxed, drank a few beers, did my job of kissing hands and shaking babies (see what I did there?), and celebrated the night instead of stressing over working the night. The local art paper F5 had given us an amazing write-up and it was clear…Harvester Arts was the place to be that night and hopefully the future of alternative visual arts in Wichita.
Boom! March 1st! Where has the time gone? Kate’s parents were in town for the launch party and our son Dodge’s first birthday…but a winter storm was blowing in making their planned Sunday return look impossible. Many Saturday morning calls were made and the decision was made that for the sake of safety they would leave right away to try to get home before the storm hit and the roads closed. We felt terrible. They drove 8+ hours Thursday just to crash with my folks, run errands for us on Friday, party late on Friday night, and then drive 10+ hours back. They were in town for less than 36 hours and on the road for about 20. That’s some awesome grandparents right there. For months Kate and I debated what to do for Dodge’s first birthday. On one hand he’s just a 1-year old and will never remember the day nor comprehend it as it is happening. However, we live in a digital era and his older brother Max got a petting zoo for his first birthday. The bar had been set and Dodge needed to be able to look back at pictures and not feel like he got cheated. Max liked animals so the petting zoo made sense. Also, Max got a sunny spring-like day on January 26th, 2012. Dodge got a winter storm warning with freezing fog and ice. No petting zoo. Also, when Kate and I asked each other what Dodge likes right now there was zero hesitation when we responded: “Food.” Dodge loves food. If you have food…he’ll try to pilfer it from you and a simple “no” won’t deter him. He is persistent. He knows “more” in baby sign language and that’s what he signs 24/7. “More!” More!” More!” Then he points to his mouth. “More food!” It’s either that or books. So Kate made a birthday cake that looked like a book, we got him tons of books, and we let him eat as much of whatever he wanted all weekend long. No one was coming out in the ice so we took him with us (as planned) to the biggest party in town. We took Dodge to see the Wichita State Shockers play the last game of the season.
If you don’t know about the Wichita State Shockers…you are living under a rock or don’t follow sports. On Saturday they defeated the Missouri State Bears to go 31-0 on the season. A perfect regular season sweep! The first to do so in over a decade and the only team to have 31 wins in an undefeated regular season. It is a record that belongs solely to the Shockers and Dodge got to be there for it! He is forever a a part of history! We brought (as always) ear protection for both boys and man they needed it on Saturday. All 10,506 fans were on their feet screaming as loud as they could and Dodge loved it! He smiled, he clapped, he gave high-fives, he pointed, he smiled more…he had a great birthday. It tuckered the little man out and he passed out in the second half. We woke him up after the game and took him into the locker room to see the team where he got high-fives from seniors Nick Wiggins, Cleanthony Early, Chadrack Lufile, and Kadeem Coleby as well as a hug from Coach Gregg Marshall. I have a tiny shirt being autographed for him that he can keep forever as a keepsake as proof that he was there to witness history…albeit at the age of 1.
By the time we left the celebration and headed to the parking lot it was clear that Kate’s parents had made the right decision leaving early. A fog had rolled in and frozen covering everything in ice…turning Wichita into an ice skating rink. Kate and I thanked our lucky stars that the weather had held off long enough for us to have the Harvester Arts launch party. I got the car de-iced enough to drive, and we poked our way home to put the kids to bed after a long dinner where Dodge happily gorged himself. Kate’s parents watched as highway 30 was reduced to one lane plowed and the whiteout hit Iowa just as their car pulled into the driveway of their home. Everyone survived Saturday.
Sunday was a hangover. Flat out truth. Hung…over. Saturday had been a hangover too but Advil and some hair of the dog had pushed it aside so I could appreciate my baby boy’s birthday and the Shockers’ win. Sunday however was a snow day and I couldn’t be happier. Fat-pants ahoy! We watched cartoons with the boys, Max and I made chocolate waffles, I did the dishes, Kate did laundry…it was awesome. That night we were going to continue Dodge’s celebration at dinner with my folks and let him tear into his cake. The snow turned to sleet, then back to snow, and the temperature dropped. The boys played together at the train table together til the next first of the weekend happened. It went like this:
MAX: “No Dodge! No! Dodge! Noooooo!
<Loud crashing sound>
DODGE: <Screaming tears>
Max (3) was playing with a train when Dodge reached over and grabbed the track. Max didn’t want Dodge to touch the track he had built so he hit Dodge in the face…hard…and left a mark. Happy birthday Dodge…you’ve just been cold-cocked! This was a first. Max often gets frustrated by Dodge or other kids, but had not retaliated using physicality until this moment. Max was sent to his room. This resulted in an epic temper tantrum including screaming, hitting the walls, slamming a door, and talking back to Kate and I. His time out was escalated to being grounded. This in turn escalated the tantrum. This is a topic for another day but we let Max get all his screaming and yelling out then I had a long conversation with him about what had happened. We got washed up and went to dinner, braving the weather, with my folks where Dodge got to eat to his little heart’s content, he got fun cards that made funny noises, new books, a bouncer toy, and the highlight of the weekend…a cake he attacked with two hands! Fistfuls of cake and frosting went into his mouth as his sweet little pupils dilated with delight. Sugar! It was a first. Max partook as well and a mini tantrum ensued when he found out it wasn’t his birthday and he kicked Dodge’s new toy…officially solidifying his entrance to the Terrible Threes. the Oscars played in the background and I said, “Screw it…I’ve had enough events for one weekend.”
Once Sunday night rolled around it was just Kate and I. We’d hosted in-laws, launched a nonprofit, thrown the biggest party in town, watched the Shockers go undefeated, survived an ice storm, parented our way through our boys’ first physical altercation, and of course…thrown our baby boy a fun first birthday complete with high-fives from the Shockers, new toys, cake smashing, and a sweet shiner from his brother.
Its hard to believe just 1 year ago I was holding Dodge in my arms for the first time wondering if I would be a good parent. Wondering if I could handle being a father of two? Wondering what life would be like with Dodge. Now? I can’t imagine life without him and wonder what life was like before he was born. He greets me at the back door when I come home from work saying, “Dada! Dada!” He is incredibly ticklish and if you don’t tickle him…he’ll show you where you should tickle him and say, “Tickletickletickle…!” He’s too busy for hugs but loves to run up to you and say, “Hi!” in a very soft voice, then grin sheepishly, and toddle away. His favorite game is playing peek-a-boo with the dish rags hanging from the dishwasher and he loved the train table til he got punched by Max…though it doesn’t seem to have deterred him. He has a little squiggle on the tip of his nose just like me. He looks like my wife. He doesn’t understand the concept of riding on my shoulders and tries to sit on my head instead. He likes to be held, he hates to sleep, and his eyes are soul-piercingly blue. His hair smells like milk, his patience is astounding, and he is smart as a whip! He plays nicely with the cat…but that tail is too hard to resist grabbing. He has a sweet stiff arm he gives to his brother Max when Max is being too rough…needs to work on getting it out in self defense a little sooner. He has a full-faced smile. He’s stocky. He loves books and no matter what is going on around him if you read to him…all is right in his world. He loves his Mama. He holds hands with Max when they ride in the car. He snores when he sleeps and it lulls me to bed. He is a wonderful little child and I’m proud to be his Dad.
Happy Birthday Dodge! Next year you get to punch Max.
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