Tuesday, June 28, 2011

A Bridge Not So Far

“Mom, can we play bridge tonight,” my nine-year old asked his mother as my whole family walked along the beach last week.

“Bridge?” I interjected. “Where did you learn to play bridge?”

My son stared at me. “Dad, it’s no big deal. We each get a deck of cards and see who can build a bridge the fastest.”

“Oh,” I said, understanding his meaning and laughing inside at the same time. I knew that neither my wife nor I know how to play bridge. In the seconds before my son explained, I’d imagined most of his friends and their families, wondering which ones might be bridge players. It was useless. I’d never played the game in my life. I know of no one in my generation who knows how either.

In my parents’ generation, it was a different story. My mom used to play bridge all the time. She belonged to a bridge club that would meet once a month at someone’s house. They’d have food and prizes. I think this went on for several years as I remember a number of parties at the house with the kids having to stay upstairs. When I got up to go to school the day after a bridge club meeting, I noted that the card tables were still out, covered with half-full bowls of snacks and unfinished drinks. Mom always cleaned the day after.

I don’t know if bridge is a dying game, but games with family never dies. While we were at the beach, we did the usual things. We spent the day swimming, caught a fireworks display, ate a lot of good seafood at local restaurants, and caught a movie. The kids spent time at a Nascar Speedpark.

However, we also played cards, mostly regular deck versions of Uno and Old Maid. Old Maid was the funnest. My wife called it by its Japanese name, babanuki. The baba part of the word refers to the Old Maid card, so my wife gave it a southern spin and called it the “Bubba” card. It proved to be a difficult game to play with the kids. Neither of them could keep a straight expression when they got the “Bubba” card, so we always knew where it was. However, I think we all eventually lost one and called babanuki done.

We did a lot of fun stuff while we at the beach, but the card games stay with me. It may be sitting at home for a night, but it’s still TV-off, family interaction.

And that alone can be special.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Nate McLouth Slept Here (for five minutes at least)

I spent last Thursday in a place no parent enjoys being, the emergency room.

My nine-year old, excited about a Braves win over the Mets last Thursday night, went to bed happy. A few minutes later, he started crying about a severe headache and then upchucked what was left of his dinner.

My wife and I gave him ibuprofen and placed a cold compress on his head, trying to soothe him. However, when the compress had no effect, we realized the ibuprofen likely wasn’t going to help much either. We got him dressed and then I started that late night drive to North Forsyth’s emergency room.

We got checked in quickly and seen quickly. The diagnosis was dehydration, a product of the recent start of Agility Camp (a precursor to fall football practice). He hadn’t been drinking enough water overall and it finally got to him. Oddly, it hit him on Thursday, a night when he doesn’t have practice. Still, my wife and knew the diagnosis was true. He wasn’t drinking enough water.

However, before we went home, the doctor at North Forsyth wanted to run a CAT scan. Since there’s no history of migraines in the family, the doctor wanted to rule out anything unexpected. So, off my little guy and I went to a room with a table and a big white doughnut. My son, a little scared, asked if I could stay with him. The technician said I could, so I donned a lead apron. Thinking about my son’s love of sports and that he was practicing for football, I thought of a way to calm his nerves.

“Just think,” I said, “Falcons have been on this table.”

“Yes,” the technician added, “and Braves, too.”

I glanced at the technician. “You can’t tell me who, can you,” I asked, hopeful.

She shook her head. “No.”

“I figured there were privacy issues.”

I turned back to my son. “You hear that? Falcons and Braves were both on this table.” An outfield collision from a Braves game last summer entered my mind and I had to bring it up. “Just think. Last baseball season, Nate McLouth was on that table.”

My son smiled and he calmed a bit. A minute later the machine began moving and I sat and watched as he never stopped smiling.

We got the results a little over a half hour later. No issues. The hospital discharged and we headed home.

Assured he was feeling better, my wife and I lectured our son on the need to drink enough water. Hopefully, it won’t happen again.

To my son or Nate McLouth.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

O Coffee My Coffee

This week, Fox News and The Huffington Post both posted stories about too much coffee causing auditory hallucinations. (I’ll leave it to readers to decide where of these two entities I likely saw this article.) Researchers in Australia asked participants in a study to down various levels of my favorite beverage and then made them listen to three minutes of sound on earphones. All participants were told that White Christmas would be selection they would hear. Instead, they got three minutes of white noise. The higher the level of caffeine intake, the more likely a participant in the study would say that they heard White Christmas. The notable level was apparently five cups of coffee. People who’d ingested five cups were three times as likely to state that they’d heard White Christmas as opposed to those that hadn’t. The story matched a similar report from LiveScience in 2009 that suggested people hear and see things after only three cups of coffee.

Admittedly, this isn’t the first time this year I’ve heard health news about coffee. It comes out all the time. I’ve heard recent studies that suggest coffee may inhibit certain forms of cancer. I’ve also heard it causes certain forms of cancer, so that’s a mixed review (or picking your poison). But, if you start listing all the supposed health benefits and detriments of coffee, it begins to sound like one of those prescription drug ads you see on TV.

But the idea of hallucinations was new to me.

My kids think I drink too much coffee, especially my nine-year old. Often, he will come up to me with a method he hopes will stop it.

“Dad, I bet you can’t stop drinking coffee for a single day.”

“OK. What’s the bet?”

He wags his forefinger in the air. “If you can’t go the weekend—“

“Weekend? Earlier you said a day.”

“OK. Day,” he says with a huff. “If you can’t go a day without drinking coffee, you pay me five dollars?”

“And if I can, then you pay me five dollars?”

“Uh, no. A quarter.”

“That doesn’t sound very fair.”

He hems around a little more but fails to come up with an equitable solution. Eventually, he gives up.

But what if the hallucinations are true?

It means my wife would have a medical reason for when she claims I didn’t hear her correctly.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The Pursuit of Money

My 9 y.o. was looking to spend money recently. It’s a common thing. When he gets a little bit of money (birthday, Christmas, grandparents, etc.), he immediately wants to head for Target or WalMart and look for something to buy.

We’ve told him often that he needs to save his money for something he really wants, but he never seems to listen. His older brother is patient and knows how to save. He often picks out something he wants, counts his dollars from gifts and chores, and sticks to his plan. The lectures work on him.

But for my younger son, the money is burning the proverbial hole in his pocket. If it’s there, he can’t wait to spend it.

And such was the recent chain of events. Having received cash gifts for a once-in-a lifetime religious event (First Holy Communion), he looked forward to the things he could by. He picked up a Jackie Chan double feature and a couple of Beyblades, leaving himself with $30. My wife and I told him he should wait until something special came along.

Two days later it did. A new Wii game for major league baseball.

The price was $50.

He knew then he was done for and he was despondent. The Wii game was it.

My wife and I told him he had no one to blame but himself. For once, he admitted we were right. He begged us to help him get it.

We refused. We figured it was a good lesson for him. If the game meant something, he would figure out a way.

And he pursued this goal with vigor. The video was unopened. He returned it. One of the Beyblades was still unopened. He returned that as well. It got him beyond $45 but left him short of $50 (not including tax). We figured out a way to get him 5% off and told him he could use it. He still didn’t have enough. He even tried to sell the open Beyblade to his older brother. That didn’t work.

He begged for extra chores. He begged for an allowance. My wife told him he could earn 25 cents a day if he kept his room clean and his toys picked up. He’s still nine though and that one was beyond him. He didn’t make any progress.

And just when he’d given up, it happened.

A tooth began wiggling.

One gap-toothed smile later, he had the money he needed. The game was purchased. He’s been playing it ever since.

My wife and I don’t know if he’s learned his lesson. But for a brief time, he actually learned to save.

Until the next time.