Monday, December 27, 2010


Dear Spike:

I had to work Christmas Day, so we all got an early start.

Some earlier than others.By the time I woke, you'd already barreled into your stocking like a hound going after a squirrel. Your mother had filled mine, too: Golf balls and tees — a lovely, albeit bittersweet gift, since there are several inches of snow on my favorite course right now and since every one of those balls is destined for the bottom of a water hazard.

Other than the stocking-stuffers, we maintain a fairly simple Christmas tradition: Handmade gifts. Your mother made you a superhero cape, complete with your very own hand-embroidered logo — and she made a matching one for our cat. We outfitted you with a pair of goggles and away you went, flying through our home in search of evil-doers.

Every superhero needs a secret hiding base, so that's what I built for you. It's not much: Just a 2-by-4 frame, some plywood and a door, but later this week we'll paint it up and maybe put some curtains in the window. Even superheros need curtains.

For your mother, we build an office in the closet of the upstairs library — sort of like her own little secret hiding base. Evil-doers beware!

She made me a quilt — stitched from old T-shirts that are no longer wearable but that I've had trouble throwing away. It's soft and it's warm and I love it (and so do you – you like to use it to make a little tent next to the heating vents in our home!)

All told, it was a wonderful Christmas Day — the kind I've really come to expect since you came around.


Friday, December 17, 2010


Dear Spike:

One day, I am quite confident, your epiphanies will be far more profound. But for now, I suppose, this will have to do:

‎"I was really hungry. I thought and I thought and I said, 'aha! Macaroni and cheese!'"


Wednesday, December 8, 2010


Dear Spike:

We don't usually leave home for Thanksgiving or Christmas. There are several reasons for this, but the main one is that we prefer to enjoy the company of our extended family outside the stressful gotta-go-here, better-be-there, hustle-bustle and rigmarole of the holidays.

But this year was different. Traditionally, your great-grandmother (my mom's mom) has hosted a large Thanksgiving gathering for all of her kids, grandkids and great-grandkids. But earlier this year she decided she'd had enough of her big, old house in on Mark Avenue and moved into a retirement home close to where my parents live. And so my mom decided that she'd take on Thanksgiving.

The confirmed guest list was 34 names long.

At some point, it was decided that it wasn't enough to just have dinner. We were going to have a sit down dinner.

Wine goblets, china, cloth napkins — the whole nine yards. Cool right?

As long as so many people were coming to town, my father and uncle decided they'd wait to hold your other great-grandmother's wake until the day after Thanksgiving.

Practical people, my relatives.

And thus began... the Thanksgiving from hell.

On Turkey Thursday morning, I woke up and headed to the kitchen, where I found my mother in the kitchen looking...

... rather peaked.

"You're dad's not feeling well," she said.

"You don't look so good yourself," I said.

"Yeah, I don't feel so good."

And then I heard it. The sound of a grown man retching in my parents' bathroom.

"I think you'd better not touch any food that anyone is going to eat tonight," I told my mom.

And with that, your mother and I had inherited Thanksgiving for 34.

The phone rang. My cousin Paul. His wife's family plans had fallen through.

OK. Make that turkey for 37.

Your mother didn't skip a beat. Like General Patton headed to Bastogne, she took command. Potatoes were peeled. Turkeys were basted. Stuffing was, um, stuffed.

And Thanksgiving went off without a hitch, though it also went off without my mother, father, sister and brother, who were all, by this time, well out of commission.)

By 9 p.m., your mother was, too.

And then it was your turn.

I've never seen you so sick. Never. You poor thing. You spent the entire night throwing up. You'd fall asleep for a few minutes, then wake up and ralph, then scream — with what I can only describe as righteous indignation — "No more! That was the last time!"

All night long.

The next day was your great-grandmother's wake. You and your mother were in no shape to go.

But by that evening, everyone was feeling pretty good again. And the next day we headed off to Stanford University to watch the Oregon State Beavers take on the sixth-ranked Cardinal.

Um... did I say "take on"? What I meant to say was, "get pounded like a piece of meat." It was 24-0 at halftime and we didn't even stay to watch the infamous Leland Stanford Junior University Marching Band.

But we didn't leave because of the score. And certainly not in protest of the Stanford band's historic send-ups of Catholicism, Mormonism and a bunch of other -isms.

No, we left because you couldn't pee.

Oh yeah — and you were screaming in agony.

A bladder infection, we figured — and so we came home and pumped you full of cranberry juice. Problem was, that only made you have to go more. And you couldn't.

You tried and you tried. And you screamed and you screamed. But you just couldn't go.

At about 9 p.m., we decided to take you to the emergency room at the local hospital.

At about 12 a.m. we finally got in to see a doctor.

And it only took him about two minutes to decide you needed a catheter.

"This isn't going to be fun for anyone," he said.

And it wasn't. You spent the next 20 minutes screaming and writhing in agony as the nurses tried to do what needed to be done. Your mother and I had the excrutiating duty of holding you down as you begged to be released.

When it was all over, the doctor prescribed some Ibuprofen and sent us on our way. We finally got back to my parents' home that night at 2 a.m.

Things were not a whole lot better the next day. One of my friends, a doctor himself, suggested we take you to Stanford Children's Hospital, and that's where we spent our last day in California. The doctors and nurses there were kind as can be, but they didn't have any answers. They took some samples (another catheter — although this one went a lot better) and, when you impressed one doctor with your knowledge of various medical tools, they offered you a job.

Whatever was wrong, you were feeling quite a bit better by the next day — just in time for us to get on an airplane and head home to Utah, where I had to scrape 10 inches of snow off of our car in the long-term parking lot before driving our family home.

I'd never been so happy to end a vacation.

Sometimes life gives you lemons.

And sometimes you can take those lemons and make lemonade.

But sometimes the lemons are rotten, and so the lemonade makes you sick. That's how this vacation was. We did our best to have a good time and, when we did, we got kicked around like the Oregon State University football team.

Of course, the football team can always say "there's always next year."

But you won't hear that from me. Because next year, we're staying home.