Ben Makes Me Think

When I was playing with Ben in his room this weekend, I asked him if he could go get a car (which was in the living room). He said, “Yes,” and then as he stood up he looked at me, held out his balled-up hand toward me and said, “Wye back.” I could tell this meant, “I’ll be right back,” something we sometimes say to him when we’re leaving a room. I repeated back to him, “Oh, you’ll be right back? Okay.”

He pumped his hand at me again, as if pointing, but without any fingers out, and repeated, “Wye back. Wye back.” He walked toward the door, repeating that phrase over and over. As he reached to close the door behind him (not sure why he did that), he said it again. Just when the door touched the jam, he push it back open enough to look in and say, “Wye back.” Then he added, “Say here,” which I knew meant, “Stay here.” I assured him I would do that, and he closed the door.

Upon his return, I could hear his hand fumbling at the doorknob. “Help,” his muffled voice said through the door. “Daddy help.” It was funny that after so proudly taking charge of the situation, he had to stop and ask for help. I got up and let him in. He walked in with a car and we played for a while. As I continued to ask him where a certain toy was, he would repeat “Wye back,” and “Say here,” before going to get it.

This is a moment I know I get more out of than I would with someone else’s child. It is not just the cuteness of a two-year old reassuring an adult he would be right back, or even that he instructed said adult to stay where he was. Although, that was ridiculously cute. It’s that our boy is learning. Not something we tried to teach him, but something he picked up just by observing us. He wants to be like us so strongly that he makes sure we acknowledge what he’s doing.

That’s when it hit me. Had we brought Ben up as something radically from our current lifestyle, whether something acceptable like the Amish or something hateful like white supremacists, Ben would be right there trying to be the same thing, with absolutely no standard by which to judge. That’s how some children go for years being abused, yet still love their parents; they have no idea that their treatment is wrong. It’s also why they usually go on to be abusers. That way of thinking and behaving is wired into their brains from such an early age that it’s nearly impossible to clear from their minds. I’m not trying to excuse abhorrent behavior, but as a first-time father witnessing how impressionable children are, I’m taken aback by the joy and the concern. It’s kind of scary, but it makes me glad that so far Ben watches nothing but commercial-free programs, and only about one or two hours per day.

I haven’t written much about Ben in this blog until now. Maybe that’s because I consciously was trying to avoid being the annoying guy who chatters incessantly about his kid. Other parents react in one of two ways to that kind of behavior; they either love it because it reminds them of when their child was that age, or they can’t stand it because they’re thinking, “So what, my kid did (or does) that, and I’m not writing about it.” To the latter I say, you choose what you do or do not read, not me. I’m not even sure anybody’s reading this thing, except Shannon, who is turning out to be my retroactive editor — for better or worse. I try not to actively bore people.

Honestly, I could go on for quite a while about Ben. I wouldn’t do it to brag, because I know the skills children exhibit at any given age vary for reasons doctors cannot name. At the same time, I worry whether he’ll stop saying “coa” instead of “car.”

Parents who work tirelessly to get their child to walk may get frustrated, while others who take a completely hands-off approach may see their child walk sooner than expected. We were a bit worried about Ben at one point, because we thought he “should” be crawling. He rolled to get around, and at first only in one direction. That meant that someone had to flip him around once he hit an obstacle. He used that method quite a while, and ended up crawling for a somewhat shorter period than many babies. Without any problems at all, though, he started walking right at about one year.

The same thing goes for talking. We don’t know for certain whether our efforts are making a difference. We make sure that we repeat back correctly anything he mis-pronounces. I think that might have contributed to Ben’s habit of repeating something until someone repeats it back, but I could be completely wrong.

Ben can’t jump yet. I’ve seen kids 6 months younger jumping like jackrabbits, but at nearly 26 months, when he tries he still manages to get only his heels off the ground. Oh well, one of these days, little buddy.

This post has wandered all around. I guess that’s why we have journals. We’re not writing on assignment — we’re just putting down our thoughts. What will I post about next time, and when?

Wye back. Say here.

Laptop Selloff Causes Melee

Just got this from a co-worker and had to share it. Richmond, Virginia’s Henrico County school district decided to sell a bunch of laptops for $50, and it turned into a mob scene, with one guy using a folding chair to swat line breakers like flies. Folks, they are four-year-old Apple iBooks used and carried around by high school students. But it had folks going crazy, to the point of hurting people. Read it here.

Tried Something New Last Night

Stop that. This is a family blog.

For our anniversary, we went to a place called Studio Movie Grill. Notice that they do not add the pretentious “e” on the end. I like that. My wife found out about it from a Mom’s Club member. It is a movie theater with several screens, on which patrons watch first-run movies as they dine on the moderately priced fare. We didn’t know exactly what to expect, as neither of us had ever heard of a place like that. It sounded great, though, because we’ve lamented the fact that having dinner and a movie on a weekday makes for a very late night. We can never get to a restaurant and eat in time to make the 7-ish show, so weeknight movie dates were pretty much a no-go.

Overall, it was good, but it started out a little rocky. The show started at 7:30, but the Web site encouraged everyone to be there by 7:00. This time, it really was not our fault we were late.

We had ordered the tickets online and printed out our confirmation sheet. When we dropped Ben off at the in-laws’ place, I called the theater’s number to find out exactly where it was located. The recording said it was on West Park, two blocks east of the North Dallas Tollway, in Plano. We kissed Ben and left at 6:40, with about 20 minutes to get somewhere that should take about 10.

When I exited and headed east, as the directions said, we went much farther than two blocks. Probably more like a mile and a half. All we saw were houses. We turned around and started back the other way, figuring maybe the recording was wrong. I called the theater’s number and a live person said we had gone the right way the first time. We called the inlaws, who usually give good directions, and they said the same thing. I turned around. Grrr…

It’s about 7:00 by this time, so we know we’re going to be late. Trying to keep our anniversary positive, I assured Shannon that getting there a few minutes after was no big deal.

Shannon was first to spot the Blue Goose, a landmark the theater guy had given us, on the left side of the road. Grumbling something about that not being anywhere near where he said it would be, I somehow got us across two lanes without crashing and turned into the parking lot of the Blue Goose.

We drove around the front of the Blue Goose and saw no entrance to the Studio Movie Grill’s lot. At that point, those two curbs and that small strip of grass were not going to stop me. I very gently eased over the curbs and into the next lot, where I then hit the gas to cross the 100 yards of empty spaces. We had arrived, and it was 7:10.

I like to sit in the middle of the theater, just a little farther back than dead center. A couple sat in the prime spot, so we sat next to them. This was to our advantage later.

I’ll describe in detail since it’s so much different from a typical movie theater. The seating consists of black office chairs with armrests, the kind that run about $149 at Office Depot. Our row had a table that ran its length, butted up against a short wall. Recessed lights mounted at the top of the short wall shone just brightly enough to light our menus. A row behind us had the same chairs, but with two-top tables instead of the bar approach. Each couple had a lighted coaster (like the kind some restaurants use to page you when waiting for a table), which we could activate when ready to order or when we needed something. Very good idea.

The menu at Studio Movie Grill offers a nice range of choices. The Pizzas had various toppings on a base of honey-wheat crust, red sauce, and provolone and mozzarella cheeses; hamburgers resembled what you might find at Chili’s. The prices ranged from $6.99 for the hot dog to $9.99 for a loaded pizza. I was surprised to see that the popcorn was only $1.99. They had mixed drinks aplenty, some of which sounded like they would make good desserts. We happened to be there on Margarita Monday, which knocked $1.50 off the price of a margarita. Shannon was a little queasy, so she passed, and I’m not a margarita drinker.

As we looked over the menu, the couple next to us helped make our anniversary better. They did not know it was our anniversary, which made their offer even nicer. The lady showed me a coupon book, and asked if we would like one of the tickets for “buy one entree, get one free.” She explained that they expire in October, and there was no way they were going to use them all. We gave them the usual polite answer, something like, “Oh, well if you really don’t think you are going to use them.”

The couple asked for their spinach artichoke dip to come out before their meal. I thought maybe they were just being cautious, so I said nothing. Yeah. Nice.

About 10 minutes after we ordered, as we watched the trailers for upcoming features, all of our food came out, including our “appetizer” spinach artichoke dip. Shannon’s pepperoni pizza was very good, and my burger was tasty. The lighting was low enough that I couldn’t tell whether it was done, but it tasted okay, so I devoured it. I have only about three or four burgers a year at the most, and it was very good.

We saw “Wedding Crashers,” which was very funny. The whole crowd laughed out loud many times. The story was a formula seen in several romantic comedies over the years, but Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson did a great job with a funny script. They make a great comedy duo. There’s also a hilarious cameo that had my mind racing to guess who it was before he was revealed, but I don’t want to spoil it for anybody. We had a hard time buying Owen Wilson as a romantic lead, but maybe that says more about us than it does about the movie. I don’t have time for that blog entry.

There were a couple times during the show that we could hear booming bass from one of the other screens, a problem I suspect I would find in any of today’s multi-giga-super-plex cinemas.

If you are up for dinner and a movie and there’s a Studio Movie Grill nearby, then give it a try. It cuts out waiting for a table and the rush of trying to make it from one place to the next.

That is, if you can find it.