30 April 2008

Developments at our house, Vol. 6

Here are some more developments at our house in the past few days:

1. M- found a way to confuse and frustrate Daddy-- wake up at 7:30 after a long couple of days of unexplained illness (probably exacerbated by a long night/morning out with the uncles before the wedding), and then crawl in his arms and say, "Nigh'-nigh'" HALF AN HOUR LATER. Then, after a few minutes of silence in the crib, change your mind.

2. D- learned that no, there is no medicine that can make you stop hiccuping. If there was, whoever invented it would be a trillionaire (unless they were under contract with a corporation, of course). And those riches would come just from my payments alone, for when I want to stave off a horrible headache from an hour of violent hiccups. J- finds it amusing, but as my friend Adam would say, it makes me want to kill people.

3. I re-decided that U2 is incredibly awesome, and that this is one of the best albums you will ever buy. Why pay $18 for some random CD with two decent songs on it when you can pay $14 (and that much only if you're shopping at absolutely the wrong store) for one jam-packed with this kind of greatness?

4. M- discovered that our laptop screen makes all sorts of pretty colors when you press on it really hard with your finger.

5. I learned that M- could redeem herself for a few choice acts of naughtiness by spontaneously calling out, "cue me" from behind the couch after burping. (Note that the following 450 self-congratulatory "cue me"s she issued afterwards did not each have an equal effect.) Apparently she really is a sponge, because as far as I know, no one has tried to teach her this yet.

6. D- decided that with the cape stuck onto his Superman pajamas (we usually leave it off so it's not a hazard or hassle during sleep), he has no need to ever change into real clothes.

7. I now understand that we need to branch out in our activities, because when we are between storytime sessions at the library, we don't have much reason to leave the house, we don't shower or get dressed until noon, and my step-count plummets.

8. We all learned that windshield wiper motors have transmissions, and that they can break pretty easily since they are often made of plastic. Later today, we'll find out just how expensive they are to replace.

Read our previous lists of developments.

29 April 2008

Wanted: Baby for "questioning"

Being that I am the only parent supervising my children during the day, I believe I have as at least one of my roles that of Judge. It's not a position I take lightly, or one that I enjoy too thoroughly. However, I like to think I bring a healthy dose of gravitas to this aspect of my life, similar to many of my other roles, such as detective, chef, lie detector, storytime leader, jurist, satirist, bail bondsman, and parole officer.

With all the dignity and pomp I bring to the courtroom that is our apartment, I find it a disrespectful, undermining act that, after labeling as a flight risk a 15-month-old recently brought before me for screeching and petty vandalism, said baby promptly took off at high speed, laughing maniacally rather than submit her squishy behind to the custody of a hardwood floor, as ordered by the court.

My demands for her return and calls for her apprehension were met with unfortunately adorable giggles and then reactive laughter from spectators in attendance. My threats to clear the courtroom quelled the uprising, but still left it defendantless.

As undignified as it was, I was forced to seek out this fugitive myself, chasing her crinkly, bediapered bottom as it tried to shake me off the trail. Undeterred, I cornered the suspect under a table, where her six-toothed smile defied her knowledge of the punishment she had earned. She then scattered away out the other side, where she is believed to have hopped on the back of a waiting Plasma Car.

I would hold this individual in contempt, but legal precedent (see Household v. D- and others) regarding the contours and purity of her visage do not offer me such flexibility. The best I can do once she is returned to the courtroom is allow her due process with only minimal prejudice based on her disappearance.

If you see this young lady, be wary of her reported charms, and know that she is armed and potentially dangerous, particularly to eardrums. She may in fact ask you to kiss an imaginary boo-boo on one of those arms, ostensibly because she had blood drawn there several weeks ago but more likely as a test of faith and loyalty. It is recommended that you do so, and further that you offer various reassuring platitudes in a soothing voice, before excusing yourself as soon as possible (without arousing suspicion) to contact the authorities (i.e. me).

Attached is a recent photo of the offender, shown here all but literally thumbing her nose at the very idea of an authority higher than that of her physical needs and momentary desires:

Cuteness is but one of several blunt weapons in her illegal arsenalAs further aid in confirming a positive identification of this fugitive, be advised that she looks just like her Momma.

28 April 2008

A conversation with J-: Momma's watchin' her stories

I figured since I published conversations with D- and with M-, I might as well be fair and do some conversations with J-. So consider this number one of an as-yet undetermined number.

I found this a fantastic example of our very makeshift style of parenting, while J- was watching TV and casually sharing pieces of her pretzels with M-, a bolder beggar than any terrier I know:

Me: (looking over just as M- is reaching for more pretzels from J-'s plate) Don't let her have any more-- she's still got some in her mouth.

J-: No, I haven't given her any in a few minutes, she should be fine now.

No, J-, she has actual pieces of pretzel sticking out of her mouth. She's gonna need another minute...

Aww, why'd you have to ruin my fun?

With a choking baby?!?


Disclaimer: Despite the implications of this conversation, I must state for the record that J- is almost always way more responsible than me. When it comes to the kids, anyway... not cleaning, maintenance, organization, or finances. There's a reason I'm the stay-at-home parent.

disclaimer: I realize the above disclaimer will still get me in trouble, so I'll further state for the record that J- is generally awesome and definitely my best friend. She's good at lots and lots of things, like cooking, teaching, and knowing what I'm thinking most of the time, but they're just not as amusing to me at the moment.

27 April 2008

Like a horse and carriage

Well, there's just a boring post for you all today, because all I can think about is that my oldest brother is getting married in a few hours.

It's crazy, and it makes me vividly remember little J- and I getting married almost 5 years ago. I don't envy them all the preparation and last-minute panicking, or dealing with the inevitable organizational breakdowns and such.

Mostly it's crazy because my brother is Getting Married.

I mean, what's with that? How dare things change in the world without my express written consent?!

Seriously, though, I'm really happy for him and I think it's cool. I'm also glad I like my new sister (how odd is that to say?), or I think it would probably make things awkward. The wedding's going to be fun and memorable, and then we can all move on to finding my other brother a nice girl to settle down with, before he dies an old maid unloved and alone. Just kidding, buddy!

26 April 2008

Oh my god, Dad, what-everrr

M-'s going over her college applications with her boyfriend, while D-'s zapping aliens in his favorite first-person shooterIs it just me, or does this provide a blurry little peek into the next decade?

D- slumped over on the couch, lost in a videogame, and M- posing while casually chatting on a cell phone... (shudder)

That's it, we're officially Luddites from now on!

...Except I still get to use my Wii... and my DVR.
And some other stuff.

Okay, just the kids will be Luddites.

25 April 2008

A conversation with M-: I want what I want...

Consider this an experiment-- after several amusing (to me) conversations with D-, here is the debut Conversation with M-. Being that she is only about 15 months old, you must understand all conversations we have are pretty brief.

If only you could hear her voice when she says anything, I'd have hundreds of extremely cute and funny short conversations for you. Without that dimension, they're mostly pretty boring. Hopefully this one is translatable enough to give you a two-second smile:

I was holding M- by the counter, first thing this morning. She was calling out "''hungry", "eat", and "more, please" while scoping out her options.

M-: 'Naa-nuhhh!

Me: You want a banana?

M-: (thinks for a second) No. (She's getting to the point where she's honor-bound to answer 'No' to any question she's asked.)

M-: (sees a lollipop on the counter) 'An-dee!!

So now we know the latest high-priority addition to her ever-expanding vocabulary.

24 April 2008

An additional child

I've come to the realization that even when I put down M- and D-, I'm still carrying our other stubbornly clingy toddler, Belly. I mean, 20 pounds roughly equals one toddler, right? So I'm going to start thinking of it that way, to provide myself with a tiny, weak, easily vanquished, and non-intimidating enemy.

Belly is a stubborn and demanding child, though he does keep me warm. Still, he's always known I hate him, so there's no point in pretending anymore that he's imagining my whispered snide remarks and double stink eyes anytime I feed or care for him alongside the other kids. He is most definitely my least favorite child, and in fact I consider his paternity highly in question.

I suppose you may find it disturbing, then, that after personifying this lil fella, I plan to ramp up my efforts to starve him and crush him into oblivion day by day. After months of walking even more than before, I feel like I can walk anywhere without tiring. Luckily our neighborhood has grocery stores, convenience stores, hardware stores, restaurants, and the library all within a few blocks, so it's pretty easy to just walk everywhere.

Hundreds of pushups and crunchers have also helped rebalance my body composition, and they have left little Belly on the defensive, wondering what he ever did to deserve this treatment. Soon he'll be like one of those poor, emaciated, swollen little children on one of those charity commercials, but unfortunately for Belly, there will be no creepy bearded man gratingly badgering and guilting people into sending money to allegedly help him save the waif.

Little Belly will instead stand like Oliver Twist before the Master, pleading for more pizza and junk food, but he shan't receive a crumb beyond his allotment, and so shall I hang him for his insolence. I swear by the benevolent gods Mozzarella and Canadian Bacon, Bellicose J. Tumtum shall perish from this Earth by the close of a fortnight!

[Editor's note: Okay, more like several months, since I take a relaxed approach to most everything, and because I don't want to die, but I'm trying to really scare him here.]

23 April 2008

Developments at our house, Vol. 5

Here are some more developments at our house in the past few days:

1. I took it as a sign that my poor wife is so overwhelmed by parenting and her work as a special-ed teacher at a school an hour away (which starts at 7am) that when she received a "standby juror" notice, after some initial, natural reluctance, she ended up praying for jury duty as an escape from it all.

I helped her realize that she was looking at: paid time off work (finding out this perk helped brighten her spirits considerably) in addition to her pittance for serving; time away from me and the kids (I can be a bit much to handle, which probably doesn't surprise you); and, during the selection process, hours to chill out listening to music and reading a book.

But because she wanted it, as you might imagine, it turned out they didn't need her. Let's all type a big frowny face for J-, shall we? :-(

2. I discovered I may in fact be one of those elusive spammers we all hate so much. Rather than save myself a note as a draft e-mail the other night, I just sent it to myself so I'd see it in my inbox. The next day, this message did not appear in my inbox, but I did notice a message in my spam folder (I'm lucky enough that this is not a regular event), and sure enough, it was my note to myself.

To clarify, when I say it was a note to myself, I mean I sent it from one e-mail account right back into that same account. Is this some kind of spammers' secret? "No one will suspect ME if I get the same spam messages as everyone else! Moohoohahahaaaaa!!!"

3. M- may be the next Mia Hamm, if it's reliable to project her current rate of progress as a soccer player through every day into the future. Nothing would make J- happier, including M-'s election as the first female President of the United States.

4. Speaking of soccer, yesterday J- discovered the joys of refereeing when she was called in as an emergency replacement ref for her school's girls soccer team. She felt a profound sense of satisfaction at being repeatedly told she was "f*cking blind" for an hour's work (while deathly ill and voiceless) doing a favor for the kids and their parents.

5. I've learned the next thing they need to ban after waterboarding is the poor playing of a Cars videogame (featuring a bad Owen Wilson impersonator) at full volume, resulting in the same tinny music, sound effects, and voiceovers looping every minute and a half. I think it's D-'s way of saying he is bored and wants me to be done on the computer for the day...

And on that note, I bid you and the rest of The Internets adieu.

22 April 2008

Feeling her oats

Let me begin with the bright side: I have a great story for M-'s prom date.

I do forewarn you, this story is not for those who enjoy a nice warm cappuccino or bowl of applesauce as a mid-morning treat.

This morning, M- developed a pretty bad case of diarrhea. After hearing the horrible, though familiar, herald of a long day of diaper cream and Pedialyte and looking down to see her squatting on the kitchen floor, I decided to grab hold of the silver lining and hang on for dear life. I pointed out to her that she just (picture a really gentle, happy, and encouraging voice, smiling to mask the pain in my nose) "made poop in [her] diaper!"

For those of you without children, this helps build her awareness of her bodily functions and prepare her for the upcoming process of learning to leave Daddy alone and take care of such things all by herself.

Being the fast learner that she is (see this post on her vocabulary), I think she's already got it down pat. For diapers 3 through 5, she paused in her wanderings about the house, tooted her own horn, and said very happily, "Poot. Poot!!" Then she laughed a lot.

This is probably partially due to her consistent pleasure at knowing things and communicating them, but I think it's mostly due to her genes gently informing her that bodily functions are as hilarious as they are useful. I wish I could argue with her, as much as I wish the torture would end.

21 April 2008

Baby Hulk smash!

As I'm sure I've made clear, D- loves his sister to pieces. He frequently hugs and kisses her out of nowhere, though lately there's been a suspicious rise in his calling it to our attention, possibly to store up a bank of good-boy credit. More likely, I think he's drunk on the praise he gets when he's nice to her. He'll hug her and say, "Daddy... Daddy, look at us! I'm hugging her-- we're nice! We're so cute!"

However, he does use up some of his good-boy credit occasionally, such as the other day when he decided he wanted a break from the baby and took some books onto his bed. Naturally, M- followed him and started calling out, "Up, peez... up, peeeeez!" and trying to climb up onto the bed. Once she got most of the way up, he pushed her off. I imagine the look of fear and betrayal on her face was akin to the lady falling to her death in the movie Cliffhanger.

He also has less-shocking ways of tempering his overall worship of his sister. For example, last week, after building an elaborate Lincoln Log cabin in the middle of the floor (against my advice) at 10:30 in the morning on a weekday, he heard M- calling from her crib after naptime. His response, as opposed to his usual, "Her's awake... you wanna go get her? Can I go see her?", was, "Don't get her until Momma gets home. Okay?"

To clarify, he was willing to have his sister sit locked in a jail cell for 5 hours, missing meals and overflowing her diaper, just to protect his poorly-planned and totally unfortified toy house from her destructive impulses, which, in her defense, are just as finely-tuned as his.

Now that's love.

20 April 2008

What was my name back then?

I do not exaggerate when I say I actually had a hard time clearly remembering the days before I was a parent, in order to complete yesterday's list.

It's probably because I was in college in those pre-kid days, so everything was in flux for several years before I ran right into marriage and parenting. Sounds kinda sad, but it's probably for the best, both so I don't have years of "glory days as a carefree adult" to miss or to compare my current life to, and because it indicates I'm so used to parenting small children that the bizarre daily events just don't register like they would.

That list could probably be 100 items long if I took more time and really jumped into my Way-Back Machine. Maybe I'll do some followup lists as more things come to me (things like, "I'd miss always having my kids available as an escape hatch from the small-talk express").

Anyway, even before writing the list, I knew that I feel pretty content these days, and I have surprisingly few regrets, which is always nice to realize. Now, if the Lottery Commission would just come through with my check.

19 April 2008

Things I miss from before I was a parent

Here are just 10 of the things I miss from the days before I became a parent (avoiding the easy cliches of "sleep" and "free time"):

1. Unmolested rolls of toilet paper. Rolling toilet paper back onto the roll is like putting toothpaste back into the tube, which I've also done. That brings me to #2. (Doesn't everything these days?)

2. Unmolested tubes of toothpaste.

3. Not having to patrol the house like a prison guard whenever certain cranky someones decide to wake up too early, in defiance of their incredibly precious freedom to sleep as long as they want, wherever they want, whenever they want.

4. Toy-free paths between any two points of interest in my house.

5. The ability to procrastinate in peace.

6. Not having to constantly check if other people are still wearing both of their shoes.

7. A vomit-free couch.

8. Sitting around watching movies and playing board games with J-; not having to make sure everything we did was model behavior; and being able to make last-second plans and just jump in the car and go somewhere. See #9.

9. Not having to spend half an hour before leaving the house thinking of all the things I might be forgetting, gathering supplies for a possible (and likely) day-long siege, and corralling, outfitting, and corralling (again) two kids hyperactive at the thought of leaving the house.

10. Having much less stuff laying around needing to be straightened up. I have no delusions of former neatness-- organizing large amounts of things all at once has always been hard for me (such as when moving, which we've done three times now), because of the too-fine focus of my OCD. I've always been best at maintaining an already-clean space, while J-'s the big-cleanup-all-at-once (but not often) type, so between the two of us, very little gets cleaned-- the sheer volume of Things now is just overwhelming.

Bonus! 11. Not having to spend a surprising amount of my day coming up with answers to rapid-fire questions like, "Where are the pirates in this land? [America]" and "Why aren't there any pirates anymore?"

Things I would miss from being a parent

1. My kids and their endearing antics, too numerous to list. Damn those cute buggers.

18 April 2008

A somber realization

This is an announcement that is quite depressing to make, but I have decided that I may be barren.

That's right, you now know my secret that the womb that is my face may never know the pleasures and pain of carrying a bouncing, fluffy beard-baby to term.

Oh sure, I can grow plenty of facial hair-- too much, if anything, as I have for more than half my life now. However, even granted my reliably morbid curiosity, I don't ever want to see the child that would correspond to my sad attempts at beard growth in the metaphor I've begun here-- it would be horrifying. I've never seen anyone with an attempted beard close to mine, so I can't help you out here with a comparison.

What I can tell you is that my beard (it makes me sad inside to even call it that... let's just call it Barry, the aborted beard) is a map to the unfortunate yang to the yin that is the essence of my existence, and I choose not to wear such a thing on my face.

Barry is totally unreliable and not in touch with himself, specifically where the mustache is supposed to meet the cheek hair, which means Barry manages a feat that might be considered impressive in an alternate universe-- he is simultaneously a mustacheless beard and a beardless mustache. This lack of unity despite proximity is reminiscent of the Sunni-Shi'a split, the East-West Catholic Schism, and the Backstreet Boys-N'Sync rivalry, in which there were two groups so undeniably similar in origins and style that there's no logical reason they shouldn't have just worked through their differences and merged (or re-merged) into a single, more powerful entity long ago.

Furthermore, Barry always makes a bold, admirable, and encouraging start in his area of interest, then gets bored or otherwise procrastinates on seeing it through, and he ends up with nothing tangible to show for his efforts other than dated declarations of a promising future, and no alternate ideas on what to do with himself. Picture a bunch of anthropomorphic beard hairs laying on a cheek, bemoaning their inability to accomplish anything, just waiting for the fated arrival of The Razor.

Perhaps if those stuck-up mustache hairs would just grow out long enough to hang down over the gaps at their east and west borders, they could really pull the whole thing together. Selfish bastards.

For those who like hard data, I would summarize Barry's traditional trajectory in the following graph:

I need to get some kind of graphing software if I'm going to do this again
For those of you confused by the decrease in length after the initial burst, that marks the point where Barry gets frustrated with his lack of continued progress of any kind, and he miraculously manages to actually regress, against all medical explanation.

If you doubt this phenomenon, let me refer you back to the graph above, which, like all graphs, represents irrefutable scientific proof of whatever its maker says it does. Think of our political pollsters, compromised global warming scientists, or my more well-known Beard Scientologists, such as Stephen Jay Gould.

I believe I'm entitled to the highs and lows so many others around me have experienced, and to this end, I've often thought of adopting. Of course, the time and expense involved in staying above board and going through the proper channels to be legally matched with a happy, healthy beard of one's choosing is pretty intimidating, and we all know I'm easily intimidated by a long-term challenge. There's always the black market. I've spent my share of time cruising wig shops, street-corner beard salesmen, and even costume aisles in department stores around October, but it's just never felt right.

Perhaps this unfortunately expensive artist's rendering I commissioned of me and an adorable new beard shows why we may all be better off with my permanent five o'clock shadow:

A respected artist's rendering of me with a natural beardAhh... c'est la vie. Or should I say, c'est la barbe.

17 April 2008

1001 Goggy-matians

If only I could have caught her hugging and kissing the dog(s)-- she doesn't stand still muchIf the great Monsters, Inc. taught me anything, it's that cute little girls call all furry animals "Kitty".

M- steadfastly refuses to conform to this time-honored standard, and instead calls all furry, feathery, and scaly animals "Goggy" (Doggy). Happy as I am that she recognizes animals and has given them a name, I'm torn between being visibly excited for her and correcting her each time, all day long.

I try to do a little of both.

But for the record, the following things are among those that have been identified as "Goggies":
• Dogs
• Cats
• Birds
• A rabbit pelt at my parents' house
• A fish
• A wooden duck
• A picture of some family friends
• Several different shapely bushes (lowercase)
• A stone angel

Sometimes it's more fun to let her go on than to correct her, but unfortunately she's got to learn. Thankfully, she's well on her way. At about 15 months, she already uses over 100 words. It's just strange that few of those words are animals-- I think she's shooting for simplicity, casting a wide net and figuring the world will understand her.

Then again, like an Eskimo in winter, she has at least 20 different words directly related to eating, including hungry, thirsty, juice, milk, cracker, waffle, cookie, cake, apple, banana, cup, bottle, fork, spoon, and bite. And today, she even said, "More crackers, please" (as in, "moh kack-uhs peez"). Pretty soon I should be able to have her write some blog posts.

She learned acceptance of the dog was a contract to work for me, and she rejects it

16 April 2008

And so, as foretold in the prophecy, it begins

I'm familiar with women and their stereotypical quirks, as well as their less-recognized ones, such as a seemingly essential aversion to reporting potential car problems in an accurate and timely manner (no, J-, I'm not only talking about you, and I know you are getting way better... phew!). I've often wondered how many of these are legitimate and how many have just been willed into existence. I think as with most things, some basic tendencies may always be present inborn in a person, through genetics as well as sex, but one's environment steps in to help manifest some traits while suppressing others.

I've been waiting patiently to put this idea to the test with M-, but even before I thought we were getting started, some spontaneous early results have come my way in one important arena. Even with M- just a few months past a year old, it seems fate may have already doomed us to a lifetime of shoe shopping.

Who knew shoes could hold so much joy in their soles?
After she got bored with her perfect little white and pink sneakers (pictured on the left) last month, she decided to walk off with the left shoe at my parents' house, and it is absolutely nowhere to be found (even after we bought her new shoes, which means it must really be lost for good). The most plausible explanation we've come up with is that she snuck it into one of the bags of garbage during the cleaning for my brother's fiancee's wedding shower a month ago.

Anyway, she went through a couple weeks of wearing nothing but her hilariously cute knee-high fashion boots (see picture above), which were a gift from J-'s parents when we visited Maine, no matter what the outfit. Of course, I had to call upon my very meager fashion sense each day to try to keep her from being too oddly mismatched. However, it soon became clear that this situation was not sustainable, so I went hunting for the box with D-'s old shoes, and I had some success in finding a pair of size 5 navy blue and white sneakers.

Unfortunately, when combined with a few other hand-me-downs M- sometimes wears (jeans, khakis, her warmer spring jacket, etc.), these shoes often left her looking just like a boy, and while there's nothing inherently wrong with this, it annoyed J- enough that we knew something had to give. I don't blame her for this, because it does create some awkward situations, and I know how it would bother me the other way around. I know this specifically because D- has always been a very pretty boy, and even when we dressed him as boyishly as possible, some people would still refer to him as a girl, and give us a look that said, "Why would you dress a girl that way?!?"

So, after holding out a little longer in our vain attempt to locate her missing shoe, we gave up and headed to the store last week. At least it was close to time for her to move up a size, so it wasn't a total loss.

She was like a pet goldfish set loose in a lake, running down the aisles calling out, "Shoe! Shoe!", then grabbing some off the shelf and walking them over to us while saying, "On. On," before standing in front of one of us and expectantly sticking out her foot. Through this arduous but amusing process, we found a nice pair (pictured above on the right) that are easy to put on and should go with most things. Now she's even taken to crying whenever we are mean enough to take off her shoes.

To further her nose-thumbing at the progress made by the great feminists before her, M- has also recently taken to calling out "mo-nee! mo-neee!!" at seemingly random intervals while walking around the house. Whether this money is being requested for shoe purchases or chocolate, no one can yet be certain.

15 April 2008

Thar's GOLD in thut thar water!

Let me begin by stating for the record that M- has a problem confusing her tub seat with the toilet (which she has yet to begin using, ahem... so much for her being extremely advanced). For more information, see item #6 in my 10 reasons my 3-year-old son may NOT be homosexual post, and also possibly another post I can't remember and am too lazy to find.

Suffice to say, that post would mention that she opens (at the very least) each bath and shower by wetting herself, whether or not she just took off a fully loaded diaper. As yet another side note, this surprises D- every single time, judging by his tone as he calls out, "Her peed!!"

Anyway, the other day M- was apparently overcome with thirst only once I started getting her clothes off for shower time, because she had just turned down a cup of milk not 5 minutes earlier. I'll stop here for a moment in case you're considering stopping here yourself, and let me reassure you it doesn't get as bad as it sounds it might.

She sat in her tub seat (as a $1 thrift-store find of Katie's, it's in a lower weight class of the same league as my dishwasher), lunging towards the falling water with a bath-toy cup, desperately trying to catch a few drops of that precious first water out of the shower, which as we all know is generally of a temperature just slightly warmer than Absolute Zero.

After middling success in this endeavor, she noticed a much more appealing alternative: the alluring golden mead that had started pooling in her seat. Now, this is a kid who loves new and exotic things as well as watered-down juice, so I think she saw in this a Venn Diagram of ecstasy. She pointed and pulled out most of her beverage-based repertoire, calling, "Joo! Joooo! (juice) Tir-tee! (thirsty) 'Wink! 'Wink! (drink)" as she tried to think of a way to get this newest flavor of Kool-Aid into her mouth.

Suddenly, Daddy found much more success than M- had in getting that shower water down to the baby, and just like that, the magic elixir of the gods vanished as quickly as it came. Much like leprechauns do. Maybe they brought it? The world may never know.

14 April 2008

Innovations from the laundry room

Recently I developed a technique that you'll find especially valuable if you have occasion to wash your own clothes. All others should share it with whoever does their laundry, and then store it away as an intriguing bit of trivia to make themselves seem smarter at cocktail parties. Either way, I'm willing to share it with you as long as you promise to vocally credit me whenever you pass it on, and silently credit me whenever you use it yourself.*


Either before or after you throw your clothes in the washing machine, (please excuse my dramatic, conspiratorial whisper) make sure to pour some detergent in there with the clothes, being sure to use an amount appropriate to the size of your load.

Skipping this extra step, as you no doubt have been doing up until now, results in mere wetting and drying of the clothes, which I assure you from firsthand experience smells much different than when clothes are washed with detergent. After trying my method, the difference will no doubt be as startling to you as it was to me.

In closing, I'll just say that you're right to feel so grateful, and if you're like me, you'll never do laundry the same old way again.

* Please make sure to swear anyone you tell to the same oath.

13 April 2008

Conversation with D-: 'Dan' is kinda like 'Danger'

Here's another odd Conversation with D-, the first part of which took place while he was very intently reading a "First Word" book M- had left lying around:

D-: (looking up from the book) 'Book'. It's kinda like 'butt'.

Me: (confused, but encouraging his explorations into reading) Kinda, I guess... they both start with B...

D-: It's kinda like 'butt'. Like people have a butt, but it says 'book'. It's kinda like 'butt'.

Overall, he accomplished what I believe was his goal of saying the word "butt" at least 15 times in under a minute. The strange part is, this isn't some kind of restricted-use word when we're all just hanging out at the house (I'm assuming that discouraging him from shouting out "butt!" at the top of his lungs in public counts as a restriction), but apparently it was giving him a perverse thrill, like when he finds an excuse to use our real names.

"...Like when Momma calls you 'Dan' sometimes? I'm not calling you 'Dan', I'm just saying that Momma calls you 'Dan' sometimes, cause that's your name-- 'Dan'. But only grownups can call you 'Dan'... kids can't call you 'Dan'."

If you think I've taken liberties with reality, and that isn't a direct quote, well, you don't know Dan's son.

Like manna from heaven

M- could have sworn there was a bunch of food here just a minute agoNot only do my kids get their daily inoculation from eating food that's fallen on the floor (while they still get the sniffles here and there, overall we've got their immune systems working like fine-tuned killing machines), but apparently my son has developed quite a taste for it.

I dropped a Goldfish cracker (one of our staples) on the kitchen floor this morning and immediately bent over to pick it up. I had decided to be fair to the kids by eating it myself, to help balance out the times I hand them the floor food before getting myself a new one from the bag, etc. In my defense, they are usually too quick and much closer to said floor food, so I don't have much choice but sacrifice dropped food to the band of starving orphans who swarm my kitchen, tugging on my pant legs any time I'm making food.

Anyway, unbeknownst to me, I was in a heated race for this particular prized morsel, which was apparently more desirable than the handful of Goldfish D- already held (new folk saying-- 'a fish from the floor is worth 10 in the hand'?). As I lifted it up, I heard D- exclaim, "Ahh!! I wanted to eat that one!" I just looked at him for a second, then naturally, I obliged.

Do I need to raise my standards a bit? It's not like I deliberately feed them meals off the floor. I mean, that's the baseline for bad parenting, right? Right??

11 April 2008

Gimme 10 Mommy kisses and 50 CCs of fairy dust, stat!

I've always known that kids have an imaginary world all their own, ever since I said goodbye to mine around 3 or so and began observing my peers much like scientific subjects, but I had no idea how far it really extended until now.

The other day, while desperately trying to finish doing our taxes once and for all (which is as difficult as you might imagine to do during the afternoon), my attention was called away to M- as she tried to insert a sticker into the Wii, possibly in an attempt to fish out the Cheerio she thought was still in there from a few days earlier. (I know, I know-- it's obvious now we're going to have to give up on the honeymoon and move the Wii somewhere out of her reach.)

Half a second after turning my attention back to the taxes, I heard M- say, "Uh-oh!" in a whimpering voice, holding her hand out with her fingers pointed awkwardly. Not as in bent or broken, mind you, just in a deliberately exaggerated position, trying to show me the back of her hand without turning her hand over.

I looked at her and asked what the problem was, and she held her hand out and said, "Uh-ohhh!" more insistently, starting to cry a bit more. It was clear she just kind of scraped or bashed her hand imperceptibly on something. But since she looked so cute and so dependent on me for rescue (this must be what mothers inherently recognize and respond to, I guess), I picked her up, kissed her hand randomly (not having any point of reference on where this injury was supposed to be), and then said, "All better!"

She stopped crying and laughed a little, reaffirming my dismissive theory, but she wasn't truly all better until D- got down from the couch (a.k.a. Toyland) and asked to see her hand for himself. She held her hand out in much the same position once again, and D- loudly drew in a deep, dramatic breath (I can't think of a way to spell it out, but we've all heard it). He then said, in a genuinely shocked and concerned voice, "Oh. My. Gosh!!!" as if she had fingers dangling off, flicking blood in every direction. M- looked very satisfied with this, though she retained the look of concern appropriate for someone who might presently die of gangrene.

I double-checked her hand as D- turned it over a couple times with a shocked look on his face, just in case I was insane, but it was 100% pure baby hand, with no sign of anything but cuteness. I felt like I was missing some kind of special gift to be able to see this horrible injury, like with those magic death horses in Harry Potter 5 (as my sister reads this I know she is stating plainly whatever they are called).

As you might imagine, all this lavish attention and validation of her concerns worked wonders, and I set M- back down for much more sympathetic hugs and kisses than I could ever manage with my bitter-old-grownup, reality-based worldview. Those two were made for each other.

10 April 2008

A conversation with D-: You'll be sorry

Speaking of yesterday's post, here is yet another Conversation with D- from the other morning:

M-: Aiyyyeeeee!!! No, no, noooooo!!

Me: D-, what are you doing?

D-: I'm just tryin' to take the car from her!

Me: Did she have it first?

D-: Yeah, but I just want it.

Me: There are dozens of cars you could play with just on the couch right next to you. She only wants to play with one! You let her have it and stop being nasty!

D-: (lets go, then shoots me a resigned and very subtly mean look) Daddy, I don't want to play with any cars.

Me: (shrugs) Okay.

D- sits for several minutes in silence, as M- gets bored with the car and moves on to sit happily with her See N' Say for an unbelievable length of time. (For a 1-year-old, that is... actually, for anyone with a See N' Say, but those two separate facts just make it the perfect storm of contrast to D-'s attitude.)

He then donned an obviously unwillingly casual look, which I thought was just residual sour grapes as he very maturely tried to move past the scolding (which does happen sometimes).

D-: Daddy, when can I play with my horse trailer again? [He had gotten in trouble with it and lost it for a week.)

Me: Hmmm, well it's Tuesday, so it's been a week-- you can play with it now.

I've obviously fallen right into his astoundingly clever trap, easy prey for such a superior intellect. He answers quickly and somewhat smugly.

D-: I don't want to play with it.

I fire back just as quickly, with barely a reaction (I'm awesome that way).

Me: Okay, sounds good to me.

D- sets his face into a deeper pout and looks to regroup. It takes so long that he apparently forgets to actually regroup and just goes back to playing about 10 minutes later.


09 April 2008

A guest blogger: Advice for kids!

For any 3- or 4-year-olds out there who read this blog regularly, my son D- has a little tip to share with you.

If you really want to hurt your parents, I mean reeeeally, really hurt them, try the following:

When you're playing with toys, and you feel like getting a bit rough, or not sharing, or generally giving in to anti-social/inadvisable impulses, just go for it! If your parents dare to protest, simply put down the toys, fold your arms, work up a big pout, and then coldly declare, "I don't want to play with anything."

Your rejection of participation in normal society and renunciation of childish things will unnerve them and render them like Play-Doh in your powerfully petite hands. With your icy glare slicing through them like a righteous scimitar of justice, they will surely fall to your feet and beg, just beg you to take up the toys once again. They'll probably even promise you can do whatever you want with them.

You may have to sit around and wait a little bit, to show them you mean business, and they may even try such deceptions as shrugging and going back to what they were doing, in an effort to hide their fear and pray you won't make good on your threat. But you will, ohhh you will!

And then won't they be sorry.

08 April 2008

Oh, that's an old bowling injury...

J- discovered, as did I many months ago, that with the advent of Wii Sports, it's possible to strain much more than just your thumb while playing videogames. Two hours of Wii Bowling may get you (J-) a lot closer to Professional status (a.k.a. Dan League), but it can also get you a sore shoulder and hamstring.

As a seasoned veteran, I know enough to recognize Wii Shoulder on the horizon and to switch to lefty in response, so I was in the clear the next day. There's nothing like watching someone lay on the couch after a long day of work only to hear her complaining about being sore from all the videogames she played on the weekend.

The sad thing is, you may have noticed we're on a bit of a Wii kick of late, and odds are good we'll both be right back at it today. She should probably let herself heal up before facing me again, but then she's just as competitive as me. Maybe I'll do some Wii boxing during naptime today, to keep it fair. With our luck, we'll both be stiff as zombies tomorrow.

07 April 2008

Developments at our house, Vol. 4

These are some developments at our house in recent days:

1. J- discovered a forgotten Easter egg full of jelly beans in her coat pocket more than a week after the event, much to her giddy pleasure.

2. I determined the reason no one makes wine from oranges: because fermented orange juice is disgusting. Just check my fridge.

And my sink. And my shirt.

3. D- has amped up his habit of calling out made-up words and then asking me what they mean. I cannot explain this habit, and I can barely stand it, given his straight-faced insistence on getting an explanation. He's definitely my kid.

4. I found out how creepy it can be when your 1-year-old wakes up quietly and remembers she has a singing pig ("Five Little Piggies") in the corner of her crib. The disembodied adult voice inexplicably wafting in from the baby's room at nap time is extremely disconcerting.

5. I learned that when you tickle a baby while she's drinking, she will spit milk all over, just like a real person. I couldn't resist! It was worth it.

6. I'm wondering if I'm manly enough all on my own to pull off wearing a Utilikilt. The answer, of course, is no. The next question is, do I care? They're just so convenient.

7. M- found out that as delicious as oyster crackers may be, and as fun as it is to share with everyone, Daddy does not find them yummy when they are shoved up his nostril while he is closing his eyes for just 5 seconds at 7 o'clock in the morning.

8. Expanding on this knowledge gained yesterday, this morning M- tried to stick a Cheerio into the Wii disc slot instead ('Cheerio' being the singular form of 'Cheerios', rather than a British greeting, which would be far less damaging to the hardware) . As a show of good faith, she then spent about 2 minutes afterwards cementing the new lesson by pointing at the slot and repeating, "No. No. No."

On further reflection, I can only hope this doesn't mean she had already shoved one in there undetected. I'll have to plug it in and eject the game to clear out any detritus.

9. I have found, after more occasions than even I would ordinarily have guessed, that nobody (so far) appreciates being compared to Jabba the Hutt in any way, even when it has nothing to do with his weight problem, and no matter how apt the comparison may be.

To each his own, I suppose.

Note: Here are the other volumes.

06 April 2008

Wii will crush you

You know what's great?

Spending an evening repeatedly playing all of the wide-ranging games on Wii Play, as well as a (baseball) hitting contest and a Power Throws (bowling training) match in Wii Sports, with your impressively competitive wife, and completely dominating her across the board like the house against a compulsive gambler on a down day.

You know what's even better?

Knowing she's going to read this and immediately demand a rematch. Moohoohoohahahaaaaa!

Only now will I have a worthy competitor again.

P.S. She may make me cry a little bit after her hurricane of game-related pain has passed.

05 April 2008

The peeing is the hardest part

D- has this inexplicable habit of either asking for permission before going to the bathroom or making an announcement requiring some kind of vocal acknowledgment before he will go.

Each time, the sarcasm demon that lives inside me tempts me to snidely say, "No, I'm afraid you can't go-- I'd much rather you stand right here till you pee on my floor. In fact, why not go sit on the couch?"

If only he wouldn't take me at my word, I just might.

To keep it all in perspective, though, I'm still over the moon about his being able to go to the bathroom by himself, so I try not to look a gift horse in the... mouth. Changing M-'s "tcinky, tcinky" diapers keeps me centered.

She better believe she's on deck for The Knowledge very soon. Hopefully her apparent desire to emulate everything D- does works to our advantage in this area. She could do much worse for a role model.

04 April 2008

10 unanswerable questions

Here are 10 questions whose answers will likely elude us all in this lifetime:

1. Why is it when a toddler spasms awkwardly in the presence of music, it's considered cute, but when I do it, I'm told I shouldn't ever dance again?

2. Why are the little rafters over our porch considered the coolest place in town for birds to hang out (based on the number of white spots, to put it delicately, that accrue right outside our door each day), when there are millions of alternatives just within a block or so? I can't help but feel personally targeted.

3. Why does my daughter wake up before 8:00 in the morning just to whine and fall apart before nap time about an hour later? I know I'd whine a lot less right back at her if I could get that extra hour of sleep.

4. Why did my landlord build an office in the basement (which does flood a bit, occasionally) and then later decide to rent it out as an apartment to a lady who has something weird about her that I can't put my finger on? It's like having a troll secretly living under the building, a troll who doesn't have a mailbox or any other standard amenities.

5. Why does my daughter insist on doing everything by herself, her own way, except simple little things that she's actually capable of doing herself? And why does she always want us to do and undo each of those things over and over and over again for 15 minutes straight?

6. Why is it I spend my whole day exhausted and praying for bed, but when bed time comes, I'm wide awake and only thinking of all the things I now have the freedom to do? For example, last night J- went to bed at 8:30 (extra tired and having to get up at 5am as usual), while I stayed up till 11 watching the Daily Show/Colbert Report and Conan (both in double-speed on the DVR), and then playing Tanks and Shooting Gallery on Wii Play.

7. Why does my son feel compelled to ask me questions to which he knows the answer and then get indignant when I give him joke answers instead?

8. Why is it that when kids' tummies stick out a little, it's cute, but when mine sticks out a little, I need to lay off the pizza?

9. Why is a clean, fresh diaper the only diaper into which it's acceptable to vacate one's bowels? And furthermore, once one has done that, why does one insist on acting oblivious to this fact while hanging around me like iron filings on an electromagnet?

10. Why did I feel an inexorable pull to round this list out to ten items? I know there are many, many more questions I could add, but I also knew how hard it would be to think of enough of them in time to publish this and get off the computer before noon. The answer has something to do with obsessions and compulsions, but as to why they are my slave masters, the world may never know.

03 April 2008

Aww, you're no fun anymore

One of the problems with being a dad trying to teach children not to lie is that you can't pull any fun pranks on April Fools' Day. D- had tremendous moral conflicts with the mere concept of "tricks" on Halloween, so I knew April Fools' pranks were just Right Out.

Quoth he, quite righteously, on that Hallowed eve, "It's not nice to trick people!" And this was just when I was trying to vaguely explain the concept of the alternative to treating, not after he was the victim of some cruel hoax. The ultimate hoax, of course, would have been to tell him that we had all made up the concept of Halloween, and who was he to think he could just walk up to strangers' houses and get free candy? I can't help but wonder what kind of face that brand of betrayal would create.

He must have gotten over his misgivings by now, however, because he pulled a belated April Fools' trick on me this morning: as M- was trying to stand up on the tiny cardboard box from our cordless phone (she seems to be obsessed with climbing on things for a better view, possibly due to a shortness complex), he of course warned her that she shouldn't do this, because she could get hurt. When the box inevitably tumbled sideways from her fidgeting, she fell to the floor (still on her feet), and he said as sternly as it sounds, "See, that's what happens!"

I almost choked on the irony of her receiving such a message from this particular messenger.

02 April 2008

I don't like blue eggs and pain

Or, How do you like your eggs: scrambled, fried, or on your forehead?

The kids on D-'s new Plasma Car, after the bruises subsided somewhatIt seems we have an epidemic at our house of late-- our kids have each developed swollen black and blue bumps on their foreheads. I can only guess that the cause is either some kind of viral infection or their shared habit of bombing around our house with reckless abandon until their faces hit something solid.

It's gruesome to watch these little skin balloons swell up like eggs before your eyes, and painful to see them healing so slowly, with each day bringing a totally different-looking bruise than the day before. The one common denominator for each day's bruise, however, is that it looks like you've thoroughly beaten your kids.

The reality is, of course, that the closest they get to (exasperated) beatings is only after they illegally run through the house for the 400,000th time and finally smash themselves badly enough to have your logic possibly start to sink in, when literally 5 minutes later they take off on their 400,001st run.

As bad as it is to have to comfort an injured child as if they hadn't just deliberately disobeyed you to obtain that injury, you quickly realize that beatings would have no effect anyway, given their willingness to head right back out to do the exact same thing that just caused them horrific pain.

Given their appearances at the time, I was reluctant to bring D- and M- to storytime at the library Monday, but I decided that I can't be the only person who's been in such a situation, and since I have nothing to hide, I took them anyway...

I think any of the moms who might have been thinking about actually talking to me changed their minds that day. Oh well.

01 April 2008

The Stinkpire Strikes Back

Posting about my neighbors' cooking habits in January seems to have kept the dogs of stench at bay for much of the last couple months. Unfortunately, I seem to have either done something to stockpile some bad karma, or the neighbors have company coming over...

They've been cooking up a storm all morning, such that I couldn't even concentrate to post about it until things cleared up some now. It was truly a debilitating funk, a stronger version of the one I'd almost forgotten after becoming so familiar with it through the fall.

I can only imagine it's similar to broccoli with its awful smell/delightful taste (with cheese) ratio. Otherwise, it is clear the neighbors must not only hate me, but themselves as well... unless, and this thought just occurred to me, their cooking-odor bomb is like a hurricane, in which the eye is quite pleasant, and in fact the only safe place to be, assuming you can move with the storm.

Regardless of their motivations or personal experience, this morning they took it to 11 by burning some or all of the meal, and let me tell you, tear gas has nothing on what was flowing into every open orifice of our apartment. I'm gagging at the mere memory, which even the aforementioned dog food factory can't quite muster at this point, even though it sees the cooking smell's recency and raises it with pervasiveness and familiarity.

Anyway, I'm just counting my blessings that the burning caused an overload even for them, and they apparently stopped the presses and aired out their apartment-- it is the silver lining to the vicious, stinky storm cloud the kids and I wrestled with this morning. I'm hoping my deliberately positive outlook, combined with posting about the subject again, will buy us another stench-bullet cease-fire for a couple of months.