30 June 2008

I have met The Man, and he is four

Here's yet more free advice from the voice of experience-- don't ever give your kids any authority over you, even in a seemingly harmless game. Case in point:

After watching The Incredibles again yesterday afternoon (with my parents, as a consolation for not getting to go on a hard-core bike ride and run/walk with J-, Katie, and I), D- was very much in a mood to wrestle people and hit things and somehow be both a hero and a villain at the same time. Not unlike The Shield, I suppose.

Anyway, this is a very common and predictable effect, so I figured I would indulge these impulses by wrestling with him for a while when we got back. Unfortunately, while it helped somewhat, it did not stop the baby testosterone from surging the rest of the day, so we had to try again later in the evening.

This time he ended up sitting on me and declaring me "under wrestle and in JAIL now!" I went along with this, since it meant I could just lay there on the floor and relax, or at least relax as much as one can with a hopped-up 4-year-old threatening supposedly fictional violence and a 17-month-old stalking around wielding a bear with 8-pound shoes who's as happy as she is to have a grownup at floor level and who both express said happiness by jumping onto anything soft.

With his tough-guy attitude (plainly underlined by his repeated declarations that "I'm TOUGH!") and arbitrary bossiness in full bloom, I chose to continue my ongoing explanation (despite his clever insistence that I was not allowed to talk while in jail) to D- that even when you are a police officer/prison warden, you still have a boss in the form of the law as determined by the people and their representatives.

Building on this lesson, I assured him that the law allowed for a pillow in a prisoner's bunk. He responded by fervently stating that prisoners are not even allowed a bed. I felt a moment of indignation at having my constitutional rights violated, then I took a breath and kept up the game by appealing to J- as an agreeable voice of reason. This did little to sway my captor, so I decided to instead go to the person much more likely to take appropriate action in a pretend game, and I asked M- to get me the pillow I knew I was guaranteed by the people of the United States of America.

She of course took right off to get one, because she is a good little girl, and like a dog spotting a small animal fleeing, D- jumped off his throne and snatched a pillow before she could give me the satisfaction. Coasting on this minor victory, I decided to get greedy, and the following conversation ensued:

Me: The law also says I get to have another pillow for my crotch. I feel a little vulnerable here.

D- (using mean voice): Okay! Here is another one, then!

He begrudgingly tosses a pillow down to me and goes back to the couch.

Me: Thank you.

After covering myself, I put my hands over my face and planned to relax for a few minutes while getting credit for Playing With Us.

M- (deciding after notable experience that my covering my face and laying on the floor must mean that she's hurt me): Sorry!

Me (uncovering my face so she could give me the kiss I could hear coming my way): That's okay, baby.

D-: No talking!!* (runs over and presses a third pillow to my face)

Me: Ooooookay, we're all done with this game now.

In his defense, the "no talking" rule had been clearly stated all along. If he's learned one thing from me, it's that you have to take swift, decisive action when needed. In that light, this brings a little tear to my eye, and not for the usual reasons.

* The elite Arrested Development fans out there should undoubtedly be reminded of Take Your Daughter to Work Day at the prison.

29 June 2008

For every life, into a little manure we must fall

Apparently the Tannen curse applies to the female half of the family as well. And the family has spread as far as Germany:

Manure thief falls into dung, flees naked

What better punishment could the authorities devise? I think they should call it a draw. As an aside, am I the only one who hears the poetry in "slipped into a slurry tank"?

If these women were real entrepreneurs, they would come forward and declare that they were merely gathering supplies for their highly exclusive, incredibly effective new skin treatment. Pretty soon they'd have all the respectable ladies of the world soaking in tanks of filth in a desperate attempt to not look like some ridiculous "old lady". It really isn't that far-fetched, sadly.

It could become a new parable-- when life dumps you into a vat of animal waste, trick everyone else into jumping in, too.

28 June 2008

We have nothing to fear but death itself

You know you work in a very rare field when you have to assure the world that your creation will not vaporize the entire galaxy or even merely destroy all life as we know it.

Scientists: Nothing to fear from atom-smasher

That's pretty bold of them to reassure us of something that, if it proves to be inaccurate, will leave no one around to point the finger or kick them in the nuts.

Those are my kind of guys, even if I wish they'd just leave the thing off.

Here's a fun experiment I've been trying since I first heard about this controversy a few months ago-- while you sit there, in mid-thought, just close your eyes suddenly and stop the world in a millisecond.* I find it surprisingly startling, and it really puts things in perspective. It makes you wonder about the wisdom of spending your time piddling around the Internet and reading children's fantasy fiction.

Note that I say it makes you wonder-- I have no qualms with my life choices thus far.

* This works best when there aren't any kids running around shouting, like if someone else is watching them or if you're fortunate and well-rested enough to not own any kids yet.

27 June 2008

You've entered the Whine Zone

Disclaimer: I don't think I have a humorous post about my children or anything else in me today, and since I figure the superficiality of my sarcasm will wear thin pretty soon if it hasn't already, I'm instead shooting for something of value at least to me. Everyone else can skip this needy little journal entry if they're not in the mood for such things, which I totally understand-- we've all got our problems.

Since everyone seems to have themed days on their blog, I think I'll call this Confessional Friday, and its lack of alliteration and likely lack of regular repetition just match perfectly with the essence of my life so far.

I have no idea who I am, or what I'm supposed to do with myself.

You ever have that feeling? I feel like I've been stuck back at about 18 for the last 9 years, like it's possible my kids could lap me in the maturation race. They should be so lucky to find a purpose in life and rise to meet it in good time. I'd be so happy for them, and maybe I could even pathetically latch on and steal a little meaning from them, a little reason for existing by extension.

I don't know where I'm supposed to go so I can't know how to get there, and while I understand that's nothing special, I've always thrived only in controlled situations with well-defined expectations and goals at much smaller intervals than "make money somehow and support your family". Since the world and I simultaneously began turning everything on its head around about 8 years ago, even the Standard Life Advice never seems to apply to me.

Or maybe that's because I won't let it.

Then again, that could just be my horribly paralyzing fear of failure meeting up with my compulsive need to overthink everything to jointly beat down my hope, potential, and useful pragmatism to lifeless pulps. My worldview is part conservative Baby Boomer and part needy product of said generation. I know what I need to end up doing and I know it doesn't really matter if I'm happy about it, but then I also know that at a deeper level, my happiness does matter in how it affects my kids and my wife.

But then, if I'm not all that happy in this bizarre limbo in which I'm floating, and I'm bathing my kids in all my neuroses on a daily basis, is that any better than going back to mindlessly slaving away for 50-60 hours a week and never seeing them except to spew back all the negative energy I was force-fed by a bunch of overgrown junior-high-schoolers who considered boldfaced lying a second language?

Even the fact that I'm struggling with all this now at 27, and phrasing it the way I am, and whining in general the way I am, should be proof enough of my arrested development. But what do I do about that? Where do I go from here?

So that's what's rolling around in my head right now. How about you?

26 June 2008

A conversation with D-: Prom theme for 2022 is 'Loneliness'

For this conversation with my 4-year-old son to work, you must read all of my lines like the bridgekeeper from Monty Python and the Holy Grail:

D-: Daddy, um, can you play with me?

Me: Yes, I can, but first you must answer me these questions three.

D-: What??

Me: What, is your name?

D-: Daddy?

Me: No, your name!

D-: Oh, D-.

Me: What, is your quest?

D-: I wanna play. (I was shocked that he gave a valid response to this one.)

Me: What, is the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow?

D-: What? (correct answer, as many of you may know, is "African or European?")

Eventually, with many years of similarly patient effort, I'll have created a stunningly handsome and athletic nerd who cracks himself up for the next generation to under-appreciate.

25 June 2008

A conversation between M- & J-: A duel of clones

I believe the following conversation sums up most of my wife's (J-) and daughter's (M-) personalities and habits.

To set the scene, J- was sitting on the couch feeding M- some cottage cheese and peaches. Immediately after receiving a bite, M- jumped the gun on opening her mouth and saying, "Ahhh!"

J-: You don't have to show me your mouth is full-- I just put a spoonful in there, so I already know that.

M-: "Know datt!"

M- then turns to wipe her face on J-'s sock, which she had left on the coffee table the previous night... don't ask why, it's just part of J-'s mysterious charm. Or at least that's what she tells me.

J-: No, that's my sock.

M-: "My ghock!"

J-: Listen to this little parrot!

M-: "Pare-rett!"

And on it goes, all day, every day*.

* "Evree day!"

24 June 2008

Just a cage of rib bones

In my ongoing efforts to win a Daytime Emmy award, I am hereby converting what started out as a simple post about my quirky love for a food conveyance into my shot at a treatment for a Lifetime Original Movie.

Towards that end, I have provided a suggested soundtrack by the inimitable Ingrid Michaelson, which seems to currently be required for all such entertainment (with good reason):

[Background music: The Way I Am]

When I went to load a bowl into our dishwasher the other day, I was struck with the memory that I'd broken the matching bowl a month or so ago, so I didn't have to leave a spot for that one right next to the other (I have a tried-and-true arrangement for loading our dishwasher). I love these bowls, because their nearly ideal shape and the fact that they're ceramic makes them the most versatile dishes we have.

I say "them" because we started out with four, but as we are now down to one, I suppose I should get used to saying "it" instead. Forget about those other two that were broken long ago, though, because we've only had two for a long time, and that makes the loss (or murder) of one that much more poignant.

[Background music: Breakable]

I'll pause for a moment to allow you to wipe away your tears, because if you're like me, this all seems exactly as tragic as someone setting a place at the table for the recently deceased before realizing there's no longer a need for it, and then finding themselves unable to take the place setting away because it seems so final and cruel. The only real difference is that in my story, the protagonist is the place setting itself.

On that note, I felt a little sorry for the bowl, and then I felt a bit guilty for robbing it of its life partner. They nested so perfectly together, quiet and content in that cozy cabinet, except when one or both of them went out to work or on vacation to the counter by the sink. Absence always made its heart grow fonder, so now it can grow fonder forevermore. At the same time, I have to think that it is now left to live in terror of the day when one of us drops it a little too hard or loves it a little too much, a la Lennie from Of Mice and Men.

For the icing on this maudlin cake, I had broken the dearly departed bowl by dropping it just a few inches onto the dishwasher rack, of all places, and this surviving bowl had to sit there watching in horror. And every time I put it back into that cursed place, it has to relive that awful moment. I believe the cause of death was that the victim had been brittle from a case of thermal shock, but that's all in the past and there's no sense in torturing myself any more than I already have.

So as this Last Bowl Standing now lay in that same dishwasher rack where its lover met its end, waiting for the ax to fall while facedown and trembling in fear, wracked with regret, horrible flashbacks, and post-traumatic stress, it became clear that these bowls are subject to the same whimsies of fate as the rest of us.

[Background music: Keep Breathing]

What makes them so special then, you ask? Nothing much, I guess. I just like the way they hold my cereal up like a gift each morning, making a healthy amount seem like the excessive quantity I might otherwise pour. Plus, they fit so nicely in our little dishwasher. (Sorry... too soon? They/it really do/does, though.)

So this bowl, just like those before it and every one to follow, is not much more special than any others, and it has little choice but to do whatever it is it does while it can, because it can never know which day will be its last.

Aaaaaaaand scene.


• If need be, we can add a little coda about the last bowl moving in with one of the other set of bowls we have.

• That leaves open a sequel about the two renegades bucking the conventions of the society in our cabinet, and making their own way towards being happy again in the short time they have, and so on.

• The widowed bowl must be voiced by Valerie Bertinelli, or there's no deal, and I believe Dennis Haysbert was born to play the broken bowl. Suggestions for the widow's possible love interest include Vin Diesel or Pierce Brosnan.

23 June 2008

Developments at our house, Vol. 8

Here, at long last, are some more developments at our house in recent weeks:

1. M- decided one day to wake up at 6:30 in the morning because she had dropped her pacifier and leaked through her diaper. She wasn't at all bothered by waking up so early, but she did show signs of willingness to go back to sleep, so like a fool, I took her back into my room and laid her next to me in bed. She looked like she was drifting off, but then she made sure I knew it was NOT sleeping time by pointing to my closed right eye and saying, "Eye!" in an apparently loving memory. She then played it off as a coincidence by running through nose, mouth, ear, and hair, oblivious to the fact that I was pretending to be asleep.

2. My mom discovered that of course D- knows the word "touchous", because J- has long aspired to be an old Jewish lady. She was oddly proud after an awkward conversation at work revealed that a whole bunch of people thought she was Jewish for the entire first half of the year.

3. I discovered a new level of 4-year-old giggles by describing to D- why his breath smells like "poo-poo" in the morning. I'll give you a hint-- it involved personifying and demonstrating the consumption and excretory practices of a typical bacterium.

4. M- decided it's great fun to head-butt piles of Multi-Grain Cheerios, because that hint of brown sugar reacts with supple baby skin to make at least several of them stick to her forehead until they are picked off. Making D- laugh is, as always, just icing on the cake.

5. M- has decided that kissing your food before eating it makes it taste better. Also, all food headed for your mouth on a spoon should be blown upon as hard as possible, preferably at the last possible second, so all that scaldingly cold cereal/vegetables will safely spray all over the room and away from your tender mouth.

6. I found out that my spaghetti is apparently so terrible that a 4-year-old will feign tiredness and beg for a nap to avoid having to eat it for lunch.

7. M- has found, like D- before her, that it's okay to hit people as long as you say "Five!" before you do so.

22 June 2008

This is not a blog post

You know, despite forecasts of rain, it looks pretty dang nice out there, and I'm done waiting for the hammer to fall.

We're going to go to the park and the pool, and if we get caught in the rain, we'll at least have had fun doing so.

Consequently, I will not be posting anything today. No, no, hold back your tears-- you'll just have to come to terms with there not being anything at all new posted on my blog today. Nothing. And these are not the droids you're looking for.

You'll get over it, somehow. I know you will.

P.S. To help you along, you could always go back and watch this again:

21 June 2008

You're either with us or against us

In case you haven't been following the news closely, we here in Chicagoland have been subject to numerous infestations of deadly animals previously unknown to the area as well as attacks by familiar adversaries. We recently dealt with a cougar roaming the streets of the city, we frequently dodge bands of coyotes at dawn and dusk, and, if the gossip on the street is to be believed, people are also fighting off chupacabras and carnivorous unicorns on at least a bi-weekly basis.

And, if all that wasn't enough, we now seem to have alligators commanding our life-giving waterways like terrifyingly toothy admirals at war:

It's no croc: Alligator found in Chicago River

And you know what they say about alligators-- whenever you see one, there are at least 173 that you can't see.

Clearly, we are at the forefront of a burgeoning war against nature. Of course, this isn't really a new conflict any more than World War II was a sudden flareup of tensions after a couple decades of happy rainbows. We made a very uneasy, unbalanced agreement with Nature sometime after the Industrial Revolution and it has been stringing us along while taking the time to regroup before coming back for more. All those hurricanes, mudslides, awkward rashes, mosquitoes, and deadly-virus scares in the meantime have just been training exercises and passive-aggressive warnings from our bitterest enemy.

By not making a separate peace with nature's predators, and by not offering concessions to the gods of weather, such as laying down our hated umbrellas and burning our Doppler-wielding meteorological shamans at the stake (sorry, Tom Skilling, but I don't want to be eaten by a cougar), we were unable to keep the forces of nature divided and prevent them from putting aside their differences and reuniting to rid themselves of the human menace.

As far as I can see, the logical next steps for me are as follows:
1) stop shaving
2) start hording gas
3) wear protective athletic gear on the outside of my clothes for some reason
4) fashion some lightweight armor plating for my Camry

Meanwhile, I'll practice my one-armed pullups and begin indoctrinating my son into an eventually ancient brotherhood of stoic, overconfident warriors, training him against the unbelievably prolific but lazy neighborhood rabbits and the irritating rats that occasionally wander over from a nearby restaurant's dumpster.

Next, I'll school him in the weak points in the offense of nature's greatest killing machines, once I find out what they are (I'm confident he'll be all over this part of the training, as it would give him an excuse to roar more often). Thankfully, there is a well-stocked free zoo here, and I'm sure you'd agree it's better that we take those predators out before they escape and run rampant across the city without any of the lovable whimsy of either of these bands of recent escapees.

In case you think I'm exaggerating, I'll pick just one more piece of evidence from the pile here at hand:

Python found in toilet in northern Australia

Clearly, they've already learned when we're most vulnerable and most embarrassed to be attacked, so they're way ahead of us.

But fear not, dear readers, because this isn't all bad news: if it comes to it, we can at least satisfy our need for spite by destroying nature along with ourselves, in ways we're all quite familiar with, and secondly, you all just might be getting those Armageddon* tote bags I promised you sooner than you thought.

* The world-ending event, not the awful movie.

20 June 2008

Classic quotes, Vol. 4

Here are some more typical lines heard from our family recently:

Me (to M-): Please keep your feet out of my cereal.

D- (referring to a picture of a gear): THAT'S not a gear, and I know all about it, so... (shooting me a look plainly stating that I'm mentally retarded and that's all there is to it)

M- (pointing to picture of Hillary Clinton): Guy... guy! (Not sure whether that would make HRC happy or sad-- I mean, gender may not matter in the end, but still...)

D-: M-, you have to share-- that's the only law. Daddy and Momma make the laws, so...

J-: Instead of a bird feeder, someday can we put up a bird scarer?? (For some reason, she's not a fan of birds, at least up close.)

Me (to D- in a particularly gross men's room): Please try not to splash in the puddles of urine. (while adjusting his feet)

D- (to M-, going through all of his ViewMaster slides): Noooooooooooo... for sakes, God.

J- (to D-): Put it away! (I'll leave this one to your imagination.)

Me (possibly about to chloroform a 4-year-old in timeout): Stop the fake coughing, now! You're going to rupture something.

D- (abruptly shouting at M-, not even remotely calmly, after I told both kids to calm down): Calmdown!!

J-: There was a weird jumping spider on the table, but (looking over at the eagerly listening kids, unintentionally adopting a tone sounding for all the world like a mafia hitwoman) I uh... took care of it.

Me (lecturing M-): You bite food, you do not bite people.

19 June 2008

Rock-a-bama: The Newest Recruit

After spending a few more months hammering the airwaves and the national consciousness, and after increasing voter outreach efforts, it seems that Barack Obama and his supporters have finally achieved full penetration of the coveted preschool demographic.

I have here some video evidence of my 17-month-old daughter's spontaneous spouting of Obama's name, and her hearty laughter and enjoyment of hearing said name repeated back to her. After indulging her in this activity for several minutes the other day, she has been doing this intermittently ever since.

See here Exhibit A:

And hey look-- I already got my first vicious anti-Obama spam comment! I should print it, frame it, and hang it over the cash register.

18 June 2008

Potential book titles, Vol. 1

Here are a select few titles of stirring fiction and nonfiction books I might write, should I ever get my act together:

Put That Down: I Won't Tell You Again

When Did The Car Horn Replace The Doorbell? Or, More Proof Americans May Be The Laziest People In The History Of The Planet

Confessions Of Someone Who Wants To Make A Bunch Of Money Selling A Book With 'Confessions' In The Title

Everybody's Stupid Except For Me: Claims I Refuse To Allow To Be Refuted By My Life Experience

I Don't Like Poop, But I Like Sleep: Reasons I Sometimes Regret Having Children

17 June 2008

A conversation with D-: Stick a fork in me

In lieu of a post I was unable to finish today due to technical difficulties, here is another typical conversation with D-, my four-year-old son:

D-: I'm looking for my forklift... (tries to move my leg in the chair) ...I left it right here.

Me: There's no forklift under me, I promise you that. (This would be a jarring, depressing defensive statement to have to make if I were obese.)

D-: Well... where is it then??

Me: I have no idea, I haven't touched it.

D-: (turns head slightly to look at the couch) Oh, there it is!

Me: And how did it get there? It shouldn't be on the couch.

D-: I just put it there a minute ago.

Thus the futility to trying to apply reason to most of a child's actions, questions, and statements is reaffirmed.

16 June 2008

In a tough world, you get first shot at your kids

Do either of these exchanges from this morning make me a bad parent? I'm often struck by that thought after I let loose some of my initial reactions to things.

D- (walking into the room first thing this morning): Hi Daddy, can you make me something to eat?
Me (coughing like I just pried open a dusty old crypt): Whoa, we need to brush your teeth!

This was my gut reaction-- I couldn't acquire enough untainted oxygen to come up with a "Hey, let's go get cleaned up for the day first!" or something else innocuous.

M- (after reaching up, opening a kitchen drawer, inserting her finger, and deliberately closing the drawer): Oww! Fin-gerrrr!!*
Me: Yes, 'Ow, finger!' indeed. We've been down this road before, many times. (I find it amusing to speak this way to a 17-month-old, on occasion.)

Disclaimer: She closed the drawer pretty slowly, and she seemed to be expressing less pain than disappointment (bafflingly so) with the result of her experiment. She got over it in a second.

On a similar note, I haven't yet gotten around to writing a manifesto of my parenting philosophies, but this morning I found out I don't have to. The folks at The Art of Manliness (a great site, by the by) have done it for me:

Quit Coddling Your Kids

The only tweaks I can think of offhand after reading this a couple hours ago are that, as seized upon by some people in the comments, they don't mention much if anything about being appropriately supportive of your kids or consistently telling them that you love them. I think they just forgot that since the focus is more on people who insulate their children from everything negative whenever possible, especially by blindly supporting every choice and action, whether selfish, hateful, or otherwise ill advised.

One of the comments mentions world-proofing your child instead of child-proofing his or her world. That just sums it all up perfectly-- it needs to become a new proverb.

15 June 2008

The father of all days

Happy Father's Day to all the fathers out there. I hope your days are as nice as mine has been!

I figured I should take it easy today, this holiest of days, so I'll be short and as much to the point as my thinking patterns allow me.

This morning, I didn't get out of bed until almost noon, but before you get too jealous (though certainly a little jealousy is called for), you need to be aware that the long-term efforts of my lousy, perky children have resulted in my inability to sleep continuously past maybe 8:30 on the very best day. Persistence allowed me to at least nap a bit after that, though, and it was much appreciated.

Upon getting up, I found my lovely wife cooking up an entire loaf of french toast, because I had apparently mentioned last time (being the casual, prolific genius I am) that we could easily reheat some for easy breakfasts for the kids. And as usual, I'm nothing if not correct, so that makes this brunch a gift that will keep on giving for the next couple of days. It's almost enough to bring a tear to the eye of a lazy fellow like me.

I was then presented with an impressive homemade card conceived, dictated, and recopied by D-, largely celebrating his own superhuman exploits. The text is as follows:

LOVE, [family names]

Following the card reading, the morning came full circle when I was reminded of my own superhuman abilities as D- met his match in a persnickety piece of french toast. He frustratedly pleaded, "Daddy, can you cut my french toast for me? I can only cut it in worms."

And there you have the essence of fatherhood at a day-to-day level: Shout loudly and carry a sharp fork.

14 June 2008

A conversation between M- & D-: Say goodnight, Gracie

The following is a conversation that took place between D-, my 4-year-old son, and M-, my 1-year-old daughter, after she tripped:

M-: Ow!

D-: (soothing voice) M-, it's okay. (changing inexplicably to a concerned voice) Are you bleeding??!

M-: (no response, as she's already mostly recovered)

D-: (reassuring voice) Can you say 'Yes'?

M-: Yes.

D-: (turning to me) She is bleeding!!

Thus was a regrettable non-emergency presented for action based on manufactured testimony after a genuinely tragic event, worthy of our dear president and his cronies.

13 June 2008

Manliness in its purest form

I made reference to frisbee assaults in this recent post, and in recalling several recent frisbee-related incidents since then, I know you might soon get the impression we do little else but toss around the ol' plastic-skin. For now, though, I figured this bit of insight into the budding masculinity of my 4-year-old son was definitely worth highlighting:

The two of us were at the park throwing his frisbee around when I delivered a perfect throw that was so perfect it smacked him right between the eyes. Now, in my defense, most every other throw was tossed gently somewhere near him, just to avoid this problem. But it was an especially windy day in an area known for its wind, and somehow this thing ended up coming off my hand as a laser-guided missile (pronounced "miss-aisle", because I said so and I want this blog to sound classy in your head).

Me: Are you okay?

D- (clearly in pain): Yeah-- I'm tough (stops rubbing his head, then crosses and uncrosses his eyes a few times).

Me: You can be tough and still get hurt, you know.

D- (waiting a couple seconds while looking at me like I'm an idiot): I'm not hurt.

Me: Okay.

We went back to playing for a minute before I decided to write this exchange down for your benefit, so I pulled out a little notebook and scribbled down the gist of it. While I was doing this, D- decided to pass the time (and likely protest the interruption) by repeatedly trying to guide a miss-aisle into my nuts. He started out at a distance that offered him plausible deniability, but he found himself creeping closer each time as a silent acknowledgment of his complete lack of ability to direct the frisbee anywhere other than the ground a few feet in front of him.

Having much experience with this kind of thing, I was able to quickly turn myself away each time, waiting to say something till after I could be sure I wouldn't lose my train of thought by doing so. Each time I turned away, he would pick up the frisbee from wherever it had landed, and then reposition himself right in front of me. Once he started scrambling to be toe to toe no matter which way I turned, I stopped him with a quick word and he defended himself with the following gem:

"I'm just trying to see how far I can throw it!"

And this utter BS covering such cold-hearted dedication to comedic violence caused me to reflect that for as uncompromisingly tough as he may be, I know that I'm the kind of tough that might allow myself to water that fresh-cut grass with a manly tear or two if he ever connects as hard as he would have then.

For more pain or near-pain involving my crotch, see these posts.

12 June 2008

A window into The Process

You know what's really hard? Conceiving and writing an award-winning, world-shaking, hilarious blog post under the pressure of having to get showered and dressed and out the door with J- and both kids well before noon (check the time stamp-- I bet we're late!). What's that? You don't think that sounds so hard? Well, what if the kids decide to sleep in a bit for once? Also, don't forget to factor in my general slowness in doing most anything without a clear time structure.

And what about all the other stuff I like to do to get warmed up? Like reading and commenting at other blogs, responding to all your comments, or touching all the door knobs in the house five times, checking my skin for cancerous moles, counting every paperback book in the house, and making sure I didn't leave the gas running on the stove?*

That doesn't leave much time for writing, which is I guess one of my principle problems in life-- time management with things that don't come with actual pre-set time limits (as opposed to artificial ones that I or helpful people pretend to impose on me). The search for self-imposed structure is why I've been posting each day since February-- if I introduce wiggle room, the machine might just start flying apart. We'll see if I can manage to not post one of these days.

Meanwhile, time is winding down as we speak, I have no idea what to blog about, and before long, the voice of my conscience will come out here fully showered and fully dressed and demand to know why I'm still sitting here in my underwear sweating in the humidity (compounded by the occasionally appreciated warmth of an extremely overworked laptop) instead of being ready to jump into the shower so we can get out the door and not be 10 minutes late like always.

Have I said too much?

Maybe I'll just publish this.

* I wouldn't put it past me to actually go through all that if nothing sprung to mind to write about. It's not like normal people can just sit down and focus on something, right? Right?

11 June 2008

Slipping on flop sweat

You may have heard that the NBA plans to fine players found guilty of "flopping". For those not in the know, this is what they call it when another player goes near you and you theatrically fling yourself to the floor to make it look like the other player just steamrolled your innocent self. The parents in the audience can see where I'm going with this-- stick with me.

The maneuver, when done strategically by an expert, is surprisingly effective at creating foul calls in his team's favor, but there are plenty of players for whom repeated failure at getting those calls is taken as a sign they need to try so often that the referees will be guilted into giving them calls at least some of the time. So this potential rule change is certainly a welcome one for fans as well as star players who find this to be many opponents' only defensive strategy.

This method is definitely not limited to the basketball court, though, so I believe the punishment shouldn't be, either. I reserve the right to fine small children at the playground for exaggerated victimhood, and lest their parents think I am merely trying to line my pockets (with pennies) at the expense of the local ice cream truck drivers' union, I am more than willing to allow those parents to fine my children for the same offense as needed.

I think the highest volume of revenue, however, would come from a very closed loop between D- and us, as he paid out huge fines while going through the learning process and we found reasons to pay him for things so he'd have enough money to pay us back. That's not to say that M- isn't coming into her own under D-'s unwitting tutelage, but her reactions, though frequently exaggerated, are usually pretty well-grounded in genuine assaults. I throw her a bone here and there while trying to discourage the drama.

D-, on the other hand, has been known to fall backwards with a look of betrayal and a declaration of "Owwww!" when someone does so much as give him a stern look. His reactions are so over the top and accusatory, that especially as a parent, being quite vulnerable to such impressions on the wrong eyes and later fantastical retellings to the wrong ears, it makes you want to give him something to "Ow!" about as long as you're already on the hook for the crime. Especially when he accompanies this with a "Don't push me!" Rarely do I feel more like a 1950s parent.

I can only imagine M-'s confusion and disgust when she's on the receiving end of these performances, but I can already tell that she's begun to study the technique, and knowing her, she'll come back as a virtuoso in just a year or two. Right now, she's limiting her experimentation, when she's in the mood to do so, to a still-cute "Ow?" when you touch her arm or tickle her or disturb the air molecules around her.

Maybe I should branch out across sports and start using a yellow car/red card system for these pre-literate kids, and I can build a penalty box to contain them when necessary. Since that sounds like a lot of work, though, I think for the time being whenever I'm appealed to for a "fair call" on a nonexistent offense, I'll just blow J-'s classroom whistle, make a T with my hands, and then throw the kid out of the game if I get an argument.

10 June 2008

Sound the alarm!

Folks, we have a little emergency down here at LiteralDan Enterprises-- someone needs our help!

Let me fill you in on an important e-mail* I received yesterday from a "Mrs. Nomi Solomon" of "Abidjan,Cote d'Ivoire":

First of all, let me assure you that she is "the above named person from Kuwait." She was "married to Mr solomon anthony.who worked with Kuwait embassy in Ivory Coast for nine years before he died in the year 2005." They "were married for many years with out child."

But here's where it gets tricky: "Recently, [her] Doctor told [her] that [she has] serious sickness which is cancer problem." I'll pause here to let that soak in.

As tragic as this story may be, this woman is not being allowed to finish out her life in peace. Yes, she is "not afraid of death hence [she] know[s] where [she is] going," that is to say that she "know[s] that [she is] going to be in the bosom of the Lord," because "Exodus 14 VS 14 says that the lord will fight [her] case and [she] shall hold [her] peace." Unfortunately, she has some Earthbound complications that are causing her much stress:

"When [her] late husband was alive he deposited the sum of (US$2.500million dollars in a Bank in Abidjan Cote d'Ivoire west africa)." Now, "presently,the fund is still with the bank," so don't worry yourself too much-- it's safe for the time being.

However, what "disturbs" her even more than her "stroke sickness" is her fear that "[her] husband's efforts [might] be used by unbelievers" (non-Christians), who of course would never use it for "orphanages, widows,propagating the word of God and to endeavor that the house of God is maintained," but rather for pagan parties of Bacchanalian delights or some other such selfish disgrace. Heathens!

The modern American cynic in you might think this clearly unimpeachable dying widow is not actually such, and is instead someone trying to trick you into sending her your money or bank information, but it is quite obvious to me that this is not the case at all. Shame on you! She just doesn't "want a situation where this money will be used in an ungodly way. This is why [she is] taking this decision."

Now, here's where we come in: She doesn’t "need any telephone communication in this regard because of [her] health hence the presence of [her] husband’s relatives is around me always [she doesn't] want them to know about this development." Thankfully this weak and sickly woman is being allowed unrestricted and unmonitored access to the Internet, or we might not be able to help her rescue her husband's money from these unbelievers incompetently nursing her and feebly attempting to keep her comfortable in her last days with undoubtedly selfish motivations.

As you know, "with God all things are possible", so worry not-- as soon as we "contact [her] on the above e_mail address for more informations", "[she] shall give [us] the contact of the bank here in Abidjan." And all she wants in return is "the church to always pray for [her] because the lord is [her] shephard. [Her] happiness is that [she] lived a life of a worthy Christian.

Be advised, however, that "any delay in [our] reply will give [her] room in sourcing another church or individual for this same purpose," so let's get our act together and make sure we are the ones to help this poor dying widow find some comfort during her last days in this mortal coil.

I vote that all of you contact her on my behalf, since I'm quite busy. If each of you issues a plea for her to nominate me as the most worthy recipient, and you give her my address for the giant check, I assure you that I will then distribute it fairly amongst my readership for doing good works in the name of Christ and stuff.

When you contact her, at naomi_sol5@k.ro.clickingherewon'tsendtothisaddress, please assure her of the following: 1) "that [I] will act accordingly as [she] Stated herein"; 2) that I want "to serve the Lord" so I will "serve him in spirit and Truth"; and 3) I will "always be prayerful all through [my] life." She'll know what it means.

Oh, and be sure to tell her to "remain blessed in the Lord", and sign off with "Yours in Christ"-- she'll eat that stuff up.

I mean... that's how I always say goodbye. I'm a good Kuwaiti/Cote d'Ivoirean/Romanian Christian, after all.

* It was so important, it bypassed my Inbox and went right to a little-used folder called SPAM, which I can only imagine stands for Super-Pivotal Awesome Mail.

09 June 2008

A conversation between M- & D-: I say 'No' to you, sir

The following is a conversation between D-, my 4-year-old son son, and M-, my 1-year-old daughter, this weekend when it was 87 degrees (may or may not be the Celsius reading) and humid:

D-: (like a siren singing) M-...

M-: (flatly) No.

D-: (leading question) Are you hottt??

M-: (visibly sweating) No.

D-: (frustrated but sticking with the happy, urging voice) Yes you are-- you wanna go to the poooool??? (emphasis employed to make it sound more exciting)

M-: (still steady as a federal agent) No.

D-: (stares blankly, then sighs) Eghhh...

Well, that gives him a little taste of what we go through with this 'un. He usually thinks it's funny when she goes into this mode, but this time he just wore a confused look that plainly showed he found her unsalvageably unreasonable and thought we should all abandon her to her own selfish devices.

And so we carried on sweating before walking over two miles* to the pool across town that cruelly opened weeks before the one just a few blocks from our house. But let me tell you, those kids will have some stories for their kids, and one day they'll thank me.

* It was uphill both ways.

08 June 2008

Where can I buy my Wii gavel?

Exciting news, folks-- remember all those wasted days in childhood spent playing baseball, riding bikes, stomping Goombas, and driving Ganon back to whence he came? Remember how what you really wanted to be doing, as you wandered after school like a lost soul searching for its rightful home, was playing an educational videogame that taught you the ins and outs of working as a federal judge while also helping you develop a healthy respect for centralized authority?

Well, however well you may have managed on your own, now you can feel like a kid again, one lucky enough to grow up in a world that provides for you in the way every kid dreams:

Retired U.S. justice O'Connor unveils video game

Up next from the same company, C. Everett Koop walks us all through a day in a life of Surgeon-Generaling (with a hidden minigame showing us how he makes that delicious fried chicken!); one of America's top archeology professors spends 25 playable hours in a lecture hall convincing you how much his life and career is exactly like an Indiana Jones movie; a comptroller walks us through what exactly comptrolling is all about (now with 40% more paperwork!); and your grandpa inhabits a fully-realized virtual world encompassing an entire suburban den, where he reclines a full 55 degrees before enumerating the many ways in which the world today is much, much worse than when he was growing up.

07 June 2008

I am the monkey god, goo goo g'joob

Well, ladies and gentlemen, I believe I may have found my new calling. Forget this whole "Trying to put thoughts on paper and finding someone to pay me for it" nonsense, because at the risk of offending up to hundreds of millions of devout believers, I do believe that I could do a better job running an Indian business school than the monkey god Hanuman, though known for his strength and valor he may be:

Indian school names monkey god as its chairman

I don't even think my nearly complete ignorance of the language, culture, religion, or conventions of India and her people or my lack of (and reluctance to gain) formal business training could possibly hamper me in my ability to sit in an office, collect currency stronger than any dollar, and generally look noble and inspiring. Well, the occasionally uncontrollable giggling might hamper my stoic image, but I could always just hide under my desk and leave a note on top to the effect of:

Gone back to Mt. Olympus cause I forgot some of my god stuff. You heard me, Mt. Olympus-- the Ancient Greeks had it right, and everyone else since has been a fool. Please leave me a non-curried offering at your earliest convenience.

P.S. Don't look under my desk.

I suppose I'd have to have my secretary write it up, for obvious reasons, but as long as I had her do so when I wasn't giggling, such as one day towards the beginning of my tenure when I was still battling epic diarrhea, I could just copy and paste it thereafter.

I think I've covered pretty much every possible angle here, so this plan sounds like a go-- can either of my two incidental Indian readers offer me any assistance in finding another business school that hasn't yet contracted Hanuman for his chairmaning services?

I guess I should wait till I have that minor detail straightened out before informing J- that we'll soon be moving to India (which I think I'll dub the Canada of the Indian subcontinent, to help her get excited about it), but I feel pretty confident it will work itself out before she's back from her certification test today, so that makes the point moot.

She's going to be so excited!

06 June 2008

That'll learn 'er

Well, she made it.

As of today, my wife J- has 80 days of shore leave before she ships out back into the war zone that is a self-contained special education classroom at a junior high in a, shall we say, less fortunate area. If only she had the time, she could sure write a heckuva blog about her day-to-day experiences.

Instead, she spent the past 9 months waking up at 5 o'clock in the morning to make it to school by 7 during rush hour, and another hour or more in the car on the way home each day, frequently after a couple hours of afterschool meetings. Needless to say, there isn't much time left over, hence she doesn't figure into many of the wacky stories of my antics with the kids during the week.

I can assure you that the stories would be crazier and funnier if she did, because at times she manages to somehow be even more hilarious and more sarcastic than me, and as we all can tell from this self-glorifying blog of mine, I obviously think I'm just the funniest thing since my daughter attempted to murder me slowly via a plastic-snake-induced eye infection.

I must say I feel partially responsible for J-'s lack of involvement, because she often stayed up way too late to spend time with me, so she was even more dead on her feet each morning and in need of a nap once she somehow made it home without falling asleep at the wheel. "Shhh, Momma's sleeping" became a common refrain at our house in afternoons, on Saturday mornings, and on precious sick/personal days.

Sometimes she'd stay up too late not watching movies or playing Nintendo with me, but instead writing up Individualized Education Programs (IEPs), her required daily lesson plans (covering each kid in her class separately, since they're all at such different levels that they're each essentially a class unto themselves), and other various documents needed from time to time for her to be ready again bright and early (or dark and dreary, during fall/winter) the next morning.

So if, like I used to, you're ever tempted to wish you could be a teacher and just work from 8 to 3 and have the whole summer off, you have to realize that teachers instead pack a whole year's work, plus overtime, into 9 months of the year, and then they get a couple frantic months to try to unwind and recharge in time to do it all over again. How someone could take doing this for 45 years is just beyond me, though I can only hope it does get easier as the years go by.

One thing that most, if not all, teachers will tell you is one big thing that would make the prospect of a lifetime of teaching (at least in the U.S.) much easier is the complete repeal or tear-down-and-rebuild of the so-called "No Child Left Behind" act, but that's a whole separate story. With any luck, our new president will hire some competent, qualified people for the key policy-making positions and we can get some realistic laws in education and other areas.

But at least for the next 2 and a half months, we don't need to worry about that. And so, after being way more excited about the end of school than any of the kids, little J- sleeps as we drift on a cloud of humidity towards noon. I'm thinking of tiptoeing over to the bed and ringing a bell sharply while shouting expletives and running around the room with the kids.

You know, to help ease her transition.

05 June 2008

The one-eyed monster

For those of you who are new, who may have missed the earlier posts, or who just want to amuse themselves again at my expense should read my accounts of my 1-year-old daughter's attempt to blind me before continuing with this post.

Having had some time to think this all over, aided by TerriRainer's continuously referring to me as One-Eyed Dan for the past several weeks, and after becoming sick of seeing the old Draft post I had filled with unused one-liners and other tidbits from those two posts, I've decided to close the book on this traumatizing chapter of my life in one explosion of randomness.

I have come to believe that this assault was not an accident but rather a well-disguised act of revenge for my not having a bottomless supply of Goldfish crackers, about which M- had protested and threatened about a week before the attack. See me ignorantly passing along her blatant warning at the end of this post of quotes from our house.

Further supporting this theory is the fact that the assailant may be starting to feel her Sicilian blood. She comes from a people with a documented history of serving their revenge as cold as gelato, with all-natural marinara, shall we say.* Due to my side of the family, she also comes from a people known for drunken brawling, but guess which is the bigger threat in the long run?

In my time spent pondering the implications of all this, I've decided that I should probably wear an eyepatch over my remaining eye as a preventative measure. And actually, for the sake of the continuing recovery of my tender injured eye, I think I'll just go all-out and wear two.

Another quandary is that, as the world's newest Cyclops, would my arch-nemesis be Odysseus or Magneto? Or both? "Damn you, you sheep-stealing evil mutant mastermind!!" Nah.

I think that choice is decided by the fact that Odysseus has long since passed over the River Styx**-- I'm forced to go with Magneto. This means that from now on, I'll officially be lying in wait for the chance to sucker punch Sir Ian McKellan right in the throat.

Until that blessed day, however, I'll have to continue running through wistful montages in my head-- things I've seen with two eyes; my unblemished face while looking at stuff; me laughing at something undetermined with two good eyes (montages always include laughing scenes); me staring blankly at a computer for much of the day, blinking occasionally without an eye-injury-related care in the world; and so on.

The caption for all these montages would boil down to something like this (be sure to use your happy memory voice): "Remember all those times I looked at stuff and was able to more accurately judge its approximate distance from my face by using the impressions from more than one eye to create a composite image with reliable scale in proportion to said distance? Those were good times."

I was a fool to not see that back then. I was also a fool to not see the frisbee D- threw at my face the other day.

* That sounds disgusting, and yet it makes me hungry nonetheless.
** Domo ari-ga-to, Mis-ter Ro-bot-o.***
*** You're welcome. Now go enjoy the rest of your day irritating people with the awe-inspiring genius of Mr. Dennis DeYoung.

Editor's Note: Notice that I went through this whole post of tidbits without once mentioning pirates. It's just too obvious, and you know how I hate obvious humor.

Copy Editor's Note: Editor's Notes don't count as part of a post.

04 June 2008

I had to wash my hands, anyway

Here's a cautionary tale for you, with a moral and everything, depicting what happens when I try to relive my wild and crazy youth now that I'm an even lamer person than ever:

Whilst exploring a desolate park yesterday after a rain, D- and I were hard up for entertainment. Who knew all those other children and their whimsical background noise provided such a foundation for the fun of going to the park?

As D- asked me what game I wanted to play and I answered "I dunno" for the fifth time (I was out of ideas by that point-- I'm only so creative now that I've hit the big 2-7), I happened to notice amongst the bark chips a small gnarled piece of stick that looked like it could definitely pass for a bit of feces when propelled suddenly towards my 4-year-old son. Towards most anyone, in fact-- it was that inexplicably ideal. Of course, I'd need to accompany said throw with a sharp interjection and various flustered hand motions to impede the otherwise natural immediate suspicion as to why I'd be picking up and/or throwing such a thing in the first place.

This wouldn't be the first time in my life I'd pulled such a stunt-- it's a classic. I figured it was long past time to fully initiate my son into the wonderful world of hilarity boys of all ages inhabit.

Actually, in the interest of full disclosure... this would technically be at least the second time I'd tried this particular gag. But with the other time that I can think of, he had first opened himself up for the obvious response by misidentifying some lawn-aeration dirt castings as bizarrely prevalent bowel movements, so I was pretty much required at that point to pick one up and toss it to him without first disillusioning him. It was great! You'd have to have seen his confused look of betrayal and disgust, followed by laughter and appreciation for my simple genius, to fully understand my eternal amusement and encouragement to revisit it at a later date.

In my defense, that incident also made what could have been just another forgettable answer to one out of at least 17,456 questions in a random day into a highly memorable Teachable Moment, as my wife J- (a teacher) would call a completely different type of situation in which a mature grown-up would reasonably find him-or-herself.

So with this diverse and distinguished pedigree in mind, I picked up this perfect little bit of stick and carefully weighed what I was about to do, and as I did so, it slowly dawned on me that what I was holding in my hand was in fact a dried-up piece of actual poo. Canine, I believe... one roughly 30 pounds given an average build, I'd guess.

I quickly dropped the now-explicably-perfect-looking piece of excrement and decided that this game might not really be as funny as it obviously always will be.

03 June 2008

"You like me, you really like me!"

Well, the long national nightmare is over. We finally have winners in all categories at The Best of Blogs, and I am fortunate enough to have come out on top as having the Best Daddy Blog as determined by a very unscientific voting pool.

I don't think I need to say too much more beyond expressing my genuine gratitude in the sticky post above*, without sounding more annoyingly redundant than usual.

I'll move on now instead to more important matters: if you're looking for worthy additions to your blog list, please consider the other nominees in this category, several of which I now read regularly:

African-American Dad
The Life of a Father of Five
Daddy’s Little Tax Credits
The King of Clubs
Stuff In My Brain
Dad's House
Baby Daddy
DIY Father

And don't forget to also check out the blog of the coordinator of The Best of Blogs-- The Adventures of Charlie Blockhead. That guy has a lot on his plate even aside from running this contest, but he pulled it off in style.

* Edited to add the text of the announcement from June 3:

Breaking news: Thanks to all of your collective dedication, LiteralDan has won the Best Daddy Blog award at the Best of Blogs. So you may stop voting now, my legion of a couple dozen or so minions.

While the voting may be over, my implied but not guaranteed exchange of a FREE TOTE BAG for a blood oath to join my unholy army and patiently await the day I command you to take up arms in my name is still very much on the table!

Seriously though, I want to thank you all once again, and I urge you to check out my fellow nominees, listed and linked in this post. [Referring of course to this post, which you've just read]

02 June 2008

Classic quotes, Vol. 3

Check out the Dad Blog Carnival at Discovering Dad, where yours truly is featured for my Joy of caprice post of a few weeks ago.

Here are more things heard around our house recently:

D- (to our landlord): Bye! ...love you!

Me (to M-): Show me the money! (She was calling out "mon-nee, mon-nee" yet again, and I wanted to make sure she hadn't found a penny to swallow.)

D- (playing Connect 4): I want to make my own four-in-a-row here, so don't go in this row, okay?

Me: Please don't blow your nose on my clothes.

J-: Hish the push up!!! (during MarioKart-- meaning unclear... possibly "Push the up button")

Me: Keep your feet off the tablecloth, please.

D-: What is Daddy doing with my purse? (I was putting away an old camera bag full of Hot Wheels...)

Me (at a farm this weekend): M-, get your face away from the cow's butt, please.

01 June 2008

It's about time there was a crackdown

Check out the Dad Blog Carnival at Discovering Dad, where yours truly is featured for my Joy of caprice post of a few weeks ago.

This is another link-based post today, as one of my plans for quickie weekend posts. I think after reading this one, you'll totally agree that I don't need to say too much more than it's about dang time:

Taxi driver banned from driving... because he can't use apostrophes

Like you, certainly, I've unwillingly tolerated people and their flagrant abuse of grammar for way too long.

But Dan, you may say, what does apostrophe use have to do with driving a cab?

But naive fool, I might say, what does it have to do with anything else in life?

And the answer is: everything. Because I said so.

And someday soon, I hope to find this headline:

80% of America permanently deprived of liberty... for not knowing the correct use of "it's"

I think "its"* only fair. How else will they learn?

* I actually shuddered when typing this-- I couldn't be as dry as I usually would and just leave it without quotes. Because I just can't.