29 August 2008

A conversation with D-: One hand clapping

Here's another little conversation with my four-year-old son D-, which took place the other day while we were walking home from the library after he held up his hand for me to hold.

Me: Oooh, that's a nice hand. Can I keep it?

D- (slightly confused, but characteristically unfazed): No.

Me: Why?! Do you need it for something?

D- (half shrugs while thinking of a response): No...

Me: Then why can't I have it?

D-: ...Cause... you don't have, like a knife or something... to cut it off, so it'll just stay stuck on me there, so...*

Me (frowning a little): Hmmm, you're right... oh, well.

For the record, I'd like to register my absolute bafflement as to where he might have picked up such dry, pragmatic attention to detail.

* Don't think for a second I didn't notice he said "like". Shudder.

28 August 2008

Momma's lieutenant

You know, I could pad this out by going on and on, beating around the bush by saying the same thing several different ways and not taking the time to edit at least half of them out before clicking Publish, as I am wont to do, but I think one paragraph* is really all that's needed:

I've decided that it says something important about my current lifestyle that at only 19 months old, M- has already been pressed to develop the ability to say something as complex as, "Eyem hun-gree! ... Wanna eat somethin', Daddy. ... Ged-dup, Daddy... please! Ged-dup and get food for [M-], please. Ged-DUP!" as she tugs on my hand when I'm just trying to blog in peace.

* Hi there! Welcome to my little hideout-- everyone knows footnotes don't count as part of the body, so I can say whatever I want without regard to my previous statements, common courtesy, or international treaties. I just wanted to note that in true hyper-little-kid form, she said this like so many other things lately almost in one breath, as if time somehow moves more quickly for her than for everyone else, and she'd finally given up asking nicely after 400 human milliseconds.

It's a good thing kids can only starve at the same rate as real people, or my "Dan-minutes"** and I would have gotten me in pretty big trouble long ago.

** I don't think I need to explain how this term came about, but I'll just say that many of my friends, family, and casual acquaintances have bonded deeply while discussing it.

27 August 2008

Caution: Men Not Working

In case you were looking for more signs that we're surrounded by people who are dangerously lazy, and that we are definitely ruled by people who want us all to be so, here's a nice little tidbit for you:

Recently, while helping J- to relieve one of several local office-supply stores of the remainder of their loss leading pencils and notebooks, I saw a big display for a "Reduced Effort Stapler", which promised* to save me "70% of the effort required by traditional staplers."

Using a specific figure like this of course relies on the illusion, if not the actual fact, that they performed some kind of clinical research into this pressing problem. This is almost enough to stun me into silence, which you must have already realized is quite an impressive feat.

How they even managed to break down the effort needed to staple a couple pieces of paper together in the first place exceeds my imagination-- they've got to be coming as close to dividing by zero as anyone ever has. The undernourished math nerd in me, suddenly remembering the word asymptote way too late for my freshman year midterm, is eager to see the graphs* produced by this crack team throughout what must have been an incredibly arduous R&D process.

It was probably almost as complex as the epic gauntlet that was the gestation of that pinnacle of American ingenuity, electric scissors.**

Please come save us from ourselves, Jebus!

* They might have come out something like these classic graphs from xkcd.***

** Already ridiculed beautifully by David Cross.

*** Now that I've found another reason to link to this hilariously perfect and wonderful comic, I'll also point out this one that seems to have been made for J- and I as much as this one was.

26 August 2008


You know you need to start shaping up in the housecleaning department when a 4-year-old who's as oblivious and messy as any other comes into the kitchen, where you've just loaded the dishwasher before clearing and wiping the counter (and everything!), and he suspiciously asks, "Why's it so clean in here??!"

Let me clarify that his threatened tone seemed to indicate this was somehow a well-established sign that we would be dropping him off at the orphanage later that afternoon.

You might be thinking, "But Dan, I thought you rode the OCD dragon, and thus would have a spotlessly clean house for us to be jealous of?" Well, I assure you that my current roommates douse themselves in dragon repellent daily, so I am easily outmatched versus the controlled amount of the Demon Power I allow to seep through the pressure valve. This is not a force to be easily unleashed and recaged, before you suggest that I let it out to play for a week or so and then go back onto a strict maintenance system.

When living alone or otherwise having complete control over a space, I just keep things in balance by reminding myself frequently that perfection is not possible-- my ideal living area would look pretty unremarkably normal to the untrained eye. I don't like to Clean with a capital C because things can get out of hand for me easily, so I prefer to just live neatly so I don't really ever have to clean.

Moving is not helpful for this, and neither is living with people who just aren't wired this way. Not only do we have stacks of junk and half-filled boxes distributed throughout our house, dating back to just over a year ago when we moved here, but we've actually moved backwards by adding to the collection.

When school ended in June, we were blessed with the arrival of everything that would normally fill a classroom serving 15 special-needs pre-teenagers and the two adults teaching them, plus all the many assorted things that had been disappearing from our house over the course of 9 months.

And the blindsiding left hook to go along with that uppercut is the puppy that followed the other stuff home-- crap from retiring teachers desperate to lighten their own loads* at the expense of anyone naive** enough to do it for them.

A minor sample of the kind of thing we're left with, in addition to the usual boxes of unnecessary toys, old magazines, and if-I-knew-what-was-in-them-I'd-be-obligated-to-put-it-all-away, is as follows:

• Boxes with 20 copies of the same questionably-useful books.
• An assortment of 30-year-old Tupperware bowls with no lids.
• Bags of old coffee mugs/potted plants (mold is a plant, right?).
• Milk crates filled with three-hole punches and other desk junk, inexplicably including four (yes, four) staplers of various shapes and sizes (always advisable with a toddler in the house).
• Half a box of "ladies" shaving cream samples, for the hairier children in school.
• A bunch of stupid signs and posters with cartoon characters trying to teach me things I already know.

All I can say is at least as far as this goes, I'm glad school has started again, because I've finally gotten most of this stuff out of the house now. However, the resulting empty boxes combined with our usual piles still blew the phone repairman's mind yesterday when I insisted to him that we had been living in this very same apartment with a working phone for over a year, give or take a couple of his company's screwups.

All I can say, upon reflection, is that somebody really needs to straighten things up around here. Whatever happened to my live-in maid service?

* Don't think for a second that I blame them for this, nor that J- won't be doing the same thing someday.

** Whenever the universe calls for naivete, you must know that we will be there. You can sleep soundly tonight and all nights hence, knowing that we will always answer this call and stumble foolishly into harm's way.

25 August 2008

Now where did I put carousel #15?

Well, I never promised anything world-changing, did I?

While I wouldn't put it past me, I don't believe I did, so I have no guilt in presenting you with the equivalent of a vacation slideshow*. So here's a little something for those who've expressed a desire to see more pictures on my blog.

As for the rest of you, now that I've trapped you here fair and square, I declare you must feel too awkward to get up and leave, so you will just sit and endure it.

Since we were camped** right next to a lake, we spent a fair amount of time either in the water or begging to be so:
Looks like a pout, but it's not.
Yes, Spider-Man had a life vest made up for whenever he needs to fight pirates.
And since we were in a rural area, some of us also spent some time discharging firearms*** for recreation and education:
This is but a fraction of the guns that had been at hand.Partially pictured in the background is our thus-far-unmentioned family friend, "Incredibly Huge Pile of Guns".

When not splashing or shooting, we also did a fair amount of demolishing the landscape in a rented super-SUV, and whilst doing so we were forced to entertain ourselves any way possible:
For more than just a second back there, I honestly had no idea where on Earth she had gone.
If the opportunity arises the next time you are on a long-distance car trip with small children, I highly recommend stopping at any restaurant that features mini-merry-go-round rides for a quarter:
This thing crawled so slowly, even a toddler had no hesitation in trying to step right off the horsey while it was technically moving.Note that because M- was discharging her baby-energy battery, no camera in the world, nor the human eye, could have caught this shot without some amount of blurring.

Better yet, next time you are on such a trip, try to get the kids to do this as much as possible:I swear we didn't gas them... that option would have meant a $50 upgrade on the rental.

* My vacation slideshows would strike most people as odd, I think, because I don't take many pictures, and I almost never take landscapes or tourist attractions-- I could just buy postcards if I wanted that, and I can't imagine the purpose of a vacation is to keep to a rigorous schedule of Standing in Front of Famous Things for Pictures, anyway.

** Not real camping-- cabin camping. With plumbing, electricity, and everything.

*** Don't worry, all you people-like-J- out there, he only watched/listened/surprised-himself-by-becoming-bored-out-his-skull.

22 August 2008

Developments at our house, Vol. 10

Here is the 10th nearly-monthly set of Developments at our house:

1. Due to the recent removal of a bothersome mole, I can no longer in good conscience equate my intimate knowledge of something to that of the back of my hand. At least, not for a couple of years, 'cause I mean, what the hell is going on over there? Up is down, down is up... I could swear I used to have more knuckles. I feel absolutely adrift whenever I look over towards that hand, like someone else must be reaching around from behind me, or something. And I can't help but thinking their hideous hand would be almost tolerable to look at with the addition of some kind of beauty mark.

2. My 4-year-old son D- has made official his creation of a new word --poinking-- by using it in conversation for the 500th time. I was more than a little disappointed when balloons didn't fall from the ceiling. I'd peg his definition of the word, based on context, as something like, "To poke with extreme prejudice."

3. I have made a bold new resolution to begin to really decide what specifically I will start improving about things around here.

4. I've found that a 4-year-old inexplicably whispering in your ear the very detailed and suddenly secret story of how he went to the bathroom, and then washed his hands all by himself, comes off much like an obscene phone call appealing to an impossibly small niche audience. Hence it is an extremely disturbing experience.

5. As an update on one of my previous resolutions, I am making great progress towards not dividing everything possible in my life into multiples of five.

20 August 2008

Make room on the mantel, Vol. 3

Well, since I'm away camping in Minnesota anyway this week, I figured I would take care of a little business that I almost let slip through the cracks of my horribly scattered brain.

Almost two weeks ago now, the delightful and witty Middle-aged woman from Unmitigated was kind enough to present me with an award. This one is called the Kick Ass Blogger award, and it was created by MammaDawg (not to be confused with extremely loyal reader Emily, a.k.a. Mama Dawg*):
Kick Ass Blogger Award
The approval of this lady means a lot to me, because between her posts and her comments here and elsewhere, I can tell she would make a formidable opponent in a battle of wits, humorous or otherwise.

And now, I have the honor and duty to pass this award along to five other bloggers of my choosing:

1. The Microblogologist - Sheer chance made her a reader of mine since before almost all of you were born... as fellow readers of mine. She just started her own blog, and she's coming along just fine. Check her out! Or she might send a cloud of deadly germs your way.

2. Chris** a.k.a. Weather Moose - This guy has just the right sense of humor (mine), and as an added bonus, he's a weatherman, so feel free to either complain to him or ask him a million questions. Or both. Sorry, Chris, you asked for it when you decided to become a weatherman.

3. Kori** at See Kori Rant - You may notice a pattern, but here's another person who amuses me and writes with a similar outlook on life. Of course, her life is often much more dramatic and interesting than mine, so it generally makes for much more compelling reading.

4. Rikki at Boogers, Kisses, and Spilled Milk - Here's a lady who knows how to pick and choose stories and quotes for maximum effect, and who does so with an infectious joy and amusement. Also, she includes way more pictures than I do, which I really need to try to do more. You know what they say about pictures, of course, and I've got to cut back on my 1000-word posts.

5. Andrea at The Sweet Life - Andrea seems to be one of those people juggling a million things while making it all look effortless, though the most relevant among the things she juggles is regularly creating polished and interesting blog posts. Check out this one, for example. Another notable skill of hers is letting me win free delicious chocolate.

For those who haven't already received it, here are the rules for this award:***
• Choose 5 bloggers who you feel are "Kick Ass Bloggers".
• Let them know in your post or via e-mail, Twitter, or blog comments that they've received an award.
• Share the love and link back to both the person who awarded it to you and to www.mammadawg.com.
• Hop on back to the Kick Ass Blogger Club HQ to sign Mr. Linky, and then pass it on!

* I'm amazed that even when she's not the one giving me an award, Mama Dawg still manages to sneak into the post. That takes skill, ladies and gentlemen.

** In going to grab links to their blogs, I found that these two already received this award. This happened to me last time, too, but given the distribution rate and inherently incestuous nature of these awards, I think it's bound to happen no matter what. Aside from that, I'm lazy, and I already typed all this out, so I'm giving it to them again anyway. So there!

*** For the record, you may have noticed, and you probably would have guessed, that I couldn't resist correcting/editing these rules, but I did so
only superficially.

18 August 2008

A conversation with D-: I believe you can't fly

The following is an impromptu conversation with my 4-year-old son D-, which took place the other day as we walked down the alley on the way to the library:

D-: I can't fly right now.

Me: Oh yeah?

D-: But when I'm 5, or maybe when I'm 10, then I'll be able to fly right through the sky!

Me: I'm older than that-- can I fly?

D- (thinking): No, you just have to hold on to my heels.

Me: Ahh... nice.

D-: Cause I'm like a train up in the sky!

You know, it's high time they came up with a name for those.

15 August 2008

The DTs are now the LDs*

I have a potentially tragic announcement. Are you ready? Have you braced yourselves?

I'll be camping in the wilds of Minnesota** all next week. Starting today, in fact. That's right, folks-- I'll be going without The Internet for a whole week for the first time in a very long time. Needless to say, in using this blog as my primary writing practice tool, I have amped up my time spent online to an unhealthy degree, so this crash will likely hit me hard.

But I'm sure it's for the best-- it must be for the best, because otherwise I will have been tortured for nothing. Then I'd have to rival Mr. Charlton Heston (R.I.P.) in my tantrum-ry by falling to the ground, cursing the cruel world, and telling whoever is kind enough to help to get their filthy hands off me. Then I'd likely sail right over the top by demanding they let my kbps go and screaming something unintelligible about Soylent Green.

Anyway, what you have to look forward to in my absence are a few short posts set to appear on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, and possibly two post-free days after that, while I try to get my act back together. I'll probably have to skip replying to your comments for this coming week, unfortunately, but I did finally post replies to the past few posts yesterday-- check them out if you're so inclined (or bored waiting for a new post to appear).

I fear opening my blog feed reader after a week away. My deepest apologies if I seem to have forgotten any of you for awhile-- I'll be catching up as best I can whenever I can!

* In case this title makes no sense, because it's late right now, LD of course equals LiteralDan, and DT equals Oscar gold!

** Also known as "Minnestoa" to typing fingers everywhere.

14 August 2008

From appetizers to entrees

Just in case anyone is ever so rude as to tell you to eat/suck/chew a wee-wee, or better yet, whenever you need to tell someone to do so, thanks to me and the Chicago Tribune, you'll know where you or they need to go to do so:

Kevin Pang Visits a Beijing Penis Restaurant

Am I the only one who thinks Penis Restaurant would be a great name for a band? Or a celebrity baby?

13 August 2008

A conversation with D-: Rock the anti-'Bamas

Here's a conversation with my 4-year-old son D- from a couple weeks ago, when I had already posted several conversations. It seems he is rapidly increasing his loyalty and dedication to the Democratic candidate for president:

J-: Apparently, Wal-Mart is threatening its managers not to vote for Obama.

Me: That would be some dangerous ground, in most democracies...

D- (adopting his gravelly Action Hero voice): We can go fight those guys with swords and rocks!!

Me (taken aback): Whoa!

D- (now getting in my face, for effect): When we grow up*, we can fight all those guys who won't let Obama do... what... he wants to do!

Me: Oooookay, settle down there.

While I'm certainly angry about the questionable state of our democracy as giant corporations so boldly stride forth in their efforts to squash the rights, needs, and interests of the people (who are of course their customers as well as employees and executives), I don't think Obama is going to swing in there and fix it all himself. Plus, that kind of support is just a wee bit too militant for me.

But I can't wait to see to what level my 18-month-old daughter M- takes her support next-- these two are nothing if not competitive.

* Note that even at only four, he's picked up on the fact that I have yet to grow up.

12 August 2008

In two places at once

That's right, I'm both here and there, guest posting today at Heavy on the Caffeine about toilet training and spousal communication. The author of that blog, Christy, has been a loyal reader for most of the time I've been blogging, so providing a guest post is certainly the least I could do to help her enjoy a well-earned vacation this week.

As a bit of a teaser, I promise you that the three people involved in the post come out seeming either stupid or undignified, so you know you'll have a good time laughing at us.

What are you doing still reading here? Go over there now!*

* Please make sure you do come back, at least occasionally, because you know my world would crumble without the praise and attention of at least one little group of people who aren't forced to put up with me, right? Okay, now you tell me, "Buck up, Sport," and reassure me you'll always be back... aaaaand Action!

11 August 2008

In Search of Lost Limbs*

Excuse me while I cut with a knife the suspense in the air caused by Friday's post. Anyone care for a slice? No? More for me, then. I'll just move on to today's post:

By the time I got back to the party from my distant parking spot, the kids were already in the thick of a tangled mass of bouncing toddler bodies. Note that I didn't mind the walk at all, since I'm always compulsively looking for chances to get steps, but I was eager to see what wonders this party would hold. The first thing I saw upon walking in, even before confirming my children weren't being trampled to death in a Bouncy House**, was a giant, two-story inflatable slide.

I felt drawn to this magnificent mountain in a way that only those who allow destiny to take firm control of their rudder would recognize. I knew something special had been foretold to happen here, and I must not let something as simple as a ceremony commemorating three years since a child's birth interfere with Lady Fortune having her way with me.

I went through the usual pleasantries and dropped our present off with the others, but my eye, and my heart, was always on this monument of mirth. Once I was informed that adults were welcome to enter the bouncy castle, I mourned my self-imposed restriction from bouncing around in it like a carefree child, knowing I would end up breaking some kid's face, but at the same time my mind's eye*** turned happily back to The Slide. I called D- over and casually asked him if he had tried the slide yet. All I had to do next was reel that sucker in right out of his shallow pool and sail over slidewards.

Sometimes you just gotta sacrifice your own fun for the sake of your kids', you know?

I suppressed my smile down to "oh, aren't kids cute when they're excited about silly little trifles" level and giddily scaled the slide's bouncy built-in staircase. We got to the top, counted to three, and took off down The Widowmaker. To complete my dalliance in the realm of childhood traditions, I immediately donated half my elbow skin to the waxed vinyl Valhalla that is Pump It Up.

With my many years of practice, I was able to play it cool, but man, the gaping hole that used to be my elbow still stings a bit, over four days later. I'm thinking of contacting the Museum of Science and Industry to find out if they're interested in putting me on display**** to give small children the opportunity to see what the inside of a real, live human elbow looks like.

Despite the pain, I went down that slide with D- and a very happy M- many more times, but you'd better believe I was keeping a close watch on all exposed skin. D-, of course, paid little attention to my warnings and left with his flesh unmolested sheerly by the favor of the fickle gods of epidermal abuse. Less forgivable was my wife J- getting her own tiny burn on her only trip down about 40 minutes later-- I guess I was too stoic to make her believe that slide really was hungry in a way that only human-meat can satisfy.

I can't help but wonder if this place has a surreptitious profit center in harvesting small patches of skin and selling them to burn units all over the world, but that's unimportant compared to the discomfort I felt later that day in trying to use an armrest for its named purpose.

And so we arrive back at the promised reason I didn't post on Thursday-- I accept no substitutes in any area of life^, and if I couldn't sit here in my chair resting each and every one of my limbs completely while desperately continuing my as-yet-fruitless chase of something worthwhile to write about, then I wasn't going to come here and try to do it like some kind of pathetic three-legged table. You deserve better.


Epilogue: For additional and expanded excuses, I offer the following appendix:

· I am a creature of habit, and none of those habits has ever included nursing the stump of an elbow. Especially not with about 100 pounds of pressure against the business end of a fuzzy chair.

· By the time we drove home after a couple hours of bouncing and then pizza, cake, and presents, it was after noon, and we were all exhausted from our unnaturally early foray into civilization. We tried to nap (some of us more effectively than others, unfortunately) for a few hours after that, and by then, any hopes for recovering to my usual schedule were in vain.

· I am very lazy. This must be exceedingly apparent to even the most casual of readers. I consider it a disability, and thus it would be rude for anyone to point it out or even fault me for it.

* Or, Remembrance of Skin Peeled

** My brothers and I always called these things Moonwalks as kids, probably because that was the brand name of the one they used at our grade school's fun fair, but most people I've meant seem to call them Bouncy Castles or Bouncy Houses. I was there was a universal generic term to use, because
somehow "inflatable structure" doesn't have the right ring to it. Precision with utility in language is just the kind of thing I wish for in life, ranking right there before World Peace.

*** Picture the unblinking, all-seeing eye floating above the Dark Tower in The Lord of the Rings.

**** In case anyone there is reading this-- it would be a limited display, no doubt, but likely the only one of its kind. I'd like someone to get something useful out of my suffering, since my family seemed to learn nothing from my example. You could pay me in amusing trinkets from the gift shop and delicious fried foods from the cafeteria.

^ With the only exceptions being whenever I want to.

08 August 2008

The Unbearable Weightiness of Morning

In case the 80 of you are wondering why I didn't post yesterday, my Spongebob Band-Aid and I will tell you.

Wait, time out, let me kill the dramatic suspense and skip to the end-- I'm lazy and disorganized. But if you want to hear about the seed of a reason that I would give if pressed for an acceptable excuse instead of being fired from my own blog, continue reading.

Due to my wife's and my lack of practiced social skills and outgoing...ness, combined with our somewhat nomadic lifestyle during the past four years, our kids haven't gotten a chance to go to many* birthday parties. But yesterday, we had an honest-to-goodness party to attend, though given that we had to show up by 9:15am at the latest at a place on the Near North Side of Chicago where we'd never been, this event was most definitely playing against our strengths.

For those who don't live in a densely-populated metropolitan area like Chicago, or who don't have any children, or who are even remotely competent or organized, you may find the fact that this place being 12 miles away meant we had to set our alarms for 7 o'clock in the morning quite surprising. On the flip side of that coin, those of you who are morning people by choice or chance, such as having children who are in bed by 7 and up at 6 every day, may want to slap me. All I can say is our lifestyle and body clocks are what they are, and 7am is as early for me now that I get up at 8 as it was when I was getting up at noon in college. I am nothing if not hardcore, and this part of me will never die.

So we were staring down the barrel of 9am, though not for the first time, and I knew we had to be ready for this or it would never happen. To grind the story to a halt once again out of a compulsion to clarify something not suited for a footnote**, I had finally gotten into something of a rhythm of doing this parenting thing by this spring, just in time for J- to get out of work for the summer, and the combination of both of us being around to take turns on things and generally hang out a lot (to make up for all the lost time during the school year of 12-hour days) has almost totally killed my progress.*** Hence I had a not-so-well oiled machine to rely on for getting us out the door in the morning.

To combat this, I planned ahead the night before and picked out clothes for all four of us and laid them out in the hallway, I shaved... I even oiled the three-story firefighter pole I installed next to our back stairs.**** Even farther in advance, I had printed out the invitation we needed to show the people at the door of this place, along with a release voucher (there are few better indicators of good times to be had), and the directions to get there. The following is a schedule of how our morning actually played out. Keep in mind that this is considered a startling success for us:

7:00 - We are all sleeping soundly in our bedroom. (The heat has gotten too much in the past few days for even the kids' miracle window fan to overcome, so they are on the floor of our room to share our conditioned air.)
7:20 - J-'s alarm, somehow set for 7:20 instead of 7, goes off.
7:40 - J- actually wakes up, then wakes me up, and goes off to put waffles in the toaster and then shower.
7:41 - M- wakes up smiling and happy as usual.
7:41-7:50 - I lay there willing M- to spontaneously learn how to get out of her own bed, dress herself and her brother, and make breakfast.
7:50 - I finally lift her out of bed and set her on the floor, hoping she can finish waking up her brother in a way that will leave him not cranky.
7:50 - She immediately does as subconsciously ordered, by marching around the room pointing at D- shouting "D- sleepin'! D- sleepin'!!" before sitting on his pillow calling his name.
7:51 - I blink hard and then leap out of bed much like a pearl diver heading down for an especially deep patch of oysters.
7:52-8:10 - A blur of waffles, clothes, and whatever else makes time pass by faster than I think it does.
8:11-8:20 - ???
8:21-8:30 - Getting out the door-- normally a 45-second process, at the most, for a single person.
8:31-8:55 - Crawling steadily despite stop signs and other obstacles even in extremely light rush hour traffic, hoping some miracle would allow us to get there at 9 as suggested on the invitation.
8:56-9:00 - Hoping the GPS was horribly miscalculating its frighteningly accurate arrival estimate.
9:01-9:14 - Beating my head against the steering wheel and considering initiating a high-speed chase just to assure myself of a clear path and the ability to ignore all those sadistically timed traffic lights and (let the incredulity drip from your tongue as you read this) stop signs Chicago likes to put on major thoroughfares.
9:15 - Putting on a happy face to spite the Gods of City Driving, then dropping off J- and the kids to begin experiencing the super-awesome fun zone.
9:16-9:18 - Hoping my tired eyes would unswell-shut as I walked the couple of blocks from my parking space.

I know by now you must be dying to hear from me and Mr. Squarepants about the wild party itself, but you'll have to wait till Monday to hear more. Or, if you are reading this in The Future (dun, dun, dunnnnn!), you can just skip to the next post.

* "Many" being defined as more than one non-family party between them in their lives.

** Regular readers may be equally shocked to find that I have standards for footnotes, and that I would pass up an opportunity to include one. Well, all I can say is, check me out-- I managed after all, didn't I?

*** I've learned from this collapse, though, and I'll post about it next week.

**** See, J-, when I put it in there with all the true stuff, doesn't it sound not only plausible, but a good, safe idea???

06 August 2008

Upsize yourself! Nobody likes a quitter

Did you ever find yourself fantasizing about throwing together a junta and overthrowing your bosses if they ever tried to fire you?

Well, prepare to meet your idols, living the dream:

Mauritania army stages coup

To boil down the story to its essential elements:

The coup in Africa's newest oil producer took place after the president and prime minister fired the country's top four military officials. ... A brief announcement read over state television Wednesday said the new "state council" will be led by ... one of the four generals [fired] earlier in the day. The statement also restored the jobs of the other three generals.

Take that, The Man!

05 August 2008

10 ways work differs from home

After spending last week working outside my home for the first time in over a year (I most recently spent many months working from home before leaving that job last November), it's only natural that I was bombarded with observations on the differences from my now-typical work week.

Here's a quick list of 10 differences between being paid to work in an office and being unpaid to stay at home with small children:

1. Generally speaking, you must wear shoes the entire day.

2. Unless you happen to be The Boss, you are officially not considered the wisest and most experienced person on the premises.*

3. It's pretty quiet, to the point that you have to repeatedly disabuse yourself of the notion that everyone around you must be up to something truly naughty.

4. Unless you work at the Matchbox Car Testing Facility, you don't get to play with toy cars all afternoon.

5. When people start getting fussy, you can't make them lay down and take a nap.

6. Unless you work as some kind of nurse, you can go eight whole hours without having to help anyone vacate their bladder or bowels, and you don't even have to be ready to clean up if they have trouble trying to do it all by themselves.

7. You can swear, at least once in awhile.

8. You get to eat all of your own food. Not only that, but you can do so without feeling like just maybe you need to be planning a method to dispose of the corpse of what will appear to an outsider to be an emaciated street urchin.

9. The kids might actually be interested in seeing pictures of your co-workers.

10. Unless you really, really need to start checking out the classifieds in earnest, whenever anyone hits you in the balls, they will apologize without any prompting at all.

* Parents of teenagers may have resigned themselves to a conflict of opinions on this particular issue.

04 August 2008

A conversation amongst all of us: St. Noodle

The following four-way conversation took place one day while J- was feeding M-, D- was milling about after lunch, and I was in the next room typing up some blog posts for the week I spent working.

J- (to M-, continuing some murmured back-and-forth they'd been having): Tell Daddy!

M- (barely intelligible through a mouthful): Ahluvoodoo!*

Me: I love you, too!

J- (in a teacher's gentle correcting voice): She said, "I love noodles."

Me: Oh.

D- (announcing reassuringly while approaching from the dining room): I love noodles, too, Dad.

Me: Okay... good to know.

It's touching moments like these that really make the whole parenting shebang feel worthwhile, you know?

* If you think she may actually be pulling the wool over both of our eyes (pun intended, in my case) and actually professing her love for voodoo, you're probably right. The other day she was hugging her teddy bear and I swear it was getting hard to breathe. This baby will be a Black Magic Woman if I ever met one.

01 August 2008

A conversation with D-: Party every day

Here's a little conversation I had with my 4-year-old son D-, wherein he spontaneously recalled a summer picnic thrown two years ago by the company I used to work for:

D-: Remember at [old company's name] there was a party, and there was a stick, and a bag* of candy that you could hit with the stick, and all the candy would come out?

Me: Yeah.

D-: We should go back there and hit that bag of candy with the stick, so we can eat some more of that candy.

Me: I don't think it's still there, bud-- that was a long time ago. Plus, that's a long way away**, back in Maine. Remember how long it took us to drive out here to Illinois?

D-: Yeah. But we should go there.

* This word was apparently selected for lack of a better one-- though they certainly don't have many Mexicans in Northern Maine outside of broccoli harvesting season, it was indeed a genuine piƱata.

** It's also a long way away in the sense that the company as we knew it no longer exists, thanks to the people put in charge by the corporation that bought it.