29 June 2009

IL to ME Odyssey: Illinois

I figured I'd break down my observations on our car trip from Chicagoland to visit family in Northern Maine into a series of short posts of thoughts on our time in Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and almost all of Maine.

For a bonus, on our way home we also added Rhode Island, Connecticut, and New Jersey.

Distance Traveled: 30 miles
Bathroom Breaks: 3

• We started out the trip only about an hour behind a schedule we never intended to keep, but then my 5-year-old son D-, who had recently fallen at my parents' house and hit his head, said he had a headache.

Coming from a kid who is as oblivious to such concepts as can be, we figured we had to get his doctor's opinion on how we should handle this. She, of course, said we should bring him in to the emergency room to confirm he was okay.

Thankfully, they said he was fine, but this meant we were now leaving several hours behind schedule, and just in time to catch the beginning of rush hour in Chicago.

• Before we left the ER, the very nice doctor helpfully offered the kids popsicles for their trouble, which might sound wonderful until you remember we were just getting into the car. My 2-year-old daughter M-, to say nothing of her older brother, is so proficient at making messes that she has been known to somehow create a permanent stain on furniture with a single piece of popcorn placed directly in her mouth, while you stare at her chewing it.

• A combination of slow rush hour traffic and my children's desire to see me repeatedly bash my skull into unconsciousness against a car window had us stopping for a bathroom break about 10 miles from our house. Now, if you've been in gas station bathrooms before, you pretty much know what you're getting into each time, so the one side benefit is you can only be pleasantly surprised.

But this particular gas station we picked, from a choice of about 63 within a two-mile radius, happened to possess the exception to this rule. When I scouted ahead and asked the attendant about the facilities, he responded cryptically that, "it's kind of out of order... but you can use it if you don't mind."

Without having even the slightest picture in my mind of what I was agreeing to, I said that was fine, since the kids had to go and we were here. I didn't add that I absolutely had to know what he could have meant by "kind of out of order," regardless of my kids' willingness to endure it.

When I came back with the kids, he pointed me over to what (oddly) was left of the entry to a short hallway mostly blocked by a refrigerated display case, but he said we'd have to wait since someone else had just gone in.

When the man walked out a few minutes later, I didn't think he was nearly broken-up enough about the fact that, in his succinct words, "it splashed me in the face."

Given this setup, I was actually disappointed, rather than pleasantly surprised, to find that this toilet merely had no tank lid, a broken flush chain, minor staining, and absolutely no toilet paper. A roll of paper borrowed from the store shelf allowed me to impenetrably protect the kids from germs, and a simple lack of flushing avoided any unwanted toilet-water showers.

And like that, plus a few hearty foot swipes on the rug at the exit, we had notched the lowest marker on our road-trip bathroom ladder, meaning it was all looking up from there. I waved a thank you to the attendant on our way out, not envying him for the puddles he'd be standing in later when opening the enormous safe in the corner of the bathroom, and we headed back into our place in the rush hour conga line slowly carrying us out towards the open road.

Thankfully, not every state boasted anything as traumatic as this, so you won't be getting 10 individual posts after this one. I promise.

25 June 2009

Snake heads, heifers, and Carnaval

Surprise, surprise, here I am on a Thursday just to throw you all off.

But wait, no... scratch that now-outdated post opening. Blogger has had some kind of issue with scheduling posts in advance this week, so now it's actually Friday as usual.

Here I am sitting in a hotel in New Jersey in the middle of the night, dreading getting back behind the wheel sometime late tomorrow morning, and I've got to pile on finding out that just like I feared as we crossed state after state all day, Blogger never published my post.

It's really not unlike the dog owner following behind the dog with a plastic bag and a scoop. Who really works for whom in this relationship?

Anyway, now that you've smiled politely and nodded through my whining, head on over to Hot Dads to read my post for today/yesterday. Then poke around a bit after you're done reading mine, and you'll be glad you did.

24 June 2009

Classic quotes, Vol. 16

Here are a few choice quotes just from the past two weeks of our vacation alone, this time all from my 5-year-old son D- and 2-year-old daughter M-:

M- (slapping my legs while she sat on the toilet): I'm cwapping your pants!*

D- (after winking at our now-fawning waitress, while smiling coyly): What's your name?

M- (asked of Grandma absolutely out of the blue, then restated by D- after she understandably questioned what M- had asked): Why does Santa have helpers?

M- (a moment of clarity during a minor tantrum in a restaurant): I'm fwustwaited!!

M- (on another occasion, reaching up and pushing on my chin while I was telling her how naughty she was acting): I am cwosing your mouth, to stop your talking to me!**

And to close this very M--heavy quote list, a bonus from before we left for vacation:

M- (generously offering some of her "Mystery" flavored lollipop): You want a wick of my Mystery?

* The next day she said she was, "Cwapping on [my] head," which honestly isn't as far-fetched as it should be, given some of the barely contained bodily-function mishaps we've come to know so well.

** Rest assured, she earned herself a good yellin'-to for this typically self-narrated mutinous behavior.

22 June 2009

I've got your Father's Day right here...

A belated Happy Father's Day to the approximately 3% of my readership who is both male and a father, and same to the husbands of 92% of the rest of you.

I spent my day sleeping in, using the computer (for a welcome change of pace), and playing outside with the kids, who are trying to see if it is scientifically possible to melt the paint off the walls out here in Maine with the sheer quivering force of their pent-up energy.

While that may sound all quaint on the surface, I want to know what it says about my performance as a father thus far that the most attractive games to my son involved, in however convoluted a way necessary, punching me wherever he could reach?

His 2-year-old sister swung happily on the swings for more than an hour, using the wind she generated to keep always just out of reach of the blackflies, but this lanky 5-year-old was very soon discontent with boring old swings, soccer, and basketball.

Some of the alternative games we tried were:

1) "How Dare You Steal the Ball, I Will Now Punch You in the Butt While Roaring to Get it Back,"

2) "I'll Pretend to Be the Squirrel From Ice Age Attacking a Large, Ferocious Predator as Foolishly as I Make Him Do in the Ice Age Videogame I Was Just Playing,"

3) And finally the even more convoluted, though tragically aborted, "The Basketball Court is Water, the Picnic Table is Land, and I'm a Fighter-Guy Fighting Dragons to Save People in a Way That You Somehow Know Involves You Being a Series of Dragons Who Are Foolish Enough to Just Stand Next to the Picnic Table While a Knight Works Them Over With Both Fists Until His Hands Hurt Too Much to NOT Move on to Short, Efficient Kicks Instead."

Oh, and, should you ever be put in a similar situation, be advised that catching and teasingly holding one, then a second, fist carefully aimed at your back may result in a frustrated, em-boy-sculated cry of, "Don't ever do that again! I want you to leave me alone for the rest of your life! ...if you're going to do that again."

Notice that even at five, he's perceptive enough to say "your life" instead of "my life". Nothing like a special day of recognition to remind one's parents of their sizable lead in the race towards death. Happy Father's Day again!

May you all live long enough to feel the next volley of anniversarial punches, always stronger than the last.

19 June 2009

A social experiment: In Sharpie We Trust

Since I'm supposed to be vacationing, here's just a quick snippet I had saved in my Drafts folder for you all awhile ago:

What do Americans really think of their transatlantic cousins?

So I wrote to all these celebrities in the hope of getting them to sign the Union Jack and offer a message of support - things like, 'Hang in there!'

I'm pretty sure the core of this test was to see how many of these Americans would be willing to deface the British flag with a marker after exposure to only the slightest amount of peer pressure.

Can you think of a better explanation?

17 June 2009

Developments at our house, Vol. 16

Here are some of the latest developments around here:

1. After 5 years of reading both the classic original stories and the cartoony Disney version of Winnie-the-Pooh, my son D- finally realized that the lead character's name is "poo".*

2. I was made aware that my current roommates are so tiny I can unknowingly smuggle one of their socks in my freshly-laundered underpants for at least several hours before noticing it.

3. It says a lot about my currently uncertain status in life that I get e-mails opening with lines like, "Congratulations, you're a 2009 Mother of the Year!" and including videos like this.

I think I need to go slather myself with motor oil and kill something that only seems not defenseless.

* He was amused.

15 June 2009

A conversation with M-: I think... I may not make it...

The following is a conversation I had with my 2-year-old daughter that takes an ongoing battle to a revealing extreme:

M- (with a very serious, soft voice, sticking a finger into my face): See this finger? Look at this finger. That's an owie. (changing gears to a sharply pained whimper instead) I need a Band-Aid...

Me (looks at finger, then rubs off a crumb of the previous night's red Jello cake): Nope, that's just cake. You'll survive.

M-: Oh... yeah! That's just cake... (relieved laugh)

In case you're wondering why all those balloons are falling from the ceiling, it's because I have now officially spent 500 full hours of my life denying bandages to my children for wounds that are questionable --or in this case, edible-- at best.

You may enjoy my previous M- conversations, (5YO son) D- conversations, and (wife) J- conversations.

12 June 2009

Alert: Do not allow this child to babysit

Baby Frankenstein eating her miraculous creationTo help keep your families safe, I feel compelled as a responsible parent and citizen to advise you to never let this unassuming, violent soon-to-be-felon (shown here eating the graham-cracker-legs off a still-breathing craft-project-person she made, playing Dr. Frankenstein solely to satisfy her cannibalistic urges), babysit your children.

If you do, your baby may end up like this one:

Just a decapitated baby doll... nothing to see here, folks
To be honest, though, they HAD to have been expecting this to happen when they attached the doll's head with heavy-duty elastic cord in addition to the standard pseudo-spinal arrangement.

Or was she set up?!?*

* She wasn't.

10 June 2009

Book Review: Buster Climbs the Walls

I vaguely remember some Bush-era controversy over the PBS spinoff show Postcards From Buster dignifying (!!!) gay lifestyles by acknowledging them in one episode, to the point that neo-conservatives were using it as the platform du jour to justify cutting funding to PBS.

Cover image of Buster Climbs the Walls
There's nothing that exciting brewing on the surface of Marc Brown's book Postcards From Buster: Buster Climbs the Walls, as it gracefully shies away from that kind of controversy. At the same time, it persistently hints at a much larger and more traumatizing subject, at least for the main character.

Buster's father hides a terrible truth under those fake bunny ears
It's obvious from this picture that Buster's father himself is living a lie. That's right, he's clearly a normal human who's grafted novelty bunny ears to his scalp in an ill-advised effort to postpone a crushing realization for the freakishly enormous talking rabbit he's been raising as a son.

Let it go, Buster's "dad"... we've all got to cross that old bridge someday, and you'd better let Buster cross his in his own time without any more of your creepy interference. Or, failing that, at least buy yourself a goddamn bunny nose... you look ridiculous.

Other than that, the book's okay, I guess.

08 June 2009

Not goodbye, just see you later

I figure I should let you all know that tomorrow, I'll be checking out of this northwest-Chicago-suburban popsicle stand for a few weeks to drive all the way out to Northern Maine to visit my wife's family and some old friends from the mean streets of Caribou and Presque Isle.

During this time, I should have posts popping up on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays as usual, but my e-mail responses to comments will be spotty at best, or nonexistent at likeliest.

So while I'm off today desperately packing for our long, long, long 1400-mile drive in a Camry with a 5-year-old and 2-year-old, I'll give you something to discuss amongst yourselves.

As I began last night to assess the unbelievable volume of little bits of crap my wife has let pile up in the car over the past school year, I found a notable scrap of paper I'd dropped* a few weeks ago.

On it I'd recorded an amusing conversation opener from the lady herself while we were driving somewhere, after she'd had yet another in a chain of is-it-summer-yet long/violent days with the generally lovable 7th-8th grade Special Ed. students/gang members she teaches:

"I have a feeling quite a few of my students are going to get the s*** beat out of them [at home] tonight, and to be honest, I don't feel too sorry about it."

Negative-three days till summer break! Am I right?

When I get back, we'll all be more than two weeks closer to me pathetically hanging around downtown trying to meet random BlogHer attendees. If you'll be one of them, let me know!

* To be fair to me, it is HER paper and I had picked it up off the floor of the car to start with. So, in essence, I was subconsciously putting it back where I found it, 'cause that's the kind of person I am. I put things away and take care of my immediate area so I never HAVE to formally Clean The House/Car.

So now thanks to this footnote, we'll have something fun to discuss in the car tomorrow. Wish me luck!!!

05 June 2009

Arsonist Bridezilla drags victims from burning safehouse

This post is dedicated to Allison Ross, who'll no longer be A-Ross by August, but something else hopefully just as catchy instead. Let's see if she can top this feat on her big day...

I just thought I'd share with you this little story of yet another Bridezilla going way over the top in her effort to upstage all her peers:

Bride rescues family from house fire

If TV has taught you anything, and God knows it's taught me plenty, it should be plain as day that those people had just run into the burning building to escape the bride's wrath, probably after they coughed during the vows or threw the rice a little too hard.

So there she went dragging them back out to face the music. Mostly a percussion piece, I'd guess, right before the fire department showed up.

But once everyone else arrived on the scene, of course, the neo-hippie liberal media spun themselves a sappy tale of a heroic, selfless bride risking her life and sacrificing her dress on that one day that marks the absolute pinnacle of every woman's life.*

As for the dress, though, there are few pieces of clothing better suited to this kind of ruination-- if all goes to plan, you were never going to wear it again anyway.

And if you're upset that you spent thousands upon thousands of dollars on it, well, you already made a horrible decision and wasted most of that money, and saving it from some ash isn't going to get it back for you.

What difference does it make whether the dress slowly turns yellow in a closet or it turns jet black immediately after the ceremony? I'll tell you what the difference is: an awesome story.

Plus, you save money on buying a fancy black dress for your husband's funeral! Highly recommended for the cost-conscious golddigger cruising the old-folks' home.

And with that, I declare Wedding Season 2009 officially Open!

* Without exception.**

** Especially you, J-.

02 June 2009

Classic quotes, Vol. 15

Here is a selection of recent quotes from my 5-year-old son D-, 2-year-old daughter M-, my wife J-, and me:

M- (out of the blue, answering J-'s generic question about whether she's excited to grow up): Yes, I want to get bigger so I can wear a bwah!*

Me (squinting without glasses in the shower as I speak to the kids with an accusatory but unsurprised tone, pointing right by my foot): Hey guys, is that poop?? (picking it up) ...Oh, no, it's just a tiny carrot peel and a bunch of brown thread.**

M- (smiling as she tastes a jar of banana puree I found in the cabinet from the days before she could offer such eloquent food criticism): This has a good fway-vor!

D- (as a deep-voiced Incredible Hulk, apparently learning to channel his powers into productive areas): ... I would ask some workers about knocking down an old building, then I'd say, 'I'm The Green Hulk!' and smash it down to pieces! Smash it to pieces for them with punching!!

M- (holding a piece of butterfly-printed fabric around herself): I have a butterfly belt, cause I'm a butterfly! ...pirate.

* I have a troubled feeling she's going to stay ahead of the curve into adulthood, bringing home bounties of drama and strife every day from third grade on.

** I ended up forgetting it on the shelf of the shower, so a bleary-eyed J- got to share the pleasure of the same dilemma the next morning.

01 June 2009

I think I've broken my kid

Aren't preschool kids supposed to be pretty imaginative, or at least relatively uncritical of the unknown world around them? Aren't they supposed to sit, slack-jawed, in an awestruck stupor whenever you turn on the TV?

My kids in particular are pretty deprived of television, other than watching I'd-guess-almost-weekly age-appropriate movies and playing the very occasional videogame, but here are just two revealing tidbits I heard from my 5-year-old son while we all endured a really quite awful* Winnie-the-Pooh movie recently:

"They shouldn't have put that in the movie... they should have cut it."

I let the kid watch deleted scenes on a DVD one time and now he thinks he's Martin Scorsese.

"Why do they keep singing songs??"

In his defense, the songs in this movie were undeniably painful, and completely unnecessary to boot. It really was like they had the movie finished, found it was too short, decided "kids' movies have songs, right?", and then went back to add some more scenes where everyone puts their stuff down and starts tunelessly singing some vaguely related song they all just made up on the spot.

And by the latter "they", I mean actual talking stuffed animals with cotton for brains. And redundant inner ear problems blocking their sense of rhythm or timing.

So, I guess this is my way of saying two things. One, my children have absolutely no sense of magical awe or wonder at this world around them, thereby ruining them for religion or even normal human development, and two, Pooh's Grand Adventure: The Search for Christopher Robin is an unbelievably godawful movie.

Just stick with Pixar. Or, if necessary, smash your TV with a baseball bat and tell your kids that the spirit of Walt Disney briefly possessed you and sought both to save them from the horror his company has become and to punish them for asking to watch this movie. The End.

* When I say "really quite awful", it's my way of being charitable, as my mom would call it. I do that only because when it's convenient to me, I declare that this is a family blog.

But down here in the footnotes? Oh, anything's fair game. It's
kids that have trouble reading fine print, right? Anyway, doesn't matter.

This movie is so bad from top to bottom, start to finish, conception to execution, that I would only be mildly disconcerted to personally witness A.A. Milne himself rise from the dead to formally submit the notarized paperwork to have his name disassociated from the movie.**

** And adult-sized Pooh-related costumes. And Pooh underwear, cause that's just really confusing terminology for parents of toddlers.