31 July 2009

How to tell you went to the wrong blogging conference

Born to Blog BlogHer T-shirt
Not that I didn't have fun last weekend at BlogHer, mind you, but I have to say I was haunted the whole time by the inexplicable feeling that somehow suiting my needs wasn't their primary focus.

Now I just have to figure out how and where to apply all this makeup, and why I would want my brownies to be fat free.

29 July 2009

Dispatches from 2:30 in the morning

While trying to get back around to sorting out what I'd write for my obligatory BlogHer recap post, (after procrastinating by finishing off the hilarious and amazing How I Became a Famous Novelist by Steve Hely), I was treated to the following foreboding statement from my shockingly sophisticated 2-and-a-half-year-old daughter M-:

"Momma? Daddy? I burped accidentally and now Woof and my pillow and my sheets are all dirty."

Yes, we confirmed that means exactly what you think it means.

So whatever virus came in with the Thursday crowds at BlogHer has taken a third victim, as my wife J- has been recovering in relative splendor and comfort compared to my evening (and particularly my train ride home) on Friday.

Sorry to anyone to whom I may have spread this germ at the conference-- I only came back Saturday evening because I thought I'd had food poisoning (I even had a post all ready about it) and I felt okay enough to seize this wonderful opportunity once again.

Suddenly, I bet Jenny the Bloggess feels somewhat less disappointed about not getting to meet me. Though I'm sure when she met my unfairly lucky wife (who had wandered off with Middle-Aged Woman from Unmitigated) while rushing somewhere alongside THE Nancy W. Kappes, Paralegal, she was exposed to enough of the germs to satisfy my need for schadenfreude.

I mean, how dare she not seek out one of her legion of pathetic followers by holding up a handheld blue-tube filter over each man's face at the convention??

...Now that I think about it, that probably would have taken 10 minutes, tops. Hiding out as a man at BlogHer would be like hiding out as a transsexual on a Guess Who? board. Actually, that would be a perfect pro-level enhancement for Milton Bradley to add.

Anyway, I've had a fun night reminiscing about all the things we fed my daughter yesterday, and now that she's been back to sleep for awhile in what's left of her bed, I figure I should go lay down and cue the next round.

27 July 2009

Classic quotes, Vol. 18

I've been a bit overloaded with quotes lately, hence I'm here again less than two weeks later with a few more quotes from my wife J-, my 5-year-old son D-, my 2-year-old daughter M-, and me:

J- (yet again underappreciating my hilarity one night): You're evil! I'm going to bed without you. (remembering) ...Except there's a spider over the bed and I need you to come kill it.

M- (grinning from ear to ear in enthusiastic disbelief about something, several times a day): "Cheese Ma-wheeze!"*

Me (to J-, who was questioning my attention to detail in wrapping a child's birthday present): Well, why make the bed if you're just going to mess it up and have to do it again all over tomorrow?? ...That little nugget of wisdom would probably carry a lot more weight if we actually made the bed every day.

M- (freestyling to a heartwarmed J-, now far outclassed in her impromptu "I love you" contest): I love you, and I buhv you, and I picked you out from the Momma's Day store!**

My sister (recent college graduate, with an elementary education degree, no less): How do you spell "college"?***

*Actually, both kids have been saying this one for awhile (trying to say, "Geez Louise!", of course), but M- seems to say it more often, and now it's already morphed into "Cheese My-wheeze!" I guess though, when you think about it, it's an equally valid substitute for exclaiming, "Jesus!" outright.

** For those of you who just threw up, I only included this for posterity, as well as for the sizable portion of my readership who enjoys those sappy Anne Geddes babies-in-costumes kinds of things. And who overappreciate kittens.

*** I'd probably be in big trouble if I didn't point out that she was very tired, and merely second-guessing herself as she stared at the computer screen, deep into the spacey depths of Decompression Summer.

24 July 2009

Please leave a message after the blerrrghhhh...

If you're reading this post, it's because I got back way too late from sheer, terrifying social overload at BlogHer parties, and you'll hear any funny stories from said wonderful time at some point in the far distant future (based on my track record for timeliness of reportage).

Disclaimer For Everyone At BlogHer, And Also Anyone Who Might Ever Meet Me In Person: I swear that as quiet and sweaty as I may have looked, I really, really was having fun. Really. That's just how I am. Sorry for any confusion or unnecessary awkwardness on your part.

To people reading this who don't know, or wish they didn't know, what I'm talking about, sorry again. I might have made myself a liar already.

23 July 2009

Welcome to Chicago!

I just wanted to post a quick note wishing everyone traveling by train, plane, or automobile to Chicago for the 2009 BlogHer Convention a safe trip, and a warm welcome to our fair city.

Apologies in advance for the various odors in the subway. Not that there's really a good time of year for that, but the middle of summer would definitely not be in contention. Try to stick to the L tracks whenever possible.

Those of you from landlocked locations will notice that we have what appears to be some kind of magical ocean spanning as far as the eye can see, and those of you from coastal locations will notice that said magical ocean does NOT have wound- and eyeball-burning salt lurking in the water.

We're more than willing to use our magic skills to desalinate YOUR oceans, too, as long as you all can pay in advance however many billions it would take us to buy back our stupid parking meters.

If you don't see me around this weekend but want to, just leave me a comment or send me an e-mail, and we can figure something out.

To everyone else reading who couldn't care less about all this, sorry, but at least you haven't had to hear about it much until now, right? I don't get out much anymore, so this is pretty noteworthy for me. I'll try to keep any ensuing babbling to a minimum. Babble babble babble.

22 July 2009

A conversation with D-: Precious moments

Because he just can't stop providing material, here's another (more groundbreaking than usual) recent conversation with my 5-year-old son D-:

D-: Why don't you get a Real job?

Me: As opposed to what?

D-: You know... (scrambling now) ...instead of just typing things for people and stuff. A Real Job like being a fireman or building things, or working in a factory or something. A job where you use your muscles to work hard and then you get stronger than you are now... you know? A Real Job like that.

Me: (blank look)

D-: ...Like how when I grow up, I'm going to work throwing dynamite at rocks (referring to an earlier conversation during our drive home from Maine). Something like that.

You may enjoy my previous D- conversations, (2YO daughter) M- conversations, and (wife) J- conversations.

20 July 2009

The return journey: Random riffs

Though I may have exhausted your patience with the three posts of observations on our
trip driving from Chicagoland to Northern Maine last month, here's just one post covering our trip home two weeks later.


• After an awkward, nearly wordless, moment, I found out the reason the gas station attendant in New Jersey took the pump from my hand and put it into the car for me was that it is illegal to pump your own gas in the state of New Jersey. (Oregon is the only other state with a similar law.)

Some online research revealed that it has been this way since 1949, following the logic that the untrained public should not be allowed to handle such large quantities of flammable liquids. Now I'm sure repealing this ridiculousness is a union/jobs issue, and since it's New Jersey, probably also a mafia issue.

I'm not sure what Oregon's excuse is, though. Something granola or sandal related, perhaps?

• Exit 12 on I-80 offers to take you to "The Land of Make Believe". There are so many sarcastic remarks to make here, they're all jammed up in my brain trying to get out first. Do you smell smoke?


The coffee machine at one of the rest stops we visited along I-80 offered "whitener" for your coffee. Not cream, not milk, not "creamer"-- whitener. This is too ambiguous a substance to allow in any drink of mine, especially when that drink came out of a machine that was probably almost as shady-looking back when I was born.


On the way back, after numerous very happy trips across the Ohio Turnpike in my time, I finally found a chink in its armor-- the last rest stop on the Westbound side, at mile marker #49, Oak Openings. Upon walking in, I was confronted by the question of exactly which openings of the oak we would be lucky enough to stumble into.

As I strode warily across the taint, I guessed that those industrious Ohioans had started overhauling their rest stops at the west end moving east, then moved back from east to west before running out of money while tricking out the Blue Heron stop just before this one.

I guess this economy finally brought me something good, in that I was sent home far less tempted than usual to move to Ohio just to work as a migrant panhandler hobo-ing it up and down the Turnpike with the kids in tow. Think about it-- living rent-free, eating fine fast foods, and all the change my cargo pants could hold!

Now, I have to amend this dream to leave at least one of the kids at home, for their own safety and my sanity. But which one? ...Which one would bring me more sweet sympathy coins? Which one could better pick a pocket and outrun the fuzz when needed? Ahhh, choices.

And this, mercifully, closes out the drawn-out series of posts about our trip, from which we returned over three weeks ago now.

17 July 2009

A conversation with D-: Mickey's cousin, Messy Mouse

Since it's a Friday, I figured I'd just share a little exchange between my 5-year-old son and me before letting you get on with your weekend:

Me (about 3 minutes after D- received his Mickey Mouse pancakes at a restaurant): How did you manage to get whipped cream on your shoulder?

D- (baffled after turning to look, thereby wiping more cream from his chin onto his shoulder): I don't know?

You may enjoy my previous D- conversations, (2YO daughter) M- conversations, and (wife) J- conversations.

15 July 2009

Classic quotes, Vol. 17

To continue clearing out my Illinois-to-Maine backlog (a process significantly protracted, with my apologies, by my computer problems), here are several quotes from my wife J-, my 5-year-old son D-, and my 2-year-old daughter M-:

J- (while cruising happily through Indiana on the home stretch): Indiana's the best! Their speed limit is 70 and they sell real fireworks!

M- (first thing in the morning, inexplicably, since traffic was flowing just fine): GO, people! People! You're dwiving too swowww, just goooooo!!

D- (to me, while complaining at the store): You say "no" to everything.

M- (making a proud announcement to the entire park after I pushed her higher than most people would ever push a 2-year-old on a swing): Wook at me, kids!! I'm swinging wike a SOUP-oh-hewoe! Wike a diamond in da sky!

D- (while I was trying to drive): Remember a few days ago you said you were gonna give me some money? ...Then you forgot? So, can you give me some money right now?

13 July 2009

Proof I didn't kill my children

[...or, "I Know Why the Caged Bird Screams"]

Well, my computer decided to break down Thursday, and in fact it's still out of commission until I can find my Windows CD, so here you get Friday's promised picture post on Monday.

Here's a short summary of the trip home in (representative) pictures.

We had a little drive across Maine and New Hampshire, stopped to see Nanna and Poppa in Rhode Island, got in jammies, and we'll surely be there in no time, right? Why not celebrate by doing our best Sean Connery impressions?

He can only cock the left eyebrow, so farIt's all laughs and smiles until someone gets cranky:

They should use this for toddler tantrum classes in Baby CollegeFor those trapped in a five-point harness, this is a good stress-reducing position to assume for at least 40% of the time, to keep your circulation going so you can get maximum screaming power from what meager foodstuffs you're likely to be offered.

For those trapped in a relatively comfortable booster seat with a mere shoulder belt (who would never, ever, ever deliberately arm and then set off a Toddler Bomb), this would be the ideal posture-- furious concentration on something else almost as loud and annoying, piped directly into your ear holes:

He makes this kind of face way too often for a 5-year-oldIf the option to get out of the car more than the doctor-recommended 14 times an hour is firmly withheld from you, you must be sure to stretch often and look as bored as possible while doing so:

I'd trade this for most other modes she had-- she needs to learn now that life is often pretty boring, and relentlessly soIn between reps, if no other activity is offered to you, just pretend to read until that ability spontaneously manifests itself:

I should submit this to MENSA and convince them she can actually readOnce you're again done with that, don't be surprised if your traveling companions/jailers playfully attempt to assuage their guilt by forging evidence that everyone has been having a really great time and no international anti-torture laws were being broken:

Look how I lean to hide her behind my smiling head... looks so natural, doesn't it?Console yourself that once the sun goes down, the toddler vampires have free reign, and they make pathetic wandering parents their playthings, biting their heads off like so many Winnie-the-Pooh animal crackers.

It's such a taunt that pictures of sunsets never look anywhere near half as good as they do in personAlso, only then is the portable DVD player allowed to return to its rightful throne on the front armrest, ruling as a benevolent Pixar-spewing overlord, appointed for life by acclamation.

And all will once again be right with the world, until those mutinous parents, who hate anything that makes children smile, pull the stupid car into the stupid garage and ruin all the fun.

08 July 2009

IL to ME Odyssey: New York through Maine

Here is the final set of my observations on our car trip from Chicagoland to visit family in Northern Maine, part of the series of posts: Illinois, Indiana, Ohio & Pennsylvania, New York, Massachusetts, New Hampshire & Maine.

Distance Traveled: 407 miles
Bathroom Breaks: 3

Since we took on New York in the early afternoon, everything was pretty well just dandy, so I have nothing memorable to report. This time.

The last time I went through New York was when we moved out here, and let me tell you: do NOT sleep in a hotel a few miles from the western border in Buffalo and then accidentally take the moving truck through the EZ-Pass lane on your way out of state the next morning if you don't have an EZ-Pass transponder. Those people will gladly spend $100 over the course of months making sure you satisfy the 42-cent debt you'll have incurred.*

Distance Traveled: 170 miles
Bathroom Breaks: 2

WARNING: If you live in Boston, or you love someone who lives there, you may want to skip this section altogether and mosey on down to good ol' New Hampshire.

• We had the good fortune to arrive in Boston** with perfect timing to take my wife's very good friend up on her longstanding offer to let us stay with her and her husband just outside Boston proper. We were so glad this worked out as well as it did, though despite numerous warnings against it, my 5-year-old son D- managed to quickly co-produce, direct, and edit --with his much-loved Corduroy bear-- the latest installment in the long-running reality show, "Where the F*** Did Corduroy Go??"

But just when he thought he was finally free, he got stuffed into an airless box and mailed on up to Maine. I'd love to see his happy-go-lucky spin on that chapter in the storybook.

• If you ask anyone who knows me, or who has walked past me on the street sometime within a few weeks after I've left Massachusetts, I hate the city of Boston with a passion that burns hotter than herpes in Hell. Don't get me wrong, I know good people who've lived in Boston, I was happy for the Red Sox when they finally won it all, but I dread and regret my every visit to their (generally) rude, horribly organized, urine-soaked burg.

Before you think I've judged Bostonians and their city too quickly, you must know that over the course of 9 years, I've passed through their airport dozens of times (and spent two nights in it, in fact...); I've made use of their bus station and both of their train stations, several hotels, and a hospital; I've walked along many streets of the city and surrounding towns, taken educational tours, and even spent nights in actual residents' houses on more than one occasion.

So, again, while some of the people (including my brother and brother-in-law) who live or have lived there may be very nice, competent, capable people, and while there may be a few good things there or from there, overall, I think this city represents some kind of horrific disease that must be contained. I pity the future of our country and its standing in the world if this is our city foreigners see first. Eight years of Bush/Cheney/Co. would have quite a battle on its hands in the contest for Worst Face to Show Potential Terrorists Still on the Fence.

If forced to say something pleasant about Boston at large, I suppose I could scrounge up the following items:

1. We have thus far been some of the lucky few not yet crushed to death under falling chunks of the shoddily constructed boondoggle that is the famed Big Dig tunnel.

2. I'd say I enjoy surprises, so having to guess 3 or 4 times, at 50mph, which split in the web of underground roadways we want to take --when the GPS navigator didn't indicate (before losing contact with the satellites, not unlike what would happen before "the good part" in a horror movie) any such choices for many miles-- provides potentially hours of spontaneous urban exploring fun. I'm pretty sure, though, that the Boston contacts at the GPS map companies just haven't told headquarters what really goes on in these tunnels, and no one has the guts to venture in to check on it.

3. If foreign armies were to choose Boston as their point of entry for an invasion, provided they were traveling only by road, we would have literally months to prepare the defense of our capital, with the front likely centered somewhere as close as Brookline. Actually, we could probably just build a 20-foot-thick, 50-foot-high wall around the entire metropolitan area. Using only union labor. Imported from New Jersey. On foot.

Distance Traveled: 18 miles
Bathroom Breaks: 0

Nothing much to say here, given the short distance, except I'm happy to report that crossing the New Hampshire-Maine border bridge is much less stressful when you're not totally delirious from driving compulsively the 1400 miles from Chicago to Presque Isle all at once, as I did when I moved out there almost 6 years ago.

A view of the Piscataqua River Bridge through a windshield - from literaldan.blogspot.com

Distance Traveled: 345 miles
Bathroom Breaks: 2

• I gotta say, under these circumstances, driving the normally pleasant state of Maine is an absolutely soul-crushing experience. Not anything to do with the state itself, per se, it's just that moving through so many states so quickly and then hitting the southern border of your destination state in the afternoon, only to spend another 6 hours in the car, can be a bit much to ask of us long-haul travelers trying to get past all the lobsters, rustic sweaters, and salty sea air up to the calm, comforting expanses of potato fields, black flies, and that only-slightly-ornery air of self-sufficiency.

• We arrived. With no major injuries for any of us, self-inflicted or otherwise. Family was happy to see us, we were happy to see them, and we were doubly happy to spend only about 1 hour total in the car over the next two weeks.

I'll post a few pictures from the trip tomorrow, rather than make this post any longer. Longer than the above plus these two footnotes, of course... enjoy!

* Each stamp on the redundant notices they sent me exceeded the original debt, as did each minute of the time I spent on the phone trying to square away my options for avoiding the sizable penalties they automatically tacked on. What's best is I had to mail them a CHECK for 25 cents, and then mail them a SECOND check a couple weeks later for 17 cents when they realized they had quoted me the car toll instead of the truck toll.

** Note that I said "arrive in Boston" with perfect timing, not "make it across the city to our friend's house"... It was unfashionably late.

06 July 2009

A conversation between M- and J-: A taste sensation

Because I am horribly disorganized*, here instead of something more substantial is a conversation between my wife J- and my 2-year-old daughter M-:

J- (to M-, less patiently than the previous two times): Stop licking me!

[less than 2 minutes pass]

M- (between new licks): I'm tasting you!

J-: Stop tasting me!

M-: Why?

J-: Because I'm not clean! I haven't showered yet.

M-: Oh.

J-: But even still, it's not usually a good idea to go around tasting people.

M-: Okay.

Don't be fooled by her earnest response... I promise you we'll be right back here again within a day or two.

* In my defense, I at least spent much of my Sunday organizing old kids clothes into bins, so that has to partially counteract my disorganization in blogging, writing, and other things. Right?

03 July 2009

Important Question: Reaching out to touch your audience?

Since people usually have better things to do on Fridays than read blogs, and since this particular weekend is a holiday for much of my readership, I figured I'd just post something simple today-- another of my extremely Important Questions.

As a bonus, my question today features both Our President and "America" in one sentence:

Do you think President Obama deliberately set his calls to public service to run exclusively between Girls Gone Wild infomercials all night across America?

These are things I wonder when I'm up way, way too late procrastinating on writing with stupid addictive word games on Facebook.*

* Not that I should encourage myself... but then I rarely act in my own best interests... If you're looking to come get destroyed, click the above link, or this one, to keep your newest word-game archenemy as close as a Facebook friend can be.

01 July 2009

IL to ME Odyssey: Indiana, Ohio & Pennsylvania

Here are more of my observations on our car trip from Chicagoland to visit family in Northern Maine, part of the series of posts: Illinois, Indiana, Ohio & Pennsylvania, New York, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Maine.

Distance Traveled: 154 miles
Bathroom Breaks: 2

• Indiana's most noteworthy form of welcome to weary travelers of I-90 is the stench of a sewage treatment plant for at least the first 20 miles. What could be more likely to invite us to get to better know our neighbors to the east? Perhaps a series of spike strips across all inbound lanes?

Or maybe a high-pitched noise broadcast across all channels and through the air, counteracted only for locals by special government-issued noise-canceling earbuds worn at all times? Seems like something those stinky old spiteful Indianans would do.

• The rest stop in Portage, Indiana amused me by having the Girls of Playboy pinball machine in the entry to their game room, right next to the children's claw game filled with Dora and Minnie Mouse dolls. I guess this just means Indiana is fun for the whole family!

Distance Traveled: 245 miles
Bathroom Breaks: 3

• As you can see, we got a lot better about bathroom breaks, thanks largely in part to threats and bribery. It figures, though, since the pricey Ohio Turnpike (more than half our journey through the state on I-80/I-90) is unbelievably clean, well-lit, and lavishly appointed. It makes me wish I could meet all my bodily needs for the entire trip during only those 2 of 22 hours.

• After stopping at a gas station for our final bathroom break (since I-90 splits off the Turnpike proper, it figures), we decided begrudgingly to give up for the day with less than a third of the trip covered after the first day, in about 9 hours. That's right-- only 9 hours, and only 430 miles or so.

Distance Traveled: 40 miles
Bathroom Breaks: 0

I can't tell you how happy I was to start out the day knocking down a whole state without a single bathroom break, or, at least, I won't tell you. Even though we were just clipping the corner of an otherwise large state, I'll still just quietly treasure it as my own secret little joy in this cold world.

By the way, in case you ever take a similar trip, please make sure you (like us this time) follow I-90 instead of I-80 when they split in Ohio, Especially if it's any time within a few hours before sundown. Otherwise, you'll just have to describe to us all how tender is the face of God, either from beyond the grave or having been blessed to narrowly escape it.

Let's all tell Congress it's okay to earmark a little something extra for PDOT (I've decided they must call it this if it's not already) to upgrade this road, perhaps at the very minimum by adding some reflectors on the lane lines, and maybe some new reflective paint. Or, they could issue everyone night vision goggles at the border. Which is cheaper?