31 August 2009

Important Question: Crackers unite?

I couldn't help but notice this set of promotional posters at a nearby festival this weekend:

Cracker Carnival- for crackers or by crackers?
The question is, are these merely two coincidentally-placed posters noting 1) a carnival and 2) an appearance by the band Cracker, or are the organizers just boldly declaring the primary demographic focus of the festival?

28 August 2009

Guest Post: Tough love to start the year

No, my wife J-'s not getting drunk on attention after her debut guest post last week, but while I recover from this crazy topsy-turvy week, I figured I'd post something she wrote for her own first day of school this year*, her third as a middle school Special Education teacher:

Dear Self,

You've been having a great summer. You have accomplished some of the things you wanted to, but overall, you have been lazy, forgetful, and self-indulgent. You have been eating on no particular schedule, you have been recklessly using the bathroom whenever you want to, you have been napping at all times of the day, and worst of all, you have been going to bed at crazy hours, well past your 9 o'clock bedtime.

You're in for a rude awakening in a day or two, and you're going to get your ass kicked by the clock. Please, straighten out your act or I will be forced to do something drastic about this situation. These measures will include things like dragging your butt out of bed to work out before leaving for work at 6am, or depriving you of your soul-saving caffeine. So shape up or prepare to be shipped out.

Also, you have been doing things in preparation to organize your stupid behind, and I swear this time you must follow through with it! This year you must stop staring off into space while mold slowly over takes your desk. You need to remember that if you leave your lunch out all day, it will no longer be something you should eat. You should, however, remember to bring it home before too long after that happens.

Also, please stop losing important paperwork and putting it off until the last minute: this is your year to shine.

Don't embarrass yourself in front of your new Para[professional]: she's old enough to be your mother, instead of your little sister like the last two years. You can do better. I'm expecting to be impressed!

Love you,

P.S. Okay, okay, I won't really take away your caffeine, but I will use it to torment you if you aren't careful, Missy!

* Editor's Note: Her first day was actually this past Wednesday, but clearly this was written on Monday.

26 August 2009

Post-graduate education for preschoolers

Today, instead of writing some wandering rant or sarcastic childish commentary, or just transcribing my kids' strange conversations, I need to sort through a little something here.

Please indulge me while I wrap my head around the fact that I just packed some kid's lunch. For school. Where he'll be all day today, like a real person.

He'll even get there on a bus, by himself, and though he may look as ridiculous with his color-coded nametag, backpack sticker, and strange visor as I did with the grotesque cowboy totebag my mom made my brothers and I carry (but not my sister, years later...), he will have reached the point at which the bounty of day-to-day memories in my own life began, 23 years ago.*

I'm starting to think that, despite all the evidence my spotty memory and helpful cloud of denial can provide, my girlfriend and I just might be parents. Of actual children. And I'm pretty sure I'm getting some flashes that there was a wedding in there somewhere, too.**

This means we may not in fact be college dorm roommates who got matched up with a couple of unbelievably needy, dependent midgets by the university housing authority. Someone will soon be coming into our apartment, holding us accountable for our shamefully disorganized, impromptu lifestyle, emboldened by third-party education outside the cult walls.

As well he should. It's about time someone did.

Good luck, kid.

* What this means for me, I'm not sure, but it doesn't really matter. I just don't want to screw this up for him.

** Coming up on six years ago, I'm told.

24 August 2009

Even a golden raisin shower is gross

The other day, while I was adjusting my 5-year-old son D-'s booster carseat, I heard an odd rattling sound. Assuming it must be filled with crayons and an assortment of small rocks that had once been in the cupholders, I began trying, not unlike a chimpanzee, to find an access point to the inside of this thing.

Only once I started shaking it upside down with the cupholders partway out did a flurry of rock-hard golden raisins of mysterious origin begin raining down across the seat and floor of the car.

I stopped shaking to gather up this first batch and hand them to D- before beginning another round. His response to all this trouble he'd caused? An excited, "Can I eat them?"

When will this stop?

21 August 2009

Things 2-year-olds like doing

M- and this scarecrow are now going steady...Sneaking off to leave a secret (and aptly named) number 2 in a potty chair*, despite months of using the adult toilet, so everyone else can be baffled for hours by the mystery stench that just won't flush away.

Now that I think about it, this is a pretty good prank, and I know I have a built-in scapegoat...

* In our defense, it's been used mostly as a stepstool for awhile now.

19 August 2009

Guest Post: J-'s School Supply Fever

Well, here's a treat for those who've asked for a guest post from my wife J-. She was so overjoyed at her haul at school supply sales recently, both for her and my 5-year-old son D-, that she felt like expressing herself in print:

This is my time of year. God do I love the fall and the rush of going back to school.

Mostly, I love school supplies, and I don’t mean that in a healthy, “Golly gee willikers, these are neat!” kind of way. I mean it more in the way some women describe shopping at huge designer clothes and shoes sales, where people will claw your eyes out for little or no reason. This was bred into me a long time ago, so I simply can’t help it.

If there's only one left of the item I am looking for, you had better believe I will do whatever it takes to make sure it becomes mine. A few days ago, I was out shopping and some lady was reaching for the last box of sheet protectors just as I was, while she complained about how expensive they were.

I was forced to take evasive action, asking her if she'd gotten the same 20%-off bag in the mail that I was holding. She stopped reaching to rub her chin as she considered the question, and while she did, I deftly put that last box in my cart.

I know, I know, I should be ashamed, but sadly I am not. She was unhappy with the price, so I relieved her of the problem! But you don't have to thank me: my new sheet protectors are their own reward.

A big part of the reason I have this great love of school supplies is my almost total lack of awesome school supplies as a kid. Back then, school supplies often doubled as birthday presents, and because we were so poor, even then I never had any of the cool things I was ogling in the ads.

Nope, I always had the “functional” supplies that generally kind of worked, but were certainly never the envy of anyone else in class. They usually lasted just long enough for the teachers to note that my mother had indeed sent in my supplies as ordered.

For instance, I think all my non-Ticonderoga pencils were created solely as an offering to the pencil sharpener gods, to provide a year's worth of blessings for my classmates' pencils. The only exception in those years of school supplies, possibly even coveted by others than myself, were my pens.

My mother felt this splurge was necessary mostly because she loved pens as much as I did. I never went for the girly, decorated, crazy pens, but more for the ones with the best grips, most practical sizes, most vibrant colors, the endurance of the ink, and how nicely that ink flowed. I have since grown into an addiction that is not limited to the beginning of school, which I have a constant excuse to feed now that I'm a teacher.

Ask my husband: if there is a good pen in a store, I know everything about it and why I need one. I can’t help it. Each pen writes differently, and with each new day, my hand requires different pens for the various moods I find myself in that day. This year's pen new set is an 8-pack of assorted colors of the simple Papermate Profile ballpoint pen:

The Papermate Profile ballpoint penSo, with that, along with the rest of what you see below (some of which I got free from a store giving a tote bag of goodies to teachers), my inhuman demand for school supplies has been satisfied for this year. I think.

This school year's haul at the LiteralDan household
A. Pink is always better than Not Pink.

B. The aforementioned sheet protectors.

C. Between D- and I, Costco saved me almost $20 on pencils.

D. Pay no attention to the crap in my house I'm not able to Photoshop out.

E. These good-smelling dry erase markers are hard to find, but now I don't have to worry about my new whiteboards killing me with marker fumes in my dank basement of a classroom.

F. I probably don't even need these, but I just love them so much. They're great markers, and they double as air fresheners.

G. I've waited two years for these things, so I don't have to pile up folders in my filing cabinet drawers.

17 August 2009

12 steps over to the CPR table, 1 step back in shock...

Sorry folks, I can't talk long, I've got a lot of numbers to juggle in my head, along with quite a bit of comically misspent grief.

You see, due to the unfortunate fact that I'm an idiot, I jumped into a swimming pool yesterday while still wearing my ever-present pedometer, which I found floating across the water a few minutes later, not unlike the tragically bloated corpse of my secret, much-more-loved child.

This means I had to spend the rest of the day trying to figure out about how much I had walked before my wife J- handed me her own identical (though only sporadically used) device, to preemptively shut me up and to stop that nervous twitch in my eye.

You know the twitch-- it's the one that scary guy on the subway platform always has before he shuffles over and asks you if you're sure you need both your kidneys, or if you know what pants taste like.

After baking it with a hair dryer almost to the point of melting yesterday, and then leaving it out in the sun all afternoon, I was able to bring the display back after it had finally disappeared (an impressively long holdout, I thought, considering the fact that I could see water inside the screen after I pulled it ashore), but it refused, possibly out of bitterness, to count any steps up until I removed the battery to let it dry more thoroughly.

My sister recommended leaving it covered in dry rice for awhile, to fully suck out any remaining moisture*, but since I don't have any on hand at the moment, I figured I might as well solicit ideas from you, proud members of The Internet. I'm coming to you first because I'd rather not get lost hunting down every possible solution in the universe, including those dreamed up as a joke by 15-year-old kids, Death Row prisoners, and shut-ins.

You see, I may or may not have a tendency to be easily distracted by flashing lights, useless trivia, nostalgic references, and bits of string, so if I was, in fact, this way, it might take me hours to find my way back out to actually resuscitate my little comatose loved one.

Wait a minute, is that a list of factual errors and continuity mistakes in the 1988 treasure Short Circuit 2 on the IMDb? I'll be right back...

* She did this, to great effect, for the laptop on which she spilled a drink, after finding the suggestion online. She's not just some strange person whose solution to every problem involves wasting odd foods, as some kind of vegetarian sacrifice.

14 August 2009

Self-inflicted sterilization on 500 channels

Just like your mother always told you whenever she wasn't trying to use the TV as an unpaid babysitter, TV will fry your brain cells. But beyond that, it seems, it might also destroy any hope you have of growing your family larger than it already is.

Or at least that's the hope of the Indian government:

Less sex, more TV idea aired in India

On World Population Day this year, India's new health and welfare minister came out with an idea on how to tackle the population issue: Bring electricity to every Indian village so that people would watch television until late at night and therefore be too tired to make babies.

While they just might be on to something here, I have to point out that we Americans are having no problems increasing our population at what's traditionally been considered a reasonable rate.

Sure, a lot of that increase might come from illegal aliens jumping the fences to get a better look at our monstrous TVs, but still, we keep the Labor and Delivery nurses on their sensibly supported toes all by ourselves.

If the Indian government's logic was as sound as they seem to feel it is, can you imagine if someone took away America's national average of 8 hours a day of television time? Or, worse yet, our additional 7 daily hours of dicking around on the Internet?? Three billion of us would be packed in here like a typical American backside in a Chinese airplane seat!

We might even, through exposure, manage to grow past our Puritan repression and resulting obsession with sex as something illicit and get back to doing something meaningful with ourselves! I mean, besides making more selves.

Anyway, I tend to agree with this heroic 24-times-a-father from Uttar Pradesh:

"After watching TV," he says, "when we look at scintillating things, we will probably want to make more children."

Yep, that's pretty much how it works, buddy-- you're ahead of the curve!

Even if he's wrong, it's worth noting that although the poor are only getting electricity, at long last, in an attempt to trick them into abstinence, they will eventually learn that it can be used to do other helpful things like light one's house and refrigerate food. They might then feel so happy and hopeful they'll have a few more kids just to celebrate. Jai ho!

12 August 2009

Selling out for spam

Hey there everyone, just click here to read my post for today, appearing over at HotDads.

Then, when you're done commenting to make me look good, poke around the site to see what my esteemed colleagues have to offer.

Just be careful where exactly you're poking, or you may regret it. Or not, I suppose.

10 August 2009

We could make Luxembourgish fries

Check out what my son and I recently dug up from our garden:

This is possibly the world's tiniest maturely shaped potato
By "garden", I should clarify, I mean the couple of plants that sprouted from the two legendarily gross potatoes we buried in the yard a few months ago, after general neglect and disorganization in our kitchen helped us all learn important lessons about the circle of life.*

So I'm pretty sure a few more harvests like this will only solidify my new position as the leading provider of non-demeaning meals for the world's smallest needy people.

Should this possible future selfless** role qualify me for the world's first preemptive Nobel Peace Prize? I'll leave that up to you.

Full Disclosure: I will pay you in all the tiny deep-fried potatoes you can eat if you make this happen.

* Much cheaper and less painfully than a puppy, I might add.

** For the record, the term "selfless" still allows me to make an honest man's living by taking exorbitant profits, so don't let that affect your decision.

07 August 2009

Spreading the joy

Hey there, Friday readers! I feel like I should fill these posts with little Easter eggs of special meaning that all those losers out living life today would never see (because they’re too lame to understand they can look back out over this whole year-and-a-half of posts any time they want to), but I’m way too lazy and disorganized for that.

What’s more, I don’t even really have any UNspecial meaning for you, so for that and so much more I apologize in advance, and retroactively.

I just wanted to take a moment to recognize that two fellow bloggers out there have brand new works that just hit the shelves of your local bookstores, in one case his first book and in another her first book about herself. You should check them out. I know I can’t wait to.

Don’t have the spendin’ money to go buying books sight unseen? Hit the library first!

RAGE AGAINST THE MESHUGENAH: Why it Takes Balls to Go Nuts

Book cover - Rage Against the MeshugenahAs some of you may already know, Danny Evans, who writes at Dad Gone Mad, spent more than one agonizing year reliving his moments of deepest depression to provide us all with some insight into the generally taboo phenomenon of acknowledging depression as a man.

The very concept itself involves admitting having feelings and then exploring them, so we can all at least understand where the trouble might start. Besides all that, because it’s written by Danny, the book is guaranteed to be funny, too, even (or especially) when it might normally seem inappropriate to be so.

IT’S NOT ME, IT’S YOU: Subjective Recollections from a Terminally Optimistic, Chronically Sarcastic and Occasionally Inebriated Woman

Book cover - It's Not Me, It's YouStefanie Wilder-Taylor, of Baby on Bored, already has two bestselling books out there, Sippy Cups Are Not for Chardonnay and Naptime Is the New Happy Hour (and I suggest you read both), but this time she's focusing more on her own life story than on her adjustment to parenthood.

This lady found time to write another book while parenting infant twins and a toddler, so you know she's got her act together, and based on how funny her previous books and blog are, I'm thinking this one will be even better.

Look for some form of tiny review, at least, for these two books sometime in the next few weeks.

05 August 2009

BlogHer notes from an outsider

Since I'm still seeing other people's BlogHer recaps popping up every day, I don't feel so bad about procrastinating this long. For those who don't care, this is one and done.

It probably says a lot about me, especially during my current phase of life, that when a convention comes to town that has HER in the title, I just can't wait to hop on the train and head downtown.

But when you blog about your kids as much as I do, you tend to read and be read by bloggers who also write about their kids. The world being what it is, that means I hang with chicks most the time. Online, anyway.

But BlogHer coming here to Chicago meant that I had the rare opportunity to meet a lot of these people in person, which was at once exciting and terrifying. If I was the kind of person to throw myself into social situations with people I don't know very well, then I probably wouldn't sit by myself writing on the internet so much. I'd probably be running some company that made popular things for popular people. And I'd have a lot more money. And I'd sit on my ergonomic toilet seat staring at magazines with my own face (and abs) on the cover, wondering if I'd ever stop shitting solid gold bricks.*

But whether that's a more desirable life than mine or not is neither here nor there. The fact is, I spent Thursday, Friday, and Saturday a couple weeks ago showing up with my wife at the Chicago Sheraton without conference passes, and without knowing what venues would be available for us to meet people without accosting them at cabstands and bathroom sinks.

And you know what? It was awesome.

Except for that pesky day in the middle on which I actually wondered if I might die on the bathroom floor at a fancy hotel, just like a life-conquering celebrity but without the drugs or success.

So if you saw me on Friday and wondered why I looked so surly and distant (sorry Neil and Suzanne), it's only because I was intently trying not to vomit and/or internally debating the best position in which to lie in case I got a choice moments before death's icy finger tagged my soul out to send some fresh meat into the Diarrhea Olympics.

Before all that, though, I got to spend some quality time with Middle-Aged Woman (Unmitigated) and Muskrat, meet Black Hockey Jesus and Tanis (Redneck Mommy), and then wonder how the hell I was going to find anyone else in the mass of humanity who wasn't introduced to me by someone else. Heck, we spent well over an hour at the SociaLuxe party playing with customizable name bracelets without meeting a soul I knew. Sure, I saw Jenny the Bloggess and Kristen Chase (Motherhood Uncensored) but was too timid to interrupt their respective series of conversations with nothing but an awkward introduction, but that doesn't really count.

While waiting for the People's Party later that night, I recognized Miss Grace, who introduced me to Matthew from Child's Play x2 among others. Then once the party started I rejoined my wife, who'd spent an hour or two packing swag bags with Middle-Aged Woman, only to find out that she not only had met Jenny the Bloggess (and Nancy W. Kappes!), but she got a Bloggess sticker she was specifically forbidden to give me.** I figure since I was meeting Black Hockey Jesus at that time, it kind of evens out, cosmically.***

I somewhat redeemed myself later by saying hi to Momo Fali, Kristen, and Brittany (Barefoot Foodie), but overall I was so overwhelmed I missed far more opportunities than I seized, which was made especially tragic by Friday's aforementioned chaos. So much for getting my feet wet on Thursday and making the most out of Friday.

I convinced myself on Friday afternoon that despite some stomach pain, I felt okay enough to soldier through the evening as long as I didn't risk eating anything. I hadn't thrown up yet at that point and I figured I must be suffering no more than the effects of eating at IHOP at 2am the night before, instead of battling some kind of flesh-eating virus hell-bent on liquefying my insides, as my foe was later to be revealed.

My late arrival on the scene Friday is the root cause of numerous missed connections with awesome people like Maggie and Mike Adamick, and my lack of organization and outgoingness is the cause of my missing out on dozens more people I should have met somewhere, somehow in the crowds.

After being turned away from the MamaPop party by none other than Mrs. 4444 herself (just doing her duty as the lady with the checklist), I took that as a sign I should give up defiling the absolutely vacant bathrooms (but I bet the lines at the women's bathrooms were epic) of the Sheraton and call it a night at the relatively early hour of 10pm. That hour is for me, unfortunately for my overall health, much like 6:30 is for normal people.

Turns out, of course, we missed the best party of the conference, and a unicorn cake. A unicorn cake!

But the rest did me good (specifically the sporadic series of naps in a bath/shower and the patient nursing of my wife), as did the tentatively resumed ability to absorb small amounts of fluids for the first time in over 12 hours. Fluids make the hallucinations go away! Well, most fluids do, anyway.

So we showed up Saturday evening in time to meet longtime readers MamaNeena and Andrea (Sweet Life) and have a good talk (wishing we'd had more time to hang out that night and earlier in the weekend) before heading over to Quartino for dinner [picture] with Middle-Aged Woman, Vodka Mom, Sprite's Keeper, Stiletto Mom, DeeMarie, Shopgirl, Amo, and Jill-- we hadn't been here before but we definitely want to come back. J- because she wants more of what she ordered, and me because I'd like to go there when I can actually eat food.

We then headed to the bowling alley for BowlHer, which, due to the brain-squashing noise, was not good for meeting people you didn't already know. However, it was very good for getting stuff, since it was co-sponsored by several numerous companies. How can you go wrong with free cupcakes, wine, chocolate, and gift cards?

After deciding we'd had enough of the noise, we headed back to the Sheraton to check out the CheezeburgHer Party, which would have been 10x better if I was better able to eat by this point. We mostly just sat on a very comfortable couch in the presidential suite realizing how tired we were, but we were happy to get the chance to meet Elisa (Unlikely Housewife) after trying to coordinate a meetup all day. We then headed the 32 floors downstairs, where I met Backpacking Dad on my way to the bathroom.

I passed on sticking it out any longer in case tiredness made me relapse, and we reluctantly headed for home with about 30 pounds of swag (thanks largely to all those wine bottles people flying home had to give away). How strange we must have looked to non-blogging civilians on our ride home-- good thing we left the pink feather boa from BowlHer at the CheezeburgHer Party.

Still, with all the tote bags filled with food and pink or leopard print odds and ends, I might as well have been wearing my new blogging shirt and singing at the top of my lungs.

Anyway, if we met you there, we were glad to meet you, and if we didn't, we were sad we didn't. I don't think we'll make it out to New York next year, but that's not for lack of desire. Here's hoping against hope anyway that we'll see you all there!

* Or maybe eggs, more likely, because I'm pretty sure people like that don't have to put up with inconveniences like sharp corners.

** And then she goes and taunts me by just leaving her leftover stickers in the bathroom for normal people to be confused by.

*** Except that I'm still pathetically devastated I never got to meet Jenny.

03 August 2009

Amusing searches, Vol. 1

I figured I'd start a new post department for the most amusing searches that brought people here, grouped vaguely by theme whenever possible.

All search strings are reprinted exactly as they were entered. This disclaimer frees me from my compulsion to add (sic) to the end of most of these.

22 year old son who is lazy -- I hate to break it to you, lady, but I'm 28 now.

3 year old son mean negative -- I assure you, madame (and I assure you it's a mother asking), your kid is absolutely normal. Possibly advanced, even.

why does my toddler wipe feaces eveywhere -- Because it just feels so damn good. Before you cast the first righteous stone, have you ever, honestly, tried it for yourself?

I don't know if I should be honored or ashamed that I was the 21st hit across all of the internet for this search. It's not my highest unlikely ranking, but it's probably the most vividly disgusting one.

i am not resposible - What a coincidence, friend! You're not the only one. Oh, while you're here, remind me to add your hometown of Frankenmuth, Michigan to my next list of cities with ridiculous names.