Friday, November 30, 2007


If you were able to dig through everything I shoveled out in the 30 days of this year's NaBloPoMo...well, I'm not sure that I would call that a victory.

Although, there are those who say that being buried under mounds of bullshit can be invigorating, but those who say that are all worms or weeds, and I'm sure that you're neither.

At any rate, I do believe that I'm going to take a few days off, which should be as much of a relief for you as much as it is for me. However, next year I may be back at it, because as the bear says, "Blog today, tomorrow you may be eaten."

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Thursday, November 29, 2007

Visions of Blackberries danced in their heads...

Who has time for the news anymore? Certainly not me. I'm too busy detailing the fascinating trivia of my life here to read the newspaper. But hey, look, it's the NYTimes on my phone--shiny! Gee, I wonder where 3B gets his "Look, a shiny thing!" instinct.

So, today the Gray Lady ran a story on what the good kids are getting for Christmakwanzukkah this year:

Technology has been slowly permeating the toy business for a number of
years, but the trend has been accelerating. On Wednesday, six of the nine
best-selling toys for 5- to 7-year-olds on were tech gadgets. For all
of 2006, three of the top nine toys for that age group were tech-related.

The trend concerns pediatricians and educators, who say excessive
screen time stifles the imagination. But more traditional toys — ones without
computer monitors, U.S.B. cables and memory cards — are seen by many children as obsolete.

“If you give kids an old toy camera, they look at you like you’re
crazy,” said Reyne Rice, a toy trends specialist for the Toy Industry
Association. Children “are role-playing what they see in society,” she

That seems to be the case even when youngsters are not old enough to
have any clue how to use actual gadgets.
That's certainly not the case in the Bradstein Household, where tonight I held a long and fascinating conversation with 3B while he was in the bath on our crayon phones. For the record, everything was sounding very green on his end of the line, although they sounded blue to me.

But I can see that coming. Even though 3B doesn't covet our phones any more than he does a crayon that he makes into a phone--or a wallet, car key, or book, all of which have also doubled for phones in a pinch--the day will surely come when we can't hand him a copy of Go, dog. Go! and tell him to place a call. Every day, he understands technology more clearly. Just today, when Mama had me talk to him on the phone from work, he said, "Hi." to me for the very first time. (Before you start gushing, he followed that up with, "Bye.")

And, despite our vows to not expose 3B to any screens until he's 2--except on planes, where I would encase him in a mini-Cinerama dome showing a Boohbah marathon, if I could--he's been exposed. Any time we pull out our phones, or look up an address on our computer while we're holding him as we head out, or sometimes just to see what his reaction is. Ms. K also shows a little TV in the early morning, although 3B's only ever seen our TV on when we've had babysitters over. So, he's been exposed to plenty of technology, but I'm still not seeing a need to buy him any toy with a screen.

Then again, one of my big problems with this article is that it often lumps kids together as a unified group when, in reality, a five-year old is a much different person than a ten-year old, and a two-year old is nothing like either one of them. So when the article talks about children behaving in a particular way, it's hard to tell exactly which children they're speaking of. And it is the case that pediatricians generally agree that limited TV after a certain age probably won't do much damage to a kid's imagination, creativity, and intelligence. All of this makes it hard to determine from this article just what is best for parents to do this Christmakwanzukkah season.

But, I think that until 3B is at least able to hold a fork without sticking it in his eye once during a whole meal, that all of this tech is a little beyond him. Besides, he's still at that age where he can make it all up on his own--which brings me back to my Aunt M's point of view about exposure and acquisition. She was talking about boys and guns, but the point generalizes nicely to most tech toys; Aunt M simply asked, "How can you keep kids away from "playing guns" when they can make one out of a stick, a flower stem, their finger, or any other object? And why buy gun toys for them when they're just going to make them out of their fingers anyway?" I feel about the same way in regards to these tech toys--there's no way to keep kids away from technology entirely, short of becoming Amish, and why buy them iPhones when all they really need is a board book spray painted black?

After all, some of my favorite toys from my childhood were toy phones, TVs, and radios, all of which were high tech for the day. I have vivid, fond memories of getting to play with 45s on a small, kids phonograph, which was about as cool as iPods, back in the day. So, it's not like we're the first generation of parents to confront the intersection of tech and toys, although I don't know if the answers about this junction have become any more clear over time.

How about you? Will Christmakwanzukkah bring a new laptop to every tiny, outstretched hand in your household? Or will it be simpler toys...wooden blocks? Fire trucks? Doll house? Lawn darts?

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Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The last of eight days this week

We're watching an episode of NOVA about chimpanzees, and I think that my son might be a bonobo. I'm basing this conclusion on the similarity between bonobos' shrieks and the high-pitched squeals that 3B unleashes when he's unhappy, excited, bored, checking out his lungs, or seeing how high he can make us jump.

3B shares a similarity with one particular monkey whose life is typically calm until a situation develops to the point that someone observes "But George was curious." That curiosity is what leads 3B to look over his shoulder as he climbs atop Barky's crate, or bangs on our windows with his wooden blocks, or presses his fingers into an electrical outlet--he wants to see what our reaction will be, if we will again tell him, in his words, "No. No. No. Don't. Don't. Don't."

I have a similar curiosity about all of you--what is your reaction will be when I tag you with this infernal meme, which is the equivalent of climbing onto your roof, banging on your windows with blocks, and jamming your fingers into an outlet.

I'm sure that as you read this, the last entry in this meme, and you either see or don't see your own name in it, you'll become unhappy, excited, or bored enough to shriek. Here's hoping that you find your lungs to be strong and clear, and my apologies to anyone close to you.

Eight People Who Should Do This Meme and Not Complain:

  1. Anthromama--because with two kids, a busy husband, and a busy freelance career, she really needs one more thing--or eight more--to do.
  2. Back to Me--because Barky is Mr. November and a cover boy for the YAH calendar, and his irresistible cuteness is supporting this good cause of hers.
  3. Family of Choice--because Bacchus was upset that I didn't come see him when I was in The City, so he could spread his plague to me (not to worry, I got one from someone else, but thanks for the offer).
  4. Life Is Just So Daily--OK, Lainey-Painey doesn't deserve this at all, but I love hearing what she has to say.
  5. Metrodad--because he won't do it anyway--as if he needs an excuse to write--but how much fun would it be to buy him a bottle of scotch and let him loose on this list? Or just buy him a bottle of scotch and let him loose?
  6. Sarah and the Goon Squad--because she kicked my ass in Fantasy Football--as did everyone else in the league.
  7. Vampdaddy--actually, I'd be satisfied with eight different music lists from him, or a list of his 64 favorite songs.
  8. Zygote Daddy--because he needs to post more know, in his copious spare time.
Start shrieking, monkeys.

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Tuesday, November 27, 2007

This ain't no haiku, y'all

Friend in town for one night only.
Parents who get buzzed on two beers and whose normal adult social skills have atrophied after 16 months of conversations consisting of "Ba ba. Moo moo. Dada. Mama. Mama. Mama. Mama. Ba ba."
Gratuitous cuteness, courtesy of Sister #1:

A bird! A plane! Or, more likely, his Mama, a lovie, or some food. [Update: Sister #1 is right--see her comment--it was the swings. The swings that 3B never tired of, the swings that gave us all swinger's elbow, the swings that inspired the title of our next video short: 3B swings eternally.]

Oh, we aren't taking our shoes off and making ourselves comfortable on BART? Are you sure?

More coherence,
and vindictive tagging of the deserving with this infernal meme.
Good night, Gracie.

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Monday, November 26, 2007

I'm not quick, but I'm slow too.

As my six regular readers know, I'm a moron who is pretty much incapable of learning from my past. Or even remembering it.

However, with the help of a brief review of my own blog--holy crap, I'm a minister!--I was able to remember...

Eight Things I Have Learned This Past Year (part of a continuing series)

  1. I suck as a Fantasy Football coach. Actually, I have no idea how good I could be if I spent more time on it...which I plan to do next year, if only to make BBM suffer the same kind of ignominious defeat that I did at her hands this year.
  2. Having a whole bottle of milk vomited on my face isn't as bad as it sounds. It helps that Sister #1 cleaned up the stairs, but seriously, mostly I was concerned about 3B and hoping that MetroDad found a way to get rid of that smell.
  3. I can survive my child going through surgery. May I never have to again.
  4. I can't sing Moses Supposes or Forever Young too many times for 3B, and I can sing them all night if he needs me to.
  5. Good friends may move away, but they never leave me. Sort of like gum on my shoe. Unlike old gum, my friends know when they are needed, and show up right on time, as if they read ahead in the script.
  6. If there were no music then I would not get through.
  7. I'll never fathom the depths of my family's love, which will continue to humble me through all the days of my life.
  8. And one that I learn every year: The best lessons are worth learning several times.

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Sunday, November 25, 2007

Make it stop!

Mama suggested that the first two items on this list should be nice asses and big boobs, but I'm overruling that. I am, however, enlisting her help in writing this entry, which is in keeping with the list itself, since Mama is the best friend I could ever hope for. In fact, she's better than I could ever hope for or than I'll ever deserve.

In fact, she observed that it's easier to list all the traits I don't like about people than it is to list all the traits I do. I guess that means that one of the items on her version of this list would be "Whiners. Kvetchers. Bellyachers."

Eight Things that Attract Me to My Best Friends

According to Mama, I like people who are...

  1. Funny.
  2. Witty, as in intelligent. Or even sarcastic--that's a surprise, huh?
  3. Laid back, without a lot of drama, who are calm.
  4. Open minded. Unless their opinions are wrong, in which case, why should I waste my time on them? But seriously, Mama said this goes along with people who can see that the world is a big place, are willing to see beyond their own perspective and situation, and who are able to see the world from outside their own box.
  5. Not too serious about themselves, and willing to laugh at themselves.
  6. Willing to make an effort, because I'm not willing to make much of an effort to socialize.
  7. Kind and patient.
  8. Not crazy.
And while we're speaking of friends, what did I ever do to you, Black Belt Mama? Why did you attempt to break my soul tag me with this infernal endless meme? When will it end?!

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Saturday, November 24, 2007

It's been seven hours and fifteen days

Mama and I are both so tired that we're both dizzy right now, so we're following 3B's lead and getting straight into bed without passing Go, without collecting $200, and without another installment of the 8 days a week meme.

Today's flights--Mom's home to Denver, Denver to our home--took about seven hours. The time passed so quickly, we were both amazed when they announced our final descent; it seemed like we should have many more hours ahead of us.

Then we had to take the shuttle bus to long-term parking. All I can say is, thank goodness for grandparents. Without the two sets of them just inside the rear door who moved their bags and themselves to make room for us, we would have never gotten on that bus. I suppose the Thanksgiving spirit dies some time on Friday, in the midst of consumerist mayhem in the malls.

Standing in the rear bus doorway, holding onto our big suitcase, our stroller, and our car seat, rolling and bouncing around turns, while Mama tried to hold onto a bucking, squirming, slithering 3B until we got all the way through the parking lot to Stop 15 made that bus ride seem to last years. Why is it always the way that the first 90 percent is never as tiring as the last 10 percent of a trip?

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Friday, November 23, 2007

Major collision in the back yard! Dump trucks! Bulldozer! Steam Shovels!

To escape the destruction and chaos in the backyard, we went to the park that we've visited at least once a day since arriving. 3B celebrates arrival at the park with a happy dance, and today, departure was marked with a short time sitting on a tree branch, which was partly done to distract 3B from the final departure from the swings.

When we got home, 3B had to call in the authorities to clear the wreckage from the backyard.

The crash was all over the TV news...reported by Mary and her little lamb.

And this is what it looked like from the news helicopter...

Oh, the humanity!

To comfort ourselves in this difficult time, we've been listening to...

Eight Songs I Could Listen to Over and Over Again (although this is far from a comprehensive list, this is part of a continuing series)

  1. Such Great Heights
  2. Song for My Father
  3. Starship Trooper
  4. Wish You Were Here
  5. Willin'
  6. Heaven (Talking Heads--live version from Stop Making Sense)
  7. Verdi Cries
  8. Forever Young (Dylan)

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Thursday, November 22, 2007

Thanks for the memories

Dude, could I date myself any more than giving this post the title of a Bob Hope song that I remember from watching his TV specials? Maybe I could claim that I only remember it from when we played it for BoHo when he and DoHo would make their annual trip to the Palm Springs Follies, but I fear that starting Thanksgiving off with a lie is bad karma, and I'll end up choking on the wishbone from my Tofurkey and end up in the hospital.

While we're talking about Tofurkey, is anyone else with me on the name of this product? The first time we were walking through Whole Foods and Mom quickly turned to me and Mama and asked if we liked Tofurkey, I thought that our conversation might have just taken a unexpectedly intimate turn. In my defense, we were living in Colorado at the time, where tofu, much less Tofurkey, was about as common as Volkswagens on the moon.

Still, once I figured out what Mom was talking about--although not until after she'd asked if Mama and I wanted to try Tofurkey right there in the store...uh, what now?--I still thought the name was a bad idea. Imagine being a little drunk-lecsic at the Thanksgiving table and asking someone to pass the...what the !$#@ what that stuff called again?...and imagine what words might come out of your mouth.

Oh well, I suppose it's not as bad as a chicken fricassee spoonerism.

So, other than not having Tofurkey on the table to embarrass myself with, what am I thankful for this year? Most of all, I'm thankful for family. Yes, it's a bit of a hackneyed sentiment, but I'm thankful for family this year in ways that I don't think I could have been in years past. A lot of that has to do with two events, one bad, one good. The bad one was Mom's death, which brought the renewed recognition that our time here is limited. The good one was 3B's birth, which renews my faith in the future and my fellow travelers daily.

As for 3B, I'm not sure what he's thankful for, although I'll take some guesses, based on recent activities...

3B might well be thankful that his Papa survived long enough to be his Papa, despite riding in this car seat. And let's not even get started on riding in the back of the VW bus in the portacrib, which his Papa also did.

I suspect that 3B is also thankful for all of the fun toys at Grandmother's house. Even if she isn't hear to watch him take delight in them, he must know that she saved them for him and her other grandchildren to enjoy.

Do I need to explain how thankful 3B was this morning to have such fun boxcars to play in?

They're so fun, you can steer them even if the wheel's not connected.

Then there are the toys that Mama and I aren't sure about the safety of, like this Mormon Stepford family with the angry boy, happy dog with the spiked collar...

...and the wicked comb-over.

In addition to family, I'm also thankful for all of my virtual friends who share their laughter, their families, and their support with me through the innernets. This includes Black Belt Mama, despite her burdening tagging me with a meme. This installment of the meme is supposed to be something about books, but since I haven't read any books longer than Go, Dog! Go! recently, I'm going with...

Eight Blogs I'm Most Thankful For (after Sister #1 and Brother#2's blogs)

  1. Anthromama, for her calm, steady, reasonable, non-confrontational voice.
  2. Back to Me, for reading and supporting me for no particular reason at all--nothing like a little validation from afar.
  3. BBM, even if she did stomp me flat in Fantasy Football (although I suspect she rigged my lineup to do that), and saddle tag me with this meme.
  4. Hygiene Chronicles--Steve and Larry are the best uncles 3B could ever hope for, outside of family. Each time they've seen him, they've showered him with fun gifts--they've got this uncle thing down flat.
  5. Life is Just So Daily, for all the laughs (and a few good cries).
  6. MetroDad, for all the laughs (and the insomnia empathy).
  7. Vampdaddy, for showing me that it's OK to open up and show the mess and the hurt and the love and the perfection of parenting.
  8. Zygote Daddy. A NoCal expat with a big beautiful baby boy and a dear wife who's as smart as a whip...what's not to love?

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Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Say what?

On Monday, we headed into The City--for those of you who aren't Left Coasters, that's San Francisco, not NYC. We traveled via car and BART--for those of you who aren't local to The City, that's the local light rail system, which is more similar to DC's Metro than NYC's subway, although the skankiness level across all three is about the same, even though none of them can be as bad as the cabbage roll at the Terre-Haute Federal Penn.

3B had a good time exploring BART with his cousin D and his aunts (Sisters # 1 and 2). He didn't have such a good time with Mama and Papa, who were constantly after him to put his shoe back on, put his sock back on, wipe his nose, put his shoe back on, get up off the floor, don't lick the seats, put his shoe back on, don't lick the floor, hold on, and put his shoe back on. As you can tell from Sister #1's pictures, his reactions were a cross between "What are you talking about?" and "You're not talking to me, are you?"

We did eventually arrive in The City, which stopped Mama and Papa from saying all of those things. "Don't lick the floor." became "Don't lick the sidewalk." It also allowed 3B to regain control of the situation, commanding his well-trained parents to march him up and down the stairs 1,637 times--Ms. K did recently observe, somewhat wryly, that "3B does like his repetitions."

At least the trips were fast; as you can see from the picture, 3B doesn't believe in taking stairs one step at a time. You know, some kids learn to get both feet on one step before going up or down to the next one, in part because their legs are too short to alternate feet. But who is 3B to let peer pressure, or biology, get in the way of his development?

After some delicious lunch, topped off with Nutella crepes, all eaten outside by the Bay, we were all sufficiently tired and happy on the way home, to the point that 3B fell asleep on BART. Mama and I were certainly tired after our Stairmaster workout, and I'm sure that 3B was exhausted from ignoring our repeated exhortations.

But hey, repetition is how he learns, right? At least that's what I tell myself, so I have hope that one day he'll learn, and I won't have to say, "Don't lick the sidewalk." If repetition is how 3B learns, here are some things he'll definitely learn quickly.

(5 Bradstein points to whoever correctly identifies the movie reference.)

Eight Things I Say Often (part of a continuing series):

  1. "Dude." (Dude! Who doesn't say dude, like, all the time, dude? Duuude.)
  2. "Anny anny ooo."
  3. "Where's your shoe?"
  4. "Crate, Barky. Crate. Barky, crate. Crate. Barky...crate." (The gesture that goes with this is my arm extended with my finger pointing at his crate--one of the first gestures that 3B mastered, much to Barky's chagrin.)
  5. "I love you." (To Mama or 3B any time we say goodbye.)
  6. "Where's your shoe?"
  7. "What was I saying?"
  8. "Don't lick that."

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Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Pieces of Eight

We had to spend a few pieces of eight for breakfast this morning, but it's always worth it for the BDBIT (Best Darn Breakfast in Town--for those keeping score at home: eggs scrambled, cranberry coffeecake). The smiley faces were free, both the one on the plate, made from bananas, strawberries, grapes and whipped cream--one more reason to love Hobee's--and the smiley face on 3B as he devoured the one on the plate.

So, that's one thing that we don't usually get...actually three things at once: a meal out, a meal out with 3B, and a meal with Sister #1. Not only that, but the baby boy didn't cry, scream, or throw anything, and neither did 3B. It helps that they kept my coffee cup full.

Another thing that we don't usually get is the chance for a hot date, but tonight Sisters #1 and 2 bathed 3B and put him in bed, so Mama and I went out to a movie. OK, so perhaps Love in the Time of Cholera isn't exactly a hot date, but still, it was a movie, and for a couple of hours, we were transported away, with each other.

That means that we can cross those two events off our list of things to do before we die, but here are eight other unfinished tasks to continue this week's meme.

Eight Things I Want to Do Before I Die:

  1. Develop patience for others and myself.
  2. Maintain a regular Buddhist practice.
  3. Travel again with Mama and 3B, and not just home for the holidays, but trips like the one we fell in love on, which took us throughout Spain and Morocco.
  4. See 3B grow up to be happy.
  5. Speak Spanish fluently.
  6. Follow le Tour through France.
  7. Remember how to relax.
  8. Become immortal.

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Monday, November 19, 2007

Eight days a week

Because she kicked my ass in Fantasy Football, and because she's all, like, famous and stuff, and because there are eight days in a week, I'm going to complete this meme that Black Belt Mama tagged me with.

But I'm going to do it the same way that Johnny Cash built his Cadillac--one piece at a time--which is why it's good that there are eight days in a week, because there are eight pieces of this meme.

If you want to see what we're doing, check out Sister #1's blog. She's got pictures of us and everything, because she's good like that. She's also good like picking us up at the airport after going grocery shopping for us, so the house was fully stocked when we arrived.

Eight Things I am Passionate About (in no particular order):

  1. Cycling. Love it. Just like those guys who run out onto the street at halftime to play a quick three-on-three, I identify with the pros when I'm pedaling up a mountain, or carving down the backside of it, or stretching out on a six-hour ride. There's something about the freedom and the adventure of cycling myself, and the mystique of cycling races over mythical cols.
  2. Bullies. Hate 'em. This probably has to do with getting my ass kicked by them in elementary school for no reason except my proximity to them.
  3. The Western U.S. Love it. I love the minutiae of the vast deserts, the emptiness of the massive mountains, and the solitude of the big, dark-timber woods. I love the spirit of adventure, innovation, and the sense of being on a journey that inhabits most denizens of the West.
  4. Cancer. Hate it. It killed Dad when I was 16, and I've never forgiven it.
  5. 3B. Love him. Do I need to explain?
  6. Sloth. Hate it. Hm. Perhaps hate is too strong a word here. I just don't understand it. At least, not now that I'm no longer a teenager. But, even then, when I finally woke up, I was pretty busy. I don't know about idle hands being the devil's playground, perhaps because my hands never seem to be idle for long enough for me to find out, which is a blessing and a curse.
  7. Politics. Love it. Love watching the give and take, the debates, and getting into the argy-bargy myself. However, as I age, I can see more and more subtle shades of gray; I've become less dogmatic, although I don't always let that show.
  8. Music. Love it. I can't sing, and I can't dance, so I'm forever grateful to those who can and do, expressing for me what I would love to, but can't. When I'm scraping up the dog food from the kitchen floor, humming Johnny Cash, I'm thankful. And when James Taylor, or Van Halen, or the Postal Service make my son smile and dance with joy, I'm thankful.

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Sunday, November 18, 2007

Let's do the time warp again...

When traveling across multiple time zones, there are several ways to reset your clock, such as gradually adjusting to the new time zone in the days leading up to your trip, but this isn't always easy to do with two busy parents and an active toddler like 3B. Knowing this, 3B took matters into his own hands and stayed awake for 11 hours, through the trip to the airport, the first flight, the layover, the second flight, and almost the drive home from the airport.

As a result, he wasn't up at 3:30 this morning, thankfully. However, 3B's clock resetting method does have some glitches, like failing to account for nap time, which he's currently spending chatting away to himself. That's not bad, and in fact, it's much better than this morning's nap time, all 15 minutes of which he spent screaming, snotting, and coughing, until we finally got him.

You'd think that after 11 straight waking hours with us yesterday, he would want at least a little time away, even though he never did get whiny, cranky, or fussy during the whole trip. And that was despite his running nose and our running no's:

  • No kicking the seat in front of you.
  • No making calls on the cell phone in the seat in front of you.
  • No iPod in the mouth.
  • No eating the seat cushion.
  • No licking the carpet.
It was 3B's consistent no-worries attitude that was the biggest lesson for me--despite coming into the trip sick and sleep deprived, and then being shoehorned into jam packed planes for cross-country flights and not sleeping for another half day, he showed us what a graceful traveler looks like. I'll try to remember that the next time I'm tempted to whine about this or that inconvenience, although old habits are hard to break.

[Update: 3B never did take a nap today. We ended up getting him after his second "nap" and taking him to the park, where he ran, slid, danced, and swung (Cuyahoga...) to his heart's content.]

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Saturday, November 17, 2007

My Rear Window

This morning, I'm looking out of my 7th story window at a giant dead mall that appears to have surfaced like an ancient corpse in a peat bog--distorted, preserved, and thoroughly dead.

Tonight, I'll be looking out of a 2nd story window at a scene like this
OK, they might have made a few changes since this photo was taken in the midst of my childhood in 1912, but still, my hometown is a little more green than the rotting corpse of consumption and consumerism that's out my window here.

So, here we go. Marching forward, barefoot, with quart size, zip top bags full of containers no more than three ounces in capacity--five is right out--held aloft to defeat terrorism. Or something.

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Friday, November 16, 2007

Ten Years After, I'm Goin' Home

We've finally gotten Hannibal's army, elephants and all, into our suitcases. The irony of children, the tiniest passengers, requiring the largest luggage has been pointed out previously, so I won't rehash that here.

I would, however, like to thank the TSA for complicating the packing process with asinine regulations that have us trying to figure out if we really need to buy a whole package of quart size, zip top bags--not gallon size, not fold-over sandwich type, and five is right out--just to get our one container of liquid Tylenol on the plane.

After seeing how this virus has attacked 3B today, producing general misery, green flows of snot, and total lethargy--which is somewhat terrifying in a toddler who normally has the energy of a whirling dervish on crack, I'm sure that our fellow passengers would petition the TSA to allow the Tylenol on, whether it's in the quart size, zip top bag or in a garbage sack tied off with a broken shoelace.

Ah well, we'll do whatever the hell they want us to do, I suppose, because it's the only way we can go home. And if there's one thing I won't forget on this trip or any other, it's the way home, not ten years after I left, not ever. And if you see me on the way home, whatever you do, don't step on my blue suede shoes, 'cause it's one for the money, two for the show...

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Thursday, November 15, 2007

Crazy Plane

OK, we've packed up the two cameras--video and still--and all the batteries that go with them. We've loaded up the iPod with all of 3B's favorite music (including his new fave, Play That Funky Music, White Boy--apropos for our boy...they don't come any whiter than him), all the videos of 3B, plus VB's favorite video, plus two episodes of Electric Company, including one featuring the letter "m," which, along with "s" and "o" is one of 3B's favorites; he recognizes all of them pretty consistently and makes each of their sounds, although, under pressure, he might resort to calling any letter "m." It is his favorite, after all.

We've arranged for Barky to go to his country home, chez Liberal Banana, where he'll get to hang out with her new pup in their yard.

We even remembered to pack clothes and pajamas for all three of us, including a new holiday outfit for 3B, although we still have a chance to forget our toothbrushes. However, if we forget 3B's toothbrush, this would be a long trip indeed.

So, internet, what are we forgetting--other than sleep and the fact that we're crazy for flying across the country with a toddler?

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Wednesday, November 14, 2007

No! No! No! Yes! Yes! Yes!

Ready for winter

When I picked up 3B from day care today, Ms. K was telling me all about how good he is for her. Apparently, at day care, if she tells him to stay on his changing pad while she needs to grab some more wipes or butt paste, he actually stays on his changing pad. He also stops what he's doing when she asks, goes in the general direction she wants him to, and understands when she says that Mama and Dada will be here later.

Clearly, Ms. K is the professional, since we can't get even an approximation of that kind of behavior here at home. In fact, one of 3B's current favorite games, which I'm sure is a training exercise for being two, is what I call "Yes! No!" To begin play, 3B says, "No." about something, to which I reply, "Can you say yes?" He parries with "No."


"Can you say yes? Yes! Yes! Yes!"

"No! No! No!"

"You can't say yes?"


"So you can say yes?"


"Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes."

"No. No. No. No. No."
I amuse myself, if nobody else.

I'm guessing, however, that these aren't the games that Ms. K plays with 3B to get the kind of behavior she describes to us. My game results in 3B tearing apart his Halloween sticky window toys while muttering "No. No. No." to himself, and then becoming dismayed upon discovering that someone tore the arm off of his favorite black star, as he is in the picture above. This is the difference between a professional, like Ms. K, and an amateur, like me--she has the ability to impart the skills that he needs to succeed in the world; I can teach him to be a contrary cuss.

Isn't it amazing that we not only allow, but also encourage rank amateurs to have and raise babies? And that we don't have 3B at Ms. K's 24/7?

(15 Bradstein points to anyone who can name the movie that the title of this post refers to. Bonus points for not having to use Google--and being honest about that.)

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Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Is coveting sleep a sin?

This will be short, since we're in the midst of a bit of a situation here. Or at the end of one, but there's no way of telling, so we're taking every precaution, like stockpiling water, securing first-aid supplies, and writing blog posts.

No idea if it's continuing trauma from yesterday's haircut, a continuation of his first full-fledged tantrum in the bath tonight (we wouldn't let him eat his crayons...go figure), or just the thought of Pat Robertson and Rudy Giuliani in the same room together, but 3B has been up screaming and crying twice tonight.

We thought it might be hunger, since he ate no dinner and had almost no bottle before bed (don't worry, we brush his teeth after his bottle--wha'? do we look like cavity creeps?). He didn't want any food or bottle, however. We only made that our first guess because we didn't want to speak the name of our second guess: teething. His lower eye teeth are through, but 3B's gums look pretty red around one of them, so that led us to eventually give him some Motrin, which seems to be working.

I'm just glad we didn't have to name our third guesses, because mine was "God is punishing us for our sins."

That would have made for a long night.

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Monday, November 12, 2007

The first cut is the deepest

Our news isn't nearly so big as the news that my niece is a state champion swimmer out in the other Washington, as reported by her aunt, Sister #1. Woo hoo!

Back here, across the river from the real Washington, we just finished swim lessons, but that's not even the big news of the day. The real big news is that 3B got his first haircut today. Everything went fine, right up until the scissors came out.

Afterward, we rewarded 3B with food treats, because Cesar Milan is our go-to guy for parenting techniques. After filling his tiny gut with treats, we took him on a spinny ride, because really, what better to settle your stomach after terror and treats? Then we took him to Target to buy him some great reward: a clock for his room.

Yes, we're dorks, but he really does love clocks, and loves making the tick-tock sound. Now that I have my watch back after getting a broken crystal repaired, he requests to listen to it tick a dozen times a day--yes, it's so old, it ticks. He was adorable dragging his clock through Target to the register to check out, so I'm sorry that I didn't get any pictures of that, but Mama and I did manage to capture most of the rest of the terror and the treats:

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Sunday, November 11, 2007

Spiritual Tapestry

Growing up, Sunday mornings were filled with the sounds of big bands coming from the radio and the sharp smell of sourdough steaming out of the waffle iron. For years, I've carried a batch of Mom's sourdough starter with me wherever I go--OC, Glendale, Yucca Valley, Palm Springs, Montana, Colorado, Washington, and now NoVA. In all those years, I've used it occasionally, but in the last two years or so I've made a habit of making sourdough waffles every Sunday morning. This is a tradition that Mama has always appreciated, and since we discovered that 3B loves the waffles, it's one that I don't believe I can ever give up, although the music has changed a bit since my childhood.

As with the breakfast menu of waffles, our Sunday music choices are increasingly driven by 3B's desires and tastes. This morning, he was once again rocking out to Van Halen, which got me to thinking about a friend from my freshman year in the dorms, Ken Boudakian, who was the only guy in the dorm with a Marshall amp. Ken put it to good use, cranking out note-for-note covers of every Van Halen song I'd ever heard, and even more that I had never heard. He would often stop in the middle of the song and make one or more points about the song structure or the technique required, which he would also do as we listened in his car, driving through the sterile, stucco OC nights, or back from an overnight Tijuana run.

I remember talking with Mom about Ken, mentioning conversations with him about being Armenian, and how Ken pointed out that anyone whose last name ended in "ian" was likely Armenian, especially in California. Mom, who I'm sure had noted this to me in the past, since she had several Armenian friends from growing up in LA, kindly just confirmed the fact, rather than saying, "Well, yes, that's what I've told you 100 times." We went on talking about music and Ken's guitar playing until the conversation drifted on. Similarly, after leaving that dorm, Ken and I drifted on our own separate paths, bumping into each other now and again on campus, but never again after graduation.

But this morning, as I tried to catch my breath on the couch after going through the paces of Hot for Teacher with 3B several times (think of all the onstage antics of David Lee Roth, and then think of doing all of those while carrying/flinging through the air a 30-pound toddler) I thought that maybe Google could shed a little light on where Ken got to. Sure enough, it turned up the details of his membership in Spain, a little band that he formed with Josh Haden. Turns out that on their Blue Moods of Spain album, they included a little song named Spiritual, which begins

I don't want to die
It was later covered by Charlie Haden and Pat Metheny on their beautiful album Beyond the Missouri Sky (Short Stories), which makes sense now that I know that Josh is Charlie's son. I've had the album and loved the song for years, ever since I saw Charlie Haden in LA, but I never knew the origins of the song. But, as if to ensure that I don't forget it, the song has cropped up repeatedly, as other musicians have covered it.

Most notable among these, to me, is Johnny Cash, who covered it on his Unchained album, along with songs by Beck, Petty, and Soundgarden. This was an album that Mom likely gave me; if it wasn't her who did, it was surely Brother #2 who did, because the three of us would all listen to it repeatedly at Mom's house, chuckling over one line or another and enjoying the familiar mellow warmth of Cash's voice. This album contains many songs, and versions of songs, that have become old favorites of mine, including Kneeling Drunkard's Plea, Southern Accents, and Rowboat, which Mama and I love to sing together.

Unchained also contains Meet Me in Heaven, the lyrics of which we printed in the front of the program for Mom's memorial service. They begin
We saw houses falling from the sky
Where the mountains lean down to the sand
We saw blackbirds circling 'round an old castle keep
And I stood on the cliff and held your hand
This has led me to, over the last 14 months, listen to this album more often than before. As I have, the spartan beauty of the desperation and sadness in Spiritual has grown on me, and so it was with fascination that I read this morning that Ken Boudakian had played the beautiful and haunting guitar lines on the original version.

And so it is that this man, who I hadn't seen in over 15 years has had a hand in my recovering from losing my mother, just as it is that the music that once brought he and I together has also brought my son together with me in a ritual that I used to share with my father--less the David Lee Roth antics. And so it is that Mom, who paid for my entire college education, brought me together with this man who would play a prayer that she and I would listen to together, and that would later help me heal myself as I held on after losing her. And so it is that Mom, who missed meeting 3B by just days, helped ensure that 3B's first year wouldn't be consumed by the insatiable gnawing hunger and bitterness of loss, but by the redemption of a luminous melody.

And so it is that without any plan or effort from any of us, all of these threads that we each spin through life are all woven together in this unique, imperfect tapestry filled with care and love (to steal a phrase from Anthromama) that ties us all together and wraps us in its warmth.

Oh Jesus
I don't want to die

If you hear
My last breath

Don't leave me here
Left to die a lonely death

I know I have sinned
But lord I'm suffering"

"Can't be sure of how's it's going to be
When we walk into the light across the bar
But I'll know you and you'll know me
Out there beyond the stars"

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Saturday, November 10, 2007

Our life is a sitcom: Season 2, Ye Olde Doge Schoole

You all know that our life is a sitcom, and you might--if you have nothing else to do--be glad to know that we've been brought back for a second season. The start of this season finds us at the Olde Towne School for Dogs, where we'll be embarking on an obedience course that will last for weeks.

Today's episode, however, simply involved a brief consultation with Bad Ass, who will be Barky's trainer as soon as we decide what training program we want to select. We're choosing between six weekly one-on-one sessions and three weeks of daily school sessions--and yes, they have a bus to pick up and drop off their students. Or at least they used to; I can't find information on it on their infinitely irritating Flash site.

I told you that our life is a sitcom. Or an episode of Ellen, even if she didn't show up at our delivery.

The six personal sessions are certainly cheaper, but the recidivism rate is twice as high, so we're leaning toward the daily sessions. But what if the other kids pick on Barky on the bus? Or what if he acts out on the bus? It happens, you know.

Aaanyway, the reason that we're taking him for obedience training is because he seems to be getting more anxious of late, and we don't want him to end up escalating to where we have to call in a behaviorist and a dog walker and end up with shattered mirrors and blood all over our bedroom again. Once was more than enough.

We're sure that part of that anxiety comes from the arrival of 3B, part from Barky's inflamed anus, part from the anxiety Mama and I feel at our life changes like starting new jobs--whatever the causes, there's sure to be new causes for anxieties as we continue to live together, and so Mama and I are looking for a way to better work with Barky to alleviate his worries, new or old. We do love the little fuzzball, and we worry when he's worried.

It would also be nice if his new, chilled-out self wouldn't scratch the hell out of our brand-new, pain-in-the-ass-to-install doorknobs, although I think it might be too much to ask that he won't jump onto the dining room table to eat the contents of the sugar bowl and lap up a stick of butter. He is still a beagle, after all.

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Friday, November 09, 2007

Hiding in the closet

My kingdom for a sawzall!

Failing that, since we don't have a kingdom to barter with, we paid a handyman a king's ransom to get the final two doors in, and he did a beautiful job. Now I don't get all itchy and nervous when I walk down the hall, although I do admit that when I think about all the crap those doors hide, my eye gets twitchy.

Maybe that's just because I know that 3B has two more heavy glass doors to swing back and forth against the steel racks and baskets in the closet. Hm, now that I look at them that way, those doors aren't so attractive. What the hell were we thinking, getting something attractive and fragile?

Oh yeah, we were thinking that we were tired of seeing this:


And anxious for something attractive like this:


Enjoy your long weekend. I'll be in the hallway, polishing my shiny new closet doors. Take that as you will.

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Thursday, November 08, 2007

Tonight, the part of The Bug will be played by Papa

...and the cold virus will reprise his role as The Windshield.

Those of you with kids know how wonderful it is to hear them call your name. It affirms that they love you and want to be near you and that you probably have something they want to take from you, like keys, food, or anything that can be smashed or shredded.

Sometimes, however, all that they want from you is to know that you're there with them, some comfort, perhaps a lullaby, and to press their nose into your shirt and wipe ropes of snot across your shoulders. And that's how it is with 3B tonight. As he was last night, he's congested, and waking up because he's having trouble breathing and his throat is raw from the draining and mouth breathing.

Unlike last night, when he got up and fussed for a minute before going back to sleep, he's woken up tonight screaming bloody murder and crying crocodile tears and calling out, "Dada. Dada. Dada. Dada. Dada. Dada. Dada..." until I go in and pick him up. Being sick sucks enough when you know what's going on; I'm sure that it's infuriating when it's a mystery.

It doesn't help when we attempt transnasal endoscopic duramatter removal with the evil blue snot sucking bulb. Singing my favorite lullaby, which is also one of his, does help, however, as it has in the past, when the situation was a bit more perilous.

His screaming and crying was exceptional, as though he were not just frustrated at being awake, but also in pain, so we went to give him some Motrin that I had just picked up. It seemed like an impossibly long time that Mama was gone to get it, even taking into consideration the fact that she had to find it, open the box, and use a reciprocating saw to get through the safety packaging. The extra time was because it turns out that I had picked up the children's Motrin rather than the infant's, and that the children's Motrin comes with a cup rather than a dropper for dispensing it.

Intuiting that using the cup would lead to catastrophe, Mama had to quickly figure the conversion of units from the cup to the units on the dropper from the nearby infant's Tylenol bottle that she hurriedly washed out. In doing so, she ended up miscalculating, and we ended up giving 3B less than half a dose of Motrin. Fortunately, it doesn't seem to have made much difference, as he dropped off to sleep in Mama's arms shortly after that and we were able to lay him back down for the time being.

Given how the evening has gone so far, I'm going to bed right now, so I'll be well rested in 20 minutes, when 3B is back up, screaming my name. Because, no matter how much I may make light of it, it cuts me to the quick to hear him cry like that, and there is nothing more important to me than his comfort and well-being. Besides, I can always catch up on my sleep when I write my next post.

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Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Swedish-speaking toddler swipes knives, roams streets

Thanks to everyone for explaining that it's OK that 3B wanders away down the street. I'll show your comments to the police officer when we report 3B lost for the first time, and maybe attach them to the fliers we staple on telephone poles, and even hand them to the judge when I throw myself on the mercy of the court.

If only a few of you had thought to include other affirmations of my parenting skills, I wouldn't have such a tough time with child protective services when they come around. Would it have killed you to add something like

  • It's wonderful that you're exposing 3B to other cultures and languages so early. With the amount of time he spends with the IKEA catalog, he'll be almost fluent in absurd Swedish words before he starts school.
  • I think it's great that 3B is already climbing onto the stool to grab knives off the counters. The sooner he gets hurt, the sooner he learns, and the sooner he learns, the sooner he'll be safe. Safety first, I always say.
  • What a coincidence--I always find a few olives in my kid's bottles too. Helps with teething, you know, although he does sometimes stick himself with the toothpick.
Speaking of lost kids, and in honor of NaBloPoMo, which needs a catchier name, like Inane BS That's Utter, Piddling Idiocy Daily (IBSTUPID), I bring you this found poem, from the police blotter in Mama's hometown paper--and if you think that bloggers are the original asinine nonfiction authors, that just means that you haven't read enough small town police blotters. And no, I didn't make this up--how could I?
3.23 am Lost dog found.

2.01 am Report of persons fighting in apartment above Main Street business.
2.09 am Subject of fighting complaint "out there somewhere."
2.27 am 12 to 15 people in an apartment.
8.09 am Man at police station for squirrel cage.
10.11 am Woman found dog with gray curly hair.
10.23 am Woman found owner of dog.
6.07 pm 911 canceled. Just a brush fire.
7.36 pm Report of individuals messing with vehicles behind M&M's
7.40 pm Officer reported it was someone looking for a cat.

11.05 am Man reported he had a golden retriever at his house and that he didn't know who it belonged to.
5.11 pm Report of key found behind mills.

6.56 am Woman called regarding squirrels.
9.05 am Report of lost dog.
10.12 am Woman called to ask if someone was arrested.
5.30 pm Man called about a chimney.

1.45 am Report of people walking through backyards on 3rd Ave with flashlights. People claimed they were looking for a prescription bottle and were told to resume their search in daylight and get the landowner's permission.
10.50 am Unoccupied truck hit parked truck. Apparently the unoccupied truck came out of gear and rolled backward.
12.42 pm Call asking if there is a dog at the police station.

4.11 pm Man called to say he would be target practicing in Lebeouf's pit.
11.52 pm Call asking who is winning--"Sox 13-1 Yahoo!"

7.58 am Man reports he has a deer hanging on a pole, and there's a loose dog that won't get away from his place.
2.31 pm Call saying kids were not at school.
7.33 pm Male called to ask if Tommy D's was closed.
And that's the way it is. Good night, Gracie.

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Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Swimming to Radio Shack

Some of you have asked to hear about my new job, and so here's the lowdown . . .

OK, are you kidding?

There are a few rules that I stick to--don't wear white after Labor Day, don't shit where you eat, and don't blog about work. It's not that I'm afraid that I'll get dooced, because I don't have anything bad to say, especially about my boss; although, if I did, it wouldn't take long to get dooced, since my boss' wife is a regular reader. It's just that I'm not here to write about work. So, I'm afraid that you'll have to wait until we get together next, Anthromama and others, to hear about the new job.

I will say that I'm loving my new job. It's one of those jobs where I want to ask, "Do I really get to do this?" a few times a day. As I've mentioned, it has been tiring me out, but I think that's in large part because I have to concentrate all day, even for small tasks, like finding pens and PostIts for my desk, paper for the printer, and coworkers for meetings. As time goes by, I'm sure that this will pass, and I'll have more energy for chasing down 3B.

That will come in handy, since 3B never got the memo about kids staying within a certain radius of their parents. Last weekend, he happily toddled all the way across Babies R Us, both arms raised above his head, through clothing racks, past strangers, across aisles, and through sections, babbling to himself the whole way, but never once looking back to see how far away I was or if I was following him. He's done the same across open space around our building and in parks and in busy malls, like our local mall of disrepute, where we take him to play in the soft play area.

Of course, the soft play area is not nearly as interesting as riding on the escalators or climbing into the fountain... if you want the lowdown on my job, come to the mall, sit by the fountain, and you'll see what my job is all about soon enough.

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