Saturday, January 31, 2009

The next step

When we lived in Colorado, Mama worked for the local women's shelter. The staff of three provided services and shelter to women who were victims of domestic abuse in our town and the surrounding communities.

That meant that many nights of sleep were interrupted by phone calls from the police and long conversations with victims or even visits with them. Mama spent days at the shelter, working with women to put their lives back together, presenting programs at the high school, and accompanying women to court. It never ceased to amaze me how many people struggle with domestic violence, how severe it was on a regular basis, and who some of those involved were.

It was a small town, and if you didn't know someone, you knew of them. Rather than six degrees of separation, I would guess that there were about two. So, when Mama would describe her workday and talk about some of her clients and the perpetrators, they were often people we both knew, saw around town, did business with, and so forth.

Somehow, all of that was not as disturbing as what happened in the neighborhood next to mine this week, where one co-owner of our favorite coffee shop shot the other co-owner, who managed to get into her car and back it through the garage door before collapsing on the front lawn.

A neighbor heard the shots, found the woman and called police. When the police arrived, the shooter released a two-year-old to them and barricaded himself inside the house. After a day-long standoff with police, the shooter took his own life.

I don't think it's the fact that they own our favorite coffee shop. That might have something to do with it, since we somewhat knew them, but they were the third owners and our closeness with them wasn't so different from our relationships with victims and perpetrators in Colorado.

I think it might be the presence of the two-year-old that sticks with me. 3B is a two-year-old and so I feel that I have a fair idea of how someone his age reacts to situations. It crushes me to think what kind of effect it would have on him to see something like that...and so whenever I think of that two-year-old, it crushes my heart. My chest feels heavy.

It makes me think of how careful I've become since having 3B. I don't do it for my sake--in my delusional mind, I'm still 18 and will live forever (and The Cure doesn't suck yet)--but I do it because I've lost both of my parents and I know what a crushing blow it is. Of course, god willing and the creek don't rise, eventually 3B will lose me and I assume it will be a blow to him too, but I'd like to put that off as long as possible so that he's best able to deal with that.

It reminds me of all those times I called Mom and started the conversation with, "I'm OK, but something happened." Or those times when someone else had to call for me. Or when my five siblings made that same call. It's a wonder Mom's hair wasn't white by the time she was 50.

So I think too of the parents of the woman who was shot, and of the man who killed himself. If my heart is crushed just thinking about it, how do their hearts keep beating?

Then I realize that another 10 minutes have spun away as I sat and stared off into space, thinking about this. And I go back to work or laundry or reading or eating or walking the dog. There's no epiphany, no moment of clarity, no understanding. There's just the next step and then the next one after that.

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Friday, January 30, 2009

That place formerly known as the real world

As I got on the empty bus this morning, the driver asked me, "Who you got in the Super Bowl?" Clearly the man doesn't know me well.

When I was a kid, I could have probably had an hour long conversation with him, analyzing the odds of each team based on roster, bench strength, past performance, weather forecast, and Super Bowl history. Today, however, I'm lucky if I can skim the Sunday NYTimes sports page.

However, thanks to Black Belt Mama drafting me in to her Fantasy Football league, I do know a little about who's playing. If you know anything about my record in that FF league, you know that the emphasis is on "little." But still, we talked about how Warner had carried my fantasy team, what his odds were against the Steelers defense and so forth.

Another man got on the bus and the conversation turned to boxing, at which point I dropped out. But it was an interesting insight into how the social power of blogs spreads beyond blogs and even into the offline know, that place formerly known as the real world.

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Thursday, January 29, 2009

You're almost 2 1/2 now

It's been awhile since I've written a monthly letter to 3B, and it's occurred to me recently that I've been too tired and distracted to write in that kind of specific detail about him. The fatigue stems from an unlikely case of insomnia that's stretched over several weeks now--unlikely because it's winter and because there's enough stress in my life to snap a steel cable right now. It might also come from this slowly growing belly that I'm developing as I distractedly nosh my way through far too many snack foods every day.

The distraction comes from all manner of small questions like how will we refinance our mortgage before it adjusts in a month and a half? will I have a job in a month? and how is it that the clothes seem to get dirty on their own, but never wash themselves?

Speaking of distracted, wasn't I going to write a letter to 3B here? Yes, but in the spirit of bipartisan compromise that's sweeping the land, I'm thinking that I'll do that in the form of a letter to 3B that also describes our weekend together.

Dear 3B,
We had a fun weekend with more activity than we've had in several weekends, including a dinner with Liberal Banana and Fiancee and a trip to the Air and Space Museum, known to you by its full name: Air and Space Museum Where Rocknoceros Played.

The activity really started on Friday night, after you and Mama had headed to bed early and I set about trying to clean up the house, or at least make it marginally presentable for company. While sorting, washing and folding bushels of laundry, I was also picking up toys. Among them were some of your most favorite, such as your guitar, ukulele, banjo, accordion (or squeezebox, as you call it), wooden kazoo, microphone, fiddle and bow. There were also your tractors and trucks, including the John Deere steering wheel that you mounted on one stool while perched atop a red bucket on top of another stool. You dubbed this setup your "manure spreader," remembering your rides on Uncle P's tractor pulling the manure spreader on Great Grammy's farm.

It occurred to me again how varied your interests are and how active your imagination is. You spend most of your days as Williebob, Coach Cotton, an old woman, your girlfriend A from school or one of a variety of people you've encountered. It keeps Mama and I on our toes listening for your announcements--"I'm an old woman," "I'm Williebob," and the infamous "I'm Bob Dylan." You also actively engage your stuffed animals in a variety of conversations and situations, imbuing them with distinct personalities and voices. OK, I guess the personalities and voices might have come from Mama and me, but you're the one who insists on them--"No, make Eeitz talk with a low voice."

Oh, yeah, then there's the "itz" movement, in which you drop all but the first syllable of a name and append "itz." Eeyore becomes "Eeitz." I become "Daditz." Quatchi becomes "Quatchitz," which sounds like something that might require penicillin or at least better hygiene, but we can talk about that more when you're older.

This is an expansion of your frequent wordplay, replacing leading consonants with random consonants, leading you to call the lunar module at Air and Space the Goonar Godule. Again, it keeps Mama and me on our toes as we decipher your code in real time as it changes, sometimes with every word.

You're the only one who knows why you do it, of course, and for all of your talk, you won't talk about why. Actually, I've never asked, not wanting to ruin the fun by having you examine and explain it. Regardless, I don't know the reason for your word play, but I choose to believe that you're simply bored with language, that your reaction is, "I get it. When I want to hear my favorite band, I can say, 'I want to hear Rocknoceros. I want to hear Williebob and Coach Cotton.' But how boring is that? What can we do with that? How about, 'Pi pant po pear Pocknoceros. Pi pant po pear Pilliepobitz and Poach Pottitz.'"

My hypothesis might be way off, but it does have something to do with your impish grin, which you frequently flash when saying something particularly clever.

Speaking of clever, you were in full clever and entertaining mode while Liberal Banana and Fiancee were over for dinner, clearly demonstrating to them why Mama and I feel no need to watch TV for entertainment. You were clearly impressed with Fiancee's ability to play along with Rocknoceros on your guitar during his first listen to them, and returned the favor, singing several songs for them.

You've also gotten adept at redirecting the conversation, recognizing as astute diplomats do that brute force won't do the trick. Rather than screaming or throwing a tantrum, you simply ask, "What are we talking about?" That's a hard question not to answer, and while it doesn't always stop the conversation, it effectively points out that you're not involved in it.

And you love nothing if not to talk, although you do know when to stop, as you demonstrated on Christmas night after using your new microphone for awhile when you said, "I don't have anything to say" and walked away. Everyone agreed that such an approach would benefit many pubic speakers. Of course, when you do want to talk, you expect technology to support you, leading you to say, when you come to your mic and it's turned off or has a loose connection, "I can't speak."

Even without a microphone, you were plenty able to speak while we were at Air & Space, talking about Rocknoceros, going to see Apollo, looking for Buzz and Neil, and wanting to go see the great big moon. You got to fly a small plane similar, I imagine, to the one Dad flew, which was exciting while you were doing it, and distressing when you had to finish your turn to let the next kid in. You did also enjoy running through the museum and spinning wheels and banging buttons in the kids exhibits as well as taking a break to eat some french fries and lunch.

It's hard to fathom that the last time we filmed you here, your greatest enjoyment came from pushing your stroller around on the deck outside, and now you were awestruck when we showed you Buzz Aldrin's spacesuit and tools. I admit that it was easier for us this time around since you were less prone to squirm through railings to stand helicopters, airplanes and rocket ships. That's not to say that you weren't just as engaged as last time, but in a different way.

As we were leaving, I pointed out the painting of the astronaut on the wall by the exit and you said, "Goodbye, Buzz." Your great-grandfather from New Jersey would be proud. I certainly am.

Proud and full of love for you,

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Sunday, January 25, 2009

16 lies I've never told before

This is in response to the meme that's spreading through Facebook as quickly as a cold spreads through a preschool from one snotty sleeve to the next. Even though I've already answered previously, I was accused of cheating by a good friend.

Not wanting to have to produce a blood sample to prove my hematocrit levels were legal when I wrote those previous replies, I've coughed up this list to prove that I'm clean.

Why am I posting it here? Because, thanks to the magic of the innernets, this will automatically show up in Facebook, which is good since I'm too lazy to post it there myself.

  1. I've been to Fez, but no, I didn't buy one.
  2. I love to read, but I read novels rarely now, although I'm not sure...hold on, I have to go write a tweet...OK, I'm back, what was I saying?
  3. One, if not the only, high point of my political career was forming an anti-apartheid group in high school that organized schoolwide assemblies on apartheid, built a shantytown at our school and raised, like, $100 that we sent...somewhere.
  4. I never got a thank-you note from Nelson Mandela for my important work freeing him and bringing an end to apartheid.
  5. I did get an award for that work, however, which is one of my proudest accomplishments.
  6. Some of my most prized possessions are books signed by Allen Ginsberg, Billy Collins and Thom Gunn and Wanda Coleman.
  7. I often wish that I'd been able to hear Michael Hogan read from Rust, but just as often think that it's more perfect as it lives in my head, particuarly the poem "Love."
  8. I don't think I met anyone smarter than my siblings until I met my wife.
  9. I think that our son may be smarter than all of us combined.
  10. Did I mention that I love my family?
  11. I'm pretty sure my dog loves me--but only because I leave boxes of chocolate near the edge of the kitchen counter.
  12. I would have loved to have been an astronaut, which might have been more likely if I didn't while away my days in AP Physics playing gin rummy.
  13. Dad played the accordion, so I never reviled it as an instrument--besides which, c'mon...Clifton Chenier--and now that 3B loves playing his little accordion, I love the sound of it.
  14. Watching 3B play all of his musical instruments makes me regret not learning more about playing music than to drop the needle carefully into the groove.
  15. Although I say that I want an Aston Martin, what I really want is something more like this or this.
  16. I frequently tune out any list over three items long.
  17. Meaningless rules and boundaries irk me.

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Friday, January 23, 2009

Moving out

In a fit of pique this morning, 3B told Mama, "I don't want to live here anymore."

Does this mean that we can start charging him rent?

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Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Observations of the inauguration from a two-year-old

3B was at school today, where they watched the inauguration. When we arrived to pick him up, we got a report on 3B's viewing activities.

Guess who was the only two-year-old to stand up and yell, "That's Yo-Yo Ma!" when he came on the screen? And who was the only one to stand up and cheer "Obama!" and clap wildly when Obama was speaking?

We came back home where 3B, in the spirit of civil disobedience, refused to take his nap. When he got up from his crib boycott march, he grabbed his squeezebox and sang, "Barack Obama! Barack Obama! Barack Obama! Oy oy oy oy!" (Peoples of various Zions unite!)

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Monday, January 19, 2009

Why We Won't Be Together on Valentine's Day

In 1999, I would tape all of the meager coverage of the Tour de Fwonce--yes, videotape--that ran while I was at work, then come home and sit on the floor in front of the couch, eat my dinner and pore over it, occasionally crying. Watching Lance win decisively was exhilarating, due in large part to the tension--would he crack? would his competitors surge past him? would his team be able to support him? But what kept me glued to the screen were the emotions that watching him raised in me.

Having lost Dad to a relentless brain tumor despite having the best medical care available, I was overjoyed to watch Lance dance up the mountains and fly through the time trials. Every pedal stroke was a flash of hope, cutting through my hopelessness and resignation.

Generally, I'm an optimist, but when it comes to health and cancer and lifespan, losing Dad--likely the healthiest member of our family--to an unstoppable disease when he was so young tempered my optimism on those topics. Or removed it entirely. It proved true the old saw about living well, staying healthy and getting hit by a bus.

As a life-long Christian Scientist, Dad had never smoked or had a drink; he kept his weight the same as it was when he was in college and the Navy; he kept active chasing after and playing with the six of us kids; he rode his bike to the train station in his three-piece suits to go to work. None of that mattered when he got a brain tumor.

So, watching Lance, who had not only two lesions on his brain, but also cancer throughout his body, rise through the rain to the tops of those distant peaks, felt like redemption. It felt like Lance was not only kicking Zulle's ass but also cancer's ass, and it allowed me to start believing again. To begin hoping again.

That was the same year that Mom organized a family gathering in Laramie, which was about two hours north of where Mama and I were living at the time. It's also where Mom's mom grew up and lived until she met Grandfather and moved away, returning permanently after she died. We would visit Grandmother's grave, hike through the Snowy Range that she loved, and visit the school and other locations around Laramie where our ancestors who came to Wyoming before Grandmother worked and lived.

Of course, this gathering was during the same week when Lance came to our town to ride in one of his only post-Tour races.

Decisions, decisions. But there was no decision, really. Of course, Mama and I went to stay in Laramie with Mom and my siblings for the week, and I don't regret for a moment the warm memories I have of that week, even if Mama's car did get dragged around the hotel parking lot by an RV in the middle of the night. Mama and I came home to tales of folks who got to see Lance, hang around with him, and so on.

Fast forward nine years to this year. Mom is gone. We're still trying to clean out her house. Mama and I haven't been on our bikes since we rode 100 miles together. But I still believe. I still hope. And I still would like to see the man who gave that back to me all those years ago.

So when my sisters both told Brother #2 that they could make a trip to Mom's house in February, it wasn't coincidence that I picked the weekend that the Tour of California is going to pass over some of the very roads that I labored over when I was in junior high and high school. Nor was it a coincidence that it's President's Day weekend, since that saves me taking a vacation day. But it was an unfortunate coincidence that it's also Valentine's weekend, which means that 3B and I will be away from Mama for the day of arrows and hearts and doilies and hard little heart shaped candies.

Yes, I'm taking 3B with me to California. Yes, we're flying on Friday the 13th. Yes, we'll be away from Mama on Valentine's Day. There are several reasons that I'm doing this, including

  • We'd like 3B to know his aunts and uncles well, and they'll provide free babysitting.
  • On every past occasion when I've had to take a trip, Mama had to handle 3B and Barky and her job by herself.
  • I'd love to show 3B another bike race in person, especially one with Lance riding, even if it is just a flash of color as 100 men in tights fly by. And I'm expecting another good time since Brother #2 and I had such a fun time at the last one.
  • Did I mention the free babysitting? But seriously, where do I have to go? I'm there to see the family after all.
So that's what I'm doing for Mama for Valentine's Day--taking myself and 3B away. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have a large box of chocolates to order.

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Sunday, January 18, 2009

School of Rocknoceros

3B's been waiting for this moment for...well...since the last Rocknoceros concert we went to, which makes it 18 days.

Shortly after that, we saw posters at 3B's school for a Rocknoceros concert in the auditorium. Today, the waiting was finally over. This short clip hardly does the event justice, but it gives you some idea.

To give you more of an 3B went dancing for the first time ever at a Rocknoceros show, he went straight into--and through--the mosh pit after the show to get hand stamps from Williebob, he went onstage after the show and helped Coach Cotton put away his drumsticks and then cheered for Boogie Woogie putting away his drums and then got to strum Williebob's banjo.

Next time maybe we'll get there early enough to hang out with the caravan in the parking lot before the show, maybe play a little hacky sack, buy some patchouli oil and some bean cakes, and test out our taping rig so next time we get better quality tape.

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Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Maybe he won't be a rock star after all

Tuesday night at the doctor's office, we were treated to these bon mots from 3B. And, by "we" I mean Mama, myself and the doctor and nurse.

  • To the doctor as she entered the room: I'm working in here. I'm the doctor.
  • To anyone who looked like a patient: I'm stretching out the pad for you.
  • About anything in the room that looked like a fun toy (read: everything in the room): I'm the doctor, so I need to use this.
  • To the doctor as she re-entered the room: I need to be in this room.
Following the visit to the doctor, Mama was hungry, so we walked next door to a pizza place, where they had tasty looking cakes right at two-year-old eye level in a refrigerator with a glass door. 3B declared, "I want these cakes" several times. Each time we answered with, "You can't have those cakes now."

Finally, he said, "I am going to steal these cakes."

The next day, when I picked 3B up at Mrs. K's, her son told me that 3B announced, "I'm going to prison."

Taken together, these statements might lead one to assume that we don't expose 3B to the most positive influences, or that he's psychic and we're in for a hell of a ride.

The reality is that we have no idea where the stealing bit comes from and the prison statement is a declaration that he's going to play a concert like his hero Johnny Cash.

Brother #2 has already put in his vote for 3B to be a rock star rather than a doctor since Brother #2 wants backstage passes--and really, who wants backstage passes to an operating room? Let's just hope we don't need prison visitor passes to see our little Jean Valjean.

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Words of wisdom from our son

At dinner: "I can't take any more of it."

Just because everyone should know everything about him: "My leg is killing me."

When I ask if he wants to play another game: "I'm too busy right now."

As I'm kissing him goodbye in the morning: "Daddy go to work. Come home and play games with me. Deal schmiel?" [holding out his hand for me to shake]

When presented with a tray of freshly baked chocolate chip cookies: "Do you want a cinnamon cookie or a chocolate chip cookie? Ummmm. I think I want a cinnamon cookie. Wait, no--I want a chocolate chip cookie. Yeah. OK. That's what I want." [Do I even need to be here for this conversation?]

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Monday, January 12, 2009

What we do when Mama's not home

Actually, this is pretty much how we spend our time when Mama's home too. Although this makes it seem as if we spend half of our time watching Rocknoceros videos, that's only because I don't have one of these to record our games of chase, tickle, jump, jet plane, or helicopter ride.

In fact, this weekend, I took my bike out and rode around our race track (read: cul-de-sac) with 3B. We raced, we rode, then we got off and ran up and down ramps and stairs before walking back home. A good way to start the weekend.

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Saturday, January 10, 2009

Plus c'est la meme chose

I'm rocking and rolling down the Metro line to Big Boi's Bust, hoping for the unlikely arrival of wakeful consciousness to my brain. If only I could inject the pumping energy of the music into my veins as easily as I can press its beat into my head with earphones. [Note: I started writing this on Friday morning, but life ensued, and so I'm finishing it Saturday night.]

Everyone else on the train seems to be in the same state, although I didn't see any of them at the animal hospital at midnight last night, so I'm hoping that they have better reasons for their stupor. Yeah, so, I was down visiting Barky, who is again an inpatient at the hospital due to raisin ingestion.

Ever since our last adventure, we've been crating Barky any time we leave the house, but yesterday Mama forgot to do it as she was bustling 3B out the door to preschool. It's especially understandable because this week Mama's been feeling rundown and a bit nauseous at times, which can be a little distracting, especially when chasing after a one-man marching band.

It didn't help Mama's nausea that she came home to find that Barky had eaten everything he could get his fuzzy little snout on, including boxes of raisins, which meant that she had to wrestle him to the bathtub to chuck salt down his throat in hopes he would puke. Because she wasn't offering tequila or a lime with it, he refused the salt. So, she tried hydrogen peroxide.

Even after telling Barky that it was reposado, he wasn't having any of that either, and horked up some foamy slime to demonstrate his displeasure.

So, it was back to our favorite pet emergency hospital, where he also demonstrated that he was not in the mood for their shenanigans by refusing to eat the charcoal-laced canned dog food. Seriously, a dry-food eating beagle refusing canned food. That's as unusual as Jabba the Hut going on a hunger strike. They also said they weren't that worried about making him barf, since it sounded like Mama had gotten something up. They clearly didn't know what dog they were dealing with, and Mama demanded that they give him the injection to cause him to barf. Good thing, since he gave up, in their words, "four huge piles of food."


Beyond that, however, this time all of us knew the drill and were more comfortable with it, which was good, although it's not as if it wasn't nerve-wracking.

Perhaps I noticed this last time and just forgot, but I was suddenly aware of all the times I think about Barky through the day. Every time I open the cabinet where we keep his food and expect to hear him clicking his way across the floor just to see if it's meal time, every time I get within three feet of the front door and expect to hear him wake up and stretch in case a walk is in his future, and every time I sit on the couch and curl myself up on half a cushion because I expect that he'll be taking up the other two and a half cushions.

We did visit as much as we could, and 3B was somewhat interested in the IV plug in Barky's leg, but he was even more interested in the mountainous test track at the Range Rover dealer next door, which we played chase on while Mama walked Barky around to pee out the gallons of fluid they were pouring in through that IV.

Barky seems to have made it through this ordeal as well as he did last time, although they did send him home with the Trotskyites, which is irritating, but better than acute renal failure. He's acting now as if he didn't sleep for the past two days, which probably isn't true, but he likely didn't get his standard 22 hours of sleep each day, so he's too tired to even stretch out across multiple couch cushions.

We're glad to have him back, and we'll be more glad if we never have to go through that again.

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Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Out with the old and back to the future

This weekend, Mama and I took advantage of a generous offer from our friends D & D from Books & Crackers to babysit 3B and went to a movie. We saw Milk, which wasn't the dairy thriller I was expecting, but which was pretty good nonetheless.

Before having D & D over, however, we trashed our place as best we could, all in the spirit of saving the economy.

See, back before Christmas, when we were procrastinating shopping, we engaged in one my favorite holiday pastimes that truly demonstrates the spirit of the season: we bought ourselves a big gift. What better way to give and receive than to do both at the same time?

Plus, we figured that the jobs we created through our purchase were our donation to the global economy rescue fund, which is a big gift for everyone in the world, which obviated our need to give any actual gifts to anyone. By not shipping anything, we saved the backs of millions of postal service employees that are already strained at this time of year, which was just a collateral bonus of our generosity.

And what did our altruism get for us this holiday season? A new dining room table and chairs:

3B appears unimpressed, but once we pulled his booster seat up, he was all over the new rig.

What we really needed were the chairs since the semi-disposable Swedish ones we had bought almost ten years ago were now about as stable as Mel Gibson on a bender--but without the Nolte hairdo.

But, no non-IKEA standard sized chairs fit under our not-so-semi-disposable table that we really liked. So, getting new chairs required getting a new table, the same way that buying a dozen donuts at Krispy Kreme is somehow cheaper than buying four.

Old table, same as the new, little bit smaller, little bit worse for the wear.

Of course, perhaps if we hadn't purchased all those dozens of donuts, our chairs wouldn't have gone the way of the Tacoma Narrows bridge.

Our new set was arriving on Saturday, which meant that we had to smash into matchsticks disassemble the remaining splinters of our old chairs to make room for our new ones. Thanks to the miracle of Facebook, Cousin M saw that we were getting rid of the table and offered to take it off our hands, since he had to leave his table in New Mexico during his recent quick move back to DC.

I got much help from 3B disassembling the chairs. He used his drill, my drill, his hammers, my Allen wrenches, his harmonica and guitar all to help in our project. His drill, a Christmas gift from a cousin, is a huge hit, although he's been scared to pull the trigger on it, just as he is on most power tools.

He'll play with them endlessly, examining them and applying them to all manner of problems, but he just doesn't want to pull the trigger. I don't know if it's the sound they make or the motion, or the unpredictability. This week, however, Mama convinced 3B to run his drill, in part by explaining that dentists use drills on teeth, so chair disassembly was punctuated by my pleas: "Please take the drill out of your mouth, 3B. Please don't drill your teeth, 3B."

We got all the chairs out of the way just in time for the new table's arrival and assembly. It's a perfect fit both collapsed and expanded--it has a nesting leaf--and Mama and I have already found ourselves sitting at it with much greater frequency than our old table. Much of that has to do with the chairs, which are stable and comfortable, unlike our old ones, which seemed to only be temporarily slowing the crash of our asses into the floor rather than actually holding us up.

Immediately we put a pad and tablecloth on it to protect against 3B's hobby of whittling with a fork, then started getting our house ready for the babysitters. All this really entailed was spending the evening looking at piles of things around the house, deciding we couldn't deal with them before tomorrow, and shoving them into our room, which began to resemble the dumpsters behind a Goodwill store.

Sunday, as I mentioned, we had a great hot date while D & D had fun walking 3B and Barky to our favorite coffee shop, not only for the tasty treats but also for the large, toy-filled play area in the back room. Well, that, and that they host Mr. Skip and Music Together classes, all of which 3B loves.

Yes, it's true, I'm easy: please my son and you please me.

When they got back home, there was the endless concert. Somehow 3B's guitar has become a "geetar," which might be a symptom of too much Johnny Cash. If there is such a thing. In addition, he's always looking for his wah-wah geetar, ever since seeing Willybob working the wah-wah pedal on New Year's eve.

D & D added another axe to his arsenal, showing him how he could "plug in" his geetar by attaching the plug on his headphone jack to it, making it electric. Since then, it's been all Dylan after Newport. We play along, booing him and walking out, and 3B plays along by turning up the volume, playing more furiously and seething his way through every song.

But seriously, the kid always needs the volume at 11. I've tried explaining what effect this might have on him later in life by using myself as an example, but somehow 3B still insists he loves me the way I am. He even surprised both Mama and I when we returned from our movie and dinner not by running over to greet us, but by turning away from Mama's greeting and saying, "No. Daddy. Want to see Daddy," and wrapping me up in a hug. Say what? We all know that Mama's the favorite parent.

He must have a selective memory and have forgotten all the times I told him not to hammer on the new chairs and only remembered my letting him carry my drill all over the house, and not saying a word when he dropped it on the floor rather than setting it down gently. Whatever caused his need for me, feeling his embrace and seeing Mama and D & D standing by made me forget all about that dairy thriller--or whatever that movie was--and remember one part of the spirit of the season: receiving the gifts we already have anew and enjoying the bounty that is every day our hearts beat together with friends and family.

And so I again thank 3B for the gift of a new vision of the world.

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Sunday, January 04, 2009

What's missing from every parenting book

When we were at the only Christmas party that we went to this year, a friend gave back a stack of parenting and childcare books that we had loaned her. It was nice to have them back for reference, although we haven't looked at them since.

This points out one of the great failures of parenting books--all of them lack the ability to be read while sleeping. I swear, if I could read those books in the few spare hours I have every day, I would. The only problem is that I have a previous commitment to my pillow during those hours.

A few other fatal gaps in parenting books came to mind as I was thinking about this:

The unlikeliness principle.
While it is likely that 3B will get a sore throat, ear infection, or appendicitis, all of which the books cover thoroughly, it is even more likely that I will stay up too late, get up too early, and have one or all of the following symptoms of persistent sleep deprivation: headache, eyeballache, kneeache, backache, and that thing in my neck--nerve? muscle? tendon? bone spur? arthritis? water on the neck?--ache. And yet, I will somehow have to work through those symptoms and wake up, stand up, walk around, feed myself and amuse a toddler. Advice on how to do this was left out of all of those brilliant parenting books.

The typhoid parent principle.
As soon as you have a child, know that you will be sick for at least the next two years. After 3B turns three, I'll let you know if the sickness lasts for three years, however preliminary reports indicate that it lasts until at least two years, five months and fifteen days. Often, it is low-grade, nagging sniffle or cough that is not debilitating, but that will slowly suck the life out of you. Sometimes, however, it flares up into something like a tear-my-eyeballs-out-they're-on-fire! fire! fire! virus or a why-buy-an-Abdominizer-when-I-could-just-cough-1,200-times-a-minute upper respiratory tract infection, but this will only happen when you are encased in a vehicle for over eight hours with your child. This will most likely happen while you are the driver, but it might also strike while you are on one of those flights that's so overbooked, you have to fly all the way to Cleveland with another passenger on your lap. Again, total silence from parenting books on this.

The daily tornado.
I grew up in earthquake country, so I instinctively close cupboard doors, refuse to place items atop bookshelves, and only purchase furniture that can support five tons of rubble just in case I need to dive under it when the big one hits. However, none of those instincts could prepare me for the daily tornado caused by a toddler. First, there's the sound. Some people say a tornado sounds like a freight train, but I say it sounds more like a shrill scream followed by an earsplitting chant of "No! No! No! I don't wanna!" Then there's tornado itself, upon you in an instant, tearing apart and tossing aside all the contents of your house in a dizzying flurry. Finally, there's the debris cleanup, which is endless. I swear that one day the remains of the day stretched from under our living room couch all the way to the Oklahoma panhandle. And while parenting books have plenty of opinions about what toys and activities are best for your child, none of them mention that daily tornado that results from those toys and activities.

The collapse of the time/space continuum.
There are two parts to this. The first, time, is covered by what I call Fred's Axiom, because Fred is the dad who laid it out for me: When you have a child, everything you do takes twice as long. (Corollary: When you have two children, everything takes two-and-a-half times as long. --Yeah, those second kids always get shorted.) As for the space portion, I had written down a witty, pithy formula for how much less space you'll have in your house when you have a child, but I can't seem to locate it. I think it's under one of these stacks of papers over here...but it gets down to this: your child's possessions are like The Borg. Resistance is futile and you will be assimilated. And although I've searched the parenting books for advice on how to get rid of this cybernetic arm and ocular implant, I've come up with nothing.

The laundry paradox.
When you have a child you will always be doing laundry, and yet never have any clean clothes or linens. I believe that parenting books gave up trying to explain this in favor of working on superstring theories, which have much greater promise for resolution.

These are the only ones that I could come up with between bouts of coughing and cleaning, so please, if you've noticed any other topics that those parenting books lack, add them here.

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Thursday, January 01, 2009

Top 10 Top 10 Lists

As a native Californian, I find that most freaks who give the word "Californian" a bad rap are transplants who grew up somewhere else. So, while most of the nation thinks of Californians as assholes, they're really thinking of the assholes who moved to the Golden State from elsewhere. True Californians aren't assholes--we're too much better than everyone else to stoop to that level. Similarly, there are plenty of posers who claim to love the 80s, but who really just love the music. Anyone who lived through the Reagan-Bush years and was paying enough attention to remember James Watt, five-pound blocks of cheese, the U.S. invasion of a Caribbean island medical school, and the omnipresent fear of armageddon brought about by an octogenarian with a shaky grip on reality and a firm grip on the nuclear launch codes doesn't love the 80s. But we do love the music, in the same way that everyone loves SUVs, Republican economics, and crack. And so, here are the Top 50 videos from 1983. (Although, seriously...Islands in the Stream? WTF? I am still down with Sweet Dreams, however.)

I'm not as fond of the FBI's reverse Philly as I am of the use of Craig's List to commit a heist, but I do give props to the g-men for showing more than a passing knowledge of tech and tech culture. Likewise, I'm not as big a fan of The Big Gulp Heist as I am of the Washington-Jackson Switcheroo, but that might be because the BGH targeted my bank and required me to get a new ATM card at an inconvenient time this year. Nevertheless, the same entrepreneurial spirit that got us into the current economic repression recession is alive and well as shown by this list of the Seven Best Capers of 2008.

The best lessons are worth learning repeatedly, which is how Jesse "Hymie Town" Jackson tops this list of 2008's Top 10 Open Mike Moments.

All you geeks out there among my six loyal readers probably not only know but also have used all of these at some time, so I'm providing this list to the remaining four readers so they might defend themselves against you: Top 10 Harmless Geek Pranks

Whatever your musical taste, from kids music to jazz to mixtapes, NPR's got your top 10 music list.

  • I'm particularly fond of Aaron Perks's Peaceful Warrior from the pretentiously titled Geniuses Collide In 2008's Best Jazz list. From the same list, Roy Hargrove, Dave Holland, Vijay Iyer and Ahmad Jamal are also more genius than collisions.
  • On the The Year In Music For Kids (And Parents) list, I'm liking Sleep, from Scribblemonster & His Pals, not just because it accurately describes how 3B has been behaving in the hour after we put him down. Ham & Burger's Jungle Jim is also cool, perhaps more so for 3B's burgeoning imagination and his love of Pork and Beef's Great Adventure. And of course, MM&W rocks the dollhouse with Where's the Music?
  • Also, I found Chiwoniso from the The Best African Music Of 2008 list a better practitioner of "mesmerizing musical sorcery" than the Kasai Allstars are advertised to practice, but the Allstars are worth a listen as well. However, the must listen for me was the Orchestre Super Jheevs des Paillotes track from African Scream Contest: Raw & Psychedelic Afro Sounds. Superfast, supercool and freaky.
  • I never understood what the deal was with Seinfeld, but I'm listening to Wale and DJ Nick Catchdubs riff on it repeatedly as well as Cops Keep Firing from Nas and DJ Green Lantern, both off of the The 10 Best Mixtapes Of The Year list. Hip hop keeps moving ahead, but unfortunately, its common and familiar topics--racism and law enforcement abuse--remain with us.
  • And finally, if you're like me and your lifelong dream is to be just like everyone you don't know, go and buy every album on the NPR listeners' most popular albums list, even those that are ripped off from other musicians.
And for those of you six loyal readers who can count, you're right--that's only 9 Top 10 lists, but that's all I could afford in an economy like this. Maybe if you're lucky, W. will send you a bonus Top 10 list as an economic stimulus parting gift.

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