Thursday, November 19, 2009

Why we don't watch more TV

I admit that while I've been working through the evening, one of my greatest frustrations has been the storm outside--it's been so dense at times that it's prevented our dish from getting its signal from the satellite, meaning that I missed almost the entire Project Runway season finale runway show.

I know, I know, the pain I suffer, right?

It would be worse for me if I hadn't already gotten my fill of entertainment tonight from 3B, who not only painted me beautiful pictures today, but amused us all with stories and songs throughout the night.

And now "all" includes his sister, Jewel. Today, she was listening to and smiling at his antics for the first time. He responded by asking her to tell him a story. He and Mama stared at Jewel for a little while until she randomly cooed or grunted, and then 3B said to his sister, "And then what happened?"

She reciprocated by following him around the room with her eyes and lighting up any time he spoke or played a song. The interactions between them are the cutest communication I've ever seen. And so, really, when the satellite signal goes out, I'm not at all upset.

I can still see, in my mind's eye, my family talking, dancing, singing and laughing together. That's all the entertainment I need.

But, just in case you need something more, I give you excerpts from this evening's concert:

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Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Ansel Adams morality

This morning, Mama was driving 3B to school when she heard him gasp from the back seat.

"Mommy, I just saw a woman lighting a cigarette."

"Oh, really?"

"That's not good."

"No, that's not. It's bad for her body and it's bad for the air. It makes the air dirty."

"Why did she do that?"

"Well, we all make mistakes sometimes."


"So she's a sanner."


"A what?"

"A sanner."


"Oh, you mean a sinner. Well, no, she's not a sinner, she just made a mistake."
This is probably funnier for those of you who know how churched up we are at the Bradstein Household, which is not at all.

3B has absorbed his morality from the best of sources: folk music. Specifically his love affair with Alison Krauss and her version of Down in the Valley to Pray with Ricky Skaggs and Doc Watson, who both pronounce "sinner" as "sanner."

Several months back, when the video was on high rotation in our house, 3B asked all kinds of questions about it, including What's a sinner?

We explained that a sinner was someone who made a mistake. We also added that sinners apologize for their mistakes. That may not be entirely correct, but it helped us convince a certain child that apologies are the norm.

Apparently, these messages stick with him. Not only is he good about apologizing, but it's been months since we watched that video, and he still connected "mistake" with "sinner."

Now all we need to do is introduce him to a morality with shades of gray.

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Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Bad parents, no biscuit?

Email from Mama

No gold stars for us:
  1. There was school on Wednesday.
  2. Today was pajama day.
Crap. Oh well.

My reply
Two gold stars for us:
  1. He got to go to a sold out Rocknoceros show.
  2. He was the only kid not freezing his tuchus off at school today.

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Hail to the Chief

For the record, we haven't watched West Wing since 3B was born, but apparently we watched enough that it soaked into our DNA and was absorbed by him in utero.

Then again, this came after a full version of Puff the Magic Dragon and What Would You Do with a Drunken Sailor?

Probably better to have him singing Hail to the Chief than belting out "Make him sleep with the captain's daughter! Make him sleep with the captain's daughter!" while standing on top of the couch, strumming away at full volume.

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Thursday, November 12, 2009

Short note about a long day

For some reason, I've been getting up at 4 or 5 a.m. every morning this week. That means that by this time of day, I've been up for 18 hours or so, ridden 18 miles on my bike, worked a full day, and played as hard as I could until 3B went to bed.

Living this life is living a koan--simultaneously the easiest and most difficult task I've ever performed, confounding and beautiful.

As long, busy, difficult and confounding as the days may be, they're all worth it when they end as this one did, with my little jewel peacefully asleep on my chest.

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Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Rockin' out, BTMFB, fun for everyone

On past Veteran's Days, I've taken advantage of our proximity to Washington, D.C. to go to Arlington National Cemetery to hear the President speak. I started doing this because I needed something to do while Mama was working, and later, when she got a job that gave her the day off, we went together. I might not have agreed with the politics of the man, but he was the Commander in Chief and it was Veteran's Day.

Now that I do agree with more of the politics of the Commander in Chief, however, I also have two kids, who don't care so much about politics, commanding or standing around in the rain. This means that I spent my morning at Jammin' Java, rocking out to Rocknoceros' weekly Wednesday morning concert. Most weeks, 3B is in school during the concert, so this was a special treat for him: Papa had a "stay at home" rather than a "go to work" day, and he got to see his self-proclaimed favorite band. Plus, he took his "best buddy" Eeyore to his first Rockno show.

As he gets older, 3B enjoys the concerts in different ways. The first time we saw Rocknoceros, you'd have thought 3B was hypnotized, watching TV or bored out of his skull. He sat as still as a stone, thumb in mouth, staring at the stage. On the way home, of course, he recounted every detail of the concert and asked to see them again. And again. And again.

Today, 3B was offering up the songs he wanted to hear today before I even asked, off my lap and dancing in the aisles from the downbeat, and rushing the stage for a handstamp before the last notes had stopped reverberating through the hall. It's so much fun for me to watch him have fun.

After the show, we stopped by the hardware store next door, lured in by the fat honey crisp apples they had up front. We remembered that we needed a few things--when don't you need a few things at a hardware store?--and wandered the aisles for awhile, taking time to heft a 36" pipe wrench and give a skritch to the store dog, Rocky. I decided to push my luck and head to Babies R Us because we need a new window shade, more sippy cup valves and nipples--when don't you need more nipples?

We managed to make it out with our sanity, even getting through a ride on Bob the M'erF'in Builder's tractor in the entryway.

While we're on the topic of shit that drives parents crazy, let's talk about those m'erf'in rides in front of stores. I know they used to have the same effect on Mom, and I'm sure that I never got to ride on one. Then again, she had six kids in tow, so giving everyone a ride would have pretty much taken all week. Mama and I take the same approach, although this means that we have to go in through the BRU exit to avoid Bob the M'erF'in Builder and his tantrum-inspiring tractor. 3B, who is too damn smart for his own good, however, has figured us out and as soon as we turned into the BRU parking lot--before we could even see the store, mind you--he was yelling from the back seat, "I want to ride on Bob! I want to ride on Bob!"

It was all I could do not to get all Ed Abbey on him and threaten to blow Bob and his habitat destroyer to bits.

On the way in, I could see that there was a kid on BTMFB, so we went through the entrance. For the 30 minutes we were in the store, 3B accepted that the kid was on BTMFB, so we were cool. On the way out, however, I let him run over and climb on. Why? Because if he doesn't ride, he melts down, and if he does sit on it--we never put money in--he melts down when we make him get off.

Clearly, whoever puts these things in front of stores doesn't give a damn about parents.

So, today I did what any good, compassionate parent would do. After lounging in one of the wheelchairs that are parked beside BTMFB for awhile, I announced to 3B that I was headed home and walked out to the car. I'm not sure how we'll ever get 3B to leave places when this trick stops working, but today it was a charmer and we made it home just in time for a nap, which 3B actually took today.

His naps are becoming more rare. Gone is the daily three-hour snooze, during which Mama could work, sleep, or fruit around on Facebook. Now, he takes two or three naps every week, usually going several days between them. We compensate by putting him down earlier, but he still does become a bit of a beast in the evenings on no-nap days.

His sister is following her brother's lead, staying awake longer during the day. Today, after waking up at about seven--sleeping in for her--she didn't take a nap until 2 p.m. Yikes, little girl. That's impressive, but you do need your rest. Then again, it's not like she's not growing and developing, plus she's kindly making up for it tonight by sleeping like a lamb. These days, when she's awake she loves being read to, sitting in her Pooh bouncy seat, or chillin' in someone's arms. She's also prone to tell us what she thinks about a variety of topics and will gladly smile or laugh with almost anyone about almost anything, when she's in the mood.

And it's not just me who has so much fun watching her have fun--our little jewel has captured everyone's heart; all of us love reading to her, watching her and holding her.

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Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Pay for what you get

Last night our microwave died.

I'll wait while you finish gnashing your teeth, rending your garments and ululating over our loss.

Feel better now? Great--now pack up your microwave and ship it to us overnight.

I'm sure that we wouldn't be so frustrated if this wasn't the latest in a long line of failures from appliances we bought from Sears. None of them are more than six years old, and the microwave is only three years old.

In fact, when I called their help hotline last night they thanked me for being such a valuable and loyal customer. Now, I'm not in the customer service industry, but I'd like to provide a little insight to those who are--having a valuable and loyal customer to your help hotline does not mean that you are succeeding, it means that you are providing products in which failure is an inherent trait.

It started innocently enough when first, we discovered that the front loading washing machine from Sears, which we loved, grows enough mold in the rubber seal around the door to provide all of the developing world with penicillin for the next decade. The problem is so bad that a class action suit was filed. Unfortunately, we were too late to get on that gravy train, so we just keep a bottle of bleach at the ready, which is a nice complement to our perfume- and dye-free detergent.

Then the pump in the dishwasher from Sears ate it. Or didn't eat it. More specifically, it might have become overloaded, got a label from a jar stuck in it, or tired of digesting our leftovers. Whatever the case, it died.

Then the range from Sears died. Specifically, the oven igniter died. Of course, the first repairman didn't figure that out and replaced another part. On a fluke, the oven lit again while he was here, but that was just a flash in the pan. So we had to pay for yet another visit from Sears to fix the actual problem. Oh yeah, and for the parts that we actually needed, in addition to the other parts we had paid for that we certainly didn't need.

A little while after the second repairman claimed to have fixed the range from Sears, it developed a case of the whoomping cough. When we turned it on, rather than releasing a little gas before igniting, it would release a fair amount of gas before igniting it, causing quite a whoomp--enough to make you turn your head. This has evolved into a case of explosive flatulence as it now releases enough gas to pop the oven door open when it ignites, plus the sound is loud enough to make everyone in our zip code jump up and turn around to see what that was.

Of course, by the time we called, the warranty on the first--and second--range repair had expired.

Of course.

And now the microwave dies. This means that not a single appliance that we bought from Sears lasted longer than five years without needing a repair that cost almost as much or more than the appliance originally did. And Sears has even failed to make good on those repairs.

When I went to the Sears appliances website last night, I saw the banner across the top of the page: Appliance Questions? Call 1-800-MY-SEARS. And just below that was an ad for their 15% off sale on appliances.

So I asked if they were offering 15% off because they knew that they'd pick up that margin, plus a healthy profit on the repairs, within five years. If, perhaps, this was a shrewd business plan to make money on the sale up front, then guarantee returns throughout the lifetime of the appliance, sort of a corporate layaway plan, if you will? If perhaps, their repair plan was modeled after the 30-year mortgage finance plan for homes, with owners making payments in the form of repair bills?

I seem to have stumped them, so that's another thing from Sears that doesn't work.

There is however, one thing we've bought from Sears that does work: our vacuum. Of course it works--it's designed to suck.

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Monday, November 09, 2009

The first time

We all have those unique moments that we'll remember because they had never happened before. They are our firsts.

  • The first kiss.
  • The first time you made someone who you love laugh--uncontrollably until they couldn't breathe.
  • The first time you made someone who you love cry--gut-heaving sobs.
  • The first time you made it to the top.
  • The first time everyone was looking at you and you succeeded.
  • The first time you lost someone who you couldn't live without.
  • The first time you found someone who you couldn't live without.
  • The first time that you were first.
Many of the firsts we remember are events that come later in life, because so many of our actual firsts happen when we're too young to remember them, such as our first breath, our first meal and our first feeling of joy.

It's easy for us, as parents, to tell when certain of these happen, but harder to tell when others do. It's a nice confirmation, then, to see an outward sign of one of the good ones, like a smile, or a coo.

Just last week, our little jewel started cooing and smiling at us. There was no way for me to capture her first of either, especially since both were likely done to Mama or Grammy, but since that very first one, we've all had our first time seeing her coo or smile. And we've all, including 3B, been busy trying to do whatever she needs to do it again.

And some of us have been filming some of those moments, both to share with you and to ensure that we never forget.

As if any of us could ever forget that first smile.

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Sunday, November 08, 2009

The best things in life are...mothers

While Grammy and Mama are in the belly of the IKEA beast with our little jewel, 3B and I played chase around the racetrack, then headed down the hill and around the block. On the way, we took a short break to have a snowball fight with the soap foam we found in the gutter. I'd forgotten how much fun it was to play in the gutter. After all, the best things in life are dirty (you really have to click through...where else will you see Clint Eastwood and Lee Marvin sing a duet?)

I'm waiting for Mama to remind my how gross it also is, just like Mom did.

He got tired of riding for a little while, and started scavenging, during which time he collected a walking stick and a large ratty piece of tree bark.

Because I wasn't working hard enough carrying his trike, our water bottles and the balloons that the realtor gave us as we happened by when she was taking down her open house sign, 3B handed me the ratty piece of bark, because he wanted to give it to Mama.

I swear that my entire life as a father has been foretold by Bill Cosby (all you need to listen to is the preview).

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Saturday, November 07, 2009

Where do I find "hot date" in the card catalog?

Mama and I are about to walk out the door on a hot date, thanks to Grammy, who's looking after the kids while we're out.

We did finally remember what to wear on a hot date--anything that's not stained. And we remembered where to eat on a hot date--anything other than mac and cheese. But we're trying to remember where to go and what to do on a hot date.

Does going to the library to revel in the silence and take a nap count as a hot date?

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Friday, November 06, 2009

Handing over our jewel

It's always different for the second child, as my first roomie will gladly tell you.

  • 3B didn't know the TV turned on until he turned two, but his sister now has her favorites on Dancing with the Stars, Top Chef and Project Runway. (Also, after watching The Office, she's already planning a career as a field biologist.)
  • 3B stayed at home, comfy and cozy, until he and the weather were in the right mood for a walk through the park, but his sister has been dragged hither, thither and yon for school dropoffs and pickups, grocery shopping, playdates, and so forth.
  • 3B was cared for only by family members until he turned one, when Mama had to go back to work so we wouldn't have to raise him in a refrigerator box in a freeway underpass. Coincidentally, his separation anxiety kicked in full-force at exactly the same time...good times. His sister, on the other hand, will have a babysitter after Thanksgiving.
In fact, Mama has been working since baby girl was six weeks old, which has only been possible through the grace of Grammy, who has been with us since before baby girl was born. Grammy did have to return home for a few weeks because she does have, you know, a job, other grandchildren, and a life outside of Dixie.

While we're on the topic, a few words for all those who questioned Barack Obama for having his mother-in-law move into the White House: are you high? I don't work nearly the hours he does, nor do I have the travel schedule he does, nor does Mama have nearly the responsibilities that Michelle has, and still I'm not sure how we would make it through the day without Grammy.

There are the obvious mechanics that she helps with, like when we need to be in two places at one time, but more than that, it's the love she adds to the house. Let's face it, Mama and I aren't on top of our games right now--we're not getting enough sleep, and on top of that, we're both trying to work and raise our kids.

That means that sometimes we don't have the focus, attention span or patience that we'd love to possess always for our kids, and those are the times that Grammy helps out in the most meaningful way. When we're at a loss for a distraction to avert a tantrum, she comes up with one, and when we're mid-tantrum and holding a girl with poop from her diaper up to her neck, Grammy can either soothe the tantrum or change the girl while we soothe.

And beyond that, she finds the time to go grocery shopping and cook healthy, delicious meals. In preparation for Grammy's departure, I'm stockpiling those seaweed capsules that provide all the nutrition you need in one day. Not that I'll be able to find them after she goes, since without her picking up around the house, I'm sure we'll once again be overcome by the toy tsunami.

What's truly amazing about all of this is the grace with which Grammy does all of this. She never breaks a sweat, and is always ready with a smile while Mama and I whine, grimace and sigh.

So, while we could never replace Grammy, we are looking for a babysitter to fill in after Grammy leaves and at least bounce around the room with her granddaughter while Mama works (3B will be at school at the time). And when I say "we are looking," you understand that I mean, "Mama is looking hard while Papa slacks around the house," right?

I've been pleasantly surprised so far by the two candidates--only one of whom I was able to meet. Based on what Mama and Grammy said about the first candidate, they would both be good companions for our little jewel.

It's hard to put our baby into the hands of a non-family member, but it makes it somewhat easier to know that there are people out there who will care for her as well as these women seem to be capable of. And I tell myself that perhaps this means that when we do take our jewel to Mrs. K's, perhaps there won't be the histrionics that her brother went through, since she'll be somewhat used to strangers.

Hey, let a dad dream a little, OK?

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Thursday, November 05, 2009

Bouncing around the room

If you're wondering why I don't write more in the evenings, or haven't gotten back to your email about that thing, or why I consider riding my bike nine miles to work one of the easiest parts of my day, here's your answer...(note that I didn't add any music, so you could hear 3B's joke, but if you want some music, I suggest that at the same time you play the video below, you also start this video)

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Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Our baby Einstein

Last night I was bathing 3B and he was playing with his myriad bath toys when I heard him say, "First we need a hypothesis."

I sat up and watched what he was doing: balancing a shampoo bottle upside down on the edge of the tub.

As he set it up, he asked, "Do you think it will fall--yes or no?"

After the bottle toppled into the tub, I asked him if his hypothesis was proved true or false. "True--the bottle fell down."

All the credit for his smarts go, of course, to Mama, who's not only the brains of this outfit, but the one who's at home with him all day.

I couldn't be more proud or happy. At this rate, next spring he'll not only be able to calculate and file our taxes for us, but also work out our mortgage refinance.

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Tuesday, November 03, 2009

You had me at snot rocket

I've noticed over the last several years of riding to work that we aren't the most friendly group on the road or on the trail. I understand about on the road--we're all too busy trying not to get killed for small pleasantries. That don't-fuck-with-me face is sometimes the best defense we have against the cars, trucks and buses swarming around us, especially given that spandex is as effective at protecting us against motor vehicles as a kleenex is at stopping a 9mm bullet.

But on the bike trail during commute hours, it's just us and the occasional jogger. It wouldn't kill you to crack a smile. In fact, it's gotten so irritating how serious some of you are that for the past several months, I've made a point of greeting each of you with "good morning" or "good evening," and I've got a few notes for you...

The first note is that you are not on Team Radio Shack or Garmin-Slipstream or Rabobank or whatever team you bought the clothes for, so lighten up. If you were that good, you wouldn't have been riding on this suburban bike trail with me in July, you'd have been in the Alps, Pyrenees and on the Champs Elysee.

The second note is that it's not like we're strangers. I've seen you every morning and evening for the past several months.

The next note is that, although I'm not as prissy as Emily Post, when someone looks you in the eye and says "good morning," the appropriate response is not to

  • look down
  • look away
  • look away and spit
  • look away and fire a snot rocket
  • grimace and pedal harder (see above note about how good you aren't)
The appropriate response is "good morning."

You're welcome. There's no charge for that little bike etiquette lesson.

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Monday, November 02, 2009

Welcome to paradise

One day while shuffling through tunes on our way home from preschool, 3B and I happened upon LSJUMB's version of Welcome to Paradise, which we had to listen to about 128 times in the half-hour drive home.

Since then, 3B has been asking for "The Stanford Band" as he believes the song is called regularly. Hey, could be worse...he could be asking for WPOD. (Google it yourselves, you knobs.)

So, of course, we've also been serenaded by the littlest red jacket in the house with his versions, which include the only line he knows...perhaps because it's the only line he understands. Anyway, it's pretty fun for all of us to watch, including his sister, even if she doesn't always define her brother's drum solos as the gateways to paradise.

Note: At something like 30 frames per second, the footage of baby sister here includes something like 6.7 million photos of said sister, which should satisfy my niece who has been not so subtly pestering me through her mother for more pictures of the little cutie. So there. And if you want more pictures of here, come back and babysit, cook and clean while we all take a week to catch up on our sleep enough to operate a camera.

As for Froggie Went A-Courtin', I'm only sorry that I couldn't capture a version with 3B's wicked accurate Dylan impersonation. This will have to do for now.

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No, Team Radio Shack--*you* get ready for this.

On Sunday 3B, as he is wont to do, declared, "I am Lance Armstrong."

Recently, he's had a greater propensity to channel Levi Leipheimer, or as he says Levi Leiptheimer, but today he opted for Mellow Johnny.

That got me to thinking about how Lance is so fashion forward, and how he doesn't have a uniform designed yet for his new team.

So long as Lance's designers can figure a way to keep the bell bottoms out of the bike chains, I think we may have saved them a load of work by allowing them to steal the look 3B came up with for Team Radio Shack.

You can thank me later, Lance, after the Bradsteins are done toasting your victory on the Champs Elysee.

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