January 31, 2013
Business Ideas (Or, Why Kids Should Run The Planet)
Beth and the kids visited me in the office yesterday. We had lunch in our building's cafeteria (which the kids thought was the most awesome restaurant on the face of this good earth) and then spent some time in my actual office. While the trinkets I've collected for eleven years were a draw, nothing was more exciting than my white board. Mia and Owen immediately found my stash of dry-erase markers and went to town.
Mia took her job pretty seriously and got into the spirit of being in the workplace. As you can see, she came up with several "business ideas."
For those of you who don't want to squint, said business ideas are:
- Work with courage
- Act normal
- Be awesome
- Be yourself
- Earn money
- Be fantastic
Look, like any parent I'm going to tell you that my kids are awesome and remarkable and smart and incredibly insightful. Because that's my job as their dad. But I dare you to come up with any better rules to live by in the business world.
January 29, 2013
Twenty second backstory: Mia and Beth are in another show. They rehearse and usually get home after I've managed to wrestle Owen into bed. When they get home, HGTV or the Food Network are usually on. Mia is fascinated by whatever is on television.
My kids spent half the weekend playing Chopped. You know, Chopped. The Food Network show with the former Queer Eye guy, four rando-chefs and baskets full of mystery ingredients. Yeah, that Chopped.
Mia walked in one night when Chopped was on and was immediately intrigued. She asked me to record an episode, which I did. She watched it the next day, utterly fascinated. We recorded another episode and, despite the fact that it featured lamb balls as a main ingredient (reminder, she's decidedly vegetarian), fell in love. She re-watched it with Owen. He, too, was intrigued. So much so that over the weekend they convinced me to be a judge and made three meals with play food for me to critique. It was pretty much the most awesome weekend play session we've had. Fake cooking was done, meals presented, they toddled off to another room to pretend chat about their dishes, then presented themselves for judgement. In the end, I was unable to send anyone home, awarding them each an imaginary $10,000.
Who says TV isn't good for anyone?
January 28, 2013
Did you know that Beth and I have been together for exactly 20 years? Yep, 20 years ago, she picked me up in a college dorm bathroom. There's obviously more to the story but I'll just leave it at that for right now. But who knew, then, that we'd be the very picture of suburban domesticity?
Beth: You know, it would be nice if you learned how to use the garbage disposal.
Me: I kinda do. There's a switch there and everything.
Beth: But you don't use it. You see to think that the magical gnomes who live in the bottom of the sink take care of that for you.
Me: It would be awesome if it really worked that way.
Beth: As far as YOU know, it does.
Here's to another 20.
Haiku For Monday #440
Oh god of winter,
you have truly fucked up the
morning commute. Boo.
January 25, 2013
The Weeklies #243
The Weekly Weird, Vaguely Uncomfortable Thing That Happened Due To The Cold Weather. I walked into my office wearing my earbuds listening to a podcast and took off my scarf. Immediately, static electricity traveled up the wires of the earbuds and straight into my ears.
The Weekly Weather-Focused Truth. It's freakishly cold outside.
The Weekly Affliction. It's quite possible that I have the plague. I've felt mildly shitty since Sunday morning but not enough to feel justified in crawling into bed for twenty straight hours no matter how awesome it sounds.
The Weekly Read. I wanted something mindless to read so I turned to the rather cheap but well-recommended Jet by Russell Blake. It was surprisingly good, sort of like a more action-packed James Bond novel, if Bond had been a professional assassin and, well, female.
The Weekly Television. Having exhausted what feels like half the American TV available on Netflix, I jumped the pond and headed to England. MI-5, specifically. We're only two episodes in but it's decent and pretty damn intense.
The Weekly Non-Weather Focused Truth. Typing mildly is harder than you'd think.
The Weekly Text Message. "Fuck auto correct."
The Weekly Politically-Focused Fact. No matter how awe inspiring and historically significant you tell your kids the inauguration is, they will not believe you. Instead, they will tell you it's boring. And they're partially right.
The Weekly Question. Beyonce lip-synced at the inauguration. Big deal or no deal at all?
January 24, 2013
Last night Owen and I sat on his bed, getting ready for bed, playing and talking. He decided he wanted to take two trucks to bed so he could play before he fell asleep. He turned them over, saw writing on the bottoms of each and asked me what they said.
Me: Made in China.
Owen: Santa makes toys in China?
Me: That's right. Santa brought you those, didn't he?
Owen: Yeah. So, he makes toys in China.
Me: I guess he outsources.
(No. I did not just say that.)
Owen: What's outsourcing?
Me: Well, I'm sure Santa has toys made all over the world because there are so many children. Don't you think?
Owen: Yeah. There are elves in China?
Me: Yes. Yes, there are most definitely elves in China.
Owen: If you're an elf, how do you get to work for Santa? Does he find them and ask them?
Me: I'm sure Santa knows all the elf families and I expect there are elf families who've worked for Santa for generations all over the world.
Owen: Are they kids?
Me: Elves? No, they're mostly adults who are just little.
Owen: How does he get all the toys from China or all over the world to the North Pole so they can go on his sleigh?
Me: Freighters. Massive freighters that sail the world, collect toys and take them directly to the North Pole.
Owen: Good night daddy.
(Oh thank god.)
Me: Good night Owen.
January 23, 2013
Owen's gotten very sensitive about his dreams, particularly the bad ones. Several weeks ago, he woke up screaming and freaked out like I've never seen him freak out before. He was convinced that there were wild animals in the hallway outside his door. Despite hugging him, wiping away his tears and assuring him that there were no animals in the hallway, wild or otherwise, it took him quite a while to settle down.
Unfortunately, Owen also just figured out that the force fields we told him were installed around his window and door - the ones that were activated as soon as it got dark - were a stone cold lie. Instead, we tried a trick that we started with Mia. When she would have bad dreams, we'd tie a bandana around her head. It was, of course, loaded with good dreams.
Owen wouldn't settle for any girly bandana. Instead he went for my oldest, most prized, and grimiest old hat, a Texas Longhorns hat I've had since high school. Hey, whatever works.
January 22, 2013
For years we have tolerated the vastly different eating habits of our children. Because tolerance is good, right? We - and here, by we, I mean Beth - have humored our children, preparing alternatives to our gross grown up dinners. Hey, at least our kids were eating and we were all eating something together, at the same time, around the same table. Over the weekend we said enough.
(And if you're my children, the word enough is followed by a brief reminder that hearing enough with an implied exclamation point means stopping whatever annoying thing you're doing. Every damn time.)
Mia started her life as a picky eater, turning her nose up at boob and relenting only after she realized we were serious. After actual food was introduced she ate a steady diet of avocados followed by an endless supply of strawberries. We were convinced for quite some time that she would starve yet, contrary to all logic, she kept eating three foods and thrived. Owen started off much more promising and continued though now he'd love to subsist only on meat. Preferably meat that he's personally gone out and wrestled to the ground. They are both, now, good eaters, proving that parents are often neurotic for no good reason. So, enough with this special meal crap.
The New And Improved Cactus-Fish Family Rule Of Food: There is one meal. Try the grown up meal a minimum of three times - good, big bites, not little nibbles - after which you can either keep eating or find something in the fridge you can prepare yourself.
We expected Owen to try new things without much of a fight. He has. It's Mia that's been the greatest surprise. Instead of whining about her choices (or lack thereof), she's tried everything the minimum amount of times and kept going. The first meal out of the gate was lasagna, followed by vegetable-barley soup and, last night, a white bean and spinach strudel. It's like Invasion Of The Body Snatchers except instead of being replaced with an alien hell-bent on ruling the Earth, she was replaced with a kid-size being who'd easily settle for a good home-cooked meal.
Parenting is often mystifying. Never dull. Often mystifying.
January 21, 2013
Some days I feel like we haven't made much progress as a country. Then I look at the fact that an African American man is being sworn into office - for the second time - on a holiday celebrating the life of Martin Luther King.
January 18, 2013
The Weeklies #242
The Weekly Beverage. Vitamin Water Power C.
The Weekly Food I Love. Black eyed peas. Hate the band, love the food.
The Weekly Food I Don't Understand. Blue cheese.
The Weekly Bad TV. If you follow me on Facebook, you'll know that I expressed my distate for Portlandia earlier in the week. Sure, we only watched one episode but that was enough. I get the joke and I get why it should be funny...but it wasn't. Frankly the only good thing about it was seeing Steve Buscemi who is rapidly turning into a twin of director John Waters.
The Weekly Good TV. We bit the bullet and watched the first episode of the rebooted Sherlock Holmes. Sheer awesomeness.
The Weekly Read. The Silver Linings Playbook was a novel before it was transformed into an award-winning movie. While I haven't seen the movie, I've read the book. And it's pretty darn good. I'm not sure it lives up to the five star reviews and inevitably hype, but it's a well-written story with great characters and a compelling tale that's hard not to love.
The Weekly TMI Evidence It's Been A Long Week And Will Be A Long Day. My underwear's on backwards.
The Weekly Internet Hilarity. Lousy Book Covers catalogs some of the worst self-public book covers around. And there are some really, really bad ones.
The Weekly Question. President Obama's gun control initiatives - too far or not far enough?
January 17, 2013
Crack is whack? Crack's got nothing on Bejeweled.
The other day, Owen made me download Bejeweled. Okay, he didn't make me. He didn't stand over me threatening bodily harm while I shakily entered my password into the app store. But I downloaded it all the same. And when I did - and when it opened up and I saw all those shimmering animated jewels on my screen all ready to be lined up and exploded - I remembered exactly why I didn't have Bejeweled on my phone. It's fucking addictive. As a result, I've played pretty much every day since. My highest score is a measly 400,000 but that guy in Korea with 9,391,004 points is tracking me in his rearview.
Last night, Owen watched me play (he still hasn't gotten the drift and is content to watch me).
Owen: How did you get so good.
Me: Practice. Like everything else.
Owen: I just thought you had mad skills.
Me: Mad skills?
Owen: Mad skills.
Me: Yeah, I have some of those too.
Mad skills and a slightly unhealthy addiction.
January 16, 2013
Public education gets a bad rap. In some ways it should. We do so many things backwards. We cut physical education, music and art programs and design curricula for the single purpose of passing a series of tests. In doing so we take away whatever freedom good teachers have to be creative and prop bad teachers up. Systems are so strained that they would cease to function without the intervention of concerned parents while teachers spend their own paychecks on supplies.
That's the bad stuff, the parts everyone knows, the criticisms everyone makes. What's often forgotten is the good.
I went to an elementary school concert last night. During the first half of the program, the choir serenaded the audience of excited parents and bored siblings with adaptation of popular songs. They were surprisingly good, very enthusiastic, and clearly having a wonderful time. Then came Mia and her drumming ensemble. Yes, drums. The kids - grades two through four - have mastered some complicated rhythms on multiple forms of percussion. It's pretty awesome to watch, even more impressive to close your eyes and listen to since that's when you hear the true complexity. They performed surrounded by parents and, most impressively, teachers who lengthened their day to watch the kids they teach.
At the end, the rhythms die down, the music teachers are thanked, flowers are handed out, everyone claps, the principal says a few words, and you notice for just a split second how wonderful the system can be when people care.
January 15, 2013
The Long Haul
I just celebrated an anniversary of sorts. I've been working at the same place for eleven years.
Eleven years seems like a really long time. Eleven years ago I was practically a newlywed. We lived in a little town house and had all three levels to ourselves. Kids hadn't yet entered the picture. Like now, the economy was in a little trouble and I'd found myself looking for a gig after getting laid off. So, eleven years is a long time and things were very different when I started this job.
All that said, I'm lucky. My job allows me a great deal of flexibility both in terms of how I work and what I work on. It's rarely dull and if it is I'm probably doing it wrong.
How long have you been doing what you're doing? And is it what you want to do forever?
January 14, 2013
Owen is in the midst of a phase. At least we hope it's a phase. It was once described by noted pediatrician Benjamin Spock as the Doesn't Listen For Shit phase. It's getting old. Two examples.
Our normal family dinner goes something like this:
Me: Owen, why are you not sitting on your bottom in the chair?
Owen: I don't know.
Me: Then sit on your bottom.
...35 seconds pass...
Me: Why are you not on your bottom? We just had this talk?
Owen: I'll sit on my bottom.
...1 minute passes...
Me: Owen! You're not sitting on your bottom. One more time and I'm going to ask you to leave the table.
Owen: Okay, I'll sit. On my bottom, daddy.
...22.5 seconds pass...
Me: Owen. You're not on your bottom. Please leave the table.
Owen: BUT I DON'T WANT TO LEAVE THE TABLE!
Or, alternatively, a conversation in the car may go something like:
Owen: Where are we going again?
Beth: To the grocery store.
Owen: Oh. Okay. What do we need there?
Me: Bread. And some wine.
Owen: Where are we going?
Beth: The grocery store.
Owen: For what?
Me: Bread. Wine. We talked about this
Owen. Okay. Wait. We're going where?
Beth: To buy a hot air balloon.
Me: And float to Zimbabwe.
Owen: How far away is Zimbabwe?!?!
Owen is a wonderful boy and I love him dearly. But the whole not listening thing drives me up the freaking wall. Combined with the fact that the kid totally knows how to push my buttons - even buttons I didn't know I had - it's downright maddening. I'm sure it goes both ways. I'm sure I drive him up the wall and push all his buttons as well. After all, I helped install them. Still, I wish he'd listen to me occasionally.
Haiku For Monday #439
Monday? How the fuck did that
happen? Blame time warps.
January 11, 2013
The Weeklies #241
The Weekly Sign The Holidays Are Gone. We undecorated. I love the holidays but I can't tell you how nuts it makes me feel to have our living room completed rearranged.
The Weekly Evidence of Global Warming. It's January and there are stink bugs flying around.
The Weekly Vehicle. A wagon. Or, rather, the wagon. I decided to take a break from week-day drinking and, while I miss my beer, I feel totally different. In a good way. Who knew. This is a sure sign I'm getting old.
The Weekly Read. Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children by Ranson Riggs was simply brilliant. I loved it a little more than I thought I would. It was actually quite wonderful, this burrito of suspense, thrills, horror, fantasy, mystery and literary fiction. It was, perhaps, a little more fantasy than I'd anticipated. I'm not a fantasy guy but the way it was executed was pretty damn wonderful. Pairing the story with bizarre - and real - photographs heightened the creepiness and also made for welcome glimpse into the surreal. Highly recommended.
The Weekly Book Spree. Armed with a couple of Amazon gift cards, I went kinda nuts this week downloading books. I'm pretty much set for, like, the next couple of years.
The Weekly Music. Owen made me download Copacabana after I'd been humming it around the house. Seriously. He wouldn't let it go until I downloaded the fucking thing so I did and then we danced around his room signing the song. He now knows all the words yet I'm the one stuck with Barry Fucking Manilow on my phone. And in my head. Make it stop!
The Weekly Question. So, whatcha got planned for the weekend?
January 10, 2013
How many of you are sick? Or have been sick in the past couple of weeks? Or feel like you're coming down with something right this very minute?
If your part of the world is anything like mine, you're hearing the constant sound of coughing and sneezing no matter where you travel. Calls are going unanswered and emails unreturned with out-of-office messages popping up as soon as the send button's clicked. I'm beginning to feel like we're on the leading edge of some bizarre, world-shattering plague.
I'm going to be pissed if I wake up to zombies roaming the streets in the morning. Especially if those fuckers are between me and a Starbucks.
January 9, 2013
The N Word
In the long, sordid history of offensive words, there's one word (it begins with an N) that's particularly offensive. Actually, I'd argue that all the others - nick, nhit, nuck, nock, namn or even nunt - pale in comparison. Though I'd argue that even those are just harmless little words. No, the worst word is one that's so loaded with history and emotion that it transcends vulgarity. You know the word I'm talking about.
Which is why this story caught my eye:
Two weeks ago, the Django Unchained cast sat down with Jake Hamilton, host of Houston’s Emmy-winning film show Jake’s Takes, at a press junket. Things went smoothly enough until Hamilton approached Jackson with a question about the movie’s controversial use of the “n-word.” Jackson insisted that Hamilton, who is white, say the word out loud; after Hamilton repeatedly refused, they moved on. It was uncomfortable.
“The most awkward moment was just seeing everyone in the room freeze, and waiting to see what my reaction was going to be,” Hamilton says today.
The internet reaction has been mixed. Many commenters claim that Hamilton should have simply said the word, while others applaud the reporter for not caving to Jackson’s demand. Hamilton says that his decision was in the best interest of the show and the network.
“Whatever the video’s doing today, making the rounds, it’s not as bad as it would be if I had actually said it,” he says.
Like I said, I think words are mostly harmless unless they're primed and fully-armed with history, context, and emotion. And that word clearly qualifies.
Would you have said it? Or would have stared Samuel Snakes-On-A-Motherfucking-Plane Jackson down and refused?
January 8, 2013
Cheating, Or Another Word For Stylist That Doesn't Make Me Feel Like Justin Bieber
I'm not the person you thought I was. This afternoon I'm cheating. After seven long, wonderful years of joyous follicular partnership, I'm seeing another stylist.
Side note: The word stylist makes me feel like I should be in a boy band or undergoing serious body-waxing procedures. Since I'm neither, we need to come up with a better name for a woman at a salon who cuts guys' hair. I'm throwing my weight behind guylist.
I have a somewhat checkered past with - uh-hum - stylists. For years I went to old school barbers, you know, crusty old guys and their sons who know how to do precisely two haircuts - with clippers or with scissors - and have ancient posters of victorious Super Bowl teams and pinups on their fake wood-paneled walls. Then I saw Frank. Frank was a wonderfully flamboyant man who I incorrectly assumed was gay for quite a number of years. Then I had a two year run with a stylist who a) got a boob job, b) was enthusiastic in her desire to show everyone the results of said boob job, c) married a state trooper, d) had a baby with another man, and e) ran away. Then I found Harriet (which is not her real name no mater how awesomely ironic that would be). Harriet and I had a lot in common and got along famously...until she switched salons a couple months back. And her new salon is probably only ten miles away from my house but in Northern Virginia traffic might as well be on the moon.
Dilemma. Cue 1950's soap opera-style organ music.
Do I stick with Harriet who I know and very much like as both a guylist and friend? Or do I skip the traffic and make an appointment with another guylist at my usual place who was, in fact, trained by Harriet and also cuts Mia's hair? I wrestled for two whole months. And by that I mean procrastinated for two months but finally made the decision to do that last thing.
You should probably know that my appointment was originally scheduled for yesterday afternoon only when I jumped into my car to head to the appointment it wouldn't start. I'm choosing to avoid taking that as some sort of sign.
January 7, 2013
Watching Mia play basketball is one of the single most entertaining things I've ever had the opportunity to see.
Mia's first basketball game was on Saturday. And while I'd had the opportunity to see a scrimmage a few weeks back, Beth hadn't yet seen Mia play. So when Mia was asked to defend a player roughly six inches taller than her, Beth had questions.
"Why do they have her defending that giant?" she asked.
"Just watch" I replied. And she did.
What Beth - and everyone else with an eye on the game - saw was the most tenacious defense in the history of the game. A bold claim, I know, but you've never seen anything quite like it. She took everything her coach said about defense to heart then pumped that knowledge full of seven year old energy and wound up with a unique technique.
See, Mia finds the person she's supposed to defend, walks up to them putting about four inches between them and her, raises both arms in the air as straight and high as they'll go and stays there. No matter where you move, there's Mia not letting you do a damn thing. She's in-your-face. She's white, you're rice. Fill in your own metaphor here.
Unfortunately, she also does this when she's supposed to be playing offense. And occasionally throws in some odd ballet moves whilst running down the court. So we have some work to do. But it's hard to be dainty and a hard ass at the same time.
Haiku For Monday #438
A warm bed is not
conducive to getting up
facing a work day.
January 4, 2013
The Weeklies 240
The Weekly Word. Kine. It's the plural of cows and the only word in the English language in which the plural form of the word contains none of the letters of its singular form.
The Weekly Thing I'm Thankful For. The three day week.
The Weekly Beverage. Coffee. And lots of it.
The Weekly Photo Collage.
The Weekly Read. Between closing out the season of Walking Dead (until it returns next month) and finishing off the Newsflesh trilogy by Mira Grant, I've been surrounded by zombies. With Blackout, Grant ended one of the best series of books I've read. Why? Because they were astonishingly well-written, populated by characters you gave a damn about, and turned a genre on its ear in a really refreshing and compelling way. Plus it's all about bloggers.
The Weekly Television. Chopped. And is it me or did the Food Network turn into the All Chopped Channel?
The Weekly Food. Jalapeño stuffed green olives.
The Weekly Question. What one thing are you most looking forward to in 2013?
January 3, 2013
The Cult Of Stuff
After one of our Christmas break adventures, we stopped and had dinner at a restaurant connected to a local mall. This mall has a reputation. It's pricey. Like, so pricey you expect to be required to flash three months worth of pay stubs and a Rolex to get in the door. When you make it past the bouncers, you're almost immediately surrounded by Gucci, Fendi, Juicy and other way too expensive stores that end in an i sound, not to mention people whose boobs and noses are only slightly more expensive than their clothes. And when we made our way down a couple of escalators we found ourselves next to the most inexpensive place in the joint (Starbucks) and the most expensive car I've ever touched. I can't for the life of me remember what it was but the list price was $272,000. In response to Owen's reaction to the car, I immediately found myself repeating two things:
- "In the name of Liberace don't you dare touch that thing."
- "No, we cannot buy it."
Then I had a flashback to Christmas.
[Make Wayne's World flashback sounds and hand gestures here.]
Our Christmas was bountiful this year. To put it mildly. Each year Beth and I decide what to buy the kids- augmenting what we think Santa's going to bring, of course - and try our best to stick to it. But for some reason, this year the pile of gifts under the tree kept growing. And growing. To the point at which presents could no longer fit anywhere in the vicinity of the tree and had to be placed on the other side of the room. I'm of two minds about this.
"This is great. We love our kids and want them to have things they like. I mean, there wasn't a whole lot of cheap plastic crap under the tree. No, instead there was a guitar for Mia, lots of books, a castle that Owen will play with until he's 27. Well...okay so there was a lot of plastic crap under the tree but they're things that the kids will enjoy and get use out of," argued Mind One.
"Be that as it may," Mind Two chimed in, "we're insane and we're teaching our kids that life is one giant mall you can walk through, buy anything you want, credit limits and delayed gratification be damned."
Both minds made convincing arguments.
The truth is somewhere in between. I don't think our kids know the value of a dollar but they're not clueless either. But neither financial management or the finer points of capitalism are things I expect my kids to have mastered. But we're trying. They know that things have to be earned, that those things don't grow on trees, and that sometimes money is a very real barrier between what they want and what we can give them.
The problem is that our (society's, that is) cult of stuff sends them the complete opposite message. We all need stuff - bigger TVs, nicer cars, a truckload of gadgets, limitless entertainment to watch - and we wait in line for the privilege of paying money for those things, whether it's a new iPhone or a Black Friday shopping spree at 2:00 in the morning. I'm part of the problem. How hypocritical of me.
I'm not sure what the solution is or how to impress upon anyone - adults or kids - that things don't matter. Precisely the opposite. The things you can't go out and buy, hold, have, put in a box, collect dust upon are the things that matter most.
January 2, 2013
Sweetbabyjesus, I've been out of the office - and the real world - since Christmas eve and reentry's a bitch.
I'm not sure I know where to begin. We had so many adventures, so much fun, so much celebration. We baked cookies, wrapped presents, opened presents, celebrated with family, drank beer and wine, recovered from drinking beer and wine, cooked, shopped, traveled to kids' museums, ate big hunks of cheesecake, decorated, undecorated, read books, played games, and watched movies. Like I said, I don't know where to begin.
Maybe I need a day to gather my thoughts about the holidays. Give me 24 hours and I'll get back to you. In the mean time, I hope your holidays were wonderful. I wish you a glorious 2013.