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The Big Questions

February 27th, 2014

“What are Captain America’s powers?”

These are the kind of questions I have to field now that my 5-year-old has discovered superheroes. Which is mostly awesome. Though most of my superhero facts come from 70’s Saturday morning cartoons like Super Friends.

So I know a little too much about the Wonder Twins and their monkey Gleek and less about Captain America. Oddly, the Wonder Twins aren’t really taking part in the superhero renaissance we’re having right now.

But even when I know the origin stories, it can get a bit dicey explaining them on a 4 and 5-year-old level. Telling my kids Spider Man got his powers when he was bitten by a radioactive spider doesn’t exactly play into my goal of trying to get them to calm the hell down when they see a stinkbug. “But what if it’s radioactive?!” I mean, come on. We’re still working on not being scared of thunder; do I really need to introduce the concept of radioactivity?

Even though superheroes are marketed to young kids, they actually exist in a dangerous and morally ambiguous world that can be exhausting to explain to a preschooler. The gray ethical areas around vigilante justice meted out by people who have been deformed by radiation poisoning is not what I want to get into Tuesday morning before I’ve had coffee.

“Is the Hulk good?”

“Um….hey, want to know where babies come from?”

Luckily I often get a few softball questions too, like, “What’s Superman’s power?” Or, my favorite because it’s one of the few things I can be definitive about in this world, “Are superheroes real?”

“No, honey, they’re just stories.”

Which is something I need to remind my kids of a lot around bedtime. Just like almost every Disney movie starts with a mother dying, almost every superhero story starts with some horrific science tragedy. And we wonder why the U.S. is lagging in the sciences. I’m sure this rising up in the face of adversity theme is a great message for kids and all, but I’m just trying to get them to sleep. I don’t need primers for thought provoking discussions on when mommy is going to die or be accidentally trapped in an atom smasher.

Coinciding with the superhero obsession is a pretty aggressive curiosity around God. And, let’s be honest, you can see how this might get confusing; especially when you throw Thor into the equation

“Oh, so he’s a god. Like God?”

“Kind of.”

“What’s God’s superpower?”

“Um…”

“Is God real?”

“Hey, do you know how you got out of mommy’s belly?”


Derailed

January 30th, 2014

I love a good music festival. Sitting on a folding chair with an umbrella, drinking beer and eating fried foods, it’s as American as apple pie. Which probably explains our obesity problem. Still, the Three Rivers Arts Festival is right up my alley. I was excited to try it out one of my first summers living in Pittsburgh.

Unfortunately I have children.

I’m sorry, that came out wrong.

My wife and I chose to bless ourselves with two little miracles who prevent us from doing fun things. Their bedtime and babysitter logistics made it difficult to make the festival at night. But no matter, we decided to take the kids during the day. We would make it an outing. Now, when planning an outing with a 3 and 4 year old, I find it important to remember the ”box principle” That is, you can buy your kid a super fancy cool toy and they will spend the day running around with their head in the box it came in, singing “I am a musical robot!” until they trip over the actual toy and break it; you can never predict what a child will find entertaining.

Once we took our kids to see a live performance of their favorite show, Yo Gabba Gabba. We bought the tickets, battled through traffic and parking at the Benedum, and sat through 2 hours of this:

We did not do this for our own entertainment. But their highlight: the escalator. The box principle.

So we take a shotgun approach to discussing any day’s plan, no matter how cool we think the end game is. “Guess what we’re doing today? We’re going to have breakfast?! Yeah. And then we’re going to pick out some pants for you to wear?! “

It was in this spirit that we decided to take the subway to the Three Rivers Arts Festival.

And we struck box gold.

It turns out our kids had become obsessed with subways after an episode of Caillou, a horrendous kids cartoon from Canada. The show stars a 3-year-old named Caillou who is inexplicably bald. At first I thought it was about a kid struggling with cancer which would have been very bold. But it turns out it’s supposed to just make Caillou more of an “everykid” that both toddlers and babies can relate to. In practice, it’s creepy. And his parents are annoying in that overly indulgent, everything is a lesson Canadian kind of way.

Plus, I know this is going to sound weird, but his mom’s chest is drawn all wrong.
It’s like the chest of a once buxom 80-year-old showgirl on a middle aged woman. In scenes where it’s just close-ups of Caliou’s head talking to his mom, you can still see the contours of it. It’s an odd choice. And the illustrator also randomly draws Caillou’s babysitters or young teachers with crop tops for some reason. It’s all off. Like Canadian bacon.

Anyway, one day Caillou takes the subway somewhere and learns all about the wonders of public transportation. My kids watched this episode about 100 times.
So when we mentioned the subway they lit up; “You mean we get to take the subway just like Caillou?!” Well, hopefully not exactly like Caillou. Mommy will wear a bra, but yes.

There was much jumping around the house and singing, “We’re taking the subway!”
And if we’re being honest, it wasn’t just my kids who were excited. I grew up in Los Angeles where public transportation is exotic, like driving on the wrong side of the road or using a unicycle. So I’m a bit fascinated by it myself. “Oooh, a subway? Will there be a salty nut vendor? A crazy hobo?”

The subway in question was the extension that connects downtown to the North Shore. When this station opened it was heralded around my office on the North Side like the opening of a new ride at Kennywood. We all took it downtown for lunch one day. It took us two hours to pick up Mongolian BBQ at the food court in Gateway Center and bring it back to the office. As useful workday public transportation goes, this route only makes sense if you are trying to get fired.

But as a way to give drunk people a chance to nap on the way back to their car after a Steelers game, it’s spot on. For what they spent to build this one mile connection the city may have been better off just covering everyone’s taxis for the next 15 years. But for coming south down Route 28 and to avoid downtown parking on a weekend, it’s perfect.

So our subway journey started with a 20 minute drive; out of the gate my kids are learning the wrong lessons about public transportation. “Everyone get in the car. Let’s buckle up so we can drive to the subway.” When they’re told people in New York don’t need cars because they have the subway, my children will be confused. Once we hit the North Shore we could have continued driving another five minutes to get to our actual destination, but that was no longer an option. You do not renege on the promise of a subway ride.

The station itself is a new, shiny modern building of glass, steel, concrete and sharp angles; a bit of architectural sleight of hand to distract the residents of the North Side and North Hills from the fact that the Pittsburgh subway runs twenty-three miles south of the city with forty-five stops, and then ends with this 523 million dollar two-stop nub on the other side of the river. An urban planning booby prize. “No, we don’t go to Cranberry, but look at this flying buttress!” “Up to Millvale? No way. But look at this glass elevator!”

On this sunny Saturday morning with a huge festival just across the river, the station was a hub of inactivity. We entered at street level and saw there was already a train waiting above at the platform level. This could have been perfect timing if not for the ticketing machines on the lower level which were apparently designed by the same committee that decided to replace simple parking meters with a new streamlined system that involves waiting behind someone as they try to remember their license plate number in the snow. In this case there was some kind of zone system involved and by the time we deciphered the map and figured out we were travelling in a free zone, we had missed the train.

So for one of the first times in my life I managed to be pissed about getting a free ride.
The kids were, of course, unfazed, focused as they were on the escalator. “You didn’t even tell us there was going to be an escalator!”

Kid outing tip #2: always keep a few surprises to yourself. There will be a day, probably very soon, where I will not be able to entertain my kids just by taking them somewhere that is two stories. So we rode up and down a few times. Then they ran back and forth on the platform. Then they noticed the tunnel.

The ride from the North Shore to Gateway goes under the Allegheny River and standing on the platform you can see the track curve toward the river and head down. If you’ve at all been paying attention you should be able to guess that tunnels are right in my kids’ wheelhouse. “A way for something to get somewhere?! Sign me up!”
Waiting for the subway now took on a sense of urgency. They couldn’t have cared less that we were taking it to the festival. In fact, I’m pretty sure they didn’t remember where the hell we were going. They just had to get into that tunnel. And until they did, they were going to grill me about it.
“Are we going to go under the water? How do we get under the water? Will we get wet? Why not?” I felt like my Saturday morning was turning into a McCarthy hearing. By the time we got into discussing what the fish may or may not have been doing while the tunnel was being built, I wanted to grab them both, “Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?”

I mean, seriously, the last time I even tried digging a hole I was seven and attempting to make a trap for my sister. The plan was to cover the hole with leaves and brush, lure her out and she’d fall in. Just like in Looney Tunes. Instead, I got stuck to the shovel by a large splinter and my mom had to call the paramedics to detach me. I’m not going to have your answers on this tunnel.

Eventually, the subway came and we went to the Arts Festival , which would have been a tremendous disappointment had anyone actually been looking forward to it at this point. There were no bands in Pittsburgh awake, let alone playing at noon. And the festival’s vaunted “kids area” is essentially a few folding tables with crayons and a guy who keeps a bongo in his van. Don’t get me wrong, I think the Three Rivers Arts Festival is a great event. We were just there at the wrong time for our tastes; my kids have limited interest in buying framed lithographs of the Pittsburgh skyline.

But it didn’t matter anymore. We’d eat some fried food, probably on a stick. Followed by chocolate-covered things, also on sticks. And then we would ride the subway home. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, life is journey a, not a destination. And to think, he hadn’t even ridden an escalator.


Dog Day

October 2nd, 2013

I don’t currently have a dog, but I had one  growing up and like to consider myself a dog person; for the most part I trust dogs and am comfortable around them. This is an attitude I’d like to pass on to my kids, even if we’re never going to own our own dog for various reasons.  (Reason #1: I’ll never again knowingly bring something into my house that is going to wake me up at five in the morning. No matter how cute it is.  Got fooled twice on that one already.)

So when I was attacked by a pack of dogs at the park, more than anything my feelings were hurt.

It was a weekday afternoon and the park was mostly empty; just me and what  appeared to be a drum circle waiting for the guy with the drums. Their dogs, five or so, were playing around them unleashed.  As I passed, the dogs headed toward me. This would normally not concern me except the owners not only smelled like a Phish concert but were also not paying attention.

I should clarify my comfort level with dogs is directly proportional to my comfort level with their owners. I don’t think twice about a friend’s dog just like I hope they don’t worry my kids are going to lunge at them and gouge their eyes out with a My Little Pony comb.  But  I do get slightly nervous when I see a German Shepherd being walked alone by a fifty pound eight-year-old or an unleashed Rottweiler  bounding toward me while his owner is on the phone scheduling their next neck tattoo.

As these particular dog owners  were otherwise engaged in a deep a debate over what’s more anti-establishment, hacky sacks or those juggling sticks, their dogs formed a semicircle around me and began growling and baring their teeth.

I slowly started backing up,  doing my best to appear calm and not show fear while  yelling,  “Hey, come get your fucking dogs!”  It was one of those moments where the local paper headlines about you flash before your eyes.  “Man Mauled!”  “Lunch Hour Dog Attack!” “Local Man Not As Cool With Dogs as He Thought!”

Finally, right as one of the them jumped for me, an unemployed Janis Joplin impersonator hopped up from the circle and called off the pack, “I’m so sorry, they are never like this.”

Bad opener. Subtle victim blaming is not the best approach to take with someone your dog has just attacked.    Unless she was going to follow that up with, “You must be one of us,” and then induct me into their gang of hippie undead Lost Boy-style.

But much to my chagrin she did not.  Which meant she was really just  saying,  “Why is your negative energy bumming out my dogs?”

Shaken, I headed back to work.  It wasn’t until then that I realized one of the dogs had actually scraped me and drawn blood. This led to one of the more awkward office bathroom exchanges as a co-worker walked in on me with my jeans rolled up,  wiping blood off my leg.  “How’s it going?”  “I was just attacked by dogs in the park.”  “Mondays.  Am I right?”

I then spent the next hour at my desk  self-diagnosing rabies.

Worked into a panic I went back to the scene of the crime to find the owners and ask if the dogs had their shots.  Sure enough, the drum circle was still there. Still sans drum.  Janis Joplin assured me all the dogs were very “well taken care of.”  Which, of course.  What is she going to say, “Oh, these dogs? No, they’re totally illegal. Here, do you want me to call the humane society or do you want to just put them down yourself with this rock?”  Still, I felt reassured.

I ended up not getting rabies (yet), though my doctor did have me come in for a tetanus shot. I still like to consider myself a dog person.  But I am definitely more wary of drum circles.  Especially those without drums.


Frequent Flyers

July 28th, 2013

Earlier this summer we took a family  trip to Sedona, AZ.  Many people flee a place when its temperatures reach over 110 degrees.  Not us.  We pack up the suitcases and dive in.  Because we live on the east coast now and so think 110 isn’t that bad if it’s a dry heat.  Even though, as my mother-in-law pointed out, so is a fucking oven (I might be paraphrasing).

Still,  Sedona in July is beautiful in that Breaking Bad, this-would-be-a-good-place-to-dispose-of-a-dead-body kind of way.  Though, oddly, “dead body disposal” never shows up on the Sedona tourism literature.  Instead the focus is on spiritual renewal.  This is because Sedona is apparently blessed with four strong energy vortexes; swirling centers of energy which resonate at a frequency that can strengthen the Inner Being (that’s capital I, capital B in all Sedona literature).

Unfortunately I can’t really speak to the effectiveness of the Sedona vortexes since I was traveling with energy vortexes of my own, TB and TG,  who resonate at a frequency that makes your Inner Being go out for a pack of cigarettes and never come back.

Yes they are amazing and a blessing and all that.  But, seriously, it’s hard to get away from it all when the all you are trying to get away from is in the seat next to you asking for gum and another episode of  Caillou every 5 five minutes.

On top of them, there’s all the them-related stuff.   I once traveled across Europe with one backpack.   We now need an excel spreadsheet just to pack our carry-on luggage for a four hour flight.   “Do we have enough snacks? Diapers and wipes for TG?  A change of underwear for TB?  A change of pants for both of them – remember the explosive diarrhea incident.  Crayons?  Are you sure we have enough snacks?  Paper?  DVD Player? Books?  The iPad? Are you SURE we have enough snacks? Good lord we cannot run out of snacks!”

Overkill, perhaps.  But trust me, you do not want to be caught unprepared on a plane next to someone with a short attention span and little understanding of social norms.  A three-year-old doesn’t respond well to “the journey is the destination.”

Which is why our kids actually love flying — they’ve learned airplanes are an anything goes zone; all normal rules for screen time and snack food are on hold when we’re trapped in a metal tub with strangers 30,000 feet in the air.  It’s Vegas up there for them.  Just a bacchanal orgy of lollipops, Pixar movies and juice.  And when we finally try to put our foot down, the flight attendants cruise by preemptively throwing bags of cookies at them.  My kids roll out of airplanes like they’re coming out of Jeff Spicoli’s van from Fast Times at Ridgemont High.


WordPlay Returns

July 28th, 2013

WordPlay

As the 3 of you know, I produced a show in L.A. called WordPlay for over 5 years.  It was comedy writers telling true stories to a live DJ soundtrack.  And as you also may know, thanks to support from the Sprout Fund and Bricolage Theater, I’ve revived the show here in Pittsburgh.  I won’t toot my own horn, but you can read other people tooting it here and here and here.   Don’t miss the action. Mark your calendar for our next show (tickets on sale soon).

WordPlay: True Stories with a Live Soundtrack
9/6 @ 8pm $15

Bricolage Theater 937 Liberty Ave


Fashion Forward

March 18th, 2013

TG has recently decided she has strong opinions about fashion. Which is unfortunate for a two-year-old who is still working on reliably identifying colors.

So now, on top of everything else, mornings are becoming a toddler episode of Project Runway. Complete with diva meltdowns.

TW and I essentially agree that getting this girl dressed isn’t worth a big battle. But there are some parameters. For starters she can’t choose the spaghetti strap sundress in January. (Or March, as it turns out. Come on, Pgh. Seriously?) And she can’t wear anything that makes her look like a clown. Or, more to the point, anything that makes her look like she was dressed by clowns.

Unfortunately, as it turns out, TW and I have different ideas about clowns. And so the last time I picked out an outfit precipitated a heated discussion on what “match” means. (News flash: it’s apparently not just about colors!)

But while our parameters of acceptable fashion may vary, we do agree there are limits to how ridiculous her outfits should be allowed to get.

At least for now. In a few years, it’s a different story. By, say, 5th grade, if she decides it’s important to wear floral print pants under butterfly print shorts with a polka dot shirt, I’d say go for it. The Darwinian laws of the playground will manage that decision. And if she isn’t swayed by her peers, good for her.

But currently her peers are two. And you cannot rely on the peer pressure of two-year-olds to enforce social norms. Instead, they generally just give each other bad ideas. “Oh, you *eat* yours after you pick them? Good call.”

And so, at some level, we feel we should intervene. It’s just a matter of agreeing on that level.

Now TB has his own fashion opinions, too. But his are more basic and tactile. The fire truck shirt itches. Or “I want a shirt with a picture.” I can manage that. Plus, for whatever reason, you can just do a lot less damage given the contents of his dresser. I can grab a pair of pants and shirt at random and usually be OK.

Opening a drawer of TG’s dresser is like being in the Hurt Locker.

If I’m careful and pay attention I can save the day and she’s dressed like

but one wrong move and it’s

I am very aware that deciding her outfits is a way for us to exert some fleeting control over her. After all, when she’s in high school we’re not going to be able to lay out three options of people she can date.

Though if she keeps making the fashion choices she does now, *who* she dates might not be a problem we struggle with.


Bad Routines

December 6th, 2012

Bedtime is really a special time for parents; arguably the most cherished time of the day. To be clear, I don’t mean that in the cuddling, cozy sense. But in the Go The Fuck To Sleep sense

I love my children more than I thought I could ever love anything; especially something that I want to smother at the end of the day. Sometimes a parent’s love is best savored after the child is asleep, in peace and quiet over a beer or a glass of wine. Or a cookie that no one is going to ask me for a bite of. Seriously, my kids can hear the crunch of food in my mouth from 100 yards away. It’s the world’s most useless super power.

But what really gets me about bedtime isn’t the bedtime stories. My kids are on a merciful one-story regimen with that. It’s the whole routine leading up to the bedtime story that is killing me. It’s not a routine in the sense of an unvarying, repeatable formula but more a routine in the Olympic gymnastics sense; a series of ridiculous contortions that get increasingly more complex, often set to very bad music.

We kick it off with the what should be the simple task of getting them upstairs. This is immediately complicated by my daughter, the 2-year-old, who first has to collect all her stuff. Yeah, this is still going on.

Little Miss OCD essentially travels around the house with a posse of 17 “baby dolls”, as she calls them. Which isn’t even technically accurate. Because a sock monkey isn’t a, “baby doll” nor is a stuffed dog wearing a sweater vest. But I’m not going to argue doll classification systems with her.

I dare you to.

And she insists all 17 “baby dolls” be positioned sitting around her crib facing her. Laying her down to sleep feels like setting up a Pixar remake of Rosemary’s baby or something.

Anyway, when we finally get both kids upstairs we then have to complete the toddler triathlon of brushing teeth, bathing and putting on pajamas.

This stuff is rough because 2 and 3-year-olds want to do everything themselves but, quite frankly, they can’t. Have you met a 2 or 3-year-old? They’re invalids. But telling your 2-year-old she can’t brush her own teeth goes over about as well as telling your 90-year-old grandfather with cataracts he probably should no longer drive even though he drove a tank in WWII. So at bedtime everything is getting done twice. Their way and then the proper way.

Which is not to say I’m like fancy or particular in the way I need these things done. The bar is pretty low. But, for example, my son will come hopping in the room, so proud of himself, “Daddy, I got my PJs on.” But did you notice…he’s *hopping*? Red flag. Why? because BOTH legs are through the left leg of the pajamas. A for effort. F for actually being helpful.

I don’t even have the energy to get into what baths are like.

I know I should be savoring these moments more and it’s mostly about adjusting my attitude. Once I was outside with my son before bedtime on a warm night and I saw our neighbor out with his daughter who was around the same age. He yells over, “How’s it going?” “Good,” I say, “Just killing time before bedtime. You?” And he just kind of looks at me and says, “just outside playing with my kid.”

Right. I meant that, too. You smug asshole.


Fashion Sense

September 30th, 2012

My wife just bought me a new pair of pants at Target.

This is a sentence I used to only think was found on suicide notes; encompassing everything thing that once terrified me about married adult life. Also ,Target used to really suck. But now I see it for what it is; a nice gesture by a loving wife. Plus they’re good pants (brown cords, if you’re wondering).

Still, I’m not thrilled that I have largely been removed from my clothing decision making process, even if it is just an arrangement of convenience; TW being the one that more frequently finds herself at places that sell clothes — assuming they also sell diapers and string cheese.

Regardless, this is not how I saw my style evolution playing out.

In high school I had this pinstriped, six-button vest with peace symbols spray painted all over it. It was my prized fashion accessory for years. Ripped jeans, an ironic t-shirt and the peace vest. I didn’t even need to check the mirror; how could I not look good? I had wavy, shoulder length brown hair and wore mismatched Converse Hi-Tops. I had style.

In hindsight, it is possible that when some people said I had “style” they meant it as a polite euphemism. But still, I knew exactly what I liked and how I wanted to look. I could walk into a thrift store and spot my shirt on a rack in 5 minutes.

Now I often spot my shirt on 3 other guys at the mall and one toddler. The fall from thrift store chic to Old Navy mannequin is, as you’d imagine, a gradual process. I think it started sometime around my 29th birthday during an ill-conceived hair bleaching phase.

I thought bleaching my hair would be cool and edgy. But a as I sat under the giant beauty salon hair dryer flipping through old copies of People magazine, my scalp burning from chemicals, I couldn’t help but wonder, “is this what desperately clinging to youth feels like?”

There is a line most men cross after which certain fashion statements look like they are in air quotes. I did not want to go down that road. The hair bleaching was a wake up call – I was about to take the same fork in the road as bald-guy-with-a-ponytail probably took years ago.

And so began my search for an adult style. Something still unique, still me, but distinctly not desperate looking. I even toyed with the idea of wearing suits. I don’t have a suit kind of job, so becoming “suit guy” on weekend nights had a certain charm.

But I don’t travel in the kind of social circles where such a formal style is easy to pull off. Being the only guy wearing a suit at Eat ‘n Park for a 6 o’clock dinner on Saturday night doesn’t make me feel hip, it makes me feel like I’m at a high school musical’s closing night cast party..

I now understand why some men just give up. Why they just grab the khaki shorts, tuck in their old college t-shirt, buckle up the braided leather belt and call it a day. Maybe toss on some socks under the sandals if it’s chilly out. I’m sure there is something very liberating about throwing off the chains of fashion and style. But I’m not ready to take that fork in the road either. At least not quite yet. Talk to me in 5 years.

Until that day I sit, at a fashion crossroads with my Target pants and thrift store heart.


Training Day

September 15th, 2012

For the first year or so of a child’s life, we parents obsess about all their milestones and if they’re hitting them on time. Has he rolled over yet? How about putting his foot in his mouth – apparently that’s a thing to be proud of.

These milestones create the perfect storm of kids being unique individuals who do things on their own schedule and parents’ insane need to compete and judge each other. “Suzy isn’t pulling herself up yet?! Oh my.”

I never worried too much about these early milestones because, for the most part, there was nothing for me to do. No amount of peek-a-boo was really going to move along their sense of object permanence.

But now that my kids are 2 and 3 a lot of the milestones are shifting from them to me and things I’m supposed to do. Like potty training. Apparently that doesn’t just happen. TB is now 3 ½ and we finally made a stand, if only because it is very disconcerting to watch a completely sentient human being walk into the laundry room, brace himself against a wall, make this face

poop face

and then walk up to you and say, “Excuse me, I pooped” and assume the position on the floor for his ass wiping. He was ready.

So we set aside a weekend where we were just going to go for it; not let him wear a diaper, make a big deal about “big boy underwear,“ give him whatever he wanted to drink and give him candy every time something came out of his body and landed in the toilet. One candy for pee, two for poop. Three for both. The candy bribe really worked, but I was worried he was going to crap out a hernia or something trying to go for the extra jelly bean. I’m not sure if that is medically accurate or not, but I feel it paints the proper picture of what he was doing.

Some people call this going for broke weekend style of potty-training a “potty party.” But I try and make it a point not to talk to those kind of people.

The first day went really well. Unfortunately, the next day we ended up in a situation where I had to make him pee in a porta-potty. Which I just felt horrible about. I think ideally there’s a good year between when you introduce your kid to using a toilet and when you break the news to them about the existence of porta-potties. But he had to pee and it was the only option. This was the brave new world we were living in. I opened the door, we both peered into the bowl and I was just like, “I’m sorry, son. I’m sorry I brought you into a world where people do things like this.”

Amazingly, TB peed without even shedding a tear. But I do think his faith in humanity died that day.


Endurance

August 11th, 2012

I just completed my first triathlon the other weekend. I’m not trying to brag. I’m actually bragging. Successfully. Almost as successfully as I finished a triathlon the other weekend. Which I did. Did I mention that?

I guess I should clarify this was a “sprint” triathlon. Otherwise known in professional triathlon circles as “seriously, stop calling that a triathlon.” But still. I swam (600 meters), biked (20K) and ran (5K). I did not do all these things particularly well or fast, but I did all three things and that is the definition of “tri.” (“Athlon” is Latin for “insisting on using the metric system in the United States.”)

I have been a casual jogger for most of my adult life. But I have never been too big into organized racing events. It’s one thing to walk out your front door and start running. It’s quite another to pay to register, sit in traffic, look for a parking space, get stabbed with safety pins while putting on your number and then run. It normally just didn’t seem worth the effort. Until I had kids. Then getting the chance to spend a morning at a park getting stabbed with safety pins was a welcome reprieve.

I also found 5Ks a great way to explore the city when we first moved to Pittsburgh. So I started seeking them out. It turns out 5Ks aren’t hard to find. Apparently people who don’t normally give to charity will happily pay to run 3.1 miles for charity. I’m guessing because there is usually a cookie at the end. Also, you can’t eat a huge pasta dinner before writing out a check and call it “carbo loading.”  (It’s quite possible I gain weight doing 5Ks.)

Then, in much the same way the one ear-piercing I got in high school turned into five by college, a few 5Ks eventually led to the sprint triathlon.

What worried me most leading up the triathlon was the biking segment. Which is unfortunate given that is the bulk of the race. I am not a biker. I am a man who occasionally takes his “hybrid cruiser” bike to the trails and tows his kids behind him in a trailer while they scream at each other, “Stop touching me!” This is its own kind of endurance event, but I don’t see Komen’s “drag-your-kids-around-in-a-toddler-cage-match for a cure” catching on anytime soon.

Given the importance of biking in a triathlon, most triathletes have real bikes with grown-up handlebars that curve down. Biking is like reverse evolution as far as being upright is concerned. I may as well have put my energy goo and Gatorade in a little flower basket on the front of my bike and flown my race number from a flag coming out of my banana seat. “Ding, Ding, triathlete coming.”

So I was shocked when the biking portion was not even my slowest time in the race. They break down your times for each event, as well as your transition time between events, to let you know where you ranked. Very thoughtful.  My worst ranking in the entire race was  in the transition between swimming and biking where I simply had to rack my bike and put on shoes and a shirt. I came in 423 out of 487 in this grueling event. Even accounting for the awkwardness of racking a bike with a banana seat and kickstand, there is no excuse. I might as well have taken a quick shvitz in the steam room.

My favorite portion of the race? The water stations. There is a thrill only available in organized races: grabbing a cup of water from a cheering stranger, chugging it with wanton disregard for how much actually makes it into your mouth and then recklessly tossing it aside when you’re done. Littering for sport.  I never get the chance to do anything with such machismo anywhere else in my life.

And given what awaited me when I came home from the race, a little taste of machismo was a welcome friend. The triathlon happened to fall on the same day we had decided to potty train our kids with a “potty party.” The term alone can almost make your balls retract. TB and TG were spending the weekend getting standing ovations *and* candy every time they went to the bathroom. What do I need to do to get some accolades around this house? A triathlon? Well, it was worth a shot.


Circle of Life

June 20th, 2012

I am not a vegetarian.  This is not some conscious, political choice; more like a default setting. If I actually stop to think about it I feel that if I really want a burger, I should probably go hunt it down myself.  But then my daughter melts down because she can’t find the sunglasses she sleeps and my time to actually stop and think about things vanishes. Plus I’m not sure if there is a cow hunting season to speak of.  Or where it falls in relation to cow tipping season.

The point is,  I am like most Americans, I think; for better or worse going day-to-day,  getting my meat from the store and trying desperately not to think about where it came from or what it really is.

But my kids keep reminding me.  They love animals.  Oooh, look, a duck.  A cow. A turkey.  And of course they have all kinds of stuffed animals and books filled with cute little anthropomorphic friends.   It’s hard not to believe the children’s toy and literature industries are just a front for PETA.  Where’s the Fisher Price My First Slaughter House?

We parents are set up from the beginning for the hard questions.

Which have started coming.  As I often do, I blame the Berenstain Bears.

I can’t put my finger on exactly why I hate them so much, but I think it’s related to “Ma’s” house dress and bonnet.

In one of their horrendous books we have from the library it talks about the bear family going fishing.  Thankfully, it didn’t then dive into a graphic description of how bears really catch fish.

But it did show them holding a fishing rod with a giant fish on the hook.

TB pointed to the fish, “What face is he making?”

TB asks this question a lot while we’re reading.  I assume it’s shorthand for how is that person/anthropomorphic thing feeling?

“Um, I think he’s making a surprised face,” I say. “Like, hey, how’d I get here?”  That seems to settle it.  But the whole face-orientedness of the question left me feeling a bit disturbed.

Then the other day  I was making him a turkey sandwich.  Pre-packaged turkey from Hillshire Farms.  I’ve been eating this stuff so long I honestly don’t even associate it with an animal. And when TB had seen a wild turkey in our neighborhood earlier in the day (because apparently that is normal in western PA…like seeing Britney Spears’ ass crack in Calabasas) he said, “Hey, that turkey is making turkey.”  So I thought we were kind of on the same page: complete denial.

But then as I was making him his sandwich his gears started turning.

“Turkey…sounds like…turkey. Hey!  Is this the same turkey as the animal?”

“Um…Yes?”

“Where’s its face?”

How do you even start to answer that question? Where is the face of the turkey in Hillshire Farms Deli Select Ultra Thin Oven Roasted Turkey Breast?

That’s not an answer a kid is ready for.  That’s not an answer I’m ready for.  It’d be one thing if we hunted our own food and processed it ourselves.  But when is a kid ready to learn that this

is this

through this?

I know they’re both going to need to know about the circle of life and all that, but I’m just not ready to tell them.  I feel like it’s going to break their hearts. We’ve spent their whole lives teaching them that animals are their friends. Their stuffed animals, their books, the zoo.

It’s like we set every kid up to have a Soylent Green moment.  We get them hooked on chicken nuggets and then….


Being Taken Seriously

May 22nd, 2012

I took a short break from writing this blog (thank you for noticing) to produce a one-man show based on this blog.    I am the M.C. Escher of self-involvement.

Nevertheless, a few people took my show efforts seriously.  So  I wanted to share their hard work with you here in the hopes that you, too, will learn how to take me seriously.

Interview on Essential Public Radio’s Essential Pittsburgh

Interview with the Tribune-Review

Soak it up.  I will now shortly return with my regularly scheduled navel-gazing.


Role Playing

April 3rd, 2012

TG is still often mistaken for a boy. Which, given her hair situation, is better than the alternative of always being mistaken for Phil Spector:

Or a chia pet:

So we were pretty excited when she finally had enough loose hair to support a ponytail. Not necessarily one on the back of her head where you would expect it, but a few placed at random intervals on her head like she’s been tagged for tracking by a nature program. But still, this is a big deal. At least when you see a kid in a pink jacket with 2 or 3 random ½ inch ponytails  you get the point: girl.

But trying to get your girl to look more like a girl does not come without its perils. Namely, how to explain this to your boy.

Given all the “you look so pretty” and “I love your hair” fuss we were making over TG’s new ponytails — or “tonies” as she calls them — it should have come as no surprise when TB said, “I want a ponytail.”

If there’s one thing kids are great at, it’s making the gender-based societal rules we take for granted seem random.

We were just playing around the house anyway. “Sure,” we said, “why not?”

Then he wanted to wear them to preschool.

We are a fairly progressive couple. Have I mentioned we both drive hybrids? Yeah, we do. We get our slanted, biased news from CNN, not Fox. We like NPR. We subscribe to (though don’t necessarily read) the New Yorker. TW has gone so far as to be left-handed.

But we still were given pause when our 3-year-old son wanted to wear a ponytail to school.

“Well, you know…um….ponytails are usually for girls….kind of…”

“Why?”

It is in moments like these I wish I was a fundamentalist. Fundamentalists have a very easy time raising children. No wonder they can have so many. When your world is black and white, explaining things to kids is easy. “Who is God?” “The creator of all things. When we die we get to spend eternity with Him. Isn’t that great?” “Do boys wear ponytails?” “No.” “Why?” “Because God doesn’t like it.”

But for better or for worse, I have a more relativist, live-and-let-live worldview. I’m finding this is not compatible with raising children.

“Ponytails are for girls. Well, I mean, some boys have ponytails, but not little boys. Though I guess some little boys can have ponytails and that’s OK if their Mommy and Daddy say so. Or their Mommy and Mommy. Or Daddy and Daddy. Hey, want a cookie?”

I wonder if there is an inverse correlation between childhood diabetes and a parent’s moral certitude.

While TB had his cookie and bobbled around with his wonky pontyail, I had to admit he looked pretty cute. “Why can’t we just send him to school like that if he wants?” I thought. Would it ignite a JCrew-style controversy?

Would I likewise be accused by our small, suburban preschool of “blatant propaganda celebrating transgendered children?” We’re not in L.A. anymore, after all. I began to wonder what gender roles we should be forcing on our kids in the name of making their lives easier and which we should ignore in the name of letting them discover who they are. Then it hit me: I had to go to work. Huzzah! I could slip out the door and let my wife make the tough decisions. It was the perfect plan: falling back on classic gender roles to solve a crisis of progressive gender roles. Best of both worlds!

In the end, I think the ponytail fell out and he was distracted by a fruit chew he found under the couch. Crisis averted (unless you count your child eating old food from under the couch a crisis). We’re on borrowed time though. How do you explain to a kid why only girls wear skirts? Who the hell knows.


For a Song

February 26th, 2012

“Gold coast slave ship bound for cotton fields,
Sold in a market down in new orleans.
Scarred old slaver know he’s doin alright.
Hear him whip the women just around midnight.
Ah brown sugar how come you taste so good
(a-ha) brown sugar, just like a young girl should”

These are hard lyrics to explain to a 1 ½ and 3 year-old. Something perhaps I should have thought of before blurting out over breakfast, “Hey, did you know there’s a *song* about brown sugar?”

“Really?!?”

“Really. Do you want to hear it?”

“Yaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay!”

Whooops.

It’s just I’m always looking for an excuse to play some not-horrible music in my house. After years of coveting and whining, I now have the music system of my dreams: Rhapsody combined with Sonos. I am not getting paid to use those brand names; I simply love them. In short, this means I can instantly find almost any song and play it. To me, this is still 100% unbelievably crazy batshit insane awesome. It’s like having a super power.

A power my children squander like Scott Baio in Zapped.

Zapped

He finds he has the ability to move things without touching them and spends his days lifting up skirts. My children can listen to over 11 million songs on demand and repeatedly choose this:

Note the siren on a loop. That’s really in there. (For me to comment on everything else going on in that video of Yo Gabba Gabba at, apparently, Coachella, will require another post entirely.)

So it was under this mental duress I suggested my kids listen to a song about either slave rape or heroin, depending on which section of Wikipedia you believe. Regardless, Brown Sugar is most definitely not about brushing your teeth after eating French Toast. But they seemed to buy that explanation enough.

They also quickly lost interest and returned to their standard rotation of Yo Gabba Gabba and The Fresh Beat Band. Seriously, the list of songs I’m forced to listen to with them is so dreadful that I’m actually thankful when they pick the Swedish Chef singing 70’s hit Popcorn:

That’s a nice, peaceful three and a half minutes in my life.

To answer your question, of course I’ve tried Yellow Submarine. Do you think I’m an idiot? Everyone tries Yellow Submarine. And, sure, it held their interest for a few days. But they’re not really wanting any deeper cuts. Which is probably for the best. First off, I’m not ready to explain:

Rocky Raccoon checked into his room
Only to find Gideon’s bible
Rocky had come equipped with a gun
To shoot off the legs of his rival

Secondly, if my kids got into the Beatles it’d probably just be the crappy George Harrison sitar stuff. Frankly, I’ll take the Swedish Chef over that.


The Reckoning

February 7th, 2012

I had my first parent/teacher conference the other day. I was the parent, which, if you had to choose, is probably the side of the equation you’d want me on. Though I’ll admit it’s something of a Sophie’s choice.

Anyway, it was with TB’s preschool teachers. To start it off they handed us an actual report card with comments. I’m not sure what I expected, but the formality of a report card took me a bit by surprise. Especially given we were sitting in undersized chairs at a tiny table; how seriously I can take a meeting is inversely proportional to how close everybody’s knees are to their faces.

The report card was really just a checklist of skills like “recognizes body parts” accompanied by a two-option grading scale: “working on skill’ and“attained skill.” A very optimistic, though not particularly informative scale. A kid who sometimes confuses his knees and elbows gets the same grade as a kid who, when asked “Where’s your nose?” spins around in circles screaming, “I’m MC Poopy Pants!”

Still, I appreciated the effort. To be honest, TW and I were fretting this evaluation a bit. It’s the first time an informed third party was going to weigh in with an opinion about our child’s behavior. Sure, we’d been to doctors, but a doctor only tells you your kid has croup, not that he’s a jerk. It seems to me parent/teacher conferences tell parents exactly what they are most afraid to hear: the truth about their children. They are like being graded on a long, mucousy science fair project. “You did make a little boy. But it cries more than you would expect and is significantly louder. Plus, technically, it should not still be in a diaper. Overall, C+.”

I like to think I avoided a lot of milestone comparing when our kids were infants, but it is hard to escape that need to judge; to see if your kid is “normal.” Even though, really, who wants their kid to be described as normal? You know who always gets described as “normal?” Psychopaths. “He always seemed like such a nice, normal man. Besides the ten oversize freezers he kept in his backyard. Though now those make sense.”

So walking into the meeting I didn’t know what to hope for. A sensitive kid whose odd quirks might make childhood tough but would serve him well later in life? Or a color-in-the-lines normal kid who will be killing small animals behind a shed in the space of a year?

Then I sat down in the little chair, got the report card and remembered; oh yeah, this is preschool. He’s fine.


The Best Laid Plans

January 25th, 2012

“What are we going to do today?” My son asks this question almost every day now. I’m not sure why a 3 year-old is so concerned with his social calendar, but I guess I can’t blame him. I often ask TW the same thing. He is just trying to exert some control over his existence. After all, his life must seem like an arbitrary series of random events ranging from the very urgent: “come on, get your shoes on it’s time to go!” To the insufferably long: “just wait patiently, everyone else is still eating.”

I would find this kind of existence terrifying; some omniscient being grabbing me each day, “Guess what we’re going to do?” and then sometimes getting ice cream and sometimes getting stripped naked and having a thermometer shoved up my ass. No wonder some days he just wakes up pissed off. “Ahhh, what a great nap…oh, sweet Jesus, what are these people going to do me now?”

We also set a bad precedent when TB was young. Every time we took him out we said it was an “adventure.” Going to the Gap? “Come on, we’re going on an adventure!” It wasn’t like we put a lot of thought into this strategy, I think we were just trying get him excited. Or, more likely, we were just psyching ourselves up. Because going to the mall with a baby *is* an adventure. One that should probably be preceded with a round of vaccinations. A money belt wouldn’t hurt either.

But years of this phrasing has added up and now he thinks everyday he’s going on an adventure. I think this is mostly what’s driving his “what are we going to do today?” Luckily, the bar for “adventure” is set very low. I don’t know how much longer “We’re going to get gas!” is going to cut it for an answer, but so far, so good. I just hope when he does figure it out he doesn’t spoil it for TG. It’ll be like Santa Claus. “Yes, we both know going to pick up the dry cleaning isn’t an adventure, but don’t tell your sister. She still believes.”


Bio Hazard

November 28th, 2011
I drive a hybrid.  So does my wife.  You’re welcome.

We also bring our own bags to the grocery store and our own cups to Starbucks.  And we even talk about composting someday, which has no carbon footprint and is much less gross than actual composting.



My point is we try to be environmentally friendly; do our small part to make the world a better place for our kids.  Which is ironic since having kids has got to be the most aggressively hostile thing you can do to the environment.   I could compost my own feces for the rest of my life and it wouldn’t make up for the ecological havoc wrought by my two children.

First, of course, there is all the stuff.  The diapers, the wipes, the toys entombed in 15 layers of plastic, the food sold in individually wrapped single servings.   And even if you manage to avoid some of these mass-marketed consumer traps there are some things you can’t avoid — even if you shop at Whole Foods.

Like art.  TB is only in preschool 6 hours a week and we’re already amassing a collection of these:

First of all, I’m not even sure why a teacher would send a kid home with this.  Why not just call and tell me you don’t take your job seriously?   This is not the kind of thing you send home to parents.  This is the kind of thing the janitor should find hidden in a locked cabinet at the back of the class underneath an empty flask of whiskey after the teacher has been fired for passing out during recess.

But the art keeps coming, like Thneeds from the Once-ler’s factory.

The earth is going to be destroyed by discarded preschooler art  – half of it probably celebrating Earth Day.

All the stuff notwithstanding, there is also the issue of *them*.  Little ids barreling through life with no self-awareness about their environmental impact.  My daughter throws food.  My son never misses an opportunity to turn on a faucet.  Our house is a suburban landfill of quarter-eaten snack food and forgotten toys. They absolutely must have something, right until the moment they get it, and then they need to open something else.  Kids may look like this:
But from a carbon footprint perspective, don’t fool yourself, they are this:

Driving our kids around in a hybrid is like putting energy efficient windows on your coal-powered whale blubber factory

As the world population streaks past eight billion, we parents need to admit it; raising kids may be a selfless job but *having* them?  Jerk move.

Fix It

November 15th, 2011
Some of my favorite moments of fatherhood are when my kids break things.
As I’ve mentioned before, I am not particularly handy.   It’s sad when I actually stop to think about it; I live in the most advanced civilization in the history of mankind, but all I really know how to do is push buttons.  If pushing the button  doesn’t do what I expect, my next option is to check the batteries and then see if it is plugged in.  After that my choices rapidly narrow to:  call someone,  or reenact the opening scene of 2001: A Space Odyssey.

I am really just a parasite on this modern world.  Some people fantasize about what power they’d have if they could travel back in time knowing what we know now.   But if I were sent back to medieval times I would still be useless. Not only would I be unable to duplicate any modern technology; I’d probably be slow and awkward in my chain mail. As a visitor from the future I would be a tremendous disappointment, having nothing to offer but constant complaints of, “I’m cold, I’m hungry, I think I have the plague.”

However, send me to a planet of small children and I am Handy Manny.

A toddler’s definitions of “fixed” and “broken” are much more generous than the over-3 set.  For example, my wife does not shower me with praise for “fixing” the TV every time I turn it on.

But for my kids,  ”broken” often means “off,” or occasionally,  ”upside down.”  On really challenging days  I have to change a battery, which, on a child’s toy, usually involves a tiny screwdriver,  15 tiny screws and the uncomfortable manhandling of anthropomorphic toys.  I mean, really, that’s where Elmo has to keep his battery?    But if you’ve ever changed the battery on a 2-year-old’s favorite toy you know it’s worth the awkward groping.   It’s like you’re magic.  Just understanding the concept of batteries makes you a Nobel Laureate.   Then busting out the tool box and getting in there removing crotches from monkeys?  Forget it, you’re beyond awesome.

And even when  something is broken for real, my kids’ standards for “fixed”  are much more lenient than, say, OSHA’s.   At least I hope so.   Not that I know exactly what OSHA does, but I have to assume they aren’t relying as much on tape as I am.   Usually scotch or masking.  Occasionally I need to dig up the duct tape.  Whatever will hold the thing together long enough to outlast my kids’ attention span.

I know this window of my handiness is limited, so I’m trying to milk it as much as possible.   In fact, sometimes when I’m feeling needy I secretly remove batteries at night. “Here, let me fix that…”


No Time for Cute

October 30th, 2011

It probably started with my mom – a woman whose idea of a good time is curling up on the couch with a Stephen King book.

When I was 11, she took me to see An American Werewolf in London. When I was 12, she suggested I read The Exorcist. That same year, she gave me her copy of The Keep – a book about Nazis being killed by a vampire in the remote hills of Transylvania, where it left their “bloodless and mutilated corpses behind to terrify its future victims.” more »


I Need This

October 19th, 2011
When I met my wife, she was getting her masters degree in social work and introduced me to the wonders of the DSM-IV – (aka the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition).   And for that I will always be thankful. This manual lists all known and agreed upon mental disorders within the psychiatric profession along with criteria for diagnosis.    As you can imagine, it is  very fun to have around at parties.  Or, more to the point, *after* parties.  Diagnosing friends with Narcissistic Personality Disorder while buzzed is a great way to unwind after a long night out.

But diagnosing your children is much less fun.   Because little kids, as it turns out, are fucked up. All of them. Diagnosably  so.  Circadian Rhythm Sleep Disorder. Oppositional Defiant Disorder. Dependent Personality Disorder.  Children pass through forms of mental illness like they’re developmental milestones.  Talking? Check.  Walking? Check. Excessive emotionality and attention-seeking, including an excessive need for approval?  Check.

My 17-month-old daughter is currently in the Obsessive–Compulsive Personality Disorder phase of childhood.

We gave both our kids “blankies” when they were very young.  It’s a common deal – a “transitional object” as they call it, something for the kid to get attached to and use for soothing themselves.  TB really took to his.  I mean really took to it.  TG took to hers, too.  But she did not stop there; she added colored blocks to the mix, honing in on a particular size in a package and, eventually, a particular color (blue, if you’re curious). Then she became obsessed with phones.  As is common with a toddler phone obsession, toy phones would not do. Giving a one-year-old a toy phone is  like giving a coke fiend a bag of flour.  God help you.   For a while she walked around with one of our full-size cordless phones (sans battery).
She managed to lose that at the park but soon replaced it with an old Palm Treo we were saving for the Smithsonian.

She now sleeps with it.  Some parents may frown on letting their small child sleep with a used cell phone.  Perhaps even some doctors and social workers.    I realize I have forfeited my right to judge other parents. Even those who go for the kid leash.


So, if you’re counting, that is three things TG obsessively needs at any given moment: Blankie, Blue Block, Phone.  Sometimes she might also want Green Block.  ”But wait,” you may ask, “how can she carry all those things?” Good question.  When she decides she needs Blankie, Blue Block, Phone *and* Green Block, Green Block goes in her mouth.  She literally points, says “Block!” and opens up her mouth. And I put in the block.  Because that is how much I have given up on parenting.  In fact, I might as well just go for the kid leash now.

Basically we’ve gotten to the point where going anywhere with my 1 1/2 year old daughter becomes this scene from The Jerk:


Bugging Out

October 5th, 2011

I will be honest, I am concerned about the stink bugs.   Stink bugs fall into the category of “things no one told me before I decided to move to Pittsburgh.”  The first time they came up I was driving with my mother-in-law while  visiting Pittsburgh *after* having sold my house and quit my job.    Good one.   For those who don’t know, stink bugs are exactly what they sound like.  Plus they fly.
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Pastime

September 21st, 2011

This past morning was the kind I always imagined when idealizing parenthood: my wife and I curled up on the couch sipping coffee, my daughter napping peacefully in her crib and my son playing quietly by himself on the floor next to us. It was something out of Norman Rockwell painting. Except for the fact that when my son plays quietly by himself  it means he is playing with himself;  lying on his stomach clutching his “Blankie”

and, for lack of a better word, grinding on it. At two and a half this is the only activity that will hold his attention for more than five minutes. And for that I am forever thankful. Blankie, I’m sure, feels differently. If he were a character in Toy Story he’d have PTSD and a Valium addiction. But that is not my problem. Blankie is on his own.

more »


A Fresh Start

September 9th, 2011

When some men have a mid-life crisis they buy a motorcycle or go sky diving. That is amateur hour. When I have a mid-life crisis I quit my job, sell my house in Los Angeles, take my wife and two children and move to Pittsburgh to live with my in-laws. That, my friends, is a fucking mid-life crisis. Buying a motorcycle is just really poor judgment. Those things are dangerous. Haven’t you seen Red Asphalt?

When you tell people from L.A. that you are moving to Pittsburgh the most common response is, “Why do you want to live in Ohio?” This is usually followed by an iPhone map, rumblings about “what’s the difference?” and eventually some kind of tofu dish.

The fact is, conversations in L.A. rarely start with “I’m moving to…” People don’t leave L.A. They are drawn to it like a Roach Motel with dry heat and a velvet rope. Which I say with great affection. I am, after all, a native. And my relationship with the city has always been love/hate. Love the beach/hate the traffic. Love seeing celebrities at the mall/hate that I am somehow always at a mall. My parents, even though they have been very supportive of our move, can’t imagine wanting to live anywhere else. They’ve loved L.A. ever since first arriving after fleeing a giant, evil snowman who terrorized Detroit and parts of New York in the late 40’s snatching children from their homes and forcing them to spend days living in his frozen bellywith nothing to eat but urine-stained ice. At least I can only assume that is what happened to them given their reaction to any place where
it snows.

As for me, I actually don’t mind the occasional scarf. Pittsburgh –located in Western Pennsylvania for those without an iPhone map — just feels better. L.A. may be one of the hippest cities in the world but, seriously, what do I care? Yesterday I had my daughter’s dried diarrhea on my shirt. I don’t need hipsters, I need babysitters. And a good cleaner.

So why Pittsburgh? TW is from here and has pretty much wanted to move back since the day I met her. For the first 8 or 9 years I just treated her yearning for home as a charming little quirk not unlike a slight lisp or nervous tick (which she wants me to clarify she does not have). “Sure, we’ll think about leaving all our friends and family in L.A. to live in Pittsburgh. That makes sense, honey.” But we kept flying out to visit her family and the city kept growing on me. In the end TW had pretty much given up on the idea when I came around and made the final push.

Yes, I miss the LA people, the LA weather and being “stuck” in traffic while TW gives the kids dinner and baths. But for us Pittsburgh is a better choice. And it is invigorating to have made a conscious choice about where and how we want to live our lives instead of just making the best with where we happened to land. I can live with the fact that some of my L.A. friends will always think I joined the witness relocation program, or worse, live in Ohio.

Which is all a long way of saying I realize it’s been almost 10 months since I updated my blog, but I’ve been a bit busy. Now I can finally get back to complaining about my children.


Toys for Tots?

December 21st, 2010
Get the Flash Player to see the wordTube Media Player.
This latest post started as an expansion of this post and this post for the final installment of my show, WordPlay. But it grew into much more. Oh so much more. So, please, enjoy watching and following along.

“I love you.” The words echo through our house. “I love you.” “Hug me.” “Red nose.”
I live in a fucking minefield of talking baby toys. All on hairpin triggers – god forbid my kids breathe and their toy doesn’t shriek some platitude at them. I’m not sure how this benefits a child, the expectation that everything talks or giggles or sings when they touch it. Personally I think it’s setting them up for some big disappointments in life. My son is not even two and the first thing he does when he gets a stuffed animal is squeeze the hand: “On , on, on!” In all likelihood he will be brought home from his first date by the police.

And, to be honest, the whole talking toy thing is starting to creep me out. Sure they’re all cute and cuddly during the day but, as is the case with many things baby related, if you take away the baby things get weird very quickly. For example, when our son was first born my mother-in-law and I would sit on either side of my wife, her shirt unbuttoned, us helping her manage the baby while she struggled with breast feeding; a poster for an “It Takes a Village” campaign. But take away the baby and that is a fetish magazine.
more »


Talk Show

October 20th, 2010

The more I watch human development unfold in front of me in real time, the more I wonder if evolution has broken down in some fundamental way. First, as I think I’ve noted here before, the whole crawling and walking thing is off. That should happen much later. Someone who thinks I dissapear when I cover my face should not have any input on their own location. Really, if evolution wERE serious about our survival, we’d all be stuck in Baby Bjorns until the promise of candy was not enough to lure us into a van.

And so it goes with speech. You should not learn to talk until you understand the power of words.

Sure, when TB first started piecing words together it was cute. “Milk yummy.” “Cup cold.” And it was marginally helpful; we got a better idea of what he wanted. Like when TW asked if he wanted to shower with her and he screamed, “No hat. No hat.” I feel the same way about her shower cap. He also pretty quickly picked up, “no baby, no baby” when TG was born. Clearly he’s a fan of repetition to make an important point.

But more often than not he just seemed to be riffing; Allen Ginsberg with a 10 word vocabulary. “Up down color Stokke.” Combined with his toy bongos my family room often feels a beret away from City Lights Bookstore.

But over the course of a few weeks, TB slowly moved away from performance art and started focusing his growing verbal skills on describing the people in his life. Then one day it happened. As I was on my way out the door I heard, “Dada coffee work push buttons.” I am forty years old. Forty years of ups and downs and hard fought decisions and regrets and triumphs, but there was no refuting it. Dada coffee work push buttons. That sums it all up. 100%. Little fucker.

Perhaps this is an example of evolution’s genius, though, not an oversight. Toddlers as oracles of unfiltered facts. A place for society to turn when they need the truth, no matter how cold or hard it is to hear. Evolutions answer to, “Do these jeans make me look fat?” The trick is to harness this power for good. Maybe by launching a toddler news network: “Fair and Balanced…and probably a little overtired.”


Going Ballistic

September 21st, 2010

I spent this past Saturday morning watching my son play with balls. Not his balls, someone else’s balls. Which I realize is a very immature way to phrase it, but I wasn’t the one who chose to name the most common childhood toy in the world the same thing as my scrotum. I’m already barely equipped to be a father; I don’t really need etymological handicaps, as well. True, it could have been worse. I don’t think I’d get through parenthood at all if I had to go outside and toss the “furburger” around. But still.
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Tale of Two Diapers

July 9th, 2010

One of the the surprising consequences of having two kids just 15 months apart (besides how pleasant a self-inflicted vasectomy suddenly sounds) is how old the first child now seems. Less than two months ago TB was our baby; so brand new I still expected to find pieces of placenta trailing him around the house. Then, just like that, he became a Big Brother. The third oldest person in the house. A man with responsibilities. Responsibilities like, “Don’t smack those Legos on your sister’s fontanel.” It’s a jarring transition. For him too, I’m sure, but I’m pretty much just worried about myself at this point. Kids are resilient; I am a broken down shell of a man.
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Two Under Two

June 17th, 2010

The Girl arrived May 4th officially making us a family of four. Two kids under two; that’s us. It’s nice when your family planning coincides with a pithy phrase.

When people originally found out we were having another baby so quickly they said things like, “that’s crazy!”, “what were you thinking?” and “why did you do this to me?” People besides my wife were also a bit taken aback.
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Emasculation in a Jiffy

May 28th, 2010
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As you may or may not know, there is now a brand new human being in this world depending on me for her very survival; we had a daughter on May 4th. (“May the 4th be with you,” for those who like a good mnemonic device.) This new arrival has, among other things, seriously cut into my writing time. Which is lucky for you; otherwise you’d be subjected to posts about how surprisingly difficult it is to wipe poop from around a vagina. And who needs to read about that? I hope to be up and writing again soon, but until then please enjoy my story from the April edition of, WordPlay.
EVERY 3000 miles, whether I need it or not, I am emasculated. The owner’s manual calls it an oil change, but I’m not here to argue semantics.

This time, though, I thought it would be different. I had a coupon. And what says, “Don’t fuck with me, I know what I’m doing” more than a coupon, right? So I hopped into my car and headed off to Jiffy Lube with high hopes and a fail safe plan. “Just the $19.99 oil change. No extras.” In hindsight, I realize this was as sadly delusional and effective as a sex addict going to massage parlor promising himself, “Just the shoulders today, really.”
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Getting Our Bearings

April 20th, 2010

Remember in the Olde Tyme days when you had to actually write letters or talk in order to maintain relationships with other people? Isn’t it great that you can now keep up the same meaningless and unrewarding friendships with the simple click of a button? Which is my way of saying you should subscribe to my blog. Right over there on the right where it says “SUBSCRIBE TO POSTS.” By email or RSS. Easy schmeazy.

Thanks. OK, now on with it.

I’m not sure if I’ve ever mentioned this, but when we go out together, TW drives 90% of the time. This is because she gets carsick, a condition which is magnified when she is pregnant. Which, it turns out, is basically all the time. Now I know in most relationships, when the couple is together, the man drives. This is the manly thing to do. Drive your family around town, take the bull by the horns, be in control; even if the bull in question is a lime green minivan with an automatic transmission. Maybe especially then. If we ever throw in the towel on life and buy a minivan, perhaps then I’ll be more compelled to drive as a way to cling to the last vestiges of my manhood. But probably not. Because those things have DVD players and really good cup holders and swivel chairs up front with, like, a gazillion comfort settings. So who has time to drive? There are buttons to play with.
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Breakfast, The Most Important Meal of the Day

April 4th, 2010

Like most families with a small child, our lives are all about routine. One of ours is the morning negotiation. Once TB wakes up, one of us has to start showering and getting ready while the other gets TB and starts his breakfast; when the showerer is done, we swap.

As any married couple knows, the big question here is which is the worse option. It’s important to know this so the marriage points are distributed properly. Personally, I’ve been saving points for an electronic drum set or a threesome. (*Editor’s note: TW wants me to be clear that the marriage point concept is completely in my head and that her actions are motivated solely by what’s best for our family. She’d also like to point out I couldn’t handle a threesome.)
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Memory Boxes

March 19th, 2010

We have been doing a bit of room shuffling to prepare for the pending baby. Instead of going with my idea of converting the detached garage into a nursery “we” decided to put the baby in TB’s room and move TB into my office. Which for legal reasons I’m supposed to refer to as “our” office. Though day-to-day it is better known as the answer to the question, “where should I put this crap?”

It’s amazing what you can accomplish if you really don’t put your mind to it. In less than three years, neglect and decisions-by-default have transformed what was supposed to be our dream, mid-century modern office into a look that can best be described as “indecision with accents of denial.” An uncomfortable futon, a rickety bookshelf (maybe they’ll come in handy later), a mandolin, a keyboard (I’ll start practicing again and we’ll play together on Sunday nights while our children dance around us).
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Schooled

February 26th, 2010

Last week we started looking at preschools for TB. He is one year old. To give you a frame of reference, most preschools don’t take kids until they are almost three. Which I realize makes us crazy people. But when raising a family you are often forced to rise up and meet the level of crazy in your neighborhood. Like an athlete taking his game to a new level for the Olympics. Or like going to prison and smearing feces all over your face and barking like a dog so no one wants to rape you.

In our case, it’s more the latter. Our neighborhood is Los Angeles and it is dragging us into a completely insane game of preschool brinkmanship.
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Birthday

February 22nd, 2010

TB turned one this past week. Well, actually a couple weeks ago, but I’m a bit behind here because, well, maybe you’ve heard, I have a one-year-old at home.

Of course one is a big milestone; only seven years to go before we can send him off to sleep-away camp for the summer. I know that’s not the best take-away from my only child’s first birthday. But, to be fair, I’ve been thinking about it since he was three months old. There are summer camps out there claiming to fill all kinds of needs — sports, art, religious indoctrination. But as far as I’m concerned there is only one camp out there, “Mommy-and-Daddy-Are-Going-To-Costa-Rica Camp”. And TB’s bags are packed. I’m already coaching him on how to make a lanyard. So he’ll be fine.
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Periodic Tables

February 10th, 2010
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As anyone who has had the misfortune of talking to me knows, I produce a quarterly storytelling show called WordPlay. Comedy writers come and read their true stories while a DJ (the wonderful Chris Simental) spins a live soundtrack. I put myself in every show. I’m that self-involved. I often read something that started out as a post here. So now you can watch the video andread the post. Did you just wet yourself? I did.

“What the heck?!”

My 4-year-old nephew, Dan, had made his way over from the kids’ table to join the adults for dessert, and this, apparently, was his interpretation of how adults interact. Screaming, “What the heck?!” at random points during conversation. Which is uncannily accurate. If I had just been listening, I might have assumed my mom and cousin were having yet another discussion about caring for a bad back. It’s only a matter of time before he starts yelling, “I’m telling you, you need to try Pilates!”
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An Interview

February 5th, 2010

I’ve been interviewed. I can’t remember if that is the 5th or 6th sign of the apocalypse. It’s about my show, WordPlay, not about my failure as a man. So, technically, it doesn’t belong here. But I won’t tell if you don’t. Read it all in LAist.


Wake Up Call

January 30th, 2010

So things have gotten pretty exciting in our bedroom these past few weeks. I don’t mean to brag, but we have gone back to doing something I thought we might never do again after “the birth;” setting the alarm. It is – and I don’t think I’m exaggerating here – the single most amazing feeling in the world.

Before becoming parents we were big time snoozers. The last thing we did before going to bed every night was math. “I need to be out the door by 8 so… showering by 7:15; out of bed by 7; we’ll snooze three times…set it for 6:21.” The answer was always 6:21 but we did the calculations every night nonetheless. It was our Goodnight Moon.

Then TB came along and for almost a year now (has it really been that long? Cue music) we have been going to bed confident that the incessant screaming of our hungry and scared child will wake us up in plenty of time for work. Surprisingly, it isn’t significantly more grating than morning radio. But there is no snooze button. Initially I thought pressing down on his fontenelle might work, but TW talked me out of trying.

And so it turns out one of the unintended benefits of having a baby is that we were broken of our snooze habit. Who knew we could actually get out of bed right after waking up? Our baby sleep trained us way before we sleep trained him. And he didn’t have to slog through the forced cockney cuteness of The Baby Whisperer.

Once again, he wins.


The Elements of Style

January 22nd, 2010

I used to own this vest with peace symbols spray painted all over it. It was a pinstriped, six button affair – the kind of vest that used to come with sensible three piece suits – senselessly splattered with colored paint. I bought it on Telegraph Avenue in 1988 while visiting my older sister in Berkeley. It became my prized fashion accessory for years. When I was wearing ripped jeans, a t-shirt and the peace vest, I didn’t even need to check the mirror. How could I not look good? I had wavy, shoulder length brown hair and a penchant for wearing mismatched Converse Hi-Tops. In short, I had style.

In hindsight, it is possible that some people meant “style” as a polite euphemism. But still, I knew exactly what I liked and how I wanted to look. I could walk into a thrift store and spot my shirt on a rack in 5 minutes. My fashion inspiration came from rock stars, movie stars and my own imagination.

Now it comes from a mannequin at Banana Republic. I have been beaten down.

The fall from thrift store chic to showing up at a dinner party in the same striped shirt as four guys and one toddler is, as you’d imagine, a gradual process. more »


Finally, A Good Bedtime Story

January 14th, 2010

Now this will make bedtime more interesting.

Goodnight, Keith Moon

You know, I used to play the drums myself. Which isn’t really germane to this blog, but it still makes for a good story.


Not Just A River In Egypt

January 8th, 2010

Now that the holiday season is over and TW’s vomiting has subsided, we are running out of reasons to postpone planning for the arrival of baby #2. It is coming in early May and, contrary to earlier reports, will not be coming with a penis. Baby #2, as most readers (i.e. my family and friends) know, is a girl. The Girl, to you.

We’ve been in a bit of denial about what the arrival of this kid is going to mean for our lives. Not that we’re not excited. After all, this is exactly what we wanted. And we do truly appreciate how lucky we are. But if you want to read inspirational stories about people thankful for how blessed they are, get a Chicken Soup for the Soul book. Or maybe read some more enlightened blogs. This is my blog. And I am easily rattled.

Ideally, we would have put off TG until TB was old enough to fend for himself for a bit longer, like a few weeks or months. (When is that? Around 2?) But it’s not like we don’t know how these things happen. We knew exactly what we were doing when TW got into that public Jacuzzi at the Ukrainian bath house.
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My Decade That Was

January 1st, 2010

I began this decade pretty close to rock bottom. Not in an Intervention, selling my semen for grain alcohol and two half-smoked Kool Menthols kind of way. But rock bottom for a nice, upper-middle class Jewish kid from the San Fernando Valley.

I was at a New Year’s Eve party with all my closest friends from high school, sporadically employed and the only single person in the room. Starting the new millennium with a pity kiss on the cheek from my best friend’s wife was not what I had been led to believe partying like it was 1999 was all about.

As some of the wives tried to rally everyone for a rousing game of Trivial Pursuit, I nursed my 13th martini and was bitterly reminded of Einstein’s theory of relativity.

In high school they taught us about relativity through the example of a hypothetical man traveling at the speed of light for 10 years. When he stopped, he hadn’t aged a bit. His friends, on the other hand, were 10 years older.

It turns out this also happens if you move to Chicago.
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Dress Up

December 26th, 2009

When TB was born we got a lot of hand-me-down clothes, one of the many benefits of showing up late to the adulthood party. (Which, by the way, kind of lame party. I thought there’d be more cocktail weenies.) Besides being a great money saver, hand-me-down baby clothes give you interesting insight into your friends and family. Like, for example, I found out my sister finds baby boy tank tops much less skeevy than I do. I can’t put my finger on why; they just give me the willies. I feel they’re a slippery slope to baby mesh crop tops, which pave the road for this. But that is just me.

Infant fashion preferences aside, it’s amazing to have all these free clothes. We have bins of them, sorted by size, scattered throughout our house. TW is constantly shifting clothes from bins to TB’s drawers and back out to bins to be used for the next round of babies in our family. It’s exhausting to watch. I don’t know how she does it. And yet she still finds the time to remind me I should be helping. What a woman.

So we haven’t consciously picked out too many of the boy’s clothes. Which may be why, when we do buy him an outfit for a special occasion, we get a little too excited.

What with all the screaming and feces involved in a normal dressing session, “outfit” is way too strong a word for what I normally put TB in. I just grab two things in the same general color palette. On a good day one thing will be a shirt and the other, pants. But that doesn’t mean, given the time, I don’t enjoy dressing the kid up for my own amusement.

This weekend we’re flying back East for some general family visiting and a bar mitzvah. And if you don’t think we’ve had TB’s bar mitzvah outfit picked out for weeks, well, you haven’t been reading this post. Which would be odd. Why are you starting in the middle? What’s wrong with you? Commitment problems?

Not only did we buy TB a special outfit weeks ahead of time; we made him model it one afternoon. And as I dressed my 10-month-old son up like Little Lord Fauntleroy, I realized I’m now one step away from being a person who puts a sweater on a dog. And only a half step from that lady who puts a Santa hat on her cat.

The whole baby fashion industry relies on the fact that parents use their kids to amuse themselves. And especially in those first few months when your kid gives you nothing back but blank stares and bodily fluid, maybe that is a great service. Who knows how many baby shakings a well-placed argyle sweater vest has prevented?


To Give Or Not To Give

December 15th, 2009

So Chanukah is here. Or Hanukkah. Or maybe even Hanukah. Who knows? Maybe there will finally be peace in the Middle East once we Jews agree among ourselves how to spell things. But my more immediate concern this holiday is what to get The Boy.

His doting grandparents, aunts and uncles have all been asking what he wants. He is 10 months old. So obviously I think he wants better waterproof headphones and an electronic drum set. The new kind with mesh pads. Really, he’d be happy with a gift certificate to Amazon.com.

But predictably, TW would not let me use our son as a conduit for my greed. She’s become rather adept at not letting me do things for myself while claiming they’re best for the boy. Like when I try to put him to bed at 4 in the afternoon on Sunday. “Look at that yawn, poor guy’s exhausted.” Maybe I’m not as subtle as I think.

Anyway, what did surprise me was that TW actually had non-joke answers. In an organized Google document. This is not because she is a presumptuous, greedy bitch but because she is a natural at this parenthood stuff. And she knew some people would want to get TB presents and that they’d be asking what he wanted and if we didn’t have answers they would begrudgingly sulk off to Target, aimlessly wander around for twenty minutes looking for something clever, give up and give us something that involved a loud, dancing monkey. As the aunt to 8 kids under 8 she is well aware how much better it is to be told what a kid wants.

Especially boys. TW is not a girly girl by any stretch. I think she’s been working on the same container of eye shadow since our wedding three years ago. And I mean that in a good way. But she is still a girl and understands little girl tastes. A doll, a set of beads, something you can take care of or control. Girl stuff. But nothing puts her in a bad mood quicker than the boy toy aisle. To her it is just a sea of pointless plastic crap that will probably just take someone’s eye out. Boy stuff.

I thought she was being dramatic until I volunteered to get the presents for my nephews on our last Target run. As a former boy myself, I thought I would “get” the boy toy aisle. I love all that crap: Star Wars figures, Nerf balls, B.B. guns. But, seriously, I think to handle the boy toy aisle these days you have to have spent a year in Japan and not be prone to seizures. My nephews wanted Bakugan which, from what I can gather, are action-figure warriors that tuck into spheres which then pop open and give the owner ADHD.

So TW was just trying to save people from what she knows can be a painful task by compiling a list of what we think our 10-month-old might want. A list intended solely for those who actually want to get something for a 10-month-old. Which I’m not 100% sure is me. I obviously will not deprive his grandparents of getting him presents on his first Hahnooka. I am not a monster. But do we really need to go through the motions of buying and wrapping gifts for a 10-month-old? And if so, are we sure he doesn’t really want those BOSE waterproof headphones?


Trash Day

December 10th, 2009

We’ve been in our house 2½ years now. Which I admit is a long to time to actively not throw something away. One of the first things I did when we moved in was remove a valance hanging over the large window in our living room.

My grandmother ran a drapery business with her siblings when I was a kid. Well, business is a strong word. What do you call ten retired immigrants working on heavy, lead machinery in an unventilated garage? Let me rephrase: my grandmother ran a Polish shtetl sweatshop in her backyard when I was a kid. They would let me and my sister run around with magnets tied to sticks, picking up stray pins and needles for five cents apiece — because OSHA and the Department of Child Services have no jurisdiction over the shtetl.

My point is, I know what a valance is. And I know a horrendously ugly one when I see it because my grandmother made them. (And made me clothes out of the spare material, but that is a story for another time.) The thing had to go, is the point. And I was fairly impressed with myself for removing the 7-foot-long monstrosity with minimal structural damage to the wall.

Now what to do with it? In our apartment we could pretty much set anything out on the curb and it would disappear within 2 hours. Old chair? Broken TV? Half of a bookshelf? No problem. Slap a handwritten “FREE” sign on something and it would be gone. We called it the “magic curb.” I liked to imagine the neighborhood squirrels were decorating a clubhouse.

So I was surprised to learn L.A. County’s official trash policy: all trash must actually fit inside the trash bin. No matter, I put the valance out with the trash anyway. I figured, really, what are they going to do? Just leave it on the side of the street?
Yes. That is exactly what they will do. Motherfuckers. The squirrels would have killed for that valance. Probably would have used it to make a beanbag. Those crazy squirrels.

So I get back from work on trash day and see the valance lying on the street. And here is what I hate most about homeownership: this is now my fucking problem. No landlord to complain to, no magic curb, no anthropomorphic squirrels. Just me and TW and anyone we want to hire. So I dragged the valance into the garage and propped it up in the corner, its flowery pink material mocking me. And I figured I’d deal with it the following week. That was 2½ years ago. The valance has not moved. Every time I pull into the garage I briefly think someone’s grandmother is trying to build a fort in there. What I don’t think is, “Wow, I should deal with that.”

I am a very adaptable person that way. To a fault. My cubicle at work is decorated not with keepsakes I consciously set about, but things that have been set down and forgotten — by me or random passersby (or “co-workers,” as some people call them). Right now there is a 2008 cat calendar leaning against my monitor facing out to the aisle; a discarded Secret Santa gift…from last year. I believe it’s open to March (cat in a basket). I don’t so much create my environment as work around it. Then every once in a while I’m motivated enough to rip something down.

And so instead of dealing with the valance I took down a pair of accordion closet doors that somehow pissed me off. They didn’t even make it to the garage. I optimistically left them out by the trash cans thinking that if I passed by them every day I’d be more motivated to deal with them. Here’s how that plan went:

Day 1: Oh, man, I really need to deal with getting rid of those doors.
Day 2: Oh yeah, those doors.
Day 3: Hey, there are those doors that we keep by our trash cans.

As any rational adult might guess, this is an annoying quality in someone you are trying to build a home and family with. Especially since TW’s default response to most situations is worry. So her experience with the doors was probably more along these lines:

Day 1: Those doors look like they’re going to fall.
Day 2: Are those a fire hazard?
Day 3: I bet there are black widows living in there. If we don’t get rid of those today, we’re probably going to be arrested for child endangerment.

So with another kid on the way and our lives about to spiral even more out of control, I’m trying to be a bit more proactive. In fact, I just Googled “oversized trash pickup los angeles,” and guess what? There’s a simple online form. Who knew? I’m going to go fill that out right now. Look at me, shaping my world. And, here, as a public service, I’ll even save you the Google search. The Bureau of Sanitation Service Request Form. Happy trash day, everybody.


Changing

December 3rd, 2009

I love our son. Very much. But seriously, what the fuck? I get that since he can now crawl, sit up and pull himself up, lying on his back for a diaper change is not a top priority. And it’s not like he ever loved getting his diaper changed in the first place. But sometime in the last couple months the dude has become a friggen Weeble Wobble. A screaming, clawing Weeble Wobble. Lay him down anywhere and he instantly flips over, sits up, then grabs the closest thing – usually my lip or eye socket – and tries to pull himself up.

This can be cute when you are just sitting him down on the floor to play. You try to put him down, he pops back up, you both have a good laugh. But things are always less cute when human feces is involved. So on the changing table I find it necessary to impose my will. I try distracting him with toys and songs. If I’m lucky, TW is around and not vomiting, so we can double team him. If I’m really lucky, I’m at work. But inevitably, one of us just has to hold him down and go for it. Which is when the screaming begins. It is exhausting. I get that he’s discovered some new skills, but can’t he give it a rest for 5 minutes? I shudder to think what’s going to happen when he discovers his penis.
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Here We Go Again

November 24th, 2009

I’ve gotten surprisingly used to making oatmeal in the morning while my wife dry heaves and weeps in the bathroom.

Yes, she is pregnant…again. And in a bad way. Here is our new morning routine. The Boy wakes up between 6:30 and 7. (Or rather, starts crying between 6:30 and 7; when he actually wakes up is unknown and, if I may be frank, inconsequential.) I get up to fix his bottle and feed him. TW gets up, tries to put down some food and makes a sudden dash for the guest bathroom off of the kitchen. This has become our designated vomitorium. I feed TB while playing music and talking; trying to drown out the soul-shaking heaves of his mother.
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Bad Call

November 16th, 2009
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As anyone who has had the misfortune of talking to me knows, I produce a quarterly storytelling show called WordPlay. Comedy writers come and read their true stories while a DJ (the wonderful Chris Simental) spins a live soundtrack. I put myself in every show. I’m that self-involved. I often read something that started out as a post here. So now you can watch the video andread the post. Did you just wet yourself? I did.
Obviously, I should not have called the meter maid a “mean person.” That was a bad idea. For many reasons. Not the least of which– we were parked in a red bus zone. It’s pretty hard to take the “pro” position on that one. I didn’t see her until it was too late. She had already started punching up the ticket. But I jumped out anyway for a last ditch desperation play: “I’m sorry, I can move. I just had to feed my baby.” I did not think for one second about using my infant son as a prop for sympathy, making this possibly the first real parenting reflex I’ve ever had. I’m afraid this doesn’t bode well for TB if someone starts shooting at me while I’m holding him.

My wife parked in the red bus zone so she could quickly hop out and buy an Ergo – the latest in baby carrying technology. I know that doesn’t sound like an emergency purchase, but you haven’t seen our son. At 7 months, TB is pushing the weight limit on the more popular Baby Bjorn and has already exceeded the weight limit on the other baby carrier we own – TW. The boy is in the 90th percentile for weight and height. His mom is in the 30th percentile and has chronic back problems. Good one, universe.
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A Fine Line

October 31st, 2009

“I love you.” The words echo through our house. “I love you.” “Hug me.” “Red nose.” I live in a fucking minefield of talking baby toys. All on hairpin triggers – god forbid the kid breathes and his toy doesn’t shriek some platitude at him. I’m not sure how this benefits a child; the expectation that everything talks to him or giggles or sings when he touches it. Personally I think it’s setting him up for some big disappointments. And possibly prison time. “I wanted to see what sound she’d make” is not the best legal defense.

When my sister had her first baby 7 years ago, I thought it was pretty funny to buy really loud gifts. A monkey that played the bongos; Chicken Dance Elmo. (I was also partial to animals dressed as other animals, but that’s an obsession I’m not ready to explore.) I’m still not sure what was more priceless, the look from my niece or the look from my brother-in-law.

Being one of the last of my friends and family to have kids, I’m just now realizing that I was kind of an asshole.
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Milestones

October 15th, 2009

The Boy is about to crawl. It’s imminent. There is a buzz in our house. The biggest milestone a baby can reach short of talking. Sure he’s figured out how to roll over and he puts his foot in his mouth, but those are milestones the same way the “Best OP’er” award I won at camp for always wearing OP shorts was an actual award. I feel like they pad the developmental milestones a bit to give new parents something to compete over during playdates. “Does your baby notice his hands? Congratulations! You’re winning!” I mean, if your kid happens to follow the list, great. But checking off “stares at faces” is about as fulfilling as checking off “put on pants” from your to-do list. (Though, I did never get to that one today.)
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The Parent Trap

October 7th, 2009

Mommy and Me groups: productive outlet for parental support or fear-mongering brainwash

OK, it’s unfair to single out Mommy and Me groups. Really it’s the whole parenting “industry” to blame. Or thank. I can’t quite figure it out. Because I do appreciate some information. What the hell do I know about being a parent? After diving into a few chapters of Taking Charge of Your Fertility back when we were trying to get pregnant, I realized I barely understood where babies come from, let alone how to raise them.
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Sing, Sing a Song

October 1st, 2009

“Looks like Mommy forgot to turn the TV off again.”

One of the most underrated things about having kids: it opens up a whole new channel through which you can be passive aggressive.
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Ready or Not

February 6th, 2009

The Wife was still in her hospital bed as I wheeled her to the post-partum room. It was the first private, quiet moment we’d had since the birth of our son an hour before. And the last we would share for quite some time. There was so much I could have said. So much I wanted to say. So it’s unclear why I went with, “That was the grossest thing I’ve ever seen.”
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Man of the House

January 1st, 2009

It was my first real project as a homeowner: replacing an existing motion detector light. And I was excited to reinvent myself as a man who fixes things around the house. It would be a welcome change from being the manchild who sticks inappropriate things down the garbage disposal.
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