Fashion Forward

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

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

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

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.


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.