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Yet Another Prodigy in the Family

Our just-recently-turned-two-year-old son is quite the budding social science researcher. (Just like Daddy?) Whenever a question is asked of someone or about someone, he feels compelled to ask the same of everyone else. It’s like he’s constantly taking these formal academic surveys and gathering data for later statistical analysis.

For example, when it’s bedtime, I’ll say, “It’s time to go to bed.” And he’ll respond by asking, “Me?” I’ll reply, “Yes.” Then he’ll ask (not nearly with the correct pronunciations), “Sister?”

“Yes, sister too.”

“Mommy?”

“Yep, mommy.”

“Daddy?”

“Yeah.”

“Grandma?”

“Um, yeah.”

“Grandpa?”

“Yes, yes! Sister, Mommy, Daddy, Grandma, and Grandpa too. Everyone’s going night, night. You go night, night too!”

A true wunderkind and a maverick this one.

Our son has also been practicing the socially appropriate level of showing affection. Currently, he doesn’t really hug people so much as he full-on form tackles them. Maybe he’s practicing for football instead?

I’m assuming as he grows older, he’ll combine these diverse passions of his and become a social science researcher who studies the tenuous link between aggression and affection. Either that or something to do with how many grapes you can stick up your nose.

The Puzzling Parking Paradox

Otay, now where is the designated parking for handsome chickens?

The other day I was running some errands and had to stop by this particular department store—which shall remain unnamed for reasons that will soon become clear—when to my chagrin, I found myself absolutely dumbfounded because I could not find any parking. (Side note: dumbfounded is an interesting word… like, does it mean that I was found to be dumb or that I found something dumb or that dumb was founded upon like when our nation was founded upon certain principles or whatever your social studies teacher was trying to tell you, but you weren’t listening?)

But here’s the thing, it’s not that I couldn’t find parking for lack of open lot spaces. At that time of the day, the parking lot was practically empty. The reason I couldn’t find a place to park is because nearly all of the parking spaces were reserved for specific customers. Now, obviously you have your accessibility parking for persons with disabilities. That’s standard. And then sometimes you also have reserved parking for certain VIP members or whatever. Then also, the pandemic has increasingly introduced this new category of parking for curbside service and pickup orders.

But this unique snowflake of a parking lot, in addition to the previous ones mentioned, also had “special” reserve parking placards for Law Enforcement, Emergency Service Personnel, Veterans, Active-Duty Service Members, Family of Touring Military Volunteers, Expecting Mothers, Nursing Mothers, Grandmothers of Mothers, Military Mothers, Motorcyclists, Commercial Truck Drivers, Members with Therapeutic Animals, Members with Small Chihuahuas in Handbags, Taco Trucks, Clydesdales, and Mothers of Expecting Emergency Veterans on Therapeutic Motorcycles Eating Tacos. Okay, okay, so maybe some of those were exaggerations and/or completely fabricated. But at least a half dozen of those parking designations are totally legit.

And this all reminded me of the Pixar movie that we recently watched with our kids: The Incredibles (2004 [wow, was this movie really back in 2004‽). One of the themes of the film revolves around the idea of uniqueness and individuality versus equality and uniformity. Early on in the movie, the mother Elastigirl reassures her son, Dash that “Everyone is special.” He sullenly responds, “That’s just another way of saying no one is.” Dash has super speed and wants to play sports, but his parents won’t allow him because he’ll stand out too much. Later on, towards the climax, the antagonist, Syndrome reveals his ultimate plot to make everyone into supers with his technology: “And when everyone’s super, no one will be (insert maniacal laugh).”

Now, I’m not here to debate the merits of a society built upon meritocracy and rugged individualism. Nevertheless, when all of the parking spaces are specially reserved spots, then none of the parking spaces are special. And when none of the parking spaces are special because all of them are, then that means that I must not be very special because there’s no place for me to park. Or maybe that means I’m the most special little boy of all!

…But I still don’t have any place to park…

Be Longing

To be
Or
Not to be

But
To think
Therefore
To be
Begs the questions
To be asked
Have always been asked

The questions
Are the quest

To do
And
To be

To do
Is
To be

But belonging is not doing
Though doing is becoming
It is being that
Is

So
Just
Be

To belong
And
Longing to be

All and all
Must ask again
Why?
And
Who am I?

All have been
And is to be
For being is indelibly bound
And cannot
Not be
Yet what is to be
And could be is infinitely free

So, here

To becoming
And
Belonging
To be

Selah Rain

Shy little one,
When will you say?
“Hello!”

I know you’ve spoken in your own small ways:
A turn and tease, a playful push, a grasp;
To tell us, “Hi, I’m here.”

But, sadly, we are not yet fluent
In the language of miracles and spirit.

And we’ve been waiting, oh so long,
Praying for so long,
Loving for so long,
Longing for so long.

Before that thought and twinkle first appeared,
You already lived inside our soul as one.
A perfect, tender fruit
Grown from grace
By the springs of hope
And nourished in the sunlight of wisdom
Rained down.

Yes, expectation
Is a fun game.
But now it’s time to play
A new way.

So, hello
My Dear
Now and always.

Pooh Sticks Is a Thing… That Exists

Slater, T. (1994). “Winne the Pooh and a Day for Eeyore.” The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh: A Classic Disney Treasury. Disney Press: New York, 152-153.

Has anyone ever heard of the game Pooh Sticks? And no, I’m not referring to some new juvenile self-harm game like when 13-year-old boys take turns slapping each other silly just for kicks and giggles. I’m referring to the classic A. A. Milne characters of Winnie-the-Pooh and his fellow stuffed, cuddly cohort from the Hundred-Acre Woods.

Basically, the game goes like this: you gather a bunch of sticks with your friends, take turns throwing the sticks off one side of a bridge, and then look out the other side of the bridge to see whose stick floats out first. Now, let’s not get overly caught up in the finer details such as: how do you know for sure which stick is yours? Does it really need to be called “Pooh” Sticks? Or should small children and creatures be playing on a bridge in the first place?

I think the point of Pooh stories are about the beauty of simplicity and the magic of curiosity in childhood. Pooh is basically conducting his own physics experiments while at the same time bonding with his fluffy wuffy buddies while also simultaneously filling children with delight and adults with bashful amusement. Our kids are always coming up with new games like this. Except usually they’re more like “Poke Each Other With a Stick” rather than “Pooh Sticks.”

I don’t really have much to say about this game Pooh Sticks or about Winnie-the-Pooh in general. I just found it all quite comical and thought I’d share the whimsy.

Whether it’s Pooh Cones or Pooh Sticks. The potential puns are limitless. I suppose, let’s just all be glad that Pooh-Bear didn’t invent the game Pooh Poo… Oops, now I am giving those middle school boys ideas to get in trouble with.

Stay curious my friends.

“Promise me you’ll always remember: You’re braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.” – A. A. Milne

Personal Pet Peeves

“I’m really not comfortable with this…”

My wife always wanted to get a pet and name it Peeve, so that way, she could tell everyone, “Hey, this is my pet, Peeve.”

Well, I have some pet peeves of my own (why do we call it that anyways? It’s not like I cuddle my peeves and take them out for walks…). And this is my semi-customary opportunity to rant and complain into the empty void of the Internet where no one can hear me scream and no one cares either way.

Pets

Speaking of pets, I just don’t get it. What’s the point? My kids have been pestering me ad nauseum about getting a pet. But why? Why would I voluntarily go out and pay money for another living organism just so I can bring it home and pay lots of money to keep it alive? Why would I willingly bring into my nice, clean home something that is going to track in dirt, shed, and slobber everywhere? Why would I want to feed, potty train, clean up after, discipline, and take to the vet something that won’t even help pay the bills or wash its hands without assistance? I mean, come on, I have children to fulfill all those roles already. So, I certainly don’t need a pet. Plus, they always want to crowd your personal space and sleep in your bed. Again, kids.

Hammocks

Speaking of sleeping, my wife also loves hammocks, and I, in turn, also hate them. Some people’s definition of rest and relaxation would be taking a nap in a hammock while lying underneath a tree in the cool Spring air. That would be my definition of unlawful incarceration and inhumane confinement. I’m a human; not a burrito. Once you get into one of those things, there’s no getting out. It’s like a Chinese handcuff or quicksand—the more you struggle, the stronger the strangle hold. Anytime I’ve ever tried to lay in a hammock, my life has flashed before my eyes as I have a near-death experience. Look, I just prefer not to sleep while being swaddled by a fish net.

Soft Towels/Blankets

Speaking of swaddles, another thing my wife likes that I despise is soft fabric (is this a list about my pet peeves or about my wife’s irrational preferences?). Most of all, I hate soft towels and blankets. Feels like cruel and unusual torture. Maybe it just reminds me of pet hair. I don’t know. All I know is that when I die, don’t bury me in one of those padded, silk coffins. Straight-up, unfinished wood please. This was actually a pretty contentious subject early on in our marriage when my wife wanted to get a new color-coded, matching towel set from Bed, Bath & Beyond; and I wanted to keep using the same rough, scratchy towel that I’ve had since middle school. I guess what I’m trying to say is that I just don’t trust them—soft things that is. Especially if they’re too soft, like suspiciously soft. Makes me think, “What are you trying to compensate for? What are you hiding under those thread counts?”

Limp Handshakes

Speaking of soft things, I absolute cringe at a wet and/or weak sauce handshake (I’m actually not sure where my wife lands in this category…). Why even shake my hand bruh? Is that a handshake or a wet noodle? Is that a handshake or a limp biscuit? It’s like grabbing onto a dead, five-legged salamander. Now, that doesn’t mean you need to go all toxic-alpha and try to crush my hand. Just be normal. Better yet, just pound it dude. A fist bump is the superior greeting. All the social pros of a handshake greeting with none of the cons.

Handshakes During a Pandemic

Speaking of handshakes, just better not right now. Listen, here’s the thing, if we’re out in a public gathering, and you see me wearing a mask, please don’t rush up at me and start shaking my hand like we’re long, lost friends when we’ve never even met before. And definitely, definitely, don’t touch my kids. PEOPLE PLEASE! I’m talking to you! Strangers! Stop touching my kids! What is wrong with people? What social etiquette class did they play hooky during? In what dark parallel universe is it okay to just walk up to strangers and touch their children? So, again, please don’t touch me right now, and absolutely don’t touch my kids.

Don’t get wrong. I don’t think you’re a horrible person if you happen to like pets, hammocks, or soft things. Everyone is entitled to be miserable in their own special way. No judgment here. These are simply my own petty gripes. But seriously, don’t touch my kids. That’s all.

Signs of the Times

Or: Observational Evidence that the Worst of the Pandemic is Perhaps, Hopefully, Potentially Behind Us Notwithstanding Some Unforeseen Circumstances

Over the past couple of weeks, I have started to notice a few things that have put a smile on my face. And you actually know that I am smiling because I am fully vaccinated which means I’m now completely invincible to all viruses. It’s felt like a long, bleak winter trapped under an avalanche during the quarantine. But now finally there are signs, little flower buds pushing through the ice and snow to once again bloom in the warm sunlight.

You know that the worst of the pandemic is probably over when there is:

No More Plexiglass

Wawa took down some of their plexiglass barriers. I actually never minded the plexiglass. It made me feel more confident in the mornings when I had rushed out of the house without brushing my teeth wondering if my breath smelled bad. Nevertheless, it is nice to see my favorite quick stop for on-the-go beverages and snacks starting to loosen up and relax a little.

In-Store Dining

Dunkin’ Donuts has in-store dining available. We walk to our local Dunkin’ literally every week if not multiple times a week. It is our go-to coffee, donut, and just in general place. Our family loves Dunkin’ like a Winnie-the-Pooh loves honey or a sea cucumber loves algae or an infant koala loves its mother’s feces (good luck looking that up later). Now, we can once again enjoy our silky smooth cups of Joe and luscious Boston creams while being entertained by the sights and sounds of those patrons who run on Dunkin’. It’s like a free visit to the zoo but better because it doesn’t smell like manure.

Free Samples

Publix is handing out free cookies to kids again. Every other week or so when we’d roll our children down the aisles of our local grocery store in the rad two-seat carts that look like a race car, our kids would be disappointed as we passed by the bakery and there was no bubbly attendant to offer them a free cookie. But the cookies are BACK BABY! Now, the bakery is once again our first stop during a grocery run. It just makes the whole shopping experience much more pleasant when you have something to stuff your child’s face with to keep them from grabby, grabbing things and pointing and shouting at other customers who are wearing “alternative” clothing designs.

More Free Samples

Sam’s Club has free samples again. Albeit, they only put out one sample at a time, and the sample is covered by a plastic dome with a hand opening like some kind of sterile laboratory workstation. Nevertheless, the free food samples are basically why we have a membership. That, and we don’t have a Costco nearby… But whatever, I’ll take free food samples anytime, anyplace. My parents had a very difficult time teaching me not to take candy from strangers. I was always like, “Are you crazy‽ Why not‽ It’s candy! And it’s free! Of course I’ll have some!”

Even More Free Goodies

Our church recently began putting out the self-serve airpot pump thermal coffee carafe again. Basically, everything I’m excited about has to do with food in some way or another. Good riddance coronavirus. You’re kind of ugly and nobody likes you.

Some of My Greatest Fears as a Parent

(Or: The Return of a Flabbergasted Father’s Rants)

Sure, there are the typical fears of parenthood like your child getting hurt at the playground, lost at the store, or forever psychologically scarred and damaged by my ineptitude and bungling as a parent trying to explain things like where babies come from. But other than those big fears, I also have a few smaller, what some may consider petty concerns. Nevertheless, these are some of the things that keep me up at night. Terrors such as…

Milk

I’m pretty sure that it’s a normal thing for people to become more sensitive to dairy as they get older. And as such, I recently began complaining to my wife that milk products just aren’t settling well with me anymore. I told her, “I think I’m becoming lactose intolerant because it hurts my stomach now when I eat two large bowls of ice cream at midnight.” Her response was, “Umm, no, I think it’s because you’re eating an entire quart of ice cream in one sitting.”

So insensitive those wives.

Anyways, our kids pretty much survive on milk, cheese, and yogurt alone. It’s about all they’ll consume. Well, that and donuts. We’re pretty health-conscious parents. But all that means is lots of partially eaten, leftover lactose gleanings. My wife, again always the paragon of reason, tells me that I don’t have to eat everything. Silly wives. Of course I have to eat everything! But it doesn’t mean that I’m any less afraid at the end of every mealtime.

Monkey Swings

If you don’t know, monkey swings are these single-rope swings with a circular seat (why am I explaining this to you? Just look up a picture online). They seem like a fun idea, but so are many of the devil’s temptations. Basically, these swings are very difficult to control and not at all designed for most children. If your kid doesn’t fall off mid-swing, then they’re probably hitting a tree or another child. The random chaos is so prevalent that the term “monkey swing” has basically become a euphemism for all things that were “made” for children but clearly not “designed” for children. You definitely know when someone else doesn’t have kids of their own. Infamous examples include:

  • A waiter/waitress bringing a scalding hot plate of food and placing it directly in front of your grabby-hand child so that they burn off their fingerprints.
  • A dance recital that takes place right in the middle of dinner time, lasts three hours too long, requires that the whole family stays in attendance the entire time, and in which your child is only in one number towards the end of the second act.
  • Rubber bath toys that don’t allow air circulation and start to grow mold after just one bath time.
  • Slime. While we’re at it, let’s just add Play-Doh, Kinetic sand, and all molding clays in general.

These are all “monkey swings” and they are just the worst. Also, when I was a kid, I once got in a fight with a monkey swing. Don’t ask me about what was said. But the swing took a cheap-shot at me in the mouth as I was turning around. It chipped my tooth pretty badly and knocked it up out of alignment, so I had to get braces and the tooth synthetically filled. You may be tempted to think that now I’m simply projecting my own childhood trauma onto my kids and thus perpetuating a vicious, multi-generational cycle. To that, I would say, isn’t that what parenting is all about?

Barbies

WHY ARE THEY ALWAYS NAKED‽‽‽ Can someone, anyone, please explain to me why these humanoid dolls are all constantly laying around the house without any clothes on? It’s like I live inside some sort of weird plastic, twilight zoney, Korean bath house. I know when we bought these dolls, they had clothes on. Sometimes, they even have extra apparel items. But inevitably, all the garments come off, and the rooms and hallways and byways are filled and cluttered with nudist, sun-bathing Mattel models. I mean, does this make anyone else just a wee bit uncomfortable? Can these Barbies and Kens not be designed in a more modest affirming fashion way? The worst part is that my kids are constantly asking me to put the clothes back on the dolls. So, I do. I awkwardly dress those anatomically incorrect miniature mannequins, and then not one minute later, I inadvertently and painfully step on their naked, prostrate corpses again. Why so easy to undress, yet virtually impossible to redress by the known laws of physics. It’s like some sick, psychological power game inside a control vortex.

And when visitors come over, how am I supposed to explain the embarrassing life choices happening all around? My eighteen-month-old son seems to have picked up on these bad influences because he too just wants to constantly run around the house without any clothes on. Oh, what it would be like to feel no shame.

Dangers of Being a Parent

Or “The Ongoing Rantings of a Flabbergasted Father”

For the video

Kleptomania

I’m sure we paid for those peaches and blueberries… but in general, when we take our kids to any store we have to handcuff them to the buggy (my wife says shopping cart, but I’m no prude) to prevent them from grabby grabbing everything within reach and then somehow also burglarizing somethings not in reach as well (they must have some minimal telekinetic abilities). These sticky bandits will pretty much snag anything they can get their grimy paws on. And if it’s my son, then he’ll also attempt to eat it, whatever it is.

Self-Destructive Behavior

Being a parent, especially of young children, means being constantly stressed out that at any moment your child is going kill themselves. It’s like they have absolutely no survival instincts. Oh, sure, let me climb on this wobbly chair that’s too tall for me so that I fall off and bust my head wide open. Oh, yeah, I’m just gonna run out into the street real quick while all these cars are speeding by. Oh, hey, why don’t I close my eyes, tilt my head, and spin around in circles around all these slippery papers that I just threw on the floor? Oh, are there any open flames or burning ovens anywhere? My least favorite is when they get all grumpy and have a tantrum when you’re trying to pick them up so they flail and fling their head backwards both cracking their skull and splitting your chin. It’s a daily miracle that they’re still alive.

Please Don’t Touch My Kid

There exists a sizable percentage of the general population that has no concept of boundaries and personal space when it comes to your children. Strangers will just waltz up to you and fawn over how cute your kids are while trying to touch them. “Can I hold your baby?” Umm, how about a big “No” you weirdo who I’ve never met in my life? Stranger danger; stranger danger. Besides, has no one ever heard of a little thing called Covid? Back up people. Remember to keep a full-grown bovine distance apart. Basically, if I can’t comfortably milk a cow, then you’re too close. In fact, I propose we keep the socially distancing standard around even after Covid is gone. Of all the things to hate about the pandemic, that has been one of the silver linings in my life: that I have a perfectly, socially acceptable excuse to not be around other people.

No, Seriously, Please Don’t Touch My Kid You Creeper

Case in point: the other day I took our two kids out around the neighborhood for a walk. While en route, an elderly woman was outside her home push mowing her lawn when she saw us and abruptly stopped so she could come over and talk to us. I just kept thinking, “No, no, no, why, why, why?” She bent over and tried to put her face right up to my kids’ faces. The worst part is that she was literally dripping with sweat and when she talked, the sweat would be projected from her nose and mouth out towards us. My daughter piped up and said, “Daddy, it’s starting to rain.” And I’m like, “Ugh, gross, that is not rain!” The woman then asked, “Are they twins?” I’m thinking, seriously? The girl is almost four with blonde hair and blue eyes. The boy is one with black hair and brown eyes. What kind of twins have you known? Then she went on to state, “Wow, the girl looks just like her father. But the boy, he must look like the mother instead.” For anyone that knows, first of all our daughter is adopted so she doesn’t look anything like either of us, and second, everyone knows that our son looks just like me and my wife is usually concerned that people won’t believe that she is actually the mother.

While I’m on this topic, I used to know this guy who was six and half feet tall, and he didn’t know how to discern personal space and have a normal conversation. When he would talk to you, he would always want to stand right up on you so that the only way you could speak to each other was by looking up at him and he looking down on you. I don’t know if this was some weird metaphor or power trip, but it was so annoying. Look, my point is, just don’t do this okay? Don’t randomly walk up to strangers and try to pet their kids like some puppy. And when you’re having a conversation with someone, make sure you have enough comfortable distance so that your heads can remain relatively level. And please, please, don’t touch my kids.

Still Yet More Rantings of a Flabbergasted Father

Car Seats

Both installing the car seat and buckling the child within the car seat are a literal pain in my back. You show me a car seat, and I will show an irritated parent ready to start throwing things. Car seats are meant to keep kids safe, but my experience has been that they are one of the single most dangerous obstacles that our family must overcome each and every day. First of all, good luck actually getting the seat snug and secured properly with those ridiculously placed straps and hooks that you can only tighten if you’re a contortionist for Cirque du Soleil. Secondly, you have to place your chubby toddler in the seat while bending over awkwardly on the verge of herniating every disc in your spine. And then, you’ve got to strap down that squirmy wormy, squishy meat tot with buckles that are clearly designed to pinch and tear away the flesh and fingers.

Mealtime

As babies, our kids seemed to eat anything. In fact, the trouble was getting them to not eat things such as socks and dirt. But as our oldest has grown, she’s become more and more picky. Right now, her one-year-old brother eats three times as much, consuming approximately his own body weight in food every four hours or so. She, on the other hand, has become quite the food aficionado of criticism. She will eat chicken nuggets but not tenders or strips. And I’m like, a chicken doesn’t have any of those things to begin with so why does it matter? She’ll eat mac ‘n cheese, but only that mac n’ cheese. Only this jelly on the PB&J. At this point, getting her to try something new is like trying to negotiate with D.B. Cooper who has already hijacked a plane full of hostages and parachuted out with all the money.

Peppa Pig

Don’t get me wrong. I love Peppa Pig. It’s easily one of the best kids shows out there, and it is just hilarious. There’s so much humor for parents, you can really tell the writers are all about using sarcasm to confuse their own children. But my one major gripe is this: Peppa’s favorite activity is jumping in muddy puddles. Seriously? Why would you do that to parents across the globe? Because if Peppa loves jumping in muddy puddles then you know what that means… it means my kid wants to jump in muddy puddles. But you know what? Muddy puddles are the worst. They seem like a cute, fun idea, like having an outdoor wedding. But in reality, they are a living nightmare. Puddles in a cartoon are clean and harmless. Real puddles in our city are not so much organic mud as they are an ungodly concoction of motor oil, tire shavings, bird droppings, tree pollen, and exhaust residue. What am I supposed to say to my kid when she wants to jump in that toxic sludge outside because Peppa does it? Either I crush her little dreams or I allow it at the risk of either someone calling child protective services or her gaining some special mutated powers.

Rubber Ducks

I’ve probably written about this before, but I’m too lazy to look it up in the archives, and who cares because this one is a real doozy worth repeating. Not just rubber ducks, but bath toys in general: they all get disgusting and moldy inside no matter what you do. And don’t you try and message me with all that vinegar and baking soda and other homeopathic baloney. None of it works. It all gets moldy no matter what you do. Look people, we live in the 21st century. We have the entire world’s information at our fingertips. We put a man on the moon. We live in a day and age where science can craft a vaccine for a novel virus in less than a year. And yet, we can’t figure out how to design bath toys better? The rubber ducky has its own Sesame Street theme song, but they never talk about the short life expectancy of a rubber duck, and how mortifying it is as a parent when you kid accidently sucks out all the black gunk from the dirty ducky butt like it’s some kind of sippy cup juice. The horror. The absolute horror.

The moral of the story? I’ll let you come up with your own this time.