One day, for my job, I had to make this unique delivery. Don’t ask me what I do for a living; that’s confidential. I certainly don’t make any money rambling on the Internet.
Anyways, I had to deliver a package to a unit on the second floor of an old, decrepit townhouse complex. The building was wood panel construction with peeling paint and one entire side sloping down into the earth. The porch had broken boards, probably from where a trap door was installed. It was the kind of place where you might get a splinter in your eye just from looking at it. If you didn’t know any better, you’d assume this place was abandoned and condemned. The front door swung open and shut on broken hinges. As you stepped inside, the only light visible came from a single, dangling, flickering bulb at the top of a stairwell and a skylight hole in the ceiling from a busted roof.
Worst of all, this dark, dilapidated den of a building reeked and smelled like COVID. I’m not sure if COVID has a smell. But I’m pretty sure this was it. I’m also pretty sure that the landlord would make more money by using the property as a haunted house attraction rather than as an apartment building. I was ready and expecting at any moment for a rabid, feral squirrel to jump out of the wall and stab me with an acorn shiv.
So, did I ascend those rickety, precarious steps to the top floor? Yes. Did I knock on the rotted door and successfully leave the package for what every mysterious phantasm lived there? Yes. Did I immediately run for my life afterwards? Yes.
Now, you might accuse me of exaggerating, telling a big fish tale, or spinning yarn, and I would say, that’s totally possible, but this is the way I remember it in my nightmares. Besides, I prefer the term embellishment like I’m putting ornaments on a Christmas tree or garnishing my plate of nuggets with aromatic parsley or adorning a scarecrow with a J Crew knitted scarf.
Now why do I share this story with you? What life lesson or morale of humanity am I trying to get across? I don’t know. Bye.
Is there a kid who doesn’t love pickles? Seriously, why do kids like pickles so much? It would seem that the flavor would be too weird or intense, but no, given the opportunity they’ll devour an entire jar of fermented cucumbers. Is it because of all the pickles that women crave during pregnancy like some pre-birth, umbilical nourishment nostalgia? I don’t quite understand it, but at least it can make me feel better as a parent that I totally feed my children plenty of healthy “vegetables.”
How does the food even get there?
As I’ve mentioned before, my son has a natural talent and penchant for eating. He would score top marks on any appetizer aptitude test. And boy, can he shovel some macaroni like it’s going out of style; like he’s buying up subprime mortgages pre-2008; or like he’s collecting beanie babies and Pokémon cards before the nineties bubble popped. And yet, for as much food that he stuffs down his gullet, just as much ends up everywhere else. On the floor, walls, and ceiling. How does it even get up there? It’s behind his ears, up his nose, in his belly button, and down his pants. Cleaning up after mealtime, every time, feels like being held for detention to clean up the cafeteria after being unjustly blamed for starting that food fight—again.
Why do babies sleep with their butts up in the sky?
How is that even comfortable? Babies sleep like they are subconsciously practicing some ancient, Egyptian cat-yoga. Their derrieres in the air like some radio tower sending signals of flatulent grievances, or a lighthouse guiding salted, sea-weary sailors, or a flag, a proud, high-flying flag of glory to which we honor with an anthem of many fine, French horns. Can you imagine if adults still slept that way?
Why do kids ask for food they’re not going to eat?
I know it, they know it, we all know they’re not going to eat it. So why did I make another sandwich when I knew they weren’t going to eat it? Okay, so this one isn’t really a complaint or even a legitimate question. I know why. It’s so that I can have a reasonable excuse to eat a PB&J sandwich with a stringy cheese stick and a juice box.
Because this is the true secret to thriving in parenting: I always buy the 6-piece chicken nugget kids’ meal even when I know they won’t eat them all, so that I can have the leftovers.
As we approach the twelfth and final day of Christmas, I would like to share a fond life anecdote of when our gregarious little girl was just one-and-a-half-years-old. She had been learning all about the Nativity story, and she was absolutely captivated by the many motely characters. She wanted to know all about Mary, Joseph, the angels, the shepherds, the wise guys, the animals (especially the donkey), the star, and of course baby Jesus.
It was around the holiday season, and the little lassie and I were doing some grocery shopping. She wasn’t quite potty trained, and she needed a change, so we went to the family restroom. As she lay on the diaper changing station (you know, one of those folding, wall-mounted types) she noticed the diagram instructions for how to use the station properly and safely for changing a child (e.g., never leave unattended, no drinking while operating, don’t leave a mess, blah, blah). She observed that there was a picture of a mommy holding her child and then laying the child down on the changing shelf.
She knew exactly what this story book was about and squealed with delight, “It’s Mary and baby Jesus!” Of course, it also begged the question, as confusion began to fill her eyes. “But, where’s Joseph?” I believe I must have said something along the lines of, “Oh, he must be working right now. Those cabinets don’t build themselves you know. Plus, mommies are usually better with swaddled cloths, mangers, and dirty diapers” (I’m not sexist, just lazy). She seemed to suspiciously accept that as a reasonable answer.
More recently, two years since the famous “Walk-Thru Baby-Changing Nativity Station,” our totally beyond toddling girl is still awestruck by the story of the birth of Jesus. The other day, she put on these dress-up wings and was pretending to be an angel flying around all over the house. She gracefully floated on over to my wife and exclaimed, “You will have a baby!” Naturally, my wife bowed and could only reply, “I will do as the LORD has commanded.”
On practically a daily basis, I consciously take some time out of each day to connect with my wife by annoying her with my odd observations, random rants, mad monologues, and superfluous soliloquies.
Our newly graduated one-year-old has recently mastered walking. By “mastered,” I mean like Jackie Chan kung-fu drunken boxing mastered kind of way. Sure, he’s more mobile than ever, but he’s also more dangerous than ever—a danger to himself and others, a menace to society. They require a license to drive on the roads. They should probably consider requiring a license to walk around. He’s like a waddling knee-capping ready to happen.
You know what else is a menace to society? Glitter.
I know I’ve complained ad nauseum about glitter before. But still. What demented, sadistic nihilist came up with this stuff? I take back every negative comment I’ve ever laid against stickers; just save me from glitter. Who can count them? For as the number of the stars of heaven and as the sand of the earth, so is the number of eye-irritating glitter specks in my house. If I’m cremated when I die, then the flames will probably sparkle from all the glitter I’ve inhaled and ingested over the years.
And one more thing…
Rubber duckies. I love the idea of rubber ducks. In theory, they work out great. You know what else sounds great in theory? Communism. In practice, both are dirty and fail miserably. But instead of the Red Scare and the threat of nuclear Armageddon, it is the Squeaky Scare and the threat of black moldageddon. All of those rubber bath toys get so disgusting even after one use. How hard is it to manufacture something that doesn’t grow the death plague inside of it and of which your children desperately want to gnaw on and suckle?
We’ve tried everything. Plugging the air hole, cutting out the bases, vinegar, blow torch, etc. All practices in futility; vanities of vanities. The only good rubber duckie is a dead rubber duckie. Sorry Ernie, but your friend makes bath time so much fun only as long as you have a hazmat suit and are fond of playing with weaponizable biological waste byproducts. It’s like some foreign intelligence agency’s (I won’t speculate as to which one) subversive scheme to undermine our citizen’s faith in bath time. Forget Covid conspiracies. This is the REAL plot to destroy America. Operation Duckie Dookie Drop.
Fair warning: if you ever got the bright idea of breaking into our home, prepare to be assaulted by an intoxicated baby, glitter bombs, and moldy rubber bath trinkets.
Not long ago, I talked some smack about stickers. They have struck back with a vengeance. Let me explain.
My wife got caught up in this chainmail, pass-it-forward, multi-level marketing, pyramid scheme—involving stickers. It’s like one of those weird infinite, sourdough friendship bread things that everyone thinks sounds like a fun and dandy idea—“Oh, what a lovely new hobby to take up!”—but then quickly turns into deep regret and overwhelming dread—“Oh, what have I done‽ Please, make it stop!”
For the record, I had nothing to do with it.
Anyways, to make a short story shorter, we ended up with way too many sleeves of stickers and now our entire house is made of stickers. I mean, I believe the very structural integrity and load bearing weight of our home is now mostly stickers: plain ones, colorful ones, glittery ones, three-dimensional ones, fuzzy ones, animals, cosmos, magic, princess, emoji, and plant-based stickers, probably CBD. Because stickers are like potato chips. You can’t just eat one. And our three-year daughter cannot just peel off one sticker, or even one sleeve for that matter. She’s gotta tear through every sticker like they’re winning lotto tickets.
I have found stickers in places…
Places you cannot imagine. Places where stickers ought not to be.
There are stickers on chairs and doorhandles; on the floor and ceiling (not sure how they got up there); on the fridge and toilets and sinks; on mommy’s purse and throughout the car; in my pockets and on her baby brother’s face.
But it goes far beyond that. I keep putting on clean clothes from the dryer to then find stickers within them. The other day, in particular, was an especially tangible occasion. I had gotten home from work and was taking a shower (yes, I do that from time to time). As I was lathering and cleansing, lo and behold, what did I find? But a sticker where the sun don’t shine. Ironically, the sticker was of a bright, smiling sun. Initially, my discovery was alarming—I thought, “Do I have the plague or is that a tick on my derrière? Oh no, it’s just another sticker…” The jolly, yellow star gleamed up at me with a mischievous grin, as if to say, “Thanks buddy for the wash and spa treatment!”
I shall spare you some of the finer details. Suffice it to say, 2020 will go down in our home as the year of two pandemics: Covid-19 and The Great Icky-Sticky-Fluenza.
As an incredibly blessed parent, I try not to brag. I don’t want to be one of those parents who vicariously lives through their children, attempting in vain to supplant past failures, and overly boasts of their accomplishments as if they were their own. (Did I use enough ambiguous antecedents in that last sentence? I’m sure you can figure out who the unclear pronouns refer to. I’m not going to spend time rewriting sentences for clarity when that’s not what this is about. Do you realize how much time I could waste just going on and on and on about every little word and sentence. I could take at least some 87 words talking about it. Look, I’m just not going to overthink these blog posts. Okay? Hmm, maybe I should…)
Anyways, as I was saying before being rudely interrupted by the grammar sheriff, as a proud father, I try not to brag. But my son, soon to be one, is gifted at eating. Quite remarkable acutally.
It’s like we didn’t even have to teach him. He just figured it all out with almost no direction. Finger foods? Check. Fruit pouches with little slurp spouts? Check. Sippy cups? Check. Beverages with straws—obviously the decomposable, plant-based, non-marine-life-harrasing kind? Check. He just gets it.
But of course, greatest strength, greatest weakness.
With his prodigious penchant for food consumption also comes a few unsavory habits (see what I did there? “unsavory”). We’re currently trying to wean our kiddo off these shady lifestyle choices:
By leftovers, I mean the food that has fallen off the table and onto the floor. Some people have a dog. We have a baby. He’s like a weird, squishy little vacuum cleaner. One of his favorite after-dinner pastimes is to try and crawl under the table and sample the variety platter of crumbs and collateral. When eating in his highchair, he often eats one, and then throws one down on the floor. I believe this is all part of his master plan to have readily accessible, self-selected hors d’oeuvres for later.
It’s not that he necessarily “loves” the taste of dirt and sand, but they’re also not really good deterrents either. The other day when we went to the beach, he tried a generous handful of sand, and then made the face of confused trepidation that you would expect. So, he was good, he wasn’t going to just eat more sand for the kicks and giggles of it. But then it was also the day he first tried potato chips. I personally have a weakness for those crispy, golden, fried spuds of nirvana myself. Perhaps it’s genetic. Either way, if a chip were to fall in the sand, he would do a quick cost-risk-benefit analysis and then determine that the right course of action was to push through and munch on. The chip was totally worth a little garnishment of sand.
By garbage, I mean basically anything and everything he can get his grimy, little paws on. Paper of all assortments and colors. Sticks, mulch, and grass. Carpet fibers. His sister’s polyester princess dress frills. Seriously little dude, you gotta stop doing that. Sometimes, opening up his diaper is like unwrapping one of those dollar store mystery bags. We’re really trying to set realistic goals for our children. Keep it simple ya know: try to stop eating random trash. We’re totally setting them up for success!
There’s always that one kid at the preschool who’s a biter. Look, we’ve really made some progress here so don’t worry too, too much. I’m sure by the time our son is ready for school he’s not going to want to gnaw on your offspring. But just in case, I’d send your child with some extra snacks. Think the “Sandlot” movie when the kids need to try and bribe the guard dog with a tasty beef treat. Did something like that happen in that movie? I don’t know; sounds about right.
My mother recently visited and was finally able to meet her grandson. It was a very special and loving time. But I know that none of you are really interested in all that mushy stuff. In regard to my dear old mum, what everyone is really always wondering is: what crazy thing did she stow away in her luggage this time‽
More chestnuts? More rocks with included botanical garden? A pumpkin for the fall? Small, endangered animals? What‽
Well, this most recent visit did not disappoint and included the pleasant surprise of a somewhat large, plastic grocery bag, doubled, and filled with some kind of liquid ginger root soup concoction… Yes, you read that right. A bag of liquefied ginger potion, the purpose for which witchery I can only have night terrors about.
She told us that it was this homemade healthy ginger tea and that it both prevents and cures the coronavirus. So, of course, she made us all drink it; me, my wife, my sister, even my in-laws. (Don’t worry, I did not allow her to give it to our children.)
What did it taste like? Hmm… let me try… how can you explain something that tastes like equal parts moonshine, herbal tea, hot burning coals, iceberg lettuce, and dirt with grass roots still attached? This stuff simultaneously clears out all your sinuses with the force of a fire hydrant, starts a bubbling party in your gut causing a chain-chemical reaction that makes you believe you can breathe fire, and feels like it is cremating your brain cells to the point that you start hallucinating pink, flying unicorns in tutus sliding down a rainbow of licorice. I mean come on, usually the unicorns are not wearing ballet clothes. That’s just ridiculous.
“But wait!” I hear you asking, “How did your mom get through security at the airport carrying a gallon of what looks like corrosive bomb-making material in her extra-large carry-on purse when you’re only allowed containers of around 3 ounces?” Well, my friend, you don’t know my mom. And neither do I apparently, because if I could answer that question, I would probably be a millionaire and one step closer to uncovering all the mysteries of the universe.
Now don’t get me wrong. I don’t have anything against ginger. I just hate the way it tastes. Oh, also I despise its texture and overall appearance—that ugly root rope thing—and everything else about it. But that’s all; it’s nothing personal really, and it’s not like I have anything against those who like ginger either. It’s a free country and everyone’s entitled to like whatever disgusting thing they want to. Savages.
Also, if you’re surprised by the ginger tea-n-tea my mom was packing then here’s a short list of the other essential items she brought along: dried anchovies, octopus jerky, pickled cabbage, hot chili paste, approximately 50 garbage bags, a half dozen cooking aprons, two dozen old-man plastic clip-on phone cases, multiple packages of Baby Shark face masks, an unnatural and confusing quantity of socks, wallets, and hair bows, what will now forever be known as “the infamous magical paper towel” (an item which defies the laws of physics that I persistently attempted to throw away in the garbage but my mom swore that it was reusable and ergo the soggy napkin continuously reemerged like a phoenix from the ashes or perhaps better compared to one of those movie monsters like Freddy Krueger or Jason Voorhees that just won’t stay dead because there needs to be a hundred sequels), and also other assorted unknown herbs and spices (I’m pretty sure my mom stole Mary Poppin’s magical black hole hand-bag that can fit an infinite number of items).
Anyways, my mother drank this stuff every night like it was a religious matcha ceremony. She would say, “It’s good. It makes me healthy. Makes me strong.”
And I’m thinking, “Well yeah, of course, duh. You’d have to be superhumanly strong to consume and endure that stuff every day!” You see, my mom is actually She-Hulk. Soon to be available for streaming on Disney+. Subscribe today with this imaginary link and save nothing on your first purchase.
There are some mysteries of the cosmos too great to be understood by mere mortal minds. From the deep fathoms of infinite knowledge there exists an immeasurable chasm between the gray matter of our awareness and the dark void of the beyond.
For our newborn, that mystery of all mysteries lies within the realm of one of the oldest, most cherished past times of humanity: peek-a-boo.
Yes, peek-a-boo, I see you! Where’s baby? There he is! Peek-a-boo! Philosophers have engaged in this very discourse of reality and existence for millennia. What is real? What does it mean to be alive and to exist? Questions that haunt our temporal beings. And then at the moment of bleakest thoughts, a bright light shines forth to illuminate our hearts and cast away the cobwebs of the corners of our minds. Peek-a-boo! Oh, there you are Mommy! Where’d you go? You sneaky, sneaky mommy. What is this dark magic? I know where you are; you can’t hide forever… gotcha, peek-a-boo!
What once was lost, now is found. And there are few things that can make our baby boy more giddy than by slyly covering our faces and then popping out like a jack-in-the-box. Like a fox in socks jumping out of a box, or so said Mr. Knox.
The only other thing that can calm and soothe the fears and frustrations of my son is a nice shiny, sharp object. He loves them. Interior fire sprinklers, hanging light fixtures, and freshly polished cutlery. All his favorites and perfectly, suitable educational toys for a baby. My parents gave me my first hatchet when I learned to walk. I was so proud when our newborn held his first Cutco knife.
But his absolute favorite is this little eye-and-hook latch that we use for our sliding barn door. Whenever he gets upset, I just walk him over to that little piece of pointy, protruding metal, and he immediately starts to grin with devious delight. At first, he simply stares and glances, not wanting to be too forward. Then as he warms up, he just barely reaches out towards the lock, careful not to touch yet; only to flirt and tease. He’ll play hard to get and shyly look away with a blush. Finally, after the courtship, the moment of waiting comes to fullness as he starts—not to caress tenderly—but to slap like a whack-a-mole hyped up on pixie dust the dangling lock with squeals of laughter and raptures of pure ecstasy.
Don’t even get me started on ceiling fans. Every baby loves them. I assume, it is because ceiling fans seem to have an awfully close resemblance to the Bible’s depictions of angels. So, babies must be remembering the beautiful sight of singing angels that they knew before knowing while their souls were formed and knitted by the Great Artist outside of time and space. Or something like that. What do I know?
Our daughter says that Pikachu’s last name is Peekaboo. What a missed opportunity to have named our child…
or The Opposite and Equal Reaction of Everything Hitting the Earth
Our 8-month-old is an adorable rascal and a vandal. Gets it from his mother’s side—obviously. Or maybe he’s just destined to be a ball player because he throws. Everything.
When you hand something to him, he only does one of two things: tries to eat it or throws it on the ground. Usually, it’s both. He will try to eat it (doesn’t matter what “it” is), throw it on the ground, and then stare at its new spatial context with whimsical curiosity and meditative inquisitiveness. You could say, he has a “flooral” fixation.
Sometimes he really gets in the zone. He can throw items quicker than you can hand them to him. Then he will sit in introspective reflection, gazing at the graveyard of plastic and polyester before him, and ponder over the laws of gravity. He’s clearly a prodigy of Newtonian physics. Probably mentally measuring the forces of gravity, drag, buoyancy, and the Magnus effect on the flight and motion of each object as it falls and bounces; the motion of each projectile which typically constitutes a characterization of the coefficient of restitution and ergo can be affected by the nature of the item and the impacted surface along with density, velocity, rotation, temperature, and pressure; of which the aerodynamic properties and physical behaviors of the matter in motion before, during, and after collision with the mass of another body serve as the mechanics of near-parabolic patterns that are engineered; all of this which encompasses what is scientifically known as: “bounciness.” At least, that’s what I assume he’s thinking (I may have used Wikipedia).
Sometimes, we try to tether things in a way that he cannot throw them away. He doesn’t like that. Hand him a toy car. Throws it on the ground. Hand him a cup. Throws it on the ground. Hand him a baby. Throws it on the ground. Hand him an electric waffle maker. Throws it on the ground. Oh wait, are you not supposed to give babies electronics?
If you’re holding him, he tries really hard to rip your ears and eyelids off—clearly so that he can throw them on the ground. He’s got quite the arm. I’m so proud.
Plus, now that he’s crawling all over the place, each day appears to be an adventure as he is on a constant quest to find new artifacts to chew on and throw. He is like Indiana Jones except instead of searching for treasures for a museum he is searching for treasures to smash. Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Noah’s Ark wooden animal play set because our son has strewn them all about the house. Indiana Jones the Temple of Doomed toys that have all died the death of a thousand falls. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade to find and throw everything in the house. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom the Crystal… never give a crystal to a throwing-obsessed baby unless you want crystal shrapnel in your shins and shards all over the floor. And also, with a diaper instead of a fedora.
The moral of the story: don’t be a litter bug because it’s not cute unless you’re a chubby, chunky baby.