Sunday, December 2, 2012

My complicated relationship with the bathroom and "Goodnight, Gorilla"

My relationship with bathrooms is complicated now that I have a child. I love the bathroom now, and I feel weird about that. But it's true. It's the only place where I can get a moment's peace. The bathroom has become my Fortress of Solitude.

For one, it's the only place I can do any reading. I used to read all the time, but since my son arrived I'm down to bathroom reading and books on CD while I drive to work. If I read around my son, he immediately wants to see what I'm reading. Once he realizes it's not Goodnight, Gorilla, he forcefully shuts it and hands me some blocks as if to say, “Time to play, dad. Stop neglecting me, you sorry excuse for a father.”

For two, I can make phone calls in there. My wife thinks it's gross, but I think it's super efficient. It is one of the few times in life where one can truly multitask. Plus, my son is fascinated by phones and whenever he sees me using mine he tries to grab it away from me.

For three, it's quiet in there. Sometimes I go in there when I don't even need to go, just to sit and think, “This is my life now?”

It's quiet when he goes to sleep, but that's when I get to catch up with my wife. When he's awake we spend so much time cleaning up and moving things out of his reach that when he goes to bed, it's like, “Hi, nice to meet you.”

This is the dilemma I'm running into: I want to play with my kid, but when am I supposed to have hobbies? Is it wrong to still want to have those? Or is it understood that when you have kids, you automatically give up anything fun? Am I going to go insane? If so, when?

It doesn't really matter because the bathroom won't be a safe haven much longer. When they are very little, babies don't have “object permanence,” which means they don't know that objects continue to exist even when they cannot be seen, heard or touched. When he was younger, I would go into the bathroom, close the door and Junior would think, “Well, dad just ceased to exist. Bummer for him. Now what can I put in my mouth?”

But now that he's older and knows that I still exist in the bathroom, he pounds on the door like, “I know you're in there, I have object permanence! Why are you not entertaining me? Come out here this instant and read Goodnight, Gorilla!”

Anyone else hiding from their children or having a similar dilemma? Or any book suggestions for a 17-month old? Leave a comment, if you please.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Fat and Fatter

Have you ever reached a point in your life when you realize that you are entirely too fat? I reached that point several weeks ago when I grew out of my fat pants.

My regular clothes got too tight a while back, so I bought a few articles of “fat” clothing to tide me over until I got back to my healthy weight and was able to wear my regular clothes again. I avoided the scale, the doctor and the mirror, and everything was going fine. Then one day I realized that my “fat” clothes weren’t fitting so good either. So now I need to get a second batch of “fatter” clothes, making my “fat” clothes my new regular clothes, and my real regular clothes just a distant memory.

A lady from work was talking to me in my cubicle and noticed some of the pictures I had on my desk, particularly one of my wife and I when we were dating.

“Who's that with your wife?” she asked.

“Me!” I said.

“Uh-huh,” she said. “Seriously, who is it? Why do you have a picture of your wife and one of her exes?”

“No, it's me!”

Wow,” she said, looking back and forth between me and the picture. “I mean, you were so thin. I don't even recognize you. You don't even look like yourself.”

I didn't mean to get fat. What happened was when I got married, I gained some weight. I was happy and comfortable and I knew that my wife loved me. More importantly, I knew that she was stuck with me, barring some sort of legal action on her part. However, it didn't take long to realize that I was getting heavier, so I started exercising again and watching what I ate and I was getting back on track.

That all ended when Junior was born. Those first six months were a struggle to survive, and any free time I got, I collapsed into an exhausted heap and passed out. Now he sleeps through the night, but his days are pure danger. Having a 16-month-old is like someone setting off a small bomb in your house every single day. Her spends every minute of every day trying to destroy us, his surroundings and himself. I spend every spare second saying things like: “Don't touch that!” or “Don't put that in your mouth!” or “In the two seconds my back was turned, how did you get all of the trash out of the trash can and spread all over the living room floor?”

This is my life now. When am I supposed to have time to exercise? I suppose I could strap him to my back and go running like Luke and Yoda in The Empire Strikes Back.

But I don't see that happening.

Any suggestions on how to get fit with a baby in the picture? Or just fit in general? Leave a comment, I beg you.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Sing us the song of the century

I have lots of happy memories of my childhood, but one of the most vivid is the day I bought my first tape. It was Blues Traveler’s Four, which means it was probably 1995. I immediately took the tape home, put it in my “boombox” and listened to “Run Around.” Then I flipped the tape over, and fast forwarded to “Hook.” And then I flipped the tape over again and then rewound back to “Run Around.” I would repeat this process for hours on end.

It was around this time that my father and I started frequently engaging in one of the oldest conversations in human history. It began in primitive times when a teenage cave man banged two rocks together in a rhythmic pattern and his cave man father immediately showed up to tell him, “Turn it down!”

I thought my dad just didn’t like “my music,” but later I realized that there’s something about being old that makes your eardrums very sensitive to loud music. My dad got out his record collection one day, threw on Deep Purple’s Machine Head and moved the needle to “Space Truckin.’”

“Now this is a song that needs to be played loud,” he said, cranking the living room stereo up.

The first riff of “Space Truckin’” blasted out and rattled the pictures hanging on the wall. My dad smiled wide and leaned back in his chair. Then the drums and bass came in and my dad flinched. We listened for a few moments while my dad looked uncomfortable and then got up and turned the volume down.

“It’s, uh, too loud,” he said, a little bit ashamed that he couldn’t even listen to his own music at loud volumes anymore.

It was cool listening to my parents' music because it was like getting a rare glimpse into their past lives before they had children and became terminally lame. My dad would put a record on and go into this kind of trance. He'd say, “Oh man, this song takes me back. This song was real big that summer, back when I was...”

At this point he'd snap out of it and realize his kids were sitting around him.

“...studying hard, getting good grades and hanging out with good, responsible friends, that's what I was doing!”

Every year when school would let out, my siblings and I would get home and my mom would throw on “School's Out” by Alice Cooper. We would dance all around the house like revolutionaries who had just overthrown an evil dictator. It was like some pagan ritual to welcome Summer, and it's one of my favorite memories.

Looking back now, I think it was pretty cool that my dad was playing me deep tracks off of his favorite records and my mom was throwing sweet dance parties. Now that I have a son of my own, I have a ton of questions: Will I let him listen to everything I listened to? Will he hate “my” music? Will I hate his music? Will I be one of those parents who hates his music but pretends to like it to seem like a “cool” dad?

I don't know. But a better question is: Why are boy bands making a comeback?

Do you remember the first record/tape/CD/MP3 you ever bought?

Sunday, October 7, 2012

There's got to be an easier way

I love my son. I would take a bullet to the face for him. I wrote “Becoming my father: PART 2,” and I was afraid people didn't like it because it sounded too bitter. So I want you to know that just because I complain about Junior, doesn't mean I don't love the crap out of him. I do, I really do.

That being said, he drives me nuts.

Junior seems to have misunderstood our relationship. All this time we've understood it as parents and child but he seems to think of it as servants and master. He has become so demanding lately. For example, whenever I’m using something he immediately wants it. He comes up and shouts, “Calle oye beep!” which means, “Give that to me now, servant!”

I can be using the TV remote or eating a sandwich and he will inevitably come up and demand whatever I have. He doesn't even really want it, sometimes he'll throw it aside immediately. If don't give it to him, he'll just try to grab it out of my hand. He'll say “Mome mome whoa whoa,” which means, “Why you insolent little dad! Don't you know who I am? I'm The Baby, and I run this whole show. Now gimme that sandwich!

I'm getting pretty sick of it. One day I was eating some curry and he walked up to me and demanded, “Calle oye beep!”

“Oh no, Junior,” I said. “It's extremely spicy. Not for babies. I'm gonna have to drink, like, seven shots of Maalox just to survive this one bowl.”

“Calle oye beep,” he said sternly.

“Well if you insist...”

OK, I didn't really give it to him, because that would be mean, but oh, how I thought about it. Should I feel guilty about thinking that? I don't. The kid is out of control.

When I'm feeding him, he'll throw a fit if he doesn't think I'm feeding him fast enough. He bosses everyone around. If I take something away from him, he immediately goes boneless and flops around on the floor like a 15-month-old jellyfish. We keep telling him “no,” and it's getting better, but there are moments where I'm like, “Hey, you're kind of a jerk.”

And my wife says, “You can't call our baby a jerk!”

“Even if he is?” I ask in earnest.


(under my breath) “Well he is.

This is an actual conversation we have had. Sometimes I fearfully wonder: Is this just typical baby stuff? Or is my child just a brat?

I keep thinking that we need to have another kid so Junior can be taken down a peg, but there's got to be an easier way. Perhaps he's just advanced and has hit the Terrible Twos at fifteen months, or maybe it gets worse.

I sure hope not.

Anyone else got a cranky baby, or any tips on how to deal with one? Leave a comment, it's easy!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Cockroaches and baby poop

When I was a kid we lived in Las Vegas, Nevada. We lived there from the time I was five until I was ten, so I don't remember if we lived in a super fancy neighborhood. I suspect we did not, and I suspect this because of my memories of my parents' war on cockroaches.

The war dragged on the entire time we lived in Nevada and at the end of five years they hadn't even put a dent in the cockroach population. After all, my parents were outnumbered 50 million to two. They kept the house super clean and sprayed all kinds of poisons, but the roaches kept coming back. The poison that worked the best was called a “roach fogger” or a “roach bomb.” My parents would plan a weekend trip and pack us all into the car. Then at the last minute my dad would run into the house and set up the “bombs” in different rooms in the house, and then come running out of the house and lock the door. We'd return home after the weekend away and find hundreds of roaches all over the house, upside down and dead. My parents would sweep and/or vacuum up the roaches and our house would be roach free for about 30 minutes.

This weekend I learned how those cockroaches felt.

First, let me explain that Junior got an ear infection last week and he just finished a round of antibiotics. I guess when you're taking antibiotics, the bad bacteria gets thrown out with the good. So all of Junior's “good” stomach bacteria died along with his bad ear infection bacteria, and it has messed up his digestion. He is excreting a steady stream of baby poop and needs to be changed every half hour like clockwork. This spike in baby poop production conveniently coincided with an early morning trip to the beautiful city of Roswell. On the way back we had to stop at the side of the road several times and change him. I am many things, but I am no litterer, so when there was no place to throw the dirty diapers I just dropped them on the floor of the back seat. When we got back home we were exhausted from our adventures and went inside for a nap.

Meanwhile, three diapers chock full of baby poop were sitting on the floor of my car, baking in the sun with all the windows rolled up.

A few hours went by and I had to run to the store to get a few things. I opened the car door and my eyes immediately started to water from the smell. I felt wobbly and... That's all I remember because I blacked out after that. My wife saw me slumped over the steering wheel, came out and dragged me to safety.

In the future, I'm gonna think twice before I fumigate a cockroach.

Have you ever made this diaper mistake? Or fought a losing cockroach war? Leave a comment, it's easy AND fun!

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Becoming my father: PART 2

Today’s blog is another installment of my ongoing series on me turning into my father. According to Science, to be a father you must be irritated at least 85% of the time. That leaves you 9% of the time to be furious, 5% of the time to be sleeping and 1% of the time to be perfectly content because your kid is asleep and – for one fleeting moment – quiet prevails. If you’re not irritated 85% percent of the time, you’re probably a Sunday father or a godfather or Father Time or whatever, but you’re not a real father.

Junior and I went to the grocery store the other day and I wore flip flops, which I had mistakenly thought were safe to wear grocery shopping. Junior was sitting in the cart and as we were checking out, he snatched a “family” size can of clam chowder and dropped it directly onto my toe.

“Just what is your problem?” I demanded while hopping on one foot.

He just smiled his adorable baby smile and grabbed another can.

“He’s so cute!” said the grocery clerk.

“You shut up!”

I was feeding him the other day and he was making his displeasure known by spitting food everywhere.

“He doesn’t like it,” my wife said.

“He doesn’t like it?” I ranted. “If he doesn’t like it then he can get a job, get up early and go to work everyday and buy his own stupid food. Then he can have sweet potatoes and mangoes all day, everyday, no problem. But until that time, HE’S HAVING PEAS!”

Another big part of being a father is giving “life lessons” and having extensive knowledge on “real life” and “the real world.”

“So you don’t like peas?” I continued. “I wish I could just sit around and do just what I like all day. Oh yes! Wouldn’t that be nice? But that’s not real life!”

Junior just cocked his head and looked at me as if to say, “I have not yet fully acquired your language, but I’m getting the vibe that you’re kinda crazy. Perhaps more than ‘kinda.’”

Whenever I put my son in his crib for a nap, he flails, flops around and howls like I’ve dropped him into an anthill, which totally blows my mind. Why would one resist taking a nap in the middle of the day? I don’t see what there is to complain about. A baby doesn’t have anything on his “to do” list but (1) eat, (2) poop and (3) pull all the Kleenex out of the box and sprinkle them throughout the house. And then he gets to take a nap. Two a day, even. That sounds amazing. I’d give my right arm to take two naps a day.

If there were some kind of right-arm-for-napping-privileges exchange program, that is.

What are some other things that all dads do? Leave a comment, if you like.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

The Venn Diagram of Love

When you marry someone the two of you make this Venn diagram of interests: there is a bunch of stuff in the middle that you have in common, but on either side you have the stuff that one spouse likes but the other isn’t really into and/or hates.

The hard part is trying to keep up with the interests you have that aren’t shared by your spouse without driving them insane. Do you take them along, knowing they’ll hate every minute? Do you leave them at home while you go out? Do you both do your own thing separately? Is that weird? Or healthy? The short answer is: Not sure.

I used to go to punk shows all the time, and when we were dating I would drag my wife along. Eventually she sweetly told me, “Hey, no offense, but I’m just under five feet tall, so I can’t see anything but the back of the guy in front of me.” So we agreed that when I wanted to go to a show, I’d go with a tall friend and she could do her own thing.

My wife likes to watch romantic comedies, and I… strongly dislike romantic comedies. How we get around this difference is: I watch romantic comedies and keep my complaints to myself.

My wife is really good about trying new things. For instance, the other day she went to a UFO forum with me. The guy speaking started to explain how a lot of people try to understand extraterrestrials through science, but a better way is to understand them through illicit substances and the occult.

He said that UFOs don’t come from outer space, they come from another dimension. The only surefire way to open a door into another dimension is to take LSD and a little marijuana for good measure. If you don’t have any LSD handy, several mushrooms will work in a pinch. According to him, once you take LSD you will start seeing a “buttload” of UFOs. (I promise this really happened.)

If LSD doesn’t work for you, he said, your best bet is to summon an alien through an occult ritual, such as chanting, reading spells out of a book or mixing up an alien-summoning potion. He also stated that, in the past, women have been able to successfully summon alien babies into their wombs and later gave birth to alien children. He was a little fuzzy on the details when asked about the current whereabouts of these alien babies. The tricky thing about alien potions is that the mixture is very volatile and many a good alien enthusiast has blown themselves up mixing up a batch. I had the thought that alien-summoning potion sounded eerily similar to a little something called “meth.” (This all really happened, I swear.)

It was quite a lot of information, and he was perfectly serious as he spoke. At the end of the lecture my wife looked terrified.

“You owe me, like, ten romantic comedies after this,” she said. “And Sandra Bullock has to be in at least two of them.”

I’ve found the simplest way to solve the problem of differing interests between spouses is to have a baby, because then you won’t have enough time or money to have interests.

What do you think: what stuff should you do as a couple, and what stuff should you do separately? What stuff is it important to have in common? Please leave a comment.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Junior gets his heart squashed

As a parent you get to see lots of firsts, such as your child’s first steps and first words. Unfortunately, you also get to see other, less pleasant firsts, like when your darling baby boy falls and scrapes himself. And just recently - a lot sooner than I though it would happen – Junior got his little toddler heart broken for the first time.

My wife and I watched it all happen and couldn’t do a thing about it. We wanted to visit some of our favorite restaurants (we were moving to a really small town with not a lot of dining options) so we stopped in at the 66 Diner shortly before we moved. Our waitress brought us some menus and we placed our order, and somewhere in there we realized that Junior had it bad for the waitress.

Junior is at an age where he hasn’t realized that it’s impolite to stare, and the whole time he just stared goggle-eyed while she took our order. He continued to stare longingly as she walked off. He was transfixed and waited patiently for her to return from the kitchen, and when she did, he continued to stare as she waited on her other tables. We knew it was serious when he wouldn’t stop staring long enough to eat, because Junior loves to eat. We even offered him french fries (which he loves) but he couldn’t be bothered. (For the record, we don’t feed him french fries very often. Just sometimes when we eat out, and even then it’s only a few. You’re not such a great parent either.)

When her other tables left, our waitress came over and chatted with Junior, and after an initial moment of shyness Junior was dropping some pretty smooth lines.

Waitress: Hey, what’s your name?

Junior: Oh yeh beeeeeeeeee! Bop bop yeeeeeeee!

Waitress: Cool. What’re you doing tonight?

Junior: Woah woah no no bee beeeeeeeeeeeeeee! (Blows raspberry)

Eventually we had to pay and go home, and Junior was devastated. He cried all the way out to the car and the whole way home. I suspect that somewhere in there they had a little talk where she told him that she needed a man who was a little more stable, didn’t live with his parents and didn’t poop in his pants.

“Get used to it,” I told Junior as he cried broken-heartedly. “Women will do that to you.”

Fortunately, earlier in the daytime my cousin had given us a large yellow summer squash and Junior hugged it like a stuffed animal. He held on to it and cried himself to sleep. (For the record, he has other toys, I promise. He just really liked the squash. Shut up.)

He was feeling better the next day because everyone knows that the remedy for a broken heart is a yellow summer squash.

If you don't have kids, have you ever tried to spit game at a waiter/waitress and it didn't go so well? 
If you have kids, has your baby ever gotten really attached to anything weird?
Please leave a comment.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

"My Eyes Burn"

Remember when I used to post regularly? Ah, those were the days. As I’ve mentioned, we’ve been really busy, and when it rains, it pours. I was cramming frantically for my Stats final and we were in the process of moving when our car broke and then, to top it all off, my insides broke.

I woke up at 3 a.m. with a terrible pain in my side. I tried to go back to sleep but I was kept awake by the steady throbbing. I called in sick to work in hopes of sleeping off whatever it was.

“I can't come in today,” I told my supervisor. “I have, uh, a pain in my side.”

“Riiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiight,” said my supervisor. “Sure you do.”

By midday I still couldn't sleep and I was still hurting, so my kindly wife diagnosed me on WebMD.

“Appendicitis,” she announced after carefully logging all my symptoms into the computer.

I told her that WebMD was crap, but when 7 p.m. rolled around and I only felt worse, I started to think that WebMD and my wife might be onto something. We left Junior with my parents and headed off to the Emergency Room.

If you know anything about emergency rooms, you can do the math: we went in at 7 p.m. and we didn't get seen until 11:00 p.m.

E.R. Doctor: Where does it hurt?

Me: Here.

E.R. Doctor: (poking) Here?

Me: Yeeeeeeeeeeeeeaaaaaaaaaaargh!

There must be a class taught to med students in their first year where the instructor says something like, “The first rule of medicine is: 'If a patient says something hurts really bad, as a doctor you must poke it without delay.'” That, or doctors just think it's funny.

Anyway, as you've guessed, my wife and WebMD were correct and my appendix was on the verge of exploding. The on-call surgeon didn't arrive until 1 a.m. He explained the surgery to my wife and I and as he did so he was awkwardly patting my belly as if it were some old, sick pet that needed to be put down.

They got the old appendix out before it exploded, although the surgeon said it was leaking, like, appendix juice, so I guess it was close. My wife describes me coming out of anesthesia as follows:

Me: (demanding) Where are my underwear? What have you done with them?

O.R. Tech: They took them off because they had to operate on you.

Me: Why? They didn’t operate on my junk.

O.R. Tech: I don’t know anything about that. Keep breathing into the oxygen machine.

Me: How long do I have to breathe for?

O.R. Tech: The rest of your life, I expect.

Me: No one likes a smart aleck!

O.R. Tech: Just keep breathing into the machine, sir.

Me: (turning to my wife) You're pretty.

Wifey: Um, thanks.

Me: Will you marry me?

Wifey: Sure.

Did I mention that a fair amount of the blood vessels in my eyes exploded and none of the doctors would tell me what caused it? Here's a picture:

The best part of being hospitalized is the food. I was on a post-op liquid only diet so I had all the onion broth I could slurp. For dessert, they serve jello in a used ashtray. That's right, they just dump out the cigarette butts and pour in your favorite Pine Sol flavored gelatin snack, just like mom used to make.

I couldn't get enough.

Anyone have any other appendix and/or hospital stories? Wasn't 2003 a great year for music? Please leave a comment.

PS - I unearthed an old video of me doing stand up, so if you haven't already seen it please feel free to check it out HERE.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Tiger takes it on the road

The local weekly alternative paper recently had a “flash fiction” contest and I entered. I didn't win, of course, but I had a blast writing it. The prompt was “a dead cat, an old car and a backyard at sunset” and the word limit was 119. Here it is:

Tiger takes it on the road

“I'm so dead,” Tiger hissed as he pawed the gearshift and put the car in reverse. Plaster, wood and masonry fell away as he backed out of the new car-sized hole in the back of the house. Driving was harder than it looked. He shifted back into drive.

Tiger had spent hours on the windowsill, staring at the old car moldering in the back yard and plotting his escape.

Tiger's owner angrily emerged from the ragged hole as the car roared past. Tiger accelerated around the house, through the side yard and into the front yard. As the car thudded over the curb and out onto the street, Tiger meowed in triumph and sped off into the sunset.

I think I could continue it and Tiger could go on and kill zombies (too cliché?) or hunt chupacabras or something awesome like that. And he could have a dog sidekick. It'd be like The Adventures of Milo and Otis meets Supernatural meets The X-Files.

Anyway, please let me know what you think in a comment.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Your party = POOPED OR I'm too young to be this cranky

Recently my younger sister came to me and asked for some advice on picking a major. She said she was considering sociology or social work and something happened to me. Something ugly.

“Listen, I know you've finished one year of college and taken Social Problems. It has made you aware that the world is a crappy place but given you the idea that it can be saved and you are the one to save it. However, I'm here to tell you that it can't and you aren't. More importantly, there's no money in saving the world. So do something where you make money. Major in engineering or nursing or business, but whatever you do, do not follow your heart and/or dreams. That way poverty lies.”

And that's the last time my sister ever asked me for advice. As she looked at me I could see her her mental label for me change from “wise older brother” to “tool.” What has happened to me?

I've turned into Captain Crankypants or Cynical Sam over here, and it's getting worse. It's like I'm in one of those movies where I need to drink the antidote, break the spell or find true love's first kiss before the change becomes permanent. Only I don't know how to change back to Optimistic, Conquer-The-World Jesse. I know I'm turning into a jerk but I don't know how to stop it.

Some of the things getting me down are: I don't make much money at my job. I've tried to explore other options but I've run into some setbacks. I have a lot of stuff I need to do, but when I try to do it, I think about the amount of things I need to accomplish and my brain does the mental equivalent of curling up into the fetal position and sucking its thumb. Thus, I find myself watching Eureka and pretending there isn't a giant To-Do list laying in wait for me.

I know things will work out eventually. Another thing I know is that I need to be more grateful for what I do have.

One thing I'm grateful for is having a healthy baby. He's so healthy, in fact, that he is into everything. His baby arms look deceptively short, but nothing is safe because he has a supernatural reach. Everything in our house has been moved to top shelf. It's kind of like when you're camping in the woods and you have to hang your sandwiches from a branch so the bears can't get to them.

Anyone know how to combat premature cranky-old-man-ness? Leave a comment, if you please.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

And I was like baby, baby, baby, oh OR One year of baby madness

This month Junior will turn one, and it blows my mind. I'm not sad he's not a baby anymore or any rubbish like that, and, frankly, I like Junior a lot better now because he is a whole lot easier to deal with. I'm just saying the time has passed ridiculously fast.

He's a little boy now, and his personality is coming out, which is hilarious and sometimes a little concerning. He has decided he is too old and cool for baby food and only wants to eat what we're eating. Problem is, he can't always eat what we're eating and every meal is an epic battle of wills.

He has recently turned into Isaac Newton and is constantly conducting experiments with gravity. These experiments consist mainly of dropping things and watching them fall. Groundbreaking, if you're a baby; extremely annoying, if you're the adult picking up after said baby. Anything he can get into his chubby little hands, he immediately throws.

Earlier this week I was carrying him with me to pay the rent. We live on the second story and he plucked the rent check from my hands and threw it down the apartment stairs, watching intently as it fluttered down from the balcony and was carried away by the breeze and lost forever. We might be homeless, but that is a small price to pay for the scientific advancement of babies.

Or maybe instead of Isaac Newton, Junior thinks he is B. F. Skinner and is researching how many times a grown man will pick up a toy that is repeatedly thrown by a small child before the grown man stops picking it up or has a nervous breakdown.

Throwing things is pretty harmless, but some of the other things he's into lately worry me a little. For example, everywhere we go he is hitting on the ladies. Whenever any female of any age comes around he automatically gets this coy little baby smile and starts showing off and flirting. He likes girls his own age, but he really prefers older women. He likes the 4 year old cougars, and even women who are quite literally old enough to be his mother or grandmother.

He inherited his mother's big brown eyes, so he does pretty well for himself. He has girlfriends everyplace we go: the post office, grocery store, restaurants, doctor's office, church, my office. If I go to the grocery store without him the clerk will be like, “Where's Junior? Bring him with you next time. And tell him to call me. He's been really distant lately.”

What really is going to cause us trouble is how much Junior loves to be naked. Once we pull him out of the bath he is immediately trying to get away and escape into the night, stark naked. When I'm changing him he always tries to break away. In the time it takes me to take off the old diaper and grab a new one he will have already sprint-crawled across the room, cackling like a mad baby. And then I have to chase him. He's even figuring out how to take off his own clothes, so he no longer has to wait for one of the aforementioned opportunity to go naked.

I hope he grows out of it, because it won't be funny once it's the police chasing him.
What should we expect from Junior in year #2? Please leave a comment, I'll love you forever.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Stuck in the middle

I've been back in my hometown for three years now, and at first I kept running into people from high school. I must've been here too long now because I'm running into people I haven't seen since middle school.

That's right, I'm bumping into people I haven't seen since I was 12 or 13, which means approximately 18 years have elapsed since I have seen these people last. I was a super dork in middle school, but I am much cooler now. I like to think if you stood my middle school self next to my current self you couldn't tell that they are the same person. People from middle school still recognize me, though, which is discouraging and makes me worry that I might not actually be as cool as I think.

For instance, at the supermarket the other day I ran into the guy who stole my Walkman in the seventh grade. And this fool has the nerve to talk to me like we're friends and it was some glorious reunion.

“We're not friends,” I told him. “You stole my Walkman, and it had my Bush tape in it and everything! I know you did, don't try and deny it. But apparently someone has stolen all of your hair, so I see that justice has been done.”

Of course I didn't really say that, because I am only 87 percent sure he was the Walkman thief. I would have confronted him right there in the produce section if I had been 95 percent sure, or even 90. Pretty sure I'll never see that tape ever again.

The next middle school meeting wasn't so traumatic. I ran into one of my best eight grade friends at work. I wasn't sure it was him at first and there was a fair amount of awkward silence. I finally summoned the courage and asked, “Hey, do I know you from middle school?”

It was cool to see him, but when you haven't seen someone for 18 years, what do you say to them? So this is what I said:

“So, are you still really into pogs?”

Anyone else had awkward run-ins with old friends? Or advice on how to handle them? Every time you comment, a unicorn's horn gleams a little more brightly.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Grocery adventures

I've been having bad luck at the check out counter lately. Take last night: I went with my wife and my infant son to one of those specialty grocery stores, where most of the food is organic or vegan and all the employees are perky-bordering-on-creepy. And it had a crapload of wine. Here is what happened to me at the checkout counter, and keep in mind that my wife doesn't drink.

Checker: “Did you folks notice that we're having a sale on wine today?”

Me: “Oh, we better not.” (pointing at my wife) “My wife here just got sober. How many days is it now, dear? Show him the little A.A. coins you got in rehab.”

I thought I was being hilarious, but Wifey was not impressed. This is frequently the case.

My next mishap happened when I was at Walmart (forgive me for my sins). My wife refuses to go to Walmart, partially because of moralistic reasons but mostly because she gets claustrophobic and panicky at the hordes and hordes of people pushing and shoving trying to save money. Also, at our Walmart low prices seem to come in exchange for any type of customer service.

So I was at Walmart with my son sitting in the cart. I was loading my groceries onto the conveyor belt, which left my kid sitting undefended in the cart while the creepy people behind me in line snuck up on him. When I turned around two middle-aged women and their two infectious daughters had their hands all over my son, touching his feet, hands and face.

“He's so cute!” they all said.

“Stop touching him!” I yelped.

Women, daughters and cashier all looked at me like I was the biggest jerk in Walmart history.

“Do you even have clean hands? Are you current on your shots? I mean, you can't just walk up to someone and start touching them, even if they are a baby! When has that ever been OK? What if I just walked up and started touching your daughter's face?”

Needless to say, after I paid for my groceries I beat a hasty retreat. I told my wife about it and she said it reminded her of when she was pregnant and she got all sorts of unsolicited belly touching, so Junior should be used to it by now. Something about pregnancy and babies makes people forget normal human boundaries.

So for now I'm avoiding grocery stores. I think I'll start ordering groceries online, or maybe pay a neighbor kid to go for me.

Anyone else had a similar experience? Each time you leave a comment, a puppy's life is saved.

Monday, April 23, 2012

The Beard makes brief appearance, knows when it's not welcome, leaves

I've had a long and complicated history with beards. I am constantly shaving and then growing beards. Recently I tried to grow another one and my wife was very supportive. The Beard and my wife tried to work it out, they really did, especially my wife. They tried to make it work for my sake, but after a few weeks it became clear that it would only end in tears.

“It's like kissing a toothbrush,” she said kindly.

I had to admit that didn't sound pleasant.

“It's like your whole face is covered in toothbrush bristles and my face has tartar on it and you're trying to scrub it all off. Only I don't have tartar on my face and you're just slowly scraping away all my skin and tissue until one day I'm going to be just a fleshless skull staring back at you with hollow eye sockets, asking, 'Why?'”

OK, my wife didn't say all that, but I could tell the Beard wasn't her favorite. I researched the issue on the trusty internet and found that if you put “beard conditioner” on your beard it is supposed to make your beard softer and more kissable. I set out on a journey to find it and instead found that there is a huge disparity in the availability of grooming products for men and women. I would ask for beard conditioner and store employees would look at me like I asked for winged high-top zebra skin tap dancing shoes and say, “What's that?”

I went online, but beard conditioner costs a fortune and only comes in weird hippie scents. I tried putting regular hair conditioner on my beard and that was what we call a “limited success” aka “failure.”

So I was thinking seriously about shaving when I saw one of my co-workers and we had an awkward beard moment. This co-worker is on the road all the time so we hadn't seen each other in several weeks.

“Whoa,” she said, “Nice... facial growth.”

Which made it sound like I had a giant, hairy mole or a tumor on my face, but a nice one, thankfully.

So with that, plus my wife disliking the beard, I shaved. I ran into the same co-worker again and she said, “Hey, where'd your beard go?”

“Well, my beard and my wife weren't getting along,” I said. “One of them had to go, and I chose my wife.”

“You got rid of your wife?”

“No, I chose my wife to keep, I got rid of the beard.”

Oh. Probably a good choice.”

Anyone know any good brands of beard conditioner? Or have any beard tips? According to Science, people who leave comments report 37% greater life satisfaction than people who don't, so please leave a comment.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Baby swapping and other terrible ideas

Some friends of ours offered to watch Junior on Friday night, on the condition that we watch their baby on Saturday night. It sounded like a good idea at first.

He is ten months old and until now we've only had family watch him, even then it's only been to go to work or the dentist. We haven't been on an actual “date” since he was born, mostly because my wife is super selective about who can watch him.

Do you know how many perverts there are out there?” she told me. “Don't you watch the news? The world is crawling with perverts. Do you want some pervert watching our son?”

I had to admit I didn't. But that was several months ago and I guess we'd known these people long enough. That, and my wife invited them over for dinner and then clandestinely took their fingerprints off their water glasses after they left. Once the FBI NCIC background was complete, the date was set.

We dropped Junior off and it felt really weird at first. We sat in our car for over an hour asking each other, “What did we used to do before he was born?” Neither of us could remember. We ended up eating dinner at a place we couldn't afford and putting it on the credit card because it was such a momentous occasion. We tried to think of things to talk about besides our baby, but we couldn't remember how. It was very awkward –not unlike a first date– but it was very nice.

And then came Saturday where we had to watch their baby, a six-month-old little girl I nicknamed “Lungs” pretty early on. Junior was pretty concerned to see us holding and caring for another baby.

That's right,” I told him. “If you don't behave we're going to trade you in and get a new baby.”

That kept him in line for a while. I don't think we're going to do the baby swap again anytime soon because Lungs screamed for three hours straight, and I don't think it's worth it. Next time we'll just pay a babysitter.

The Lungs ordeal made us appreciate Junior more, so I think we'll wait awhile before we trade him in.

Has anyone else had problems relating to your spouse post-baby? Or had babysitting disasters? Leave a comment, it's good for the environment.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Just beTWIX you and me...

I haven't blogged in the last two weeks because I've been having computer problems and also lazy problems. But anyway, I'm back to do some more of what I'm best at: complaining and then transitioning randomly –and not particularly skillfully– into a weird story.

We finally paid off all the medical bills associated with having a baby, but now we've been noticing that a huge chunk of our money is still going to another baby-related expense: keeping his tiny butt clean.

Disposable diapers are enough to put a couple in the poorhouse. It breaks down like this:

We considered doing cloth diapers but ultimately I decided I would rather work three jobs, donate plasma twice a week and do sketchy drug trials before I touched a poopy cloth diaper or used plastic pants.

So my parents got me a Costco membership for my birthday and it's been a lifesaver and saved us tons of money. We have to buy tons of diapers, and at Costco the only way to buy stuff is in units of tons, so it works out.

The only problem is they also sell other things by the ton at Costco, like Twix candy bars.

“Are you sure we should buy a ton of Twix?” my wife asked. “You know how you are with sugar. Plus, I don't think it will fit in our car.”

“I'll tie it to the roof,” I said. “And I'll be fine. I can control myself.”

It was the equivalent of a hardcore alcoholic bringing home a distillery. Later that night my wife –awoken by the sound of gnawing– came out and found me elbow deep in a package of Twix, smeared with chocolate and with piles of golden wrappers scattered all around me.

Costco is a cruel mistress.

Anyone have money-saving baby advice? Please leave a comment, it's fun!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

IT Madness

Like a lot of people, most of my work is done on a computer, and my computer is down most of the time.

I work for the State of New Mexico and they replace their computers every 20 years or when Halley's Comet appears. The computers go down with such astonishing regularity I have planned my week around the outages. In my work I also have to file and shred a huge amount of documents. I never set time aside to file or shred, I just wait until the computers go down and then I do it. It's a good system, and I am never behind on filing or shredding.

When all the computers go down, the IT department will, without fail, send out an e-mail saying that the computers are down, but no one can receive it because the computers are down. Everyone in the IT department makes way more money than me, by the way.

However, we don't need to get an e-mail to tell us the computers are down. You know the computers are down when everyone is out of their offices and interacting with one another all of a sudden.

Also, the IT department is always “pushing” out new software updates which rarely work at first and bring the system to a grinding halt. And just when I have everything back in working order from the last push and all the bugs are worked out, they push out another software update and everything crashes all over again.

Honestly I think people probably got more done back before computers.

Anyone else have computer problems? Leave a comment, it's fun

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Danger Baby rides again

Our baby has an insatiable appetite for danger. We didn't find out about Junior's mile-wide daredevil streak until a few weeks ago when he started to crawl.

At first his attempts at crawling were funny. He couldn't get his all his limbs to work together. He was pulling himself along with one arm and pushing with one leg, while the other arm and leg just kind of flopped along uselessly. It was kind of like an office: one or two people are doing all the work, one person helps out on occasion and the last guy just surfs the internet all day.

But now he's gotten better at crawling and things just got real. We have to watch him every single second or he's getting into trouble. We live in a small apartment and at any given time he is only a 20-second crawl from something he's is not supposed to get into. I look away for an instant and he's trying to tip stuff over or eat something weird he found on the floor.

We've tried to baby-proof our house, but we've found that is nearly impossible. A "baby proof house" is like an "honest politician," "perfect man" or "leprechaun": it doesn't exist. Junior's favorite thing right now is cords, electrical cords in particular. If he sees something that is plugged in, that is the first thing he goes for and as soon as he gets hold of it he starts chewing on it. Electroshock therapy has fallen out of favor in psychology circles, but Junior wants to conduct more research, apparently.

Another one of his dangerous pastimes is trying to figure out how to escape his crib. He spends his nap time trying to climb, jump and tunnel out. One of these days he's going to succeed and fall right on his head.

What scares me the most is that he doesn't seem to have any fear. Take yesterday, for instance. Babies don't understand the concept of sleeping in and he thinks we wake up at 6:30 a.m. every day. When he wakes up at “weekday” time on Saturday we put him in the bed with us and he usually falls asleep again and we all sleep in. However, yesterday he stayed awake while the two of us fell back into new parent comas. He then proceeded to crawl over both of us and dive off of the edge of the bed. Luckily, our bed isn't very high up so Junior is ok, but he sure did scream.

The crazy part is, he'd do it again tomorrow if we let him.

Anyone else have a dangerous baby? Baby-proofing tips? Please comment, if you dare.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

We're all sick

The snot has really been flowing at my house because we all caught a particularly nasty cold with a large side of hacking cough. We made it this far into winter without catching anything, but now as the weather is getting warmer, we all got sick.

When the epidemic hit I brought it home from work and gave it to Junior. Not deliberately, mind you, we just live in pretty close quarters, so when one of us brings something home, we all get it. I felt pretty bad, though, because he is eight months old and sounded like he smoked three packs a day.

Next, Junior gave it to my wife and then quickly got over it. This left the two of us lying like dead people in a growing pile of our own dirty Kleenex while he happily crawled around getting into things he wasn't supposed to, knowing full well that we couldn't do anything about it. It's scary when a baby is running things.

Now my wife is over it, which leaves me coughing all by myself. I'd go to the doctor but I don't want to talk about the color of my mucus, which is what doctors always want to talk about whenever I have a cold.

I'm also worried about the money. I have insurance, but what does insurance pay for really? I pay a copay when I go in and then get a bill for the rest a few weeks later.

However, I might reconsider going to the doctor after all. One of my co-workers has the same cough and when he went to the doctor he got hooked up with Codeine cough syrup. Sign me up.

I'll pour a little cough syrup over ice, put in a tiny umbrella and sip my way back to perfect health.

Has anyone else been sick? Or have advice on how to care for a well baby while you are sick? Leave a comment, if you please.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

We got older but we're still young

I turned 30 last week, and if there is a more definitive sign that the good times are over, I can't think of it.

First of all, my smart-aleck family wanted to put 30 candles on my cake. Not candles in the shape of a 3 and an 0, but 30 small fires blazing away on my birthday cake. The result was the largest dessert fire you've ever seen. You could feel the heat coming off of the cake, and when I went to blow out the candles, I singed my eyebrows.

At first I thought it was funny, but when I realized, “Your birthdays candles can heat a medium-sized room,” I got a little sad. In some ways, turning 30 makes me feel weird.

For one, I am admittedly not in the best shape of my life. I went to the store to buy a shirt but all the stupid shirts were “Athletic Fit.” I wanted to grab the store manager by the lapels and yell, “What if I'm not athletic? This is America, and I know I'm not in the minority. Where are the rest of the shirts?”

Also, I'm cranky. I complain incessantly about how much stuff costs. I tell the same stories over and over. I talk about how bad I used to have it and how hard I worked to get where I am.

And then soon after my birthday I went to a punk show with my sister, who is 11 years younger than I. I've been going to shows for years but this time I felt out of place. Do you know what an outlier is? The bands were great and I had a good time, but I felt so old surrounded by all these younger people. Then I had a revelation.

Everyone there was trying so hard to be cool, and I realized that I don't have an interest in being cool anymore. It was replaced by the need to survive. Paying bills, coordinating schedules and the baby's temperature are taking precedence over cool things, and it's nice to be free from that pressure.

They were wearing clothes that were really stylish and only a little bit comfortable, and I was wearing clothes that were really comfortable and only a little bit stylish. They were flailing around at the front and I stood at the back because taking an elbow to the face isn't as novel as it once was.

Ultimately I ended up feeling pretty good about turning 30 because I'm pretty satisfied with how everything is going. I have a wonderful wife, a healthy baby who is starting to sleep through the night and the three of us have big plans. I am happier now than I have ever been. I may be old, but I'm doing ok.

You may think that last paragraph was cheesy, but I'm 30 now, and that means I'm old enough not to care.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Brian Wolcott and the Court of Unrequited Love (PART 5 of 5)

If you need to catch up, you can read Part 1 over here.

We just came here to talk and you start throwing crap,” Mrs. Bernman was yelling. “Why do you always have to act a fool?”

Clarice, I'm bored. I've been haunting an empty racquetball for the last thirty years, remember?” the thin figure was yelling back. “Plus, I'm dead, so really I can act any way I want.”

Ali shook herself and tried to understand what was taking place around her. The hazy figure was gradually becoming more solid until it looked like a young, rodent-faced man dressed in dated racquetball clothes.

Wait Wait Wait!” Ali screamed holding her hands up for silence.

Mrs. Bernman and the young man paused mid-argument and looked at Ali.

You know him?” Ali asked Mrs. Bernman.

I'm sorry to day I do,” Mrs. Bernman answered in disgust. “Malcolm here took racquetball lessons from me a long time ago.”

And you're dead?” Ali demanded.

Yes, indeed,” Malcolm replied. “And she killed me!”

The court erupted into more arguing and Ali had to yell again.

Now wait,” she said after everything had quieted down. “So you're a ghost, then?”

That's one way to put it,” Malcolm shrugged. “I prefer 'poltergeist' or 'life challenged spirit,' if you don't mind.”

Ali looked puzzled and Mrs. Bernman stood with her arms crossed. Malcolm laughed icily. Mrs. Bernman sighed loudly and turned to Ali.

Here's what happened: Thirty years ago I had just moved in and I was giving Malcolm there racquetball lessons. He never was very good.”

Malcolm looked scandalized.

Yes I was!” he cried. “I was getting better. I was going to go pro.”

Mrs. Bernman caught Ali's eye, shook her head and mouthed, No he wasn't. Ali smiled, in spite of herself

Anyway,” Mrs. Bernman said, rolling her eyes. “Fred in D14 was having an affair with Mary Ellen in G19. They would always meet in the racquetball court at eight, play a few games and then go back to Mary Ellen's apartment afterward.”

Only Fred's wife Susan found out...” Malcolm interjected.

Mrs. Bernman fixed Malcolm with a withering look and he shrank back.

Getting to it,” she said slowly. “Now if I may finish...”

Malcolm held up his hands in surrender. Ali looked at the odd couple quizzically.

Susan found out about the racquetball thing and waited for Fred in the racquetball court with a bat.”

Hammer,” Malcolm interrupted. “It was a hammer.”

Mrs. Bernman shot him an evil old lady look but he remained firm.

It was my death, Clarice” he said defensively. “I want you to at least get the details right.”

Mrs. Bernman dismissed him with a wave of her hand.

So Susan was waiting for Fred with a hammer,” she said, looking over at Malcolm. “Only that particular night Fred and Mary Ellen skipped their normal racquetball time and poor Malcolm decided to practice his serve. Wrong place, wrong time. Pretty soon after Susan went to prison, strange things started happening in the racquetball court and they closed it down.”

Mrs. Bernman looked sad and Malcolm looked at Ali with a big grin.

What did you think?” he asked eagerly.

Of your death story?” Ali asked. “It was tragic!”

Malcolm smiled even bigger. “Wasn't it?”

But you said Mrs. Bernman killed you,” Ali said.

Malcolm's smile disappeared and he turned to Mrs. Bernman and pointed at her accusingly.

That right!” he exclaimed. “Convenient how she left that out!”

Mrs. Bernman looked ashamed and wrung her hands. Ali waited in the awkward silence and looked from Mrs. Bernman to Malcolm in puzzlement Malcolm looked smug.

I lived in D15, next to Fred and Susan,” Mrs. Bernman said finally. “And Susan told me all about the affair when she found out. She told me she was going to kill Fred, only I didn't think she was serious. And how was I to know he wouldn't be there and...”

Mrs. Bernman was looking up at Malcolm, whose expression had changed from self-satisfied to slightly embarrassed. Ali looked at the floor awkwardly. Mrs. Bernman shook her finger in Malcolm's face.

I'll have you know I never forgave myself,” she said in a choking voice. “And now I've told you and I'm sorry and I don't know what else there is to say.”

The two women and one ghost stood in awkward silence for a few moments. Ali waited for Mrs. Bernman or Malcolm to speak but neither did. Ali coughed awkwardly.

That must be good for you to hear, Malcolm,” Ali ventured uncertainly. “That must feel like some kind of closure, doesn't it? Maybe you can move on now and stop haunting the court?”

Malcolm was smiling again. He put a slightly transparent arm around Ali and Mrs. Bernman and started walking them toward the door.

That's a popular myth about us life challenged spirits,” he said. “That we all want to get 'closure' and 'move on.'”

Don't you?” Ali asked.

Some do,” Malcolm shrugged. “Like that guy who drowned in the pool. He moved on last summer. Lame.

Ali and Mrs. Bernman looked intently at him.

I'm perfectly happy here,” he said. “And I have no intention of leaving. Ever.”

But maybe you can stop haunting the court? Just let people play?” Ali asked. “You really scared those guys.”

They had reached the door now Malcolm stood apart from the two women.

Most fun I've had in years,” he laughed. “But maybe we can make a deal. I've been dying to play racquetball again. I can stop bothering people if you can find me someone to play with...”


Brian's knees knocked together but he stayed put, knowing this was the only way to make it up to Ali for his earlier cowardice. He shivered as the ghost stood at the serving line and bounced a racquetball menacingly.

You think you can return my serve? I've had thirty years to perfect it.”

Brian shuddered. “I'll sure try.”

Good,” Malcolm laughed and prepared to serve. “I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”

Please tell me what you thought of the story! Leave a comment or suggestions for the second draft, if you please. If you really want to endear yourself to me, you could post a link to this on your Facebook or Twitter.