Monday, August 24, 2015

I get so emotional, baby

We try to read to our four-year-old every night. Usually it goes well, but one night this week I found myself crying uncontrollably.

I was reading him The Lion and the Bird by Marianne Dubuc. It's about the eponymous lion who takes in an injured bird and nurses it back to health. A sweet story, only when you buy this book they don't tell you that around page 22 you'll find this picture:
After he is all healed, the bird thanks the lion and then he flies away. Nobody warned me about this. It was not on the back cover, nor was it mentioned on either of the cover flaps. The Kirkus review neglected to say that after 21 deceptively sweet pages I would suddenly and painfully realize that the book was about my son eventually leaving home. I wasn't ready for it, and I started to weep bitterly. My son got worried and, hearing the silence, my wife came in and said, "What the heck are you reading?"

That stupid picture just started this horrifying avalanche of panicky thoughts in my brain: I need to do so much better at this parenting thing. I'm too grouchy and need to pay closer attention. The time is going too fast! Stop time. MUST. STOP. TIME. He's too innocent and sweet to go out into the world. I'll just tell him that everyone just lives at home with their parents forever, and when his friends tell him that they're moving out to go to college I'll tell him they're lying.

My emotions are more raw and close to the surface now that I have kids. I worry about them. Has this happened to anyone else? It's embarrassing and I need to pull it together. I didn't see my dad cry until I was 30 and had a child of my own, and it was at my grandmother's funeral, and even then I don't think he even shed actual tears, just got a little choked up while he was speaking about her. My son saw me cry 24 years too soon.

Eventually the bird comes back for a little while to do his laundry or whatever and it's sort of a a happy ending, but I was still upset.

Yes, I cried, but try reading something like this to your adorable four-year-old and see how well you do.

Monday, August 10, 2015

The Dentist Prince and Other Tales of Wishful Thinking OR Choose your major carefully, kids

The other night I was paying the bills when I realized we are poor. Not super poor like people who are born poor and have all the odds stacked against them and will most likely always be poor, but more like moderately poor with an option to be comfortable someday in the future. I went in to tell my wife that we are poor, but she already knew.

Social workers don’t make a whole ton of money and in college I majored in social work. It’s only recently that I realized my major was a disadvantage to me in the college dating game but a huge advantage in life as it weeded out all the horrible people who cared primarily about how much money a person is going to make.

It was devastating at the time, though. There were a few times in college where a girl broke up with me and said something like, “We should see other majors- I mean people.” And then she’d go off and attach herself to some pre-med dude. Brutal.

Then along came my wife: a beautiful, intelligent, kind, and  funny person, a beacon of sparkly hope in the dark superficial storm that is dating. She made her own money and didn’t care that I was destined for a life of poverty. I didn’t want her to get away so I asked her to marry me and against all reason she said “Yes.”

It seems like I should turn into some sort of dentist prince at this point in the story, and a benevolent fairy godmother tells my wife, “You passed the test! Because your heart is pure and you married for love and not money, you now have tons of money because your new husband owns three dental practices in a town where high fructose corn syrup is plentiful and floss is scarce. Stop working so hard and go spend up all that cavity money.”

But, no, still a social worker and still not making a ton of money. Money isn’t everything but it sure would be nice to say, “Do you feel like getting a hamburger? Let’s go get a hamburger,” and then just go get a hamburger. No checking the account to see if we have enough money or scraping up change from the couch cushions. Just getting a hamburger, man. It would also be nice to not live with the constant low-level anxiety that comes with struggling financially, like when the car makes a weird noise or needs brakes, it’s a crisis.

We’re working real hard and eventually we’ll be more comfortable. And we’re happy, at least most of the time.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Segregated splash parks OR "Why Beachwood, why?" cried my four-year-old

I used to blog all the time, but I don't so much anymore because no one wants to read a blog exclusively about kid stuff, and that's all I ever do. I think back fondly on what it was like to have hobbies and interests and find that I can't really remember. I'm not complaining, just explaining why I'm terminally boring now. What I'm saying is: I don't know how to blog any other way anymore. For example: At church this past Sunday our youngest son puked bright orange sweet potatoes all over Wifey’s black dress and she had to spend the rest of the service looking like Halloween. That's a bloggable event for me now.

But we love our boys and we love summer and so we try and take them to the splash park as often as we can. You may not know this but little kids flip for splash parks, and watching your children splash around is practically a cure for cancer. Our little suburb has a good pool, but the really affluent suburbs around here have their own exclusive splash parks.

Aerial view of center

In terms of rubbing it in, the worst offender is a town called Beachwood. We can see their splash park, nay splash complex, from the street but one can only go in if one has a SPLASH PARK PHOTO ID.We drive through Beachwood all the time and Junior always wants to go to their park because it looks AMAZING and GLORIOUS. And I have to tell him that he can never go in. Thanks a lot Beachwood. You're breaking my son's heart, you wieners.

Isn't this America? Don't we have a constitutional right to splash? I'm sure that's in there somewhere. And I get that the residents pay the taxes to build and maintain the park and so forth, but we'd gladly pay extra for admission as non-residents. Doesn't that sound fair? Come on, Beachwood. Be reasonable. I guess if you let one poor family in, you'd have to let them all in, and then you'd have a full-blown infestation on your hands, so I totally get it.

Wifey and I are always planning how to break in. Maybe we wait in the parking lot and beat up another family of four that looks like us and take their stupid Beachwood photo IDs? My wife and kids are pretty good in a fight, it might work. I could also boost Wifey over the fence and then throw the kids over to her. Or maybe I could slip the disinterested teen girl who is working the door $50 to look the other way while we sneak in. Then again, $50 is probably nothing to a teenager from a rich neighborhood and it's not like I have $50 just lying around.

Even if we could sneak in, we wouldn't stay long. Surely as soon as we hit the water someone would recognize us and yell, "These guys aren't rich! Take them away!" and then guards would come out or something.

And that would be the end of our elitist aquatics.

Monday, May 11, 2015

I hate bathtime

My 3-year-old son LOVES bath time. He splashes, plays, and sings at peak adorableosity, but he loves the bath so much that when bath time is over he goes absolutely insane. Wrestling a wet toddler is the worst. It's like trying to land a 35 pound fish, only a fish fighting for its life with a barbed hook in its face would be less slippery and more cooperative.

I try to to surreptitiously pull the plug and let all the water drain out gradually. My thinking is that if the bath dies of natural causes, he'll won't notice or he'll be less upset, but it never works.

To make things infinitely worse, he gets dry skin on his arms and legs, so we took him to the dermatologist who said to put industrial grade 10W30 super-thick skin cream on him as soon as he gets out of the tub to "seal in" all of the moisture. Then he runs off and it becomes one of those rodeo contests where they chase a greased pig. This is essentially what it's like:

Is it bad to compare your kid to a greased pig? I don't mean it in a bad way, just in a descriptive way, you know? I hate bathtime is what I'm saying. If someone could invent some sort of automated toddler washing machine, I'd kiss them right on the mouth.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Phrases that I wish people would use less

Here are some things that I wish people would say less. I'm not saying they should "die" or anything like that, just that they should take a much-needed rest. Is it pretentious to make a list like this? Absolutely, and with that out of the way, here goes:

"Obvs" and all other forms of shortened words. Some people say these seriously, some people say them ironically. Both drive me nuts.

"Vice versas" such as: "They don't care how much you know until they know how much you care" or "To the world you may be one person, but to one person you may be the world." These are technically called "antimetaboles," and some are OK, but there are entirely too many flying around. Taking a sentence and then switching it it around doesn't necessarily make it deep.

Things that probably started out as therapy phrases but have mutated into silly cliches, ranked in ascending levels of annoyance:
  • "It is what it is." What does this even mean? This is effectively saying nothing. Instead people could say something like, "I'm trying not to freak out," or "I'm trying to keep things in perspective."
  • "Real/Being real," as in "Before this I was not real, but now I am real, kind of like
    Pinocchio." It's an annoying and unnecessary way to "honest." 
  • "Speaking my truth." Really? Is it that profound? Just say it's your opinion, man. Or your experiences. Take responsibility. 
  • "My journey"/any use of "journey." Don't dramatize your life. I supposed if you've changed religions or gotten cancer or found your birth parents or something like that, you can say you've been on a "journey." But if not, your thing probably does not rise to journey level.
"Speaking truth to power." This phrase may have had significance historically but any time I hear it used now it's in the dumbest places. I'm sure abusive corporations and corrupt politicians start shaking in their boots when you give them an earful in a podcast, blog, or tweet. This phrase implies that speaking truth to those in power does something, and in reality all of this "truth" isn't going to actually reach those in power, and even if it did, it wouldn't change anything. Do we think corporations or politicians answer to the people? Those in power don't have to listen to truth at all. Maybe if the phrase was something like, "Speaking truth to lots of people who subsequently demand change/revolt," then I could get behind it.

"That happened." So smug. Just say, "Wow. That was funny/weird/improbable."

That's my list. Please leave a comment if you think I missed some, or I should've left some alone.

Monday, January 19, 2015

So much for apologies OR Human nature

Around this time last year I blogged about insulting people who have wronged me in a Super Bowl commercial, but lately I've been thinking about all the people that I have wronged. I hate to admit it, but there have been a few people over the years, and in a few cases I feel like I really owe someone an apology.

I'm not going to apologize, mind you. I don't want to call people, or talk to anyone face to face. That would be too awkward for both of us. I think instead I will just print up cards that say:

Time heals all wounds and so do Doritos Locos tacos. Nothing repairs a relationship like a fluorescent orange monosodium glutamate shell stuffed with steaming horse meat. But that's about all I am emotionally willing to do. They know that I know that what I did was wrong and they get an apology of sorts, but I don't have to face them and there's no awkwardness.

Which is interesting: when someone has hurt me I want to humiliate them in front of as many people as possible, and when I have hurt someone I want to resolve it as quietly and anonymously as possible. Human nature, am I right?

Speaking of human nature: Immediately after thinking of this apology idea, I started thinking of more revenge fantasies. For example, I want to write a hugely popular bestselling book and put a bunch of passive aggressive dedications in it, such as:

"To Percival, 
Thanks for never helping me ever."

"To Herbert,
May you always suck it."

After plotting both simultaneously, I have to say it is much more fun to plot revenge than plan how to make amends. Ah, human nature.