Thursday, December 20, 2007
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
This is a picture of my mother and my daughter that was taken over Thanksgiving. Sometimes I think it is the most beautiful thing ever, and sometimes it is hard to look at. My mother has breast cancer. It isn't easy to accept that she has cancer, and this picture makes it impossible to avoid. It doesn't matter that it was caught early, or that the doctors are quite optimistic. It's still my mother and it's still cancer.
And it's still my mother and my daughter in the same photo. And they are looking at each other, and despite disease and distance, they are connecting.
And my mother is still a beautiful women, with or without hair. And Dipity, well I have no words for her, and at the same time I imagine all the best words. It's the same for the picture itself. I want so badly to say that I can't put how I feel into words, and yet I can imagine a million ways to convey the simple yet nuanced and complex wonder and dread that are encompassed in this picture.
My wife and I just watched Snow Cake last night. This is an amazingly wonderful movie, and if you haven't seen it ... well, see it. Sigourney Weaver (another women who is beautiful even when bald) and Alan Rickman have some fantastic scenes. In one they are playing a variant of Scrabble where you can make up words as long as you can make up a comic book scene using the word. Sigourney's character, an autistic woman, comes up with a great one. It is the best word I can come up with right now for this little snapshot. This is a picture of Ma and Dipity, and it is dazlious.
Monday, December 17, 2007
This is almost my 100th blog. It's my 98th, to be precise. I've never been good at postponing celebration, so I'm celebrating 100 now. In honor of 100, and in sympathy for those poor souls that have read some or all of these entries, I will write very little. This blog is supposed to be about Dipity, so I will let my little starlet have today's limelight. And if I change my mind about ceding the spotlight, I have the next two blogs.
Friday, December 14, 2007
There are so many aspects of the stay at home father gig that I don't feel adequately qualified for. I am not Mr. social, thus I don't have a lot, or any, play dates or afternoon teas set up. I have a bad temper. My grumbling and fussing at the idiots on the road, at the mall, and everywhere else probably doesn't set the best example. I lick my fingers, and slurp soup and cereal. I am not now, nor have I ever been, super clean. I'm not nearly as obsessed with germs as my wife. I won't say how often we do the hand washing thing during the day because my wife reads this. And, most worrisome, at least to me, I have never been good at the whole dental care thing.
My dentist, regardless of who or where, always say the same thing: you have great teeth and they would be even greater if you brushed and flossed once in a while. My first cavity was discovered only last year, in the wake of which I brushed and flossed every day for almost four months. That was also a first. Essentially, I have had healthy teeth and have done little to nothing to earn them. My wife is a conscientious tooth brusher, and has had more cavities than I've had clutzy accidents. What if Dipity inherits her mom's teeth and my propensity to remember that I have teeth? Already, she is off to a poor start. Her idea of brushing is to suck on the tooth brush, and the person mainly responsible for encouraging her efforts in dental hygiene is ... me. Her mom brushes with her every night, but the rest of the day is left to ... me. Can kids lose their first set of teeth to tooth decay? Can they lose their permanent teeth before they come in? Is she doomed even before her first trip to the dentist. Is dental hygiene at the whim of nurture or nature? Is there some idiot other than myself I can blame for this. Will Dipity still be cute with yellow plaque covered teeth? Will she still be able to get into a good medical school? Can I avoid this problem if she receives all of her food intravenously?
Maybe it's not too late for me to brush and floss regularly. Maybe, if there was less food in between my teeth I would be less irritable. Maybe a healthier smile would inspire me to give all the kitchen appliances a mirror like finish. And, I would eat like a prince for fear of staining my teeeth. Maybe every cloud truly does have a silver lining ... or a silver cap?
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
Death and the Modern Age
A thousand years ago things were different. Hows that for an earth shattering revelation? It's true though. Maybe that's the level of abstraction necessary if one wants to speak the truth. I think I can be slightly more focused and still remain truthful, though. A thousand years ago, death was experienced differently by the living then it is now. It is a risky assertion, but I feel pretty confident in it.
Seriously, though. Before TV, cameras, and the etch a sketch changed our lives forever, if someone died and we cared, generally it was someone we had met, touched, sneezed on, and maybe even kissed goodbye. Certainly, if we had seen them before they died we had met them. I mean, there may have been a cave drawing or a painting, but cave drawings are pretty imprecise and usually the only people art aficionados knew who were in paintings were the dead or the resurrected. Now, we mourn people we shared the world with but never met, and we have pictures to include in our shrines.
I find fame and the famous a strange aspect of our society to wrap my mind around. The idea that people can pass through life, touch us, and never come within 300 miles of us is a strange one. You can almost fall in love with someone without them ever being aware of it. I think I have fallen for Madeline Khan. It's really been a long process, but I only became aware of it a few days ago. I was watching Sesame Street clips on You Tube with Dipity, when I came across Grover and Madeline Khan singing "sing what I sing, sing after me." She is funny, sarcastic, and has a great voice. And she is so cute. I love the blue fur too ... h wait, that's Grover. Anyway, seriously she seems like such a cool person. If she were alive there would be room for day dream encounters (just a hello and lunch ... after all Dipity has a pretty hot mom). Unfortunately, she died over eight years ago. So, it ain't happening. If she wasn't an actress, I never would have thought twice about her. But now ... and it's not just actresses. With You Tube and blogs and all this other nonsense, even ordinary people can be obsessed about at a distance. It's a strange world I've chosen to bring kids into. A thousand years ago might have been better. Hell, fifty years ago might have been better. But how would I know, I only have television and etch a sketched memories to work from.
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
If it wasn't already clear, now it's crystal clear. I am a dad. I may not yet have become my dad, or at least not realized it yet, but I know that I am a dad. I know that I'm a dad because I appear in one out of every three million photos. Ever since my wife and I went to a single family camera, I have been the default camera person. Until 18 months ago, though, I made it into pictures. My wife would insist that I be in a picture or two on every trip, party, or event. Now, there is only one face everyone insists on seeing, and it ain't mine. It ain't my wife either, but she manages to get some face time. I'm lucky if I get finger time (see above for a lucky moment). My dad was never in a picture. Even now, with all the money and time he has recently put into photography, nothing has changed. He only seems to appear in the self portraits he uses to test light and depth and whatever else it is photographers might try to test. I suppose I do make the occasional appearance in cell phone self-portraits, but most of those aren't solo gigs. No, my moments in the center of the canvas are over. And that's fine. Dipity definitely has a cuter look. I'd want a picture of her rather than one of me. In fact, that's part of the problem. But, who else would I want to take pictures of? I am a dad after all.
Monday, December 10, 2007
Every morning Dipity brushes her teeth. Dipity is very excited by the prospect of brushing her teeth. All I have to do is ask whether she wants to brush her teeth," and then sprint off towards the bathroom. Well, actually it's not all I have to do. As soon as we reach the bathroom, she says "dada," and points at my toothbrush. So, once she is doing her toothbrush as lollipop thing, I commence brushing my teeth, as directed. I brush my teeth more thoroughly then at any other time of the day ... or moment in my life. I could be featured on a dental health video. She is lollipop girl. The toothbrush never moves once it enters her mouth. When I transition to spit and rinse, she is done too. She isn't always done with the brush, but as soon as I ask her to put it away with mommy and daddy's, she puts it away. She is a fiend for order.
It was at the end of this ritual when, last week, I felt my manhood threatened. Dipity pointed out everyone's toothbrush, as she always does. It was as she pointed to mama's toothbrush that I realized, for the very first time, that I don't have the biggest toothbrush. My toothbrush is shorter and thinner than my wife's. At that moment it felt like the truth of my position in life was fully exposed. When I'm raking, or painting, or staining trim I can overlook all the baking and cleaning I do. As I struggle to establish myself as a writer, and when I channel my inner feminist, I can feel like just another worker and a valuable contributor to the household. Standing in front of those toothbrushes, though, I felt smaller than small. I was no father bear. I shared a bed, I don't eat porridge, and I often sit on the floor. Hell, father bear probably didn't even brush his teeth. And then I thought of an old Chris Rock routine, and I realized I didn't even deserve the big piece of chicken. I should be giving my wife the big piece of chicken! Eventually the storm passed, and my inner Gloria Steinem took back over. I know what I do is important, and I enjoy it. I am proud to be a homemaker, child raiser, and all purpose support staff member. But, I also know that doubt is only a toothbrush away.
Wednesday, December 05, 2007
Dipity has shown great enthusiasm for most things Christmas. Christmas trees are a clear favorite, especially if combined with a festive beah. Dipity just learned to say beah, and subsequently has fallen in love. If there was a Christmas tree in the Three Beahs book, I don't think we'd ever be able to pry it away from her. Christmas lights are very cool too, whether they are on a tree or not. The same goes for Christmas bulbs, which to Dipity are just very colorful balls. This is why all of the colorful balls on our tree can be found between five and seven feet off of the ground. And snow, well that is beyond cool. Santa is even cool, from a distance or in a book. We haven't tested him up close yet, but I can't imagine it will go well. Clean shaven kids make her nervous.
I know that inflatables don't go over well, a fact which makes me a very proud father. Maybe I'm just old fashioned. Maybe I'm an elitist. Whatever the reason, I find inflatable snow globes and Tiggers' emerging from chimneys to be the absolute apogee of bad taste. Dipity agrees. Today when we were killing some time in Sears, we happened upon a half dozen of these monstrosities. I thought she'd enjoy them. I had just had to pry her away from a forty foot tree and a ten foot beah. I caught sight of the inflatable snowman, snow globe, and Santa's workshop before she did. I asked her if she wanted to see a big snowman. She said yes with great enthusiasm, so I pointed her in the right direction. When she came within eye sight of the bigger than life Christmas icons she paused, and then looked back at me and said "uhhhhppp." I lifted her uhhhhppp, and she buried her head in my shoulder. She didn't look up until we were safely into tool world.
Now, some may say that she was just scared. I saw an eerie similarity between her refusal to look upon nylon Rudolph, and her rejection of every vegetable other than corn. I'm not a big fan of her rejection of peas and carrots, but this almost makes up for it. The only thing better (or worse) than big air filled nylon snowmen and chimneys would be big air filled nylon vegetables. Who knows, there may be inflatable Veggie Tales characters. That would scare me.
Tuesday, December 04, 2007
"Uhhhpp." Dipity has just lodged a request to be lifted uhhhpp into my lap. I, of course, obliged. She is reading Curious George. I am blogging. For this moment we are both happy. "Splash." George fell in the lake. "Da Da Da," says Dipity. "Da Da Da," I respond. "Don't bend the book back the wrong way." It's a funny thing to say to an 18 month old, who probably didn't know there was a wrong way to read a book and if she did would probably want to do it that way. "Husssh." George is asleep. I realize the inappropriateness of my comment, so I tickle her. This is a really silly thing to do, since she was sitting quietly on my lap. Now she is sprawled awkwardly with her head weighing down my arm, her feet kicking me in the armpit, and her book making way too many appearances on the keyboard. Oops, now the hands are exploring the keyboard. I'm apologizing now for any odd spacing, pun (oops there went the monitor) ctuation, or spelling. Now I have a fight on my hands, because someone thinks it is fun to turn the monitor off. Well, the trusty old spin in the chair hasn't worked, so I'll try putting her on the ground. Now she's out of my way, but she is fussing. Oh, she actually wants me to lift her up to the old printers drawer I have hanging on the office wall and filled with all kinds of fun little trinkets, trinkets which she likes me to take out one at a time and show her. I'm not obliging her right this minute, so she's being a little grumpy. Oh, it's calmed down. Ohhhhh, she's gritting her teeth and turning red. And, if you haven't guessed what she's doing, I'll add that she is grabbing her crotch and saying "poop." Oh, here comes the smell. She still seemed to be expending effort, so I just asked her if it was a tough poop. She pointed to the brick on my bookshelf. Well, now she is back on the desk, still grabbing her crotch and saying "poop." And, I got a hug. That seems like the perfect note to end this on. She has her arm around my shoulder and is pulling highlighters in and out of the metal cup they live in and sampling them. I am happy to have been able to so faithfully illustrate the context within which I write these little blogs. Maybe now you will forgive me my little typos. Just imagine what this would be like if there was no spell-check. Oh, out went the monitor. I think I'm being sent a message. So, bye bye.
Monday, December 03, 2007
Living with a toddler is like living with a covert operative. Secret agent Dipity isn't quite James Bond. She is equally effective. She also has a way with the ladies, and likes her juice shaken not stirred (she does that herself). Agent Dipity, however, has no ideological or monetary objectives. She doesn't appear very systematic at all, but that could be my adult bias. And truth be told, agent Dipity really isn't an agent. She is a boss, a leader, an institution. She has her own web of underlings.
Her underlings aren't all willing accomplices. This underling is particularly unwilling, for all the good it does me. Dipity is really quite cunning. She certainly screams and cries, but she has a hundred other ways of wearing me out. Hide and seek is a particularly effective tool. All she has to do is laugh and giggle and totter after me, and I run full speed into the other room and duck under a table or fly behind a door. With only a laugh or even a smile, she has me singing, dancing, and exaggerating every motion. After a few hours, I begin to tire. I don't have time to nap. There is simply too much to do, and I am too inefficient when I do it. So I push myself too far, and wreak almost as much havoc as my puppet master.
Last night, for example, I was moving full steam ahead decorating the house for Christmas. I had baked almost 300 biscotti, played, cleaned, played, made dinner for friends, played, gone out on the family Christmas tree search, played, and set up the Christmas tree with my wife. Some tree branches had been cut off in the process, and I was busy cutting them to fit in all kinds of nooks and crannies around the house. At first I didn't notice that I had chosen to place my pile of pine branches on the vacuum cord. I only noticed it when I cut a branch and sparks flew everywhere. I screamed in frustration, which scared my wife as she was upstairs where all the lights had gone off. Dipity was upstairs too ... smiling at a job well done by her unwitting and unwilling henchman.
Thursday, November 29, 2007
I stumbled on this when I was searching for Sesame Street videos to share with Dipity. It may be that fatherhood has turned me into a blubbering wimp, but I cried when I first saw it. I was able to stop myself at choked up the next six times I watched it. When Dipity is older, I think I'll show this to her. It does a great job of dealing with death. The only problem I have with it is that the kid (aka Big Bird) accepts Gordon's "just because." Do kids really let something go after you whip out a "just because?" I can't help thinking that it is never that easy.
Family holidays are a lot like a search for chocolate on the floor of a car you’re driving seventy miles an hour. Or, at least holidays with my family are. Sometimes the search is successful, and sometimes you drive off the road and into a gully.
That we didn't end up in the gully this year was a miracle. My mother and I are the family chefs. This year one of us wasn't arriving until 1:00 p.m. and the other has breast cancer and received her second round of chemotherapy exactly a week earlier. My sister arrived Wednesday night. My sister, while now wonderfully adept at cleaning (this is a newly acquired skill), still can’t make a decent grilled cheese. I’m not sure I’d even eat a bowl of cereal if she prepared it for me. Now, I can’t make a grilled cheese either, but I can make a meringue, a cheesecake, and a multiple course Senegalese dinner. My dad might be able to make a grilled cheese sandwich. He is definitely a very capable, and at select times even eager, dishwasher. My father is also, however, obsessed with his father-in-law’s house. He is finally on the verge of selling the place. It’s been more than three years since my grandpa’s death; three years, four break-ins, and two copper thefts. After the last break-in, dad didn't replace the pipes. He had to replace them the week before Thanksgiving, though. There can be no inspection without them. There can be no sale without an inspection. Without a sale, my father will be denied what he is already referring to as his happiest day in three years. He wasn't too worried initially, because the buyers were in a hurry and it seemed possible that they could close on the house before Thanksgiving. Unfortunately, the inspector was sick. There can’t be an inspection without him either. So, the inspection was off until after Thanksgiving, leaving the house fully piped, completely empty, completely my father’s property, and completely dependent on him for protection. Did I mention that even without the threat of repeating a several thousand dollar repair for the third time, nothing drives my father out of the kitchen, if not the house, faster than extensive meal preparation?
It seemed to make the most sense to have me prepare the dinner on Friday with some help and supervision from my mom. It made the most sense to me. Dinner on Thursday meant that my mother would be responsible, at the very least, for the turkey and much of the early prep work. Not only had an emergency buzz cut transformed mom into Sigourney Weaver from Aliens, she was weaker than usual and feverish. She had a few other problems as well, but those qualify as too much information even for me. The decision was beyond obvious. So … dinner was on Thursday. My mother wanted Thanksgiving to be on Thursday. She also wanted to be very involved in making dinner. She generally gets what she wants. I tried to talk her out of it, but I’m not usually very successful at that regardless of the merits of my arguments. Mom, I love you anyway.
I wasn't in love with having dinner on Thursday. It seemed to me that we were risking a wreck at seventy miles an hour. I was wrong, though, because some strange things happened on the way to dinner. First, my mother forgot to bring her Turkey Bucks to the grocery store, so she had to buy chickens rather than turkey. Chickens don’t need to cook as long as turkey, which means that an on-time arrival would have me in the kitchen in time to be involved with dinner from the very start and put it on the table in time for my daughter to eat with the rest of us before she had to leave for bath and bed. Second, our plane arrived on time. We even had an extra seat, which meant fewer struggles for my wife and I and a better chance that we wouldn't be completely exhausted as we entered the kitchen. Third, my wife came with me. She was always coming, so her appearance doesn't qualify as strange. I think it is important, however. She is only a hair better than my sister when it comes to cooking, but she is a superb sous-chef. Besides, I know for sure that she’ll read this, so I need to say nice things about her. I love you honey! Fourth, the full fledged toddler I live with took her regular nap at Grandma and Granddad’s house. This meant that both my wife and I could be useful in the kitchen at the same time. Fifth, my mother’s fever never went over 100, and was gone by dinner time. Sixth, no one decided to try their hands at another porcini rubbed turkey. A few years ago, I decided that we should have a gourmet Christmas dinner. So, my mother, my wife, and I prepared a meal straight out of the pages of Bon Appetit. I woke up with an alarm on Christmas morning, and we had dinner on the table by 9:00 p.m. In between we cooked, argued, and cried. Never again will I participate in that kind of food effort. This year’s Thanksgiving meal consisted of chicken, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes with marshmallows, baked sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, squash, dressing, salad, and store bought rolls and pies. Seventh, only two meal related casualties occurred. I didn't make the pies from scratch. This was a miscarriage. I knew that even an on-time arrival left no time for pies. My mother’s baked sweet potatoes were a more unforeseen casualty. The just didn't get in the oven fast enough. Eighth, my dad was back in time for dinner and no one stole his pipes on Thanksgiving.
Dinner was on the table at 6:30, as planned. It looked good, and everyone was seemingly prepared to be pleased with it and each other. I couldn't believe it. It occurred to me that I might be in the wrong place, or the wrong dimension. I sat down for dinner waiting for an argument, a phone call, or an attack of murderous Martians. Instead, a pleasant conversation arrived. The food was good. The cats were relatively well behaved. We laughed at my bald mother, avoided mentioning any of the marital problems facing my sister and absent brother-in-law, and laughed at my daughter’s antics. My dad and sister washed the dishes, my wife put our daughter to bed, my mother laid down, and I sat on the couch and shook my head in wonder.
I was so pleased with the Thanksgiving dinner we saved from potential oblivion that the next day I happily dialed up a good friend. I hadn't talked to this friend in many months, and would have been a little nervous calling him. After the miracle of an enjoyable Thanksgiving, however, I felt no fear. I wished my friend a happy day after thanksgiving with great vim and vigor. It didn't bother me that he sounded like he just woke up. Turns out, he was talking that way because he didn't want to disturb the police. He was also struggling to hold back his tears. That morning he checked in on a friend that hadn't been around for a couple of days. Turns out that my friend's friend was lying dead on the floor. I apologized and asked him how he was. I continued apologizing and inquiring until he said the Police had to talk with him. I said OK. Neither one of us said goodbye. I called two hours later to check in. I tried to invite him to my parents’ house or me to his. He declined my invitation. He may call back before I leave for home, or I may never talk to him again. My call wasn't very successful, but so what? This year’s Thanksgiving lesson is still all about the benefits of occasionally taking silly risks. Silly risks won’t always pay off, but there isn't always chocolate on the floor of your car either.
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
Before there was a Dipity, her uncle had already anointed her the brains of the family. Shortly after my wife and I were married, he began joking that our kids would be the smart ones and his the not so smart ones. In most families, the children are given generic labels: brainy, jock, artist, animal empath, etc. My wife was the hard working student and her brother was the popular jock. My brother-in-law was just bequeathing his and his sister's roles to the next generation when he declared that our children would be smart. He painted a picture of family events where our children would be asking his children to run into walls, and his children would be obliging.
Visions are a funny thing. Now, I think Dipity is amazingly smart. There's a shocker. But, I'm right. Of course, smart won't be all she is. This morning she was going through one of her favorite routines. She steps on a book and she, along with at least one parent, yell ta-da. She was performing this ritual just a tad too close to the wall, so I moved the book away from the wall and warned her of the danger of hitting her head on the wall. She looked at me, and then rammed her head into the wall. My wife and I, as loving and concerned parents, broke into fits of laughter. Seeing this reaction, she proceeded to slam her head into the wall about half a dozen more times. A brain she might become. A brain she might already be. But my Dipity will earn herself a couple of other labels along the way. And, just as was true of her mom and her uncle, none of those labels will ever tell the whole story.
Wednesday, November 21, 2007
A parent has many roles. Secret agent is but one. A parent is also an archaeologist of sorts, or at least can be if he or she has the stomach for it.
Dipity gives my wife and I the opportunity to learn about the past about twice a day. Now I'm not talking about discovering the leisure habits of the ancient Greeks, the last thoughts of the people of Pompeii, or the truth behind the myth of Atlantis. I'm thinking more about what we had for dinner yesterday, or even the day before. Until I had a child, I never paid much attention to poop. I certainly didn't call it poop. When you change some one's diaper twice a day, it's hard not to steal a glance. When you have a kid, it's hard to say shit, although far from impossible.
Actually, it's not just that it's hard not to look. You're supposed to look. If your child is sick, one of the first questions the Doctor will ask is whether there was anything unusual about his or her shit ... shit, I mean poop. This means that you, as the parent, are expected to know what it normally looks like and know what it looks like when you're child isn't feeling well. The only way that information is gathered is through participant observation. When you look at your child's feces, it's impossible not to notice more about it than you'd like to. Oh, the things you see in your kid's poop. Today, for example, a rather regular feature of Dipity's doo was everywhere in evidence: corn. Peas don't appear as often now as they did before the great vegetable boycott, but they are like corn in that they tend to exit relatively unaltered from the state they were in when they entered. You never can be totally sure whether the corn and peas in the diaper entered the diaper in the way you would think. Whole corn kernels have appeared in otherwise clean diapers, as have barrettes. She doesn't eat barrettes, so ... Yesterday her poop, which managed to squeeze out of the diaper and onto her shirt and pants, was sprinkled with Rosemary. My favorite will probably always be the Kiwi seeds. That was an unexpected discovery.
Being a parent is definitely a journey of discovery. It is never just the same old ... crap.
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
When I was a kid, my second choice dream job was in espionage or covert operations. If juggling the NFL and the NBA proved impossible, I would have been happy to end up with the CIA or the FBI. Actually, it was the French Secret Service that I dreamed about the most. Somewhere between undergrad and my first law job I gave up my dreams of covert operations and Bond Beauties.
Fatherhood has given me a second chance at fulfilling my dreams. Starting a few weeks ago, I have embarked on a dangerous and messy mission. I have been charged with the duty of secreting vegetables into my daughter's diet.
Recently Dipity has steadfastly refused any vegetable that isn't yellow and found on a cob. Even peas, formerly the darling of dinner, has become an incredibly tough sell. Every other vegetable is simply tossed on to the floor. I'm a stubborn mo-fo, and a vegetable-free diet for Dipity didn't seem like a great idea, so I had to fall back on less than ideal methods.
First I tried being mister tough guy. This, of course, was silly. I am but putty in her hands, and even when I try to be mean and demanding and it works I feel guilty and she screams and sobs. Besides, should I really be telling my toddler that if she doesn't eat her peas she'll have to watch her daddy eat the chicken and cottage cheese?
So, that left either surrender or subterfuge. In the words of the Boss, there can be "no retreat, no surrender." Thus, I find myself running the vegetable equivalent of the Underground Railroad, guiding perfectly good vegetables to a better and more useful existence in Dipity's stomach. I have purchased vegetable pasta. Peas, and everything else under the sun, has been shipped to their final destination under the cover of cottage cheese. Corn, chicken, and avocado have all been used as vegetable escorts. Now that Dipity has begun to see through these ruses, and demand that all food be placed on her tray for inspection, I must break out more devious plans. Tomorrow night Dipity will have macaroni and cheese and spinach. Next week, a special pea/tomato sauce will adorn her pasta. I have even considered placing vegetables into the pancake batter.
You might say that I'm living a dream. I won't argue.
The movie Munich is a great movie ... so far. It is suspenseful, gripping, well acted, and long. To be precise, it is 164 minutes long. For those of you who think in hours, as I do, that is sixteen minutes shy of three hours. Three hours!
Two years ago we'd have very purposefully started a movie of that length earlier than was our norm. We do the same thing now, but we move it up days rather than hours. If the movie is under an hour, and there are a few of those out there, we watch it in a single sitting. If the movie is between an hour and an hour and a half long, it may be seen in one night but there is no guarantee. A movie in the area of two hours, which is where most of them seem to fall, is a two night affair. Movies in the three hour neighborhood, which will almost be movies we didn't realize were that long when we ordered them off of Netflix, are almost inevitable three day affairs.
Watching a movie over three days is a different sort of experience. The flow of a movie is broken. Often it seems as if we are watching completely different movies. Sometimes a movie makes for two good movies. Sometimes not. At the halfway point many movies still seem promising, and sometimes downright good. More than once my wife and I have called it a night and reluctantly stopped a movie short of it's end, only to be disappointed with the ending when we watch it the next day. Some movies never seem good. These pose a dilemma. I don't like to watch half of any movie, no matter how bad. I want to be able to check that movie off of my list without having to add an asterisk. My wife doesn't like to watch bad movies, no matter how short or how much I want to watch them. This difference of opinion means that when we order a bad movie, we end up keeping it forever. Before we rented Munich, we had Myra Breckenridge for at least a month.
Munich will go back tomorrow, as long as Dipity goes to bed on schedule tonight. It is a good movie, and well worth whatever effort it takes to watch it.
Tuesday, November 13, 2007
In the blog entry before last I exposed the female streakers that live in my house. I portrayed myself as the last bastion of decorum and propriety; alone among all the mammals living under our roof in my decency and respectability. I was the defender of all that is prudish and puritan in America; and a sincere reporter of our sartorial situation. My wife actually thought me a tad too high and mighty, and a bit hypocritical. She threatened to bring me down a notch by revealing some heretofore secret observations of her own in her blog. So, I decided to expose myself about self exposure.
Prior to taking on the role of stay at home dad, I was pretty disorganized. Some of that disorganization has survived Dipity. One relic of the days before multitasking is my inability to remember to bring my clothes down to the bathroom where I shower. I should point out that in what has become a trend, I am living with less than ideal shower conditions and only complaining moderately about that particular hardship. In Wisconsin there was one shower, with a ceiling that was a whopping five feet or so away from the floor. Now we have one bathroom I can stand up in, which is the guest bedroom on the first floor. The bathroom closest to our bedroom has a ceiling that is plenty high enough and a shower nozzle that is perfect for cleaning the lint out of my belly button. So, I keep all my bathroom stuff upstairs near the bedroom, and shower downstairs. This means that I have to remember to bring my clothes down with me. Everything else, excepting the towel, I leave upstairs and deal with up there. What this means in practical terms is that every morning after my shower I find myself in the bathroom without clean clothing. That means I can put the old stuff back on and take it off again when I get upstairs, which means either I have to remember to bring it down in the first place even though no one is out in the public areas when I head down to the bathroom so I don't need to be clothed when I head down to the shower or I have to wear my towel upstairs which guarantees that the next morning I will step out of the shower to a bathroom that does not contain my towel. What I normally do is hold my clothing over my special area and sprint through the living room and dining room on my way to the stairs. By the time I finish pretending that I can be productive before breakfast and take a shower, breakfast is well underway in the dining room. As I run past my wife spooning oatmeal into my daughter's mouth I wave. Sometimes I run rather close and give her a kiss. Occasionally I give my butt a shake as I hit the stairs. It's easier to do that then to switch my bundle of clothing to my ass and then back to my front when I round the corner. I'm not sure how long I should continue to do this, or whether I should be doing it at all. I probably should stop before the point at which long term memory kicks in. My earliest memory is from a trip my parents took me on when I was nearly four. Who knows if my dad ran around the house naked, but if he did he stopped before 1977. I have until 2010 to become more normal. I might need a lot of good luck. My streaking isn't part of some master plan, so I'm not sure how easy it will be to alter. And for the record, I refuse to wear a bathrobe unless I get to smoke a pipe and relax mid morning by the pool with a few bunnies. Maybe I'll start wearing my bed clothes upstairs. Maybe I'll start remembering to bring down the day's outfit. Whatever happens, I have cleared my conscience and can go back to reporting on the hi jinks of the house's other mammals.
Monday, November 12, 2007
I'm afraid that I've caved into fear. I now refer to my daughter as Dipity in this blog rather than using her name. I have no objectively defensible reason for doing this. My wife mentioned to me last week that most of the blogs she read contained no real names. Nicknames and pet names are apparently the norm. At first this reminded me of my mother-in-laws fear of the computer. Grammy was wary of the website my parents setup when Dipity was born because somehow pictures of her infant granddaughter posted on the web exposed the premature baby to sexual predators. I thought at the time that she had watched too much of that network dude who confronts those dudes who think they have a date with an underage girl they met on the Internet. I still think that, but I have been infected with the same underlying fear that motivated Grammy's suspicions. The web is a big place. I don't know who all might be reading my blog. OK, so I do know, but I've never really trusted my mom. But seriously, shit does happen via the Internet. It doesn't seem right, and it does seem way too trusting for my hard edged cynical reputation, to depend only on serendipity to avoid the travails of the Internet. So, Dipity it is. This actually isn't an imposition. In fact, it holds a lot of promise. I had long intended to refer to my daughter as daddy's little Dipity. Maybe writing it will cause me to say it more. It has a much better ring than "you" or "little shit." I'll have to come up with a better name for my wife than "wife." That will be a lot of fun. That might even merit it's own blog entry. Maybe it's own blog. In the meantime I will refrain from giving away any clues as to our names, whereabouts, or favorite television shows. Wonderful world we live in, eh?
As the ever uncertain prospect of work becomes more certain, or at least more necessary, I am trying to be a more conscious stay-at-home dad. As a part of this campaign, I am introducing a new feature to my blog. So, welcome to the first edition of Little Rewards. Parenthood is all about little rewards. I'm not so sure they are really so little. These little rewards certainly don't have the risque appeal of surprise sex with a super model, the intellectual satisfaction of having Stephen Hawking roll through the door, or the panache of a new Ferrari in the driveway with a bow on top. They may not even be in the same league as opening your door and finding an old man holding a huge check and four or five balloons. These rewards do, however, more than justify any and all of the real and supposed travails of parenthood. Today's featured reward is one of my favorite things in the whole wide world. Dipity can walk, but through a combination of rough and sometimes frightening terrain and mutual preference, I carry her quite a bit. When I hold her with my right arm, she always places her left hand just behind my shoulder. Sometimes it just sits there. Sometimes she pats or scratches my back. Regardless of what that little hand is up to, except when it's mother hasn't kept up with trimming it's nails, if it's back there I'm a happy daddy. It's a little thing, but it's awfully hard to beat.
Thursday, November 08, 2007
Being a father is hard work, but you never want for entertainment. Having children is like performing in a small private vaudeville show. Last night's main act must have been European, because it featured a lot of nudity.
Normally I watch Dipity and her mom go upstairs, and then I head into my office. After a little while they show up at the office door for good night kisses. I know that what goes on in-between involves the bath tub, but that's about it. Last night I had to venture upstairs into bath world in order to retrieve a sweatshirt from our bedroom. Just as I reached the safety gate at the top of the stairs I was met by a naked Dipity. Her mother has told me about Dipity's nightly streaking, but her description did no justice to the actual event, which included naked hugs and kisses between each of the bars of the safety gate. It was very sweet, but an un-diapered baby is like a drunk oil tanker captain. After the fourth pass I was wondering who would be stuck with the job of cleaning up a spill and rehabilitating any unfortunate stuffed animals. Since I was nervously watching Dipity, I wasn't paying much attention to my wife. I suppose I heard her say that the two of them would be showering together, and I may have even seen her taking off her shirt, but it was still a shock when two naked females were running up and down the hallway in front of me. It was a shock only for a second, because it was frickin' hilarious. Top hats and canes might have made it funnier, but barring that or the involvement of the cats, it couldn't have been much funnier. I was the only person in the house with any clothes on. Hell, throw the cats in and I was the only clothed mammal. It actually might have funnier if the cat was the only one with pants on, but nothing is as funny as it could be.
My wife is a pretty funny person. Until offered conclusive proof to the contrary, I will continue to believe that she is half woman and half Muppet. I have no doubt she could have made me laugh by running up and down the hallway naked without an eighteen month old. But everything is funnier when you throw in a toddler (as long as they're in a good mood). They are cute unsteady midgets who can't talk clearly and are much more amused by you, themselves, and everything else in the world than anyone who has ever been to preschool and beyond will ever be. And with her genes, well let's just say life is entertaining.
Wednesday, November 07, 2007
Our friendship is like a game of whac-a-mole
When one of us isn't feeling up to absorbing the hard knocks of life
The other one is willing and able to stick their head up
And brave the mallet
I want to thank you for being smacked repeatedly in the head
While I've been hiding in my hole
It has meant everything to me to not have to be hit in the head
I hope that you know
When you go down
I'll be up
Tuesday, November 06, 2007
Patty's Total Body Spa offers something they call "the Little Girl Salon."
"Do you need a new idea for your little girl's birthday? Are you tired of spending too much money and doing too much work? Let us pamper your princess! Included in the party are up do's for each girl, glitter make-up and nails painted. After everyone is dolled up and the mommies have taken pictures, the girls are escorted to our banquet room for tea sandwiches and soda. The room is decorated and the food is served on china with wine glasses for the soda. ... The girls keep everything we put in their hair and the birthday girl keeps her tiara."
I don't even know where to start. First of all, I was OK with the old birthday ideas. I am tired of working and spending money, but I'm not sure how this helps me. I don't want anyone to pamper my princess. I don't want a princess. I don't want her to have an up, down, or sideways do. I certainly don't want my peasant girl to be dolled up. While the mommies are taking pictures, where are the daddies? Are they watching football? Are they eating wings at Hooters? Are they in a separate daddies only room away from the women and children? (We actually were just at a birthday party where the dad's were upstairs while the mom's watched the kids play. I'm not sure what the dads did, because I was downstairs with my wife and our daughter). Now, what do they put in the girl's hair? What would a prince's party be like? Would that ad have as many grammatical errors?
One goal of mine, as the father of a daughter, is to find a sugar substitute. I'm even open to mixing in a snip or a snail here or there. My dippity has a whole collection of trucks and cars, and her very own jet plane. She has a doll, but she also has a ball and hoop. She wears too much pink for my liking, but she wears more jeans than most girls. My wife and I are trying to raise a well rounded individual as opposed to a 'little girl.'
'Little girls' are created. They grow up to spend two hours every morning preparing themselves for the day. They grow up thinking they are fundamentally different from boys, and that those differences involve make-up, spas, dresses, taking tea, beauty pageants, and bulimia. Oh, and tiaras too. We just can't let go of happily ever after, even if it involves the subjugation of one whole gender. Is it any wonder that there is a glass ceiling, or that the stay at home dad remains an enigma.
Breaking away from the 'little girl' model isn't easy. Try shopping for girls clothes that isn't pink or purple. Watch a few television ads for children's toys, or for that matter anything involved in cooking or cleaning. Raising a girl who isn't a pink clad princess is as hard as maintaining a vegetarian diet in the rural South. I'm not sure a few trucks can effectively counter the power of a tiara, any more than a doll can distract a boy from baseball and toy tools, but it's worth a try. I want my my daughter to have painted nails and puppy dog tails.
Monday, November 05, 2007
I should start collecting money from the neighbors who can see my front yard from their living rooms. Since I moved in, they haven't had to leave home or rent a movie for quality entertainment. I bet someone has slid a chair over to their picture window, so they are ready just in case I happen to be out attempting yard work. Last winter they had the rare privilege of watching a six foot tall man shovel his entire driveway and sidewalk with a broken extendable emergency shovel. Me an My Electric Mower was the surprise hit of the spring. The first time I tried mowing the lawn with that miserable machine I had to storm inside to cool off before I could finish. I must have unplugged the damn thing two dozen times, nearly mowed over the cord ten times, and mowed over each section of the lawn thirty two times. It took me over two hours to mow my tiny little suburban lawn. My summer project was to remove ivy from a stand of cedar trees. That project took me six months, and gave the neighbors several George of the Jungle moments and a rare one man Three Stooges impression. My attempt to grow grass has been a whole other kind of funny. Almost a year has gone by since I brought my vaudeville show t the neighborhood, and I haven't let the laughs stop. Today, I watered the flowers and then dropped the house to the ground between my legs. I dropped the nozzle on it's handle, where it stayed spraying me directly in the crotch and soaking every single item of clothes I was wearing. I really think that when I left to change my clothing before embarking on my planned neighborhood stroll with Dipity, I should have left a little cup on the porch. I bet there would have been a few quarters when I came out.
Friday, November 02, 2007
A few weeks ago, it came to light that an attorney for a player on Rutger's women's basketball team had e-mailed the school complaining about the pressure placed on his client by Coach C. Vivian Stringer and others to dissuade her from proceeding with her slander and defamation suit against Don Imus. I'm not worried about C. Vivian Stringer. Other than lingering a little too long on a stupid comment, which can be mostly excused by the outrageous amount of outrage and attention that the comment stirred up, she has responded with class and composure. I think her uneducated swipe at Isaiah Thomas was classless and completely uncalled for, but that's another story on which I have a bit of bias. I only recently gave up on the possibility of giving birth to Zeke's kids. Anyway, I should return to my current concern, which is that this lawsuit was even contemplated. It might just be the most recent sign of the coming Apocalypse. It was ridiculous enough for Imus to be fired over the "nappy ho" comment. That someone thought about suing doesn't surprise me, but what the hell? I'm not sure how being referred to as a "nappy headed ho" by someone most of us long ago had concluded was an ass rises to the level of an actionable offense. It was offensive, but come on ... had any of these people ever listened to Don Imus before? Besides, the comment brought them all kinds of press, much of it positive. Hell, they won the Wilma Rudolph Courage Award because of Don Imus. They should be thanking him for calling them "nappy headed hos." He should be suing them for losing his job. It just goes to show that nothing in this world of ours is as simple as it should be. If the world was a simpler and more fathomable place, I would never have found myself arguing that Don Imus should keep his job or feeling happy that he was returning to the airwaves. Damn those "nappy headed hos."
Wednesday, October 31, 2007
I've finally figured it out. Now I know why people have children. All the work and sacrifice finally seems worthwhile. It was the vision of my seventeen month old daughter in her ladybug costume clutching her pumpkin shaped candy bag that brought it all home for me. Actually she brought it home, it being candy. It's perfect. I walk around the neighborhood with an impossibly cute little girl, collect tons of candy, and when she's done taking it in and out of her pumpkin, I eat it. Some people let her go back in for extra pieces, and at one house she reached in and grabbed more. When you're seventeen months you can get away with that shit, but you can't eat candy. At least my seventeen month old can't eat candy. I don't want her to have my sugar obsession. I'm willing to feed my obsession, and put my health on the line, for my daughter. I'm just that kind of guy. And, to find out that my great and selfless parenting has a tangible, if temporary, reward is just icing on the cake ... er almonds in the coconut and chocolate. Until tonight I thought my motivation was limited to things like love, smiles, and the promise of housework. Now I know how scary good parenting can be.
Monday, October 29, 2007
Halloween is almost upon us. The days have finally turned cold. A hint of the winter that awaits blows about in the breeze. In two nights the streets will be crawling with little monsters and ghouls on sugar highs. Dipity will be among them. She'll be a ladybug. She even likes her costume. She likes it so much that I've hid it so that I don't have to dress her up every time someone says the word ladybug. Tomorrow, without Dipity, I'll watch It's the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown. Unfortunately, I'll watch it in our newly redone den/guest room, which for the first time in the year we've owned the house isn't the least bit scary. In fact, the only thing missing from this year's Halloween, other than a costume for mom and dad, is a good healthy Halloween related scare. I could always tune into one of the umpteen horror movies on television. But I'm not sure when. Mom doesn't like horror movies. My only time without mom is when she is sleeping (writing time) and when I feed Dipity, and it is bad enough that I watch Charmed when I give her the afternoon snack. So, I've decided that I should make a list of the most frightening moments of 2007, or at least the moments that were most frightening to me.
10) Earlier this month Drew Carey started hosting The Price is Right. For some reason that really scares me.
09) The ten times I crossed a bridge after the August 1 bridge collapse in Minneapolis
08) On July 21, 2007 Dick Cheney was Acting President for two and a half hours while W had a colonoscopy. It's never true that it couldn't get any worse."
07) Any day without a nap for Dipity.
06) Every moment that a Black American spoke out in support of Michael Vick. We have a race problem in this country and it's plenty scary.
05) On October 1st, Britney lost custody of the kids to K-Fed and I read and heard about it everywhere. The same could be said for the outing of Dumbledore, or any continuing mention of conspiracy surrounding Lady Di's death.
04) Some things never cease to be scary. It freaks me out to even think about the movie Final Destination. I love being alone at night in a sparsely populated area, for about ten seconds, and then I run like hell towards the nearest human habitation, keeping open the option of screaming like a teenage girl. I get at least a bit apprehensive every time Dipity climbs on anything. Whenever I fail to avoid a presidential address and actually look at and listen to our President I shudder uncontrollably for at least a good five minutes. That has happened at least twice this year, and those where damn scary moments.
03) The potential of Turkish raids into Iraqi territory. It ain't funny, but it's plenty scary.
02) On May 3, 2007 at a Republican presidential debate, three presidential candidates raised their hands to indicate that they didn't believe in evolution. There isn't much that's scarier than that.
01) Except being the parent of a child that walks. I couldn't wait to see Dipity walk. Before she could hold her head up I was 'walking' her around the room. And then, in an instant, I wanted her to keep crawling, or even better go back to that beautiful moment in time before she could move but after she could smile. But, there is no going back. It's not even possible to go forward slowly. Ready or not ...
A few Sundays ago, some of my wife's co-workers gathered with their families (including me and dipity) for a nice little mid afternoon brunch. There was one other father there. Up to this point I had only known him through my wife's stories, and the hand me down kids' clothing he passed on. Initially, he confirmed my second hand impression. He made a few jokes, brought home-brewed beer, and looked as if he could have come from Berkeley. I lost track of the general conversation as dipity engaged in some activity I assessed to be potentially dangerous. And then I heard Mr. Berkeley say that at some prior job he had been on a hiring committee, and that he had been against hiring one candidate because he had failed to address an older member of the committee as "sir." Apparently the omission was especially egregious because the applicant was from Texas and ought to have known better. I said nothing, which may be a later lesson for dipity (and me too). But my instant reaction was to think such a position rather antiquated, silly, and off the mark; not to mention a tad too regionally specific to be entirely logical. As I continued to think about it, I became more and more interested in why I felt the way I felt. I am ordinarily a big fan of common courtesy, and presumably proponents of "sir" and "ma'am" would identify them as essential elements of common courtesy. Why don't I do it or expect it?
Proponents of "sir" and "ma'am" assert that it is a show of respect to address an older person in this way. I'm all for respect, but why should it only be shown towards older people. Don't give me any older is wiser crap, I know plenty of older people who aren't wise and plenty more who haven't earned anyone's respect. Now, I don't greet people by spitting in their face until I know them well enough to know whether I respect them. I do everyone the courtesy of showing interest in them when I meet them. I do this by making eye contact with them, and listening to what they have to say. I try to greet everyone I meet this way, regardless of age or social position. I suffer from more than a touch of social anxiety, so I'm not one hundred percent successful, but I always try. I hope that that my wife and I are successful in training dipity to do the same.
I'm not interested in training her to adhere to too many vestiges of our traditional patriarchal power structures. To me, "sir" and "ma'am" are part and parcel of a traditional social structure that granted status to men and particularly older men, and deemphasized merit. I also see them as what they are: words. If you want to show respect to me, I would rather you do it with actions. That is why I think opening a door for someone, and I open them for everyone male or female, is different.
I don't see Ma'am as connected to Miss, Mrs., or Dr. Dr. is earned. Last name versus first name is a different debate, and since a person's name is theirs and not mine, I'm more than happy to respect their wishes and say it any way they want me to.
I also don't see men and women who refuse to be called "sir" or Ma'am," as individuals who are denying their age. If my pants hang down around my knees, feel free to make fun of me. If I ask you to call me Sam, well you can laugh at that too, but I'm not trying to impress you. I'm also not practicing self deprecation. My self worth isn't tied up in a title.
I'm not sure what other reasons their would be for utilizing "ma'am" and "sir," unless you find yourself in basic training. Even there I find it antiquated, but since a butt kicking is all too contemporary, if I were a soldier "sir" would be a regular part of my vocabulary. Beyond that, it just doesn't make sense. If you want to use "sir" or Madam," more power to you. I don't think less of people who use them. I do think less of people who use them to judge others. If you dismiss someone because they fail to say "sir," well that's a reflection on you ... and not a good one.
Tuesday, October 23, 2007
American troops are still in Afghanistan and Iraq. Bush has requested another $45.9 billion in war spending, which would bring the total spent since the March 2003 invasion of Iraq to $650 billion. Closing in on 4,000 American soldiers have died in Iraq. That is nearly 1,000 more than died in the 9/11 attacks. Iraq Body Count estimates that between 75,00 and 82,00 Iraqi civilians have died violent deaths since the 2003 invasion. Iraq is still in the throws of what has to be called a civil war. The scariest thing, is we haven't even begun to pay the piper. The true costs of this war are only starting to become apparent. With Turkey on the verge of invading Iraq to fight the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), the piper is on the doorstep.
Our mistake wasn't that we went to war. Sometimes war is necessary, and this may have been one of those times, although Iran or North Korea would have seemed to be more potent threats. The mistake, or mistakes, were in our preparation and execution of this war. No real effort was taken to include important regional and international states (think France, Russia, China, Iran, and Egypt rather than Albania, Bulgaria, and El Salvador). There was no realistic plan in place for dealing with post-Saddam Iraq. The administration seemed woefully unaware of the political realities of the region. Afghanistan seems to have become a messy afterthought. Etc. Etc. We made mistakes, and now we are starting to pay for them.
Turkish cross border raids would be only the beginning. Kurds are present in significant numbers in Iraq, Turkey, Syria, and Iran. Iran, isn't only a home to Kurds, with the fall of the Sunni government in Iraq it is now an even more powerful and important player in Iraq and in the region as a whole. And while it is not the axis, center, or even periphery of evil, it does pose more of a threat to American interests now than Iraq did in 2003. It also could have offered a unique opportunity; a way for America to influence and interact with a state that has a dynamic and rapidly modernizing culture and population. That opportunity is at least temporarily gone. Also gone is the goodwill we had immediately after 9/11. On the heels of the American failure to follow through n Sudan, the active avoidance of responsibility in Rwanda, and the blatant failure to act in Sudan, our failings in Iraq and what seems like our inevitable withdrawal will seriously limit our ability to influence world events for some time to come. Combine the lack of respect and cooperation we will face internationally with a totally predictable knee jerk retreat into isolationism, and you know what tune the kids will be humming as the piper leads them off. We might as well let them go, because what do we have left to pay the piper?
This mess will most certainly get worse, and there is little that can be done. Technically it isn't too late to commit to Iraq for the long haul, and avoid compounding our mistake. Realistically it probably is too late. The ordinary American will not be won over by talk of responsibility and long-term damage to America's reputation and ability to act in furtherance of it's own interests. It will never be too late for our leadership to learn something about the area of the world where it is spending billions of dollars and thousands of lives, but the longer we wait the more damage is done. And, the balance of power in Iraq and the region has been irrevocably changed, and perhaps thrown completely out of balance. The Bush administration was in a rush to flex their muscles, wright perceived wrongs, and seize a perceived opportunity to effectuate their worldview. In the heat of the moment, they neglected to proceed with the proper amount of caution, foresight, and and diplomacy. Now they, and really all of us, are paying the price for their haste and waste. On the bright side, it's a catchy tune.
Monday, October 22, 2007
My daughter loves phones. She loves my cell phone. She loves her mother's cell phone. She even likes the toy cell phone that Grammy bought her. If none of these are on hand, she has been known to make calls on calculators, combs, and remote controls. Today, as I was attempting to move us and all of our stuff out the door, she caught sight of her toy phone. Apparently it was ringing, because she stopped to pick it up. I didn't hear the first ring. I only heard the audible to adults ring, the one she had to squeeze the phone to produce. It was good that I had her around, because apparently the call was for me and without her toddler ears I would have walked right by it. Of course, without her toddler charms I wouldn't have had a stuffed cell phone, or been carrying fifty two bags out to the car for a half hour trip ... but these are contingencies that only adults can understand. I took the phone from her. Turns out it was Uncle John calling from Singapore. Good thing he called on his niece's phones, she has free long distance anywhere in the world except Africa. For my next trip to Africa, I'll have to switch toy companies. As I chatted to Uncle John, my practical little girl decided to fill the time with a call of her own. She had a dilemma, though. Mom's phone was at work with mom. Dad's phone was in dad's pocket. dad was on her phone long distance to Singapore. Actually, the problem with her phone had nothing to do with trepidation about interrupting a call and everything to do with dad being tall. Besides, she had a Guinea Pig puppet handy. I don't know what kind of connection you get on a rodent, but she was smiling a great big smile with the larger than life rodent's chin in her ear. It was way too funny, but it also brought a tear to my eye. It was while watching her holding that rodents butt to her mouth that I fully realized how successful my little girl will be. Anyone that can kiss ass while talking on the phone ... well the sky is the limit.
Tuesday, October 16, 2007
There are lots of ways to react to this story. Some will point out that the people threatening Vilks' life are only a minority of the world's Muslims, and that there is an equally reprehensible fringe in Christianity that gets nowhere near the same press. Christians might assert that the Christian reaction to Vilk's cartoon depicting Jesus as a pedophile didn't involve Vilk's looking under his car for bombs. Muslims might counter that the combination of a portrait of the Prophet, which is itself forbidden, and a dog, which is seen as unclean. I could, is unusually provocative. Of course, the depiction of the Prophet is forbidden as part of a prohibition on idol worship. There is ample historical evidence for the reality of that threat, but neither Sweden nor cartoonists are a part of the record. In fact, the threat is much more real from Sufis and Ahmadis, who consider themselves to be Muslims. 'Progressive' Muslims, who wouldn't want to be called 'progressive,' would assert that sets Islam apart from other monotheistic faiths is the closer relationship posited between man and God. In Islam there are fewer intermediaries and more direct responsibilities. Thus, it is up to each individual to be responsible for their own behavior and it is up to God to hand out rewards and punishments. It could also be asserted that the Prophet meant for Islam to be more flexible, that he had goals for freedoms and rights beyond what could be achieved in seventh century Arabia, and that were he here to lead Muslims he would be leading them into a more fruitful and reciprocal relationship with 'Western' culture and values. In this view, the Prophet would see no contradiction, for example, in being an American and a Muslim, and would not seek to execute people for utilizing their freedom of expression to insult Muslims. All of the above and more could be pulled out, but I've already spent more energy on those arguments than they merit, yet not enough to fully explain them.
So, let me say this. Lars set out to insult Muslims, and he succeeded. It sucks for Muslims to have to read it, but sometimes life sucks. Lars has every right to draw the Prophet's head on a dog. We all aren't Muslims, and we don't have to agree with or even respect Islam. Muslims don't get to kill us if we disrespect them. Those of us who have respect for Islam, and Muslims, do have a responsibility to counter statements like the one Lars has made. The most effective counter is to lay out the reasons why this is offensive, and be ready to engage in dialogue about Islam. This should be merely one part of a long-term strategy to argue for and publicize a more adaptive and egalitarian Islam that is much truer to the vision of the Prophet than what is being trumpeted by a radical minority, publicized out of proportion to it's support or theoretical legitimacy by the Western Press, and allowed to exist without much challenge by the majority of Muslims. Muslims need to educate one another and the rest of us about what Islam has been, is, and could be. Now, this is happening, but not on the scale it needs to. It will never get the initial press that an extra $50,000 for a slit throat will, but it in the long run it could push that kind of story into the realm of Fred Phelps and the picketing of military funerals. That won't happen as long as cartoons books and beauty pageants lead to riots and death threats.
Amatullah means female servant of Allah. Until Allah has better and more attentive servants, Islam will be in crisis, and ignorance and prejudice will dominate the Western attitude towards it. The forces of moderation and reason must aggressively counter radicals in Islam, and in Christianity. If you lie down with dogs, you will get up with fleas.
I can't vote for someone who is willing to publicly say that evolution doesn't exist. Has he ever been to a natural history museum? Has he been barked at by a pug-a-poo? Doesn't be realize that there is no way that God could have rested on the seventh day and still created the whole world and everything in, on, and above it? He may be stupid, in which case I can't vote for him. It's time we had someone smart again. He may be physically unable to engage in analytical thought, in which case I can't understand him. I'm an American, and thus I have only blind hatred for that which I don't understand. He may simply be manipulating the religious right, in which case I can't vote for him. People who have exorcised the demons of compassion, caring, and understanding from Christianity shouldn't be pandered to. Any way you cut it, I can't vote for Mike, Tom, or Sam.
Which means, my choices now consist of: Hillary, Barack, John, Bill, Dennis, Joe, Mike, Chris, Fred, John, Mitt, Duncan, and Ron.
Sam has a great name and the support of Tom Monaghan (the orphan who founded Domino's Pizza) and Steven Baldwin (not an orphan). Hell, Michael W. Smith and Pat Boone also support him. Despite all that however, we'll have to say goodbye to Mr. Sam. I could write an in-depth analysis of Sam's opinions, statements, and plans. I could, but I won't. It would just be a waste of time. The man indicated on national television that he did not believe in evolution. That's all I need. He was one of three candidates who raised their hands during a Republican debate, so there's a clue to who might be next. For now, it's just Rudy and Sam sitting on the outside looking in at my vote.
It's nearly November, and I suppose I'm ready to start paying close attention to the Presidential hubbub. I'd prefer waiting until next November, but I'm beginning to find it embarrassing to be more knowledgeable about NASCAR than I am about the Presidential candidates and issues. I wonder if Dale Jr. has considered running? Hell, Dale Sr. might be able to carry Illinois. Alas, neither of them is running, and neither are Jimmy Johnson or Jeff Gordon, so I need to do some research to see who is running. This time I'll start by pretending that every candidate is a qualified one. I will then slowly and methodically eliminate them as I run across evidence that there is no way in hell I can vote for them. If I am left with two candidates, I may flip a coin. If I eliminate everybody, as is more likely since I live in the real United States of America as opposed to the fictional one portrayed in West Wing (why doesn't Alan Alda run for real, I'd vote for him), I will start over again. If someone withdraws before I eliminate him or Hillary, I will devote an entry to noting their passing from the election.
Today, I must reluctantly eliminate Rudy Giuliani. I'm reluctant, because there is a lot to like about Rudy. He is pro-choice and pro-gun control, so I can overlook the fact he cheated on his wife (I would overlook this regardless), has no foreign policy experience, wasn't a great mayor of New York before 9/11, may be at least partially responsible for the number of lives lost on 9/11 (failure to improve fire department radios - http://therealrudy.org/radios, command center placement, command center humidor, etc.), and may not have been that spectacular on and after 9/11 (see Grand Illusion, by Wayne Barrett and Dan Collins). What I can't overlook is that Daniel Pipes is giving him foreign policy advice. Pipes immediately blamed the Oklahoma City Bombing on Muslims. In 2002 his Campus Watch website encouraged students to report professors of middle Eastern studies for "analytical failures, the mixing of politics with scholarship, intolerance of alternative views, apologetics, and the abuse of power over students." He told the American Jewish Congress "[The] increased stature, and affluence, and enfranchisement of American Muslims...will present true dangers to American Jews." He wrote on his website this September that, "In a Jerusalem Post piece six years ago, 'Preventing war: Israel’s options,' I called for shutting off utilities to the Palestinian Authority as well as a host of other measures, such as permitting no transportation in the PA of people or goods beyond basic necessities, implementing the death penalty against murderers, and razing villages from which attacks are launched. Then and now, such responses have two benefits: First, they send a strong deterrent signal “Hit us and we will hit you back much harder” thereby reducing the number of attacks in the short term. Second, they impress Palestinians with the Israeli will to survive, and so bring closer their eventual acceptance of the Jewish state. Christopher Hitchens, who has himself been called a neo-conservative (or at least an ally of the neo-conservatives), called Pipes a "person who confuses scholarship with propaganda and who pursues petty vendettas with scant regard for objectivity." Daniel Pipes' inclusion as an advisor isn't the only sign that Rudy's foreign policy might just be a continuation of whatever it is we have now, but it's the only one I need to see.
So, Rudy is off the island. Here is who is still in: Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, John Edwards, Bill Richardson, Dennis Kucinich, Joe Biden, Mike Gravel, Chris Dodd, Fred Thompson, John McCain, Mitt Romney, Mike Huckabee, Tom Tancredo, Sam Brownback, Duncan Hunter, and Ron Paul. Tune in next time to see who else should be sent home.
Sunday, October 14, 2007
I didn't find any good job leads on Craig's List Friday. I did find this add: "Need collage girl to help with homework." At first I snickered at the typo. Then I wrote it down and forgot about it. Later, I wrote a few quotes from the movie Garden State on the same piece of paper. When I returned to the Garden State quotes in order to weave them into my novel, I saw the collage girl ad and suddenly it struck me in a new way. Why did it have to be a typo? Who wouldn't want to employ a collage girl? Wikipedia defines collage as "a work of visual arts made from an assemblage of different forms, thus creating a new whole." Who wouldn't want their child to learn from someone who was a new whole made up of disparate parts. I suppose it might depend on the parts, but I'd rather Seren learn every subject, even math and science, from someone who boasted diverse skills, experiences, and influences. Diverse personalities might not be as great. Schizophrenic teachers, though, might be the key to making math and science more attractive to kids.
Ideally, we would all be and give birth to collage girls (or boys). I certainly hope Seren becomes a collage girl, like her mother before her. A world of collage people might not be a consistent and predictable place, but if you ask me that's a positive. I hope that I can always be a collage boy. I'm willing to work at it. I think it has to be worked at. I'd be willing to work at being a collage girl, but that's a part of the assemblage I'd rather save for private exhibition.
Thursday, October 11, 2007
Tonight my wife said something to me at dinner that put a big smile on my face. Now, if you know my wife, you know that this isn't unusual. She is genetically pre-disposed to be intentionally and unintentionally hilarious. This time, though I wasn't smiling at a funny face, dinner table fart or a slip of the tongue. My wife turned to me and said, "I can't wait until Ramadan is over." Two of her lunch buddies are Muslims who are observing Ramadan, and thus not eating lunch. She misses them. It's not bizarre, unexplainable, or funny. It's really not at all unusual, or at least it shouldn't be. It shouldn't be any more unusual than a non-Jew commenting on someone's absence on account of Yom Kippur. Millions of Muslims live in the United States, and they have friends who aren't Muslims. They interact with these friends in the same way as Christians and Jews, or Catholics and Methodists. We don't hear enough about those kinds of interactions, though. And, not enough of us have them. Otherwise, no one would assume that all Muslim women are oppressed, or see a Muslim man praying on a plane and ask the flight attendant to remove him. There is just no substitute for personal experience. A lunch buddy is always going to be more effective in breaking down people's prejudices and misconceptions than an article in the New York Times. And it's happening. This country would be a hell of a lot better off if more people's lunch plans were being ruined by Ramadan.
Tuesday, October 09, 2007
A few hours ago I was typing what I thought was a witty and tempered response to what I considered to be a thoughtless comment/critique made in response to yesterday's blog. I don't always respond well to criticism. Usually I become angry. The more justified I suspect the criticism to be, the angrier I am. I wasn't too angry this morning. I was actually excited to respond. I had the perfect answer, and it was rolling through my fingers and onto the screen like magic. I was almost done, and I'd managed to fit it in before I had to feed Seren. I was a super efficient, super cool, super dad. And I was showing great maturity in keeping to the moral high ground, and offering up a good natured clarification of my intent. Just as I was looking over the response quickly to make sure it made sense and had some sort of flow, and congratulating myself, the post disappeared. The website disappeared. Everything disappeared. The computer was turning itself off. I couldn't understand why the computer would be turning itself off, and then I remembered that I wasn't alone. Sure enough, staring up at me from directly in front of the computer (which is on the floor under my desk) was my support staff of one. Seren actually smiled and pointed to the on/off button.
My first reaction was to worry about the long term implications of this act. Seren and I spend a few minutes in the office on most days as daddy deals with whatever can't wait until nap. I count on being able to sit her on the floor with a few toys for five minutes or so. Next, I mourned the loss of my witty response. Then I told the poor girl "no," like she had any idea that she'd done anything wrong. So my next move was to hug her, and feed her ... kind of. I prepared the food, put her in her high chair, put some food on her tray, and ran into the office to type. I figured I could put a few pieces of food on her tray, run in and type, sprint back and replace the eaten food, sprint back and type ... and that kind of worked. I sprinted in and out like a life sized Muppet, which Seren thought was funny. Seren also thought it was funny to pour milk all over her tray. So, I waited until lunch was over to finish the response. An hour later I found myself responding to the response to my response. And then, upon reading a nasty little response to the original version of this story, it finally occurred to me that Seren might actually have been trying to do me a favor when she turned off that computer.
I like to think that as the parent I have some control. I like to joke that I have no control. The truth (stop me if you've heard this before) is probably somewhere in between. It is easy and funny to say you have no control. I can certainly provide many examples. I can't stop Seren from taking books off of the shelf, throwing her food, or screaming. She does, however, wave her hand to signal that food is too hot. It turns out I do the same thing. Seren does sit ups. Her mom does sit ups every night. Whatever the balance of control and influence, my wife an I have a responsibility. Everything we do might impact who our daughter becomes and what she does with her life. If you believe some of the parenting books, not cutting the umbilical cord in the right way can lead to drug use and abusive behavior towards animals. I think that that is exaggerated, but not so much that it doesn't scare me. My wife and I don't have control over Seren in the strict sense of the word. We do have tremendous influence. That influence, however, can seem terribly indirect and requires a great deal of patience and foresight to wield. It is also a family endeavor. Even now, Seren collaborates in our parenting. She turns off the computer. She mimics the sound of the donkey after hearing it only twice. She stands in the middle of her room and signs "more," when she and I have finished cleaning up her room. She rushes across the room to us and showers us with hugs and kisses.
Seren has never failed to let me cut ahead of her in line at Lowes, and she has never made nasty little comments on my blog. But the people who have are just as much my partners, albeit in a more diffuse collaborative effort. I have even less control over them, regardless of how eloquent or righteous I think myself. This doesn't mean that I don't try to change their minds on particular issues, or challenge them when I think their out of line. It does mean, that I need to learn to recognize when I'm effectively scolding a 17 month old for turning off a computer. It also means that I have to be open to be contradicted, proven wrong, told to %$#@ off, have food thrown at me, and have my belly jumped on after dinner.
Monday, October 08, 2007
I have found common courtesy to be none too common, and it pisses me off. Is it so hard to hold open a door? Does English language instruction no longer include please and thank you? Has the Internet caused people to believe they are alone in the world? Today, Seren and I were in Lowes. Most days find Seren and I in Lowes at least once. And most days the people in Lowes know we're there. Seren has taken to spontaneous screaming, usually when she is in a good mood but, a little bored. Seren has not yet been won over by the charms of Lowes, with the exception of the ceiling fan aisle, so unless I am shopping for ceiling fans, we are putting on some variation of our two man (man being used in its broadest incarnations) show. Today was no exception. Instead of shopping for ceiling fans, I bought paint from a trainee (we were rolling around on the paint counter by the time my paint was ready) and wallpaper remover, which was hiding in the wallpaper aisle. I had two or three other items on my list, but I am a realist. Besides, if I bought every item on my list today, what would I look for tomorrow? Needless to say (but I'll say it anyway), by the time we made it to the cashier we were acting out a scene from King Kong (I was the skyscraper). We were third in line. Directly in front of me were a rather plump couple with a cart full of stuff, lots of little stuff. It turns out they were in the midst of putting together a bedroom for their daughter. They smiled at Seren, and then proceeded to take their turn at the cashier. Seren smiled back, and then resumed swatting at the planes which apparently were circling rather close to my ears. Apparently they were raised by wolves; wolves with really well stocked hunting grounds. It never occurred to them to let the man being climbed by a toddler and purchasing two items go first. In my charitable moment, which was long after I loudly instructed Seren on the importance of common courtesy, I concluded that they were either deaf or victims of some doctor that was nostalgic for the era of the lobotomy. Maybe people are just so self-centered, that other people and their needs just never occur to them. It just strikes me as so easy to acknowledge that there are people sharing the world with you, and to treat those people with a modicum of respect and generosity. I don't have textual support for this contention. I don't need it. It just seems to be something I can do that makes the world a nicer place for me and my children to inhabit. Really it's selfish. I want to be let into the flow of traffic when I'm merging in from a side street, so I let other people in. I wish there was some way I could make America a more considerate place. I can teach Seren how to behave, but that would seem to have a limited impact. Yelling and cursing at people, while satisfying, is almost always completely ineffective. Maybe there is nothing I can do but be pissed. That I do really well.
Friday, October 05, 2007
I like to sit in the back at Church. I liked to sit in the back at class. Occasionally I even sat in the back of class while I was teaching. I'm not keen on being the first or the last to do something. I don't wear loud colors. I don't listen to the radio in my wife's car, because the antenna is broken and if you have the radio on and turn it off it makes a very loud noise for a very long time. Whenever possible, I like to maintain a low profile.
Seren is 17 months old and doesn't give a shit about low profiles. She points at strangers. She waves at strangers. She throws stuff at strangers. She pulls things off of shelves if you foolishly let her get too close. She screams at the top of her lungs for no particular reason. Strangers walk up to her and touch her, and occasionally me. (This is one of the biggest problems with parenthood. Low profile or not, I hate it when people violate my space. Before Seren, all I had to worry about was the occasional heel stomp or shove from behind. Now people grab my arm, pinch her cheek, and pat me on the back.)
Not only is Seren a full fledged toddler, I'm a man. For whatever reason, stay at home dads are still a novelty. In my experience a stay at home dad is kind of like Siamese Twins or really hairy women. People stare, give judgemental looks, and jump to erroneous conclusions. More than once I've been told how nice it is that I'm taking a day off of work. When I enter the territory of the stay at home mom, it can be even worse. Most of the moms are nice, and many are even comfortable enough to complain about their husbands and their boobs in front of me. But it's still uncomfortable, and I am eager to do everything I can , short of shaving (When this gig starts paying benefits I'll shave), to blend in. I make sure Seren is dressed in clean and matching clothing. I periodically take my voice up an octave. I sing mainly in the alto range. I don't talk any sports. I use my child as a prop and conversational crutch just like everybody else.
Largely this strategy has worked, but Music Together Class might prove to be too big of a challenge. First of all, I have to sing. Second, with only two other parents (both women and neither of them thirty year smokers or butch lesbians), my voice stands out, even if I whisper. Third, the teacher made a point of saying that my participation was of particularly great importance because male voices are so rare in these situations. Fourth, Seren is a complete ham and loves music. Now, for the record (and off the record), I enjoy the class. I have also managed to remain rather anonymous, at least until today. I have sweaty feet. I don't wear socks in the summer. My shoes stink. Shoes have to come off at Music Together. This has worried me from day one. I have pretty ugly feet even when they're not smelly. So, I don't want to subject young children to them. After the first class I cut my nails and pulled away all of the dead skin. During the second class I got a whiff of my feet, and proceeded to keep them as far away from everybody as I could. This week, I got a whiff of my shoes before I left the house, so I sprinkled them with baby powder. OK, to be honest, I don't sprinkle baby powder. I pour it on. When I am first walking around, I kick up white clouds. It's actually a lot of fun, and Seren likes it. I made a mental note to wipe my feet off before I walked in to Music Together, but somewhere between having to wait in a long line for a slow cashier at TJ-Max and realizing I would be late and we'd miss the "Hello everybody" song that Seren loves and I was hoping she would be demonstrative and impressive during I forgot to wipe off my feet. We walked into class in the middle of Sandpiper (another of Seren's faves). When the music ended, the instructor turned to Seren and said, "your daddy has big feet." I knew instantly I was in trouble. Sure enough, a long trail of white footprints connected the scene of my late entry to the powder blot I was sitting in.
As a stay-at-home dad, I'm not very stealthy. I'm actually starting to think I might be OK with that. The view from the back is good, but good views are only fleetingly satisfying. Besides, I'm not going to even pretend that I have any say in the matter. I'm going to be leaving footprints, the bigger set, whether I like it or not.
Thursday, October 04, 2007
S is for Seren. Lately, S is also for spontaneity. So far, I've concluded that toddlers are a walking set of contradictions and confusions. You can pick up a toddler and carry them wherever you want. A toddler can go limp and scream like a banshee in any of those places. You can make any sartorial statement you want with your toddler, and they can stain any outfit in just about any way one can imagine. And, oh by the way, there comes a time she can take off her clothes much more easily than you can put them on her. You can explain the world to them, but they don't have to listen and for a long time you're not sure they're understanding you.
Without a routine, you and your toddler are up shits creek without a paddle, a motor, any water, any wipes, and any toys or music. And without a routine, she won't be able to moo and baa for the next person who meets her. Routines are mandatory, if any of my goals are to be accomplished and my sanity is to be retained. She actually needs routines. Spontaneity, however, is impossible for even the most anal organizer to stamp out. It's just a part of a toddler's nature. It's actually pretty cool too. A kiss from out of nowhere is a dad melter. A sudden decision to bounce on dad's stomach and laugh hysterically can be a day maker.
Today, Seren and I cleaned up her room in anticipation of her mother's arrival home from work, as we always do. We started with the task that we almost always start with: putting the alphabet blocks back in their bucket. Seren loves cleaning up her room, and particularly loves putting the blocks in the bucket. Today I let her do the task largely on her own, only helping out when she held out a block in my direction. When that happened, I would take it from her, tell her what the letter was, and out it in the bucket. When she handed me a "J," I told her it was "J" as in "Jump." Seren looked at me, smiled, stood up, and commenced jumping. She jumped for maybe ten seconds before she sat back down, replaced the smile with her face of intense concentration, and resumed the task of placing the blocks in the bucket. And the day was made. I was so content, that I failed to take the bucket away when the lid went on. Of course the lid came off, and out came the blocks. Oh well, it gave us another chance to perform our little routine, er improv number.
Wednesday, October 03, 2007
In the last week or so, monks have taken to the streets to challenge the government of Burma. The impetus for these protests was economic: the government raised the price of diesel oil by 500%. The underlying cause is an oppressive military government. The monks haven't brought about change in Burma yet, but it is encouraging to see people fighting against corrupt governments and illegitimate elections.
It would be more encouraging to see American people fighting against corrupt governments and illegitimate elections ... namely their own. A revolution is probably out of the question, but I'm not sure that revolutionary change isn't needed. We have an antiquated electoral system that no longer operates to provide accurate or adequate representation for most Americans. Economic and social inequalities are as or more extreme than ever before. The reality is that we have a caste system here in America that is every bit as real as the caste system present in India. In America, we are mired in a unfortunate situations in Iraq and Afghanistan (yes we're still there), caused by inadequate preparation, more than adequate hubris, and startling ignorance of the political dynamics of the part of the world in question, and soon to be exacerbated by a lack of imagination, sense of responsibility, and ability to address war weariness on the part of the American people with anything other than talk of immediate withdrawal. Oh, we also have a mortgage mess. And don't forget environmental irresponsibility, a frighteningly powerful and connected Christian Evangelical movement, a woefully inadequate public school system, medicine dictated by insurance companies, and more than enough hopelessness to fuel a revolution. America is sick. It is as far from the ideal set forward at independence as it has ever been. Unfortunately, it is a durable system. Americans often continue to insist that our country is the greatest, and as evidence they inevitable invoke the f-word: freedom. We are free here in the USA. We can do whatever we want. We can become whatever we want. We are free to believe whatever we want, even if it has absolutely no basis in fact. We are even free to believe that American prosperity will include us. For most, however, the truth is that prosperity will never be a part of their American experience. They will always, however, be aware of the possibility for wild success. How could any of us not be aware of it. We are informed of the American dream at every turn. And most of us buy in. I had pictures of Lamborghinis on my walls. This dream, and the riches and recognition it promises, has proven enough to justify many many 'temporary' injustices. All it is now is sacrosanct enough to avoid real scrutiny. The United States is a super power, but it is an old and sick one that exaggerates its successes, tries to forget it's defeats, and is slowly watching its strengths ebb away.
Americans need someone to take to the streets here. Someone who has the standing of the monks in Burma. It will be an unpopular and uphill fight, but we need it. So, good luck to the monks, and to my fellow disenchanted Americans, all I can leave you with is "maybe Myanamar."