Wednesday, February 24, 2010

I Thought You Were Supposed To Be Polite?

Americans typically, or maybe stereotypically, make complete fools of themselves when traveling abroad.  We're loud, we wear US flags for apparel, we wear cowboy hats, we drive giant wheeled tanks and call them SUVs, and we like to wage war on countries that look at us the wrong way.  For the record, I am loud and wear a cowboy hat only when riding mechanical bulls in Tijuana.  But this is about representing one's country, and representing it admirably.  This is for you, Canadian dad.

I took Audrey to school today, and as usual, the parking lot was a mess of minivans jockeying for dominant position like really crappy Tron lightcycles.  I coasted the family boat into an open berth and unloaded my precious cargo.  On the way into the school, I noticed some clown had parked in the handicapped spot.  No handicapped plates, no handicapped mirror tag.  A-hole.

Drop off Audrey, spot humiliated Canadian dad, decide not to mention how his country is stinking it up at their own Games.  Walk out to parking lot behind Cana-dad.  Wait...oh no you didn't, Cana-dad.  You parked in the handicapped spot?  You move out of America's attic and think you have some sort of diplomatic immunity that allows you act, and park, like an American?

Let me put it to you in a language you may understand.  Don't be a douche.  That's French, right?  

Monday, February 22, 2010

Oh. Canada?

I'm not a sportswriter.  I'm not even a sports fan.  At best, I'm passable at conducting a two-way sports-centric conversation where my responses are expected to be more erudite than "really?" and "wow."  But every two years I take time off from the other great competition, American Idol, to watch the Olympics.  And like a great Adam Lambert performance, last night's hockey throwdown between USA and Canada didn't disappoint.  The poor Canucks, inventors and curators of the rink, conquered on their home ice by their imperialistic pigdog neighbors to the south.  How many Molsons were spoiled last night with the bitter tears of their shame?

Fast forward twelve hours.  I'm dropping off Audrey at school this morning, and in my haste to get her backback and coat hung up, I nearly smack my face into the chest of a behemoth of a man.  As I slowly backed away, I realize the gargantu-dad is wearing an unzipped CANADA jacket over a shirt embroidered with what had to be the world's largest wearable maple leaf.  I couldn't believe it.  A real live Canadian and with what had to be a hangover from his previous national we-sucked-at-hockey night.  At this point, I made a quick calculation.  We're in Phoenix, so when I am going to have another chance to give the business to a subject of Her Majesty?  We are also standing in the safety of a  preschool classroom.  Chances are if he was going to kick my ass (and then possibly eat me), he would not attempt it in front of children.  In fact, I was counting on this.  I smiled and snorted, "Sorry about that game last night."  As he stared down at me in what appeared to be disbelief, I told my daughter I loved her, then he replied, as only a Canadian can, "Yah."  Immediately I knew that this could not end well.  In an attempt to befriend the executioner, I asked, as if it were even necessary, "Are you from Canada?"  Again, and even longer and more Canadian-esque, "Yaaaaah."  Possibly sensing that I was about to become a snack for sasquatch-dad, the teacher grabbed me and explained that my Girl Scout cookies were here and I needed to pay for them.  Thank God for thin mints.  And when I turned around, the giant elusive creature of the northern woods was gone.  Nary a footprint or photograph do I have for proof.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Pardon The Interruption

For the past five days I have been a passable solo dad and a fairly poor pediatric nursing assistant.  Max and Audrey have been overtaken with one or more of the following: H1N1, regular ol' flu, pneumonia, un-named virus, random bacterial infection, or fifth disease.  Or not.  But they are both sad little lumps of exhaustion. 

Our house feels like Andersonville.  Endless crying, pain, sickness, and body fluids.  Sometimes you don't know it is going to be a terrible day when you wake up.  It just kind of turns out that way.

Oh yeah, Happy Valentine's Arizona Statehood Day.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Parking Wars

This is not a rant on women drivers, or mommy drivers, or Phoenix drivers.  Really it's not a rant on drivers.  This is a rant on parkers.  Occasionally I drop Audrey off at her preschool before heading to work.  Her school shares a fairly tight parking lot with, among all things for terrible morning traffic, a Starbucks.  Her school also attracts families from some rather wealthy communities in north Phoenix and Scottsdale.  There are plenty of Lexuses (Lexi?), Mercedes SUVs, and Range Rovers to accompany the fleet of minivans and other I-don't-need-a-look-at-me-car-I-just-need-something-to-get-the-kids-around vehicles.

Can you smell the aroma of parking snafu mixing with the steamy fragrance of a freshly brewed Frappuccino?

Mommies, or to be fair anybody dropping off the tykes, are in a hurry to dump off and dash off to a few precious hours of child-free freedom.  The kind of freedom that isn't free.  It's about $5.50 an hour.  So the mommies, or again in fairness the "persons," dropping off the children, don't bother to take up merely one parking spot.  Said persons park the kidmobile squarely centered on the white parking stall dividing line, as if they were lining up a 747 for takeoff on the runway at JFK.

Three persons mommies, three kids, six parking spots.  And as if the vehicles weren't already drawing enough attention, they all happened to be high end Euro-rides.  "Look at me.  My ego and my car cannot possibly fit into just one parking spot.  Please do not park your sub-$70k vehicle within ten feet or I could be at risk of catching your middle-class-ness."  Oh, the humanity.

Monday, February 01, 2010

Rhythm Is Gonna Get You..A Chance To Clean Up

Great disappointments in my life thus far:
1.  Have not summited Mount Everest.  Yet.
2.  Cannot properly throw a regulation sized football.
3.  Have not learned Spanish.  No habla, amigo.  Apenado.  The preceding message was brought to you by Google translate.

I don't know what Mana is singing about, but their mesmerizing musica has a good beat and I can dance to it.  Actually I can't dance to it.  I'm a terrible dancer.  I'm lucky to be able to tap my fingers rhythmically without looking like I was tonguing the terminals of a car battery.

But I like to nod my head and make up sounds in an attempt to accompany Mana as I drive through the barrio on my way to work.  Sort of like talking to Max.  I don't know what he is saying, and he doesn't know what I am saying.  But we're both having a pretty good time bouncing around and making silly sounds.  Until one of us throws up green beans.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Jonesing For Blow Pops

The key to a successful outing with children is transforming your current location into a fantastic retail playground.

The grocery store becomes a formula one racetrack around obstacles of salad dressing and spaghetti sauce.    The attorney's office is a great place for fort-building, what with all the conference tables and filing cabinets.  Target is a high-fructose hideaway with the ubiquitous kid-branded snacks and toys, all conveniently placed at a shelf height of eighteen inches.  When you're done, let your kid coast down from the high in the concrete logo.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Being Pretty Much All That I Can Be

Today I dressed up like a tree (or maybe a bowl of creamed spinach) to spread some propoganda to my daughter's preschool class.  It was "community helper" week at school, and I was invited to talk to the kids about how I help the community.  I'm not exactly Tony Robbins, but I don't normally have a fear of public speaking either.  Talking to a class of three-year-olds proved to be the exception.  My extensive Toastmaster training did not cover the nuances of engaging an audience that still may, on occasion, pee on the floor for no particular reason.  Thirty seconds into showing them a picture of a helicopter, they wanted to know if I brought them toys.  Apparently my opening act was Mr. Community Helper himself, a mall Santa.

One of the more assertive boys helped himself to inspecting the contents of my flight bag, which was sitting enticingly close to him.  There's nothing particularly exciting, dangerous, or embarrassing in the camouflage manpurse/European carry-all.  I do keep a few Tums chewable tablets in a plain prescription bottle for those flights immediately following a giant chorizo burrito lunch.  The kid found the bottle, held it up for the class and asked, "Can I bring this home to my mommy?  She has lots of medicine like this."  Maybe she eats a lot of chorizo burritos.  Maybe she's crazy, or pregnant.  Whatever she is taking, her son says she has a sizable stash.

Most of the kids had an idea about what a pilot was.  "They go up where God is."  Others struggled with the pronunciation of the job.  "Pirates fly jets."  "My grandpa is a pine nut."  That's ok, buddy.  My grandpa thought he was a pine nut too.

At the end of the day, the showing and telling at my daughter's class wasn't for the kids, or the teachers, or even my daughter.  I could pretend it was for my daughter, but she wouldn't know or care if I elected not to visit her class.  It was for me.  Selfishly I wanted my daughter and her class to see her dad doing daddy things.  And selfishly I wanted to see my daughter dressed up like me.  And selfishly I got to take her out of school early so we could go to lunch at Chick-Fil-A.  Because even the daddy needs that feeling of validation, the good childrearing seal of approval.  I feel validated.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

She Reports. You Decide.

My daughter's ideas for the American recovery.

1.  The deficit.  Buy more Zhu Zhu pets.  They are manufactured somewhere in China.  If we import more Jillys, Pipsqueeks, and Num Nums (but not Mr. Squiggles, he's on a terror watch list), we will bolster China's ability to continue to buy our debt.  Sounds plausible.

2.  The economy.  Now that the dollar is completely worthless, merchants and retailers will begin accepting Chuck E. Cheese and Peter Piper tokens as legal tender.  When pressed, she did not have an answer for whether or not merchants would also be required to accept skee-ball tickets.    

3.  Clean energy.  "I like to have on all the lights, dada."  We will continue to leave on every light and television, day and night, thereby increasing our demand for our nuclear-generated electricity.  Ok, the end may justify the means.

4.  Jobs.  "You need to go to work, dada, so we can get money and coins."  Spoken like true management.  Labor obliges.         

5.  Healthcare.  "I don't like going to the doctor.  Kids don't need to go to the doctor."  I'm not sure I agree with that.  

Wait...oh my God.  I think my daughter is a Republican.  

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Baxing. It's Waxing...For Your Back.


I have a bookmark on my bedside table that looks pretty similar to the simians pictured here.  Audrey studied it intensely then reported to her mother, "Their hair looks just like daddy's hair."

I hoped she was talking about the spiky tufts of hair on their heads, but when asked for clarification, she was sure that "all their hair" looked like her dad's.  Yes, I am one hirsute ape-man.

Before the pool season opens here in two months, I will surely manscape the appropriate regions.  No kid should have to answer why their father is wearing a sweater in the pool.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Only Bananas And Ice Cream From Now On

Maxwell is ten months old tomorrow.  Maxwell still eats only baby food.  Uh oh, Maxwell.

After consulting extensively with both Yahoo and Google Answers, we were very confident with a diagnosis of dysphagia.  Out of medical prudence, we decided visit to the pediatrician for a second opinion.  The little guy pounded a few shots of barium, was looked at under an x-ray, and deemed perfectly fine by the doctor.  He is just a little slow learning to eat, which is really weird, because I can eat.

The poor little dude has a tendency to gag on anything solid.  The gagging leads to coughing which leads to a re-dinnering.  Vomit.  Puke.  Honk.  Technicolor yawn.  Every baby pukes, no big deal.  But just like with their poop, big boy food equals big boy smell.

Tonight, he let loose with most of his mac and cheese and green beans all over himself and a little bit on me.  It was the traditional gastric eau de toilette.  Yesterday, he returned all of his peach yogurt on me, which, in a relatively pleasant turn of events, still smelled exactly like peach yogurt.

If you care, or if like me you are wondering how the hell you can get rid of that stench in your car, I offer you this brief chemistry lesson.  The smell comes from butyric acid, which I might have already known if I was awake during any of my chemistry classes.  This is also the same stinky stuff that is being tossed around on Whale Wars.  So take that, Japanese whaling fleet.  My boy is coming for you and he just ate beets.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

No Alcohol Without A Permit. Dogs Must Be On A Leash. No Talking.

Audrey and I took a Saturday morning outing to the park to feed the ducks, ride our scooter, and buy something besides organic dog biscuits at the famers' market. As the only dad at the playground for a couple hours, I tried to keep to myself. However, I did meet another nice dad and his daughter there. His daughter tried oh-so-valiantly to be friendly with my kid, but what the little girl didn't know is that we're there to play, not to socialize. Watching a five-year-old and a three-year-old having a conversation is like watching the conversation that you wished you had at work everyday.
"My name is Jessica."
"My name is Audrey."
"Do you want to be friends?"
"No, that's ok. I already have two friends."
"Do you have any brothers or sisters?"
"My little brother's name is Maxwell."
"My mom only has one kid because there are no more eggs in her belly."
"Oh. I have to go pee."
Way to shut her down when she got a little too personal, Audrey. It's not kid-Facebook. It's the playground.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Everyone Poops. Not Everyone Flushes.

2009, big year. First African-American president sworn in. Conan takes over The Tonight Show. My kid is potty trained. Let's be realistic though. Each of these monumental successes has lost a little bit of their original luster. Obama has struggled to unite the nation and develop a viable universal health care plan. Conan was doomed by, of all people, his incredibly unfunny predecessor. My daughter doesn't flush her poop.

What gives? She doesn't have any fear of flushing, because pee gets flushed without a thought. So maybe it's just a little feces-fascination. "Children may be fearful that their bodies might be giving up something important." Important? If she ate a quarter, fine, save it and we'll dig around in it later. But otherwise, she's gonna have to let it go.

The non-flushing wouldn't be a big deal if she would let us know when she has pooped. It's finding the murky surprise three hours later that makes me wonder if it might be better to just put a port-a-potty in the backyard for the next year.

I think there are a few people at my work that may be fearful that their bodies might be giving up something important. It's a public restroom after all, so try to be kind to your fellow man. Unless someone keeps swallowing a quarter...

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Sit Down Or I'm Going To Have To Pay Attention

Apparently Arizona is in the middle of or should be bracing for the storm of the century. The Perfect Storm. West Coast Katrina. Meteorological armageddon. Or maybe just some wind and a few inches of rain. Either way it means that we are stranded in our home surrounded by recently escaped criminals our children.

Last night food supplies were dwindling so we braved the 60 degree weather and light drizzle and headed to Costco for rations. We've sought refuge in Costco before because, much like the UN, they hand out free food.

We picked up a few things and decided to wait out the breezy weather in the comfort of the food court. Although the food isn't Bobby Flay's chipotle-molasses ribs, it is really cheap and very tasty. We all got a slice of pizza and froyo (I said it) to wash it down. We eat there so often that Robyn bought a clip-on table seat for Max so he can smear his food on the table instead of the shopping cart. The seat always garners inquiries from curious parents. Usually something like, "Wow, where did you get that seat? Oh my God, your kid is choking!" or "Hey, your other kid is climbing into that garbage can over there." Yeah, that seat is great.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Things That Will Change Your Life, No. 27

Number 27. Switch to a Mac. Robyn did and bought a beautiful 13" MacBook Pro. And now I did. Well, sort of. I made myself a nice little Hackintosh. I won't proclaim the gospel of Apple here...yet. But the whole system is very intuitive, fast, and stable, and fast.

Ingredients:
Dell Inspiron Mini 10v netbook (refurbished), $249 from dell.com/outlet
Retail copy of Snow Leopard OS X 10.6, $29 from Amazon
8 GB USB drive, borrowed free from a friend
a couple free install programs, another Mac to image the USB drive, and a little bit of patience

The whole netbook rebirth took me about three hours with only a couple minor hiccups. I now have a $278 Snow Leopard Mac that is smaller than a stack of three Time magazines. Suck it Bill Gates. Well, actually don't. You seem like a pretty nice guy with your foundation and all. That old company of yours though really makes a crappy computer. Yes, I am a nerd.