Monday, March 28, 2011

Dog Doo Diplomacy

 I'm posting on DadCentric today, about my dreams of revenge on a pooper scooper scofflaw.  Here's how it starts:

I'm one of the biggest confrontation avoiders you could ever hope to meet.

I believe that there are always better ways to deal with problems involving the conflicting desires of other people and myself than by facing them head on.  On the rare occasion that I do stand up for my convictions, I'm pretty easily convinced that I'm being unreasonable and insensitive to others.

A more charitable description of my interpersonal skills would be that I'm "diplomatic," a trait that I come by honest, as they say, since my dad was an arms-reduction treaty negotiator before he retired to become a ski bum.

So I'm all about making compromises and coming to a peaceful solution, even if it takes time, patience, and effort.


But lately, an issue has arisen that has me rankled.  One might even say that I'm incensed.
The truth is that I have been having violent fantasies: dark, lurid imaginings of vengeance on the scale of a Samurai movie or Spaghetti Western.

And the object of my twisted daydreams?

The motherfucker who keeps letting his dog shit on the tiny strip of grass between the sidewalk and the curb in front of our house.  The sliver of lawn on which we stand while loading our children into the minivan.  Sometimes it's not even on the grass.  It's been on the curb, on the sidewalk, and even in our overgrown flowerbed.

Seriously, who does that?

read more... 

Friday, March 25, 2011

SCAR, volume one, issue one

I've decided to launch a new feature here, an occasional series in which I share stories about some of the many injuries I've sustained.  I'm calling it SCAR, which stands for "Stupid Careless Accident Report." 


O-Hill 1997

I hate the beginning of the race.  It's the part that makes me want to go back to riding bikes just for fun.  My stomach's not made for this kind of thing.  I hate having to shit twice before leaving the house, and then once again before the line-up, waiting to use port-a-john with a million other guys whose guts are carbo-loaded and full of supplements and caffeine.  

I wish I could just start in the middle of the race.  After a couple minutes, everything gets sorted out, and for the next two hours you just ride hard and hope the other guys get tired or wreck.

This race is big for me.  It's not part of a point series, and it's not because of the swag, although there are some nice components for the guy who comes in first.  It's mainly for the bragging rights.  

I fucking own this hill.  I'm probably the only guy racing today who rode his bike here from home.  I know every log on every trail and every washboard on every fire road.

In the line-up, everybody's talking smack, but I don't get involved.  A bunch of guys call me Sandbagger because I've been winning so many races in the Sport category that they figure I should move up to Expert.  Which I will, eventually.  But shit, I've been in the Sport category for less than one season.  I think I deserve to take home my share of swag before I start over at the bottom of the Experts.

The start is on the paved road about three quarters of the way up to the observatory. I'm about four deep in the line-up, as I usually am.  I don't like jockeying to the front before the gun goes off.  Everything will get sorted out in the first minute or so.

The gun goes off and I click my shoe into my pedal.

The start is key in this race because the course goes uphill at first, and then turns off the pavement about a quarter mile in, onto a steep downhill single-track.  If you get behind someone slow once you get off the pavement, you're screwed.

I start off at a pace just below a full-on sprint.  I get behind a guy I know who works at the bike shop, and stay on his wheel.  He's pretty fast, and we start pulling away from the rest of the group.  There are a couple guys right behind me, but I can't tell who they are.

When I see the yellow arrow on the side of the road, pointing down and to the left, I shift into a bigger gear and put the hammer down, passing the guy--Kyle--from the bike shop.

I catch a little bit of air dropping off the side of the road onto the trail, and keep pedaling until I'm spun out in my biggest gear.  I'm the first one into the woods, and I have no idea how close anyone is behind me.  

I don't really like being in the very front of the race either.  I like having a few guys ahead for me to chase.  And to act as coal mine canaries when there's some technical stuff that I don't want to get into trouble on.

But I know these trails.  This is my back yard.

I'm floating over the berms and logs and water bars, going faster than I ever have on this trail, maybe around 30 mph; but I'm feeling much smoother because my wheels aren't in contact with the ground as much as they normally would be.

The trail widens out a bit as I get toward the bottom of the hill.  

It rained a lot last month, and assholes like me still went out and rode, carving deep ruts into the clay soil.  Then it got hot for a week, and baked those ruts into the earth.  But I'm still just skimming along the tops of the high spots between the ruts. 

I'm almost at the bottom, and I've managed not to think too hard about my speed or the gouged up ground beneath me.  I glance over my shoulder and can't see anyone behind me.  I have a huge lead.

I feather the brakes a little, to sluff off some speed before I come to the hard left at the bottom of the hill.

As I slow down just a bit, the bike feels heavier, and I start getting jostled from side to side.  I'm still going at least 25, but I'm not floating anymore.

I try to pick a line and keep myself aimed at it, but the ruts toss me to one side and then another.

And then I'm on the ground.

Still going downhill at 25 mph, but without a bike.  

I'm on my right side, with my head facing the bottom of the hill and my right arm extended in front of me.

When the ground stops moving underneath me, I just lie there.  I'm pretty sure I've broken something very important on my body.

My brain tells my toes to wiggle.  They comply.

Then I check my hands.  Okay.  My elbows.  Fine.  Hands, knees, neck.  Everything still works.  There's a lot of blood coming from my right arm, my shorts are ripped and there's a a slash on my thigh.  But all my parts move when I tell them to.

I struggle to my feet and climb back up the hill to grab my bike, which I'm sure has at least a bent rim, if not a cracked frame.

But my bike is fine, for the most part.  The only real damage seems  to be that the clamp that holds the saddle onto the seatpost has broken, and so I've got nothing to sit on but a metal post.  It reminds me of a joke about nuns fighting over the convent's only bicycle.  I laugh, and my ribs feel like they're shaking loose.

Finally, someone passes me.  The new leader.  Then another guy passes, but he slows down to ask me if I'm okay.  I wave him on.

A few more guys go by, and I decide to try and finish the race with no saddle.

After just a few seconds, I realize that there's no way that's going to work.

So I lash the saddle onto the seatpost with the belt from my Camelback.  

As long as I'm sitting on the saddle, it stays where it's supposed to do.  But when I stand up to climb, the seat drops off and I have to stop and fix it while  a few more guys pass. 

Well, I think, this is a lost cause.  I might as well just go home.

But after walking my bike for a minute or so, we come to the wide fire road where the course goes back up to the top of the hill.  It's a mild grade, and I can sit on my saddle while I ride it. 

I'm feeling pretty good again, and I pass a few of the guys who got by me while I lay in the ditch.

Another guy comes up alongside of me.  He's a little older than me, maybe 30, and he looks strong.  

I look at him for a second time, and realize that there's blood trickling out of his ear.

"Dude, your ear..." I start.

"I know, I know.  I hit a tree pretty hard."

"Shit.  Blood out of the ear is no good.  You should have someone look at that."

"What happened to you?" he asks me.  "You look like ground beef from your forearm down to your ankle." I tell him about the wreck and the busted saddle.  He laughs.

"I had that happen before," he said.  "What you should do is strap the saddle to the post with your spare tube.  You've got a spare tube, right"

Oh shit.  Yeah.  That's a great idea!
I thank the guy, pull off to the side, and quickly rig up the seat with an inner tube.

I take it pretty easy for the rest of the race, which ends up taking another hour and a half.  I figure I have a good enough excuse not to win.  Just finishing after such a bad wreck will be all the bragging rights I need.  

All my abrasions and lacerations sting a little when the dirt and sweat get in them, but I know the real pain won't start until I get off the bike and start stiffening up and feeling the bruises.
I finish eighth in the Sport division, and get to take home a couple water bottles for my trouble.  

Next week I'm going to try my first race in the Expert division.

Observatory Hill, Charlottesville, VA 1997



Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Cul-de-sac Alley

I happen to think we live in the best part of town.  Others might not agree, but screw them.  We bought our house about seven years ago, and in that time I've started to understand how people become territorial about their neighborhoods.  I never really got that before.  It's probably because I've never lived in the same house, or even in the same neighborhood, for more than four years at a time.

It used to baffle me that people organized themselves into violent gangs based on their street addresses.  I still can't fathom the violence part, but I can see how, when anchored in a geographical location by whatever forces--economics, peer pressure, inertia, comfort--people become defensive of their own 'hoods and critical of others'.

And sure enough, even among our yuppie friends, we talk like a bunch of street punks about those people who live in neighborhood X or suburb Y.  Well--we don't talk about popping caps in people's asses or anything.  We say stuff like, "I don't see how they can stand the traffic out there," or "I could never live at the beach--it's like a big frat party," or "I can't even tell one of those stucco McMansions from another." I'm sure they say things about our neighborhood like, "I'm just not crazy about all the homeless guys sleeping behind the grocery store."

read more...(You'll find yourself at Aiming Low.  Don't freak out.)

Friday, March 18, 2011

Our Babysitter Window Might be Closing

 I'm posting on Aiming Low today, about how we're those clingy parents who can't bear the thought of leaving our kids with a babysitter.  Pathetic, right?  This is how it starts:

We're dragging our feet, I know.

Our twin girls are closing in on two years old, and we have still never left them with a babysitter that wasn't a relative or friend.  People who know about these things tell us that it's of paramount importance to secure a babysitter we can trust and with whom we have a dispassionate financial arrangement that precludes any resentment of the type felt by put-upon friends and family, so that we can sneak out for the occasional date night.

I don't know if we have some subconscious fear or reluctance to allow a virtual stranger to watch our kids, or if we're just too lazy to do the legwork to find one.  We've gotten a few leads on babysitters from our friends with kids, but so far we haven't followed up.  We don't even know what we're supposed to do to determine if the potential babysitter is trustworthy.

Meanwhile, our kids have become very entrenched in their routines, and I'm afraid that the prospect of training a babysitter to minister to their requirements is getting more remote as the girls develop more complex rituals surrounding the events of their days.


Thursday, March 17, 2011

You Shouldn't be Honest in front of Your Kids

Yesterday morning, I got an email from  If you read parenting blogs, you know about this operation.  It's the mothership of the genre.  I don't really understand how it works, but it has about a million different contributors and sections and features.  Kind of like the Huffington Post of parenting.

If you write a parenting blog, you probably got the same email as I did.

The message was basically: "Hey, you with the blog!  Click here to read this new controversial post and then tell all your readers about it so they come over and read it too!"  It was a shameless bit of link-baiting, and I went for it hook, line, and sinker.  I mean, I knew what was up, but I had to take a look.  And here I am now telling you about this controversial post.

But I'm not going to tell you to go read it.  It's not really worth it.  If you read Babble today, check out the latest posts from John Cave Osborne instead (you owe me a beer, pal).  *Update--I didn't realize this, but as I was writing this, John was writing his own response, here.)

Here's the gist of the "Major Mom Confession" post:

The writer, a mom of two who is expecting her third, admits that she loves her son more she loves his older sister.  In a particularly weird twist that doesn't have much bearing on her controversial confession except in that it reveals what might be typically incoherent thinking on her part, she hopes that she is pregnant with a girl this time, so she can redeem herself by having a better relationship with the new daughter than she does with the older one.  But the main point is that she loves the boy more than the girl, feels terrible about it, and feels it necessary to unburden herself of this in front of the internet.

The most "shocking" morsel from the piece is when she says, "There are moments--in my least sane and darkest thoughts--when I think it wouldn't be so bad if I lost my daughter, as long as I never had to lose my son (assuming crazy, dire, insane circumstances that would never actually occur in real life)."  Then there are some qualifications and a little backpedaling, some rationalizations, and an emphasis that she feels a great deal of guilt about her favoritism.

Then the comment section (almost 400 strong when I read it) happens. And, lo, there is much rending of garments and gnashing of teeth and using of caps lock.  I skimmed, but I did notice that in the comments, the author defends herself and says she hopes her daughter will read the post when she's older, because it will strengthen their relationship somehow.

I put "shocking" in quotes earlier because I suspect that this confession, even though it's probably based on her actual feelings, is quite calculated, and aimed at driving traffic to the website and the author's other projects.

Not like we all don't try to attract readers.  But this stunt is pretty transparent and over-the-top.


Well, what if my cynical she-did-it-for-the-pagehits analysis is wrong, and she actually thought it was a good idea to announce her "least sane and darkest thoughts" on a very popular website?  In that case, the cynical explanation is the much less horrifying.

If we entertain the possibility that she didn't do it for the pagehits, then why would she have written this?  To let other moms (Babble is very mom-centric) know that they're not alone in favoring one kid over the others, and that they too should release themselves from the guilt by spilling their guts?  That honesty is always the best policy?

There are times when being totally honest and forthcoming is totally selfish and destructive.  And expressing your strong preference for one sibling over the other is one of those times.  It's not like you can help it if you like one kid more than the other.  But that's when, as a parent, you need to fake it for all you're worth.  You need to fake it until you have convinced even yourself that you love your kids equally.

I don't know if that's what a therapist would tell the author of the Babble article (and a number of her commenters wisely suggested that she shit out her guilt onto a paid professional instead of the internet, and inevitably sometime in the future, her own kids), but this seems to me like an instance that calls for good old-fashioned repression.  It worked when I was growing up and my parents never let on that I was their favorite.  I knew it, of course: because how could it be any other way?  And my parents knew it, naturally.  But my poor, naive sisters had no idea.  They probably thought they were the favorites.  My parents were that good.

We all have our "least sane and darkest thoughts."  (Don't we? It's not just me, is it?)  But most of us have the good sense not to broadcast them in a way that will eventually hurt people we are supposed to be protecting from harm.  If you become obsessed with those thoughts, you should probably talk to a professional or a really smart friend about them.  Otherwise, just think about something else, for crying out loud.

Thus concludes today's sermon.


Speaking of link-bait, how about reading my latest post on MamaPop, about kids' music that doesn't suck.  Maybe you could even add a few suggestions in the comment section over there.    


Monday, March 14, 2011

What Are We Gonna Call the Naughty Bits?

It's Monday, which usually means I'm posting on DadCentric.  And lo, I am posting on DadCentric!  Here's how it starts.  Please click the link at the end and come on over to give me some input on my linguistic conundrum.

We've come to a lexical crossroads with our 20-month-old twin girls.

Or maybe it's a fork in the road.

Perhaps a traffic circle?

Anyway, we're on a metaphorical road or path of some sort and we're at the point on that road where we have to figure out what euphemism we want to use when we talk about the girls' lady business. Businesses.  See?  Like I said--it's a problem.

We need to get on this posthaste too, because the days when they want to discuss know...junk, are virtually upon us.

Currently, they're fascinated by bodily functions, and although they don't always correctly distinguish "poo-poo" from "pee-pee," they are quite adept at pronouncing the words.  And somehow, those words don't bother my wife or me.  They're neither too cutesy nor too vulgar.  They seem to be pretty much the preferred juvenile terminology for "feces" and "urine" nowadays, and I don't think any of their future preschool classmates and teachers will think they have negligent parents because they use the non-clinical terms.

But in addition to the stuff they see in their dirty diapers, they are also fascinated with the body parts the diapers conceal.  At bathtime, they've started poking each other in the butt, saying "poo-poo," and falling into fits of laughter.  I know.  Comedy gold, right?

The fascination doesn't stop with the butt, either.  They both dedicate a little bit of bathtime every day to exploring their crotchal areas.  And again, their commentary in this context is restricted to the phrases "pee-pee" and "poo-poo," which they use interchangeably to refer to anything that happens or exists in the diapered region.  I may once again be projecting my own anxieties onto the kids, but I swear that when they verbally flail around with "poo-poo pee-pee," they look at us quizzically, almost plaintively, wondering why we don't tell them the right words.


Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Random Tuesday Thoughts: Hmm...


It's been a long time since I played Random Tuesday Thoughts, sponsored by my friend Keely, at The UnMom.  Unless things have changed, I think you just click on the spattery-looking sign with the ham (after you read everything below), and you'll find yourself at Keely's blog, where you'll receive further instructions. 


I think having kids kind of focuses your thinking, even as it makes you into a hopeless scatterbrain.  Seems paradoxical, right?  Exactly.  Case in point.

I haven't been having many random thoughts lately, because I'm busy being pretty practical; at least when I'm not goofing around with my imaginary internet friendsActually, I'm even fairly practical when socializing all up in the social media.  As much as that is possible.   Again, paradoxical.  Or maybe not.

What I'm saying is that I no longer have time to daydream, because the tasks of parenting, while sometimes tedious, mostly require a good deal of the parent's attention.  At least that's how it works for me.

And I sleep so hard (and briefly) now that I don't lie around pondering stuff.  I rarely remember my dreams; and lately, the kids having been sick on and off for a month, I tend to wake up to the sound of wailing children before I even have a chance to start dreaming.

So essentially, the tedium of parenting has crushed my dreams.  

Wait.  That's not exactly where I was going with this.

I wanted to talk about language acquisition. 

Our 20-month-old twins are having the typical language explosion that toddlers their age experience.  I say "typical" just so you won't think that I think my kids are somehow special for figuring out a bunch of words.  I honestly don't think they are any better than any other children.  It's their parents who are the real geniuses.

So the words are coming fast and furious.  Nouns, verbs, and adjectives, mostly.  No adverbs to speak of.  Or articles.  The odd pronoun makes its way into their telegraphic sentences; but they don't really know how to use them properly yet.  I haven't heard any prepositions out of the kids either.

One thing I wasn't prepared for was how they would pick up on non-verbal language, especially of the audible type.  I could see them picking up body language from us and everyone else they see, but the thing that really blew me away recently--and I'm not sure why--was this:


It's the "hmmm..." that really floors me.  We were walking around the house the other day, looking for Cobra's precious stuffed dog, Puppy (unlike "Cobra," "Puppy" is the actual name of the critter), and without thinking, I was saying, "I wonder where he is...hmmm...." Well, danged if Cobra didn't start imitating me.  And pretty soon her sister, Butterbean, started doing the same.  Now, whenever I ask where anything is, there's a pretty good chance one or both of the kids will go, "hmmm..."

It's really cute now, but  I'm sure at some point they will learn to mock me with it: *nudge nudge* "Oh...look at Dad.  I wonder where he put his wallet? Hmmm...  Old scatterbrained fool."

So check it out: I've also got a post up at DadCentric.  It's about whether going outside is a good idea or not.  There are a bunch more cute videos there.  Here's how it starts: 

A while ago, I was whining on another group blog about what an ass-pain it is to take kids on out-of-town trips.  I still maintain that the benefits of exposing toddlers to a new environment that requires sleeping under a different roof barely outweigh the onus of hauling all of their equipment to that location.  Unless you're going to see Grandma, you might as well just go to the vacant lot down the street as take your kid across the county line.  I honestly believe that a two-year-old can't tell the difference between Chuck E. Cheese and Disneyland.  So they certainly wouldn't be any more impressed by Yosemite National Park than by the abandoned rock quarry just outside of town.

Despite the hassles of traveling with youngsters, I was reminded just yesterday of a very valuable and probably completely obvious lesson: it's almost always better to get the kids out of the house than to coop them up for long stretches of time.  I always assumed this was the case, and have hardly ever kept our twins at home all day since they were born 20 months ago.  But yesterday they seemed pretty tired, having been out late at a dinner party/playdate the night before.  In fact, they had done so much fun stuff the previous week that they were pretty run down.  Or maybe I was projecting my own state onto them.



Thursday, March 3, 2011

Cooking and Crunk

What's up, yo.

I've got posts up at Aiming Low and at MamaPop.  The one at Aiming Low is about how you can blend your foodie tendencies with the practicality of processed food to tinker around with your guilt-to-pleasure ratio.  

The one at MamaPop is a review of a new song and video by a hipster hip-hop/satire outfit called Wallpaper. which I predict will become the ironic party song of the summer.


Here's an excerpt from the Aiming Low post: 

How to be a Foodie, Aiming Low Style

I have to admit that my wife and I have foodie tendencies.  We shop at the farmers' market every Sunday.  We (well, my wife) made all our kids' baby food from fresh produce instead of buying it in jars.  We went to The French Laundry for my fortieth birthday, for cryin' out loud.

But just because we're foodie-ish doesn't mean that we're total food snobs.  It's true that we really love to eat delicious, high-quality food, and it makes us feel all warm and self-righteous inside if that food happens to be organic and locally grown; but we also enjoy cheap-and-dirty taquerias and Vietnamese sandwich shops, and the occasional (*gasp*) chain restaurant.

And at home, we like a balance of haute cuisine and convenience.  Oh, and nutrition I guess.  Before the twins were born, my wife used to cook three or four fairly elaborate dinners per week, and I would fill in the gaps with simpler fare.  During the Year of Constant Breastfeeding, it fell upon me to do most of the cooking, and I used the opportunity to explore a wide range of cooking styles, with varying degrees of success.

Nowadays, with the kids (20 months old) eating variations of grownup food, some days we tend to scarf down their leftovers after they're in bed and call it good.  Occasionally we'll make a real dinner or pick up some takeout.  We have learned to be flexible.



And here's an excerpt from the MamaPop post:

Prediction: #STUPiDFACEDD by Hipster Hip-Hop Band Wallpaper. Will be the Ironic Party Hit of the Summer

MTV 2 has declared March “indie music month,” and is celebrating by interspersing episodes of Lingerie Football League and reruns of Martin with actual music videos by indie artists.

The first video they have featured is for the single “#STUPiDFACEDD”, by Wallpaper., the name under which Oakland multi-instrumentalist and smartass Eric Frederic records and performs, sometimes accompanied by drummer Arjun Singh and other session musicians.  As you have no doubt guessed by the annoying punctuation and typography in the band name and song title, Frederic, a Berkeley grad with a degree in classical music, is a provocateur.

As the frontman for Wallpaper., he adopts the persona of Ricky Reed, a sleazy rapper with a taste for hard liquor and hip-hop cliches.  I wouldn’t call his work “parody” exactly; but the satire here is so thick that it almost comes off as sketch comedy.

The thing is, though, that the beats are sick.  As the kids say.



And when you're done, you can reward yourself with this cute video, in which the twins show you how to really get into whatever you're reading.



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