Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Me at Aiming Low: Don't Call Me Lucky!

I've got a post up at Aiming Low about how I used to hate it whenever anyone called me "lucky."  I doesn't really happen anymore, though.  I'm not sure why.

Luck Be a Lady

I don't really smoke (anymore).  But I do sometimes win some money from the machines.

Something just occurred to me.  Like just this minute.  Okay, maybe about half an hour ago.  It's this: for the past several years, very few people have called me "lucky."

You would think people would be saying it all the time, right?  I get to hang out with the cutest kids in the world all day every day, I don't have to have a stupid job, nobody makes me wear socks or long pants or shirts with buttons on them, and my wife doesn't yell at me for spending all my "down time" goofing around on the Internet.  Let's face it--my life is a beautiful dream.

And no, it's not just that I haven't been listening carefully.  I would have noticed if people had been calling me lucky.  Because I used to get that shit all. The.  Time.  And I did not like it.

From as early as I can remember, people have been telling me how lucky I am.

read more at Aiming Low...

***

I also have a couple short pieces up on TLC Parentables:

Friday, June 24, 2011

Me at Aiming Low: Father's Day Recap

Got a little something up at Aiming Low today.  Maybe you'll like it.  Who knows?  Anyway, it starts like this:

Father's Day Recap
 
Last Sunday was, as you have probably completely forgotten by now, Father's Day.  I really wanted to write something here at Aiming Low to give a shout out to dads and people who have, or had, or maybe have a thing for them.  After all, nearly half the parents in this country are fathers, and fully 78 percent of them are aware that they have children!

Having been a father myself for almost two years now, I've taken a great interest in the holiday, studied its historical roots and socio-political implications, and had hoped to share some of my insights as to its significance with the esteemed Aiming Low readers.  Unfortunately I had been under the impression that it was in August; so by the time I realized that was not the case, it was too late to put a post together in time.

Father's Day, it turns out, is tomorrow.  Okay. Not tomorrow tomorrow.  Tomorrow for me, right this minute, which is approximately a week ago to you, reading this now.  Provided you are reading it on the day it was published.  Still don't get it?  Really?

Read more at Aiming Low...

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Me on Parentables: Bilingual Kids Will Make You Feel Stupid

Check out my new thing on TLC Parentables.  It's about how my kids are making me feel like an idiot.

Starts like this here...



There is no shortage of evidence that raising kids to be bilingual is beneficial in terms of their future language and problem-solving abilities.  And if, like my kids, the children have extended family members who speak a language other than that of the country in which they are being raised, being bilingual is almost a necessity.

My wife emigrated from Vietnam with her family as a toddler.  And although her English is not bad (okay, it’s flawless, but I like to pretend I can’t understand what she’s saying sometimes, just to mess with her), she has never spoken anything but Vietnamese to her parents, grandfather, and scores of aunts, uncles, cousins, and other relatives of ambiguous kinship that seem to endlessly drift through her parents' kitchen.  So when we visit her family on the East Coast, or when they visit us here in California, very little English is spoken.

When I first started spending a lot of time with her family, shortly before we were to be married (10 years ago today!), this used to frustrate me a bit.  I always wanted to know what was being said, and would pester my wife or her siblings for simultaneous translations.  After getting the same response to my requests a couple dozen times, I finally got the message: banal family chatter was not worth the trouble of translating.  If I needed to know something, someone would speak English, or recruit a translator from among the younger family members.  I learned that during big family get-togethers, although it would be considered rude for me to go read a book, it was perfectly acceptable for me to gaze into the middle-distance with a beatific smile, daydreaming about snow-capped mountains or pie.


***

I also wrote a couple shorter pieces on Parentables that you might enjoy, as long as you're trying to kill time at work



And once more thing.  I just want to make sure that everyone reads the guest post that MY VERY OWN DAD wrote for Father's Day, wherein he shares stories of my grandpa, who could have kicked Chuck Norris's  ass while roping a steer.  It's pretty much the coolest thing anyone has ever written on this blog, and I'll probably keep pimping it until I'm sure everyone in the world has read it. 

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Product Review: Promax Energy Bars, they taste pretty freaking good.



I'm not gonna lie to you.  I'm writing this post for the money.  I was contacted by a PR firm who offered to back a dump truck full of cash up to my house if I reviewed this...what is it...Promax stuff.  What was I supposed to do?  Say no?

Maybe the "truckload of cash" thing is an exaggeration.  It was more like a fistful of ones.  Just about enough for dinner at a nice restaurant to celebrate my wedding anniversary.  At least my half of of the bill.  Before tax and tip.  Not including drinks.  Because we always go Dutch as part of my insistence on maintaining some sense of  independence despite my my status as housebitch.* 

Is that cool, FCC?  Have I disclosed enough?  Can I get on with the product review?

The product, Promax, is an energy/nutrition/calorie-replenishing type of bar of the sort you might stick in your backpack or bike jersey pocket if you were all active and outdoorsy like that.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Tex: A Special Father's Day Guest Post, by...My Dad!

(A note from Beta Dad, because I can't keep my yap shut and just let someone take over my blog, especially not my dad)

My grandpa died when I was in college.  I wouldn't say that I knew him well, but like a lot of people, I was always in awe of him.  

When I was growing up, we lived overseas a lot, and then on the East Coast, so we didn't see enough of our people in Montana.  Grandpa was a little scary to me when I was a kid, in the ways many grandpas can be--he was big and rough and didn't talk all that much.  But it was always fun to visit him and my other relatives in Havre because there would be plenty of riding around in pickups and on horseback and messing around with livestock and picking vegetables for Grandma to cook; and, when I got older, going from house to house to sit on lawn chairs and drink cheap beer (by the time I was old enough to drink, all the old guys had had to swear off whiskey for medical reasons) and tell stories.  When Grandpa loosened up, he was funny and charming and would offhandedly tell these stories--like he was talking about a trip to the post office--that would just make your jaw drop.  

During one of the last conversations I remember having with him, he told me about a two-car bootlegging run he had been involved in (moonshine, I guess, since this would have been when he lived in Tennessee or Arkansas), in which the driver of the other car wanted to fight him, just for bragging rights.  Finally, on a pit stop, Grandpa obliged him by beating him to a pulp.  When the guy recovered enough to drive, they went on with their business.  But later on during the trip, the other driver still wanted to challenge Grandpa, so he tried to race him on a narrow country road.  This went even worse for him than the fistfight had: he ran off the road, rolled the car, and died.

"We buried him right there at Bear Mountain," Grandpa said.  "Still had two black eyes from boxing."

I was all, "Great story, Grandpa!  It's just like this time when I left a frat party on my bicycle with a beer in my backpack and this chick's boyfriend wanted to fight me but I was too fast for him..."  Except I didn't really say that.  I usually didn't know what to say to Grandpa.  I just liked listening.


Anyway, I cajoled my dad into writing down some of the stories he remembers about Grandpa for this super-special exclusive Father's Day post.  

A note about my dad: he calls himself a band and choir geek who couldn't measure up to his dad in terms of  badassness.  And yet my dad was a decorated Army infantry officer who fought two tours in Vietnam, sported a Ranger tab and Jump Wings on his uniform, went on to be a Defense Department spook diplomat during the Cold War, and a treaty negotiator after the fall of the Soviet Union.  (Read more about Dad here)

And then there's me.  After I read this collection of anecdotes my dad sent me, I was thinking about them all day long.  I find it amazing that I'm related to these guys.  I'm proud to share their DNA, and to think that, even if it's never necessary, I might have the courage and grit encoded somewhere in my personality to face a fraction of the challenges they kicked the asses of.  

Then, as I was scraping the shit out of a cloth diaper and thinking about atavism, I slipped and almost broke one of the fingernails on my right hand, which I keep long and meticulously filed for playing classical guitar.  "Dammit!" I whined. 

Happy Father's Day, Dad!  Thanks for sharing these memories of your paw.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Link-bait: Fake Father's Day Guide, Facebook Fawning

I wrote an alternative Father's Day gift guide over at TLC Parentables.  I don't know if I really even know what it means.  You might find it interesting, though.  Who knows.

A Stay-at-Home Dad's Guide to Father's Day Gifts 

I guess I should come clean. If you're looking for something to buy for that special dad in your life, you should probably check out a real gift guide, like this one. I can almost guarantee that this post will not contain any useful shopping tips. Except maybe this: Don't bother going shopping.

I have a little problem with most holidays that involve gift-giving. I'm getting more tolerant of them since I've become a dad, and especially since I saw how excited my now-2-year-old twins were on the first Christmas that they were actually sentient enough to have some tiny clue about what was going on. But there's still a part of me that sees these days as little more than occasions for obligatory monetary transactions whose meaning is sullied by commercial pressures.

Did that sound cynical? Maybe it is, but it's also practical. See, my wife and I haven't had separate bank accounts for close to 15 years. And since I've become a stay-at-home dad, I don't really contribute anything to the accounts we do have. So we don't usually bother with the charade of the gift exchange anymore. If one of us needs, or just wants, something special for ourselves, we talk to the other and then buy it or don't buy it.

read more at TLC Parentables...

***
And on Aiming Low, I wrote a defense of social media against all the haters who say it's stupid.  I maintain that, while it is stupid, it's no stupider than "real life."

In Defense of the Robots

I was having  a conversation with a friend today, when she told me she was planning to close her Facebook account because of some drama that had gone down that reminded her of the ugliness of high school.  She felt social media had undermined the established etiquette of face-to-face communication and given people license to spew vitriol in ways they never would in the flesh. Naturally, my friend and I were having this conversation on--you guessed it--Facebook.  And, in fact, she is one of the many people I consider a friend, without having met them in person.

 Although I'm often deeply suspicious of/annoyed by/resentful of Facebook, I felt compelled to defend it as a legitimate forum for communication, having advantages and drawbacks comparable to any other.

This time, I used one of my pet linguistic theories to defend the medium as well as the the guy she felt had slighted her.  After all, I am sometimes an English teacher, and I have a master's degree in Rhetoric.  Who better to smooth the choppy waters of the information superhighway through concise linguistic analysis, which, as we know, is the best salve for the slings and arrows of the human barnyard we call communication?

read more on Aiming Low...

***
Once again, I have to apologize for not having anything new on this site this week.  But tomorrow, if everything goes as planned, I should have a really cool Father's Day post featuring a very special guest blogger.  Stay tuned!

 

Friday, June 10, 2011

Me on Aiming Low: Children and Loss


Hey!  Got a little something up on Aiming Low this morning.  It's all deep and powerful, so approach with caution and some hankies.  It starts like this:

  Helping Children Cope with Loss


It’s something none of us, as parents, can ever be fully prepared for: the loss of a child’s loved one.  It’s gut-wrenching at any age, but for toddlers who are just making sense of the world around them and the relationships in which they’re involved–and just learning how to use language to process that information–there is a unique set of problems parents must confront when grappling with how to comfort bereaving children and how to usher them through a journey of grief.


Last week was a difficult one for our two children, especially Twin A, aka Cobra. Both kids suffered the loss of two special friends.  Both girls were shaken, but little Cobra took it particularly hard.  Even though Green Balloon technically belonged to Cobra’s sister, Butterbean, it was Cobra who invoked its name constantly for days after the accidental popping.
So, when Cobra lost Mimi, her silky/fuzzy blanket with the little tabs around the perimeter later that week, it should have been no surprise to us that her grief was profound and she was not going to be easily distracted from it.


read more at Aiming Low...






Here's a bonus video featuring the kids shrieking at each other.







Thanks for reading, and have a great weekend!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Me on TLC Parentables: Multiple Personalities

I've got a new post up on Parentables this morning.  It's about the compulsion people have to define kids' personalities as soon as they start emerging, and how that seems to be especially true with multiples.  Here's how it starts:

Multiple Personalities
 

I only have two kids, and they happen to be twin girls who will be two years old in a couple weeks.  So I'm a bit hesitant to make generalizations about multiples, since I've never had any other family configuration with which to compare the experience.

Despite not being an expert on the differences between multiples and singletons, I have figured out a few things that people want to know about twins from participating in the following conversation approximately one million times:

Nice Stranger: Oh my gosh!  They're so cute!

Me: Thank you!  I agree!  I thought I was the only one who felt that way.

Nice Stranger: How old are they?

Me: Almost two.

Nice Stranger: Oh wow.  They're really close in age then.

Me: Yeah.  They're, um, twins.

Nice Stranger: But they're not...

Me: Identical?  Nope.  Fraternal.

Nice Stranger: But they're both...

Me: Girls.  Yup.

I give the friendly stranger a minute to process the information--to search the archives for the rudimentary knowledge of genetics that they gleaned from their 10th grade biology class.

No, twins do not have to be identical. Yes, they are called "fraternal" even if they are girls.  Yes, human gestation takes about 40 weeks, so singleton siblings are usually quite distinct from one another, especially in the earlier years.

I used to be shocked when people didn't realize that our kids were twins right away.  Although they don't look very similar, they are exactly the same size, and, you know, at the same developmental stage.  Because they're twins.  Sometimes I'm tempted to say they're three months apart and just let the stranger stew on that for a while.

read more on TLC Parentables...


 ***

I also wrote  a couple shorter pieces on Parentables that might interest you:



Thanks for reading!






Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Hockey and Brain Tumors

Over at DadCentric today, I wrote about my reaction to witnessing ritual violence at a hockey game.  It starts a little something like this:

 Sports is Weird: Hockey Edition

Let me just get something out of the way, right off the bat (to use one of the millions of sports metaphors that are so ubiquitous we don't even recognize them as metaphors): I'm not much of a sports fan.  Actually, not a sports fan at all.  There are exactly zero professional teams that I give a rat's ass about, and three college athletic programs that I feel some sort of kinship with, since I (or my parents on my behalf) paid tuition at those schools, and that gives me a tiny, mostly imaginary stake in their fortunes.

There are a bunch of reasons for my lack of interest, most of which have to do with my never having felt a great connection to a city or geographic region growing up, and even more so with my skepticism that a professional team really represents me as a resident of wherever I live.  It's really difficult for me to maintain interest in a sports contest in which I don't care who wins and who loses.

There are a lot of sports I like to participate in though; and I do enjoy displays of athleticism and on-field drama as they are depicted in highlight reels and movies about sports.

But that's not even what I want to talk about.  It's just some background so you might understand that my bemusement with the world of sports comes from a willful ignorance of it.

Read more...

***

And in case you missed it, at Aiming Low yesterday, I wrote about how I thought I had a brain tumor, but it turned out I was just using the wrong deodorant.

I Thought I Had a Brain Tumor, but It Was Just the Wrong Deodorant 

I read a book a long time ago.  I can’t remember the name of it, but I’m pretty sure it was by E.L. Doctorow.  In it, the main character is losing his mental faculties because of a brain tumor.  Or some kind of degenerative brain disease.  Or something like that. 

You know, I might as well give up reading books altogether for how much of the content I retain.

Anyway, as I usually do after investing twenty hours or so in reading a novel, I remembered one tidbit.  The character with the brain tumor, or lesion, or parasite, or whatever it was, kept smelling things that weren’t there, or perceiving the wrong odor when he smelled stuff that was there.

Ever since reading that book, I’ve been very distracted whenever I detect a distinctive odor that seems out of place.  Mostly the mystery smell would just make me think about that book, whatever it was called and whatever it was about, and how interesting that one tidbit I retained was.

But recently, I started having this recurring olfactory hallucination, and it got me a bit panicked.  At random times, I would smell something that reminded me of a Greyhound station in Southwest Virginia where I spent way too much time when I was in a long-distance relationship in college and had a suspended driver’s license.  Pretty glamorous, I know.  It was a sweet floral scent with earthy undertones.  In other words, it smelled like purple disinfectant and dirt.


***

You thought that was it, right?  Well guess again.  I also posted a couple short commentaries on newsy-ish stuff over on TLC Parentables.  Please enjoy some more links.



So, that's why I haven't posted anything in this space for a while.  Busy.  But I will soon.  Swears.

Thanks for reading, sharing, commenting, checking in.  

Oh yeah.  It was my birthday on Monday.  So thanks if you said happy birthday!  Or even if you thought it, or are thinking it right now.  

I need to just stop typing.
 



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