Friday, October 30, 2009

Why I Won't Sleep Much Halloween Night

39 clever quips
"Hey, Dad! Wanna see my pictures from art class?"

bloody pumpkin

"That's an scary looking jack-o-lantern, Thing 2. But, uh, what's with the red under the eyes and mouth?"

"That's blood! Oozing out!"

"Uh, awesome, buddy. What else ya got there? That's a big one."

"Yeah. I was the only one to do two pictures. Everyone else only did one. But I did TWO."

 witch flies by moon

"Cool looking witch silhouette in front of the moon, dude."

"Yeah. Look down there ...


"... That's a tombstone by the house!"

"Nice touch, son... but, um, what's that over there? ...

 scarecrow with chainsaw

"... Is that a scarecrow? With a chainsaw?"

"Yeah! He came to the life! He cut up the man in the house. That's who's under the tombstone!"



"So, uh ... wanna tear into the bag of AirHeads I bought for the trick-or-treaters?"



Happy Halloween. Be good to your trick-or-treaters. And your kids. Please.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Conditions May Be Slippery

28 clever quips
driveway leavesThe autumn sky refused to wake this morning. Rain dripped then coldly plummeted and the wind scissored through the Northeastern trees, cutting leaves down in carnival-colored tears.

I told the Things to pile in the minivan. No walking to school this A.M.

The tires tried to accelerate up the driveway, but slipped and skidded on the motley blanket of New England fall. I warned the Things, as they sat seat-belted in the middle row. I warned them that no matter how quickly you need to get somewhere, sometimes you must be slow and cautious because even the most passive beauty can hide the potential for mayhem.


The phone rang a few hours later.

The voice from the children's hospital said we needed to increase one of the medications for Thing 1. Nothing to fret over. Thing 1 was growing and the dosage needed to go up slightly to match her weight.

I understand, I said.

I asked about the X-rays and bone density scans.

Good, she said, good. No signs of arthritis; no signs of thinning.

I understand, I said.

The doctor said we could start to taper off one of the remaining meds if everything looked well, I told the voice on the phone, so does this mean we can move forward?

She started her next sentence with "unfortunately."

She looked beautiful, I remember the doctor telling me and My Love, as we stood with them in the examination room. She looks beautiful.

"So we're going to leave the medications where they are for now, except for that one tiny  increase," the voice said in my ear. "We'll see where we are in a few months."

I understand, I said.

Unfortunately, I understand.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Lost in Translation

25 clever quips
When the Things were younger, we set the TVs in our house to display the closed captioning under the belief that this might help the runts learn to recognize words and spell while somewhat countering Zack and Cody's best efforts to turn their brains to mush.

closed captioning failI cannot verify this method actually works, given Thing 1's struggles with reading and what happened this past weekend with Thing 2.

My Love sat in the living room watching a movie and Thing 2, taking a break from his ambitious early compiling of his Christmas list (top item: "Everything Pokemon"), joined her. In one scene in the movie, the brother tries to teach his sister's boyfriend to how to say "thank you" in a foreign language.

"Oréa viziá," says the boyfriend to the brother's mom.

In a subtitle, up pops the English translation: "Nice boobs."

Thing 2 giggles.

Curious, My Love asked him what the words onscreen said.

"It said, 'Nice bobs."

Since the movie was My Big Fat Greek Wedding, I can only assume Thing 2 took this to be a joke about shish kabobs.

Friday, October 23, 2009

The Sex Vacuum

23 clever quips
I'm firing the people who clean our house. Apparently, they're killing my sex life.

The Wall Street Journal, known internationally as the Masters and Johnson of financial reporting and research, wrote this week about a study that finds the more housework husbands and wives do, the more likely they are to have sex.
sex vacuum

Sex with each other, I should note. Cybersex, actual physical affairs and going solo were not mentioned, so I can only assume that when one spouse scrubs the shower grout, even if it is with some Bon Ami, that the other spouse is the sole beneficiary of said scrubbing.

After reading this, I thought back to the time when My Love and I did all the housework. It was when we first moved in together, living in sin and overly indulging in it as young people in the throes of new love tend to do. We spent every weekend at our townhouse dusting away the cobwebs, waxing the linoleum and polishing the knobs …

Then we did the housework.

Sometime after the first month of this cleansing yet apparently dirty bliss, I recall My Love -- the Febreeze blowing through her hair -- moaning longingly into a starlit summer evening, "Oh, baby ... screw this. I'm hiring a service."

Had I known then what I know now!

Was it me that drove her away?

She had always criticized my haphazard folding of the laundry back then, but I laughed at it.

"If you don’t like how I do it, then you can do it yourself," I scoffed.

So she did. For a while.

But we know the pleasure of folding by one's self is fleeting. That's when My Love went outside our relationship.

She hired a 300-pound, cigarette-smoking, former addict and single mom whose beefy biceps could have crushed my windpipe before you said "lemony-fresh Pledge." Every Thursday morning, she came to our condo and every Thursday afternoon, she left the place gleaming and spotless.

And, in retrospect, nookie-free.

Our love life has clearly waned in the quantity department since those lust-filled days of Pine-Sol and Easy Off. My mission, therefore, is clear: 

Every weekend, participate in the dirtiest, wettest ménage à trois ever -- just me, My Love and Mr. Clean.

(Note: Illustration by Michael Witte for the Wall Street Journal)

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Tuesday To Do List

18 clever quips
1. Eat vegetables even though you'd prefer a double chocolate doughnut.

2. Share a giggle with me as I tell the real story behind Gwen Thompson, the formerly homeless American Girl character that parent company Mattel is trying to pawn off on you at $95 a pop. It's over on DadCentric. You know, the place where the Wild Things are.

3. Go see Where the Wild Things Are. By yourself. It's a very good movie about both the reckless abandon, infinite imagination and awkwardness of childhood. Exuberant, dark, brilliant, sad, funny and quiet. We parents all need a refresher in that now and again.

4. Root for the underdog.

5. Read my brief attempt to be deep about death at Polite Fictions, a nifty little site at which a host of far more talented and twisted bloggers attempt to string together a tale of intrigue and deception. For my entry, all you need to know is that Aloysius is a Russian goon whose throat was slit when he went to light his prisoner's cigarette.

6. Don't smoke or enable others to smoke. It'll kill you one way or the other.

7. Hug your kids when they least expect it. It's good to keep them guessing.

8. Run around barefoot in the grass one last time before the cold really hits.

9. Vote for me as Hottest Daddy Blogger. Being uncool means I'm hot, right?

10. Get a better dictionary.

11. Don't just read the RSS feed -- visit my blog and check out my new tag line.

12. Eat the doughnut any way. Life is too short.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

New Low in Pediatric Dental Care

28 clever quips
My kids are generally quite open and honest. This is good because they are incredibly inept at lying.

A prime example comes in the form of my son, the emotional pendulum known as Thing 2, when it comes to brushing his teeth.

If he has cleaned his crooked off-whites, it's all sweetness and chubby angelic cheeks and here, Daddio -- have a whiff of my minty Colgate breath. If he hasn't, he'll lie right to your face, providing your disembodied head is floating somewhere up near the ceiling because that is where is eyes roll up toward when he lets the bull fly.

"Let me smell your breath."

"Maahh! You don't believe me! Waaaaaaah!"

"If you brushed, then let me get a snootful of that fluoridey freshness."


"Dude, I felt the toothbrush and it's not wet. It's been three days since the bathroom was cleaned, yet the sink contains no globs of blue goo. And I marked the level of the anti-cavity rinse with a line on the bottle this morning and -- boo-yah -- it's unchanged."

"You HATE me!"

For a kid who has had four cavities fixed already at age 7, he's unusually stubborn about this.

He's also unusually oblivious. This is not the first time I've laid out how I compile all the evidence against him when he tries to fib his way out of brushing. Why doesn't he just run the brush under the water, put a dab of toothpaste on his tongue and a mess in the sink, and dump a little rinse out? I think it's because deep down, he's morally good and grounded.

And somewhat lazy.

What's a dad to do with a young 'un who refuses to practice good oral hygiene even though said young 'un maintains a diet based on all the major members of the -ose family: glucose, fructose, dextrose, etc?

I've tried reward charts, punishments, electric toothbrushes, musical toothbrushes, toothbrushes shaped like fire trucks, toothpastes featuring cartoon characters, toothpastes endorsed by TV stars -- you know, everything a good American would try except standing there and actually  watching him brush because that would make me a helicopter parent and he needs to learn responsibility.

And, I'm somewhat lazy.

After one recent argument with him over his failure to brush and greater failure to lie convincingly about his previous failure, I rhetorically asked:

"What do I have to do to get you to brush your teeth?"

Since rhetoric, like penmanship, is not part of the second grade curriculum in our town, Thing 2 answered plainly:

"Drop your pants."

So I did.

As graceful a 'half monty' as a desperate dad could muster. (Boxer-briefs, don't fail me now!)

And no sooner did the pants hit the floor then up the stairs he scurried, twisted the tap and began to brush.


Maybe I'm on to something here?

Next, I will attempt to resolve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

For that, though, I may need an assistant.

And a wax job.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Do Me a Solid Sunday - Stamp Out Cancer, Swirl Girl Style

7 clever quips
You folks made My Love's birthday extra special this year with your support of my self-proclaimed Cure JM Awareness Day across the blogosphere. I owe you all. Really.

That's why I'm starting an irregular feature called "Do Me a Solid Sunday." It's simple. Now and then, I will recognize one of my regular readers who has a worthy cause to pimp, a good story to tell or access to their parents' liquor cabinet.

swirl girl logoMy first honoree is Wendy of Swirl Girl's Pearls. I don't know exactly when Wendy and I first ran into each other online, but it seems like forever -- give or take 18 months -- that we started leaving comments on each others' blogs, replying to those e-mails, replying to the those replies, ad infinitium (that's Latin for "neither of us knows when to shut up.")

A few months back, Wendy took part in the American Cancer Society's Relay for Life. I'll let her explain why:

"Last year, cancer affected my life quite personally and painfully. My wonderful dad, Irwin Keller, passed away on January 10th, 2008 from Merkel Cell Carcinoma - are very rare and painful form of skin cancer.  He also sought treatment of Chronic Lymphatic Leukemia for over 20 years.  Not to mention my own diagnosis and recovery with Thyroid cancer. I can't think of anyone whose lives have not been touched in some way by cancer."

I knew Swirl was a kick-ass person, but she actually kicked cancer's ass! Mother Shucker -- how awesome is that? Now I hold her in even higher esteem ... and fear that if I invoke her anger, she will also snuff me out.

Swirl is still a few hundred dollars short of her goal, so if you can afford a few sheckles I'm sure she'd appreciate it by donating at this site. You might even help save a life.

If you can't do that, that's cool. But you should at least stop by this beautiful post of hers about how she meet her true love.

Though if you leave a comment, be prepared for a lengthy e-mail chain to follow.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

What Me, Blacklisted?

32 clever quips
If you read my post at DadCentric Tuesday, you know that I overexerted myself a bit the other week at my kids' soccer practices. (If you didn't read it, click over to "Kids are a Pain" now. I'll wait.)

The irony of this is that I'm not supposed to be coaching soccer at all this season. I was blacklisted by the league.

My crime? Verbal abuse of the referees? Climbing into the stands to hit a parent? Putting steroids in the halftime juice boxes?

Nope. I had a few choice exchanges with the league's directors last year and I used some inappropriate words.

They were "50 percent refund."

Three of the seven games my daughter's team played one season were won by forfeit because the other team didn't have enough players show. The eighth game, for the championship, was canceled because the league assigned someone else to our field. So, being the accountant's son that I am, I asked the league to give my team's parents half their money back.

I e-mailed them three times with my request before someone finally responded. That was only after I might have casually mentioned calling the city parks department and team sponsors about reconsidering their support for the league.

Anyway, six minutes after I hit the "send" button on the third missive, my phone rang.

It was an enlightening discussion that went something like this:

LEAGUE BIGWIG: We don't refund money to players. They're children.

ME: Good thing. They'd probably spend it on cheap whiskey, angel dust and chicken nuggets. That's why I requested you refund my players' parents. It's in the e-mail. All three of them.

LEAGUE BIGWIG: You said your last game was a playoff. That age bracket isn't supposed to have playoffs.

ME: I don't care what you call it. It was a game on the schedule you gave us that wasn't played because of your scheduling mistake.

LEAGUE BIGWIG: But it wasn't a playoff. That league is not supposed to have playoffs.

ME: Whatever. I had one parent cut a weekend trip short to bring their kid to a game that didn't occur because a schedule you issued us three months ago was wrong.

LEAGUE BIGWIG: But it wasn't a playoff.

My favorite part of this whole conversation (apart from some inevitable cussing on my part because, alas, I can only stand so much stupid) was being lectured about this being a not-for-profit league run by volunteers and the importance of being involved, not just as a mere coach of two teams (as I was) but as a league commissioner, an executive director or eventually the head of ACORN.

This came right before Bigwig told me I was NOT invited to attend the board meeting at which my request was being discussed.

I volunteered to show up anyway. He couldn't see the irony past his iron fist.

As expected, my request was denied. So, I let it drop and moved on, coaching two teams for another season without incident.

Then, when the league issued its autumn rosters, the Things received their team assignments but I was not a coach for either team even though I volunteered (remember that word) to run one team and assist with the other.

I figured maybe they actually had enough coaches, though that would have been a first in my two years in the league. Call me skeptical. I made a few calls just to be sure.

"Man, I didn't want to tell you this," said my assistant from a previous season. "They called me and drafted me to run a team. I told them I was only planning on being your assistant again this year. Then they said you weren't being allowed to coach a team this year because of some incident you had over the winter."

My response to this. I volunteered. Directly -- to both my kids' coaches. They both welcomed the added help. In fact, I "officially" was promoted to co-coach of one team because the other coach travels for business frequently.

Part of my new coaching duties is to introduce myself to the refs before every game, make small talk with them and compliment their outstanding officiating skills. By doing this, they always come to me when the game ends and hand me a special slip of paper.

It's their pay sheet for the league.

I make certain I print and sign my name in very large, legible bold letters.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Presents from Strangers

23 clever quips
In the wee hours of Friday morning, My Love's Blackberry started buzzing and beeping.

That's not all that unusual. She works for an international "healthy snack food" company where a thousandth of a penny rise in the cost of high fructose corn syrup purchased from Ickypatangoglockenstan can domino within a few minutes into the need to shrink package sizes in southeastern New Zealand and switch to single-ply TP at corporate so as to avoid 1.3 job eliminations in the Albuquerque distribution center three fiscal years from now.

However, this was different. She couldn't understand why this sudden burst of e-mails she received were receipts for donations made to our Cure JM fundraising account.

Surprise, sweetie!

Needless to say, she was very moved and touched by all the birthday wishes and support you invisible folks out there in the ether offered her.

About 120 sites participated in Cure JM Awareness Day in the Blogosphere on Oct. 2. My guess is that several thousand, if not maybe ten thousand or more (don't be modest -- a few of you have pretty popular destinations along the highway of ones and zeros) learned something about juvenile myositis for the first time.

More than $1,200 was raised and I'm sure more will trickle in over the next few days by mail or online. That's a lot of money for a one-day, word-of-mouth campaign for an orphan disease.

And, since a few of you asked, for my part in these shenanigans, yes -- I did get some.

Birthday cake, that is. Corner piece. Big pink rose. Sweeeeeet.

So to you, good people, many thanks from all of us -- me, My Love, the Things and Murphy, too --  here at the Uncool Estate. Special gratitude is due to:
  • Brian of The Cheek of God, for whipping up (and hosting) the special Cure JM badge.
  • One Zen Mom, who seemed to have stopped by and left a comment at most every blog that participated Friday.
  • Julia of Midwest Moms for mobilizing the masses. If I ever need a pimp, especially one with a Twitter account, you are first one I'll call.
Some of you are much smarter than me.

Some are much wittier.

Others are just better writers and storytellers.

But not one of you is luckier than I am today.

Friday, October 2, 2009

To Cure Juvenile Myositis, You Must First Know It Exists

3 clever quips
blogs for cure jm

Our pediatrician admitted it early on.

The rash on our 2-year-old daughter's cheeks, joints and legs was something he'd never seen before.

The next doctor wouldn't admit to not knowing.

He rattled off the names of several skins conditions -- none of them seemingly worth his time or bedside manner -- then quickly prescribed antibiotics and showed us the door.

The third doctor admitted she didn't know much.

The biopsy of the chunk of skin she had removed from our daughter's knee showed signs of an "allergic reaction" even though we had ruled out every allergy source -- obvious and otherwise -- that we could.

The fourth doctor had barely closed the door behind her when, looking at the limp blonde cherub in my lap, she admitted she had seen this before. At least one too many times before.

She brought in a gaggle of med students. She pointed out each of the physical symptoms in our daughter:

The rash across her face and temples resembling the silhouette of a butterfly.

The purple-brown spots and smears, called heliotrope, on her eyelids.

The reddish alligator-like skin, known as Gottron papules, covering the knuckles of her hands.

The onset of crippling muscle weakness in her legs and upper body.

She then had an assistant bring in a handful of pages photocopied from an old medical textbook. She handed them to my wife, whose birthday it happened to be that day.

This was her gift -- a diagnosis for her little girl.

That was seven years ago -- Oct. 2, 2002 -- the day our daughter was found to have juvenile dermatomyositis, one of a family of rare autoimmune diseases that can have debilitating and even fatal consequences when not treated quickly and effectively.

Our daughter's first year with the disease consisted of surgical procedures, intravenous infusions, staph infections, pulmonary treatments and worry. Her muscles were too weak for her to walk or swallow solid food for several months. When not in the hospital, she sat on our living room couch, propped up by pillows so she wouldn't tip over, as medicine or nourishment dripped from a bag into her body.

Our daughter, Thing 1 -- Megan, now age 9 -- remembers little of that today when she dances or sings or plays soccer. All that remain with her are the scars from the operations and the vasculitic ulcers, and the array of pills she takes twice a day to help keep the disease at bay.

What would have happened if it took us more than two months and four doctors before we lucked into someone who could piece all the symptoms together? I don't know.

I do know that the fourth doctor, the one who brought in others to see our daughter's condition so they could easily recognize it if they ever had the misfortune to be presented with it again, was a step toward making sure other parents also never have to find out.

That, too, is my purpose today.

It is also my birthday gift to my wife, My Love, Rhonda, for all you have done these past seven years to make others aware of juvenile myositis diseases and help find a cure for them once and for all.

+ + +

To read more about children and families affected by juvenile myositis diseases, visit Cure JM Foundation at

To make a tax-deductible donation toward JM research, go to or

Happy Birthday / Cure JM Awareness Day

73 clever quips
blogs for cure jm
My Love:

Most years you ask me not to buy you anything for your birthday. This year, I listened.

However, I couldn't let this one pass quietly.

Seven years ago today, we got the news that our sweet little girl had juvenile dermatomyositis, a strange disease neither of us had ever heard of then and most people still haven't heard of today. It was an odd birthday gift for you, but a gift nonetheless. Although we quickly learned that it had no cure, we welcomed the fact we finally knew what was making her so ill and that there were ways it could be treated.

Since then, you have worked tirelessly to raise awareness of all the juvenile myositis diseases and raise funds to find a cure for them. I marvel at (and am jealous of) how dedicated you are and how good you are it.

However, this is your birthday. You deserve a day off.

So, for your gift, a bunch of my blogmates volunteered to spread the word for you on this day. Each has posted a piece about our struggle with getting Thing 1 diagnosed in hope of raising awareness of this rare autoimmune disease and the need to find a cure for it.

If we're lucky, we'll even raise a few dollars for the cause.

Happy birthday, My Love, and Happy Cure JM Awareness Day. I love you.


To learn more about JM, visit Cure JM  Foundation.
To make a tax-free donation to fund research into a cure, visit our personal FirstGiving page.

Thanks to all those participating in Cure JM Awareness Day today:
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