Monday, May 31, 2010

Avenging “Revenge – The Musical!”

8 clever quips

Only hours after I take schools to task for putting parents through endlessly lame band concerts, plays and choir shows and I have already found salvation!

First graders belting out a reworked version of Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody"!

Followed up with a rendition of The Clash’s “Should I Stay or Should I Go” that would make Joe Strummer sit up in his grave and say, “Wot? That’s a rocker, mate!”

See and hear it all over at “The Greatest First Grade Program of All Time” on The Blog o’ Cheese. (The link now works. Sorry!)

The only thing it’s missing? Muppets:

The Muppets: Boheminan Rhapsody

Kudos to Cheeseboy for teaching his students some awesome tunes and to my blogger bud Everyday Goddess to pointing it out to me.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Revenge – The Musical!

19 clever quips

As parents, we treasure our children’s firsts. Their first word, their first step, their first day of school so we finally have six blessed hours without Disney, tea parties and requests to be wiped.

It’s some of the repeats we can do without.

Like band concerts.

And dance recitals.

And school plays.

My Love and I have attended four of these in the last month. That’s the average I expect for this time of the year for the next, oh, decade or so. Ten. More. Years.

On the plus side, enduring a couple hours at these events immediately improves my seasonal allergies and sinus pain. Children’s performances are like Benadryl injected directly into one’s artistic senses. It leaves you dull and drowsy but ultimately feeling better about your own limited ability to perform. Warning: Do not operate heavy machinery or karaoke machines while under the influence of this drug.

Listen, I think the Things are the most gifted and talented children in all of Uncool Nation. And I’m sure you think your kids have skills of near equal awesomeness. I bet they make you swell up with pride when they saw out “Mary Had a Little Lamb” like a little Itzhak Perlmans or they bust a move sweeter than Cheryl Burke no matter how inappropriate the song choice is for their age or gender:

The Knack - My Sharona by 8 year old dancers

(SIDENOTE: I might need to start a regular feature dedicated to performances of or to “My Sharona” by The Knack made in questionable taste.)

But, between you and me, everyone else’s kids … on the whole … they stink.

Ah, you agree.

Yet we endure. We sit through 4th graders butchering Miles Davis, 6-year-olds forgetting the words to “I’m a Little Teapot," and even worse. We do it because we know our children need our support. We sit there giving wickedly sharp elbow jabs to our spouses so they will stop playing with their cool new iPhones and force their eyes upon the stage because we remember our own parents having to do the same.

Yes, we remember how well our parents taught us.

Taught us about guilt, suffering and enduring pain.

Well played, you sneaky old evil geniuses, you. Well frickin’ played.

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Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Since You’ve Been Gone

22 clever quips

My Love and I have not been sleeping together lately.

She’s been on the road for work a lot lately. Mexico. Miami. Fort Lauderdale. Yeah, yeah: cry her a river.

She called me today, sounding a little concerned.

“You haven’t been blogging lately,” she said. Her tone of voice suggested she was anticipating some questionable service charges on my credit card.

“It’s a little hard to string together a coherent sentence around here these days,” I said, “for one reason or another.”

REASON NO. 1: My Achin’ Hammie

I was not kidding you folks. Luckily, it wasn’t too bad. I religiously followed the RICE treatment (rest, ice, Corona, extra dry martinis) and it feels almost normal again. Attempting to write with one’s foot propped up on five pillows while the back of your leg melts through every bag of frozen food from the fridge (when and why did I every buy Brussels sprouts?) is hard enough, but then there was …

REASON NO. 2: My Achin’ Stomach

Thing 1 and I returned from Chicago with, oh, let’s leave it at “an intestinal disagreement.” I spent two days on the couch praying for death or the satellite TV equivalent -- a Dane Cook comedy special. Instead, I watched a lot of Little House on the Prairie reruns. Was there a major 19th-century disease that didn’t find its way to Walnut Grove? I witnessed rabies, typhus and the infamous Oleson family chlamydia outbreak.

REASON NO. 3: My Missing Bathroom

If timing a bad leg with an inability to hold down one’s meals didn’t make life challenging enough, then there was the matter of being down one bathroom. We are renovating the master – a project that conveniently started while My Love was on the road and not so conveniently takes place directly above my office.

bathroom renovation

And, of late, through my office:

pipe in wall

pipes in ceiling

If the banging that shook loose two light fixtures (including the one over my desk) weren’t enough, then there was this:

ceiling hole

That’s the hole the plumber had to make in the ceiling, also above my desk, to drain the liquid from the hot water line puncture created by the flooring guys.

On the upside, I think breathing in all the sawdust and drywall powder help clog my internal plumbing.

“And that’s why I haven’t been blogging lately,” I said. “So today, I said ‘screw it’ and played golf.”

“How’d you do?”

“On one hole, it took me four strokes to get out of a single sand trap. It was the most productive day I’ve had in two weeks.”

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Gaining on The Biggest Loser

17 clever quips

When it comes to exercise fads, I tend to adopt an attitude of wait and see. Unfortunately, this tends to turn into saw and weight gained.

fingers in L on foreheadNevertheless, in the past few weeks I have gone to “Boot Camp" with NBC-TV's The Biggest Loser and shredded with Jillian Michaels.

Result: Nearly a pound … gained??

I suspect karma at work given my history with fitness trends.

Let's first return to the days when Jane Fonda and her leg warmers were still all the craze. My girlfriend at the time started badgering me into taking an aerobics class.

"It will be fun!" I distinctly remember her saying while she stood half undressed and handling a bottle of butterscotch Magic Shell. Obviously, I misinterpreted just what the "it" was to which she was referring.

After she found the right color headband and ripped sweatshirt (uh, for me), I followed her puppy dog-like to the gym. Here we paid a small fee to join a few dozen other people in what was essentially running in place for the next 30 minutes. When the cool-down period came, I took off the parking brake, shifted into fourth and hauled my sweaty self straight out the door.

Many years later, I was chatting with a formerly corpulent co-worker who was now obsessed with working out. How obsessed? When she found out that her and her fiancée were to be honeymooning at the same place in Bermuda that My Love and I had, her first question was not about pink beaches, room service or the quality of Egyptian cotton in the sheets, but "just how well-equipped is the fitness center?"

Anyway, our talk eventually turned to her slavish devotion to the hottest thing in exercise. At the moment, it was spinning. She relayed tales about the thrills and chills of pumping up imaginary hills through a visible fog of sweaty stench in a converted storage closet at her local Y, all to the ear-splitting  beat of rave music. Somehow my dismissal of her latest life-changing event as "paying someone to yell at you while you ride a stationary bike" didn’t go over well.

This past Christmas, the mailman brought us a mess of workout DVDs featuring Michaels and her Biggest Loser cohort Bob Harper (whose face is barely recognizable on the covers because of the excessive airbrushing to remove his trademark stubble/beard). This made sense as My Love and our kids love this TV show though I notice an unsettling tendency for them to watch it while gobbling down huge bowls of kettle corn.

Nevertheless, after four workouts with these fitness gurus, broken up with a day of running and two days of barely being to move because I was so sore, I'm proud to report that I am refusing to quit. This is despite the weight gain, Bob's indefatigable upbeatness and Jillian's ever-present sneer. If nothing else, when I haven't been in pain from all the flippin' lunges and pushups they make you do, I have felt better about myself -- mentally if not physically. This is a trend I am going to try to stick with until I fully reverse some of bad ones I have been living.

… until three days after I wrote this when I tried to outrun Thing 1’s soccer team during a sprinting drill and heard my hamstring pop.

Karma, you bitch.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Her Hair-Brained Scheme

21 clever quips

CHICAGO – The parade of pink clothing stretches along the baseball field’s perimeter from the deepest reaches of centerfield down past third base.

Thing 1, halfway through the annihilation of her first box of chips drowning in industrial DayGlo orange cheese sauce, clears an airway,  “Who are those people?”

pinkbats “I think they are people who had breast cancer. Since this is Mother’s Day, the White Sox are trying to raise awareness of a disease that tends to affect women and give people hope for a cure,” I say.

She digs back into her nuclear lunch and I return to filling out the lineups in my scorecard.

A few minutes and layers of glop later, Thing 1 has a new question.

“How long does your hair need to be to cut it off and give to kids?”

I set down my beer.

“You mean like Locks of Love? Where they make wigs for kids who lost their hair from cancer treatments?”

“Yeah,” she says.

“Do you want to do that?”

She nods and the Midwestern spring sunlight shimmers off the drops of florescent goo on the corners of her mouth. “My teacher said she’s going to cut her hair for kids," she says.

As we talk, I’m internally dumbfounded. Thing 1 has been avoiding a true haircut for several years to the point that it’s approaching the middle of her back. This has led to endless demands for her to pull back her dirty blonde locks so they will stop falling into her food, which is followed by calls for her to wash it and comb it more often to extricate the collected bits of breakfast (maple syrup, you are thy enemy!), lunch and dinner from the tangled strands.

In addition to her teacher’s decision and the sight of all these cancer survivors and their families proudly treading around the White Sox’ warning track, I’m wondering how much just being here in Chicago is influencing this discussion. We have been trekking here every few months now for more than seven years for her to met with specialists who make her stretch and crawl, and draw dozens of rubber-topped vials of blood and study her muscles and bones with magical machines that see so many things we still do not understand. I think back to that first solo trip the two of us took, on a wet late winter day, and how right before the appointment Thing 1 fell limp and feverish in her stroller, a staph infection coursing through her steroid-swollen body.

“… so I think you only need to let it go a few more inches if you really want to do it,” I hear myself say.

Without even the pause of half a heartbeat, she asks, “And how much do they pay?”


“How much money do they give you for your hair?”

“It’s a donation, honey,” I say. “You give it to them for free so they can help a needy child.”

“Dang,” she says, looking at the nacho ruins in the cardboard holder on her lap. “I wanted to make some cash.”

+ + +

As I’m typing this, several hours later in a hotel room two blocks from the twinkling lights and retail holyland of The Magnificent Mile, I interrupt Thing 1’s viewing of a third episode of 19 Kids and Counting about the Duggars’ attempt to bring their premature baby, Josie, home.

“You still want to donate your hair?”

She nods.

“Even though you don’t get paid for it?”

“Yeah,” she says.

I don’t ask why. I stroke her long, grubby mane -- just once because my ring finger gets snagged in a knot of sunscreen, sweat and sugar -- then tell her to hit the showers.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

My Son, The Literal-Minded Math Genius

21 clever quips

When it comes to telling me about her day at school, Thing 1 stays fairly tight-lipped because, as dictated by Angst and the Art of Pre-Teen Disgruntlement, that’s the proven way to produce a grunting sound most appropriate to respond to any inquiries by a parental unit.

math symbols Still, the unsolicited information spilling forth from her the other day did not put me into immediate Code Blue cardiac arrest. That’s because it involved tattling on her little brother.

“Thing 2 one came into my classroom today,” she said between handfuls of lime-flavored tortilla chips. “His teacher had to come get him out. He started crying. Is he in trouble? You should punish him. Now. Chop chop.”

In the basement, Thing 2 lay sprawled on the couch, thumbs spastically waging another violent Pokémon overthrow on his Nintendo DS.

“So, Thing 2, son,” I said as I tried not to inhale the stench rising from the dirt-encrusted shreddings masquerading as his socks. “What were you doing over in your sister’s classroom today.”

“We were doing math and I got all the answers right, so Ms. Kowalsky said I was so smart I should skip the next grade and go right to fourth.”

“And that’s what you did. You walked out of your second grade class and went down the hall to Thing 1’s class.”

“Yeeeees,” he said over the beeps, blips and electronic death wails.

This was a serious step up. During our parent-teacher conference in March, his teacher told me she usually only told him to “get out of here and go right to third grade.”

Which, of course, he also would do.

“You know, dude, she’s kidding you, right? It’s a joke.”

“No. It’s NOT!” He lowered the DS and made … eye contact.

“Yes, it is. C’mon, why would you want to skip all the way up to fourth grade aside from the fact you’d finally be among kids closer to your own gargantuan height.”

“Because I already know everything,” he said before setting his jaw and roaring with a steam engine’s force of conviction, “and I WANT TO MOVE ON WITH MY LIFE!”

Son, my, son. So big of body, big of brain and short of patience. Some day, you’ll want to reverse all the clocks whose hands you have whirled forward with childish haste, but you won’t be able to.

If you’re lucky, though, you may be able to slow them down just a tick or two.

In the meantime, I hope what I can teach you about long division and complex fractions will do the trick.

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