Tuesday, August 31, 2010

My Final Plea: Vote Cure JM in Pepsi Refresh Today, Get Others to Do the Same

20 clever quips

thing 1 juvenile myositis

This is Thing 1 about a month into her diagnosis of juvenile dermatomyositis in 2002. She’s nearly 3 years old in this photo.

That’s apple sauce and mashed potatoes in front of her. That’s all she could swallow because the disease had weakened her throat muscles so severely.

Soon her voice became an intermittent gargle. She began coughing frequently.

The doctors said when Thing 1 swallowed, food and drink sometimes shot upwards into her sinus cavity or slide helplessly into her lungs. This resulted in aspiration pneumonia.

Shortly after they told us this, I helped the nurse shove a NG tube up Thing 1’s nose and down into her throat so we could be sure food and medicine went where it needed to go.

Then every day, three times a day, a broad-chested Jamaican orderly would strap Thing 1 into a navy blue life-vest. It contained pulsating pistons that rapidly pounded her chest and back to try to loosen the foreign matter that had caked onto the lining of her lungs. After, he would force a vacuum tube down her mouth and try to suck the gunk out.

If he felt the contraption did not break enough of the gunk up, he would roll Thing 1 onto her stomach and administer disciplined blows with his hands as he tried in his thick tropical tones to convince her not to fight him.

Thing 1 recovered from this common complication of her autoimmune disease within a few months

Her screams during treatment – they still pierce my brain and heart, even in their distant echo, no matter how many mental walls I create to baffle the sound.

While Thing 1 is doing well though still on a handful of daily meds, other kids with juvenile myositis (JM) diseases have not been as lucky.

mikey galvin juvenile myositis

Mikey Galvin, above, developed PCP pneumonia as a complication from his juvenile myositis disease. He went onto the lung transplant list.

He died at age 3.

mason smedley juvenile myositis

Mason Smedley, above, received his diagnosis at age 17 months. He suffered a perforated bowel from the heavy doses of steroids used to treat his JM. During surgery to remove a portion of his colon, it was discovered that he also had an enlarged heart. The prescribed steroids had also resulted in high blood pressure, a suppressed immune system, cataracts and pneumonia which left him with a scarred lung.

Mason, who has calcium deposits encasing parts of his limbs, is still plugging along. On Sept. 11, a concert will be held on his behalf in Portland, Ore., to raise funds to find a cure for his disease.

And I’ve already told you about Cole, who died two weeks ago.

You know what I need you to do; but I also need your help getting others to do the same.

On this last day of voting for the $250,000 Pepsi Refresh grant for August, I need people to get as many NEW voters as possible to text or log-in and cast ballots for Make JM a Memory.

Send an e-mail to people on your Christmas card list.

Ask people in the cubicles next to you.

Paint your car window.

uncool car rear window pepsi refresh

Forward this post on to someone you know. Stumble it, Digg it, I don’t know – print it out and shove it under a windshield wiper. Anything.

Even if you get us one extra vote, that’s one more than we had before. One more vote closer to finding a breakthrough to end this disease.

If Cure JM wins, every dollar, every cent, of the grant money would go into research by doctors who have selflessly dedicated their professional careers to finding better treatments and a cure for a rare autoimmune disease that most people never heard of. These are true heroes who are working to create a better world for children, but they need funding to do their work.

So please, vote 3 TIMES today:
(1) Send a text vote: Text 100850 to PEPSI (73774) (standard text messaging rate apply)
(2) Use the Facebook app: http://bit.ly/CureJMonFB
(3) Vote directly from the Pepsi website site at http://www.refresheverything.com/makejmamemory

Then help us find others to do the same.

Not for me. For the children.

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Monday, August 30, 2010

Meet My Spouse, Flathead

9 clever quips

aunt becky whore mouth shirt

Kids, while I’m finishing up these Sea Breezes and Elmore Leonard novels at Blogger Rehab today, your dear Aunt Becky from Mommy Wants Vodka will be looking after you.

Aunt Becky is the wisest person I know. In fact, just a few weeks ago she shared with me the most profound statement I believe has ever been uttered, or in this case – texted, in the history of mankind:

Dude. Amazaballs!”

Write hard, Aunt Becky; write hard.

* * *

Last night after my husband, The Daver, and I watched a very nail-biting episode of whatever reality show is currently making me wish I was instead beating myself about the face with a bag of lemons, I sat down nearish to him.

(pat pat pat) "The back of your head is entirely flat at the top."

The Daver (ignoring me entirely)(duh): "Yeah?"

Aunt Becky: "Yeah. And the top kinda makes you look like Predator."

The Daver (still absentmindedly pecking away on his Blackberry): "Yeah?"

Aunt Becky: "I bet your mom dropped you on your head a lot."

The Daver: "That explains a lot."

Aunt Becky (giggles): "You know, we could get you one of those helmets they put kids in now to reshape your skull! Those kids look so CUTE!"

The Daver: "NO."

Aunt Becky (laughing): "Can you IMAGINE walking around with one of those helmets as an adult? I'd decorate it for you! I could write your NAME in glitter! Or put some CHICAGO FIRE emblems on it! You'd look so FANCY going to your Big Boy Job in the Financial District with a helmet on!"

Aunt Becky: *bwahahahahahaha*

The Daver: "I think my skull is done being molded."

Aunt Becky: "Oh."

The Daver: "So don't get any ideas."

Aunt Becky (small voice): "Oh."

The Daver: "Becky? You didn't buy me a helmet, did you?"

Aunt Becky: "....Define BUY."

The Daver: (buries LUMPY head in hands)

Aunt Becky: "It's okay, I'll love you and your misshapen head no matter what! Because THAT'S WHAT I LOVE YOU MEANS. TO HAVE, HOLD, AND OBEY...

(pauses)

....Your lumpy head!"

The Daver: "You made the priest take out the 'obey' part. Remember?"

Aunt Becky: "That's because I never obey you."

The Daver: "That's for DAMN sure."

Now that he's remembered that I never obey him, he won't be as mad when he finds out that I ordered him a plagiocephaly helmet for his birthday.

I think the "I love my wife" decals and hearts will make him change him mind and he'll decide that wearing a helmet 23 hours a day is a very good idea indeed.

* * *

TWO DAYS OF VOTING, LITTLE OF MY SANITY LEFT

We’re Number 1!

No, Number 2.

No, no. We’re Number 1

Wait. We’re back at 2.

That’s how it’s been since Friday in Cure JM’s effort to win a $250,000 Pepsi Refresh grant. Either spot will win the money providing we don’t get lazy and get overtaken by another group come Sept. 1. That’s why we’re not taking chances.

My Love has been working the phones nonstop horse-trading votes.

I gave out voting cards to poop-bag toting patrons at a dog show yesterday.

Father and Sister of the Uncool stuffed random mailboxes around our town.

Even The Mother of All Uncoolness – she who only plugs in the microwave when she needs to defrost green beans and still has me program her answering machine for her -- learned to text message! It’s PANDAMONIUM!!

Please continue to vote today and Tuesday then convince a friend or eight dozen to do the same. Here are the three magic ways to help us each day:

1. Text 100850 to Pepsi (73774) via a cell phone Your cell phone, your kids’, that pony-tailed faux hipster at the coffe shop. Just grab a cell and text.

2. Use the Facebook app: http://tinyurl.com/25ls7f8

3. Vote directly from the Pepsi site for our entire Kids to Win team.  You will need to set up a Pepsi Refresh account -- takes a minute and allows you to vote for many great organizations we are partnering with: http://tinyurl.com/27o7239

And to those of you voting, Tweeting, reTweeting, Facebooking, blogging and selling your vital organs for our cause, thank you for holding on to your big kind hearts.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Vodkamom Receives an ‘Incomplete’

16 clever quips

image

Boys and girls, settle down please. While I’m buried in martinis and David Sedaris essays during my self-imposed Blogger Rehab today, everyone’s favorite alcohol-swilling kindergarten teacher, Deb of Vodkamom, will be substituting.

She was supposed to be here last week, but she had to make an appearance in her local newspaper, then on the Today Show blog and … well, I’ll let her explain the other reasons for her tardiness.

* * *

Top 5 Reasons Vodkamom Did NOT Finish This Post

5. I was busy e-mailing my bloggy friends, aunts, uncles, brother, sister, teacher friends and some of my enemies to beg them to vote for Cure JM to win a $250,000 grant over at the Pepsi site. While most of them said they’d be glad to, they also felt the need to tell me that they were sick and tired of my e-mails begging and pleading to vote for things. Then when they realized I
didn’t want them to vote for ME - they said OK. Then they proceeded to block anymore e-mails coming from me. I’ve been spammed.

4. I was busy fighting with Bitchy and Sassy over buying EVERYTHING that wasn’t nailed down at Target and Wal-Mart, and packing them off to COLLEGE, and forgot I had promised Kevin I would guest post. Then the ensuing
sobbing caused such a FLOOD that my keyboard wouldn’t work for three days. Honest.

3. I was traumatized over offending one anonymous commenter when I blogged my crazy two weeks of worrying about FATTY lipoma – and forced myself to stay away from the computer.

2. After realizing that we hadn’t requested enough financial aid for Bitchy AND Sassy to attend college, I have been spending the last three days e-mailing everyone and their brother who might have any ties to the financial aid office at BOTH universities. It’s on days like these that I regret being Polish.

1. While preparing for the news that I MIGHT have cancer (sorry, Anonymous, for sharing my real true life) I was busy eating 12 pints of various flavors of Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream. Then, upon hearing the news that I would in FACT live, albeit with a FATTY LIPOMA attached to a chest muscle, I ate even MORE ice cream in CELEBRATION of my prognosis of life.

Now, I’d like to write an even MORE incredible post, but I have to go workout like a madwoman to try and negate the 12 BAZILLION calories I shoved in my mouth over the weekend.

* * *

Keep voting every day through the end of the month to help Cure JM win a $250,000 Pepsi Refresh grant. We need to hold on to the No. 2 spot until Sept. 1 to win the money. If you can, also vote for these other great kids’ causes we are supporting.

You can also text your vote once a day – text 100850 to PEPSI (73774)!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

I’ll Give You a Free Press

13 clever quips

Want revenge on the local Chinese restaurant that’s always stuffing menus under your windshield wiper?

Then you need some flyers to plaster on its storefront window that say “Dim Sum Of This, Bozo!”

Tired of all those negative ads politicians have been mailing you every day this election season?

Well, you should send them back some tactfully designed postcards featuring mooning garden gnomes.

nextdayflyers.com logo These and many more practical and less sophomoric things can be accomplished with the help of one of my generous advertisers, NextDayFlyers.com. They also do cool business cards and charming greeting cards but that doesn’t make for entertaining reading for you, now does it?

IT’S A GIVEAWAY, CONTEST, A FREEBIE!

As proof of their blind faith in me as a means to their ends, they are letting me give one of you fair Uncoolniks a $25 printing credit good for anything they sell online. Here’s the rules, you need to:

  • Be at least 18 years of age.
  • Leave a comment, any comment, on this post.
  • Be hungry like the wolf. Or at least a bit peckish.

That’s it. Winner will be announced in one week’s time.

Disclosure: Duh, these folks bought ad space on my blog. This giveaway was part of our agreement. They offered me a printing credit, too, but I’m passing solely because they were nice enough to buy ad space. Makes me feel like less of a status symbol and more of a man.

* * *

Please don’t forget to vote today and every day through the end of the month to help Cure JM win a $250,000 Pepsi Refresh grant. We need to hold on to the  No. 2 until Sept. 1 to win the money. If you can, also vote for these other great kids’ causes we are supporting.

Back to my self-imposed Blogger Rehab. Watch for more special guests Friday and Monday.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Chickens

12 clever quips

the holmes

While I’m knocking back mojitos and Carl Hiaasen novels in Blogger Rehab this week, a few friends will stopping by to keep you entertained.

Today welcome The Holmes, a colleague from DadCentric and one of my true favorites in the blogosphere. He has illustrated chats with his testicles about his vasectomy, even stranger human encounters when he has to provide a follow up sperm sample and, as you shall read, a chicken fetish that would make Gonzo from The Muppet Show blush.

* * *

“Those two are Spanish, that one is British, that one is American, and those three, I think, are Australian.”

I listened a little closer, but I couldn’t detect any accents.

“Like, that’s where they all came from?” I asked.

“Like, that’s where they’re all descended from. I’m pretty sure they all came from here.”

“Ah, so that’s why all their clucks sound the same.”

Chicken Head My wife had just run through the breeds of the chickens that we keep housed in our backyard, including their names, national origins, and some interesting factoids. Like how some of them will lay blue or pink eggs, hence the name Easter Eggers. We cooked up a blue egg for our 4-year-old and he got pissed that only the shell was blue. He looked at us like he’d been tricked.

My wife knows a lot more about all this chicken stuff than I do. She should. I’m just the insanely handsome muscle. This whole chicken-and-egg project was her idea. Which came first? Who gives a flying cluck, they’re both plenty tasty if prepared properly.

Ever grilled something dead while the live version of it was clucking around at your feet? That’s a weird feeling.

Does anyone remember that cartoon Chicken Boo? It was one of the features on Animaniacs. It portrayed this human-size chicken that people kept mistaking for a real person in spite of the fact that the only sounds to come out of his beak were clucks and ba-goks.

Anyone remember this? Anyone?

My wife doesn’t believe me that this show ever actually existed. I sing the theme song at her and she just looks at me like I laid an egg:

“You wear a disguise to look like human guys, but you’re not a man, you’re a chicken, Boo.”

Dude, I couldn’t have made that up! Look, here’s a picture even:

santa_chicken_booEvery episode ended the same. The people would realize, “Hey, he’s a CHICKEN!!!” and then run him out of town, as if to drive away their own shame at having been so foolish as to place their faith in an oversized rooster.

We don’t live on a farm or anything. This is chicken husbandry of the urban variety. Step out our back door, and right there off of the end of our deck is a real live honest-to-hen chicken coop. The enclosed house portion stands eight feet tall, is painted bright green, and is topped with a slanted metal roof that I imagine sounds plenty hellacious when it rains. Chickens are sound sleepers, my wife tells me. Good for them.

The Coop Off of the house there’s an eight-foot-long by four-foot-high run enclosed in hardware cloth in which our seven lovely ladies spend much of their days. They get to come out and wander free when we’re home to keep an eye on things, but when we’re not around, they stay on lock down so that they don’t get eaten by neighborhood cats, so that they don’t eat stuff in our garden, and so that they don’t wander off and get mistaken for real people and cause all manner of confusion.

Because they could, you know?

Aside from being sources of fresh eggs and free entertainment, these chickens that we’ve taken under our wings are in possession of full-blown personalities. They’ve got swagger. Attitude. Sass. In fact, as they’ve grown out of their chickhood into full-fledged chickens, the ladies have become much sassier toward us, their human protectors.

For example, time was, herding them back into their coop was as simple as walking up behind them and just keeping on walking in the direction you wanted them to go. These days, they scatter in five, six, seven different directions. You get one in the coop only to have it come right back out again. Every other cluck sounds like a “f**k you, buddy.” They’re like children in that way, except they pop out an egg every so often. Children only pop out non-edible items.

So the image of a chicken sashaying about in say, some designer silks wrapped around its neck like some sort of anti-chopping block talisman, maybe a jaunty little hat over its comb, yes, it all seems rather plausible. True, their vocabulary is limited, but since when do we let limited vocabulary act as a barrier to becoming a full-fledged human being?

And we didn’t go to all the trouble of raising these chickens only to have them escape, cause a commotion, and then get run out of town. I don’t care where these chickens came from. We want our free eggs, dammit.

* * *

Don’t forget to vote today and every day through the end of the month to help Cure JM win a $250,000 Pepsi Refresh grant. We need to be No. 1 or No. 2 by Sept. 1 to win the grant. If you can, also vote for these other great kids’ causes we are supporting.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Vote In Memory of Cole Flack

16 clever quips

clip_image002

Cole Flack of Oregon received his diagnosis of juvenile dermatomyositis in February 2007, roughly four-and-a-half years after Thing 1 received hers.

In the years that followed, this teenager with a love of sports and being outdoors lost his ability to walk. Cole endured multiple abdominal surgeries to deal with gastrointestinal issues caused by the disease and its medicinal treatments. Yet as recently as the fall, he still managed a full course load at school and compiled a 4.0 GPA.

Earlier this month, Cole went into the hospital with pneumonia.

Yesterday, we received this e-mail written by his parents:

“Hello friends and family,
Cole went to be with the Lord at 7 p.m. tonight. It was very peaceful. Cole is free now to run ... jump ... play baseball ... everything a 15 year old boy should be able to do. …”

Cole is the third child with a form of juvenile myositis that our family has come to know since Thing 1’s diagnosis to die from this rare autoimmune disease or its complications.

Three.

When only three in a million children are diagnosed annually in the United States with this disease, that little number grows exponentially in your worried head every time your child coughs or sneezes or scraps a knee.

Please help prevent more deaths of children like Cole by continuing to vote every day this month to help Cure JM, the only national nonprofit dedicated to supporting children with juvenile myositis and their families, win a $250,000 Pepsi Refresh grant.

That $250,000 equals half our volunteer group’s annual budget, a budget raised solely through fundraising done by the family and friends of JM children. Every penny of that grant is set to pay for research into finding the cause and cure of juvenile myositis, juvenile dermatomyositis and other forms of JM diseases.

Right now, we are No. 2 in the standings – we need to hold this position until Sept. 1 to win the grant money. The only way that can happen is with your help.

You can vote up to 3 TIMES, every day, during the month of August!
(1) Send a text vote: Text 100850 to Pepsi (73774) (standard text messaging rate apply)
(2) Use the Facebook app: http://bit.ly/CureJMonFB
(3) Vote directly from the Pepsi website site for our Cure JM and its affiliated causes at http://pep.si/CureJMKidstoWin5

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Death of Cool

24 clever quips

image You have reached the “Always Home and Uncool” blog.

Kevin Uncool can’t come to the blog right now, so fellow at-home dad Ron Mattocks (the Clark Kent’s Lunchbox blog, the hilarious book Sugar Milk) will be subbing today with a probing tale about the probing of his tail. Maybe.

Beeeeeeeeep.

* * *

This week I had a checkup with my gastroenterologist. It’s been several years and I figured it was time. Or, in other words, he shut off my prescription refills until I scheduled an appointment.

As we headed out to the his office, my 8-year-old stepdaughter, Allie, asks me, “So, Ron, is the doctor going to give you the finger test?”

What the

clip_image002I chalked the question up to her mother who derives a great deal of amusement from coaxing my stepdaughters to interrogate me on all manner of invasive subjects, like say, “the finger test.” Still, I felt compelled to determine Allie’s level of comprehension on the matter. Based on previous experience, I find it helpful to know such things as it comes in handy when filling in the blanks for the girls’ teachers after one of them uses share time as an outlet for enlightening classmate on the gory details of, in this case, their stepfather’s encounter with the business end of another man’s probing, latex-sheathed digit.

“What’s the finger test, Allie?” I asked as if it were no big deal.

“You know,” she responded. “When they take your finger and prick it to make blood come out.”

I chuckled both out of amusement and relief.

“No, sweetie. Not today.” At least I didn’t anticipate one. Still, it wasn’t out of the question either, and I shuddered at the image of my doctor spreading lubricant along his extended pointer finger as if he were squeezing the contents of a ketchup packet onto a hotdog.

At this point you’re either laughing to yourself, screaming, “TMI, TMI,” or shaking your head in disgust over the relative ease with which I willing to divulged the gory details of my partially defunct digestive track. Incidentally, in case you’re curious, no finger tests of any kind were preformed on me; however, it was the physician’s opinion that I needed a colonoscopy.

And there I go again.

* * *

The vast majority of you have no clue who I am and yet here I am guest posting with my proverbial pants around my ankles. Not exactly a great first impression, I agree, but then again first impressions aren’t exactly my forte, something Mr. Home and Uncool himself will attest to after we had the opportunity to meet this past February during CureJM’s participation in the Austin Marathon.

There we sat at a late lunch — his wife, charismatic, personable; his kids, adorable, funny; and Mr. Uncool, witty, intelligent, there in support of a cause bigger than himself. And then there’s me — stilted and awkward, the greasy juices of a hamburger streaking from the corner of my mouth. In fact, were it not for my lovely wife who balanced the conversation out with her natural charm, I not so sure Mr. Uncool would’ve excused himself as soon as the moment presented itself.

This ranks among a litany of occasions where my better half has bailed me out when meeting other bloggers like The Stiletto Mom, and Mr Lady who claimed to “orgasm slightly” after being introduced to the piano bench autographed by Tori Amos for my wife. I couldn’t make a mangy, starving dog come using a dumbbell-size Milk Bone, and yet my wife can induce that special tingly feeling in another woman merely by showing off a few of her prized possessions.

clip_image004

Yes, cool I am not. As alluded to earlier, even furniture retains more points in this category than I do. Want more? I like Coldplay. Not cool. I’m a faithful fan of America’s Next Top Model. So not cool. I got all teary-eyed watching Ghosts of Girlfriends Past. Matthew McConaughey might be cool, but the premise of the movie may have you wondering why I haven’t made an appointment to have my estrogen levels checked.

Thus, I consider it a dual irony that I, an uncool person, am guest posting on a blog advertised as “uncool” by an owner who is so not uncool. It baffles me further to be invited to guest post after my latest bout of uncoolness.

A few weeks ago, Mr. Uncool e-mailed a bunch of us dad bloggers, questioning the validity of a Top Dad Blog award we had all been informed we had won. The catch to such an accolade: the organization bestowing this great honor was a medical transcription service. Exactly. This minor detail obviously warranted suspicion, and thus Mr. Uncool’s e-mail wasn’t so much of a, “is this legit,” as it was a “who do these cats think they’re fooling.”

I was already familiar with this scam. I had posted the award’s badge on my site, not suspecting anything until later noticing a line in its HTML coding directing people to an online MBA program. Further investigation revealed this coding gets your site flagged by Google as a spam site.

So, wanting to earn some “street cred” with the other dads on the e-mail, I responded with these details. Ah, acceptance at last.

Nope. A few moments later an e-mail comes back: “What did Google flag you for? Gullibility?”

Reading this, I envisioned these guys hanging out behind the school doing what cool kids do – laughing their asses off at me. Yeah, you got flagged for gullibility. Ha, ha! Good one dude.

clip_image006

I suppose the lesson in all of this, if there is one at all, is that the worst thing I can do is try to be something other than myself. Admitting to everything above or the unabashed way in which I portray myself in this other thing I wrote (no, no, scroll to the bottom of that post—not the crap at the top), doesn’t concern me. My hope is that if my kids can see how comfortable I am with myself, they will one day reach a point when they shrug off the futility in trying to be what the world says they need to be, and instead, they tackle life as the person they really are.

In the words of cartoon legend, Popeye “I yam who I yam, and that’s all that I yam.” Profound indeed.

Epilogue

clip_image008

As I was finishing this post, Allie walked into the office and sat down. “Hey, Ron, have you ever read the book, The Golden Finger?”

I ignored the question. If her mother was behind this, I didn’t care. My head was still throbbing as a consequence of pounding, Lord only knows how many Zima’s the night before at the happy hour party celebrating my recent promotion to Content and Social Media Director at Clark Kent’s Lunchbox. There might have been karaoke? I may have sung “Dancing Queen” … shirtless.

* * *

Want to do something totally cool? Go here and vote for Cure JM to receive a $250K grant to be used in the fight against Juvenile Myositis. We finally reached second place, now we need to hold this position until Sept. 1!

Monday, August 16, 2010

The Law of School Supplies and Demand

11 clever quips

One thing excited me most about the start of the school year as a child: new supplies.

Oh, the days of eager anticipation they created. I'd stare at the plastic coating on my pristine Mead Trapper Keeper, occasionally opening that then-cutting-edge Velcro closure with a rrrrrip that awoke visions of organizational and academic excellence to come.image

Sigh.

Surprisingly, I didn't get beat up much as a kid.

If you want to try this approach to psyching up Junior for another year of our public education system failing to close the racial and socio-economically achievement gap . . . then you've already flunked! Peak school supply shopping season occurred in July. The retail world has been stocking up for Halloween for a week now.

Well, maybe you can make do with what remains in the clearance bins:

BACKPACKS
The most essential of all school supplies is the backpack, known in parenting circles as "the black hole into which nothing of substance escapes." Notes from the teacher, book reports, warnings about plague outbreaks -- at one time or another, someone will neatly place all of these items into your child's backpack. Yet when anyone looks inside only the following will be found: rotted fruit, Silly Bandz, crumpled art projects, Captain Underpants comics and several reams of individually folded loose-leaf sheets bearing illegible handwriting and/or drawings of, if you have a boy, flatulent dinosaurs or, for those with girls, incontinent puppies. (OK, that might actually be a rainbow instead of urine but it’s hard to tell. I blame government's lack of support for the arts.)

TIP: Find a backpack sturdy enough to withstand the inevitable and fruitless (unless you are actually seeking rotted fruit) shaking and prodding that will occur when trying to figure out the mystical sucking power of this time-space anomaly.

TIP: Avoid trendy styles. Your kid may beg for a Jonas Brothers pull-along in September, but come February, she'll be dying for something Justin Bieber-ish. You'll never go wrong buying items in solid colors or bearing geometric patterns. Also good are timeless cartoon characters, such as SpongeBob Squarepants, Scooby-Doo or Sarah Palin.

LUNCHBOXES
A panic broke out a few years back when someone found many popular soft vinyl lunchboxes contained lead. A manufacturer's claim that it added the lead to protect passersby from the mercury present in tuna fish sandwiches carried no weight.

Parents met opposition from conservation groups when switching to plastic bags (wastes oil!) or paper ones (kills trees!). They responded by making their kids buy the cafeteria's offerings. Then this past spring, ABC-TV aired footage on Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution of the chip and cheese sludge served in a West Virginia elementary school. American parents shrugged and said, "Meh -- what's a little lead?"

TIP: Look for a lunchbox lined with nylon or a non-PVC material, such as reinforced concrete. As with backpacks, seek styles that never go out of fashion. My favorites here are always classic cartoon characters. Nothing will satisfy a child more than opening an insulated bag plastered with the likeness of Glenn Beck and finding bologna.

HAND SANITIZER/BABY WIPES/PAPER TOWELS
If you don't have a school-aged child, then right now you are scratching your head. So am I. Why are you reading this far down?

Cleaning supplies have been the rage in recent years, what with outbreaks of swine flu, avian flu and underfunded school supply budgets. You won't find a shortage of any of these items in the store. However, you will tire of teachers' weekly reminders (assuming they are not placed in your child's backpack) of the need for your little one to bring in more of these cleansers to deal with the germ-riddled, mouth-breathers they take of your hands for six hours a day.

TIP: Save money on these items, not to mention clothing, by outfitting your child in a hazmat suit and gas mask. Buy a size up to allow for growth during the school year.

TIP: Better yet, consider home schooling.

* * *

Holy shiitakes, Padma! Cure JM is now No. 3 among organizations vying for a $250,000 Pepsi Refresh grant. We need to move up just one more spot and stay there through August to win that money for research into Thing 1’s juvenile myositis.

Please continue to vote every day (up to three times – by text, Facebook and a unique e-mail sign in) and blog, tweet and Facebook all you can to help us win.


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Thursday, August 12, 2010

Honestly, I Liked ‘Mr. Mom’

22 clever quips

Every other Tuesday I franticly work on the newspaper column I’ve avoided writing for the past two weeks, a process made even more difficult by the lovely Polish women who fumigate our house with every known chemical cleansing agent not classified as a WMD for the first four hours of my waking day.

On the bright side, at least the blood spurting from my forehead gets mopped up.

This week I took a momentary breather from not producing anything by flipping on the Today show, a habit I developed well before Katie Couric left and felt obligated to counter her natural spunk and babeness by broadcasting the nightly news dressed like an undertaker’s wife.

Unexpectedly, as it usually is, inspiration hit in the form of … Al Roker? He  teased to a segment on stay-at-home dads.

Off to Twitter, I go.

home and uncool twitter mr. mom

Nineteen minutes later …

al roker twitter response

Oh, snap.

home and uncool twitter al roker

Presently, Matt Lauer introduces the piece. I’m aware he is the “go to” host of all at-home-dad segments, but he’s not on Twitter so Al was an easy target.

The spot featured a discussion about an article Marie Claire magazine did on stay-at-home husbands (especially dads) as the “ultimate status symbol” for a successful career woman -- you know, like My Love. The article covers the usual gender role reversal stuff and makes fellow estrogen-challenged bloggers Joe Schatz of Dad Blogs and PJ Mullen of Real Men Drive Minivans seem like the well-adjusted, good guys they are (especially PJ, who I want to start making my lunches). It adds a sensational headline and then wedges the status symbol junk in the middle to sex it up and get suckers, like me, to write about it and drive their traffic and ad sales. Not one real-life example of this so-called status symbolness making guys like me the Rolls Royce of marital partners.

I shall steal a quote from Aunt Becky of Mommy Wants Vodka: Marie Claire, shut your whore mouth.

(See my complete reaction to being a status symbol on DadCentric: “I am Househusband: Here Me Roar.”)

The Today piece isn’t that bad. Not one “Mr. Mom” clip (but one verbal and one written reference) and Matt, who I’d love hoist beers with some time to discuss how he regularly avoids acid reflux whenever Kathie Lee Gifford speaks, does a decent job of talking about at-home men not being arm candy, but being a symbol of an enlightened relationship:

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

I went into this at-home gig, jeez, six years ago – first as a full-time telecommuter and, since 2007, as a full-time homer – not kicking and screaming but embracing it. No commutes, office politics and the rest of the rat race that beats down so many good people. I love managing my home, being a genuine part of The Things’ life every day at school and play, and having a wife who supports my vague attempts at writing professionally. I’ve never been made to feel (too) uncomfortable in a gaggle of moms or been slighted to my face as a “babysitter” or what not, so obviously I hang with the right crowd.

Most of all, I’m a lucky guy to be married to My Love. She’s the enlightened one who draws me away from the Dark Side with her big heart and open mind.

She smells real puuurty, too.

* * *

Watch next week for a giveaway from one of the generous sponsors who, I honestly don’t know why but I’m not complaining, pays money to appear on this site.

And, please, continue to vote and spread the word about Cure JM’s attempt to get a $250,000 Pepsi Refresh grant. My thanks to all of you who have blogged and tweeted and Facebooked for us in the past month.

Monday, August 9, 2010

BlogHer: The Chicks are All Right

34 clever quips

Only a handful of women directly addressed the elephant in the room (actually, the penis in the elevator) at BlogHer ‘10 this past weekend by asking me: “Why are you here at a conference for women?”

More surprisingly, only one of them inserted an emphatic “the hell” into that question but it was in her eyes, not her words.

But that wasn’t the real controversy surrounding my appearance among the 2,400 women gathered in New York City. No, not by a long shot.

It was: How did I -- a man who once wore a paper doily as underwear, who can barely hang self-adhesive wallpaper borders -- get invited to a Martha Stewart party instead of some of them?

Answer: Martha knows I need FAR more help than you.

(Actual conversation that happened not once, but twice with Omnimedia employees at the party:

MARTHA MINION: And what’s the name of the blog you write?

ME: Always Home and Uncool.

MARTHA MINION: Oh, yes! We know you. YOU’RE the daddy blogger.)

amy-bitchin'-wives-club

Martha obviously wants to broaden her appeal to folks like me, the domestic doofus demographic. One swag bag her folks distributed contained fudge-covered mint Oreos, Kraft Homestyle Mac ‘n’ Cheese and, honestly, Miracle Whip. It only lacked a warning label:

“DANGER! Eating these three items in one sitting might cause heart attack, diabetes or terminal SuburbanWhiteBoyism!”

I only had one moment of true testosterone discomfort during all three days. Oddly, it did not occur while entering a women’s bathroom Thursday night to pay my respects to Jenny the Bloggess. That I expected.

the-bloggess--me-potty-on

My man shame occurred during the conference’s panel on humor writing. Comedienne and The Daily Show co-creator Lizz Winstead described her need to rally the world against white, male … um, excrement egresses. Oh, how the sea of women around me laaaaaughed and laaaaaughed and … *sniff sniff* … do I smell boiling tar?

Then I remembered.

Lizz wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for me.

That’s right.

Not “guys like me.” But me, in particular. So there, Lizz Winstead: You. Owe. Moi.

She passed me, TwoBusy and Kristine in the hall right before the panel started and asked where the room was. I’m positive I pointed first.

In all seriousness, everyone I meet – male and female – were as gracious as they could be to me or at least faked it convincingly. Here are some thanks and memories worth sharing:

To TwoBusy, my roommate and safety net. I’m especially grateful you never kidney punched me for endlessly begging and pleading with people to support Cure JM’s efforts to win that $250,000 Pepsi Refresh grant. You are a gentleman and I owe you. No kidding, what’s my half of the hotel bill?

cure jm pepsi refresh cards To the 400 or so people who now possess the above Cure JM cards: thanks for indulging me. My daughter and other children stuck with this stupid disease known as juvenile myositis are depending on you and the power of your votes.

To the dynamic duo of Ms. Picket and Carolyn Online. For you, I’ll make an exception to my rules on drinking light beer. Not at the $10 a pop the hotel bar was charging, mind you, but definitely up to $7.75. Sans tax and tip.

To Momo Fali: I am not your stalker. It was aaaaaall an Ambien-induced hallucination.

To Bossy: I am your stalker. I just made it seem like you kept bumping into me around the hotel bar because I’m that good.

To Pop and Ice, Dr. Snarky and, especially their lovely daughter who likes to grill cab drivers and waiters about their hopes and dreams. I wish I still had her sense of curiosity and wonder.

To Verdant Dude and Avitable’s (mostly) Florida mafia for welcoming me into the city, but not for making me sweat my ever-lovin’ man sack off in that Belgium bar. Don’t you get enough humidity back home?

To Out-Numbered for letting me surf in his wake while he hobnobbed with the post-breakfast crowd Friday morning.

jason-mayo-is-outnumbered

To Maggie Dammit, Ann Imig, Small Town Mommy, VodkaMom and the other handful of people who literally tapped my shoulder (or in Charlie’s case, leaped over a chair and a table) to say hello. In each case, it was a strange, wonderful and wholly unexpected experience for me. There are many days I wallow silently in my feelings of worthlessness, resentment and loneliness over the belief that no one cares about what I struggle to hunt-and-peck here. You made me feel welcome in your home.

* * *

You could win an iPad by helping us win that $250,000 Pepsi grant. Go to www.CureJM.org, sign up for daily voting reminders and then vote your ass off and get your friends to do the same every day until August 31. We only give away the iPad if we finish No. 1 or 2 in the voting.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

BlogHer: Treat this Guy Like One of the Girls

27 clever quips

For those of you who don’t follow me on Twitter (and what’s up with that?), you missed the big announcement the other week that confirms your long-held suspicions:

uncool blogher badge

I will be at the BlogHer ‘10 conference in New York City this week. This puts me among the handful of men there who will not be serving drinks, restocking the buffet or unclogging hair from the hotel sinks.

“But wait,” you say, “you can’t go to BlogHer! You have a penis!”

Hold on.

I’ve checked and, yes, I can confirm that I do indeed have a penis. But please, do not hold it against you.

I mean, against me.

I mean, don’t hold it all.

Don’t even think about my penis.

Stop it.

Stoooop iiiiit.

Good.

Why am I going to a conference so chock full of estrogen that it will make The View seem an editorial board meeting at Maxim magazine?

It’s nearby.

It’s cheap (minimal travel cost, bought my ticket early at a discount and I’m sharing a cardboard box near Rockefeller Center with a few former Lehman Brothers brokers).

It offers many networking possibilities with other bloggers and people who could possibly be conned persuaded into giving me cold hard cash to shill things on my site that I have first-hand experience with, such as feminine hygiene products and disposable underwear.

And finally, My Love said it was OK.

As long as you don’t think about … you know. That thing I have.

She seemed extremely concerned yesterday about the possibility of me being among the 10 percent of the BlogHer attendees with a Y chromosome. In particular, she was worried about me “dancing” with women hopped up on free swag and cheap booze at the BlogHer parties.

“You’ve seen me dance,” I told her, “it’s anyone within a 20-foot radius of me who should be worried, not you. Members of our wedding party still bear scars to this day.”

“Dancing,” it turns out, was a metaphor. Since it went over my head, she threw another one at me.

“It’s like driving,” she explained over a martini as big as an Octomom-Sized bucket of KFC. “It’s not you I’m worried about. It’s the other crazies on the road. I want you to practice Defense Driving.”

I’ve taken Defensive Driving at the behest of the state of Texas – twice -- so let me think … pay attention to your surroundings, maintain adequate distance, both hands on the wheel except when flipping off that idiot with the perpetually blinking left-turn signal.

Ahhhh!

Wow.

Seriously?

Anyway, if you are a woman (go ahead and check – I’ll wait) and you meet me at BlogHer, please put My Love’s mind at ease. Just treat me just like one of the girls. This means you should:

  • Compliment me on my hair, cute shoes or choice of purses.
  • Complain to me about how your spouse is always wanting to have intimate relations with you then detail all the clever ways you manage to avoid doing so.
  • Discuss and compare our muffin-top elimination strategies.
  • Tell me why you are either on Team Edward or Team Jacob, and why anyone in her right mind should really care that much about crappy fictional characters.
  • And finally, ask me about my problems with bloating.

Exception to the rule: Please – no matter what the circumstance – do not invite me back to your room for a lingerie pillow fight. I’d disappoint you any way. I’m only packing my granny panties.

* * *

All kidding aside, here’s what I’m looking forward to at BlogHer:

Driving to the conference and rooming with the anonymous blue lobster known as TwoBusy, a man who can rip your heart out with his writing about his autistic son, scare you with his knowledge of The Real Housewives of New Jersey and impress you with his large, uh, music collection.

Having beers with Ms. Picket (OK, I’m having beer, she’s having Miller Lite), whose husband and I made a formidable battery back in Little League days, and discussing with her how much coaching kid soccer sucks.

Thanking, in person, some of the people who have been extremely generous with their money, time and blog/Twitter space in helping Cure JM and our fight to find a cure for Thing 1’s autoimmune disease. These include: the amazing Anna Lefler; the prolifically funny VodkaMom; my serial reTweeters Ann’s Rants, Kristine and Panic Room Ryan; the easily persuaded Maggie, Dammit and Miss Britt (sorry about begging on Sunday night) and, I hope, a cast of many others.

Passing out business cards … not mine, but ones that explain what JM is and hopefully, gets many more people to vote for us in the Pepsi Refresh contest for $250,000. (Yes, I know we dropped from No. 4 to No. 175 – the system is screwy because there are also no Nos. 1 to 97 last time I checked. Have faith.)

So, if you are at BlogHer and you see this guy:

skip hinnant love of chair electric company

You didn’t see me. You saw character actor Skip Hinnant dressed as The Boy from The Electric Company skit, "Love of Chair," from the early 1970s. He only plays me in my avatar and blog header.

But if you see this guy (most likely without Liz aka Mom 101 but probably with a drink):

uncool and liz of mom 101 
Yep, that’s me. Be gentle, ladies. I already have one damaged X chromosome.

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Sunday, August 1, 2010

Dogged

12 clever quips

I’ve just mopped up urine in the foyer for the second time this morning. Dusty containers of tile and grout sealer, unopened and mocking, sit just behind the hall closet door.

Now, on to clean the couch cushions. Even in his urgency, Murphy followed his ancient instincts to lift his hind leg, high and proud, like he still holds his noble head on days the medication doesn’t leave him stretched sideways seeking the cooling comfort of the marble floor. You have your dignity, boy, even in the moments I know the shame drapes your shoulders like an anchor chain.

“That’s normal,” the veterinarian had warned. The steroids will makes him want to drink more and that will make him go more often. “Even if he hasn’t had one in years, he might start having accidents,” she said.

I’m hoping that’s not the only part of her prognosis that is right.

* * *

Let’s rewind.

It’s a June morning. Murphy is violently rotating his head back and forth like the Things do when I have the audacity to place a vegetable that is not a raw sliced baby carrot on their plates.

“I thought Murphy was sleeping in your room last night?” I say, turning to Thing 1 over breakfast.

“He was,” she says, “but he started shaking his head and rubbing his face on the bed and all over the floor.”

“Better than scooting his butt all over your sleeping face ...”

“Dad-deeee!!”

“So you let him downstairs?”

“Yep,” she says. On cue, Murphy pushes the side of his snout across the rug, his rump up while his hind legs perform a spastic box waltz around the dining room table.

Later, Murphy rolls on his back, eyes closed and paws up. He’s telling me, as he does too often, to stop staring blankly at the computer screen and give affection where it will be handsomely returned.

My hand reaches for his barrel chest and I notice marbled black lines around his mouth. I get him to sit up so I can take a better look.

His fur is thinning out along the folds around his mouth, and in a subtle patchwork all around his nose and eyes.

* * *

sterile nodular pyogranuloma syndrome

Our vet has vainly scraped the lesions that have recently ballooned on Murphy’s head in six different spots, abrading them until his blood seeps out. Her microscopes and mystery machines have found nothing. She sends us, via the winding backcountry roads to the north, to a dog dermatologist over the state line.

This is the animal hospital to the stars. Glenn Close calls in with a question while I’m talking to the receptionist. “Oh, Chevy Chase, Joe Giradi, they all bring their pets here,” the woman tells me. “Luckily, they just usually send them in with a housekeeper or something or else there would be a commotion.”

I imagine Chevy Chase bumbling through the automatic doors. He stops, takes a hard look at Murphy, and his eyes bug. He looks at me and calmy says: “I'm gonna need some pliers, and a set of 30-weight ball bearings. It's all ball bearings nowadays.”

Instead, the docs do biopsies, leaving three Frankensteinian stitches on Murphy’s face and a foppish blue Victorian collar around his neck. He’s the picture of pathetic.

dog in victorian collar

And we wait.

A week later, I hang up my cell phone with a snap, then flip it back open and speed dial My Love.

“Hey, hun,” I say. “Looks like we have a daughter AND a dog with an autoimmune disease.”

* * *

You won’t find much on the Internet about sterile nodular pyogranuloma syndrome. From what we we’ve been told, it’s treatable if not curable. It just takes steroids plus time and patience in dealing with their side effects.

The scars are not overtly noticeable on Murphy’s face these days, six weeks since it all started, and his coat is a bit mottled but smoothing out. Missing fur notches the edges of his ears; it reminds me of the worn patches that decorated the ears of the stuffed rabbit I kept close to me at all hours as a little boy.

The neighborhood dogs he loved to romp with he barely acknowledges now; he’s either too tired or too embarrassed.

Yet there are a few flashes of his old self: chasing down a fly ball during my Wiffle ball games with Thing 2, following me every where I go in and out of the house, barking a good second before a stranger rings the front door.

Time and patience.

I’ll try to have the latter, dog, if you can promise me you will have the former.

+ + +

THING 1 STILL NEEDS YOUR VOTE

Our effort to win a $250,000 Pepsi Refresh Grant to pay for research to find a cure for juvenile myositis, the autoimmune disease Thing 1 has been battling for almost 8 years, isn’t over even though we didn’t win last month.

We finished 12th, high enough to qualify for a second go at the prize this month. After one day of voting we are fourth.

FRCKIN’ FOURTH, PEOPLE!

We need only to finish second to win the grant.

We –- me, My Love, the Things, even Murphy -- need vote every day this month. Go to the Make Juvenile Myositis a Memory application, click the "Vote for this Idea" then either vote by using your Facebook sign-in or creating a unique sign-in based on a valid e-mail address.

You can place a second vote every day by texting 100850 to
Pepsi (73774).

If Cure JM wins, every cent of that $250,000 funds research studies or pays the doctors and scientists who help children with juvenile myositis at "JM Centers of Excellence" the foundation has help set up in Chicago and Washington, D.C.

Blog, Tweet, Facebook, grab a widget (like the one I have at the top right of my home page) -- every little bit helps to get the word out. And vote!

Here is the widget code:

<iframe src="http://www.refresheverything.com/widget/?i=5cc97f04-a2e5-102d-b2ee-0019b9b9e205&w=250&mc=333333&mt=Thing%201%20needs%20your%20support%20every%20day!%21" width="250" height="255" scrolling='no' frameborder='0'></iframe>

My Uncool Past

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