Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Strong-arm parenting is so 1950s

Look how strong I am, Dad!

I learned a while ago that this particular sentence warrants immediate attention.  Regardless of the tie-score- and-under-a-minute-to-play of one's March Madness bracket busting game.  Regardless of the food burning on the stove.  Or phone ringing or bathroom beckoning.  If you here this sentence, as the Parent of a 5-year old Boy, you pay attention. 

This particular time, yesterday, the Boy had managed to lift a wooden end table and was holding it upside-down over his head.  Standing on the couch.  His biceps were quivering.

Wow, that's pretty strong, I said in as even a tone as I could muster while very nonchalantly RACING over to him to save him from imminent blood-letting.  I took the table from his hands, much to his chagrin. 

I wanted to put it down myself, he harrumphed. 

Sorry, Boy, it was too big, it would've crashed.

No it wouldn't.

You don't know that.  You don't know that it wouldn't have crashed.

Yes I do know it.  I know everything.


Everything!  You don't have to tell me anything else ever again!  I know everything!

And with this proclamation, we've apparently entered the teenage years.  He knows everything now, my job is done!  I'd always heard that you learn everything you need to know in kindergarten, which he doesn't start until fall. 

He's so advanced. 

Stomping from the room, he also added I'll worry about me, you worry about you.  For one incredibly tempting moment, I thought about saying "see ya in a couple hours then" and leaving in the van.

I didn't.

Speaking of stomping, I still don't have my car back from the mechanic yet.  Two weeks ago today I dropped that blessed car off to fix an electrical problem.  A week ago today, I wrote that I thought it would be done, and then the mechanic called to say it was done.  Before I could leave my house to walk there and pick it up, they'd called again to let me know they couldn't get it started.  Again.  Three (or more) attempted solutions later, they still cannot figure out what's causing it to short out.  Other than being a 17 year old Oldsmobile, I don't know what it could be either, so there it sits. 

If I was strong enough to lift it over my head, I'd drop it in a ravine.


Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Curse you, Perry the Platypus!

In Minneapolis today, the second day of spring with flood warnings on full throttle, we have a winter storm.  Cold and blustery, heavy and wet snow, treacherous roads.  Feel free to thank me, because I caused it. 

Not with wizardry, but with the Law of Murphy.  You see, I mistakenly brought the family Astrovan through the car wash on Monday.  This is something I rarely do, not liking to spend the money, preferring to use the hose in the driveway.  So, in the winter, I'll usually watch a weather forecast first, to be sure the roads will stay dry long enough to justify the 7 or 8 bucks needed to wash the salty grime off the White Wonder.  I'm pretty sure this storm would have stayed north had I not sprung for the Deluxe+Undercarriage.

Also contributing to the stormy weather, it's Picture Day at the Boy's pre-school, the annual newly-pressed-and-collared-shirt and the What-can-the-boy-eat-for-breakfast-that-won't-leak-down-his-chin Rite of Passage day, to be memorialized in scrapbooks and on grandmotherly walls for decades to come.  

Someday in the distant future, the Boy's wife will look at today's picture in the orange polo and spiky, gooped-up hair and see just how cute her darling husband was as a 5 year old.  What she won't know is that the winds were gusting to 20 knots with swirling wet snow.  Only on picture day. 

But anyway, that's not what I wanted to blog about this week.  I'll leave the SNOMG's for facebook, as I'm sure your newsfeed is filling up as fast as mine with harrowing adventures and pinings for warmer weather and empty promises to move south. 

This week, I decided on what I was going to 'give up' for Lent.  I haven't typically observed any fasting rituals (hence the present waistline, I suppose), probably because I'm usually still sulking over a too recently failed New Year's Resolution.  But this year, I decided to stop swearing.  I don't swear all that much, but recently I've noticed that when something isn't going my way (for example, the mere presence of another vehicle on the highway in MY lane....a slow computer....exercise) I've been muttering curses to the wind.  Which doesn't help, just makes me more miserable.  So, last Wednesday, I decided not to swear anymore.

Enter Murphy.

It wasn't even an hour after I committed this to myself quietly that my car wouldn't start.  At the library.  With no cell phone. 

And then after 20 minutes of threatening the scrapyard,  it finally started.  But wouldn't stay running.  Unless I kept the engine revving.  Like at 3000 rpm.  So, I began my trip to the mechanic, only a mile or so down the road from the library, revving in neutral like a teenager at every stoplight and popping it into Drive when it turned green. 

Enter Murphy. 

This time, he manifested himself as a Spring Lake Park police officer with no sense of humor as to why I was barreling through his quiet neighborhoods, engine screaming.   He asked me to turn off the engine, of course.  I could actually see the mechanic's parking lot a block away.   I was able to convince him to let me keep it revved up, in neutral. 

After collecting my violation along with a brochure titled "You've Received a Citation in Anoka County - What's Next?" I proceeded to the mechanic.  I know them on a first name basis, unfortunately. 

"What's Next" is right.  Ah, Murphy, there you are. 

They didn't have time to look at it right away.  I didn't have a coat on, or gloves, or a hat, but walked home a mile because I don't have a cell phone to call anyone.

Fast forward a week, and they still have the car.  I finally got a diagnosis yesterday (they had been working at it, but couldn't figure out what was wrong with it), and Murphy, cleverly disguised as a broken catalytic converter, is charging me around 500 bucks to get it road worthy again.

Murphy?  Is that you?

Yes.  Yes it is.  My prediction is that the Olds will be done today.  Why will it be done today?  Because my plan has been to walk the 1.6 miles to pick it up while the Boy and my wife are navigating their separate workdays and not returning home until after 5, when of course the shop closes.  Couldn't be worse weather.

But anyway, as far as small victories go, I haven't been cursing through any of these trifles.  Just inconveniences, I tell myself.  Having the best day ever.  

Okay, so maybe one or two slips here and there - mostly during the "Ab Ripper" part of the P90X program. (if you've done their banana roll/superman, you have my pity)  But overall, my mood has improved as a result of Lent, I swear.  

I mean, I don't swear.

(If you find yourself wondering what the title of this entry is referencing along with some of my cleverly pilfered phrasing, you NEED to watch Phineas and Ferb on the Disney channel.  Brilliantly insightful comedy for all ages.  You can click on this sentence to get acquainted.)

Monday, March 14, 2011

A humbling week

About two years ago, I was mesmerized by an infomercial for the P90X exercise system.  If you've heard of it, you know that it is - to put it nicely - rigorous.  (click here if you don't know what it is).  I actually watched the whole 1/2 hour sales pitch.  Two years later, with lots of time on my hands while the Boy is at school 3 days a week, I finally pulled the trigger and purchased the set of 13 1-hour long exercise DVDs.  I started the program last Wednesday. 

Today, I cannot lift my arms above my shoulders.  Which makes me angry.  But I suppose that means it's working?  Yeah, angry angry swear at the ceiling working.   I knew I was out of shape - have been my whole life - but come ON.  It's very humbling.

I think that's been the theme for this last week - humbling.  Everything happening in Japan is making me feel very small.  Humbling.  Learning that the 2 year old daughter of close friends is beginning chemotherapy today for newly diagnosed Leukemia.  Extremely humbling.  And watching my wife fight through nausea, picking up an extra class to teach and working through most of her 'spring break' is humbling. 

Oh, nausea?  I should probably explain that.  The Boy is about to have his universe rocked from it's self-centered axis this October, as he will become a big brother to the growing baby inside Mommy.  It's fascinating to watch him try to comprehend how exactly that happens.  When we announced our pregnancy to him last week, using pictures and diagrams from the Pregnancy Week by Week book, he had some Very. Specific. Questions.  Here are some of the gems he's shared with me and/or my wife at bedtime over the last couple of days:

Why does he have a power cord?  What is he plugged into?

How does he climb up to drink from your milkbags?  Do all mommies have milkbags?

Is he going to want to play with some of my toys?  Because I can probably pick some that he won't break.

What does he do all day in there? 

Is he cold because he's naked?

How can he be as small as a grape?  That's not even possible.

I don't want to be a brother.  I told you already, I want to be an astronaut.

How will you know when he's ready to come out? (quickly followed by the dreaded:  WHERE does he come out?)

I'm sure over the next several months, there will be several other observations and questions from the brilliant mind of the Boy, so I'll be sure to share them here (unless they get uniquely inappropriate for a general audience, of course :-) 

Also in the next several months, our parenting roles will likely switch, with my wife staying home with the newborn and me returning to the commuter's paradise known as "a real job."  So if you know of anything....

Monday, March 7, 2011

Winter is dumb.

I don't remember what my yard looks like without snow.  I'm sitting here, staring out the window into my frozen backyard.  Hating it.   Another 3-6" tomorrow?  Hating it.

The Boy, in keeping with his Mini-Me persona, hates winter too.  Doesn't like to be out in the snow - odd for an otherwise active little boy I suppose.  Others may call it odd, I call it intelligent.  Winter sports are inherently, well, dumb. 

Skiing?  Shyah right. Who's the first dolt that thought of that one? 

"Hey Bob, I got an idea, eh?  Why don't you strap these slippery sticks to your feet and slide down this here mountain?"  

"Sure, sounds like fun.  But how will I not end up killing myself, eh?"

 "Um, bend your knees?"  

"Ah, OK then.  But what if I'm falling sideways?" 

"Here - take these fishing spears with you.  That-ought-a-do-er." 

"Gee, thanks!  See you at the boooooootttttoooooooooommmmmmmm!!!"

Ice skating is equally inane, another stroke of frozen-brained genius.  Having trouble standing up on the ice?  How 'bout standing on these knife blades, that should help!  Seriously.  And when that got boring, they started carrying wooden sticks around and hitting a frozen cowpie at each other.  Called it hockey. 

Or how about that conversation for the first attempt at luge?

"Larry, come here."

"Yes, Barry?"

"I want you to lay down on your back on this plank."

"What for, Barry?"

"I made an ice chute for you to slide down this mountain."

"Sounds fun!  Lay down like this?"

"No, on your back.  And feet first."

"But I can't see where I'm going."

"That's okay Larry.  Just steer with your feet."

"Ah, thanks Barry.  Off we go, then."

I won't even mention ski JUMPING, but I'm definitely convinced the inventors of these 'sports' were orthopedic surgeons. 

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Library Day

The Boy and I visited one of the Anoka County libraries yesterday afternoon, mostly to kill time between meals.  (And it's a wholesome, educational place blah yadda blah.  That too, of course).   I will say he selected some interesting books to borrow for the next week or two.  He is currently very interested in Ice Cream, Auto Mechanics, and the light bulb, and he has found books on each topic.  I don't know which is more surprising - that someone would be willing to pay someone to write a book about a light bulb, or that someone would be willing to write it at all.  But I guess I'm glad they did, the Boy loves it.

Anyway, to get to my main beef today - what's the deal with the librarians in the children's section?  Did they ever like kids?  Maybe at one point they loved children, but that has long since disappeared, it seems, swallowed up by their greater love of silence and order.  While sitting with the Boy on a miniature chair at a miniature table feeling a bit Jolly White Giant-ish, I couldn't help but overhear the two librarian women as they very obviously and rather boldly discussed the behavioral faults of what they perceived to be a troublesome foursome of 8 year old girls that were giggling.  While reading a book.  And sitting.

Oh, the humanity. 

And here, sitting at their reference desk throne are these two stereotypes - mousy faces, unexercised bodies, graying hair pulled into a way-too-tight ponytail/bun that they probably never remove even for shampooing, large-rimmed glasses, floral blouses, thrift store slacks, actually scoffing - scoffing! - at the girls' nerve to (gasp!) make sound.  While reading. 

I almost said something.  It's not like they were playing hopscotch.  Or tag.  Or arson.  But I enjoy confrontation about as much as snowmen enjoy 4th of July, and so instead, I chose to passive-aggressively talk to the Boy louder.  It was loud enough where the Boy actually told me to talk softer "because it's the library, Dad".  Which of course I've said to him hundreds of times, witlessly indoctrinating him while young because after all, everyone knows it's The #1 Rule of the Library, which they probably teach in Library College on the first day of the intro class, So You Want to Be a Librarian 101. 

I'm sure the intro class has a textbook (which you probably can't check out because I'm sure it's classified as a reference book), with Chapter One titled How to Act Superior to the Cretins that Have the Audacity to Enter Your Dust Filled Kingdom, Even Though They Paid For It All With Their Tax Dollars, and Chapter Two:  The Art of Effective Shushing.  In it will be a picture of a disheveled marm of a woman completely overrun by young, boisterous readers because she, alas,  has not learned the proper "Eye of Condescension" technique.  The caption warns:  "Loudness breeds stupidity" or "Hitler Laughed at Picture Books.  Will you?"

I will no longer heed this particular rule, written or unwritten.   For the children.

Chapter Three, I'm positive, warns of parents like me.  I bet I end up with a mysterious 25 cent fine on my library account just for writing this.