Yeah, we’re working on that.

Laura and I have been emphasizing the importance of good manners to Kyle lately, as he seems to have forgotten how to say “please” and “thank you” consistently. Thus, the following exchange:

KYLE: Daddy, can I play the Xbox?

ME: [trying to coax a “please”] Can you play the Xbox…what?

KYLE: The Xbox 360!

Welcome to Parenthood: Awesome

As restaurants go, Quaker Steak & Lube is pretty cool: a service station crossed with a 50s diner theme, cars and motorcycles hanging from the ceiling, and fantastic food. Kyle was suitably impressed with the decor, but the icing on the cake came during a visit to the men’s room.

“Look at this,” I said, pointing to the door handle shaped like a gas pump nozzle, “pretty cool, huh?”

No reaction, but he’s four years old and has never seen a gas pump nozzle up close, so I really don’t know what I was expecting.

The door closed behind us and I directed him to the urinal.

“Wow!” he exclaimed. “A new kind of toilet! This restaurant is awesome!

Assuming the Mantle

The following is only slightly paraphrased and contains two instances of the phrase “pretentious douchebag(s).” This preamble is verbatim and also contains two instances of the phrase “pretentious douchebag(s).”

ME: I think I may buy one of those MacBooks the pretentious douchebags like.

BOB: Oh? Are you appropriately equipped to assume the mantle of pretentious douchebag?

ME: Well, the MacBook comes with a coupon for a free soul patch and form-fitting black turtleneck, but I’m concerned that I don’t have the right body type for the turtleneck.

BOB: How about a pair of hipster glasses and an ironic t-shirt?

Alas, I can’t afford hipster glasses just now as…well, I recently purchased a MacBook; but I hope this t-shirt is sufficiently ironic.

Welcome to Parenthood: My Li’l Cookie Tosser

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My young apprentice has a decidedly casual attitude about vomiting. He’ll be in the middle of talking (or eating, or playing with one Star Wars action figure or another), there will be a bit of coughing with a tell-tale gag at the end, and then: barf. This is not accompanied by crying or panicking, but generally with the observation, “I puked,” followed by an immediate attempt to resume his previous activities; this despite the fact that there is almost certainly more to come in the Upchuck Department.

Laura and I will stop Kyle in his tracks and begin the process of (a) cleaning up whatever vomit has already been delivered and (b) attempting to catch any subsequent outbursts somewhere between his lips and the nearest horizontal surface (or his shirt). This latter act is typically achieved through the application of tissues, as they are usually the closest thing to a towel or washcloth within reach. Unfortunately, attempting to catch vomit—even from a four-year-old whose stomach is the size of (as near I can guess) a softball—with a tissue is a bit like trying to catch spaghetti with a broadsword, only slimier.

Yesterday, after Kyle’s lunch made an encore appearance on the living room carpet, Laura decided it was time to introduce “the pail”.  She retrieved an empty four-quart ice cream container from the garage, I filled the bottom with about a half-inch of water, and we instructed Kyle that—should he feel the need to vomit again—he should aim for the bucket. Kyle immediately decided that it an old ice cream pail with a bit of water in the bottom was pretty cool, which led to an “accidental” spill about 30 minutes later. “It was a accident,” he declared ((He pronounces the word “ASS-i-dent” and uses it like a “Get Out of Jail Free” card or his own little form of diplomatic immunity. I imagine that I’m Murtaugh on the deck of the Alba Varden, Kyle has just shot Riggs, and he looks up at me and sneers, “It was a assident.” What’s a father to do?)) as Laura was cleaning up the spilled water.

Thankfully, there were no further spills, but later in the day there was more vomit, not all of which made it into the pail. Laura stood there, pail in hand, coaching Kyle on the proper angle of approach necessary to ensure optimum target efficiency, while I grabbed a pile of washclothes from the kitchen and made some attempt to clean up the mess, starting with Kyle’s face. ((If there’s anything worse than a puking child, it’s a puking child with a runny nose. And diarrhea, but that didn’t play a factor in this particular incident.))

None of this seems to phase Kyle in the slightest. “I puked,” he says, then stands by with what little patience a four year old can muster and waits for us to clean up the mess. ((Or rather, that’s how it worked yesterday. I’m told that sometime this morning he announced his intention to be sick, trotted over to the pail, and proceeded to cantar oaxaca directly into it. They grow up so quickly.)) If we weren’t there to hold him back, he’d just play around the puddle on the carpet for a bit, pausing only to make a new, smaller puddle when the aftershock hit. This isn’t how adults do it: we slump with our heads over the toilet (or the pail), often huddling there long after the last heave has been hove, just in case. Never does the thought of getting up and running around wander anywhere in thinking distance; we just want to be still. When we barf, we might as well clear our calendar for the rest of the day. Wimps.

Meanwhile, at The Secret Lair…

The Secret LairWhen I’m not blogging here (which seems to be an awful lot, of late), one of the things I’m doing is blogging over at The Secret Lair. If you’re missing my particular perspective on geeky movies and such, you may want have a peek. Recently, I talked about the rebooting of the Spider-Man movie franchise, the trailer for The A-Team movie and (of all things) Friday the 13th. You should also check out Chris Miller’s rant on the apparent lack of a remake of The Rockford Files, if only because it ties in to The A-Team discussion. And I’d be remiss if I didn’t direct you to the latest installment of our webcomic, featuring our version of a yuletide classic carol.

Later this week, we’ll have a review of the Star Trek Online beta from one of our intrepid field reporters and possibly a review of the zombie/Star Wars hybrid novel Star Wars: Death Troopers by Joe Schreiber (provided I actually finish the book on time). I have no idea what Miller has cooked up for tomorrow morning, but I’m sure it will be curmudgeonly.

EDIT: Links removed, as The Secret Lair is no longer a going concern.

Someone Used to Blog Here, Remember?

SleepyI think it is now safe to add “Blogging Dynamo” to the ever-growing list of phrases that do not accurately describe me. ((Also on the list: Health Nut, Dance Maniac, America’s Sweetheart.)) After a month-long “Internet detox”, I expected to be chomping at the bit and raring to go, but that’s clearly not what happened. Every time I hit the “Add New” button to create the first blog post of 2010, I wind up staring at the blinking cursor for five minutes and then shutting down my web browser. So, no “2009: The Year in Review” or “How I Spent My Internet Detox” or “What Santa Brought Me” posts—not yet, anyway.

Meanwhile, my wife has launched her own blog, The Unreal Me, which is an exercise in creative writing. She’s already posted one poem, a couple of character sketches and a short story. ((To be fair, the short story was written back in July of 2009, when Chris Miller and I decided to write a new essay or piece of short fiction based on a particular theme every two weeks. Our first theme was “coffee”, and Laura decided to join in the fun. Chris’ essay, “The Significance of the Coffee” can be found on his blog, Laura’s short story, “Coffee Break” (intended for mature audiences) has just been posted, and mine…well, mine has a beginning and an end and absolutely nothing in the middle.)) A running theme thus far seems to be women who are seeking a break from demanding children, dirty laundry, and husbands who leave the empty milk jug in the sink instead of rinsing it out and putting it in the blasted recycling bin where it belongs. Naturally, I have no idea where she gets her inspiration, but as far as writing goes, Laura is definitely winning this year. ((It’s not a race.))

Even Kyle has done more writing than I have this year. I’m making coffee and he comes into the kitchen and rearranges the magnetic letters on the fridge. “Daddy, what does this spell?” he asks. “Skuh-fred-jah-wicks,” I say; how else would you pronounce “SKUFRDJAWYX”? Maybe he’ll get another set of letters for his birthday so his refrigerator words aren’t limited to what he can assemble from a single run through the alphabet.

The only critters residing at the International House of Johnson who aren’t generating more words than me so far this year are Rosie and Gil, but I think both of them made a New Year’s resolution to be at least as lazy—if not lazier—than me. They’re making a fair go at it, but I’m definitely giving them a run for their money.

I have a slight advantage over the cats in that I have an almost-four-year-old boy at my disposal who is ever eager to help his daddy with the most menial of chores. Last night, during a brief intermission from Wallace & Gromit and the Curse of the Were-Rabbit, I looked at my empty glass and asked Kyle if he would get me the milk jug from the bottom shelf of the fridge. He dutifully ran to the kitchen and opened the refrigerator door—from my vantage point on the couch I could see the word “BLEMNTORD” spelled in primary colors on the front.

Does he know “bottom”? I wondered. Up and down and under, yes, but what about bottom?

“Give me a hint,” I heard him say.

“Bottom shelf,” I said. “The milk jug; it’s almost empty.”

There was a pause, then an excited “Oh!” and then he was dashing across the living room with the jug in his hand. He watched as I uncapped it, then poured almost a full glass.

“What are you gonna do with that?” he asked.

“I’m gonna drink it,” I said, handing him the empty jug. “Put that in the sink for me, okay?”

The Great Internet Detox (2009)

Chris Miller calls it “The Great Information Detox”, but I’m going to go with “Internet Detox” this year. No Twitter or Tumblr, no Facebook or Flickr, no blogging or reading RSS feeds—not until 2010.

Before I go, I want to thank everyone who participated in How Not to Grow a Beard Month this year. More importantly, thank you for spreading the word far and wide about Beards4Boobs, and for bringing in donations to fund breast cancer research. Last week, I was wondering whether we’d hit $2,000; yesterday morning I thought we might not hit our goal of $2,500; I went to bed last night happy that we’d managed to exceed the goal by nearly $200; this morning, I woke up to a final total of $3,663.23! My flabber is officially gasted. So a huge “Thank You” to everyone who participated, putting their scruffy cheeks and chin on display all through the month of November, and another huge “Thank You” to everyone who sponsored a beard. You are all awesome, generous people who clearly have much love for boobs in your hearts.

That’s it from me until January. I hope your holidays are happy.

Non Sequitur: Guilty Pleasures (Musical Edition)

Queen is one of those guilty pleasures: a band whose music is great, but I’m embarrassed to admit that I like.

Anonymous, during a recent conversation we had about music.

I don’t have any trouble admitting that I like Queen, personally, but I do hesitate sometimes before revealing that enjoy some other musicians and musical groups, like Ace of Base and (gasp!) Yanni. I also like enough of the music from The Backyardigans, a Nick Jr. show that my young apprentice occasionally watches, that I’ve purchased several songs from their repertoire (ostensibly for my son’s enjoyment, though I listen to them when he’s not around).

Some people consider ABBA a guilty pleasure, but so much of my childhood occurred while “Dancing Queen” and “Waterloo” were spinning on my dad’s record player that I can’t feel even the slightest bit of embarrassment about enjoying them. ((In my memory, my father owned exactly three distinct categories of LPs: ABBA, Bill Cosby and Country & Western.))

Yanni: Live at the Acropolis
What makes a guilty pleasure? Why should I (or anyone else, for that matter) feel guilty for enjoying the music of a 70s Scandinavian pop group (or a 90s copycat of a 70s Scandinavian pop group) or a smug, over-coiffed, Greek synthesizer slinger? ((I don’t know that Yanni is actually smug, but he certainly comes across that way. If you’ve ever seen his Live at the Acropolis performance, you may know what I mean.))

Context plays a big part; the music I’ll readily cop to enjoying depends a lot on who I’m talking to and what sort of music we’re discussing. ((Peer pressure: no expiration date.)) Am I likely to mention that I own half a dozen Enya albums when the musical topic is metal groups? Not terribly. ((I may not be likely to mention that I own three Metallica albums, either, as Metallica fans seem to be divided into pre-Load fans and…me.)) That’s not to say I’ll deny owning those Enya albums, mind you—there’s just less of a likelihood they’ll be mentioned in that context than if the genre of the moment is overdubbed, ethereal Irish New Age. ((Which, admittedly, is a fairly specific genre.))

ABBA: Voulez-vous
There’s also the context of the artist or group itself. ABBA is a product of the early 1970s, and everything about ABBA—from their glam-pop sound to their stage costumes and album covers—is a testament to the time period. There are aspects of every decade in the past half-century that are mocked, from the exaggerated Nuclear Family of the 1950s to Free Love in the 1960s and Big Hair in the 1980s, ((What are the 1990s mocked for, you ask? Mostly Ace of Base and Yanni, I think.)) but I don’t think any decade is shunned with such socio-fashionistic fervor as the 1970s. ((Is there any musical genre more scorned than disco? I think not. Nonetheless, I do enjoy a Bee Gees tune every now and then.))

Then there are individual songs from artists or groups who might not otherwise be considered guilty pleasures. Neil Diamond’s “America” with its bombastic, unabashed patriotism; the saccharine sweetness of “Lovely, Love My Family” by The Roots (produced for another Nick Jr. show, Yo Gabba Gabba!); the sappy sentimentality of Marc Cohn’s “Silver Thunderbird”—all songs that tug at my emotions to such a degree that I often struggle to keep the tears down when I listen to them. ((Yes, I’m destined to turn into the sort of father who is moved to tears by long-distance telephone service advertisements on television. I’m told it’s hereditary.))

What else about a genre, group, artist or song might make it a guilty pleasure? What are your personal musical guilty pleasures and why are they guilty?

At last we have the mighty Butterball…

“We’re going to get a turkey,” I said on the way to the grocery store last night. “Gobble gobble gobble!”

From his car seat behind me, Kyle asked, “Why did you say ‘Gobble gobble gobble’?”

“Because that’s the sound a turkey makes,” I said. “Well, a live turkey, anyway.”

“But not dead ones?” Kyle asked.

“No,” I admitted. “Not dead ones. The one we’re getting is a frozen turkey.”

“Frozen?” Kyle asked. “In carbonite?”