This blog is old. You don't want to read an old blog, do you?

If you are not redirected to the fancy new blog in about 6 seconds visit
and update your bookmarks.

Friday, August 29, 2008

The Moobs List

I'm jumping on a bandwagon, setting fire to it, and leaving everyone who noticed said bandwagon writhing in agony at the sight before their eyes. If FADKOG, Ali, and Megan are the fearless pioneers and homesteaders full of Manifest Destiny and expanding west of the Mississipi, I am the Sioux Chief who says "Dude. Remember that treaty and the whole, 'Oh, we promise we aren't going to go anywhere outside of this small band of land we are using as a way to get from one side of the Dakotas to the other,' thing you swore? Yeah, see those Black Hills you and Custer are standing on? Not part of the deal. Best circle your wagons because I'm about to burn them down and adopt your children into my tribe."

The hell? What am I talking about? That's a load of nonsense, and a poor metaphor, but I'm gimping along today because my brain is exhausted from trying to outthink people at a hundred miles an hour, and my hamstring is broken from trying to out-lunge people at a much slower rate of speed than that. I am out of shape, and fencing is hard.

So. What?

I'm talking about a recent spate of lists of things that are awesomeomgilovethem: Things that are "the tits".

Things that are the tits are great. But, you know what? Some things are not the tits. Some things are the moobs. These things suck. They suck like a twisted fetishist gagging on a moob.

Sorry. You don't know what a moob is? Loralee has a picture that ought to make it clear:


(Note: I am in no way implying that this is a picture that Loralee took of herself. Don't send me hate mail. That means you, Tanis.)

Ok, now that you have the idea (and if you still don't I'll spell it out: Man-Boob. Moob.), here is a list of Things That Are "The Moobs":

Big Bird's Birdketeers. Why can't they just leave Oscar the hell alone? I was watching an episode of Sesame Street and they went up to Oscar's can where he was sleeping or something and just started singing/counting at the top of their lungs and when he came out to say "Yo, @(W)hoorl @(T)hebloggess @(F)adkog dudes?" they laughed and told him he had to sing and count with them. I love kids. I love kids singing. But if some neighbor kids started yelling outside my window while I was napping I'd be grouchy too. I've started to have a lot of sympathy for Oscar. I now call him Oscar the Victim.

Leafblowers. Even worse than the Birdketeers, because these suckers always show up during my naptime. I haven't had a good nap in weeks.

People who wave me through at intersections. I know, this sounds weird, right? I mean, what could be mooby about people who stop their cars at stop signs and insist that I go first, whether I'm on my bike or driving? They're so nice. Yes. But if I'm driving or on my bike I don't need people to be nice. I need them to be predictable. So when I stop at an intersection I just need everyone to do what they are supposed to do as good drivers, and the world will work like clockwork and I don't have to sit there insisting that "No, really, you go and stop making me look like an ass for waiting my turn."

Politics. Stop making me look like an chump for playing fair.

Yes Dear. Because every time I watch this stupid show (why am I watching it???) I think "Yeah, brutha! Tell it like it is! Kids really are like that! Marriage really is like that!" Dammit. Then I take a nap (or try to, if the leafblowers aren't out) and when I wake up I remember: this show sucks.

Hamstrings. Because when they hurt they hurt in a way you don't notice until you stand up and try to chase your daughter around the living room.

Moobs. Because. Seriously.

The end of summer. Because as the summer ends, so too does my year at home with Erin. I return to school full time at the end of September, and Erin goes into daycare. That's all I have to say about that right now.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Twenty Minutes

We have a stained wooden chest with a hole cut in one end. Inside the chest is the litter box for our one and only remaining cat, Puck.

I'm pretty sure that I named Puck after Puck from A Midsummer Night's Dream and faerie lore. Emily is pretty sure that I named Puck after the hockey pucks that were shooting through Patrick Roy during the 1997 playoff series between the Avalanche and the eventual Cup champion Detroit Red Wings. In either case, it's a good name.

Puck had a brother, Hector. Emily and I brought Hector home one day from a pet store where he was languishing in kitty jail with Puck, only a couple of weeks old and too young for the store to sell, but they had been found in an alleyway and were fed hamburger for a couple of days before being given to the owner of the store. Hector was adorable: a little black cat mewling for someone to take him home. So we did, paying a voluntary "adoption" fee (essentially buying him, but not according to the books the store kept). We didn't bring Puck home at the time because we had housemates, and three cats in the house already (only one of them Emily's) and we thought we could get away with one cute black kitten but probably not two. I named him Hector after Hector of Troy. A good name for a cat.

When our roommates met Hector, and then heard that there was another one who had been left behind they asked how we could do that. I was out the door before they had finished the question, and I snagged Puck from his wiry cage where he had been sitting all alone for twenty minutes, without his brother, already abandoned by his mother, and by the person who had been feeding him hamburger. I brought him home, and set him down next to his nearly identical brother, two black furballs mewling and confused.

Then we tied a red string around Hector's neck to distinguish him from his brother, and nicknamed him Frenchie.

Puck never really figured out how to meow or how to cover his own crap. We nicknamed him Squeaker.

Hector died of renal failure last November, shortly after our other cat, Madison, also died.

Puck is alone again.

Hector was always the kitty-slut, jumping up into everyone's lap, following us from room to room. He stayed slim and sleek his whole life.

Puck was always the terrified one. He would spend his time hiding under the bed when anyone came over. He used to flinch when we'd lean down to pet him, as though we'd been beating him. He had his affectionate moments, but he's always seemed a little sad and put upon. He ballooned up to 22 lbs, outeating the other two by a wide margin and then not moving. I think that 20 minutes alone at the beginning of his life really affected him, and he's never quite gotten over it.

Erin loves him.

He has no time at all for her. He is terrified of her and just wants to be left alone. From the moment she wakes up in the morning he hides under a bed. I usually keep the bedroom door closed so he can at least come out from under the bed at his leisure without Erin busting in on him.

I wish he weren't so afraid of her. I wish she weren't quite so exuberant. I also wish she were more subtle. When she began crawling she would try to sneak up on him, but get so excited when she got close that she'd shout "keeeee!!!" as she tried to snag his tail, and he'd bolt. She's no more subtle now that she is walking.

Puck came out from under the bed a little while ago to use his litter box.

Erin espied him, snuck up to the hole in the end of the chest and announced "ki-eeeeee!!!"

And for the past twenty minutes she's been running back and forth between me and the litter box, screaming for Puck to come out and love her. Puck hasn't moved a muscle, except to hiss once.

I finally took pity on him and removed her from that side of the room. I've been coaxing him out of the box, but so far he's content to hide.

Poor Squeaker.

Someday he will let Erin pet him. But not this day.

Movie Review: "Hamlet 2" (Electric Boogaloo)

Because I don't know what else to write about today, I'm giving you a movie review. Do you watch movies? I watch too many movies.


I've seen a couple of great comedies in the last month or so: Tropic Thunder and Pineapple Express were both well-worth the price of admission.

I was in the mood for a little zane (not a reference to an interest in a tryst with a short dude named Zane), and Hamlet 2 opened yesterday and I was convinced by the trailer blurbs that it was a laugh riot.

I laughed right out loud during this film, on several occasions. Steve Coogan played his character, a drama teacher and washed-up Hollywood R-list actor, with the same kind of loveable obliviousness, enthusiasm, and self-centered-ness that Steve Carell brings to Michael Scott. His drama department is going to be shut down, and in classic high school movie/let's save the rec center fashion he pens his own play for his collection of misfit students to put on. The play is a redemption story in which Hamlet travels back in time to correct his mistakes, and he is helped along the way by the time-traveling swimmer-bod model Jesus. It offends both the literate parents of the students in the class, and the religious zealots of the town.

Amy Poehler, as an ACLU representative fighting to keep Coogan's play from being shut down by the school board, is perfectly self-important and perpetually prepared to be threatened by "the man".

And Catherine Keener is excellent as Coogan's alcoholic wife, desperate to be pregnant or drunk just so long as it's different.

But I ultimately went to see this movie because of the promise of zane and irreverent humour (the main musical number of the high school play Coogan's students put on is "Rock Me Sexy Jesus"). And while there were occasional wacky moments there were too many opportunities to just pause and take a breath.

It had all of the comedic beats of a dramedy, but without the drama filling in the spaces. These little peaks of whimsical, unexpected humour seemed to be just that: unexpected. Because after a couple of minutes of relative flatness those funny moments caught me by surprise.

It's weird to write that out, because I really can't fault Coogan or his colleagues: their performances were seamless. And the script was clever enough, I think, to stand on its own two ridiculous feet. But the intelligence and subversiveness of the script somehow wasn't conveyed. Not even with Coogan hamming it up in what I thought was a very appropriate way, and Elizabeth Shue (playing herself, but a version of herself that left Hollywood to become a nurse) playing the Abbot to Coogan's Costello.

I did laugh quite a bit. But not nearly as often as I should have for a movie with a premise as ridiculous as this one. And there weren't as many "oooh" moments of uncomfortable snickering as I thought there would be. And the play itself, the most dense concentration of those kinds of awkward laughter moments, takes up very little screen time overall. Most of the movie is not about Hamlet 2. It is a flat farce inspired by the great "inspirational teacher/community center director" films of the 80s and 90s.

I don't necessarily want my money back. But I feel as though I didn't spend it on something I chose myself. I feel like someone pulled a twenty out of my wallet without me knowing, gave it to some starving artist whose work wasn't really that compelling, and then told me about it later. And just as I wouldn't try to get my twenty back from the guy eating ramen with his paint-stained fingers, so too I'm not going to try to get my money back from the producers. But I'm not going to feel good about it.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Put your money where your mouth is

Do you want to be able to stare at that -----------------------------> mug for an entire month next year? Well, here's your chance.

Somebody, and I'm not sure yet if I ought to thank this person or have them hunted by ninjas, submitted my name for the Hottest Blogger Calendar.

You can vote for me here. Scroll down the list until you see "Backpacking Dad". Ignore all of the other names.

I would be lying if I said it wouldn't be cool to be included in this thing. And I'm all about the cool. Check out my cargo shorts and 18 different grey t-shirts.

I would be lying if I said I had a shot.

But Wil freaking Wheaton is on the list and my wife already loves him more than she does me, and he tried to steal my baby. So at the very least I'd like to be able to say that I received more votes than he did (even if he doesn't know about this calendar and isn't shamelessly plugging himself for it).

So, help me win back both my wife's love and my daughter from Wil Wheaton. What are you, a baby hater?

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Parenting Magazine and Their Insensitive Tagline

Emily brought home a Parenting magazine once.


I knew I was going to be staying home with Erin, and I was pretty defensive about being a stay-at-home dad, and gender equality in parenting, and misperceptions of fathers. So when I read the tagline on the magazine (Parenting Magazine: What matters to moms) I was righteously indignant.

How Dare They?? How dare they assume that parent=mom? I am outraged! I will write letters! I will probably not do anything but boy, I will feel really strongly about this for a short time and then forget about it altogether!

I did get up in arms a couple of times about some stupid comments someone or other made about at-home dads, or about the attitude toward at-home dads that I detected out there in my early days of cruising the internet during Erin's naps. But, as with most things, familiarity, conversation, getting to know people, and patience ended the knee-jerk defensiveness I felt.

It no longer bothers me that Parenting Magazine markets parenting as a mom job. I can laugh and see the tagline for what it is: just a way to sell magazines.

And I can't really be too indignant. It's not as if I don't own a Playboy (Playboy Magazine: What matters to dads) featuring Tricia Helfer, the blond Cylon from Battlestar Galactica. Like Doc Holliday, my hypocrisy goes only so far.

Besides. I think Parenting Magazine doesn't have the market cornered on what matters to moms.

As Emily pointed out, Parents Magazine has a pretty good idea of what matters to moms too. And it's not cupholders built into strollers.

fail owned pwned pictures

(We saw this last night on Fail Blog, like I Can Has Cheezburger but with no cats. Also, in all fairness to Parents Magazine, this cover is a fake. See the creator's website.)

Monday, August 25, 2008

The Mosh Pit

We went to the mall on Saturday.

That really ought to be the end of this post. And the end of this blog, actually, because it's amazing that anyone makes it out of the mall alive. Add a teething toddler to the normal stew of high-pressure booth salesgirls, cellphone asshats, and everyone else's screaming children and I'm pretty sure what you get is nitroglycerine.

But, give this guy a Klondike bar: I went to the mall and did not have my head explode or lose my child (accidentally or on purpose...oh, Teddy Bear Taxidermy Factory, you were so close to adding another child to your collection).

Emily wanted to buy some things. Knowing that taking Erin while Emily bought some things for herself might inspire her to buy some things for herself that were actually for myself (bow chicka wow wow, as they say), I plopped Erin down in the Mosh Pit and awaited my reward.

The Mosh Pit. It's real name is Playtown, down at the Valley Fair Mall in San Jose. It is a large rubberized wrestling mat surrounded by soft benches for the bloodthirsty fans parents to sit on while their children enjoy the ramps, tunnels, cars, wall toys, mirrors, and, in Erin's case, the escape route to the Lego Store. I call it the Mosh Pit because in large part the entertainment for the kids consisted in running as fast as possible, hurdling the toys they were supposed to be playing on, and running into one another. Little pre-schooler bodies were flying everywhere.

While we were there Erin met a little boy who, I'm sad to say, creeped me right the hell out. He was about four years old, and was so in love with my little sixteen month old that he was following her around the entire Mosh Pit for what seemed like an hour. And he was grabbing at her, constantly. Hugging her, holding her arm, trying to soft-tackle her, and at one point he put her in a head lock and I almost narded him. I kept looking around to see who his parents were, but the Mosh Pit is pretty much a nanny zone, and few of them were watching the kids play anyway, so I had no idea who was watching him. Lucky for him, Erin outmaneuvered him repeatedly so I didn't have to sit down and have a long talk with this future date-rapist (harsh, I know, but you should have seen this kid).

Erin also met the Acrobatic Mooch. I succumbed and quartered up my lone five dollar bill and I set Erin a-rockin' in the various drugstore rides that surrounded the Mosh Pit. Her favourite was the Storyteller Truck. It was my least favourite. Not because it was annoying or didn't do it's job, but because there was this six-year-old boy who, whenever I would load the truck up with quarters, would swing in the back window and press all the buttons while Erin was relegated to the role of chauffeur. When the ride was over he would swing back out of the window and sit on top of the truck, waiting for some other sucker to come along so he could skep a free ride. Again, I've no idea who his parents were.

I was in no doubt about the parentage of the little girl who was hovering next to the Taxi ride while Erin was groovin' it. This little wannabe-mooch was waiting for her chance to jump in the Taxi, but Erin, clever girl that she is, was taking up both seats and driving with two steering wheels and she just wasn't leaving any room for the wannabe. I had already suffered through two rounds of "Calm down, dude. It's just a kid. Do not haul him out of the truck by his ears and tell him to beg a quarter off his nanny," and I didn't have a whole lot of patience left for this girl. But I was absolutely floored by her father, standing in front of the Taxi ride, egging her on to jump in the ride. Admittedly, I don't speak whatever language he was speaking (not English, not Spanish, not French, something Middle Eastern), but the tone of voice and the gestures to the Taxi spoke volumes. Little Acrobatic Moochers with nannies who are busy talking to other nannies are one thing. A father encouraging his daughter to push another little girl out of the way so he doesn't have to drop the three quarters to power up the Taxi is unacceptable.

But, as with the littlest Date Rapist, Erin's skillz obviated any need for me to punch a dude in the balls for being an asshat. She just calmly steered that Taxi as though she were behind on fares for the day and looking to make it up in tips, and the ride ended before the wannabe could succumb to her father's pressure to turn her into a mooch.

Harsh, right? A nice guy would have shifted Erin over and said "Hey, little girl, why don't you enjoy this here ride with my daughter. She doesn't mind, and it doesn't cost her or me anything to let you do it." But this probably wasn't the first time, nor will it be the last time, that the little girl loses out because her father has no class. I'm sorry that I didn't take the highest road, but at least I didn't take a swing at him.

I'm still waiting for that Klondike bar.


I'm guest-posting today over at the Redneck Mommy. Even though I am neither a redneck nor a mommy. Go check it out. You'll learn all about why you shouldn't raise children in the sticks, just like you've learned here why you shouldn't raise kids in the suburbs.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Say It

It's been an explosion of signed and spoken vocabulary up in here recently. And really, I think Erin owes almost all of her education to Rachel, Alex, Leah, and Hopkins from Signing Time. It is not unusual for the following conversation to take place:

"Father, would you be so kind as to operate the remote control device and cause the television set to display that Show of Shows, Signing Time, so that I may gaze fondly and deeply into Alex's wintry blue eyes and learn the signs for "napkin", "outside", and "love of my life forever"?"

"No, sweetie. We already watched Signing Time today. In fact, we watched it half an hour ago. How about some toys? Books? Are you hungry?"

"Sir, I believe you misunderstand me. I was not, in fact, making a request. And honestly, were you not so dense you would have seen that my frantic, insistent gestures belied my polite tone. You will operate the remote control device as directed, or I shall spend the next hour standing next to you trying to rip your left shift key off. Again."

"Here, kid. Do you want this Goldfish Cracker that I found on the floor? Go fetch."

"You are really quite exasperating. Please, do us both the kindness of not pretending that I am an idiot, or easily distracted by shiny crackers. I must visit with Alex immediately. I learned the sign for "prom" and I'm pretty sure that's what he has been secretly signing to me during the "Down on Leah's Farm" song. I must assure him that yes, I will be his date to the prom."

"Erin. Stop unplugging my computer. Daddy's trying to blog. Ahhh, don't send that Tweet! How did you find my file of bad novel ideas? Here. Watch some Signing Time and leave me alone for half an hour."

"I win."

I'm pretty sure the amount I write is in direct proportion to how much Signing Time she watches.

(Note: that file of bad novel ideas is no lie. It's there on my hard drive. And it's not just novels. There's a cartoon strip. And an art exhibit. The crown jewel is the culinary murder mystery.)

Wednesday, August 20, 2008


I need to know something.

I took a day off today, which meant, as usual, that Erin went to daycare and I went on a bike ride and watched a movie. The bike ride was great; the movie was average.

I seem to have a special ability; a sixth sense. Whenever I abandon my daughter to the care of strangers and take a day for myself and guiltily hide from the spying, judging eyes of the world by ducking into a movie theater, I pick the worst possible movie to see given my guilt and my judgment paranoia.

For instance, today I saw a movie called Henry Pool Is Here. Luke Wilson stars as a man who finds out he is terminally ill, buys a house in his childhood neighborhood looking for comfort in the familiar, and tries to drink himself into depressed oblivion before he dies. He is alone, without any hint of family. This is the kind of movie I choose to see, without knowing anything about the plot, on the day when I'm alone. Idiot.

But today doesn't even compare to Erin's very first day at the day care center. The first day when I wasn't home with her. It was a test, to make sure she'd be able to handle daycare if we had to use it in the future. I didn't need a break or have to run errands or anything like that. So I was feeling especially guilty about taking the afternoon off (yeah, it was only 4 hours of daycare, not even a full day). I went to the movies, and I saw two films, back to back.

No Country for Old Men and I Am Legend.

Completely, utterly, insanely bad choices.

The movies were fine, even great. But let me synopsize these two features, selected by me on an afternoon when I had sold my daughter to gypsies.

No Country is the story of man who finds a whole bunch of money at a drug deal gone bad. Someone figures out that he has the money, and they hunt him. So he has to leave his wife and go on the run, holing up in hotels and motels and fleeing from the creepy menace that is Javier Bardem, as well as from some Mexican gangsters. Ultimately, and if you don't want the end spoiled go ahead and skip to the next paragraph.....ultimately, he fails. Despite his competence, he weakens for a moment, and he is killed like a dog. He dies far from his wife, and because he has failed her and defied his nemesis who has promised to kill her for his defiance, she dies too. There is almost no movie that could have been a worse choice to see on that particular afternoon.

Almost. Because I saw the worst movie to see on that particular afternoon immediately afterward.

I Am Legend is the story of a brilliant scientist who is the last man on Earth. He watched his wife and son die in a horrible accident during a panicked evacuation from New York after the cancer-cure he develops starts turning everyone into crazy zombie things. After he watches them die he spends years in insane isolation, trying to cure the zombie things: because he can't bring his family back, but maybe he can perform the near-impossible and make up for destroying the human race and killing his family.

This was not a good, relaxing afternoon at the movies, folks. This was vengeance. Retributive justice. Karma.

I biked away from the theater today feeling as I tend to on these days: guilty. Missing my daughter. Wondering why I need to take even these modest breaks from the routine. I suppose I need to know that these breaks are worthwhile.

But not as badly as I need to know where the 40 year old dude on the bike in front of me was going, in his khaki pants and his loafers and his visor.

And his Bob the Builder backpack.

Just curious, dude.

(Editor's Note: As some people have pointed out, I actually don't really remember the plot details of I Am Legend. Do not count on me for movie reviews. I actually just sit in the theater and tweet.)

Sunday, August 17, 2008

And Make It Better

I climbed the stairs from the parking garage, emerging onto the street-level sidewalk next to the theater and walked toward the entrance.

Hey Jude, don't make it bad. Take a sad song and make it better.

I heard her singing and when I turned to look directly at her I wondered how I had missed her in the first place. She was standing behind an open guitar case, smiling with the nervous confidence that only a 12 year old girl can muster: acutely aware of the attention, but also immortal.

Remember to let her into your heart.

She was singing "Hey Jude" with that same self-aware immortality: her voice was pitched loudly enough to carry down the sidewalk, but it cracked, and popped a little. Unwilling or unable to stop singing she rushed across those nervous notes, the sound warping a little as she fought to articulate the words in spite of the grin that took over her face.

Then you can start to make it better.

Her hands were clasped tightly behind her back, and she sang without swaying, her neck arching and chin dropping as she came over the top of the high notes, powering through long phrases by singing from her gut, not her shoulders. She had worked hard for this, to sing, wherever it was. Tonight it was behind an open guitar case.

Hey Jude don't be afraid. You were made to go out and get her.

Not alone. The man to her left in the denim shirt, the ponytail of greyed hair pulled back from a deeply receding hairline, strumming the guitar formerly housed in the mostly empty guitar case, and gazing at her with smiling eyes as he hit harmonic points, was clearly her father. He had the confidence of an old performer, but one who was enthralled by the experience of seeing someone he loved, helped, created, step up and perform on her own. He loved his Sidewalk Star, and his pride in her was infectious. I was proud of her myself.

The minute you let her under your skin

I was leaning against the wall outside the theater, Tweeting or reading an e-mail on my Blackberry as I waited to go inside and drop $20 on a movie on one of my rare nights off. And I was listening, raptly, as were so many of the people on the sidewalk. But I wasn't just listening to the song; that wasn't what was keeping my attention. I was experiencing an aspect of parenthood that I've only had small tastes of, so far: pride in choices, in hard work, in effort, in caring.

Then you begin to make it better.

I see a lot more of these father-daughter moments now, it seems, these little previews of my future with Erin. I don't know if I will ever be able to pull off a pony tail or denim shirt (well, another denim shirt; I've had my fair share, but it was the 90's, and in Canada), but I can certainly see myself strumming the strings, literally or metaphorically, in a soft accompaniment to whatever it is she has chosen to do. Showing her off to the world for the woman she is promising to be.

A woman stood up from where she had been sitting against a lamp post nearby. She stepped behind the case, next to the girl, and added her alto voice, smoothing out the slight choppiness of the girl's soprano with a mother's loving confidence, knowing that the girl could sound even more beautiful if she believed it, and knowing that believing it meant recreating those times when she believed it most, at home, before dinner, before the television was turned on. She was the sensible counterpoint to her husband's shining, blind enthusiasm.

Don't carry the world upon your shoulders.

And listening now to that family, created for me out on the sidewalk as I was on my way to see a movie, I had to do something to let them know that their song, their evening, their intimate sharing, had not been lost on me.

Well don't you know that it's a fool who plays it cool by making his world a little colder.

So I walked over to them, pulled my hand out of my pocket, and dropped my twenty in the guitar case. Not because I thought they needed the money or had earned the money or because I wanted to patronize the busking arts, but because I knew that she would know that she had done something special, and she would gush about it with her father, and he could be proud of her all over again because he knows, from experience, how rare it is for someone to do more than toss a couple of quarters in the case.

Hey Jude don't let her down. You have found her now go and get her.

I dropped the bill in because I saw Erin standing there, and I saw myself standing there, and I saw Emily standing there, and I wanted to do something for our future selves. It's probably a good thing that I wasn't carrying a hundred dollar bill with me, because Erin's voice, that voice I hear in my head when I think her, was directing all of my thinking.

And don't you know that it's just you, hey, Jude, you'll do, the movement you need is on your shoulder.

"Have a good night, guys," said Erin's voice through my mouth as I released the bill and turned to walk into the theater.

Guitar cases don't accept credit cards, but movie theaters do.

Friday, August 15, 2008

And just where were you while this was going on?

I always set the backpack down on a green patch  in the otherwise wood-chip floored park. Three play areas comprise this park, our nearest, the one Erin screams "Whee!!!!" at every time we walk or drive close by. One area is a for the swings, where Erin had her first swing on a swing; this area remains our first stop every time we go. It just isn't the park if we don't begin with a "Whee!!"

Another area has a low jungle gym. A narrow staircase there has helped teach her one-footed surety; a plastic bridge has given her sea legs. There are two slides, one short and straight and steel; the other long, a plastic purple tube. Erin always eschewed the slides. Timid? Probably not. She only fears vacuum cleaners. This day was no different, however. After a few stair drills and bridge crossings, she was bored. She climbed down and headed over to the last area.

This area is home to the tall jungle gym. Designed for older pre-schoolers and younger elementary school children, this apparatus has many tempting openings in the railings that lead to 6 to 10 foot falls to the chip floor below. As usual, Erin went for the stairs, and climbed her way to the top, taking her time and crawling through tunnels of opportunity.

A child approached her on the stairs. A boy-child. 5 years old? 6? Hard to tell under the massive helmet he was wearing. "She can't be on this one. She have to be on the other one. No babies allowed on this one. The other one is for babies. Her have to go."

Erin ignored him. I listened to him, then said in a tone that covered my irritation that a little punk wearing a helmet on the jungle gym would try to get her to clear off, ostensibly for her safety but really because he didn't like a 15 month old showing him up with her mad jungle-gymming skillz: "Well, she seems to be doing okay for herself here."

Punk. Go tell your mom that your helmet is squeezing your brains out.

Erin passed him on the stairs, as did I. And when I turned around he was gone. As though he had always and only been an avatar of my parental conscience: "Your kid should be wearing a helmet, dad; your kid should be on a lower, safer, jungle gym; your kid should be....hey! Where's your kid??"

Erin was already at the tall, 10' slides, watching some older boys slide down then climb up. Over and over. I could tell she wanted to try these slides, even though she had never shown any interest in the slides on the "baby jungle gym". She held the bars, and then stepped forward until her feet came out from underneath her. And she hung, demonstrating her awesome upper-body strength for the weak-ass boys at the bottom of the slide. Then she dropped and slid to the bottom.

Back to the stairs, back up the stairs, this time free of punk kids telling her to stay off the jungle gym. Back to the insanely tall slide (she's 15 months old, folks; it's like 7 times her height): grip, step, hang, drop, "whee!!"

And the boys were applauding her at the bottom of the slide this time.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Guest post

Catherine, Her Bad Mother herself, let me into her kitchen. So I wrote a post about turkey. And No Fear t-shirts.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

A Dads-only Dinner Party

Auds at Barking Mad sent me an e-mail saying "Come do this dinner party thing." Or something along those lines. She was very persuasive. What really sold me was when she wrote

"Most of you I've emailed are among women who are highly coveted wannabee invitees."

Ah. Well, it's true. I am easily confused with a woman, I suppose. I have made no apologies for calling myself a "mommy-blogger". I hang out with more women than men. I have watched "Ellen". Also, I'm very pretty: so say all of my male friends who really just need to come out of the closet already.

Speaking of coming out, although I jokingly refer to my feelings for Ryan Reynolds and Freddie Prinze Jr. as "man crushes" they might be something more. Hey, Ryan, call me dude. We can go hang out at Freddie's house and play pool. Nothing naked, man. Just some guys, bonding. In a totally manly way.

Uh...where was I?

Oh, right. So, Auds, even though she made the entirely forgivable mistake of overlooking my completely masculine facial hair, has asked me to participate in her Dinner Party: A challenge to list ten bloggers who I'd like to have dinner with.

Well, I'm feeling in need of a little male companionship after Auds' e-mail, so I think I'm going to make this a Dads-only Dinner Party. Nothing naked, guys. Just some men, bonding. In a totally manly way. We'd grill up some steaks, or maybe some goat cheese and cranberry stuffed chicken breasts, crack open some beers, and watch a hockey game at the man spa.

So, who to invite?

Well, there's Laid Off Dad. We met in the manliest of all places, the handbag section of a Macy's. He is a supremely cool guy and he just moved into a new place, so maybe he'd agree to let me throw this party at his place instead of in my tiny apartment filled with baby toys and cat vomit.

And my skeptical friend Tick Tock, who looks at all the crazy in the world and just says "Here are all the reasons you are crazy." And then he sits back and waits for the crapstorm from his wife over what he just said about Chinese medicine.

Will, from Gaming With Baby gets an invite because my cooking has not been nearly up to snuff lately and I know he'd take one look at my sorry-ass menu and just roll up his sleeves and whip up something much better. Plus, I really want to bust out my old Nintendo and see if there is anyone out there who can wail at Punch-Out like I can.

Kevin, a dad in New England who is funny as hell and isn't afraid to let the world know how much his kids hate brown people. Most brown people. Not all of them. His kids are rational like that. He'd come over and I'd help him draw Venn diagrams to give to his kids so that they could be very clear about which brown people they hate. Because if there's one thing I hate about racist kids, it's racist kids who make broad generalizations.

Jeremy Adam Smith needs to come over because there needs to be a grown-up in the group. This guy is smart, responsible, inspiring, and a hard-working feminist and dadvocate. Usually that combination of voices is absent from conversations, and I respect the hell out of what he does and the passion with which he does it. Plus, he also rocks some mad facial hair, so we could totally have a pose-off.

Chag, my cynical friend, is the best Twitter VJ I've ever seen. If there is going to be any life at this party, it will come from him. His taste in music is impeccable, even if his taste in sports is incomprehensible. Seriously, dude: Let's watch some hockey.

Graham, one of my Bay Area brothers-in-diapers, is just about as lax in care with his daughter as I am with mine. Apart from being a fantastic writer and great role model (except for the whole flipping his daughter upside down on the swings, thing) he also looks like Hugh Grant. I don't have man-crush on Hugh Grant, but it would be nice to have someone at the party who we can throw to the ladies peeking in the windows wondering what we're doing in there behind our "No Girls Allowed" sign.

Mike, another of my Bay Area brothers-in-diapers, needs to come and just put on a writing workshop. He always writes pure gold, and all of us would be better people if we could express ourselves as he does. There would be no confusion in the world, and we would all want to have daughters and show them how great raising a child in the city can be.

SciFi Dad can bring some much needed geekiness to the party. Not that I don't carry enough of that around on my own, but while Will is busy crying that I pwned him at Punch Out I'll need someone to argue with over eternal, burning questions like "Kirk vs. Jean-Luc", "Zombies vs. Vampires", and "V vs. Battlestar Galactica (the original series)". I'll say "Jean-Luc", "Zombies" and "BSG". Also, he's a huge Red Wings fan, and even though he kept jinxing them throughout the playoffs they were strong enough to overcome his very powerful jinx and win the Cup anyway, so I don't hold any grudges.

And finally, there is the always cool, always smart, always witty, Whit. I will freely admit that I spend too much energy worrying about what the hell happens in Hollywood, but I have nothing on this guy. Plus, he has time for things like, oh, parenting, and writing a screenplay, and striking poses in tuxedos.

So, there you have my Dinner Party guest list. Of course there are people who aren't on the list who should be. I thought about cheating and adding a couple of more, but, well, then I thought "How about no? How about not adding your entire freaking blogroll to the list?"

Ten it is.

Go, read some dad blogs. I'll be here eating some red meat and pissing on things. Today, for one day only, I am not a mommy-blogger. Your regularly scheduled programming will resume tomorrow.

(Editor's Note: I said originally that Kevin lives in So-Cal. That is completely wrong. It would be tough to find a place further away from So-Cal that is also still within the contiguous States that he could live. Not impossible, but tough.)

Monday, August 11, 2008

This moment, like so many others, brought to you by parenthood.

Emily and I took Erin down to the community pool on Sunday afternoon. Erin's confidence in the water is really astounding, and now that she has her sea legs she can wander around the wading pool on her own, occasionally submerging herself to blow bubbles (or because she has fallen over for a moment) and then popping straight out of the water.

She reached a milestone in her swimming class on Friday: she pulled herself out of the pool from a hanging position on the wall in the deep water. Well kid, it only took you thirteen months, but it seems that our twice weekly swimming lessons from the time you were 10 weeks old have finally paid off. You now know how to avoid swimming.

I alternate between pride and anxiety: she can do things on her own, and I can cheer for her, but I also know that some of the challenges she faces in life could overwhelm her, because life is hard and it's easy to give up, some times. And sometimes it is harder to give up than to keep going, just like sometimes it is harder to get out of the pool than it is to sink into it and keep swimming.

I stayed up too late watching the Olympics last night. I saw the Men's 4x100m Freestyle Relay, in which five teams wrecked the previous World Record time and the U.S. team performed an adrenaline-pumping feat to overtake their French rivals in the last 25 meters and edge them out for the gold medal and smash the record. Swimming is not my favourite Olympic sport (a tie between hockey and fencing), but I was, along with everyone else watching that race, suddenly a huge fan of swimming. It was inspiring to watch. I saw Michael Phelps do his best to not scream "Fuck Yeah!!!" as his captain and anchor completed their fantastic comeback.

As Emily and I watched the race she turned profound: "That is thousands of swim meets and trips to the pool. For their parents."

After the race NBC aired a short segment, or commercial, that had one member of the relay team, Cullen Jones, speaking about his screamingest fan: his mother. Always the loudest at any swim meet, and always the proudest.

And Emily turned profound again: "How must his mother be feeling right now?" And she teared up, and I teared up too, because she was absolutely right.

Watching the Olympics will never be the same for us. It used to be about seeing people do incredible things. Now it's about knowing that people have done incredible things. Like drive someone to the pool thousands of times.

Even if it was only to watch a child climb out.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Going on a date, BBL

Emily and I are running away to San Francisco tonight to stay at some crazy Japanese hotel in Japantown.

We are also going to have noodles.

Thank goodness for mothers-in-law who are willing to drive 6 hours to sit with their granddaughters for one night.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Here. Here are the keys to my kitchen. Take them.

I joke a little that "breakfast" around here involves nuking some eggs and peeling a banana.

It's not really a joke.

In the morning I generally pour out some egg whites into a little dish, microwave them for about a minute and a half, peel and chop a banana and some strawberries, and maybe make up some toast if I've decided to allow bread in the house that week.

Erin isn't yet at an age where she can use utensils, so I don't serve up anything like cereal. Fruit and eggs. That's what she gets.

And, every once in a while I'll try to make pancakes.

I want to be able to make pancakes.

Ask most people who I've cooked for and they will probably say that I am a decent cook (even if I go through phases where everything has to have cinnamon or honey in it). But I don't bake. I can't handle the precision of baking. Cooking is a dance, there is a rhythm behind manic actions and the knife is shining, flickering grace.

Baking feels like engineering.

I realized recently that pancakes, although not involving the oven whatsoever, qualify as baked goods. This would explain why I keep screwing them up.

First, there was the "baking soda or baking powder" fiasco. Which one do you add to the batter to help it puff a little while cooking? I kept forgetting, and I'd add baking soda instead of powder and I'd end up with little hockey pucks.

Then there is the "eggs or no eggs" question. It seems as if adding eggs just encourages the batter to rubberize. But without eggs all I end up with is cardboard.

And let's not even start on the counter-intuitiveness of the idea that getting the pancakes to cook through the middle without burning on the outside requires a high heat in the pan, and a quick turn, instead of a medium heat with a slow turn. Anything else cooked in that pan that I want to be cooked evenly requires a lower heat and a slow turn. But I have to forget all of that when I'm using a reactive batter that does weird things when heat is applied. Or else I end up with blackened discs of raw dough.

Batter. That term alone should have clued me in that the normal cooking rules do not apply with pancakes.

One cannot eyeball the amount of baking soda powder to be added to the flour. You can't just "feel out" how much sugar to add to the batter, or how long to whisk the batter so the eggs don't get overbeaten and rubberize the mixture.

So, finally, after four unsuccessful attempts at good pancakes in four weeks, I pulled out my Cooking A-Z and looked up the blueprints for basic pancakes. I promised to follow the instructions to the letter. Except that I was so confident in the awesomeness of the pancakes that were about to be served up to my starving daughter that I got a little fancy and chopped up a banana to add. Banana pancakes. Because if her dad really loved her he'd man up and put fruit in it.

Mix, chop, whisk, pour, sizzle. Oh wow. Those look amazing. They are fluffing up perfectly. I'm going to turn them now. Oh, look at that, they are perfectly golden brown. Take them from the pan. Cut one up a little for Erin. Taste.

Taste. What the hell? Why do they taste so weird?

Recheck the blueprints.

Flour? Check.

Baking powder? Check.

Eggs? Check.

Butter? Check.

Milk? Check.

1/4 cup of sugar? Che.....

Oh. I don't actually keep sugar in the small white jar on the counter. I keep it in the medium white jar on the counter.

I keep salt in the small white jar.

Dammit. 1/4 cup of salt in my batter. I lose at baking.

Emily suggests I buy the pre-mixed Bisquick jug, since I've now ruined 5 batches of batter in a little less than a month. But even though this last batch proves that the pancakes aren't to blame, that I am just completely incompetent when it comes to making pancakes, I will persevere.

I will become the best damn pancake batter maker around.

Because breakfast should be something more than nuked eggs and a peeled banana.

Monday, August 4, 2008


Have I ever told you that I was a University of Toronto dropout? I left after my first year, to, well, see about a girl. This girl. She has a nickname for me: "dumbass". Or "babe". Or other squishy terms that I won't load on you.

While I was at the University of Toronto not going to classes on political science, Shakespeare, European history, and music, I was also mostly not going to my philosophy class. I lived in the Innis residence, the newest one at the time, and I spent a lot of time just in the residence itself. It had great apartments, and I loved hanging out with my roommates and the roommates of my high school friend who joined me at U of T. We were a pack, and I was the baby 18 year old in a group of legal drinkers. Their nickname for me was "lightweight" and I spent a lot of time trying to get them to change that one.

And there were girls everywhere. And I was, uh, 18. And there were girls. Class wha??

I did go to class, occasionally. There was a pretty redhead in my philosophy class who also happened to live in the Innis residence. The building was small, and we were all mostly the same year (1st year, frosh, freshmen), so the readheaded girl and I ran into each other at the many social functions the college held. We had overlapping circles of friends. I went to the philosophy class more than any other. I'm not saying that this fact was related in any way to the pretty redhead. I like philosophy. That's why I went to class.

Where was I?

Oh, right. One night some of my friends were hanging out with the pretty redheaded girl. And I proved myself a total "busting-out-the-guitar-and-playing-stupid-songs" dork, and the pretty redheaded girl and her friends were listening all rapt because 19 year old girls eat that stuff up. Or, maybe they were laughing to each other. I don't remember. (I don't even remember busting out the guitar, but I'm pretty sure I did that on more than one occasion during that year at the University of Toronto, so it wouldn't surprise me at all to hear that this night was one such night.) And the girls started talking about the other Shawn. Somebody said something like "No, it was Gay Shawn, not TPS."

The other Shawn, who wasn't there that night (not that I recall), was, apparently, gay. I had never noticed, or noted, this about him. But for a second I thought that they meant me.

Did I come off as gay? The Man Spa notwithstanding I don't think I project much of a gay vibe. I have been hit on by gay men, while sitting next to my wife, who they were aware of: I mean total "here is my room key" hit on. But I don't think I come off as gay. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

I soon realized that they didn't mean me. But they were differentiating "Shawns". If I wasn't "Gay Shawn" then I must be "TPS".

TPS. What the hell could that mean?

Totally Psycho Shawn?

Truly Phat Shawn?

Traumatized Pinky Shawn?

I pressed the giggling gaggle a little: "What the hell does "TPS" mean?"

They were so embarrassed about letting "TPS" slip out in front of TPS that it took me a little while to get the truth out of them.

"Well, uh, it's just a dumb nickname, okay? Just because there are two Shawns and we would just try to keep them separate in conversation..."

I was getting really nervous by this point. How bad was it?

"It's, well, it stands for TightPantsShawn."

Tight. Pants. Shawn.

In my defense, my pants were tight. In their defense, my pants were extraordinarily tight.

So: Reevaluate every look, glance, giggle, whatever from anyone in this group or anyone they know which is also everybody I know. Crap.

Tight Pants Shawn.

Well, you know what? It could have been worse. And they were genuinely mortified, so I don't think I gave them too much crap about it. And then I embraced the name.

My pants aren't nearly as tight anymore, but every now and then I'll slip into some snug jeans and Emily will announce that Tight Pants Shawn is on the loose. I am completely comfortable with that part of my past, and I'm actually kind of flattered that they even bothered taking the time to make up an entire acronym for me instead of just going with "Loser Dork Shawn" in full English.

The pretty redheaded girl? Well, guess what? She is still mortified by that nickname. I haven't seen her since I was 18 years old but I received a Facebook message one day a while ago asking if I was Tight Pants Shawn.

Facebook is funny like that.

Her name is Ange, she has a blog, and you should all totally go over there and give her either shit or mad props for mocking me when I was skinny and could fit into size 30 jeans. She writes a great Toronto-based blog about awesome music and movie topics (she hits the Toronto Film Festival, which I never had a chance to do so I live vicariously through her, and she wrote an entire post about how fantastic Wes Anderson is.)

She may have another nickname for me now.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

The Man Spa

When I was 14 I finally started spending my own money on haircuts. Of course it was no coincidence that I was in high school and I was in a new town and I didn't think my shaggy, pouffy mullet was really "in" anymore.

No, it was never "in". A combination of poverty and junior high depression resulted in a look that shouted "I haven't had a haircut in 6 months and I feel bad about that and please don't ask me about it!" Think Matthew Broderick in War Games, but add a whole lotta party in the back. No, think the kid in "Iron Eagle". That kind of coif.

So when we moved to Kingston and I had a little allowance money in my pocket I started spending a little of it on haircuts. A very little of it.

At George the $6 Barber. He specialized in the type of cuts the kids going to the Royal Military College needed to get: Buzzed on top, shaved on the sides, "high and tight". I never went that far; I made him work for my $6. But my haircuts were pretty basic. And George was old and practically blind. But even a blind barber can do a simple cut when he's been doing it for 50 years.

Ever since George I've been a big fan of barber shops. They are exceedingly manly sanctuaries, usually with a game on the television and a Maxim or a Playboy lying around to read while you wait for your turn to get your ears lowered. I love the barber.

But, I've also always been a little envious of Emily's "I'm going to get manis and pedis" afternoons. Not because I crave the girl talk or have a desire to get my toes painted; but for the relaxing nature of the experience. My cut takes 15 minutes; it's not exactly "me time". But there is no way in hell I'm going to go hang out at Pinkie's for an afternoon.

But I would like to just relax somewhere. And I'm not so attached to dirty fingernails that I fear a little pampering. If someone could do something about my cuticles or my clogged pores while not also asking me what colour my panties are, that would be great.

It turns out there is a place, a magical land of golf clubs and black leather furniture; of facials and football; of haircuts and beer.

Yeah. Beer.

Apparently at some salons when you walk in they spring champagne or wine on you or something. Champagne makes a fine drink in the afternoon if you are going to wait for your toenails to dry, but it's not my cuppa.

I went to American Male on Saturday, and the hot, bored, receptionist greeted me with my choice of beverage. I opted for a coke, because, well, it was 1 in the afternoon and there was no hockey game on; but it was nice to know that I could have had a beer if I wanted it.

There are golf clubs and skis hanging on the walls, and there is nothing like lavender stinking up the place. Just the scent of leather.

I was taken in hand by Linda, who asked "Have you ever had a paraffin dip?"

Surely that was a line. As was: "You look like that guy on Grey's Anatomy: Dr. McSteamy."

Whatever. They were good lines.

She wouldn't tell me what she was going to dip in wax until I agree to remove my wedding ring. I suppose she didn't want the reminder that she was asking a married man to go into the back room with her.

I admit it: the lines worked on me. I caved. I took off my ring and followed her into the back room.

And then Linda spent an hour doing things to me that no one ever has; touching me in ways that made me forget all about my commitment. To George, the $6 Barber and barbers everywhere.

My hands were dipped in hot paraffin wax and then wrapped in plastic bags and covered with something like an oven mitt. Then she took me over to the shampoo station and had me relax in the chair while she washed and conditioned my hair. And I found out that a facial is essentially a face massage, and it feels awesome. A hot towel on my face and a scalp massage later and I had a hard time remembering what I had even come in for. Hadn't I always been here? Lost in a haze of wax and conditioner?

But really I had come in for a haircut. It just so happens that this cut comes with a half hour of rubbing and stroking.

Eventually Linda and I made it over to another black leather chair. I sat in front of a huge mirror while she came up behind me and asked if I knew what I wanted.

"Um. No, it's my first time."

"Then let me take care of you."

Oh, Linda, baby. I'm in your hands. Forever.

She took care of me, alright. Pulling, tugging, getting out her little brushes every now and then to tickle my eyes and nose. I could see it all in the mirror.

Eventually, too soon, it was over.

"Do you want a blow?"

Wow. I didn't think I could handle that after everything else.

"We'll just let the air take care of you, then."

She had to hint, gently, more than once, that our time was over. I didn't want to hear it. I wanted to stay in that chair forever. But it wasn't to be.

I went to the counter and paid my bill with my personal credit card; I didn't want this one showing up on the joint account statement.

And I booked an appointment for two weeks from now. For a "cleanup".

I may never go back to a barber again. I may pay Linda to "detail" my hands and feet next time, or get a full body massage after my next cut.

I will never have to worry about my palms being hairy. I know that Linda will always be there, with her magic massaging fingers and hot wax.

The Man Spa, and Linda, have ruined me.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

A New Profile Picture


She's not 6 months old anymore.