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Saturday, May 31, 2008

Backpacking Dad's Playground Workout

It's a problem. You're fat. You're at home alone during nap time. You're watching a Rocky marathon on WGN. And you think to yourself: "Self, why can't I be in the kind of shape that Backpacking Dad lies about being in?"

Well, here it is folks. Finally, you too can work out like Backpacking Dad.

You will need:

  1. A baby.
  2. A backpack that the baby can be carried in.
  3. to be out of shape.
  4. A playground somewhere within a mile.
  5. A grocery store or market somewhere within a mile.
  6. A nice sunny day.

Secure your baby in the backpack and then secure the backpack to yourself. Go outside.

Walk down to the park. Along the way stick your arms out to the side and flap them like the world's biggest dork bird. This may induce giggling in your self and in your baby.

The Warmup

Once you arrive at the park find the playground swings. If there is a set with a baby swing next to a regular swing, then that will work perfectly:


Place your baby in the infant swing and push her a few times building up enough momentum to swing for a little bit on her own (but without flipping her around the that for when she's 3). Sit in the swing next to her and pump-swing a few times to build up speed and height.

Then jump.

Land running and immediately turn and run back to the swing. Give your baby a couple of more pushes, and then repeat until your baby is bored. Laugh every time you jump and run back toward her. Make between 1 and 3 silly faces per rep.

The Jungle Gym

Take your baby out of the swing and let her walk or crawl over to the jungle gym. Remove from her mouth any wood chips or sand she may have decided to ingest along the way. Let your baby crawl around on the jungle gym and determine where her "playing stations" are. These are places where she will spend at least 30 seconds, and sometimes up to a minute. Also determine where her "falling off the jungle gym" stations are. These are the places where she will, well, fall off. Don't let her.

At Station 1, use the guide rails along the staircase to do inclined pushups.


At Station 2, use the parallel vertical bars along the bridge to do inclined pullups.


At Station 3, use the high bar next to the gaping death trap of an opening to do chinups.


At Station 4, use the steps to do stair drills.


At Station 5 use the low bar and platform to do tricep pushups.


And at Station 6 use the handles to do elevated squats on the horizontal bars.

IMG00321  And don't let your baby fall off the jungle gym.

The Cool Down

Reload your baby into the backpack and walk to your market/grocery store. Buy enough that you need two bags to carry your purchases home, but don't buy anything heavy.

On the walk home use your relatively light bags to do bicep curls and shoulder presses. You will feel it after your second set of 15, no matter how light the bags are.

Once you arrive home, remove your baby from the backpack and try to get her to go down for a nap.


Trust me, friends, if you follow my simple workout program you too can have a body like Backpacking Dad lies about having and a baby who is (a) tired and (b) uninterested in going to sleep (c) crying in her crib and (d) too much for you to handle, really, because you've been working out for an hour while she played.

I was inspired to develop this brilliant workout routine after sitting at home eating cheese sandwiches all morning. I think the combination of lifts, pulls, pushups, walking, and guilt has succeeded in working them off.

Mmm. Cheese sandwiches....Be Back Later.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

What about boob?

When Erin was five months old Emily went back to work and I became a stay at home dad. Emily had been going to new parents' groups at our local Day One for Erin's entire life, and had built up friendships with many of the moms with kids in Erin's age group. Not knowing what else to do with my time when I became the primary I started taking Erin to these groups once she was in the "6-12 month" age group.

My reason? That group sounded more like a playgroup than a mommy group, and ostensibly the point was to get Erin out of the house; I wasn't looking to make friends. And I didn't need to sit around in a circle complaining about (or bragging about) my husband, or talking about who had the sorest nipples and/or vagina.

As luck would have it, and despite all of my efforts, I did manage to make friends. Women I love hanging out with. They've made out with me and fought over me, and I would meet up with them at least twice each week, sometimes more often.

I was, and still am, the only guy in the groups that have since splintered off from the Day One playgroups. Which makes me a bit infamous, I think. At a birthday party (yeah, the babies are all turning one) last weekend I was introduced to the mother of one of my mom-friends, and I was greeted with "Oh, so this is Shawn." Um. Yes. I'm sure everything she had been told about me was lovely, because that's just the kind of person my mom-friend is. But still, I wondered...

You see, I do constantly worry what they think of me. I'm sure they all worry what everyone thinks of everyone else, but you'll pardon me if I claim a little uniqueness in the worry department: I am the only one with dangly bits and facial hair.

When I first started going to Day One the conversation was still in many ways about nipples. Not so much about vaginas, it being six months since delivery, but nipples were still an issue. Sometimes I worried that I was stifling the conversation. Once I came in late and the facilitator said "Well, the topic I went with today was 'sex', because I didn't think you were coming." But you know what? I heard a lot about sex that day. I don't think anybody was feeling stifled just because I was in the room.

More evidence that I am just one of the girls to them is the regularity with which I catch sight of a boob. Every playdate or signing class or birthday party or whatever involves, at some point, me getting a big ol' eyeful.

I swear I'm not darting my eyes around hoping to sneak a peak. Boob-sightings just happen. And the moms don't seem worried about it. Which I think is fantastically confident and comfortable, and flattering really, in a wow-they-don't-think-of-me-any-differently kind of way. Also I don't think I'd be taking my shirt off in front of them any time soon, especially since I've been telling lies about my Ryan Reynolds abs for months now.

But even though they have never seemed to care, I have always felt a little bit like a pervert when it happens. I don't ever ever ever want one of them turning to me and saying "Hey, eyes are up here."

There are probably many guys out there who would love to be in a position to catch a glimpse of a strange nipple every now and then. I worry about being mistaken for one of them. So far I just act as though it's not a big deal to me; and maybe that's exactly what I should be doing; and maybe it really isn't a big deal to me.

But it's just one more in a long list of SAHD worries I have.

Another worry? That letting them know what I worry about will cause them to worry about making me uncomfortable. If it does make me uncomfortable, it's not in a "ew, gross" or "stop hitting on me" way. It's in a "I hope I'm a good person" way. Nobody, I think, likes to worry about whether or not they are a good person, and that's what the flashes of boob make me think about.

So, if you are reading this, breast-feeding mom friends (and I know that some of you are, because you are little voyeurs :} ) don't change on my account. But, maybe you can not sit behind me so often when we're supposed to be in a circle. When I turn to grab Erin as she runs by I end up with a sudden, surprising glimpse. Maybe you're more comfortable sitting where you think I won't see, but I promise, if you are sitting in full view I will do my best to preserve your modesty. I just need to know what's coming so that I can look away discretely instead of with a "Holy crap, uh, sorry, um, nipples?"

Backpacking Dad to the O.R....Backpacking Dad to the O.R....

In grade 8 (that's how we said it in Ontario: we didn't know what "junior high" was, except that the kids on Degrassi eventually went to one) I failed my first class. In each of the previous years I had been great at school. And, I don't want to brag (I have a wife to brag for me) but I was smart.

That fall, though, I went into the school year a little distracted. My parents were divorcing, we were moving around a lot, and I just stopped caring about school entirely. For a couple of weeks I stopped going, and a member of the school board came to my apartment to check up on me and bring me in.

One of the classes that I really neglected was Family Studies (home economics to my American friends). I liked the cooking part, and I still do, but I couldn't get excited about the sewing kit project we had to do. I had a Siamese cat kit, but I didn't turn it in.

So I failed. It was only a mid-term report card, but still, I failed that class. I have never been excited about sewing.


Over the weekend while I was away Erin started walking everywhere. She also started going baby-crazy, mauling other kids to kiss them and hug them, and carrying a little baby doll with her wherever she went.


If you look closely you might be able to see that a seam has popped on the baby doll's left ankle.

"Does Daddy need to do surgery on your baby doll?" Emily asked Erin this morning.

Daddy? Daddy failed sewing. He wasn't enthusiastic about it at 13, and he's not enthusiastic about it at 30.

And the wound looked substantial enough that I was probably going to just have to amputate the foot.


But I sucked it up, got out one of those little sewing kits that Emily stole from a hotel somewhere because it was small and looked like it was made for kitties, and I performed my first doll surgery.


I didn't do a great job. There's some fluff sticking out, and the edges are raggedy. But in all fairness to me it was sewed on the inside in the first place, before being stuffed, and there was no way I was going to unstuff it to do it the right way.

This would be reason number 14 that you don't want me as your doctor.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

My child is an honors student at kiss my ass elementary.

We all know your kid is awesome. He poops rainbows and ponies and does charity work for orphans in Africa.

My kid is awesome too. And when I say that, I mean, of course, that I am awesome. Because that's what those bumper stickers really mean. I dread the day my daughter comes home with one of those little suckers from school and I have to tell her that there's no way it's going on my car. Sorry kid, I'm doing my bragging face to face. I want to see the look in their eye when I tell them you can speak Hindi and Mayan and that you just cured chicken pox. I want them to cower in the presence of the Best Father Ever.

That's what I'm secretly saying every time I brag. I am the Best Father Ever. I want to own seven different "World's Best Dad" mugs.

Because I'm insecure. I worry that I am not, in fact, the Best Father Ever. I worry instead that even though Erin can sign back to me pretty consistently now, and she is more comfortable in the water than most amphibians, that those things are badges of suburban parenthood rather than evidence of competent parenthood.

I love signing with her, and seeing her sign back, and playing the "Where's X?" game in ASL. I love that while I was gone she was asking her mom for Dada, using the sign to drive her point home: she missed me and she could tell her mom that.

I love swimming with her, and knowing that if she ever fell in the water on her own that she would be comfortable enough to hold her breath and try to break the surface; that if she could get to the wall she could hold herself up indefinitely.

But these things aren't parenting, any more than being at home while your kid is at school is parenting. Sure, they are accomplishments, and I had something to do with them, taking her to swimming lessons, or changing the channel to Signing Time. But did I really parent?

I think of parenting as teaching them how to be people, not how to do stuff. And if I'm ever confused about the difference I just need to look back at this morning, or just about any morning really.

"Erin. What are you doing?"


As I looked over at her approaching a trash bag I need to take down to the dumpster I quickly barked: "Erin. No." And I flashed the "no" sign.

She looked up at me, pointed at the trash bag, and then said "ha-anh?" And then she grabbed it.

"Erin. No!" Another flash of the sign, and she quickly drew her hand back.

"Ha-anh?" More pointing, and more reaching.


And then, taunting me, she proceeded to stare me straight in the eye while grabbing and releasing the bag four more times.

"I know what you're saying. I just don't care."

As a parent, I've taught her how to be defiant and curious. I don't need any badges for that.

I do need to take out the trash.

Monday, May 26, 2008

If sucked, how would you know?

I've never really spent time at MomLogic. As a rule (of behavior, not of action; that is, analyzing my web-usage behavior will show a pattern that might indicate a rule, but I don't say to myself "Self, here's a rule we're going to follow") I tend not to read the more magazine-style parenting sites, even those with generally good reputations like Parents or Offsprung. I had never heard of MomLogic until a sweet, charming, witty, and potty-mouthed (she says things like "fuck" on her site) blogger I read, Stefanie over at Baby On Bored, regaled her readers with a story about her interactions with MomLogic.

The story she told painted MomLogic in a pretty unflattering light. But, it was her story to tell and heaven forbid bloggers stop telling the stories they have.

Apparently MomLogic didn't like the story much, and according to Stefanie they, in an act of what I can only call supreme douchebaggery, got some first-year flunky at a law firm to send out a cease and desist letter. (I'm just guessing that it was a first-year flunky. But I doubt a partner would waste their time drafting that sucker.)

They sent this letter to a writer. To a blogger. So, she blogged about it. She took down the original post, because in the end MomLogic seemed to be willing to spend the money to threaten, and she was in no financial position to hire someone to tell MomLogic to fuck the hell off. But she did let her readers know that she had received this When-you're-a-dick-everything-looks-like-it-ought-to-be-screwed letter.

Mysteriously, the post indirectly letting her readers know that someone had sent a letter and that that's why there was something missing from the site, is also gone. I don't know why. Maybe she felt genuine remorse over the whole thing. Maybe dragons stole it.

But imagine that she took it down because some website decided they didn't like it when bloggers wrote down anything bad about them. How would we know? She would feel like she couldn't write about it, so there'd be no history on her site. And without a post on her site, there'd be no linking, so no word-of-blog about it. I really don't know why she took it down, and she may have a very amicable relationship with them all of a sudden and she may not be able to talk about it because she's been offered partnership in the company along with a non-disclosure agreement. I don't know why a blogger would take down a post about a cease and desist letter just days after receiving it. But I have a vivid imagination, and the rest of this post is inspired by that quite possibly overactive imagination.

I had a conversation with an attorney on the plane from JFK to SFO last night. She practices family law for gay and lesbian couples in San Francisco, and as part of our lovely conversation we talked about things like Cambodia, health care in Canada, dissertations, residencies, and the Holocaust. You know, 'getting-to-know-you' conversation. :} At one point I was reminded of the following piece by Martin Niemöller:

When the Nazis came for the communists,
I remained silent;
I was not a communist.

When they locked up the social democrats,
I remained silent;
I was not a social democrat.

When they came for the trade unionists,
I did not speak out;
I was not a trade unionist.

When they came for the Jews,
I remained silent;
I wasn't a Jew.

When they came for me,
there was no one left to speak out.

It may be using too large a hammer on too small a nail to invoke this kind of imagery in a discussion about blogging, and cease and desist letters.

But censorship-via-lawyer remains censorship. Was Stefanie lying about MomLogic? It's possible, in which case MomLogic would be well within their rights to challenge what they might have taken as libel. I don't know Stefanie at all well, so she might be an incorrigible liar. I have my doubts, but they're worth about as much as a cease-and-desist letter from a first-year flunky.

If she wasn't lying, though, then why send the letter? Because she said bad things about them on her blog? Tough. Lot's of people say lots of bad, and true, things about companies and individuals in lots of media. Having a lawyer at your disposal to draft letters to shut those people up is a convenient, and bullying, way to engage them. And once you start bullying people into silence you've crossed a line that is difficult to uncross.

It's funny to me that I wrote a guest post for Carmen about bullying a couple of months ago. I'm not sure what kind of schoolyard bully a company that deployed lawyers to silence a blogger would be most like. Not that MomLogic is necessarily a bully about this. I mean, as I said, Stefanie could be an inveterate liar and her stories should all be read as little fictions, in which case maybe sending the lawyers after her was the only option MomLogic had. I could totally understand that.

It's really hard to just talk to people. It's better to intimidate them with illusions of civil liabilities and threaten them with the cost of fighting off the lawyers in court.

I don't have a sarcasm font. In unrelated news I wrote that last paragraph in regular ol' Times New Roman.

P.S. I was inspired to write this post in the first place because someone who, according to MyBlogLog, authors MomLogic visited my blog today. That was nice. I like having new readers. I wondered how she came across it, though, and the only information Statcounter could give me was that she came via my Blogger profile. Well, coincidentally, I've been commenting on Stefanie's blog for a while now, using my Blogger profile, and I've been heartily in favor of her standing up to them if she's feeling unfairly intimidated by them. Also, coincidentally, Statcounter told me that someone visiting the blog around, oh, exactly the time that my MomLogic visitor came by happened to do a search of my site for the term "momlogic". I don't think she found anything. But, because I don't like to disappoint people I thought I would write something that would show up in future searches.

Saturday, May 24, 2008


I flew to Burlington in the rain. I landed in the dark. I grabbed a taxi to my hotel and then tried to sleep quickly, since I had to be awake at 5am (2am, according to my exhausted body) to meet my mother, sister, and aunt at the hospital in the morning.

I slept restlessly, and felt abused when I woke. I slipped into some comfortable jeans, a t-shirt, and a sweatshirt from Wal-Mart that read "Massena New York", the town closest to my mother's house, far upstate.

I walked most of the way to Fletcher Allen Hospital in the morning haze while rain clouds moved in over Lake Champlain. My sister, awake since 4am and driving for two hours picked me up on the side of the road and drove me the rest of the way to the hospital. It was a nice, but brief, rest for my legs and racing heart.

We met my mother and her twin sister in the lobby, and then waited for the pre-surgery consultations. Eventually we were sent in to the prep room, where my mother readied herself by changing into hospital garments behind the curtain. Once we were all gathered inside, we waited: for a nurse; for the anesthesiologist; for the neurosurgeon who had already been inside my mother's head twice in the last ten months.

The easy rustling of an awakening hospital beyond the curtain seemed artificial and forced, as though the entire staff were doing their best to make the morning seem just like any other.

A head peered around the curtain. A blond nurse, who said "I'll be right in as soon as I find a thermometer."

Really? There are no thermometers to be found in this gigantic, sprawling center of learning and medicine?

"Anyone seen a thermometer?!" came the plea from beyond the curtains; our nurse, enlisting the help of the rest of the staff in elevating the mundane to the level of the important.

The same head appeared again, a few moments later, floating in the opening between the two curtains. "Have you seen a thermometer in here? No?" She disappeared once again.

My aunt looked around at us. "What is this, a comedy act?"

I replied, in my best (read: horrible) Groucho Marx/Fozzy Bear voice: "And so I says to her, 'Hey, anybody seen a thermometer? Wocka wocka wocka"

Nervous laughter turns into hysterical giggling, and we don't stop for almost a minute.

Finally, a thermometer was found. A nurse, an anesthesiologist, and a neurosurgeon walk into a prep room. Stop me if you've heard this one.

Finally, at 8:30am, my mother is wheeled into surgery.

At 10:30, a page to the waiting room, where the doctor informs us that they have discovered a new anti-body in her blood that makes it difficult to match. The anti-body was most likely introduced during her last surgery, since this same test prior to the last two revealed nothing of the sort. It's a harmless protein, and the universal blood type will still be effective, but not preferred for a surgery like this.

More waiting.

Another page at noon. Another consultation. They have only found one unit of the rare blood type my mother now has. Not nearly enough for surgery. Do we want to proceed anyway? The surgeon recommends not. My sister and aunt think my mother would want it over with.

While they debate in my absence (my pager had not gone off and I wandered up after the conversation was already over) the blood bank calls back: four more units have been found.

The surgery proceeds.

I have my laptop with me, and some Netflix movies. One movie, really, on two discs. Schindler's List, which I've never seen, and which seems to fit seamlessly into the allotted surgery time. I was in no mood for a comedy.

At 3:30pm the surgeon pages us again. The surgery went well, although a blood vessel had to be peeled away from the bulbous aneurysm before it could be clipped and the aneurysm popped. Peeled away like a sliver of orange rind.

More waiting until we can visit my mother in the ICU and verify with our own eyes that she is okay. She seems fine, talking a little, but very very tired.

I go back to the hotel at 5pm, hopefully to sleep until morning so I can be rejuvenated. After the last surgery my mother suffered a stroke in the middle of the night, and this fact prevents an easy slumber.

I wake, once again, at 5am, for no particular reason beyond the television still being on and too loud. I am encouraged by someone who was probably on "Road Rules" or somesuch to call quickly to receive both of the new "Girls Gone Wild" videos. I turn the television down and try to go back to sleep.

When I wake up again I feel a menacing presence. I look over at my laptop monitor and see a browser window open. And another. And another. I grab my computer and begin clicking the windows closed. But I can't keep up, and the windows are not responding fast enough. Websites I've never seen before begin popping open. Eventually, I flip the wireless switch to off, but the windows keep opening. I close the lid and unplug the computer, trying to keep the malicious invader out of my personal data that way.

I feel the malevolence on the other end of the connection, and I try to ignore it while I drift off, but I can also feel someone outside my window, plotting. I blackout in a Nyquil haze.

When I come to this time I am fully clothed. My laptop is open on my chest and I am on lying on the submerged steps of the hotel's swimming pool. The pool is heated, so I'm not cold, and my laptop is out of the water, and dry. But what the hell am I doing in the pool in the early hours of the morning, why am I fully clothed again, and why is my laptop with me? I blackout again.

And wake up once again in my hotel room, with the maid knocking at the door. "Housekeeping. Would you like your room cleaned today?" She tries to get in, but I have the latch closed, and as it arrests her progress through the entry way she relents, and closes the door.

Was I dreaming? I look down at the floor, and the pile of sodden clothes there, puddles forming around my shoes, and I am disturbed. I continue to feel the dread I've felt ever since I woke at 5am for no good reason, and I look around, verifying that I am alone.

I am not. There are eyes outside of my window. The window I was certain that I covered with the blinds, but which now stands naked and transparent, inviting the world to see me in my now terrified state. Whomever this person is, they are clearly involved in my computer's strange behavior and my somnambulant submersion.

Another knock at the door. The maid again. I sit up out of bed and look over at the door. I see that the latch is not in fact closed. She begins to enter and I yell out "Occupied!"

My eyes dart over to the window, where the blinds are securely closed, just as I left them before crawling into bed the night before. I look at my clothes on the floor, dry as, well, as dry as clothes that have never been soaked in a hotel swimming pool.

My laptop sits open, inactive, wirelessly and innocently connected to the hotel's network.

And there is no malevolence. I realize, finally, that everything that has happened since I woke to find a reality television castoff urging me to spend money on videos featuring exhibitionist undergraduates has all been a weird, and terrifying, nightmare.

Note to self: Under no circumstances should you, while attending your mother's surgery, (1) watch any part of a movie like Schindler's List, or (2) read any part of a Dean Koontz book you picked up at JFK before boarding a plane to Burlington.

My mother is fine. Her surgery on Thursday went very successfully, and she had no trouble in the night. The only real heart-stopping moment I had came this morning, when, for the third day in a row I was awake at 5am, but this time because the hospital called me on my cell phone. I answered, dreading what the person on the other end of the line would tell me, at this time of the morning while my mother was still in the ICU.

"We've moved your mother out of the ICU into a room upstairs. That's all. She's fine."

Wow. I really could have waited on that urgent freaking news.

My heart stopped racing after a  couple of minutes and I was able to sleep, dreamlessly, until 10:30 this morning. Tomorrow I go back home, and hopefully my mother will be home early next week. I miss my wife, and my daughter (who is walking everywhere now, apparently), and I miss my bed.

There are no nightmares in my bed. And I never have to wake up at 5am.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Backpacking Dad goes to New York

I'm from eastern Ontario, and I've lived in upstate New York (as upstate as you can get), but despite spending most of my life in that area I've never once been to New York City.

Toronto. Montreal. Vancouver.

San Francisco, Los Angeles, Detroit, Washington D.C., Seattle.

London, Dublin, Edinburgh, Paris, Munich, Amsterdam, Venice, Rome.


All over the world, but never to New York City.

Well kids, all that is going to change tomorrow. I will be in New York City for 4 hours tomorrow. At JFK. On a layover between San Francisco and Burlington, VT.

My mother is having a surgery to tie off a third brain aneurysm. Her first surgery was last July, which Emily and Erin and I all flew out for while Emily was still on maternity leave. Her second was scheduled for October, and I flew out on my own, leaving Erin and Emily home with Disneyland Grandma who came up to help out. That surgery was canceled while my mother was in the hospital bed getting ready to be wheeled in to the operating room; the scar from the first surgery hadn't quite healed enough for the surgeon's liking, so they canceled it.

Well, I got to spend a few days visiting my mother and my sister; but I also blew a ton of cash on the flight, hotel, and rental car that time around.

It stung a bit, especially because Emily had just gone back to work a few weeks earlier and we were coming off of a long stretch with no income and a new baby. So, when the surgery was rescheduled for just before Thanksgiving (American Thanksgiving, in November, for all of you Canucks reading this), I really couldn't see how we would swing another trip. So I didn't go.

Because it's the Universe, and the Universe is perverse.... mother suffered a stroke during the surgery.

My sister e-mailed me in the middle of the night, and after I called her back and found out what happened I freaked out.

My mother was absent, isolated and trapped in her body, and my sister was on her own. Not that there weren't other family members nearby, but she didn't have me there.

She doesn't like me much, but I am her big brother :}

After a couple of days of mediocre news ("she moved her arm; she looked at me when I was talking to her") I couldn't stand it any more. I told Emily I had to go, and Emily geared up for being a single, working, mom for a few days while also being slammed at work. She was a superstar, and I love her for that.

I flew out to Burlington to see my mother laying in a hospital bed, barely aware of what was going on around her or who was there. Because I'm mean, I didn't tell my sister I was coming; I just showed up at the hospital. I wanted to see the look on her face, and she didn't disappoint. She was really glad to see me.

The next day, my mother was a little spacey, but could talk in sentences and move her arm and leg. By the third day she seemed mostly okay, although still lacked some dexterity in her hand and some stability in her leg.

I like to think that it's because both of her kids were finally there that my mother recovered so quickly. It was rapid, and exponential improvement. When I finally went back home she was being moved to a rehab center where they expected her to spend a few weeks relearning how to use the muscles in her arm and leg, and recovering mental acuity.

Instead, she was only there a couple of days. Her progress was that quick.

When Emily, Erin and I went to visit over Christmas there was very little evidence that she had ever had a stroke. I kept thinking about the first time I saw her in the hospital and how helpless I felt, and how worried I was. And seeing her back to normal was intensely gratifying. Because, irrational as it is, I felt a mountain of guilt that I hadn't flown out for the surgery in the first place, as though my absence was the cause of the stroke.

All of that is a long way of saying that I won't be missing her surgery this time.

And until Sunday night Emily will be a single working mom again. Erin will be in daycare Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, and I hope that she does better there than she has been doing at the gym the last few times I've gone. She's developed a pretty strong separation anxiety when I try to go work out, and twice now I've just given up and taken her home instead of exercising.

So send Emily some good thoughts this week. She has begun her very own blog over at Trademark Mama, and she's smarter than I am, so stop by and let her expand your mind. I think her latest post is about boogers.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Erin Goes to Super-Con

I've written before about being a geek and doing geeky things like going to comic book/science fiction conventions, with Erin in tow. I'm not sure how it came to my attention, but there was a convention in San Jose this weekend called Super Con. I didn't know much about it, and in reading the web site I concluded that it would probably be smaller than Wonder Con was, and that was smaller than Comic Con in San Diego. But Emily had some work to get done at the office this weekend and Erin and I hadn't been for a good dadventure in a while, so last week I decided that I was going to keep it on my calendar.


I received a very nice e-mail from someone the other day.

"I saw your comment on Wil’s blog after reading Shakesville’s criticism of his post. You really, really nailed it for me. And it changed me a little bit for the better. For that I thank you."


Last week I read this post on one of my favourite blogs, Wil Wheaton's "Wil Wheaton Dot Net: In Exile". I was inspired to comment on the post because a normally sensitive, sincere, and thoughtful blogger, who also happened to be TV's Wil Wheaton!, had signed off of this post with what sounded to my eyes like an impolitic, careless, and almost disparaging remark:

"I'm not sexist. This isn't sexist. That's a stupid straw man, and if you try to make that claim, I will point and laugh at you."

I couldn't refrain from taking him up on this. Not on the question of whether or not he was a sexist, or manifested sexist tendencies; but on the question of whether or not the post he linked to, entitled "Hillary Clinton: The Psycho Ex-Girlfriend of the Democratic Party", was fundamentally sexist.

He claimed that such a label was a straw-man, meaning that it was a punching-bag of a target that saved troublemakers the effort of actually debating with their opponents. If the debate were about whether or not this post was written using 12-point font, then claiming that the post was sexist would be a straw-man attack. But in this case a very relevant issue seemed to be whether or not Hillary was maligned according to her gender rather than her politics, and in that way the issue of whether or not this post was sexist seemed very much on target; not a straw man at all.

So, in response to the claim that the post wasn't sexist, I left a comment that was a little curt, but because I'm good at this I didn't make it about him.

Others weren't as delicate; I may have been the first to make the "this post is sexist" claim, but I wasn't the last. He seemed flooded, by both antagonists, supporters, and sycophants. And although he eventually allowed that his statements in the sign off weren't productive and maybe shouldn't have been included, he seemed, more than anything, just frustrated that people were attacking him for the link.

I checked back a few times to see how the conversation was going, and I was directly addressed a couple of times in the comments, so I responded to those people. What I had said provoked its own miniature drama of criticism and support, but I'd be lying if I said I wasn't really tickled that several other bloggers were referencing my words. I blog; I'm vain like that. Someone even went so far as to anonymously e-mail the webmaster at At Home Dad to leave a compliment. That was strange, but again, I'd be lying if I said I wasn't pleased.

In the end, though, some of the people agreeing with me were also ending up a bit extreme for my taste. As I noted earlier, my comment was about the post, and not about the person, but the line was being blurred.

So earlier this week I sent an e-mail to Wil Wheaton, just letting him know that even though I was the first, and most vocal, critic of the post, that I hadn't made it about him or his politics or his writing or his choice of socks. He still had me as a reader.


Yada, yada, yada


So. Yeah.


Erin met Wil Wheaton today at Super Con.

Sorry. Was that too fast? Heh.

I saw on his blog that he was going to Super Con, and since I was already considering going I thought I would take the opportunity to meet him in person. I'm a fan. I'm a geek.

And Wil totally failed his Save-versus-Cute roll. (For those who don't get that one, well, go back to 1985 and pay attention to what the kids playing D&D at lunch were mumbling about.)

He introduced himself, very comfortably: "Hi, I'm Wil."

"Hi Wil, it's nice to meet you. I'm Shawn. This is Erin." That last with a nod over my left shoulder at the cute-ball peering at her mom's junior high crush.

He made the mistake of noticing how cute she was, and a second of extending a finger in her direction. She promptly grabbed said finger and refused to release it for at least a minute.

We chatted idly for little while (really, he just gushed over Erin, and who could blame him?), and then he moved the conversation away from the precipice of awkward silence that it seemed sure to approach: "So, did you want to exchanged some shiny gold rocks for something?"

Wil's reason for being there, apart from just the fact that it's a comic convention and he's a con-geek, was to promote and sell his books. And I was more than willing to oblige him.

"Just A Geek, please."

"Great. Should I make it out to 'Shawn'?" he asked, retrieving his autographing marker from the table.

"Sure. Or, uh, to 'Backpacking Dad'."

"Ok. Backpacking D....oh you're Backpacking Dad?"

Interestingly enough, the conversation did not immediately turn to the Hillary Clinton post. Instead, his first question was about whether I really backpacked.

"Well, I backpack in this way," I said, hunching my shoulder forward so Erin was reintroduced into the conversation. "I don't hike up mountains or anything."

And then, completely at ease and genuinely engaged, he waxed mountainous about hiking, climbing, and the feeling of owning a hill after climbing it. Or possibly he was describing the feeling of pwning the hill; he is a geek, after all.

We talked for a little while about the post, the comments, the aftermath, and I assured him again that he hadn't lost me as a reader (like one reader he doesn't know matters; but it really seemed that one reader did matter to him, so I didn't feel strange standing in a position of reassuring him) and that the personal attacks were stupid. He spoke at some length about how upset he was about being accused of sexism, and he really did seem bothered by it. He hadn't changed his opinion of the post: he was still convinced that the term "psycho ex-girlfriend" is not sexually charged. I disagree. But that's it, really. We disagree about that. I don't think this says anything else about the man's character, and it doesn't make his blog or books any less worth reading.

Later, after his Q&A session (which was mysteriously moved up 2 hours) I approached him with one last thing.

"HeyWilgoodtalk." (Gah. What a stupid way to open.)

"I neglected to mention earlier that my wife had a huge crush on you when she was 14."

Why did I tell him that? Because Emily asked me not to. And that's just how I roll.


So, Erin had a pretty good day :}

And Just A Geek? Awesome.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Because you asked.

I'm going to help kill a couple of memes right here. I'm tired after a few busy days, and I can't organize my thoughts well enough to write those days up, so I'll let some friends do my organizing for me.

First, from Helen comes this "open the book" meme:

Open the nearest book: It happens to be the Larousse Gastronomique that my awesome, brilliant, good-looking, and possibly sauced friend gifted me with for Christmas 2006.

Go to page 123: It's the "beef" section of the book.

Go to the 5th sentence: "Left-over pieces of boiled beef can also be prepared in various other ways, including the following: boulettes, croquettes, kromeskies, en fritot (i.e. fried in deep fat), en miron."

Post the next three sentences (happily, as a result you get a full entry): "Boiled Beef a la diable: Cut boiled beef into rather thick slices. Spread these slices with mustard, sprinkle with melted butter or oil and cover on both sides with white breadcrumbs. Grill on a low heat, making both sides golden."

Bon appetit!

Now, from Ali comes a "six random things" meme:

1) I have a scar on the top of my head from an accident when I was six years old. I was riding my new chrome BMX on the highway (gasp!) that ran next to our house (a country highway, but still) and after goofing off for a while, weaving across the road or something, I was hit from behind by a van driven by a 16 year old kid who tried to get around me on the left while I, at the same time, tried to get out of his way by going left. He hit me dead on the back tire, launching me off the bike rather than running me over, and I landed on my head in the ditch. No broken bones. Just a scar on my head that bothers me when I get haircuts, and a scars on my knees from the handlebars I scraped while being launched into orbit.

2) I have seen every episode of "Sex and the City" multiple times. You know, because Emily likes the show. Not because I bought the DVDs en masse and then made her have a "Sex and the City" weekend with me as we watched the entire series. And we certainly did not do that twice in one year.

3) In 1996 I left the University of Toronto on academic probation after one year; not because of the academic probation, but because I had to see about a girl. I'm still seein' about her. And our daughter.

4) I have lived on two islands in the St. Lawrence river.

5) I love the movie "Starship Troopers". I'm doing my part. Would you like to know more?

6) You know how you know I'm gay? I have organized the t-shirts hanging in my closet in order of hue and lightness. Yes. They go from black to white, and each colour block is also arranged from darkest shirt to lightest shirt.

So, that's all I have to say about that. I won't tag anyone with these, but feel free to park them in the visitor's space on your blog if you are ever at a loss for a post, as I am right now.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

No shoes, no shirt, no pants. Mostly naked in the living room.

To my loving wife:

Your daughter and I went to the gym after breakfast today. As I put her down on the playroom floor next to her favourite day care lady she looked up at me and burst into tears.

"Hey, hey hey, dad. WhereareyougoingwhyareyouleavingmehereonthefloorILOVEYOU!"

I picked her up and she calmed down; I set her down again and she was still calm. She began to happily play with the little bowls and the xylophone. When I stood up and walked over to the gated door to leave, though, she zoomed over like a little ladybug (are ladybugs fast?) wailing disconsolately.

Someone did not want to work out today. No matter how many times I promised that Steve Young would spiral her across the room to me.

I picked her up and quickly exited ("Bye bye guys.") and drove home to put her down for a nap. Such inexplicable sadness at being left at one of her favourite places convinced me she was merely tired.

She napped. I ate the Indian food leftovers from last night.

And I sweated. It is freaking hot here today.

By the time your daughter awoke from her nap I was shirtless, shoeless, and sockless.

And, feeling mildly guilty that I didn't get any kind of workout in today while also stuffing myself full of naan and rice, I prepared myself to do some crunches while your daughter ate her lunch in her throne overlooking her living room dominion.

Preparing to do crunches involved me taking my pants off, because you can kiss my ass if you think I'm going to do any working out in the 90 degree living room wearing jeans.

So, dear, at 2pm this afternoon I was all sweaty on the living room floor wearing nothing but my skivvies.

Miss you ;}


Your loving, near-naked, sweaty husband.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Well, I guess I need to stop staring then.

I've been going to the gym fairly often lately. I like the facility, the equipment, the ability to watch the hockey game while I do crunches.

Most of all I like the childcare center. The staff members are fantastic, and Erin likes them all a lot (not that she has any stranger anxiety anyway). She gets a chance to play with other kids for an hour, and because I tend to go at the same time every day she usually gets to play with the same kids.

I also get to play with the same"work out alongside the same adults". There are the two moms who always come in around 11:30, one of whom, S, I know from outside the gym; she ran some New Parents groups at the local parenting center and Erin and I used to go there a lot. There's the middle-aged banker-looking guy who always comes in at 11:15 and runs on the treadmill for half an hour (I hate him for his ability to run for a longer period of time at 50 than I ever could at 16). And there's the forty-ish (I actually know exactly how old he is; he's 46, but more on that later) looking guy who comes in and works with one of the trainers for an hour, pulling piles of weights across the room, balancing on half-spheres and shadow-boxing, or doing a gamut of stair drills.

I always watch this guy when he's working out; he's built like a tank and doesn't seem to be working out to lose weight or tone up or get rid of a spare tire. He's working out like it's a job and he needs to be able to move as many mountains as possible in a short period of time. He always seems to be in while I'm there, and I feel really really guilty about not trying to lift the stationary bike over my head or do somersaults down the stairs; the guy is working out like he means it and it keeps me from feeling good about putting in my hour on the elliptical and doing chest presses and ab exercises.

We finished up about the same time today, meaning I got up from the mat where I was doing very little, and he put down the elephant he was using for bicep curls. We went out to the water jug, poured some water, and then I went upstairs to clean up while he went out the door.

"Bye Steve," said the desk attendant.

After I showered and picked Erin up from the day care center (where she has taken to signing at them when she would like her diaper changed) I walked out to the car. The two moms were just getting into a minvan across the street and as they pulled away S waved, rolled her window down, and said: "So...working out with Steve Young today huh?"




"So that's who that was."

Steve Young. Former quarterback for the 49ers. Former SuperBowl winning quarterback for the 49ers. Hall of Famer.

This guy:


Maybe he'll babysit Erin sometime for me. If I spot him with that anvil he's doing bench presses with.

At the very least, I think I need to stop staring at him. He probably thinks I'm a fan and that I recognized him. Nope, I'm just self-conscious about what a gym-wimp I am when I try to work out next to him (or anybody else). It's all about me really.

Even in a room with a 46 year-old Hall of Fame quarterback, it's all about me.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

The Obligatory "Mr. Mom" Post

Emily and her mom have gone out to the nail salon for the afternoon. Erin is napping contentedly, and will continue to do so for another hour. So, that leaves me with an hour to kill before the girls return, my daughter wakes up, and I hand her over to them so that I can watch the Wings pummel the Stars again.

In that time, I can probably fulfill one of my SAHD-vocate duties: writing about Mr. Mom, that role-switching Michael Keaton vehicle from 1983 that seems to immediately spring to mind whenever a dad mentions that he stays home.

Being called "Mr. Mom" offends some at-home dads. And probably understandably: either the person who makes the comparison is suggesting that the dad is doing mom's job, in which case the dad takes offense at the job being categorized in that way in the first place; or the person who makes the comparison is referring to the haphazard, bungling, and incompetent way in which a dad would raise his kids, were he home full time as Michael Keaton's character is in the film.

This is the one that rankles, usually: the assumption that dads just won't do as good a job. It gets under SAHD skin and itches. If we encounter this attitude at the grocery store we bring it home with us along with the hot dogs and beer (dinner for the kids, you know).

It is this vision of the Stay at Home Dad that makes many SAHDs despise the movie. But not me. I love Mr. Mom.

I love it in the way that I inexplicably love other Michael Keaton movies: Johnny Dangerously, Gung Ho, Beetlejuice. But I also love it because it tells it a little like it is: there is a pretty steep learning curve when you are new to the parenting/at-home gig. A brand new mom faces all of these problems as well, and is probably not very much better equipped to deal with them. Teri Garr's character in the film is a competent parent, but she's also been doing it for a while: the oldest child is old enough to talk to and to help out, and that's a lot of parenting years behind her. So anyone coming into that situation fresh is bound to take some time to adjust, and it would be absolutely unreasonable to think that they would get it all right in their first week, month, or even year.

He's incompetent at first, and maybe this bothers dads because they think "How could he have gone several years without knowing the least little bit of what goes on at home on a daily basis?" I don't know. Maybe he and his wife don't talk that much about the mundane details; he probably doesn't go on and on about his job either. In any case, exaggerated as this segment was, it is not unfathomable to me that he wouldn't be very good at the daily stuff at first, or that he would feel overwhelmed by the sheer number of things that actually go into making a home operate. In fact, had a movie been made that ignored this learning curve it probably would have been deeply insulting to everyone who stays home full-time. Our job is not easy. (Well, mine is, but that's because Erin is brilliant and causes me no trouble whatsoever.)

He is depressed at first, and seems to give up and to let the house go to pot and leaves the kids to their own devices. This is probably the Mr. Mom image that dads worry is hanging over their heads, but frankly I don't blame the movie for the stereotype. This part of the film is actually presenting an honest, if exaggerated, problem for many at home dads: Depression is not a small thing, and every few years a new study is done that talks about depression in dads. For an at home dad, in a new, unfamiliar, and sometimes un-welcoming environment depression is something we always have to be wary of. It's too easy to isolate ourselves with our kids and pretend as though the moms don't want to be our friends and our old friends don't want to see us any more now that we have kids.

He is challenged by infidelity. And this worry comes up a lot for at home dads who spend most of their time in the company of women. Unfortunately this is a worry that doesn't go away easily, and movies like The Little Children don't help. But infidelity is a problem generally, and probably less prevalent among at home dads than among dads who are never home (I'm just guessing here). And also, Mr. Mom is not to blame for this at-home dad trope. In fact, in the movie Michael Keaton is so worried about being pursued by someone else that he has nightmares about it; he tries not to cross the friendship line that he is very conscious of. In fact, in the movie it is his wife's boss who is the real dirt bag, but Mr. Mom is not blamed for ruining the reputations of male supervisors. Instead it is wrongly associated with infidelity among at home dads.

Importantly, Michael Keaton's character does figure it out. He does realize how to take care of his kids on his own, how to manage their schedules, cook their meals, take care of the house, maintain friendships with the moms around him. He gets it. Men can get it is the actual message of the movie.

But the message that's taken away from the film is that men are incompetent at home. While this may be a real attitude among some people, it is not one that anyone can lay at Michael Keaton's feet.

The only real problem with the movie is that he goes back to work without a backward glance in the end. This says "I was just filling in for a while", and that stereotype, the dad-as-babysitter stereotype, is one that can legitimately be blamed on Mr. Mom. (Not that it originated there, but it's one that actually shows up in the movie and is never corrected.)

But at least he was a competent babysitter. And that's why I can watch Mr. Mom without cringing, why I can admit that I actually like the movie, why I say that it does no genuine harm to at-home dads and the way they are perceived.

That doesn't mean that I like being referred to as "Mr. Mom" by people who don't know me. Because as I said, to them they probably either mean that I'm doing mom's job, or that I'm probably incompetent, or both. So, if you do want to address me as something I'm willing to answer to "Trophy Husband".

Or "Prom King".

Thursday, May 8, 2008

The Mundane Details

I was asked by AnnaC if I could point her to a post I've done about running errands, or going shopping, or other things that I might do as an at home dad, and that I might experience differently than an at home mom.

I've tried writing a straight post about that kind of stuff, and I just can't do it. If you are genuinely curious about how dads approach the day-to-day stuff I recommend checking out At Home Dad, a forum for guys like me who like to make friends with other at home dads and who also look to give and receive advice on parenting, support for gripes, and encouragement to those who are new to at home dadness.

If you do visit, keep in mind that this is a male environment: that's a warning, not a restriction. You can contribute on the site if you are not a dad, or not male; but you will be reading posts by dads talking to other dads in a kind of "safe zone", where we appreciate the freedom we have on that site to talk about problems with, we presume, an audience who will be sympathetic from the start. It's actually pretty tame, but the perspective is dad-sided. So, explore at your leisure; use your discretion. And try not to hold anything a dad says to another dad against him. A lot of it might just be guy-crap.

So, that's my plug. If you are curious about SAHD perspectives on things it's a great place to go look. And the posts are generally honest.

But please, pay no attention to the constant comments on how pretty I am or how I'm always making out with moms.  That, uh, thing with Awkward Moment Mom only happened once.

I am pretty, though. And my mommy says I'm cool, and the most handsomest boy in school.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008


When Erin was born I started having these urges to heroism: I'd imagine that we'd be backpacking along in The City somewhere and I'd see a mugging going on and somehow I'd intervene (safely, without endangering Erin in any way whatsoever, of course :} ). Or I'd imagine going to Darfur to defend refugee camps and  help air drop supplies to the refugees. Or I'd imagine running (ok, walking) a marathon to help raise money to fund something (the Bunion Relief Association possibly).

My point here is just that when Erin was born I developed an insane hero-complex. I feel like I need to do something to change the world for the better, to show her it can be done by one person, to inspire her for the rest of her life.

My daydreams have been darker too. I envision morbid little scenarios in which I die doing something to save her, her mom, some stranger, a kitten, because in that moment I decide that I need to teach my daughter how to be a hero.

Today I'm obsessed with Joseph Richardson's story. He died, pinned against a guard rail by a car driven by a drunk driver; but he died holding his little girl up over his head to keep her from being smashed. She will live because he had a perfect moment of clarity before the car struck him.

In my darker moments I hope I can achieve that same perfect moment of clarity.

Heroic clarity.

In my more illuminated moments I realize that I don't have to stop a mugger or limp a marathon or die in a suitably tragic manner to teach her about heroism.

I just have to point at her mom, who works too much because we moved to an area that demands it so that I could go to graduate school, and so that I can spend my days playing with my daughter.

I just have to point at how loving, focused, and strong her mother is.

I just have to memorialize the sacrifices her mom makes to keep us healthy and happy at home.


That should take care of Mother's Day, right? ;}

Excuse me, I have a diaper to change and a lunch to make.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

For the ladies...

The dishes are mostly clean...

The carpet is mostly vacuumed...

The laundry is mostly put away...

The beds are mostly made...

You're welcome.


What? You mean that didn't do it for you? What the hell? I've been getting all of my "how to get the wife hot" advice from studies and humour books.

What's that? I have to finish all of those chores?


Sunday, May 4, 2008

The List

Have you seen The List?

A few weeks ago Danny Evans at Dad Gone Mad invited all of his readers to post links to their blogs, and then encouraged all of them to spread some bloggy love.

Well, earlier this week Dee Dee at Random Daily Ramblings compiled a single list of all of those blogs and posted them.

She was then challenged by Heather to visit and comment on all of them. She accepted the challenge (on the condition that Heather do so as well).

While they were busy challenging each other I went ahead and finished The List.

It took days, and my daughter has been in the same diaper since Thursday, and I think she's had to teach herself to cook, and my wife has since fled to Seattle and Chicago in succession.

But it was worth it.

I met a ton of great bloggers out there in the world (many of whom were already daily reads for me, some of whom are now daily reads for me). I won't post individual links, because I want all of you to go and traverse the list. Do it at your own pace (because my pace might be considered child neglect). You don't have to let them know that they're on the list, although they might know already. Just leave a comment: a hi, a hey, a "that's hilarious" or "great picture" (my two favourites).

And, if you are really masochistic, turn on the "e-mail follow-up comments" function of the blogs you hit. Oh my god, I'll be going through my inbox for days.

One upside to doing that, though, is you can see who's following along behind you. Currently in second place on the Race to Finish the List is Mad Woman Meg. I've seen her dogging my steps for days. But she didn't have the benefit of naptimes coinciding with no hockey (the Red Wings swept the Avalanche on Thursday, so I have to wait until next week for their next round).

Another thing about doing The List is the chain-letter-type bloggy love you get in return. Sure I had to comment on over a hundred blogs over the last few days; it was fun. But in return I also had a ton of new visitors myself.

Now, if only it hadn't been the "Stand-Up Tragedy" post that they landed on :}

Now, if anyone is any good at designing Blog Badges maybe you could throw together a "I'm on The List" badge that links to Dee Dee's site, or a "I Completed the List" badge.

For me. Because I did it.

Your turn.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

In which I try my hand at stand-up

Ah, the stage. You have bemused me for years. I've trodden your polished beams as a chorister, musician, knife-grinder, barbershop singer, inappropriately and racially insensitively cast postal worker, Achilles (or the Tortoise), a Greek messenger in Nike shoes, soloist, accompanist, graduate.

I envy Erin her future opportunities to walk across the stage. Those moments, at the focus, are powerful and beguiling. They are life, writ small and in blood. They are fantasy, writ large and in tears.

They are comedy, and tragedy.

Emily is hilarious. And whenever she tells an insanely funny joke she'll remark "That's going in the stand-up act." And because I am her soul-mate and her complement, I feel it only right that I give equal voice to my own stand-up act.

You see, I hope to someday be a Stand Up Tragedian.

Yup. Someone who does what a stand up comedian does, with the little observations and "Don'tcha just hate it" whens and "Knock Knock" jokes and such, but with a punchline that is tragic rather than comic.

Because the Sad Face of Drama ought to be equally represented at the Improv, I believe.

So, here's a little preview of my act, off the cuff. (Not for those who do not wish to weep.)

"Knock knock."

"Who's there?"


"Uvga who?"

"You've got inoperable liver cancer. I'm very sorry."

"Do you ever notice that when you go to the grocery store you can never find a parking space? But there are all of those blue-marked handicapped spaces available right at the front, closest to the door. Because some people have been in life-altering accidents that have left them incapable of living a normal life without some assistance and accommodation."

"So, I was sitting at home the other day and my roommate came in looking dissheveled. I said 'Hey, buddy. Why are you looking so dissheveled?' And he said 'Well, I was pulling into the driveway today and I ran over a box of puppies.'"

So, whaddaya think?

(Editor's Note: It's okay to laugh. The point here is that tragedy provokes similar reactions in us. We laugh almost out of self-defense. I was giggling inappropriately the entire time I was writing this.)