Saturday, December 31, 2011

Shallow Grave

My wife is trying to kill me.

The electric dog fence we have around our property isn't buried all that deeply. Last year when the plow guy came he dug his plow a good inch under the driveway and scraped a layer of gravel into a pile at the end of my driveway. In the process he caught the electric fence and it snapped. Which was odd because the year prior he didn't do that. It's not as if it is suddenly shallower this year. This past week our first real winter snowfall came and the following morning the plow guy came and - once again - dug down into the gravel and broke he electric fence. So while you were all doing whatever you do on a Saturday (hopefully not watching college football - which is deemed to be exciting because nobody can tackle and half the quarterbacks throw five interceptions a game) I spent a small portion of it on my knees digging the near-frozen ground with my fingers.

I don't know if you've ever tried to dig a gravel driveway up at all. You cannot use a shovel because it just hits rocks and bounces off. Really the easiest method is to just get down in it and pull up whatever is loose with your hands. I had to do that in the basement a few years back after we moved in and there was no sump pump buried. When the first water came I had just returned home from work and was handed a shovel and a sump basin to put in the hole. After banging the shovel a few times I just thought bollocks to it and lay on the ground and dug like a mole. It was Fall, cold and the water was about three inches deep to begin with, but no way was my brand new furnace getting wet. 45 minutes later and there was a 30 inch deep pit. Fast forward to today and I'm kneeling on my wet driveway trying to dig a trench for the electric dog fence. It snowed yesterday but today is above freezing so the ground isn't frozen. Still, there is snow on the ground. The neighbor helpfully asked what on earth I'm doing in a mud puddle digging the ground like a demented squirrel on New Years Eve. After I told explained the broken fence he smugly pointed out, "yes, but your dog doesn't know that."

It didn't take long though and I'd dug the trench. Wasn't bad at all actually. My wife then came out to wire it back together while I went and filled some buckets with new gravel to cover up the holes. She came in and told me it was done. Right as I'm headed back out to kneel in the puddle again she thought it was a good idea to tell me she'd turned it back on again. She knew I'd be kneeling in puddle that covered the width of the driveway whilst holding a live electrical wire plugged right into the mains. That's why she let me know in case I might like to know. Presumably after the power went out and then she saw me face-down on the driveway outside she'd come out at some point. You know - to figure out when I was going to make her a cup of tea.

Happy New Year.

Mick Hucknalls Pink Pancakes

Sometimes you don't know your own strength. Sadly I didn't know mine is much much weaker than I thought it was.

My wife and daughter have gone out gallivanting in the White Power Jeep. Leaving me and the sleeping boy (He Who Hath Not Shiteth) at home for a bit. He should sleep while I laugh at Manchester United and blather away about nothing in particular. I suppose I could clean up a little but my arms are dying. The car we got rid of was weighted down with 5 100 pound bags of tube sand. Which - during the Great Basement Flood Of 2011 had taken some quality moisture and frozen in the back of the car. So I had to drag them out and down into the basement. I felt fine for the first 3 bags but the second two hurt like a bastard. I told one of my online friends that my arms feel like I've actually hurt them quite badly and he helpfully pointed out, "that's what it feels like when you do something strenuous." Cheers for that. Cheers also to another friend who accused me of exaggerating chronic wankers cramp.

Amusingly it took my wife half a day to buy a car. There are two things here that she finds funny. First off is that she's a Western NY woman. Meaning driving in snow is like breathing. It's not hard and she doesn't complain about it. Instead she shakes her head aghast at those people that are strewn about in ditches and snow banks as if they have absolutely no acumen for snow driving at all. So when she drove the Saturn Death Slide to work and it fish-tailed on her she told her coworkers and they gave her that disdainful look people give idiots who can't drive in the snow. She pointed out it's the car. Then they patronizingly told her that she should get snow tires and weigh the car down. Yeah - both those things are done already - it's the car. And it really is. I hear from car buffs all the time about how they'd never buy certain vehicles. People I used to work with would mock the fact I drove that Saturn Ion and yet they'd drive home in their 2006 Ford Taurus. But the Ion had over 100,000 miles on it and didn't ever have a problem. Every car I've had has been to the shop every 4 months for something. The Ion just didn't. For someone not mechanically minded like me that's perfect. And we got it on a great deal. The dealer was a royal pillock but we got a great price for it. Of all the cars we've had we've never spun, repeatedly slid into a Stop or anything remotely iffy. The Saturn seemed to have epilepsy in comparison. It's only very good fortune and my complete lack of alarm that meant I could drive it to work for two winters.

Secondly it did only take my wife half a day. That weirded a few people out a great deal. Especially people she worked with who she told in the morning that she just decided to buy a new car and then by the afternoon had one. I know people who have taken 2 months to buy a car. Visits to different dealers and tens of test drives until they bought something. Balls to that. We have a good dealer already. People say you can't get a good guy and that they're all sharks. Well no. Our dealer is smart enough to know that he needs his customers to come back and buy more cars from him in a couple of years. So he was very good with good prices. He gave us a good trade in price too. When we went to him last year he flat out told us not to buy something that wouldn't suit us that cost more. He's a good guy. My father in law had a good guy too - he'd go to auctions for him and get him great prices with no hint of sharkiness. And years back we had the most ethical dealer you can imagine - a Mennonite car dealer. Wrack your brain over that one. So when my wife decided to ditch the Saturn she looked at our guys inventory and tried the three cars that were 4 wheel drive and family sized. The Jeep won over a Trailblazer and an Escape. Not really much reason to delay buying the thing. So my wife brought it home and someone who drives a 2005 Mercury Montego gave me the, "Wow they suck. Oh well if you think it's okay to buy a Jeep then amuse yourself. Not me though - I'll stick with my amazing car. Yes it was involved in a massive recall due to the fuel tank actually dropping out of the car. But it's totally awesome with the cool sticker I put in the back window about The Ass Family."

Well, time to watch John Terry crying. And no the title of this has nothing to do with anything I wrote. I just caught myself laughing too hard yesterday about that Charlie Brooker pearler.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Snow Snow Snow!

Right in the mouth.

So it's snowing. So other than my wife nearly dying in the Saturn Slip N Slide - and then calling me to tell me she bought a Jeep on trade-in the snow has been great. My daughter loves snow. Snow Mountain, icicles and sledding may be the three things she likes most between Christmas and Easter. But when she was in her first real snow (as in could put the clothes on and stand up) she hated the snow. The timing was slightly off so she was just that little bit too young. She couldn't move very well in it. The boots were too clunky and the snow too deep. Add the cold isn't romantic and fun at all. For a large part of mid-Winter it hovers around -8F. For those of you who can't figure out what that is it's -22 Celsius. It's unbelievably cold. And if we go up north a bit they don't even bother with temperatures - they just tell you how many minutes you can be outside until your exposed skin will die.

My daughter hated it too because the mittens made her hands completely useless. Which is pretty annoying when all you want to do is pick up snow and hold icicles and sled string. I thought putting a kids foot in dress shoes was scary - try jamming a kids thumb into a mitten. You know it's going to snap off. Weirder though was that sledding seemed to put my daughter in this weird catatonic state. She would express no emotion of any kind whilst in the sled so you'd assume she wasn't having fun - but if you took her out to back inside she'd complain. And being a child of that age she had no idea when to come inside so would inevitably get too cold. You see that's how you know you've been a good parent - that you got your child to an age where if you dumped them on the side of the road that they probably wouldn't die but would go get help.

So I wasn't sure what my son would think about snow. He's a little older for this season than my daughter was. So a few days ago when I strapped him inside all the gear and whatnot it didn't fill me with confidence that he hated the whole experience. Putting the snow pants annoyed him. The boots and gloves pissed him off even more. The hat - the one that looks like a snowmobile turtle-fur that he cannot get off even if he tried - made him seethe with rage. He kept hitting me with his useless hands.

Then I stuck him outside and he ran around giddy as a goat. He freaking loved it. He had no interest in sledding at all but he wanted to go charging about roll around in snow. He liked the whole icicles (Nature's Popsicle) to munch on too. I couldn't wait to show him how much fun snowball fights were. I knew the bets way was to just start pummeling him with baseball-sized honkers. I used to literally knock my daughter over with some chest-cracking sluggers and she thought it was hilarious. As long as I didn't get her right in the face she would laugh maniacally. Sadly it was the wrong kind of snow (yes, British Rail - you have a point). It wouldn't form good snowballs and would just fall apart. So after spending collecting rocks from the driveway to put inside snowballs I came to. "What the hell are you doing?" I thought. "This is crazy. What are you doing? Why are you pulling rocks off the driveway to throw at your children? There's a coffee can of old screws and nails in the basement that you don't need any more. Just use them instead."

He was a bit nonplussed about snowballs. What he really wanted me to do was lie on the ground so he could sit on my face - but in the snow. I didn't know that until I tried to make a Snow Angel. After I made it I just lay in the quiet. The sky was all one color and silent. My daughter was busy lying on the ground eating the snow like a wild animal. I lay there for about 3 o 4 minutes and thought that this is probably what David Suzuki is on about when he says people should get outside and literally sit spend time with the Earth. I also fleetingly thought that this would be a pretty peaceful way to go as well - save the agonizing burning of frostbite and being woken half-dead by something eating you. Oh and the kids being alone obviously. But the silence was wonderful. I closed my eyes and promised myself it would only be for 30 seconds. Then I heard my son laughing and running. I figured he was just chasing the dog or his sister was pulling him on the sled. Then he landed on top of me and wiggled about until he was sat on my head. I shrugged him off and his glove had come off and his nose had grown an enormous Plymouth-green snot dribble. That glove has come off three times now. Yep - time to go back inside.

Normally when we come back in we get hot chocolate and cuddle under a blanket to keep warm. But we don't have any hot chocolate and my son wanted to play trains. So my daughter and I decided to do our Daily Dance-off while he kept himself entertained. Feast your eyes on this.

Control yourselves.

The Master

"So who are you then?"

So I'm stood at the cash register of my local grocery store. I'm pretty lucky to have one this close to my house. Especially as it's part of a chain and has no business being in the next town to mine based on the number of people that go there. Every time I go there I can park in one of the closest spots to the door guaranteed. I went there on Christmas Eve around 2pm - still parked near the door. Anyhoo being a small place the people that work there are familiar with me and my family. The main check-out cashier there that we see most often now knows that I'm English and that one of my kids was born overseas. She has asked if I'm a citizen and I tried to explain Permanent Residency. But like most people I've told it just does not compute and they assume that I said, "Yes, I'm a citizen" instead. The cashier will no doubt repeat that she cannot understand why anyone would move from England to central NY state. "Yeah...." I'll always reply.

Anyhoo - I'm stood at the cash register buying a few things for the week. My kids are sat in a race-car cart and having a grand time. They're a bit peeved that there were no free cookies at the bakery today but I did buy a doughnut for them to split. I have strategically placed the cart in the aisle so that my son can't reach candy on the one side or push the buttons on the debit card swipe thing. Like a true hero I'm packing my own bags. The cashier thinks this is amazing - not quite at the level of Jesus washing his disciples' feet but the degree of awe that a commoner like myself would bag groceries is somewhere on the minor-miracle level for her.

The point here is that I'm at the other end of the entire cash register just in ear-shot of the person stood behind my cart and my kids. My daughter is - what my Welsh friends would call - "performing." Meaning she's smiling at the person behind her and giggling like a lunatic. My son is less adept at this and is just smiling and staring at them in a friendly way. The person they are communicating with looks very much like Bolivian President Evo Morales, except slightly darker skin. The cashier has managed to ask me a question about whether it snows like this in England whilst simultaneously telling the Morales lookalike that I am from England. Obviously this was also a prompt for me to use my very hot English voice so that she and the cashier behind her can learn how a man who is average-to-okay looking can instantly appear much more attractive by sounding foreign. Morales briefly tells us that he was once stationed over in England for the Army. He doesn't say which army, but I'm assuming it wasn't the Bolivian one.

Being friendly Morales says to my kids (mostly my gurning daughter), "so who are you then?" My son is repeating the word, "Hi" and slowly waving at him. The waving continues almost entirely from this point until we leave. I know my daughter likes to talk to people and that she's likely to tell them her name. But I also know that she may also just say something quite random so I'm trying to listen in whilst putting rustling bags into the cart. Without appearing to think about it she tells Morales that she's an alien. Except she can't pronounce the word "alien." So instead Morales hears her say, "I'm an Aryan." He wasn't sure what she said so he asks her again. She tells him again that she's an Aryan.

He just says, "oh..." and looks up at me for clarification. Sadly at this point the cashier - seemingly unaware of what an Aryan asks me if we go home much. At which point I'm now certain that my use of a very clear posh English accent may sound quite Aryany - which makes no sense at all. So I'm carefully trying to tell her that, "no, we don't go home much" without using words like Fatherland, or that we like the US because there is far more liebensraum here for us. I'm also aware that if Morales knows what Aryan means, and thinks that is what my daughter said that he might think I have chosen not to talk to him on the grounds that I might be so racially sensitive that I choose not to talk to non-white people. So now I have walk a fine line. Because I have to say out loud to my daughter, "you're an alien?" so that I can clear up what she actually said, whilst also not compounding the whole racial-purity issue by not sounding like I'm asking Morales for his immigration paperwork.

So I did that and we left. "Enjoy the snow!" I tried to say in a friendly playful way. The cashier giggled. Morales smiled. Either because it's a nice thing to have pleasant conversation with people, or because he was nervous that I may have issued a veiled threat that he best enjoy the snow while he still can. So when we got home I was sure to convince my daughter to dress up like a United Colours of Benetton ad, and to listen to a lot of World music.Then I remembered that the day we were at the US Embassy to register our daughter as a US citizen some American lady told us that you could tell by her cranium shape that she was from the master race. Which made me feel even guiltier so I made a point of trying to learn a Senegalese freedom song on guitar to prove my bona fides. Way to go white liberal guilt.

Anyhoo - I don't think Aryans dress like this.

Which is an absurd thing to say but there you go.

View From A Mentalist: Dec 30

My daughter has her own camera so takes a bunch of pictures on that. But I use mine too so she also grabs that and takes a few. So on mine she took 38 and on hers she took 40.

"I want to eat his head!" she said with a little bit too much excitement. She did too.

New Teddy. I don't actually know who got this for her this Christmas. When I was putting her to bed last night I asked her this Teddy's name and she said, "Teddy." Which was the old one's name as well. I didn't press it because she would likely have just blurted out it's name was Banana or Bobby the Toe Sniffer and that would have been his name forever from that point on.

There's been a lot of craftiness this past week. She's burning through crayons. When she took this one she had been asking me to come to the kitchen table and write - in brown because it's my favorite color - what she says was happening on each page of a 300 page coloring book. Every single page would be colored in and then I'd be called in to try and write with a blunt crayon in a tiny space. It was cute and then irritating because she'd randomly ask me what a page from 15 minutes ago said and I'd read out what I thought I'd written and she would tell me that wasn't right.

This is piled in the dining room. Sunday it goes down.

The, "Princesses" - they're becoming a lot more trouble than they're worth. Her favorite is Ariel (who isn't a princess is she?) because she, "looks the prettiest."Or maybe because the actual Princesses in her book are awful at life.

Oboe's quilt. It's totally different on the other side. My daughter used to spend lots of time sitting on hers and investigating it. My son just goes upstairs and lies under his until I find him there. I'm not sure what that means. He got a new bed for Christmas that isn't ready to assemble just yet so he'll start sleeping like a human soon.

She pointed he camera at the living room window at 7pm when it was dark out and the flash did this. This will obviously be the cover for the remix EP out this coming January.

Last one - she wanted to photo me holding a sugar spoon so she could see herself in the reflection. She got this. I actually quite like this one.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

View From A Mentalist: Dec 29

This is the fewest amount of pictures I think that she's taken so far. 47 isn't a lot of stuff to choose from but the quality of them was pretty good. So....

I'm beginning to think that every anthropomorphic thing that signifies a season is extremely smug and somewhat gay (in the Louis CK not-sexual gay kind of way).My daughter says that he is thinking, "I want to be a snow shoe." Interesting...

I really can't stomach the idea of peanut butter and jelly as a staple sandwich. My ids absolutely adore salami sandwiches though. For Christmas someone gave me these tiny salami things because the sign for them said they were gluten-free. The kids love them.

This would be a pretty good shot but she was trying to get the trampoline without him and was pretty annoyed when he showed up.

One of my Christmas wallets. Yep - you heard me. My MIL asked me what I wanted and I said a wallet. My belief is that my wife overheard this and told my daughter that's what I wanted too. She says I told her. Lies - all I ever asked for were acres upon acres of new underpants. Anyhoo - this is the one my in laws got for me. I have my stuff in my daughter's one right now. Amusingly she asked me today why I hadn't put anything in this one thinking it was the one she got me.

Once my son put a fork in there. Now he actually tries not to drop the guitar pick in there. He does like to sing into it though. I told my daughter the music lives in there and you let it out by strumming the strings.

Did I mention it was snowing now? We've even had sledding races and Snow Mountain battles already.My son loves snow (thankfully) but hates getting ready to go outside and the sudden loss of use of his thumbs in mittens.

If this cat isn't asleep on a bed but is still indoors it's like an aboriginal Bushman. When it's time to kick her out (which I have to do even in the snow) then it takes ages to find her. She can only be in two rooms but buggered if I know where she is half the time.

I don't know why these are in her window. Or why she photographed them in there.

Oh my.

Yeah - the CDs are so marginalized they are under a dresser in my bedroom.

Last one then - it's Teddy. My daughter decided this past weekend that her brother needs him more than her now. So now Teddy is on his pillow.

The Afghan Flasher

My daughter mocked my dancing prowess today. I'm so proud. She told me that I, "dance like a pig that thinks it's pretty." That's pretty good trash talk. So I danced at her in costume.

My body is a weapon. You could lose an eye.

Beat Some Sense Into Them

"Bum spaghetti."

My wife asked me to read this parenting thing yesterday on the ground that it will help us become better parents. The story in it was that two parents took a child to their Grandparents and the child wouldn't eat. Mom kept nagging the kid to sit up, be nice and eat but the child didn't want to. So the child was put in Timeout on the scratchy chair that smells like earwax and burnt hair. And Mom had made the child wear an uncomfortable itchy dress and Grandma's house was somehow fifteen degrees too hot/cold. Then after the Grandparents offered ice cream it was denied by the parents because the child had been a failure. Then after the child hid under the table instead of sitting quietly and talking to the Grandparents the child was taken upstairs until it was beaten to sleep. Later the child stirred awake - still crying - only to feel Mother's tears bouncing off her face while she could hear Dad drunkenly yelling from downstairs, "if she gives you any shit then spank her again. If she keeps it up then I'll get the poultice and the boiling jars we used to chase the Scarlet Fever out of Uncle Jack."

I may have made up the last part, but the rest of it is pretty how it went. Now the premise of that article was that from the child's point of view none of it made sense. They'd been taken to a weird place near people who smell funny. Whilst there the child's mother told the child to touch and say nice things about the gross smelly old people. During this demand she also intermittently whispered, "don't be a bad child." into her ear. This made the child not want to touch or smell the old people very much. Also nobody was fed at normal dinner time but had to wait two more hours. This after being tied down in the car and told they can't have snacks because it will ruin dinner in four hours. Eventually the food came out and it was gross and weird. All of it was wet. None of the fun things about dinner - pretty plates and cutlery with fun things on them - were there either. Then Mommy and Daddy started being mean and shouty. They tried to put the child in Timeout but the chair they threw the child in had a wet spot that smelled like wee. The chairs at Grandma's house are really uncomfortable. Grandpa did say something about ice cream. But then Dad looked annoyed and Mommy yelled at Grandpa. It was almost as if they only mentioned ice cream so that they could be mean about it. After dinner Mommy kept yelling about sitting still and silent on the couch that smells like the dog and Grandma's Happy Juice. So the child thought they'd play under the table where it's quiet and out of the way and mean old people don't go. Which made Mommy really really mad and she dragged the child upstairs without any bedtime snack, no stories, no bath and no cuddles. Just spanking - which hurt and Mommy never EVER does. Everyone was crying. This is the worst day ever.

Anyhoo - my wife read it and then declared it to be really really sad and made her want to hug and hold her daughter. I pointed out none of that really applies to us. Sure the kids can flip out and be uncooperative when they visit their Grandparents. But the boorish behavior and situation have no parallel with us. The child seems to have never met these weird old people who smell of milk and urine (Worst. Cocktail. Ever.). She's never been to their house either it would seem. My in laws house is well set up for Grand-kids - it should be they have four now. There are special snacks and meals (burgers, taco's and Grandma's soups in lieu of anything not being organized) all set to go at the drop of a hat. There are special plates and cups. There is always dessert. My daughter always eats all the food there. Grandpa takes the kids on tractor rides and out in the Jeep in the warmer months. In Winter they go snow blowing and snowmobiling. Add - there's a whole freaking room in the basement that is a kids play room. The sterile doilies and fine china conjured up in that story doesn't apply to us.

More importantly I don't beat my kids. It seems like a pretty good way to release some tension and frighten people physically weaker than I am, but beating them to do something is a bit too Gulag for my liking. Obviously I'm not going to pass judgment on people who physically educate their children. They already know that they've made an internal moral decision to only hit children and not adults. Not all children obviously - just one's that they can keep locked in the house without the cops being called. Beating sense into someone is not a statement that makes any sense. Especially not to kids. And when it's done to adults it's called Extraordinary Rendition.

All that article did for me is remind me of those parents who have those old Medieval rules in place. The Seen And Not Heard type. And it seemed to push the idea that if your kid behaves like a four year old can and you parent them that way then there will be much crying. But seeing as we don't do that it was sort of asinine. Let's just say it wasn't really aimed at us. I'm certainly not a Seen And Not Heard parent. I let my daughter babble away to whomever she likes most of the time. As long as she's not swearing or telling them evidence (yes evidence) about my physical abnormalities I don't care.

And that old adage that kids say the silliest things is true and it should be. A child that doesn't feel free to express themselves is a sad looking kid. I don't even mean shy - I mean the kids I encounter with their parents who know that if they say something their Mom or Dad thinks is dumb or inappropriate then they'll get yelled at. The comedian Stewart Lee does this self-mocking bit about kids saying things because after he had a child he wanted to tell people the mad shit his child said but knew that it's the sort of thing that can make someone very boring. "You should hear the things she says - it's like she's a child" is how he puts it. I'm always mindful of that on this silly blog.

But then my daughter does say random weird stuff as well that I genuinely think is funny. So I don't focus on my kids' childish focus on things - the way they simply cannot understand things so say primitive rudimentary things that make them appear stupid. No - I like to highlight the strange random creative fountain of madness that spurts out of them like an uncontrollable demented fire hose. Take yesterday. My daughter was sprawled on the ground with paper and crayons. She wasn't coloring though so I wanted to find out what she was up to. "Hey Honey - what are you making?" She instantly replied, "bum spaghetti." I don't even want to know how she put those words together. Hopefully she isn't planning anything. Later on in the day I was sat reading to my son when my daughter walked up net to us and said, "Do you like my hair and face Daddy?" After a while I could sense she was presenting herself in some way. So I looked at her and she had something on her. So I asked what is was. She smiled and proudly said, "my own spit."

Now I like that about my kids. The randomness and fun means that they seem to sense that when they do visit weird people and go odd places that they owe me some collateral for that. So when my daughter doesn't want to do something because it is vaguely similar to that story above she will - most of the time - look at me and I can tell her it's okay and to just do this for me and then later we can have an awesome game of Family Battle Worm (calm down - it's climbing into our own sleeping bags and then attacking each other).

Right now though it's time for a kitchen disco. My daughter has agreed that we should dress up as Scott Weiland and dance to Jimmy Was A Stimulator - one of our bouncier songs to gyrate to of late. She looks way more like Weiland than I do. Which pretty much means that his years off rock touring and heroin abuse have made him look like a four year old girl.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Dance The Devil

Every day when my son takes a nap my daughter and I make dancing videos in the kitchen. Here are two we made this Christmas week.


Good Lord we're awesome.

Feeding The Monkey Lies

My daughter has been asking all day when her mother is going to come home. This means that when she does come home she will show her how much she doesn't like her.

I'll explain. When I was working I used to come home after a long hard day and greet my adoring family. When my daughter was much younger she would make sure I knew that me coming home meant bugger all as far as she was concerned. "Hey I'm home!!!" I'd excitedly say, bouncing around her. "Well done for remembering where you live - really impressive..." she seemed to say. My wife was different of course. She would be so burned out from solid wall-to-wall child-amusement time that she had to use every fiber of her being just to make it seem like she wasn't at the end of her tether. She also had the unspoken handing-off of parental responsibility that said, "you have to do everything now." Which was pretty annoying for her because my kids didn't understand this and would still demand that she entertain them. I would burst through the door, walk over to my wife to embrace her and she would shove me away desperate for five minutes without somebody touching her. All I wanted was a hug and maybe a kiss on the cheek. Perhaps a, "way to earn that paycheck hero spouse!" comment. My wife just thought that I was the next person in her direct family who would attempt to touch her nipples.

Once my son was born it changed slightly. He was too young to give a crap about me coming home but yet still managed to exude an attitude that said that he hadn't even noticed that I was gone, because he hadn't even noticed that I was here in the first place. But my daughter was now older so was a totally different story. For a good year I was her reason for being. I would come home and she would cuddle, hug and canoodle with me. I made her day just by showing up. Then randomly she just started not really giving a crap. The odd day here and there she would actually show me animosity for coming home. My wife claimed this was a total shock to her because there was no suggestion that she didn't want me home. I obviously assumed my wife was poisoning my daughter with lies and more lies about me based purely on jealousy.

Then I became the stay-at-home parent and my wife went to full-time work. Obviously I expected my son to do what my daughter did at around two years old. That being make a point of stating that he doesn't care who just got home - he's busy pushing a train around and you can damn well wait for him to show you a sliver of enthusiasm later on. Frankly if it was so important to receive love then you wouldn't have left for the whole day in the first place. But my son doesn't do that. He sits in the window every day like a pining dog from around 5pm until his mother gets home. Which is pretty tough when she wanders in at 6.45 after a good thirteen hour day. Of course if I keep telling him at 5.30 this his mother won't be home on time today he'll just run around like a rabid Tasmanian devil until she gets home to try and work through the disappointment.

My daughter though has shown me that sometimes she really is being weird when my wife gets home. Some days my little girl will tell me repeatedly for hours that she wants her mother to come home. As in now. She'll ask me over and over again if she's coming home soon. Then my wife will call and I'll let my daughter now - Mom will be home in fifteen minutes. My daughter will smile, and wait with me and her brother in the fornt window until we see the car lights. Then she'll become strange and emotionally weird. Because my wife will burst through the door and announce, "Hey I'm home!!!" and my son will squeal his way over to her. My daughter will say hello too most of the time. But 20% of the time she'll hide behind the couch, or under a blanket or even in a cupboard. My wife will attempt to seek her out which makes me daughter quite angry. If she finds her (and it's pretty easy to find a kid under a blanket in the middle of the living room) my daughter may even yell, "NO!!" at her and tell her to go away. She only wants Daddy at home. It's a little bit Norman Bates-ish to be honest.

It's taken me awhile but I've figured this out now. What happens is that my daughter gets so excited that her mother is finally coming home that she opens up like an emotional faucet. Therefore she is also unable to contain all the other emotions she's feeling - like sadness and annoyance that her mother wasn't home all day as well. So the only way she can exhibit this is by physically showing her that she's annoyed that she abandoned her and that it hurt her feelings. Hence telling her flat out that it was much better when she wasn't home yet. Which is literally true - she didn't feel this exact feeling when she was still waiting. So the good news is that my wife wasn't secretly feeding my daughter lies about me at all. It was just emotional overload after all. Which is great news!

It also gives me carte blanche to feed lies to my daughter about her mother and pass it off as her missing her mother.

View From A Mentalist: Dec 28

My daughter took 79 photos yesterday. I'm being picky with them so as not to give away some things we are doing in Casa de Beef Jerky but she still took a nice bunch of things. Her current main themes are her hand/feet on a photo tour of our home (still) but she's also branched out into her finger on a photo tour as well.

My daughter is very much in love with this thing. She particularly likes how she can now plop in front of whatever she's doing and use it to slouch in with snacks.

I really like the fact that she likes doing conceptual photography stuff like this. When I asked why she did it she said because it was fun. As good an answer as any I could have expected.

This photo has Internet Meme written all over it. Something like, "They told me not to take their photograph. So I took their souls." Oddly I labelled this one I Ate My Parents on my hard drive.

One of the Traveling Finger series of pictures. Amazingly it wasn't up her nostril long enough for her to take this.

For Hire: One French Polisher. This is not a fake ad - he really does clean things and is not advertising himself out under the guise of wholesome wood polishing in order to turn tricks.

Sad Doodle Is Sad. The other pictures he got into he doesn't look so melancholy - but he has Devil Eyes in them all so I picked this one.

When people ask me what I do I tell them, "I build railway lines." All bloody day long.

Last one - the wife's Christmas present. It's been used three times already.

Raingirl and The Beefcake.

Thanks a lot Honey, now I have to do all that counting.

My daughter spent a lot of time doing crafts yesterday. She had received quite a few this Christmas, in one form or another. In the morning she decorated four picture frames with stars, felt pen and glitter glue. One of the characters on a picture frame was a plump playful penguin, and I'm glad to say she blackened it's face out with felt pen like a serial killer scratching out the face of girl in a High School year book. After that she went on to writing her and my name in a Disney Princess Friends book that someone gave her. It is vile, horrid and ironically casts random females from Disney movies in the worst possible light. It lumps Snow White and Ariel in there alongside four actual Princess characters. My wife tells me that the inherent thick slab of irony is that in the movie the Princesses are in the emphasize goodness and strong character - caring and love. And yet in this book all they talk about is how you're only worthwhile if you have fantastic hair and diamonds so that you can get a Prince. Because if you don't have a certain specific type of perfect clothes and hair then you will never get a man - the ultimate goal of life - and you will die alone, ugly and crippled from persistent self-abuse.

Something like that anyway. Really - it isn't far off. Also chucked in to the craft pile (aside from pom poms and felt sticker things that Santa plopped on her) was a mosaic dog-thing that you had to attach all the stickers too by number. Which she did and then declared, "there are thirty-eight gold pieces" and then carried on with her day. Not me though - oh no. I can't let that slide - now I have to actually count the frigging things just in case she's displaying Rainman qualities and is magic. Of course in true Bad Parent fashion I started counting them and then got lost so had to start again. After doing this again because my son was running feral around the house with a screwdriver and roll of packaging tape I've yet to go back and confirm whether my daughter is a witch.

I myself had a torrid time of it in the middle of the day yesterday. One of the gifts I received from family were a few bags of homemade beef jerky. Now I may be a svelte athletic hot example to the other males I encounter in my life, but deep down inside I have a pudgy man inside me. Not fat or anything that could get me onot a reality show based on aesthetic alone. But the sort of person who would think that as there is half a tub of ice cream left maybe I could get away with eating all of it if I bought another one in that exact flavor and eat it to the same emptiness that this one is. Or - in a more recent example - if I eat all of this bag of beef jerky then maybe it will be awesome and I won't have to cook myself any food. The kids can eat whatever I drop and the dog doesn't get. Fast forward to noon when I was doubled up on the floor trying not to puke again while my daughter piled blankets on me. She had asked me what I was doing and for some reason I told her I was pretending to be a cake. Presumably a dried-beef cake. She thought I was method-acting the bottom layer of this cake and kept chucking on different blankets to pretend to decorate me. I could see she was impressed that I would remain absolutely still (and strangely grey) for long periods only to rapidly jump up and run to the bathroom at break-neck speed. You know - like a cake would.

Anyhoo - I lay on the ground experiencing my own self-imposed bovine death-twitch until my wife called on the phone and said, "that right there is the very definition of gluttony." Which while true (and completely unhelpful) is hard to take from someone who will eat a bag of sour candy until it actually starts to burn holes in her tongue and gums. It didn't stop me either at 5.30pm from reaching into the now new bag of jerky for another dried scab of beef. But with my wife's disapproving look I opted to give it to the dog. He'll probably find the bag and steal them all anyway so I should be commended for saving time.

I suppose I should go count those gold mosaic pieces.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Christmas Is Over - The Oompa Loompa Is Dead

Poo everywhere.

My wife is back at work and my daughter home from school for a week. The living room is glistening from a coat of primer and my son has been crapping diarrhea as if he's trying to win a competition judged by weight. He's had four moments this morning already. But it's been 45 minutes since the last one and he's dragged me off to the toilet for a pee as well so I think I'm out of the woods (if the woods was made out of wet lakes of chunk-filled poo obviously) for the foreseeable. He's busily shoving his new train around right now. My daughter is coloring in a princess book she was given by family and wants to be left alone until it's done. I took a peek or two though to make sure she is just coloring it in and isn't secretly mainlining chocolate until it's all gone.

Christmas is very much over. Boxing Day morning we packed everything away and chucked the tree out the front door ready to be burned. I've heard a little moan from others about how it ruins the ambiance or isn't right to take it down now. Balls to that - it was in the way. And if I want to convince my daughter that I simply had to wipe the Christmas songs off her MP3 player until 12 months from now I had to go the whole hog and declare the Santa and tree part of it very much over. Besides with all the football on this week I need the goal set back up for carpet football where the tree was. I can't simulate Andy Carroll sitting on a bench and then missing the goal completely if I don;t have it set up. More importantly there's 2000 pounds of flooring sitting in my dining room ready to be installed this week. Which means painting, doing trim and guff like that before chucking it down. So with the tree dying on the lawn we could get to work putting primer into the wee hours last night. Cue painting on the walls and shoving furniture out of the way.

My wife estimated it would take five hours to prime. She painted the room last time almost full-term pregnant and that's how long it took her. She didn't pick out that color though - that was me. I thought it would be cool and edgy. Instead it looks like an Oompa Loompa that had been Tango'd by Dutch UDA fanatics. Hence why it's being painted over with what we are calling a Dijon-naise color. I assumed that with my awesome help we could trim a third off that time. So I moved furniture while my wife did some edging. Then I grabbed the roller and got to work. Great stuff. After flying through that first wall and feeling immensely helpful and talented my wife asked me to please please stop painting. Apparently I suck quite badly at it. Worse is that I genuinely cannot see that I suck at it. My wife explained it quite thoroughly and although I was looking at her boobs for while she pointed at the wall I couldn't really see why her wall patch was so much better than mine. Just rest assured that she definitely could. Years ago in my mid to late teens a friend and I blagged a painting gig and pretended we knew what we were doing. The guy wanted a cheap job done off the books by young-uns out of technical college. Instead he got me and my mate gushing buckets of paint all over a car park. When he thought we should be done he came out to find 1/5 of it shoddily painted and told us to piss off unpaid before we got into trouble. Apparently my painting skills have not improved much since then. I did paint the ceilings very well in half the house mind. But evidently my skills are so poor that my wife preferred that I just keep her company and move stuff while she got it done.

I'm immensely impressed with my wife. She is sharper than almost anyone I could pit her against. She has a breadth of talent that is even more impressive too. She's mechanically gifted, intellectual, the best cook on earth and smarter with money than anyone. She can also do detail oriented work very well in a way that I cannot. She also has a very strong work ethic and drive to get stuff done. And yet sometimes she will do things that don't make any sense at all. Take yesterday's shopping. She's been telling me for a few weeks that she's only got one pair of decent jeans. So with the Boxing Day sales I told her one store she likes has 75% of jeans so she should buy a few pairs. "Great idea!" she says. Fifteen minutes later she shows me her list of clothes on the company online website. Two shirts, a bathing suit and three pairs of pants. No jeans at all. I can't make sense of that at all. Especially as my wife owns five bathing suits that she looks amazing in and doesn't go swimming ever. Presumably she's got some sort of online bikini gig going on I don't know about. Or her boyfriend has a jacuzzi. This shopping confusion came very quickly after she arrived home from the hardware store to buy the paint we needed. Granted she did get the paint. But also carried in a nativity set (we already own three) and a live Christmas tree. "It was on sale," she says. Well yes of course it was - it's the day after Christmas. Christmas trees tend to go down in price after that. "It's for Evelyn. For her room." Oh well maybe we should go back and get some more then? "It has glitter on it." Well how could you not buy it then?

My wife is also very good at claiming she is asking an unweighted question whilst at the same time actually asking a question that is loaded with the heaviest weight imaginable. For example she can ask, "did you wear that shirt on purpose yesterday?" - unaware there may have been a statement attached to it - and then claim that it was just an innocent question. The fact that I can't answer it Yes or No without loading even more weight on top of the supposition inherent in the question means nothing to her - she meant nothing and me saying she did is rude. Another classic question in this mold is, "why do you wash the dishes that way?" After which she will claim that she has no opinion of any kind as to how dishes should be washed, and that she as just having a conversation. This statement will be made alongside a description of the only and correct way that dishes should be washed based on data collected in a graph. As I don't have a graph then she finds it absurd that I would pretend to be an expert in dish washing. "A charlatan - that's what you are," she will say with her eyes.

Anyway, that's sort of how I thought painting would go because she's quite precise and can see any mistake or imperfection that I genuinely cannot. When we moved in here we had to do every single thing in every single room. A lot of it was ripping stuff down (and I mean removing the walls, floors and ceilings completely) in every single room, insulating, hanging dry wall, installing windows and getting the rooms ready to decorate. It was bloody hard work. That's what I did. At the time I was quite sick too and by the end of it was sicker. My wife came in afterwards (before and after squeezing out a baby) and painted, laid tile and made it all look good. Once after grouting the upstairs bathroom I cleaned up the excess and washed the tiles. Took me ninety minutes to clean that tile. After which my wife asked my why I hadn't bothered to do it and was now lying down as if I was sick or something. Then she did it "properly." I cannot tell the difference.

But the painting would go differently obviously. She hates doing it, and I had loaded my MP3 player with some awesome music for motivation. I was jazzed to do it actually. Ten minutes in she asked me if I had put the song on my MP3 player that was playing. See - it's the same sort of question. I thought about telling her that no actually I hadn't - it had fallen on there and I couldn't get it off. Instead I didn't get the chance to before she begged me not to paint anymore and to turn Cool TV on instead. She was happier to do it correctly by herself as long as I turned off my awful music, talked to her the whole time about stuff she wanted to talk about and try not to insist that she looks hot in her painting clothes.

This morning my son didn't notice the walls. My daughter did and suggested we paint the kitchen next as that's ugly as well. Very tactful that. Tonight the actual paint goes on and I'm pretty certain my wife will hurt me if I try to help with that. So I'm on baby-sleeping, furniture moving and waiter duty. I might try and get her to paint in one of her bathing suit bikinis that she no longer thinks is good enough though.

I'm thinking she'll say no.

Chocolate And Gravy Day

Well, Christmas was nice.

First off people told me I wouldn't be able to get my daughter to sleep. She'd be too excited. Well she went to sleep at bedtime and woke up at Sensible O'clock. So that's a success. I heard from a few people that their kids didn't sleep at all. Which makes Christmas Day sound like it would have been a hard slog. Of course the two nights since then the kids were up and down. Christmas night my daughter crawled into bed with us and stayed awake for hours. She told my wife she couldn't sleep because one of my ears was glowing. Then when I rolled over to see her she said quite seriously, "I'm awake Daddy. How are we going to solve this problem?" By me going back to sleep until the early morning rage takes over. Which is when my daughter kicks me too much and my wife insists that the duvet needs to be rotated and then realizes she was wrong and has just stolen my corner. Which very much happened. Last night we needed the kids to sleep so we could paint. My daughter woke twice - once to tell me the World's Tinniest Man was driving a car around her room and then again to tell me her brother was awake. He also woke up two more times to tell me that he was awake.

But anyway - back to Christmas Day. No snow for once which kind of sucks to me. Central NY is nice all year, but one thing that tops it off is that the snow season rocks. This year it has snowed two inches when it should have crapped a good 30-40 already. And this is the first real year we've bought expensive (to us) gifts. WE don't really want to drift into a materialistic thing. But I bought my wife a pretty expensive Le Creuset dutch oven and she splurged on a Keurig coffee maker for me. The kids enjoyed their trains, cars, underpants and stuff had a grand time while we waited for the other family members to show up hours later.

I'm unclear on what our Christmas traditions will be. My wife and I have had ten years plus of it but not stuck to anything. And my daughter is four so we've had a few but this is the firs one she really gets. My wife had a few rules when she was a kid. You weren't allowed into the living room until everyone was dressed up especially nice and everyone was ready to go in. Then they'd have the fire on and Christmas music on the radio. I don't recall any traditions for myself. We just told our kids not to go downstairs until Mom was up. I'd already be up doing whatever it is I do when I'm alone. Obviously I put the TV fire on. I chose the PBS one over the ABC network channel one because it looked warmer and the Christmas songs they chose weren't just tinkly piano versions of classics.

As far as gifts go we all were happy. I think we all got a kick out of people's surprised and happy faces when they opened things. My wife and I had no idea what we'd gotten for each other. And my daughter genuinely picked out all her gifts to give so was very happy when people got them. I even got beef jerky which is challenging news for my colon for a few days. My son has pretty much played solidly with his stuff. He love his train very much and seems to think his underpants give him a peacock like quality. My daughter got a bean bag chair as she had begged for. She didn't know what it was mind you. But after learning what that big blob actually is she's been extremely pleased with herself. And she loves her camera which thankfully takes decent quality pictures too. All the things sent from overseas were well appreciated and played with. And nobody lamented angrily that they didn't get an Iphone, car or whatnot like so many seem to be still today online.

After the in laws showed up it was nuts. They really go in for present giving. Last year it took over three hours to open them all. They have a tradition of steadily one-by-one plodding through each gift opening. And then the person who got the gift has to use it in it's intended way. So if someone got something that requires assembly they have to sit there and assemble it before we can move on. Then they get the next gift. We pretty much just let my daughter get a gift for whoever came next and nobody minded. The only other real traditions as far as gifts go are that my in laws family always get WD40 for Christmas, and the boy of the household gets a Hess truck to play with. Which is what my son got from his grandfather. The kids also got beds from the in laws too. That was a surprise and will take getting used to. We've slept with the box springs on the carpet for a good decade and I can see why other people think it's weird.

As for food it went excellently. My wife is a planner extraordinaire and did it to a tee. It took a minimal amount of time and there was plenty of good delicious food. There were even four or five Cornish game hens to spare at the end as people shared. Personally all I wanted was roast potato and gravy to swim in. Everyone went nuts over the desserts too. I'm glad we went with the hens. I don't get weirdos who go for lasagna and a baked ham at Christmas. Lasagna makes no sense when you've eaten 20 of them all year (not to mention 100 other incarnations of pasta, sauce and cheese) and then eat one again to force some sense of cultural identity into something when it isn't needed. And ham - really? Ham to commemorate the birth of the most famous Jew in history? Not cool.

And the whole in-law family over was good. Everyone was pleasant and good and didn't mention minorities, socialists or feet once. I managed to not be too disgusted at the sight of other people's children even though one of them was under two years of age. And the kid that makes me seethe was mostly good. She did two things that I stopped though that have her marked as a window licker for life. The first was taking a handful of pencils and crayons up to the top of my stairs and just chucking them all down. Then when I stopped her she desperately tried to do it again and complaining that I was stopping her. That's the behavior of a to-the-bone twat. Then whilst everyone else was munching away on Christmas dinner my sister called. So I sat in the living room to take the call. During which time I had to physically stop that girl from trying to cut off the tail of her own Christmas present with toy scissors. But other than that they were all nice and I think I was as well.

View From A Mentalist: Dec 27

Well, the little sprog got a camera for Christmas. At which point she took 184 photos in a few short spurts in between playing with all the other stuff that showed up in our house.

So here's the first photo she took. It's called Presents:Wave One. Our modest little pile was overshadowed a few hours later when the whole in-law family showed up with an absurd amount of stuff.

Right in the face. Which is surprising because after he opened a few things he didn't look up from cars and trains most of the morning.

One of the toys extended family got for my daughter. She helpfully woke up in the wee hours last night to tell me that the World's Tinniest Man was driving this (his car) around her room so she couldn't sleep.

Obviously we had the fire on all day. And I'm glad to say my kids didn't display any Oxygen Thief like tendencies by trying to stuff ripped-off wrapping paper into the television screen.

The boy has been strutting around like a rooster since he got his new underpants. Six pairs of these. So now we get to see what kind of human being he is. He's either someone motivated to go to the toilet to keep his shiny new knickers clean, or he's the kind of person who takes great satisfaction in curling one out into the smiling open mouths of anthropomorphic talking trains.

I don't know how you do your stockings. In my wife's family their tradition is to put a few gifts in (with the obligatory on-the-go sized can of WD40 a must) and some nuts, an orange and an apple. I can't remember anything but mountains of chocolate growing up to be honest. So I went half way and did some little gifts, the yearly massive pencil, some fruit and a rock-fall gathering of chocolate nonsense. The Toblerone made it to the kids. The Terry's Chocolate Orange didn't.

The first self-portrait. And a glimpse of what she'll actually look like as an adult. Which sadly according to my wife is drunk.

Santa is pretty thoughtful. He brought each kid a really good quality sleeping bag for when they go camping. Maybe even for sleepovers. My wife got the same when she was around the same age as my daughter and her sleeping bag is as good as new.

That's me sorted. My wife got me this in an attempt to have me not drink nearly two pots of coffee each day. Oddly there's no photo of my wife's main gift which was a Le Creuset 5.5 quart dutch oven.

This is what my daughter asked for over and over. When she was given it she didn't know what it was. Not the slightest clue. When told what it was she went bonkers with happiness. Which is the sort of commercial orgasm marketing firms aim for I fear. Who cares what it is and if it's any good. As long as people want it. Steve Jobs did a flip of joy in his grave.

And then Presents:Wave Two began. Eeek. I decided to skip all those and move on. Too many to sort through.

One of the desserts. Good work wife.

At which point my daughter took a series of shots of the meringue-mushroom on an adventure around the house. It looks like a ghost has pooed on my kitchen counter.

Last one - the decorations came down, the house put back together and the tree was chucked out the front door. And the horse came back.

Monday, December 26, 2011

National Buffoons Christmas Vacation

I'll be back in a few days.

Now if you'll excuse me - I'll be trying on underpants and drinking Keurig-made coffee.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

View From A Mentalist: Dec 24

My daughter took 146 photos and due to the three main themes she got stuck on they were all vaguely similar. One theme was her hand in different rooms. That's all it seemed to be. Another was a shot-by-shot photo series of the CDs I have left in a flip-book. And lastly was an itemized photographic record of all the clothes we own in their dresser drawers. It had a nice serial killer quality to it.

So here goes. There were more than twenty of these. Just her hand in a different place. I couldn't get her to explain it more than, "that's my hand near Owen in the living room."

Actually this is part of a theme too. Yesterday we brought you Clifford's testicle - today we bring you Garfield's testicle. Tomorrow I can assure you that Big Bird is going down (actually I think I'm going to have to rephrase that slightly). And in truth this is a thing from the end of a jester's hat.

She also took a lot of photos of the ceiling fan and the clock. Not sure what the fascination with the fan is. Maybe she was just thinking about the opening scenes for Apocalypse Now and wanted to recreate the feeling of Martin Sheen blitzed out of his mind and being weird.

I don't know. Hemoglobin maybe? When I asked her she said it was a photo of the tomato stuck inside her that Dr. Daddy got out. On reflection that sounds like a cryptic frightening nightmare.

Well, hello there......

I once caught a fish this big!

Whoop de Doo. I once caught a fish thiiiiis big.

One of the thirty or so clothes-in-drawers photos. This is my son's sweaters/shirts drawer. I would have posted my underpants drawer because it looked the funniest but you could make out the Christmas presents I'd hidden in there in the photo.

The first of the CD book photos. I used to have all these towers all over my house years back with thousands of CDs in them. Then to save space I chucked out the cases and bought all these books to put them in. And as I was very anal about it all they were alphabetized. So everytime I got a new CD (which was very often) I would have to nudge them all one sleeve slot forward. Then when I moved to western NY I gave away over thousands of them. All I have left now are two sort of filled books with mine and my wife's stuff in it.

Last one for you - something festive for Christmas.