Thursday, February 28, 2013

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The Dark Side

Daughter: I was tired in the morning. But on the way back in the afternoon I decided to go to the dark side and then I felt much better.

I am currently trying to find anything and everything to do with pregnancy and babies in my home to give to a friend of mine who is incubating her second child as we speak. I'd started off by asking her periodically if she wanted certain stuff. But as the stuff I'd already given her was really good (car seat for a baby, pack and play) we stopped that arrangement and she's now happy to take anything without clearing it first. The worst that could happen is she didn't like it so could pass it on herself. All of which isn't very exciting except for the fact that my wife had collected two prenatal workout DVDs that I'd offered my friend who has happily agreed to take them off our hands. One is named Fit Mama and the other is Prenatal Gaiam Yoga. Which again isn't especially exciting except that I'd chucked them in the car for the next time I see my friend. And then today I took my son to the central library and was clearly struggling to hold on to him as he flopped around asleep on my shoulder, and carry the full book bag out of the passenger seat and to close the car door. I inadvertently tipped the bag and that saccharine Twinkle Toes dancing DVD my daughter had fell out onto the ground. Then a very nice young lady getting into her car next to me kindly came over to help pick it up. As she smilingly tried to push it back into my book bag I saw her glance down onto the passenger seat next to her and register that there were two prenatal workout DVDs sat on a nice bed of my son's used tissues. The judgment clearly crept across her face as she seemed to now understand that this nice man with a cute child was taking some sort of library-reprieve in between a hard-core wanking addiction to some weird pregnant yoga-based niche porn. That he apparently didn't even watch but just looked at the box while sat in the car. And then she handed me the Twinkle Toes DVD. Nice start to the day.

Yesterday my daughter had her special school trip with the other winners of a reading competition. One from each year of the school agreed upon by each teacher in their respective year along with the librarian of the school. So all in all quite a decent thing to be recognized for - especially when my daughter's teacher told us that there wasn't any thinking needed on the issue. She is just suddenly light year's ahead in reading comprehension, writing and - more importantly - interest in reading. It actually hurts my head when I consider that when her mother stayed home and I worked that they would sit and read for hours. My daughter monotonously fetching the same slew of her favorite books to have read to her. Books read so often that we would find her sat with or even without the books remembering the stories out loud. And not just short, pithy board books - but long, often-verbose things like Julia Donaldson's Room On The Broom (illustrated wonderfully by Axel Scheffler, by the way) that were intended for children between four and 8 years of age. Obviously each child is different and each individual person has their own innate abilities. But in really simple terms all that reading resulted in more comprehension and more interest in doing it.

The hurt part comes twofold. Firstly in that my son just isn't anywhere near as interested in it. We still sit down and read. But the huge enthusiasm his sister had for sitting with her mother and reading over and over just isn't there. In fact the well-repeated point that girls develop at a clearly quicker level than boys is really evident. Not just in my own son but in the other kids of his age that I'm aware of. And it's evidenced more than any other way than in what interests he had. My daughter wanted to read and draw. My son does far more infrequently. His interests are almost exclusively trains, nipples and asking for something else to eat because he's already bored of whatever he already has.

But secondly the head-hurt is that it suddenly does become really clear that doing something like reading to a child has such a massive impact on them. So while my son has a markedly smaller interest in reading than his sister did we still make the effort to do it. And he still - particularly at the end of each day - sits down for a nice block of time and we read. And his bedtime is marked by having books read before laying down. But I know of plenty of other kids who don't read at all. Part of the conversation I had with my daughter's teacher was that it makes her maddeningly sad that some parents simply don't read at all. It's just not something they do. And it's telling in two ways because firstly kids tell their teachers everything. But secondly was the simple reminder that the kids have in their folders that they bring home each day. All the teacher asks is that each night we mark down how much reading we did at home so she can have a better understanding of how much development is needed and being done out of school. But that even now in the last days of February there are kids who's reading charts remain completely empty - their parents completely uninterested whatever that slip of paper is to such degree that when it has been mentioned to them they have no idea that such a thing even exists.

Anyhoo - I took my son to the book store to meet his sister on her trip. And - to really top it off - their mother took 90 minutes off work to underline that this was a real achievement. Still - our daughter  still didn't quite grasp the point of the whole thing and just figured that she'd been picked out of her class of fifteen to go somewhere and buy a book. Part of that whole thing about 5/6 year old kids not harboring shame, or envy is that they also don't have a genuine competitive element to their character either. Their achievements are wholly there's and not really measured against others. You can see this when you flat-out ask my a 5 year old who is the best at something (dancing, using monkey bars, eating sandwiches - anything) and they'll tell you in all honesty. There's no trampling-the-weak-and-unworthy rat race at all with them. So while my daughter is aware that she won something and why she still felt innocent and sincere enough to make the point that there are some other kids in the class who are really good at reading and have really pretty handwriting.

When asked this morning what her favorite part of the outing was she said, "eating lunch at the book store." Embarrassing for me as I'd gone to pack her lunch only to find that two of things I was going to give her were pretty unpleasantly moldy or missing. I'd already started making her peanut butter and jelly sandwich before discovering that they'd eaten all the good jelly (if such a thing exists) and all that remained was a suspiciously old jar way in the back of the fridge. And that once opened (the fact that top was stuck on that tightly should have been a clue of it's nefarious contents) it was clear that my kids did not want to be eating hairy blue jelly. So they ended up with a peanut butter sandwich with a stripe of Nutella in it. I'd put two apples to one side as well. I'd kept reopening the frudge door hoping that doing so would make them magically appear only to then find both kids in the toy room eating an apple each. So her packed lunch was very bad (nutritionally) and very beige. And the school secretary (the chaperone for the day) felt she couldn't avoid teasing me about my blue, hairy jelly (snort) and the cracking lunch I'd put together.And then reminded me that children tell teachers and school staff everything you know. My daughter then quickly added that the bus ride home to the school was her second favorite thing because they all got to read their new books. And when the sunshine got to hot the school secretary even let them all go sit on the dark side so they didn't get too hot.

Still it reminded me of a simple truth - my daughter thought the day was great because she got to go somewhere fun and eat lunch there. That simple. Essentially I can take my kids anywhere and do that and they think it's amazing. So I did that with my son again today. After the library we went back to the indoor playground we went to last week and then he ate a sandwich and some crackers. Top day for him.

Now I have to scrub a toilet.

Monday, February 25, 2013


My daughter wanted to show me her new "crazy dance". My daughter wanted to ride her like a camel. I wanted to listen to Josh Homme. We all got what we wanted.

In The Vacuum

Wife: Some people like to release slugs into their house. When I was a little girl we did that. And then I got diarrhea.

My daughter goes back to school today after an entire week off. I thought she'd be more ecstatic about it. Last time she had time off she subtly pointed out that staying home with Daddy is unbelievably dull now. But this time I asked her a few times and she said she had a good week. Topped off by that random quote that her mother blurted out yesterday. I forget the reason. I do recall that we weren't talking about slugs or diarrhea at all. It's echoed the moment earlier in the day when the whole family were lazing on the bed and my daughter offered her mother a, "pillow and a wanket." Took a pass on that one. Actually I'm surprise we were all up on the bed after my daughter had announced on Saturday morning how she'd had a, "sleep over" in our bed. Only to be corrected right after by her brother who said it was actually a, "sleep odor". Time to clean the sheets there, I think.

Actually it's moments like that which help remind me why my kids have their own inappropriate verbal ticks. Between their mother and me they certainly take in plenty of odd stories and moments. My wife was just telling me actually that when she recounts our life story from the last near-15 years it does sound absolutely ridiculous. Almost to the point of unbelievability. From day one of us meeting it makes no sense in how not normal it is. From meeting her in the middle of the night right toward the end of her study abroad at university it's just been a weird, exciting ride. My wife quickly mentioned it yesterday - reeling off a few things a coworker had said don't happen to most people. About moving to Europe and back - and then doing it again! - and pretty much just giving away everything we owned when it was time to leave and just going to a new place with no jobs or place to live and seeing what was what. About buying a derelict house for next to nothing at an auction without even looking at it - and one that was filled with bees, despair and seemingly everything the family had ever accrued still in it - and that now it was a nice, almost-complete brand new home. And about how we'd just gone down there - I'd stuck my hand up with paddle in it to say I'd buy it and that was it - we'd bought a house and a few acres with that much ease and bollocks to the physical risk involved. About she (and I) had randomly worked in a chocolate factory in the bowels of Wales run by live-in South Africans during college - and how the families'  bedrooms were adjacent to the machine that put foil on the chocolates. And how she didn't work anywhere for four years to be a stay-at-home mother. But then randomly turned her car around in the parking lot of the place she know manages at and said, "I'd like to work here", and just applied for any old job there just so she could talk with the CEO about how she should be a technical manager there.

Oddly enough I had just been remembering how she'd randomly applied for a university position at University of Bristol in the Guardian and got it. Nobody gets a job like that. And how we both had cushy civil service jobs in the UK educational field and - at the height of the economic collapse - quit them to move back to the US on a whim. I recalled how I'd worked in a museum program archiving stuff for a ninety-something year old prominent-and-proud socialist photographer who went before the House Un-American Activities Committee and basically told the McCarthyites that they could suck it. And how we'd both randomly worked for a retired multi-millionaire inventor in an old post office in Western NY who's ultimate aim was to fly a rocket ship to the moon which he'd designed to mine it for Helium 3. None of that sounds like anything other than bollocks. And it;s just the tip of a very large, weird iceberg that is our life together so far.
All of which has led to a solid concern that life has become staid and dull. Not really even in a comparative sense to the oddness that went before - but the sense that we're coasting and not doing anything. After we bought this house things got odd. The house itself was a lot of work and a lot of stress. My wife was pregnant with our son at the time. Then I lost my mind. A year later I'd lost my job and was working at a weird phone company position that was really interesting but paid sod-all. My wife had ended her four-year hiatus out of employment and was doing two college-teaching jobs in completely different places during the evenings. We didn't really know what was going to happen next. After my wife got the job she has now and I settled down to be a stay-at-home Dad everything seemed to calm down considerably. Calm to the point of intentionally avoiding raising the heartbeat at all. Eighteen months later this had actually become an odd inverse to our outlook on life. Now we took no risks to the point of not doing anything. This isn't a middle-aged, life-is-boring so I'm buying a porsche thing. It's that genuine thing that plenty of parents experience where one day blends into another until you realize a year or two has gone by and you haven't done anything but work and wipe dried cereal off the chair. And now you aren't even bothering with the second one. In which time you've stopped doing much of anything because if things get to exciting before you know it it's all snowballed and you've randomly decided to move to another country, bought a house at an auction without even looking at it and have lost your mind.

That's where we've found ourselves at, anyway. My kitchen has been shocking. And even though I do have fun with my kids I have avoided a lot of things and summarizing the reason for doing so as, "ah - sounds like work." Well yeah. That's why I decided to take the job. But as I and my wife have agreed my son needs to do more structured stuff - whether he wants to or not. Because otherwise he really may as well be in day care. Honestly I'd been avoiding even the little stuff since Christmas either through lethargy or because I think he's been a turnip about things we do go to (it's called being two years old). If we went anywhere he either hid on my shoulder and kicked me until we left twenty minutes later. Or he'd just decide from the get-go that he has no interest in it - especially if he'd shown any genuine enthusiasm for doing it in the first place. A nice opposite-example is yesterday we all loaded up into the car to go for a walk somewhere. My son angrily rejected the idea and wanted no part of it. His sister wanted to go. When we got there we lasted about 15 seconds before my daughter threw a tantrum about how cold it was and demanded we go home. Her mother - not a fan of cold at all and actually surprised by how much colder it was - thought that was a fantastic idea. Me - I'd already been out running in it so didn't think it was so bad. My son had reversed his earlier opinion about how taking a walk in 30 degree weather was the behavior of idiots and angrily mewled about how we'd come all this way and were losers if we give up so fast. But we did. And honestly that's been how a lot of things have been for a little while. But I've ignored the obvious point which is you have to keep doing it. Instead I braced for him either hiding or refusing to actually do it even though nine times out of ten he enjoys whatever it is.

Oh - and sometimes he bars at other people. Yeah - I forgot about that. Thankfully the other people haven't been able to understand what he's actually saying. But I've seen him stood there ranting theatrically, "out of my way Bossy Buffers" before attempting to shoo people out of the Story Time we'd gone to because he has better things to do. But because he didn't ever do it in a total ranting tantrum way it always seemed to come across like a two year old kid being unable to retain attention rather than being an angry bastard about stuff. So no bridges burned. More to the point whenever I've ever been somewhere and seen someone elses kid being a kid I've never made a pissy judgment about it. Because it's what three year old children do. But bizarrely I'd done the opposite with my own kid and decided that I didn't feel like making the journey somewhere only to leave ten minutes later. Which is precisely what I should have been doing anyway. Because admittedly I've just not bothered either. Stuck in a rut and all that.

Which I'm now rolling out of because it's dull and not beneficial to anyone. Certainly not my son. And it self-perpetuates into a thing where you don't want to do what you're doing as a stay-at-home parent and seriously wonder about going back to work because it just doesn't seem fun or fruitful any more. Which is odd because it's based on the fact that you aren't doing anything. Of course that's dull and fruitless. Mostly though I want to get my son out of his shell so I can watch him play the weird games that he does when he is having fun. At the indoor park on Friday his sister played with an 18 month old girl the whole time. And by played I mean she pretended they were postal workers who had a bouncy castle filled with magic beans that they traveled to by roller coaster. The 18 month old kid just followed her around and compliantly did everything my daughter not-quite bossily told her to do to make the whole fantasy world a reality. But for the 90 minutes we were there my son did mostly one thing. And that was pretend to vacuum the entire building - including all the toys. He particularly enjoyed vacuuming the ramp behind him in the photo below, and all the things that were difficult to get to.

We're going back on Wednesday so he can give it another vacuuming. Which is what I have to go do myself now. And to get the bloody cereal off the chair. It's been there so long now it's like a Sean's Show opening bit about a sock or a saucepan.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Dancing Queen

Daughter: Hey!! You'll never know-oh-oh. Where you are rocking all over the DANCE! Up here everywhere. In a circle everybody MOVE!!! Come and ask me. In the whole wide world. I'm EXPLODE!!

Those are the lyrics to a song my daughter made up yesterday. I wish I could have grabbed the video camera earlier because her song became more explanatory as she went on - but they were too good not to just start typing them out for posterity. What was most surprising about the song though was that it was paired with a dance and that it had actually melody to it. Prior to the past two days most of her singing has been a sort of mono-tone Monica Seles-style grunting. An auditory gift from her mother there (I know what you're thinking and stop it). But something has clicked these past two days.

And it's the fault of the movie Twinkle Toes. Yeah - that's a real movie. And more insane than that is that it's a movie by Skechers - the people who makes naff shoes. Yeah I'd never heard of it either. And judging by the 3/10 rating and absurdly low box office numbers it got on IMDB nobody else has either. Actually I looked it up on Amazon as well and the reviews are bizarre. One has the A#1 Parenting comment of, "an hour of peace for me." Marvelous stuff. Better though is the odd, "This was a gift for a child. It arrived on time and in good condition. I expect she liked it." A child? Expect? That has a Joseph Fritzl School Of Parenting quality about it. It makes it seem like the reviewer is secretly living in someone's house in the space between the hallway ceiling and the bedroom and saw it arrive in the mail. Actually my favorite review is the spam-bot quality of, "the quality of the movie was great thank!!!! I would get more movie from this company."

All the other reviews point out that it's a market-whoring project to sell $50 shoes. My daughter is five and a half and can't see that aspect of it at all though. Completely oblivious to it. As far as kid movies goes it's alright. Better than having to endure another hour of Thomas And The Magic F'ing Railroad. My favorite aspects of it are that my daughter has no concept of shame whatsoever so doesn't understand the core column holding up the movie. It's stuck right there - like Samson in sparkly dancing shoes ($55 for canvas shoes...? Mental) - to stir up the embarrassment and shame of tween kids in the Western world who do something stupid in front of the cool kids at school.

In this case it's the lead character in the story who is the coolest dancer on earth. She's so original and amazing that when she dances mentally she thinks she's swimming with dolphins. Literally. Which sounds absurd until you realize that in real life she dances with an anthropomorphic bunny rabbit. That factor is never explained at all by the way - no other animals show up at all - but she's so bloody cool that she has an actual rabbit that dances with her. Anyway - she gets tricked into going to Dance School by a clever English dance instructor/dream maker who sees her dancing in private whilst mopping (no really - that's the story line). And in spite of her crippling stage fright she goes and hopes to overcome it. But first she hopes to discover where that stage fright came from - seemingly unable to remember that she was angrily mocked by a foreign instructor (quite a lot of stereotypically brutal eastern European people in this) at a dance recital 18 months ago. And predictably she ends up being asked to dance in front of everyone and whilst doing so her stage fright takes hold and she face-plants into the hard wooden floor. And the annoyingly thin, jealous blonde super-dancer at the school (oddly who has a jock boyfriend in spite of it being a dance academy that takes place in a castle) captures it on her camera and uploads it Youtube where it instantly goes viral due to how pathetically embarrassing it all is.

This is where the entire structure of the movie fails for my daughter. Because instead of understanding the shame of it all she thinks the face-plant is just a dance move. After all smashing violently into the ground is a core rennet of my daughter's dance style. So the next 40 minutes of movie - wherein a redemption story of overcoming stage-fright and then uploading a self-mocking followup Youtube video to raise money to save the dance academy (thrilling stuff) and victoriously doing the Best Dance Evar at the end completely escapes my daughter. Instead the girl was instantly well respected and appreciated for her vibrant, daring edgy face-dancing really on in the movie and then goes on to warmly exploit that to save the educational future of her peers. It's a completely different movie with that angle firmly rooted in your mind. Much nicer. And with not a single shred of space for marketing shoes either.

Still - the aftershocks of it are that my daughter has had her own dancing style championed by someone on screen. Someone who's feet sparkle as she crashes her forehead into the floor. It's inspired my little girl to dance and sing all day long. Nothing could stop her. She even sang during dinner completely sub-consciously. In between mouthfuls of black-bean tacos she just warbled, "nobody is perfect, you do a circle over there. Feel it the fun. Oh woah woh."

Still - the best video of it all I could get was this. Which does involve her in her cheesy 80s dance outfit. Which she wore to bed so she could dance in her dreams. Her brother bombed around after her like an angry bee yelling, "Chase me!" and "Thomas" (obviously).

Friday, February 22, 2013

The Beige Banana Hockey Rage


Late yesterday afternoon I was engaged in a pretty exciting game of air hockey with my daughter. I used to let her score a few or even win. Now I don't really have to and she makes a decent game of it. Right in the middle of the game she started writhing around in the tell-tale way that means she needs to go to the bathroom. Quite why she leaves it to the last minute is anyone's guess. It's also a mystery as to why admitting that she needs to go isn't a bad thing. At least half the time she'll argue that she doesn't really have to go immediately - only to then give in five seconds later. Which she seems to think is an entirely different epoch to the moment when she rejected the laughable notion of needing the bathroom.

Now many parents can attest to knowing their children's bathroom habits inside out. While I'm not fumbling about in my daughter's stools (prodding with a pencil for consistency - slicing them with secateurs) I am of the boringly, trained-by-rote variety that knows that if she needs to go to the bathroom around 5.30pm then it's statistically more likely to be a Number Two type delivery. As we were all the way across the other side of the house I asked, "are you just going for a pee?" If she did need to squeeze out some fudge I might have come and assist her afterward. She's old and skilled enough to deal with this all by herself 75% of the time. But as I've mentioned - a launching of the bran barge at this time of day more often than not involves me being roped into proceedings. Knowing the urgency of the situation I asked her again. "Pee or poo?" (worst Pick A Hand game ever). She looked confused and wriggly - looking up and to the left to mentally figure out the answer. Eventually she answered, "...I don't know." The amount of wriggling she was doing meant that the question was moot at this point - she had to start the journey and now I had to follow after her.

She sat in the bathroom and I stood in the doorway of the mudroom and livingroom - just out of vision (and frankly also just out of the reaches of any foul smells) but within listening reach so as to engage in the odd habit of one-on-the-bog toilet conversations that the rest of my family seem to enjoy having. Apparently my line of questioning about which bodily-waste was being emptied was still weighing on her mind. "Daddy?" she asked. "Why did you ask me if I needed to pee or poop when there's no way to know?" No way to know? Wah?! After a quick back and forth (during which it had been understood that I didn't need ot assist with anything) she made the tenuous claim that she has no idea until one or the other comes out what she's going to be doing in the bathroom. Not only that - she claimed that was the reality for all people and not just her. I pointed out that I know. And her brother clearly knows seeing as he often comes belting across the living room raising the alarm, "Daddy!!! I NEED TO POOP!!!" And that her mother also clearly knows judging by the public service announcement she often makes that she's on her way to churn one out and that we should probably prepare to come look if it's one she's particularly proud of/scared by the circumference of. But no - my daughter rejected that idea wholesale as nonsense. She got quite snotty about it quite quickly so I tried to get her off the subject and back to being schooled at air hockey. About fifteen seconds into which she froze rigid in the air like a pointer spying a squirrel in the distance. However in her case it was the fast-dawning realization that she did indeed need a shit. She was up and off incredibly quickly and I scrambled off after her. After the beige-banana was born we made our way back to the other end of the house to finish up the air hockey game.

At which point she instantly snapped. I sat at my end of the table. My son was sat perpendicular to us in the middle. At least he was until his sister glanced at him and mid-smile leaned right into his face and screamed, "WHY ARE YOU TRYING TO STOP ME FROM PLAYING!!!" Obviously he was a bit surprised by this so just gave her the scrunched up What Is She Like? expression. To which she seemed to think was some sort of direct laying down of the gauntlet - so she shoved him over and continued to accuse him of espionage. Now I'm no doctor but I'm pretty certain that you can't accidentally shit-out the part of your body that incorporates reason and calm. In fact I'd say quite the opposite. I've had a few, "tricky shits" in my time that have left me with a sense of serenity and dare-I-say accomplishment after they've been toothpasted out. But I've never dolloped one out and triggered off an inner rage. Just saying.....

 But that's certainly what it seemed like had happened to my little girl. Either that or she'd taken the spirit of hockey to heart and was trying to replicate the true meaning of that sport. I dragged her off her brother and tried to reason her down. No chance of that at all. I kept reassuring her that no-one at all was trying to stop her from playing air hockey. After about 90 seconds of her snarling and now insisting that I was also in on the whole thing I stopped being reasonable. Because now she'd moved from having a misunderstanding to being a massive pillock. Emphasized by the fact that not only did she want to continue her angry ranting but she tried to follow her brother and I and physically drag us back into the toy room to receive a damn good thrashing. She'd lost the plot by this point and it was quite apparent that she was just going to be a twat for twenty minutes regardless of reasoning, punishment or reward. As I was trying to get her to go to her room (quarantine the virus before it destroys all) her mother came home. Who two minutes later was carting her off upstairs to sit with her in her room while the demons inside her raged against the world. Twenty minutes later she was fine - and apologizing.

Maybe she's right - she really has no prior warning that the shit is about to come thundering out.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

The Cranberry Snot Slug

Son: Daddy! I need a tissue!!

My son has yelled that phrase pretty much every twenty seconds for about two weeks. He's actually had some form of a cold for about a month. And - as you'd imagine - it came right after his mother made the comment that our family had come through Fall and Winter pretty much unscathed from any colds and sniffles. Since then we've had one pretty virulent cold and whatever the smeg that flu-thing was. My daughter still sounds like she smokes Gaulioses. Her mother frequently points to her sternum and says, "I can't get it to move!" before having another bloody good cough. She's been coughing with such ferocity that she now says her abdomen hurts.

But this morning that pleading, "please make this annoying snot stop" request took on new meaning. My wife had an early start at work today and the kids took that as incentive to try and get up at 5.15am. So I'd climbed back into The Big, Big Bed under the agreement that if I just lie there with a child squashed up on either side of me, then they won't get up and demand to watch the Canadian cartoon Being Ian downstairs. About twenty minutes later my son started a good, sneezing fit. He loudly begged me for a tissue and I obliged. But even in the low-light I could see something was slightly off. Looking down at the tissue in the grey-light - presumably to avoid re-wiping a wet, green blob across his face - I could see a dark spot, like a fain shadow on an X-ray. As he was wide awake I told him we should go downstairs and I carried the tissue with me. I popped into his room to get him some clothes and flicked the light on. There in my hand was a tissue loaded with a big, fat snotty blood clot. And I mean like someone had squirted a wet Craisin soaked in shitty quality ketchup so that the vinegar had separated from the tomato.

Downstairs he sneezed a few more times. Up have come more lumps of foul, bloody gunk. His demeanor could not be sunnier though. It's beginning to fade now into your standard snot/nosebleed. The only thing that punctured his blissful mood though was my two comments that, "you've got plurasy" (to which he angrily replied, "I do not have poo-wissy") and that he reminds of Val Kilmer in Tombstone hacking up lumps of TB. He didn't like that last one at all. Almost challenged me to a duel because of it, ironically.

Still he's fine at the minute. And as icky as it may be to be wiping very-faint red ooze from his nostril it doesn't top his sister's current favorite pastime. Firstly you should know that she loves picking her nose. At least judging by the quantity of time she spends digging around up there you'd be fair to make that conclusion. Bringing it up with her annoys her to such degree that she gets angry because she absolutely does not want to stop fiddling around. The night before last her obsessive brain-digging became so irritating that I told her that if I see her finger up her nose again I will not read another word of The BFG and she can go to bed without a story. Her mother offered her a tissue and told her about the joys of wrapping it around your finger and plowing that up there instead - finally pulling out whatever irritant is up there. I chipped in with the name Ghost Finger to make it more appealing. Our daughter refused such nonsense. Instead of agreeing to stop picking her nose she went for another tactic - explaining why it's so fantastic. The plan being that if she explained herself than not only would we agree that she can carry on at her leisure, but likely we three would sit there rooting about in our own noses and enjoying the hobby she's discovered.

The twist here is that she isn't picking her nose. Oh no - she did that hours ago. Instead she's working on a strange snowball principle wherein she's created an amalgamated snot-sphere and is rolling it around inside her nostril. In plain words she admitted that she likes putting her collected snot back in there as one big lump - and then pushing it around for no real good reason. This revolted her mother. So much so that she felt the need to tell her employees about it. I personally can empathize. I can see why that is appealing in it's limited sense. But I couldn't entertain myself that way because I'd become unbelievably irate if I accidentally allowed the booger-ball to roll off - leaving my nose naked and toyless. Still - we've implored her to find a different hobby. Preferably one that doesn't involve stuffing her own bodily wase back into the orifice it came from.

Time to take the garbage out...

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

I Bet He'd Dinklage A Train

Son: It's Annie and Parable Day!!!

My son got a new train this past weekend for his collection. It was this Hiro train. He likes it very much. It was a pre third birthday present (it's not even this month) from the in-laws who earnestly abandon the frozen north every February for three months in an Airstream trailer-home until they are darn sure the Winter is over. However for the week leading up to it we had to lay some foundations to explain it to him. Firstly - it's not his actual birthday. Nor is it the birthday of the other two people present also getting a card and presents. Secondly he will be getting a present - but only from that one subset of the family whom are going away. Because no-one else is doing it isn't an indication that we hate his guts (we have all kinds of exciting indicators that we use for that).

Lastly - deciding that he expects a specific present after the one he'd be purchased had been wrapped already will not lead to arseholishness. He's not a bratty little git and doesn't ever exhibit ungratefulness. But he is still under three years of age - which means that he can establish a reality about what should happen, and any deviation from that is upsetting. And he had mentioned about ten times that he wanted Annie and Clarabel to go with his train set. Which we left unchecked because it was a good hint (very subtle...) about what we could get him for his actual birthday. But then by the end of last week he'd started going on about how much he was looking forward to Annie and Clarabel Day. So we set out to repeatedly dismantle any notion that it had anything at all to do with that.

All of which reminded me of two things I'd long hoped to establish with regards parenting. The first was to not overdo gift giving. It's a pretty common for parents to say they don't want to spoil a child. We had done superbly with that with our daughter. So now at nearly six she hasn't yet tapped into the excessive commercialism that is squarely aimed at kids her age and their parents. So much so that she not only has no interest in a lot of generic stuff aimed at young girls, but actually expresses a, "Oh not this crap...?" attitude to simple things like Disney movies. They get put on at school for her class sometimes and she tells me afterwards that they are so boring. Which has nothing to do with me at all - she genuinely has an aversion to them (I can't even interest her in Pixar stuff - she just is instantly uninterested in it). Anyhoo - not spoiling had actually ended up being odd because we had so frequently hit the good thrift/consignment stores around us that when we took a stroll down to Toys R Us a few weeks back it was odd to us that we actually had a good mix of some of the stuff already there. But more importantly - we could wander around in there without either kid breaking down because we weren't actually going to buy anything.

But the second thing I'd hoped to establish was that neither of my kids become emotionally attached to one specific thing. That just seemed unhealthy and also equates to shunning other things on principle because they aren't the one thing you obsess about. My daughter has rolled through a few things that have strongly piqued her interest. But once she starts showing an over-reliance of her time on thinking about them I tell her we'll do something else for awhile. One rule we have is that if it upsets you enough to cause crying or a fit when you have to stop doing it, then it's probably not a good idea to be doing it so much in the first place. So I'm now at a point with her, for example, where I can tell her that her desire to play Angry Birds had become too strong again and we'll leave it for awhile - and she just said, "yeah that makes sense."

My son though is completely different kettle of fish. His entire world revolves around Thomas the Fucking Tank Engine (as I have now come to refer to it). I did ween him a little onto spaceships and dinosaurs for a bit in the Fall. And I know I can steer him off towards Superman stuff because it's the only other thing he's gushed about with any passion. But I was a little turned off when looking at various ways to help him get into that whole world when it just seemed to be a revived commercial enterprise designed to shove shitty toys but with a Superman logo on them at kids. Hence our confusion some time back at seeing a $50 Superman SUV battery operated toy. The idea a blinged-up Superman SUV exists is like rubbing a comic-book fans nose in a big pile of Stupid. But I will be renting the DVDs this week and am slowly introducing him to the easier-to-read books at the library about him.

But we still feed him his Thomas habit because it makes him that happy. But now he's taken it to a new level. Instead of wanting to watch episodes of Thomas he wants to watch Youtube clips of other kids (and various very exiteable middle-aged men) talking about their own Thomas collections. All complete with twitchy Blair Witch camera work and often replete with story lines the kids have made up on their own about how Thomas crashed into the dog water bowl. My son freaking loves watching that. I have no data or proof, but I'm assuming that being enthralled by Thomas The Tank Engine and wanting to replicate it in your own life is one thing, but that being hooked on watching other homemade videos of kid's collections is an entirely different level of obsession. Which means we are now entering trainspotter territory. And not the inertly sexy Peter Dinklage type either. This is the reclusive all-I-can-think-about-is-knobbing-a-toy-train territory.

I know this is true because last week at the library he ran off excited to the DVD rack to pick up the copy of Thomas and The Magic Railroad to watch. I nixed the idea. I simply cannot take seeing that again. Psychiatrists can on and on about why a parent goes on a demented, violent death-spiral all they like - but I can attest that having to watch that utter wank for the fiftieth time has to be high on a list of triggers. Anyway - I nixed that idea and told him under no circumstances are we renting any Thomas bollocks (I may have actually said that as well...) this week. He reached for it again anyway because clearly I was being ridiculous. So I said no again. What he heard instead was, "No - I hate you and I wish I'd never had the misfortune of ever seeing your pathetic, stupid face. It's a shame the local pond is frozen because given half the chance I'd drown you in a pillowcase because you're so bad at things like pushing trains, wearing Thomas pajamas and hiding under blankets before popping out and yelling "TRAIN!!!!" at the Thomas ghost you claim is coming to get us." He didn't have a melt down. He just shut me off. I no longer existed. I had to carry him rigid out of the library and he shunned me for the rest of the day.

So now I'm tempering how we engage with Thomas. I've decided that cutting him off would be harmful. Instead I'm going to show him that it's perfectly healthy to be really interested in it. But that there are plenty of other things to do and like as well. Because as shallow and silly as it is - I don't know if I can endure a child who latches on to an obsession at 12 months of age and never lets go of it. Because just being one thing - no matter what it is - does project an image of what you are out to the world. Granted Thomas isn't all that nefarious. It's not as if he's oddly obsessed with zombie massacres like a few other kids I'm aware of. But when all you have is Thomas - and masses of it - that paints a strange and unusual picture that is every bit as odd as those people who's every inch of life is focused on the adoration of one thing. I've met a few in my time. There's the woman I used to work with that was so over-the-top about horses that I swear she whinnied. And another woman I know had erected a shrine to Toby Keith in her office cubicle. The only thing she spoke about were work issues and Toby Keith. The day I jokingly referred to him as Keith Toby will go down in infamy in that office as the day that a barely-five foot woman sharply used the words," His name is Toby Keith. Not Keith Toby. He's not an idiot...." but actually meant that she would stab me to death with her official Toby Keith fountain pen lest I apologized immediately.

All of which is makes my commitment to buying as many England sports shirts I can lay my hands on in the area and giving them to my daughter to wear seem more amusing to me. Other side of the coin and all that. I'm not a nationalist of any type - seems absurd to me. I feel more affinity to the UK than where I am now. It's home in one sense - but I think of home (Bristol) as somewhere I didn't grow up and only lived for two years. That'll probably change. But I don't feel American at all in spite of being here 5 years this time and 4 the last. The public patriotism of that sort of thing seems weird to me. I like living here. But in one sense I'm floating on top of the flotsam - like a conscientious objector - very much in my own independent nomadic universe. And roping my daughter in to broadcast the sporting prowess of our tiny nation in the meantime. Lets see if people around here really do admire fervent nationalism as much as they appear to if it involves a white girl with a strong American accent expressing devotion to a totally different country.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Stern Face

My kids have never seen Ross Kemp.

It's more than likely that my kids will grow up and live forever in the US. A huge majority of people born here (or brought here as wee babies) pretty much stay within the Lower 48 their whole lives. Bar a few trips to Canada to gawk at completely-naked strippers on a stag night, or the odd cruise circling all the poor foreign people in the Caribbean most people from here live here into old age.

This has just dawned on me in small ways. Today my kids - one of them still cycling through end of the ups and downs of whatever weird flu we all had - are with the in-laws. I've been at home doing a few little things that I've been meaning to do for a very long time. One being renewing my passport (and until I print the thing out and mail it then it isn't actually done). I have no real intentions to go home at any point but it's 2 years expired already so you know - get on with it. At some point today I also read a comment from an acquaintance of mine - also an American expat - about how she was sat at home with her children watching Coronation Street with the kids and how they all think a certain character is great. In fact her cultural life consists mainly of British television and radio despite having lived in the US for a long time - so her children have been thoroughly exposed to it as well. I've also just finished some odd all-in-one catchup of a ton of UK comedy panel shows (QI and 8 Out Of Ten Cats mainly) and have been bombarded with a ton of cultural moments I would have been incubated from otherwise. For example I would have avoided the utter punch-in-the-soul that is Jedward had I not seen their irritating pastie-like faces on the later one. On the other hand I have come late (fnar) to  Rachel Riley due to her appearances on that and now understand the weird, creepy, "oh yes I bloody would" commentary a lot of my online social-media friends were constantly chuffing up in early 2009.

Anyhoo - I digress. It suddenly hit me that not only is it odd that a friend of mine's teenage children - whom have never once set foot in the UK - are well versed in the cultural goings-on in the UK, but that mine haven't the foggiest. And likely never will. I don't listen to Radio Two or watch BBC America. I didn't listen to or watch most of the cack on that when I lived in the UK. I do watch stuff online (football and comedy stuff mostly) and have a few choice things I enjoy. But mostly away from my kids. And as I barely watch any television over here it's not as if I've replaced old habits with new ones.

For some odd reason this triggered a memory of an old bloke who lived up above a flat I had in Bristol. He wore a tweed suit wherever he went, ate kippers from breakfast every day and you'd often see him come rumbling back from the off-license with a bottle of Thunderbird. Then the real gravity it dawned on me - my kids will likely never have any idea what it means to grow old in the UK. It'll have no meaning for them whatsoever. No notion of grans at the bingo. Or grandad down the club. No spurious memories about "the war" in spite of it mathematically not have been possible to have occurred at their age. No popping around someone's house to check in on their elderly Dad and finding him watching the Edinburgh Tattoo and drinking Mackesons or engaged in a bit of Bishop's Finger (not a Catholic refernce, I'm glad to say). My kids will never hear a joke about getting a free bus pass. And they'll never feed the ends of a pastie to a pigeon.

For a brief moment I had the wave of, "I think I'm not supposed to be here" before having a vivid flashback to the last time I moved home. The smallness. The endless acreage of dog shit everywhere. The stink of stale piss and beer seemingly all over town early in the morning. Yes there were wonderful things about being home (eventually - by the time I left Bristol I'd come to like it very much) but when I first arrived back home I was rigid with culture shock. I'd been eagerly waiting to go back to a country that actually has celebrated intellectuals in the public eye that everyone recognizes. I'd become quite pompous about it. But that first night I was home I somehow ended up catching a few minutes of that season's Big Brother before anything else. What with the UK being a much more progressive and sophisticated country obviously you can guarantee that the producers of the show have shunned cheap tatty gimmicks. Which is why in amongst all the other delinquents on the show they'd also chucked in a well-worn porn star and someone with Tourette’s. That is the kind of sophisticated European culture that America is missing – daytime porn and laughing at the disabled. I'm sure you can picture the historical television moment now – the porn star writhing around on the tourette’s sufferer’s lap screaming “talk dirty to me!” and him yelping “twatting piss flaps!!” yet having no idea he’s said anything at all. Then the tourrete’s guy speaking privately into the diary camera about how he feels embarrassed because he just doesn’t have it in him to talk dirty to a woman before randomly yelping, “wanking ringpiece!!” before wiping away the tears. I'd left the UK with glee initially because I had soured of the drink-sodden, tabloid nature of British life. And I'd returned home hoping to embrace the parts of the UK I'd deeply missed - only to see the very thing I'd reviled seemingly being celebrated and exploited on TV the same day I arrived back.

Then - for reasons that completely escape me - I imagined Ross Kemp. I don't think I've ever done that before mainly because there's never been a reason to. I've never been asked to name someone who looks exactly like a potato. And if I did I'd likely go with Colm Meaney or Dara O'Briain. Needless to say the very fact that Mr. Kemp violated my inner mind made me feel unpleasant. Then I realized that my kids have never once seen Ross Kemp. They have no idea who he is. So while it fills me with sadness that they don't know who Stephen Fry, or Nigella Lawson, or Billy Bragg, or Jeremy Paxman, or Alan Bennett or whomever are - it is a strange fact that they have no idea who Ross Kemp is either. Which means not knowing about Kerry Katona. Or Danny Dyer. Nothing against them personally but there are plenty of insipid, vaccuous people who are famous for no reason at all in this country for my kids to also have to juggle the British version of the same - usually involving more drunkenness, a lot of very loud swearing and with their nipples on television.

I suppose what I've taken from today is that although there are lots of things I wish I could share with my kids regards the UK, they don't know anything about it really so don't know what it is that I miss. The differences between where we live and Bristol are huge. Actually when I returned home last time it was to a small Welsh town I'd spent a big chunk of time in and the culture shock there was so great that I felt like a foreigner. I recall wandering past two Canadian Mormons stood in the high street hoping to speak to someone - and me feeling an affinity with them for no good reason other than I used to live right near the Canadian border in Grand Island, NY and having obsessively watched Rick Mercer (John Stewart has nowt on Mercer, let me tell you) on CBC.

But the two things my kids will likely never experience is the pessimism and the, "there's nothing that can be done" attitude that smacked me in the face when I went home. There's plenty I loathe about where I live now, but pessimism doesn't exist here (and they'd probably spell it with three Z's anyway) and people would go mental if they were told nothing could be done about something. I will never forget my second day back in the UK and walking into a tiny, old parochial HSBC branch in Bridgend and asking them to finish transferring my US account over to the UK. Fairly standard stuff for expats to engage in and I knew how it went - they just had to do it at their end in the bank. Upon asking to do it the, “personal banker” (a 16 year old girl dressed like she was at a drum and bass dance club, who met me at the bank door lest I dare try to approach a counter) and replied, “...Ooh I dunno….” Which was intended to mean that I should just leave. At that time my 4 years in the US had rubbed off to instill the attitude that if the service is provided and being paid for, then it better bloody well be provided. So I asked again. I thought I’d asked to change my address and finalize my account transfer. From the woman's reaction it seemed that it had actually gone a little bit like this-:

Personal Banker: How can I help you?

Me: Hi, yes. I was wondering if I could get a photograph of your hymen.

Personal Banker: ……….(stern face)……

I did get my address changed though. However it involved the bank employee going to ask someone else if I could, then having her superior come and check if I really did want to see her colleagues’ vagina. I cleared up what I meant and wandered off to go throw a Gregg's pastie at a pigeon in an attempt to seem like a local.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Eye Of The Storm

I can't wait for the day my son learns to actually hack-up lung-butter and gob it into the sink.

Friday morning my wife grinned at me with a powerful smugness. The day before she had come home expectantly in the early afternoon and collapsed in bed. She then remained catatonic until around 7pm. The next hour she was groggy and pathetic. By 8pm she was quite pleased with herself for Germanically and efficiently squeezing the bulk of her flu symptoms into a tidy 5 hour period. She went to bed clearly pleased with herself to read for a bit. I sat downstairs for another two hours wondering how I could have avoided this whole evil thing. I weighed up all the possibilities and options. Everything from the idea that this is purely an American disease or that maybe I'd actually been inoculated when I had all those weirdo jabs when I emigrated here. In the end I toyed with the notion of Occam's Razor and decided that the most likely option is likely true - I'm just way more awesome than all of them.

I hadn't even locked all the doors before whatever this illness is gripped me and had me lying on a random spot of the living room floor just to take a minute before just simply going to bed. Twenty minutes later I'd made it up into bed. I genuinely felt as if I was trapped under something very heavy. Everything in my body hurt. But certain parts of it - my hands, ankles and "man-ions" in particular ached like a bastard. An hour later I was shivering uncontrollably with a fever. Shortly after that my body began cramping with dehydration. Three years ago I got sick (very long story, too many details) I actually had an ambulance and the police called to my home because I was that dehydrated that the pain from cramping had left me unable to move. I was worried about feeling anything like that again. I couldn't open my eyes because they hurt too much. In the end my wife went to sleep in another bed and I pretty much passed out until morning.

When I got up I felt like I'd run a marathon the day before and then been beaten with a pipe. My brain hurt just like it did one April morning in university when I realized that it had just been the first week of October and I hadn't really been properly conscious since then. I eventually crawled out of bed to find my wife and tell her that someone needed to get our daughter ready for school. Thirty minutes later I was still not doing well. I'd checked the news already and noted that a meteorite had crashed in the Urals. Obviously I couldn't help but think of the parallel with Superman and kryptonite. Surely that would explain it. My son was up and chipper. My daughter was bouncing around excited for the school day. My wife was giving me that massively smug grin. She was literally bouncing around with how happy she felt at twatting aside something as feeble as that illness. She went to work. My daughter went to school. My son watched me lie on the couch with no music on, no lights on and my hood up. I looked like a dying vampire in an outdoorsman vest.

Fast forward to this morning where my son was puking down the stairs. Then in the kitchen. Then in the bathroom. Not a stomach bug or anything like that. Just all that swallowed, manky post-nasal gunk mixed with the agony of the sort throat everyone else had. He had an utter bitch of a fever. He didn't have a stomach bug or anything. He just hasn't learned how to cough-up the chunks of phlegm yet - so like a lot of little kids the body gives him a helping squeeze and pukes it all out for him. 90 minutes later he was grinning and rolling around all pleased with himself.

And lastly fast forward to around 2.45pm this afternoon. My wife and son were back in bed sweating - both feverish and unable to communicate. My daughter was fine having had at least 3 days since she had first started to recover. Notably she had seemed fine for at least 3/4 of a day before relapsing into a bloody awful almost-comatose state. Me? I'd been out for a 6 mile run in the ice (bloody slippery, by the way), been to the pharmacy to get some Vick's Vaporub and one of those nasty things you stuff right into your nostril to huff on and clear it out (confession: I really mean Cadbury's Mini Eggs) and to the store to get more juice, sorbet and nice things for the others dying at home. Right now I feel pretty good.

Now it's 5pm and my wife has given up after trying to get up 40 minutes ago. She's been non-verbal since I got back from my run. My son frankly looks like he's in the middle of a very potent peyote binge. Snot hosing out of his nose, cheeks red and a permanent sweaty gloss about him. He's feeble and at the point of weeping - but he doesn't want to go back up to bed. My daughter just fell asleep on the couch but woke up with a cough that sounds like a pleased seal. I feel bloody marvelous. This may be the eye of the storm. But frankly I don't think so.

I think Putin and Co. have just cleaned up the kryptonite.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

The Spice Boy

You see this?

That is a garbage can filled ot the brim with snot-crusted tissues. Thankfully it was garbage day today so I got to take that foul pile of nastiness out. It joined the other full can that I took out on Monday. That's a lot of wiping. It's also a good indicator of how pathetic one becomes toward the peak-period of a virulent cold. At the beginning that soiled tissue always gets put in the garbage with the due care and attention it deserves. By day three at least somewhere within a foot of it is okay. And then by the time my wife gets it (which isn't often) you just find them mashed into seat cushions and hidden under books so they don't roll away under the weight and pure evil energy of hacked-out snot.

Shamefully though I was exposed as a revolting mess at the grocery store this morning. As it's Valentines Day (a holiday my wife and I have blissfully ignored in it's entirety before having children and are now being socially blackmailed into participating in) my son and I shot off to the store to buy the missing ingredients to make sticky toffee pudding tonight. Actually that's not entirely true. I didn't have any chocolate and knowing the grocery stores are desperate to move on to the next manufactured cash-cow I was hoping they'd have some Cadbury's Mini Eggs in stock (no such luck). Which I could also dress up as being so kind to my suffering wife (even her Alpha Dog genes have been overrun by this nasty cold) that I ran off early to get some Kiwi Strawberry Snapple. The entire middle of my car was crammed with used tissues. Frankly the prior reason I shaved yesterday was being well aware that a man sat outside a school with my pale-pallor, a four-day stubble and his lap covered in just-wettened tissues would likely get me put on a special (and disturbingly full) list for my area. On the way to the store I realized that I needed to wade through the filth to put my coffee cup in the cup holder - so started grabbing fistfuls of the booger-cloths and cramming them into the almost-pointless pockets in the doors. Eventually I managed to fill the entire thing up - which was also randomly broken up with granola bar wrappers and a very old water bottle that had yellowed a little to make it look like I'd had a wee in some ear wax.

I felt like I'd achieved something though. That was until I got to the store, parked and confidently kicked the door wide open - only to have about a weeks worth of suspicious tissues cack-out all over the parking lot. And with this being the dog-days of winter they just blew off like an escaped dog towards the store entrance. And because there were other people about I had to at least make a futile effort to make it look like I was trying to clean up - while also trying to make it look like I'm not deliberately trying to infect as many people as possible - a la a Twelve Monkeys-style airport virus release. I only have a cold. I have never before felt more like Colin from The Brittas Empire.

Actually that reminds me - Central NY seems to be utterly obsessed with disinfectant and hand sanitizers. It's bewildering how prevalent it is. Everywhere I've worked people have committed to carting in buckets of the stuff and penciling in periods of the day to apply it. Which would fine and dandy but the absolute blanket nature of it makes me - someone who rarely applies the stuff - look like the weird one. It's so bloody popular a concern for people that in the morning when I get to the gym almost everyone else immediately goes to the paper towel and spray bottle/sanitizer pumps and washes down their equipment before they get going. Me not doing it (why would I - they haven't been used yet that day?) makes me look like the sole person their all protecting themselves against. I wouldn't mind as much but this is not an area where other areas of personal hygiene or aesthetic cleanliness are of a particularly high standard. Two good clues to that are a) I'm English and I may actually have the best teeth outside of my own home for a good three-square mile area, and b) I know for a fact that I've been to job interviews where none of the other people wore a suit or even a tie - because you just don't around here. Standards are just lower here. This is sweatpants and winter beards country (and that's just the women) after all. I have genuinely had people look at me like I've levitated because I can put a tie on without using a mirror and/or an instruction manual. I'm not elevating myself above other people (that's for other people to do). But - and not to be too crass, but this is true - when you consider that I have worked somewhere where someone had dropped both a bitten raw potato and a dildo in a work stairwell (like some sort of hastily-assembled Amish-vibrator of some kind) it does make me question what horrifying incident occured in this area that has pushed everyone to use hand sanitizer so often.

But my family is different. My daughter has fallen foul to the frequent sanitizer/hand-soap habit though. It seems to be a thing they've taught her at school. Speaking of which - and I wasn't going to mention this because it's something that is just garishly boring to other people - my daughter just won an award at school. Basically the school pick one kid in every year to win a reading award based upon their ability. So at my school 8 kids from consecutive years are chosen and they get to go on a fancy school trip to a book store - get in the newspaper - and get an award given to them. My daughter won it for the kindergarten level. Her reading and writing really has taken off over the last few months. I figured she was near the top of her class but yesterday when I was told the person at the school said her reading level in particular is well above her school year. She actually pulled me to one side whilst waiting for my daughter to let me know - which is usually an indicator that your child has either had some sort of accident, cried or had to go to the school nurse after agreeing to a dare involving swallowing school glue. Because it wasn't - and only for that reason - I had hoped someone had heard. I'm really not one for gloating about children's achievements at all. It's just so crass and silly - especially for a kid in kindergarten level. Make a fuss of them at home obviously - but making that the thing your child is just seems weird.

My wife - a ridiculously smart person who always sees the big picture - immediately responded to me that hopefully out daughter will understand that she could get a free college scholarship out of this sort of effort, "eventually". She may be only five and a half, but you're never to young to be an obvious failure, are you dear? More amusingly was that when I explained it to my son - after coming back into the hallway to face the judging eyes of all the other parents wondering if my daughter wet herself or ate an eraser just like their kids always do - he loudly replied, "I tooted and it's spicy Daddy."

Thanks for that, mate.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013



My daughter went to school yesterday. She wasn't 100% better but she really wanted to go. The teacher gave me that, "ooh I dunno" look when I came to pick her up though. I was well aware that would happen so I had to deliberately write a note explaining my decision to send her to school in the first place. It's that thing where if you don't do that you may seem like a mix between an uncaring and clueless parent. So I had to write that she's not contagious or anything like that - but she does sound appalling. And that I'd spent a lot of time weighing up the pros and cons of the whole thing (read peer-reviewed medical journals and all that) And if she starts to fade I'm a 3 minute drive away. I almost considered actually writing, "see - I'm not a bad parent." But I didn't do that. Still - she came home - begged to put on her ridiculous Onesie winter pajamas and collapsed in exhaustion at 5.45. Slept right through until this morning.

More importantly for my daughter is that there's something called Spirit Week going on. Which basically means dressing up in weird stuff each day and eating things parent's would pretend they don't really give their children to eat. So yesterday it was Dress Up Like Your Teacher day - and then they all ate Lucky Charms and marshmallows for no reason in the afternoon while watching DVDs. Today is Shorts And T Shirt Day. Which - considering it's snowing - means wearing them over winter clothes. Tomorrow is a Valentines thing. That's the real reason my daughter - in her mind - needs to be in school. Holidays are her favorite thing on earth and wanted to be at school lest she miss making Valentines-related crafts for her mother and I (still creepy) friends. Then Friday everyone - including the teachers - wear Pajamas. Which is both demented and socially awkward. Mostly because you can tell that the entire thing was concocted by a male administrator somewhere in the disctrict just so he could get the hot art teacher to come to school in bugger all.

I have the top-end of my nasty cold. I'm enjoying how I refuse to mope around though. But I couldn't even make the gym this morning because I can feel my lungs in my chest rattling that bitumen-mucus around in there. I actually woke myself up at 3.30 this morning (NyQuil swirling through my veins) because in my dream I could hear some sort of zoological beast grunting. Turned out it was me. My son has pretty much shrugged off his own cold. Still leaking clear snot mildly. I actually worked on him before he got this cold. The best protection - according to some good friends of mine - against which is a good chug of 12 Year single malt whiskey. My son seemed unimpressed with the notion of having a stab at his mother's ,"Old Man Happy Juice". But he was iffy all morning and in spite of me giving him three shots he seemed out of it this afternoon. This doctoring stuff is harder than it looks. My wife has succumbed to the cold, though. Which pretty much means she's winnowed her work day down to just a bare minimum of 11 hours due to lethargy.

Anyhoo - I'm off to pick out which shorts and t-shirt I'm going to put on to pick up my daughter later.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Ready For The March

Someone asked if I was Irish today.

Admittedly I was wearing an Irish rugby jersey. Particularly shameful considering the Six Nations is actually going on at the moment and England have just beaten Ireland. But the key here is that when I asked if it was because of the shirt they had no idea at all what I was talking about. No - it was because I said - with a forced cheeriness - "don't worry - we're not contagious!" whilst buying a cart-load of cold medicine at the grocery store. Either I said that with a strangely unidentifiable accent or the cashier has had some appallingly poor luck with dishonest, sick Irish people in her time. Still odder was after I said I wasn't she gave me the up and down that suggested that I wasn't being serious. I told her I was English to which she suspiciously responded, ".....really?" Why is that unbelievable? Now I feel like taking the piss so as to tickle her suspicions of my secret Irishness. I for one can't wait until the 12th of July when I pop into the grocery store - completed kitted out in orange - to buy some Guinness and a potato.

As for us we're still slowly coughing through the day. My daughter got a burst of energy around noon which was refreshing. The sun came out too so I woke up and vowed to fight off my cold like a true warrior. The kids and I had a quick game of Mr. Toe. Which - I'm ashamed to admit - is basically my children talking to my foot. That came about after my son fell down the stairs about a month and a half ago. He was apparently being a bit casual on the top step and just fell backwards the whole way down. He escaped that completely unscathed which was an amazing piece of luck (and after which I learned that practically everyone I know has endured the same thing with their kids). He appeared to be show no adverse effects afterwards - but did then subsequently start spending a lot of time cuddling my foot and saying, "Mr. Toe - I love you." Which he then claimed was a game. And that he taught to his sister. Who both now fight me to take off my socks so they can talk to Mr. Toe. It's not weird at all....

Anyway - we played that, had a bit of a wrestle and then this happened.

The dog is quite happy with this whole thing.And to tie the evening off I think I'll have an Irish coffee later. Not with my wife's fancy whiskey (yes - you read that right - she's enjoying a nice Macallan twelve-year Single Malt at the moment) though. She'd be livid me wasting her Old Man Liquor on a medicinal tipple.

90 Minutes

I think that's about the total of sleep I got.

My daughter came into our bed around 12.45am. And due to the cacophonous cough she has left over from her flu (actually I suspect it's an entire independent one because my son and I have a cold but no flu to speak of) and wriggling she didn't sleep until 3.45am. At which point I was very much done. I wanted to get up earlier purely because lying awake is bloody awful. And her excessive twisting, barrel-rolling was just that annoying. But if I had given in and come downstairs before the cough medicine actually gave her enough respite to fall asleep then she would have followed me. Luckily for me I loaded my MP3 player with this cracking podcast series from the excellent Robin Ince and Josie Long. I could listen to Ince for hour after hour - and subsequently did.

Anyhoo - my daughter is not going to school. No - she's doing this instead.

I suspect that's as jolly as she's going to get today. And my son and I will be doing a lot of this.

I'm presuming that my predicted snotty-cold-fueled crash into a tired arseholishness will coincide with his 2pm descent into, "I'm nearly three years old so stick your rules up your Bilbo Baggins" fervent rage.

Looking forward to it.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Peaks and Troughs

Daughter: Doesn't your watch hurt because it's metal?
Me: No - I got used to it. And let's not forget that I'm hard as nails as well. But I can see why you think it would be painful. It would probably hurt you if you wore it. Just like there would be painful things that I could wear.
Daughter: Is that why you don't have a watch made of fire and lobsters?
Me: To be honest that is partly true.

First let's do a flu-roundup. Still only my daughter that's been tainted by that. Although I have a very faint electrical feeling in my eardrums that isn't normal. Mind you I did inadvertently hear this horrible nonsense yesterday - so my eardrums may actually be irreparably harmed. Still I made it to the gym this morning and ran like a man possessed while I was there. (Two quick things to note about that. Firstly on weekdays the place has people battering down the doors at 5.30 when it opens. The last three Saturday's when I've gone I've been completely alone there for a good 15 minutes. I feel like I've been lured into a gym-based snuff movie being made. Secondly - today I passed not one but two people biking through the snow. I sometimes catch a glimpse of myself running in that I think I must look mental - but biking? Might as well drag a canoe out in it). 

My son was an aggravating angry little shit yesterday. All seven shades of arsehole. I'm putting it down to having some form of this illness rather than him just being a muppet. He'd angrily demand something, then knock something over, then climb the back of the couch, then climb on me for a hug before quickly attempting a painful assassination choke-hold before moving quickly on to running off into another room to slam the door. Then he'd spend five minutes gushing contrition and repeating that he loves me - and trying to cuddle me so feverishly that me moving to get comfortable flips him into another psychotic rage about how I never let him do anything. Then he descended into that idiotic kid logic that says that seeing as I've just told him, "No" fifteen times he might as well do everything he's not allowed to because clearly the word holds no inherent value anymore. That attitude flickered on and off all day long. He then had a nice serene couple of hours of normal behavior before deciding that my sitting next to his fragile sister gave him permission to body-slam the two of us repeatedly - despite pleading for him to stop and/or piss off.  He did repeat his new word "whoopsidents" a lot though.

Toward the afternoon though his sister had a 60-90 minute period where you wouldn't know she was sick at all. You could tell because she a) smiled, b) made fun of everyone, and c) came up with the word, "farmpit" to describe a farmer's armpit. She also seemed to remember that during her confused state she realized that she had a super secret skill and needed frantically to tell me what it was. Disturbingly that skill was revealed as, "I can hear when people take their pants off." Which she learned by the fact that she heard me changing into some shorts to do a workout even though she was facing the other way under a blanket. Obviously the first thing that came to mind was that scene in The Sixth Sense - except instead of seeing dead people it's hearing pants being taken off. Which is much scarier. But that awakening into brightness was very welcome - even if it did involve that skill. It was instant too - she just woke up from a dazed, flu-influenced coma and started singing about how I'm big and round. And then she faded out again. This was late yesterday afternoon. Evidently even the dog had succumbed to the plague at that point.

 And this would be her this morning. Her chipper periods are much longer but she will then feebly collapse and do a prolonged nasty cough before complaining that her joints ache.

She's fading again now though after a pretty impressive morning. I can tell because she's wrapped under a blanket-cocoon and is facing the back of the couch. Which means she can't see anything going on (ie - she isn't worried about missing anything exciting because she's too feeble to care) and isn't afraid of being pummeled by her brother because the code amongst violent children includes not beating sick girls.

Time for me to hang out in the kitchen and secretly eat no-bake cookies now. Parenting at it's finest.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Even She Knows He's Nuts

It appears my son has inherited his sister's dancing prowess....

Nice too that for her 5 minutes of consciousness she gave the universal, "he's mental in the head" hand signal as well.

Uncontrollable Weeping

This is just unbearably sad.

My daughter has the flu. That kind that involves involuntary weeping and passing in and out of consciousness. She was plonked on the couch yesterday when she woke up and didn't move until her mother got out of work. Didn't eat a thing. She just lay there with Teddy (the old one), Teddy (the new one that's really a cat) and Teddy (a purple ladybug that the other teddy bears called Teddy because they really like the name). She's back there now with me sitting next to her doing this. And she's just crying because she feels that crappy. The stuff I've been trained by other parents to give feeble children (Snapple and Popcicles, mostly) even seems to be too much of a struggle for her. My son is demonstrating his illness by clinging to me like a tiny monkey. No - like a tick. Nature is cruel in this sense that I am completely over-touched at the point where both my kids just want to lie in a big pile on top of me like a family of ferrets.

By the end of yesterday I did manage to alleviate the more pressing crisis though. That being that I'd had no chocolate all day. My wife got home and I zoomed off to the store for some. Well - actually for stuff for soothing my kids. Wherein I got into a weird argument with the pharmacist at my local grocery store. I couldn't find any chewable Ibuprofen. After doing that thing where you keep looking in the same spot assuming it has to be there so will magically appear at some point, I asked the pharmacist if they had any children's tablets. To which she quickly and judgmentally replied that no such thing exists. Because as everyone knows it's evil to give such things to kids because they can't swallow tablets until they're 12 - so they'd likely choke to death. I'd literally just given my daughter some before driving to the store. So whereas normally I'd just shrug it off and assume a miscommunication of some type I decided to say, "no the chewable ones - I just gave my daughter some but ran out....?" To which the pharmacist said, almost exasperated, "for children!?" She then told me that "there is such an animal" but that to her recollection they're usually for elderly people who can't swallow. She gave me the "this one's a loon" eyebrow raise as well.

I just left with some run-of-the-mill children's Tylenol in a bottle at that point. Figured I'd get the chewable tablets somewhere else. Annoyingly this would mean I might have to visit an actual pharmacy. There are a few things that make you seriously question American hegemony over the world that don't involve military intervention, cultural imperialism or any of the usual stereotypical culprits (most of which aren't actually legitimate to be fair). But one thing that makes me want to smash my face into a massive facepalm is visiting a pharmacy. It is so boringly old and well-heard for expats to recount how twisted and backward a US pharmacy is. The main point being that the one place you go for your medications is a fountainhead for cigarettes and beer. It's a bewildering and obvious stupidity to me as a British person. How can you possibly have a pharmacy that's two main items cause most of the chronic illness in the Western world? It's completely demented.

I also get a reminder that I'm becoming too comfortable with that sort of corporatism in my life. Not that I truly am the sort of person who makes a special effort to only use small vendors, independent farmers and to avoid the well-known big corporations that have a proven ethically-questionable track record. But I have betrayed my pledge to not use certain stores or to buy naff quality meat at times. And I had actually made the effort to learn certain things and to also actually make the effort to do as much from-scratch-with-good-ingredients cooking for a long while. But honestly I've become quite lazy about that over the last couple of months. And I have repeatedly justified going to Walmart for stuff like aluminum foil because it's a $1.50 less - and end up doing an almost-full grocery shop there. Which is the epitome of selling apparently flimsy values for a good deal. It also reminded me of what a tit I am that I felt a pang of righteousness at remembering that I have weird objections to pharmacies, but that I still seemed to think that was enough. Reminds of the Dylan Moran joke about how he's a vegetarian morally, but he still eats meat because it's delicious - but morally he's on solid ground. Add I still bought my daughter some lemonade and Popsicles with nary a thought about them.  And I already know that today I'll likely swallow my pride (like a snake unhinging it's jaw...) and go to the pharmacy for those tablets. And Mini Eggs. Although that's unforgivable - buying something associated with one holiday before the next one has actually occurred? Utterly shameful.

It would also make me look the absolute glutton and failure-parent to go out in what promises to be a virulent snow storm with a very sick child for chocolate eggs. But at least I'll feel morally superior for not going to the easily identifiable store below with displaying this sort of parental-excellence.