Sunday, November 28, 2004


WARNING: the subject of this post is pretty ICKY and not for the feint of heart or those with a delicate constitution. However, if that's you're problem, you're obviously not the parent of small children...

Yeesh.... it happened last night about 7:30 PM during Fox's showing of "Ice Age".

Since the brood had been good about finishing their dinner of fish sticks, fruit cups, and green beans, I decided I'd reward everyone with the movie and a treat of Halloween Pringles. The Halloween Pringles had come in hermetically sealed small tubs and had an expiration date well into the next millenium. If civilization can survive the concept of stackable food-like products, they can eat day-glo orange Halloween 2004 Pringles when the earth's alien overlords have forced humans into subterannean cities.

I digress as this post isn't about an underground dystopia so much as it's about vomit deposited around my living room like blobs of orange black-light paint. While the kids were watching "Ice Age", I was enrapt in "Go Down, Moses" (a friend had inspired me to pick up some Faulkner) when my reading was interrupted by the chilling phrase, "Zeke is puking!"

Sure enough, my little man was standing in the middle of the living room, coughing up a disgusting mix of fish stick remnants and pineapple chunks suspended in a bright orange medium. Poor little guy was crying, terrified, feeling like... well, like you feel when your dinner comes back for an encore appearance. Just standing there, puking his guts out, helpless and hapless and sicker than hell.

There I was, suspended in time, paralyzed with revulsion, "Oh gawwwwwwwd..." the gunk was thick on the carpet and Zeke was shaking with malaise. All slow motion, moving to him, picking him up and carrying him to the bathroom to put him in front of the toilet. "It's OK, it's OK," I assured him, knowing part of his fear was thinking he'd done something wrong, "Go ahead and be sick in the toilet, mister... poor little man, I know you feel bad, it's not your fault, Zeke, just be sick in there..."

While he stood over the bowl, continuing his emesis, I bolted for the buckets and rags soapy water and Lysol. And I knew I was in for a long night. It wasn't my first experience of puke all over the place and it won't be my last. In my experience, this moment at the computer is just a lull, I'm buying time before the bug hits the girls and several more loads of laundry get spun through the washer.

Too much experience at this. Which makes me wonder why it isn't until every piece of bedding is soaked in puke that I get the "DADDY!!!" call. Why is it that a toddler has to stand there, dumbfounded, kiddie spew by the quart over everything, waiting for daddy to show them the way to the toilet. I know, I know, this sounds rather hard-heartedbut the empiricist in me is forced to ask "Why?" as far as the blip in cognitive development that prevents children from making the connection that puke, like pee and poop, goes in the potty. They certainly have no problem putting other things (i.e. the latest issue of Rolling Stone, a whole bottle of shampoo, socks, etc.) into the toilet, so what's the deal with vomit?

Zeke's still feeling miserable, curled up in a chair swaddled in a blanket, soda crackers and flat 7-Up sustaining him. Hopefully he'll be back to his usual smiling self and the vomit smell will have cleared up. I'm burning incense to handle the latter and I know time is the only cure for the former. Just in time for the drill to start again when Marni or Lilly shows us all what we had for dinner.

Friday, November 26, 2004

Know Your Enemy

Buddhism has its "Four Noble Truths", one of which is "Life is painful." I've always thought that truth was awfully helpful to remember (if not a little prosaic) since it girds us for the various moments when diaper tonage hits the fan, so to speak. So, "--it happens" serves to remind us that the bed of roses we'd like to imagine we reside in requires a certain amount of manure to thrive. The Buddha says, "Yeah, get used to it."

What the Buddha failed to mention is that the list of "ugly truths" far outnumbers "noble truths", so much so that I won't go into any of the items left off the list. Since life is graciously finite and mercifully short, I'll confine my discussion of "ugly truths" to a single axiom - the moment when you look at another person and speak loudly, in your mind, "What were you thinking?"

You know what I mean. You experience it when your friend shows you how they've invested more money than they have in one of those hideous Honda Box-cars or had the name of the Latest Loser tattoo'd on their back. It's that scream that echoes in the halls of your consciousness when your brother tells you he's engaged our troubled parolee nephew to watch his house while he's off tromping around in the Amazon.

It's easy enough to acknowledge our own dumb mistakes but it's disconcerting to see stupidity (especially stupidity of extreme proportions) in others because the world seems so much safer if we believe no one else is capable of screwing up as badly as we do. The experience of "What were you thinking?" not only comes with a certain degree of contempt and disbelief but also a sad realization that the world is rife with ill-considered decisions.

Take people with small kids who buy white carpet. As far as I'm concerned, people with small children who go with white carpet deserve whatever it is they forgot to anticipate: Kool-aid, pee, Play-Dough, Crayons, the red, red mood of Mississippi mud. Give me a parent with white carpet and I guarantee you kids who will grow up to become accountants.

White fabric is your enemy, folks. Unless you have figured out how to reverse time and can therefore reverse the inevitable Juicy-box-macarroni-and-cheese finger-painting fiasco, give it up unless you're into showing off your furniture as the latest unintentional art project. I have a coffee table (dark brown cherrywood) that has lost to any chance of being considered a "piece of interest" on the "Antiques Roadshow". Aside from being used as a 3-D coloring book, it's found utility as a race track, a diving board, a place to mix crackers and milk, and as the launching pad for a hobby horse rodeo.

Accepting the noble truths of single fatherhood entails being as proactive as I can in averting disaster. All my cabinets have childproof locks, not just the cabinets with toxic chemicals but everything. I'm not inclined to wash every pot and pan in the place after my cookware has been made into footware. I'd rather not find a kitchen floor carpeted with Rice-A-Roni.

My houseplants are sturdy things, oblivious to road-building and Barbie beach parties and unexplained spontaneous defoliation. Scotchguard only goes so far so I've allowed bedspreads to become drop-cloths. Serenity is accepting what is and I've learned to accept that whatever is, my children will cover it sticky hand prints, dye it Care Bear Rainbow and scent it with the remnants of uneaten hot dogs. Denial of these truths would be insanity and my insanity cup runneth over, thank you.

Maybe pride makes me hyper-vigilant for warding off the "What were you thinking" look but I try to pride myself on being nuts, not stupid. My own recognition of the "What were you thinking" moment is paired with recognizing the enemy and the enemy is any toy that has a gazillion pieces. So it's during Birthdays or Christmas (or random acts of stupidity disguised as charity) that my "What were you thinking?" glare kicks in when my children tear off wrapping to reveal The Gigantic Box of Bobby Pins or A Tub-O'-Glitter or anything that contains the imminent demise of a vacuum-cleaner belt. I know who the enemy is... and as the say in Sicily, "Revenge is a dish best served cold." Indeed - and revenge is a dish with a Billion tiny pieces as an ingredient.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

The Back Yardigans ROCK!!!

Never having been a huge television-watcher (except CNN/MSNBC and I've given up on those for matters of principle), I'm pretty inflexible regarding the shows my kids watch. I absolutely deplore the Cartoon Network and The Disney Channel is a bore. Up to this point it's pretty much been a PBS Kids household. That is, until the other day.

Since Marni started pre-school our schedule has changed, including what we watch. "Arthur" just doesn't cut it, for my kids or for me; Arthur is whiny and all the adults in Arthur-world strike me as the kind of Volvo driving liberals who send money to PBS during those interminable fund-raising drives. As a mini-van anarchist, I think I can slam Volvo driving liberals with affection rather than a freeper sneer (as if a freeper would be caught dead watching PBS). Anyway, the characters on Arthur strike me as the type of people I see bitching about the hummus at a downtown coffee shop and I don't need to see them animated as aardvarks.

So sans Arthur, I decided to switch to Nick Jr. and check out the line-up. Previous experience on Nick Jr. has been pretty good, "Dora the Explorer" and "Blue's Clues" being favorites of the kids and truly excellent shows. As the father of two daughters whom I'm trying to raise as "womyn", I can't complain about grrls (Blue and Dora) who figure things out with the help of my three kids shouting and pointing at the TV screen.

In my early morning haze, I'd misread the show listings by a half-hour and would have turned the television off had I not stumbled upon something strange and wonderful and hallucinogenic: The Back Yardigans. I think I was in the kitchen making myself some coffee when the theme song got me, drew me out into the living room, the insistent and insidious melody burrowing deep into my psyche (it still echoes in my brain). It was the theme song that prevented me from turning the TV off and I am so glad that I didn't.

The basic premise is that 5 little animal friends gather in a back yard which then morphs into the episode's adventure land. The animation is good (not great) CGI and the story-lines are pretty much standard lesson-driven cartoon fare. What's truly outstanding is the music - it's incredible. TBY is packed with music, all of it good. Usually the songs on kid shows are phoned in but whoever is doing the music for TBY is going well over the top. In the first episode I watched, the one where Tasha, the little girly-girl hippo character, becomes the Queen of the Nile, Tasha's theme (something about being a princess) ran throughout the entire episode as a thematic foundation underpinning the other songs.

There's a variety of styles in the show ranging from Zydeco to hip/hop to Broadway show tune-ish (the song I just mentioned) to Afro-pop, all them good. Most songs on kid shows are disposable (Sesame Street probably being the notable exception), having the kind of embarassing inauthenticity of Christian Rock. TBY has the distinction of featuring truly outstanding, memorable music.

I'm not going to get into how good the characters and stories are on TBY, check it out for yourself. I'm just happy there's a show on that my kids love to watch and makes me want to listen. The Back Yardigans isn't just a great kid's show; it ROCKS!!!

* Prior to writing this, I did a little research and found a review of The Back Yardigans on by a member calling herself pippadaisy who wrote an excellent piece. Pippadaisy is bright, funny, and a pretty good writer (fairly prolific in the Epinions sphere). Turns out she also blogs on Homewreckers, a kind of Home & Gardening blog attended to by 20 or so H&G types. Alas, Pippa only had 2 entries there but I'm hoping she'll write more.

The gift of the internet: finding these hidden treasures in the most unexpected places.

Sunday, November 07, 2004

Zeke, Daddy, Zeke

He's the first one up, "Cereal Daddy, I want Cereal!" and I nod, none too happy, "In a minute son, when your sisters get up."

So he gets them up.

I had a houseful of sick kids this weekend, some fever-and-stomach-cramps thing that started with Zeke and then moved briskly though the brood. The girls lolled around and complained but Zeke was Zeke, smiling and playing, tossed his cookies and he was done with it. The girls were not about breakfast at all but there was Zeke, "Cereal Daddy, Cereal."

After the girls collapsed in my bed (I'll be sleeping in one of their beds tonight, I guess), Zeke was left up, still a full head of steam, still smiling. I was surfing the net and listening to Frank Zappa's "Hot Rats", one of Zappa's jazzier works while Zeke stood against the couch, rocking and swaying to the music. As soon as "The Gumbo Variations" came to its thundering conclusion, Zeke shouted "Awesome!"

Don't know if he's a jazz fan or a Zappa fan (I tend to think the former) but he's a fan of the here and now, that's for certain. He's a fan of life and all it has to offer.

Zeke's the baby but he rarely weilds that as a weapon, he's too good-natured for that. His place in the sibling hierarchy is no concern to him, he expects no deferrence or privileges, he's just happy to be who he is. He's the smiling-est damn kid I've ever seen; even his serious face has a smile. The only real question in life should be how to get what he's got.

The other day Marni asked me to write something for her, much in the way Lilly asks me to write things for her. "Write, 'Marni is seeing the the cars above the sky'" she said, serious, watching me closely at every letter I inscribed. Marni is much more like me, intent, serious, abstract. Not Zeke. He's matter-of-fact, fully participating in the moment, the embodiment of "suchness". If he sees "cars above the sky", he's not consumed so much by the mystery of that as much as he likes cars and cars anywhere suits him.

Zeke, my Zen son, my little Buddha bouncing around the room in complete bliss and spreading that light wherever he goes. I'm surprised no monks have shown up at my doorstep to revere the reincarnation of the venerable Lama whatever. Not that Zeke would mind. He'd roll his little fingers forward and hide his face behind his wrists, blushing, smiling, wondering what kind of car the monks arrived in. Knowing that, about the car, he'd really light up.

"Cereal Daddy, Cereal," isn't really a demand, a statement of desire, it's merely recognizing the condition. While my daughters whine and cajole, Zeke says what's what, he's got the what-what and that's that. Put golf tees in a bowl and pour milk on them and he'll make the most of it. Zeke's just glad that it is what it is.

And that's all we need to know.