Pessimistic Optimism

Life as I see it… sort of.

Needy Writers

Are all writers needy or do they just act that way?  Am I needy or do I just act that way?

The children and I travelled to the mall last night to buy some X-mas gifts while my wife partied dined with her friends.  The boy was strapped into a stroller and the girl walked beside me either helping push (teamwork! see Is That Teamwork?) or holding my hand.

The journey was somewhat uneventful until we ran into a self-published children’s author that I purchased a book from a while ago.  I told her that my daughter enjoys the book, which she does, but only the pictures (I didn’t tell her this part).  This is when I saw the needy side of a writer emerge.  She showed the three-year-old the book and said, “I’m the one that wrote the words in your book.”  She might as well said, “I’m the one that poured the milk in your glass.” 

 My daughter looked toward me and asked, “Can I have a toy, Daddy?”

The woman looked offended and I explained that my daughter doesn’t get the concept of her writing the book.  That’s when the author and her husband said in unison, “she will.  She will.”

It was kind of creepy the way these people wanted reassurance from a three-year-old.  I hope I never get that way with my writing.  I wouldn’t expect that from anyone under twelve. 

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November 30, 2006 Posted by | All about me, kids, parenthood, Ranting, Writing | 3 Comments

Zoo Rescue

Indian summer invaded Western New York this week and we took advantage of it by heading to The Buffalo Zoo.   The usual cast of characters went on the adventure sans dog, but Uncle and Aunt NJ joined in on the fun.

We waited until the boy woke from his nap to inform the most excited zoo goers where we were venturing to and then we told the kids.  Our daughter ran around the house as excited as Mark Foley on Congress’s new page day, except hers was in good clean fun.  The boy acted hyper too, but that was because he saw one of his cars on the floor, and little things like that excite him… just like his father. 

Our daughter recognized the zoo’s sign when we arrived and told our guests that we were there.  The kids liked the elephants and bears but our little girl was a little disappointed that the germ-infested petting zoo wasn’t open.

“Are the animals sleeping, Mommy and Daddy?”

“Some of them are, little one,” I said even though I really didn’t know if they were sleeping or vacationing in Des Moines, but I had to give her an answer.

We usually bring our lunch to the zoo to avoid the over-priced roller dogs and chicken(?) nuggets but we wanted to live life on the edge or we’re just lazy, so we ate there.  The counter woman was slower than my mind could comprehend and she forgot to give us our fifty cents change back and just waited next to the already microwaved food much longer than necessary.  Maybe she hoped Uncle NJ and I would forget about the two shiny quarters waiting to be transferred to my pocket.  I asked her for the change when she got within shouting distance and she gave me a look, and then she proceeded to count out five little dimes and threw them at me (okay, she handed them to me with an unfeeling “sorry.”).

We sat at a pint-sized table across from the “jungle gym” and thoroughly enjoyed our lunch.  I thought that it’d be the same bad food that you get at most amusement type destinations, but I was wrong; the hot dogs were juicy, the cheeseburgers were tasty and the fries were hot and crispy. 

The kids ate as much as can be expected while staring at the playground so we cleaned everyone up with wet wipes and headed where they wanted to go.  This is a great entertainer for the kids who need a break from staring at animals from the other side of a fence or window.  Here they can act like the little animals that they are.

Our daughter’s a pro at this place so she ran up into the snake tube without looking back, but my son always stays on the ground floor and plays with the steering wheels and tic-tac-toe type of things.  This time was different, he worked his way up the staggered cushioned steps and went to the slide and slid right down.  I beamed with delight, the proud dad of a boy without fear.  This came back to haunt me a couple minutes later when young Mr. Fearless went back up the steps.  This time he skipped the slide and moved on to bigger and better things, the snake tube.  This thing can be a parent’s worst nightmare because most adults don’t fit up there and would have a tough time retrieving a child that’s unwilling to come down on their own.  We experienced this at a fast-food restaurant’s playground last year with our daughter.  It took forever for her to come down after much pleading, threatening and bribing from quite a distance away.

We watched our boy with a combination of horror and delight as he entered into the tunnel behind a group of older kids.  Any other kid up there at the time was an older kid so he wanted to do what they were doing.  He disappeared from our sight immediately and we hoped for the best.  My wife, brother-in-law, and sister-in-law waited by the slide hoping that the boy would come tumbling down soon.  Instead, we noticed a bottleneck at the tube entrance and came to the conclusion that something, make that someone, was stuck in there.  The sun shined through the plastic cylinder and revealed a 32-inch body unsuccessfully trying to ascend deeper up the tube.  We could tell that it wasn’t going to happen.  Before we argued over who’d go get him, I knew I wouldn’t fit; my wife found our daughter and gave her a mission.

“Go and help your little brother out of the tube, please,” my wife pleaded.

“Okay, Mommy!”

Before we knew it, my wife and her crew could here a little girl’s voice coming out of the slide.

“This is my brother and I have to bring him to my mommy and daddy.”

Then I heard the same thing on my end and I could see my strong little girl pulling on a leg in the tube.  She looked at an older girl and determinedly explained the situation to her.  The five-year-old looked at her with a “get a move on” expression.  I think she wanted to get in the tube and was sick of waiting.  My son was successfully removed from the tube a few seconds later, feet first, of course.

“Good job, little one,” I said.

She smiled at me and went back in the tube.  Our son sat there enjoying the moment with a huge grin on his face.  I think he knew what he was doing.  I hurried up the rope ladder and brought him down by us for good.  We didn’t need to go through this a second time.  Especially since some of those little kids seemed pretty upset that someone blocked their path to parental freedom.

We were very proud of our three-year-old daughter coming through in the clutch that we promised to get her something at the gift shop on our way out.  This is a big thing for her because we’ve only bought something there once or twice in all of the times we’ve been there.

We watched the Macaques for quite a while because they were climbing trees, fences and each other and then we saw the giraffes, which our daughter loves.  They were far away from the viewing area this time so it wasn’t as awe-inspiring.

When it was time to leave our daughter joined my wife on a quest to find a souvenir.  After much contemplation and mind changing she settled on a stuffed penguin she named Penny.  The funny thing is that there aren’t any penguins at this zoo.

Like usual the children did not disappoint us on this family outing.  They find ways to make things fun and memorable… I think we’ll keep them.
   

November 29, 2006 Posted by | Buffalo, kids, parenthood, zoo | Leave a comment

Is That Teamwork?

I’ve talked over and over about my kids picking things up on their own (see More is Caught than Taught) on this site and I’m not trying to bore anyone but this latest one blew me away.

The other day my daughter wanted to help push her brother’s stroller on our way to the library.  I decided to let her even though I figured she might have an ulterior motive, such as pushing him into a wall or running someone over.  I was completely wrong and feel shame about it because she just wanted to help.

“Is this teamwork, Daddy?”

I looked at her, shook my head in surprise, and smiled.

“Yes, this is teamwork.”

From that moment on “teamwork” has popped up all over the place.  When we walk down the stairs side by side counting it’s teamwork.  When we put the Sesame Street jigsaw puzzle together it’s teamwork.  When we flip off the other bad drivers it’s teamwork.

I’d like to take credit for this wonderful desire to work together but I’m not sure if it was I or the annoying animals on Wonder Pets that sing a catchy little ditty about teamwork.  Either way, I hope that this admirable quality lasts a lifetime, especially when it’s time for household chores or paying the bills. 

November 23, 2006 Posted by | kids, parenthood | 2 Comments

Giving In

Am I always supposed to give up my cherry?  Let me rephrase that, when my daughter asks for the cherry off of my piece of my mother’s delicious cherry cake am I obligated to give it to her?  The other night I kept it for myself for the first time and I feel guilty about it.  The cake was there for my birthday so I thought I could finally enjoy the “fruits” of my labor.

I guess the real question here is are we supposed to give everything we have that they like to them?  I hope not because that would help create spoiled little monsters and that’s the grandparents’ job.  Little things like cherries, lemon slices, and fireworks are okay, but where should we draw the line?

“Daddy, I want that knife.”

“No my little angel, you might hurt yourself.”

“I want it!!!”

“Okay, but be careful.”

That wasn’t a real conversation between my daughter and me, but you get the idea.  It was actually my wife giving in to me.  The calling her “Daddy” part is none of your business.

This parenting thing can be confusing.  I’ll just have to weigh each situation out on my own and hope that I make the right choices when it comes to giving in to my children and hope that I don’t screw them up too much. 

November 21, 2006 Posted by | Humor, kids, parenthood | 2 Comments

Sippy Cup, Sippy Cup, Where For Art Thou Sippy Cup

My household goes through about six “sippy” cups a day at the least.  Being the free spirited parents that we are we let the kids roam around with their drinks in tow and as a result our carpet looks like a Jackson Pollock painting.  Occasionally one of the cups doesn’t make it into the fridge or the sink because it chose to hide itself amongst the thousands of toys and books scattered throughout the house.  The fact that a cup is missing is not the main problem.  It’s what’s in the stagnant cup that has potentially stomach upsetting and olfactory gland offending properties.

A cup filled with juice might get a little foul, but the smell’s tolerable so the parents aren’t in too much danger.  The little people responsible for misplacing the cup might get a little more offended if they take a drink of three-day-old juice.  Imagine hard cider with a bigger bite.

Milk is the biggest problem.  The cow emission becomes a science project in a relatively short period of time.  This new concoction can be lethal if smelled or consumed orally. 

The worst part of this whole ordeal for me is when I’m washing the cups and I didn’t know that the one with a little milk on the bottom was initially filled days earlier and I open it without using safety precautions.  The smell finds its way inside the nostrils and stays there for quite a while.  I do this often enough that you’d think that I’d notice that the milk has congealed in the bottom of the cup.

Spoiled milk or juice isn’t so bad if you compare it to what some parents have to face; diaper diving.  Diaper diving is the act of playing with poop in the diaper and throwing, wiping or squishing it onto their surrounding environment.  The only places I have to deal with poop are in a diaper or the toilet.  Let’s hope they keep it that way.     

November 17, 2006 Posted by | Humor, kids, parenthood | Leave a comment

Gray Hair and a Gut are Okay (for me)

I’m not sure if you know this about me, I have kids, young kids.  Don’t be so shocked, many “gray haired” gentlemen start having families after the original pigmentation of their hair has left the building.  It gives the offspring the misguided idea that their father is wiser than he really might be.  I’m not going to tell you what the “gut” around my waist tells them except that Mommy’s a good cook and Daddy eats well at work, too.  This leads me to the question I’ve been asking myself in regards to raising children, “is it better to give them the impression that their parents do everything for the good of mankind and have no faults with the exception of the fore mentioned gray hair and the gut inside my 36-waist jeans or should we be honest and let all our my faults be displayed in front of them to show that mistakes are a realistic part of life?”

The question was rhetorical so let me do the explaining here, please.  I think that the kids should not be exposed to any of my faults or they’ll think less of me and my ego can’t take that and it’s important for children to have strong role models.  I’m Superman to these little terrorizers and I’d like to keep it that way for at least the next twenty-five years or so.  This might take a little hard work and a lot of fibbing but I think we can pull it off if we join together.  The only thing I’ll need from all of you is to treat me like I’m better than everyone else.  Before you scoff at this just keep in mind that it’s for the kids.

It will be acceptable for you to always put me on a pedestal even if the kids aren’t around to get everyone used to it.  Thank you in advance for your support regarding this matter.   

November 16, 2006 Posted by | All about me, Humor, kids, parenthood, parenting, Ranting | 9 Comments

Grasshopper Sandwich

Expectations for the food you’re about to eat can be set by the name given to the edible item.  For example, growing up I had no interest in either carrot cake or cheesecake just because their names convinced me that they couldn’t be any good.  I liked carrots and cheese, but I couldn’t embrace the idea of them being involved in anything sweet.  I didn’t know what I was missing because they are two of my favorite desserts as an adult.

This deficiency in my genes mustn’t have been passed on to my daughter because names of food don’t seem to phase her one bit.  My wife made grilled cheese for both kids the other day and somehow my daughter thought they were called grasshopper sandwiches and didn’t mind.  I know that when I was younger I wouldn’t have even picked the thing up and I would have uttered the word “yech” repeatedly.  The all-knowing three-year-old relished the idea of eating a grasshopper sandwich.  I guess her love of insects isn’t just of them crawling on her (see Ladybug Crawl).

The next time she refuses to eat her green beans we’ll have to tell her that they’re caterpillars.  Mmmmm! 

November 15, 2006 Posted by | kids, parenthood | Leave a comment

It’s Electrifying

Here’s a question for the masses.  If you see a small child about to chew on an electrical cord should you stop him or let him learn something?  It’s not something that you have time to ponder on because the situation demands an immediate response.

Keeping your child out of harm’s way is the most natural thing to do for any parent with the exception of Joan Crawford  or Jessica Simpson’s dad, Joe, so most people would try to stop the kid.    But there’s nothing like a memory of pain to prevent someone from trying something dangerous or stupid a second time unless you’re a member of the Jackass gang or James Frey.  That would be the best reason not to stop the hungry stumbler from charging his system.  That or if you enjoy seeing children shaking uncontrollably on the ground.

I’m proud to say that I removed the child from the cord and the cord from the outlet before anything happened.  I told him “no cords” and he seemed to understand by the way he immediately stuck his finger in the uncovered outlet that I just pulled the plug out of.  I said, “no outlets” and he just looked at me with a grin.  Maybe I should have let him get shocked.

  

November 13, 2006 Posted by | Humor, kids, parenthood | 4 Comments

Smart Questions

“Do they have TV’s in Korea?” 

My daughter asked me this today because we talked about her Aunt Weather giving her DVDs.  She hoped that she was able to watch them before they were sent here.  It’s an honest question from a three-year-old who’s curious about everything and who cares about the people in her life… at least that’s the way I’ve interpreted it.  

She’s able to appreciate things that I forgot were there, like pylons and other people.  She initially thought pylons looked like party hats, but then Halloween came along.  They are now candy corn (“without the yellow on the bottom”). 

She also points out the different types of vehicles on the road: school busses (sp?); garbage trucks; ice cream trucks; the new one in town, broken tree trucks; and many more.  This dialogue in the van can be fun unless I’m trying to listen to the latest Barry Manilow tune.

My son has now joined in on this pointing things out activity, but it’s a little more limited.  He likes to point at and say car at every one we drive by.  Initially it’s cute, but after about ten minutes of drive time my ears bleed.

Thanks to the kids I’ve recaptured a zest for the details in the world.  Maybe some day I’ll be able to notice them on my own. 

November 10, 2006 Posted by | kids, Korea, parenthood | 2 Comments

My Daughter’s the King

This is a follow-up to my last post (Oooh, Cars!).

Ever since I walked in the door my daughter hasn’t been home.  The King is here; at least that’s what she’s calling herself.  She won’t answer to her name and corrects me if I call her a girl because the King is obviously a boy.  I asked if she wanted to be the Queen, but she wanted no part of it.  That’s when I remembered who the King was, a character from the movie Cars.

She’s stayed in character the whole time telling me what cars do and don’t do and that she doesn’t have hands and feet, they’re wheels.  I’ve been feeding her fuel and oil continuously because she keeps coming back to pit row.  Amazingly I haven’t had to change her tires yet.

The King isn’t driving alone, she he has a racing partner in Lightning McQueen, AKA her little brother.  It’s nice to see her give him the lead in the movie.  For some reason she chose a secondary character that somehow must have struck a chord with her.

Lightning McQueen picked up the King’s juice cup while I’m typing this and I told him it’s his sister’s juice so he should put it down.  She immediately corrected me and said, “It’s the King’s juice.”  It will be interesting to see how long this possession will last.  Hopefully my daughter will return before Christmas or we’ll have to exchange her new shoes for hubcaps.

November 8, 2006 Posted by | kids, parenthood | Leave a comment

Oooh, Cars!

Toy cars have been a favorite of most little boys and some little girls since they were invented.  Our son has taken it a little further.  He’s obsessed with anything with wheels.  He probably gets it from me because I’m such a grease monkey.  Most of you just chuckled because I don’t know the difference between a lug nut and a drive shaft, if there is such a thing.  The truth of the matter is that this interest might be one of those inherited things that skips a generation.  His preoccupation with wheeled objects mirrors his maternal grandfather’s love of automobiles.

He received an early Christmas present from South Korea today.  It wasn’t actually given to him by the Republic of South Korea, it was from Aunt Weather who works there.  The present was the animated movie Cars.  For an eighteen month old, he was very excited just seeing the box.  When the DVD started playing he could barely contain himself.  For the first fifteen minutes he pointed at the TV and yelled out his version of the word car and grunted continuously.  Hopefully he’ll grow out of this activity as he matures.  It could be a problem for an eighteen-year-old on a date at the movies if he stands up pointing at the Jessica Simpson of his day repeating her name and grunting.  We’ll keep our fingers crossed.

We knew that he loved toy cars since around Christmas ’05 when we got him a few of them.  His passion grew right along with his shoe size.  His favorite book has been The Little Golden Book’s version of Cars so that is why he got so excited about the movie.

We’ll keep reinforcing this love of the wheel because all dads love racetracks and soon enough he’ll be old enough to have one.  I can’t wait and I’m sure his Poppa (grandfather) can’t either.  The only problem might be who’ll set it up for my boy and me if my father-in-law isn’t here… probably my wife.

November 8, 2006 Posted by | Humor, kids, parenthood | 1 Comment

A Night at the Opera (not exactly)

My kids and their parents shared a new experience yesterday, a kiddie’s concert by The Wiggles.  We weren’t sure how they would handle the spectacle especially since it started during the usual naptime, but they were troopers and actually had a great time… and so did we.

We tried to explain to our three-year-old what the show would be like and she asked if she’d be sitting on their laps.  We said not this time or ever.  In her eyes they are people that she knows like Dora or Big Bird.

Excitement was in the air as we arrived at the arena and the kids looked pretty happy, too.  It shocked me to see how many other fathers were there since it was during a Buffalo Bills game, but then again the Bills aren’t having a good season or decade for that matter.  Kids in Wiggles costumes carried their probably overpriced souvenirs with glee.  It’s amazing how many people turn out to see four grown men known by their colors of blue, yellow, red and purple and for what they do, eat, do magic, play guitar and sleep.  I know way too much about these guys.

Our daughter looked like a deer in the headlights for the first few minutes of the show.  She wasn’t afraid, but did have an over stimulated look on her face.  She joined in on the fun before we knew it.  The boy didn’t hesitate at all.  He kept saying car when the Big Red Car drove out on the stage.  He looked at it and looked back at me and grinned.  Then he smacked me in the face, but that had nothing to do with the show.

Both kids ended up dancing in front of our seats for half the show.  The cast has the enviable ability to keep small children interested for a long time.  It impressed me enough to want to bring them home with us.  Well maybe not home, but in the front yard or the driveway where the kids can see them out the window.  When I would get tired or insane I could make the group sing a song and act silly for the kids and I’d get a much-needed break.  I know this is unrealistic because these bastards are filthy rich and deservedly so but it’s nice to dream.

The kids managed to remain awake for the whole show, with the boy getting a little fussy here and there.  All in all it was worth the $97.00 a ticket and the $6.00 waters because a great time was had by all.  

November 7, 2006 Posted by | Buffalo, kids, parenthood, Television | 4 Comments