Saturday, December 13, 2008

Question of the Day: 5

Is it more likely that kids in the future will be vegetarians because so many of their movies and TV shows featured helpful, friendly, or talking animals?

When I was a kid, about the only animals that we ever heard from were Bugs Bunny or Tony The Tiger. And Ranger Rick... that lying little raccoon. He's one of the reasons I do eat meat.

But now, Mr F and Mr Bunches have "Kung Fu Panda" with all its animals, and "The Lion King" and the Little Einsteins are always going on adventures where they meet an Ivory Billed Woodpecker who, with the help of Rocket and some rattlesnakes and alligators, [SPOILER ALERT! DON'T READ IF YOU ARE A 5-YEAR-OLD OR YOUNGER!] finds a friend.

So if they view animals as friendly things that help other friendly things find a friend, won't they be more reluctant to eat meat when they grow up? I know we don't make panda steaks, but the viewpoint stands.

Question of the Day: 4 here. (And note that a lot of my thoughts these days involve Little Einsteins. Hmm.)

In every cloud, there's some lemonade. Wait, is that right? I'm a little tired today.

As I got up this morning, CNN was doing a story on how the auto failure may cause Soap Operas trouble -- proving again that pretty much every business could be adversely affected by what's going on in the financial markets, and proving, too, that it's more necessary than ever to find new sources of funding and revenue in these times for your business.

If you own a small business, or are starting one, you can still make it succeed in this climate, and you can even make it more successful: you can grow your business and take advantage of the retrenchment other businesses are suffering. We'll pull out of this, and when the country rebounds, the customers will return and they'll need businesses -- businesses like yours -- to sell them stuff.

That's why it's smart to consider one of the small business loans from Merchant Advisors. Merchant Advisors has a 90% merchant loan approval rate and gives you answers in 48 hours. 5-7 days after you're approved, you get the money.

They'll make a loan to you with no collateral, no closing costs, no application fees, and they'll do it without the red tape and hassle major banks impose. They'll take a second position, they'll layer their loan over your loan now, they'll even work with poor credit.

Don't let the economic downturn wreck the business you've struggled to build: instead, make it an opportunity. Use Merchant Advisors to get through the recession and come out stronger.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Very Casual Friday: 62 down, 9,289 to go.

There is a lot to be said for being an adult and having freedom and money and an intellectual appreciation of the finer things in life...

... the finer things being "Battlestar Galactica" and those "chocolate oranges" they sell this time of year...

but there is then a little part of me, as an adult, that regrets that I cannot dress like this on Fridays:

Song 62: "Afternoons & Coffee Spoons," by Crash Test Dummies. Listen and guess why...

"Down... to Go" is all the songs I've got, and all the things I've done. Song 61 here.

Got more time? Read the newest long post, "The Cat's In The Cradle With the Scary Face-Sucking Alien" here.

There are no "Lost" Spoilers in This Post; But There Might Well Be On My Next Vacation.

I didn't think it was possible to make a dream vacation to Hawaii any more appealing than it already is. I have FOREVER been dying to go to Hawaii -- to see the blue ocean water, to surf in front of white sand beaches (Okay, I can't surf... yet, but I'd try), to snorkle around those warm waters and see exotic fish and turtles, to go watch a volcano and see lava, to have a luau at night with fire torches... I want the whole Hawaii experience and I didn't see how it could ever get any better.

And then it DID. It did get better, with the Hawaii Tours available through, a company that I've spent a ton of time daydreaming about today as I've been suffering in the cold. makes Hawaii Travel even easier and more appealing by offering tours and attractions and activities on all of the Hawaiian islands -- including the tour that caught my eye, the "Oahu Hummer Tours" that take you to the places where movie and TV shows were filmed, letting you see the actual spots where Jurassic Park and Lost and other shows and films were made.

So now, I could get my sun and surf and snorkeling and volcanoes, and get, too, that waterfall where the helicopter went past in Jurassic Park, and see the spot where they shot that polar bear and the caves where the people went to live, and the Lost Golf Course? All in one vacation?

You people who live in Hawaii, you better know how lucky you are. As for me, I'm more determined than ever to get there.

Enemies List: 1

My Enemies List:

1. People who honk their horn.

Under any circumstances, there is no need to honk a horn. None. Because it's useless. When you honk your horn, everyone who can hear it looks and you have not made the point you want to make. Honking your horn is the exact equivalent of going into a large crowd of people and yelling Hey You! Only less mature.

I "Dig" this bed. I know, lame, but I like my puns.

We have a boring bed. No offense to Sweetie, who picked it out, but it's JUST a bed. It's got the headboard and footboard and mattresses and all, but that's it. It doesn't add anything to the room or anything like that.

The kind of bed, the way it looks, doesn't make me sleep any better -- but it makes me feel better about my house. That's why, after all, we don't just pile mattresses on the floor. The bed we've got now is just a step above that.

Which is kind of a shame, when you think of all the different beds that are out there. Take Time4Sleep, which sells beds online. They have, I bet, over a hundred different styles of beds. No, I haven't counted them. But I've been looking at them, and they've got all kinds of different beds that not only allow you to sleep on them, but they serve as great-looking furniture that really dresses up the room and looks nice.

Like the "Divan Bed" they have, a bed that looks all modern and stylish, like it should be in the house of sophisticated, cool people. I'm thinking that Sweetie wouldn't like that as much, though, so maybe I could have talked her into, instead, an antiquey-looking bed like the "Como." It's a little girly, sure, but at least it's interesting.

Then again, the Babies! will be out of their cribs soon, which means they'll need new beds, like maybe the digger bed, which I'm sure the Babies! would love...

... and which I'd love, too. But I'd never be able to sell Sweetie on it.

Question of the Day 4:

What song do you hum to yourself as you are going about your business, like walking into or out of work?

Don't lie and say you don't hum a little song to yourself, either. You know you do.

I used to hum the theme from "The Odd Couple," mostly as I walked into or out of the office. I think I did that because I recall watching that show as a kid, and seeing Felix and Oscar going to big buildings and working while that song played, so it became the theme music for going to work in an office.

Effective today, though, I've replaced it. Now, I hum the Little Einsteins theme. We're going on a mission, start the countdown...

Read Question of the day: 3 here.

Got more time? Read "The Cat's In The Cradle With The Scary Face-Sucking Aliens" here.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

The Cat's In The Cradle With Scary, Face-Sucking Aliens.

The Boy and I have a serious disagreement about space, and whether it is "cool" (me) or "freaky." (The Boy.) This serious disagreement came to light last night when I was assembling the two new lamps I'd bought while The Boy watched "Alien," but I cannot elaborate on it because we did not get to really explore the disagreement or discuss it for more than a few minutes.

He was watching the part in "Alien" where [GROSS THINGS-ON-FACES SPOILER ALERT!] the crew gets out of the spaceship and walks around on the slime planet and then opens up an egg and the thing jumps on the guy's face and they haul him back to the ship, where it is explained that the crew member did not suffocate because the alien was on his face, but where it is not explained why the crew member did not freeze to death because his spacesuit was opened to the near-absolute-zero conditions on the planet, and where it is also not explained how the crew member did not explosively decompress when his suit was punctured on an otherwise atmosphere-less planet.

While The Boy was watching that, I was putting together the new lamps I'd bought to replace the one old lamp that Mr Bunches had destroyed. We had been down to one lamp in the family room, a tall lamp that stood near the TV, and also stood tantalizingly near the plastic fence that surrounds the TV, turning our TV into a Playskool Gitmo encampment with the exception being that the Babies! try to get in, not out, and also with the exception being that our Playskool Gitmo is not sitting next to a Playskool Communist Cuba.

Mr Bunches cannot resist the allure of the tall lamp, and spends much of his day trying to get to the fence and reach over it and push the lamp over, ideally onto the TV but however it falls is largely okay with him. Yesterday, he succeeded and it was one tipover too many for the lamp, as I could not get the lamp to work again no matter how much I turned the top of it, pulled on the wires, and unscrewed and rescrewed it.

That's what a lifetime of education has taught me about how to survive if civilization were to break down: something can be fixed by taking it apart and putting it back together again, and then doing that a second time if the first time did not work. Also this: blow on it. Blowing on things is a miracle cure for my generation, the way "drink milk" was a miracle cure for my Mom's generation. We used to blow on the Atari cartridges, then we blew on the heads of our walkmen tape players, then we blew into the CD and DVD players, and I would not be surprised if right now there are "apps" you can buy for the iPod and iPhone and iWhatever that will electronically blow on the device when it's not working.

So when civilization finally breaks down -- whether that be because Keanu Reaves comes as an alien in what looks to be the second terrible movie about environmental crises this year, or whether that be, as we all expect, because the Russians invade a small town in the Pacific northwest, or even whether that be because aliens shaped like elephants land on Earth -- I will be ready and willing to help by taking things apart and putting them back together again, as often as necessary.

I will then also be ready and willing to make the critical decision, like I did last night, that having a lamp which does not light up no matter how many times I take it apart and put it back together, and having a lamp that now has alarmingly loose wires, is not a good idea, and I will then be ready to also stop by Wal-Mart and pick up some new lamps when we are out grocery shopping.

Assuming that there are still Wal-Marts after civilization has collapsed. Which I'm pretty sure there will be.

Because of that extra sidetrip to Wal-Mart to get the lamps, I was home later than I had expected to be and had to put the lamps together mostly after the Babies! went to bed. I tried to put the lamps together before the Babies! went to bed, but that was a disaster. Mr Bunches and Mr F were milling around waiting for bedtime while I opened up the first lamp, which was a floor lamp almost identical to the one Mr Bunches had finally broken. Mr Bunches watched me put it together, and when it became apparent that it was a floor lamp, Mr Bunches got excited and began trying to grab this new lamp and throw it to the ground.

Shouldn't there be a whole division of toys made by people who have actually dealt with children? I go to Toys R Us and look around at the toys available, and there are a truly phenomenal array of action figures and trucks and dinosaurs and toy drums and Legos and more, but there are no toys that are actually things that my boys want to play with. If there were toys like that, toys that Mr F and Mr Bunches want to play with, there would be an aisle filled with cardboard boxes, and old discarded cell phones, and an empty plastic coffee canister, and practice golf balls, and my toothbrush. Because that's what Mr F and Mr Bunches actually play with around our house.

We bought them, for Christmas, a new slide/castle thing to go with the slide they got for their birthdays. It's one of those Playskool products, a slide and enclosure and tube to climb on and play with. I'm already skeptical that they'll use it to slide on and climb on and hide in, because they no longer slide on the slide they already have: they've gone from sliding on the slide for hours to their new game, which is knocking over the slide and then trying to throw it.

They actually compete to see who can knock over the slide, sometimes trying to do so when the other one is one the slide. Then they team up to lift up the slide and throw it, usually in the direction of the baseboard heater so they can knock the face plate off the heater and play with that. So instead of a slide, we have bought them a large battering ram which they are using to destroy our heating system.

The new toy, waiting to be unveiled on Christmas Day, may not fare much better, but I am experienced enough to know one thing. When it got delivered, I looked at it, sitting in our garage in a box that was big enough for me to stand in, and I said this to Sweetie:

"They will love it."

Then I said this:

"Also, we should save the box because that's what they'll play with."

In that aisle of Toys My Kids Would Play With, I would also put a toy lamp for Mr Bunches to knock over, in hopes that he would then leave the real lamp alone, something he wasn't willing to do last night. When I insisted on putting the lamp together and not letting him play with it, he got more and more upset until he was lying face down on the ground crying, a pose we call "giving up on life." So I stopped what I was doing and rounded him and Mr F up and took them up to their room, where I tried to console Mr Bunches by letting him hold the remote control while we watched a movie for a few minutes.

That backfired, because Mr Bunches took the DVD player remote and began hitting buttons -- and succeeded in changing the channel on the DVD player, which caused Mr F to start crying because the TV was showing only static. I tried to get the DVD remote from Mr Bunches, who started crying and retaliated by taking the TV remote and hitting buttons on that, so that he changed the channel on the TV, too, leaving me unable to determine if the buttons I'd hit had fixed the DVD player, all while Mr F was getting more and more upset that the TV was not working and as a result of his upset was crying and trying to kick me.

I eventually got that sorted out and then had to watch more of the movie to calm them back down, which meant I was running even later than usual when I got downstairs to put together the second lamp I'd bought and set that up. It was while I was doing that that The Boy began what could have been a very interesting and fruitful discussion except that I was (a) tired and (b) putting together a lamp.

I tend to think that it was because I was tired and putting together a lamp at 9:45 at night that The Boy tried to talk to me. That's the conclusion I've had to come to, that the kids only want to talk to me when I have a hard time talking to them. I've come to that conclusion because it's the only explanation for what they do. It's like there's a switch in their heads that clicks on whenever I can't really sit and talk to them, clicks on and says start talking to him about things he cares about NOW.

The existence of such a switch would explain why one Saturday morning, from the moment I got up on, Middle did not say a word to me. Not a word. She came down and ate breakfast, saying "hello," and did not comment when I asked her what was new, whether she had any plans for the day, if there was anything interesting in the paper, how her job was, how school was going... all nothing. In fact, I heard maybe three syllables from her, total, all morning, three syllables that constituted the only communications from her that entire morning right up until the moment Sweetie and I were trying to get the Babies!, who were crying and screaming, out the door and into the car so we could be on time for their haircuts.

It was at that moment, as I tried to pick up Mr F, who was having a tantrum, and trying to help Sweetie hold on to Mr Bunches, who was having a tantrum, too, with the garage door open and the cats trying to get out and us running late for their appointment, it was at that moment that Middle, from the kitchen, called out to me that she had been reading an article about George Orwell and wondered if I had ever read anything by George Orwell because she thought it was kind of interesting and had a few questions about it.

That was not an isolated incident, either. Yesterday, I got home from work and we sat down to eat dinner. I talked a bit about the news of the day, and then said "So, what's going on with you guys?" Middle shrugged, The Boy shrugged, Sweetie mumbled something, and the Babies! threw their chicken nuggets on the floor. For the rest of dinner, I struggled to fill the conversational void with something other than Middle and The Boy arguing, and nobody, nobody offered up anything to talk about, period.

But come 9:45, when I was trying to get the lamp put together so I could get to bed because I was exhausted, The Boy was ready to talk. I came down from the Tragedy of the Remotes and said I was going to quick put the lamp together and go to bed, and The Boy began talking about how it was kind of creepy that space was so big and there might be aliens out there. He added that he and his teacher had been talking about black holes and he didn't quite understand them, and then asked: "Would you want to explore strange planets even if there were aliens on them?"

Those three topics: Black holes, aliens, and space exploration, occupy the 1% of my brain that is not devoted to lyrics to jingles from old commercial and awesome TV show ideas, which means that those three topics are something that I would constantly talk about, if given the chance. Or at least, if given the chance at a time other than 9:45 at night, when I'm trying to put together a lamp and get to bed.

So I tried to talk to him for at least a bit before telling him we'd have to talk it over more when I wasn't exhausted because I had to go to bed. I knew that we'd never, ever talk about this again, at least not at any time I could actually talk about it, but I at least had to try to give the conversation some attention, make an effort to put together a lamp and explain why it is that a black hole can be a superdense object whose gravitational field is so powerful that not even light can escape from its pull, because if I don't do that, don't make an effort, then all I hear in the background is that "Cat's In the Cradle" song.

The song "Cat's In the Cradle" is on many occasions the primary, if not sole, motivating factor in me doing something. Haven't called Mom in a while? And the cat's in the cradle...and I call her up on my way home from work instead of listening to sports talk radio. Dad calls me at the office when I've got a brief due? And the silver spoon... and I talk to him for a half-hour and leave the office late and get home late and then realize that I've got very little time to spend with The Boy and Middle and The Babies! when you coming home Dad I don't know when... and the cycle continues.

What society needs is a song that would work in reverse: a song that would play in the background of the kids' minds when I sit at the dinner table and ask how their day went and what's new, and they respond with shrugs and grunts and a fight over who didn't pour the milk that one time and who therefore should have offered to pour the milk tonight because the other one was getting the ketchup out of the refrigerator and wouldn't have had to get the ketchup out of the refrigerator if the first one had just gotten the ketchup out when he or she was in the refrigerator getting the mustard...

... at which point some violins and maybe an acoustic guitar and one of those little wooden sticks that people tap to make that hollow tapping sound would swell up behind and some poignant lyrics would be sung in a thoughtful manner, poignant lyrics along the lines of how if they do not seize the opportunity now, this chance might be lost forever. Lyrics like this:

I had a question during dinner tonight,
But instead of asking, I started a fight.
I argued with my sister about just who
Had a worse life because of chores to do.

And then before I knew it, dinner was done,
There was Cloverfielding and baths to be run
Cloverfielding and baths to run.

And now the lamp needs fixing and the movie's on TV,
the babies! are crying and nobody can hear me
When can I talk about space dad?
I don't know when, but I'll explain to you why it's likely that there's intelligent life in the universe and why that would be such an interesting thing to discover even if it turned out that the aliens were scary face-sucking creatures then, son.
You know I'll explain that then, son.
You know I'll explain that then.

Like this? Read more about The Boy In "Instant Karma Has The Boy On Speed Dial."

Did you know a short horror story of mine, Don't Eat My Face, will appear in the upcoming anthology "Harvest Hill," available next fall from Graveside Tales? Go to their site to find out more and order your copy! And don't forget to read my other horror stories on AfterDark.

You might even be able to get travel insurance for your pet.

Why do you need to get an insurance expert to help you pick out insurance? Because there's insurance for things that you never imagined needed insuring, or things that you never imagined you could get insurance for, that's why.

Sure, you can go online and type in "insurance" and go to some website and buy insurance right online and then... hope for the best. Hope that you got a good deal and hope that you got the right insurance and hope that you insured everything that needed insuring.

Or, you could just do it right and go to Autonet Insurance Group. Autonet Insurance Group will help you find the right insurance company and help you find insurance that you didn't think you could get or didn't think you needed, and they'll get you a great price on it.

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But wait: There's more-- they also have a 24 hour claims line to make sure that they, not you, deal with the hassle of making a claim on the policy.

So for your auto insurance, motorbike insurance, pet insurance, van, home, or even TRAVEL insurance, use Autonet Insurance Group.

Sexy Mr F: 61 down, 9,290 to go.

Sweetie had to pick up new pajamas for the Babies! -- pajamas that had a little snap at the collar to cover up the zipper.

That extra level of security was necessary because Mr F has discovered how zippers work, so more often than not, when we go in to get him up in the mornings, we are greeted by "Sexy Mr F," with his zipper down to his belly button.

"Sexy Mr F" is not to be confused with "Nudist Mr F," which is the side of him that likes to (as he did yesterday) take off his pants, then his diaper, then get up on the coffee table and do a dance.

Down... to go: My music, my life: Counting down the songs on my iPod. Song 60 is here.

Got a little extra time? Read: Maybe I Can Finally Get That Cold Coca Cola There.

vocabulary learning

What do you see when you look in your mind?

I'm going to say something that is both controversial and completely not controversial.

I am not opposed to people having breast enlargement surgery.

Now, that's completely NOT controversial in the sense that I am a guy, and guys, in general, are among the most ardent supports of breast augmentation. I'm not as bad as some -- there are those who would make it a requirement -- but I am a guy and so I am in general in favor of larger... assets.

But it's controversial to suggest what I'll say next: I think it's okay for women to want to get breast augmentation done, regardless of why they want to do it. Everyone wants to look their best, and we all have an idea of how we want to look. Looking your best is great if your idea of how you want to look requires nothing more than, say, a new haircut or a new dress. But what if your self-image, what if the secret image you have of yourself, can't be achieved simply through exercise or hair coloring?

What if the secret image you have of the way you want to look is one that can only be achieved surgically? That's the way it is for many women, women who feel they would be happier with the way they look if their breasts were larger. To those women, I say: Go for it.

Go for it not just because guys want you to, but because YOU want you to. It's your self-image and you want to be pleased with the way you look. That's why you dress up, that's why you put on makeup, that's why you watch what you eat and exercise and fix your hair. And that's why you should, if you want, get breast augmentation: because you want to look the way you want to look.

Besides, breast augmentation isn't just to make breasts larger; it can lift them up, firm them, or even them out, correcting things that have bothered you and interfered with your self-image.

You can get the breast augmentation done expertly and easily at MYA ("Make Yourself Amazing") Cosmetic Surgery. They'll do the procedure quickly, with one small incision. You'll miss about a week of work, but beyond that, it's a simple and relatively easy procedure. Still, any surgery is surgery, so make sure when you decide to do this that you DO go with MYA -- because they've got 25 years in the business and know what they're doing. With a simple form on their website you can get more information, and they've got some (fairly graphic) before and after photos to show the kinds of things they can do.

And, MYA focuses on providing you not just with expert medical care, but competent aftercare, so you won't just be thrown out the door and left on your own.

So if what you see when you look in the mirror isn't what you see when you look in your mind, change that with MYA.

Question of the Day: Three.

Today's question:

Why would an air conditioner need a remote control?

Our window-air-conditioner that goes in the master bedroom in the summer has a remote control. Why? Who is too lazy to get up and shut the thing off, or turn it on? Or is it that the adjustments can't wait until someone gets up and crosses the room? Or that adjustments need to be made so often that getting up to do them is impractical? "I need it to be 69 degrees. Okay, now 72. Down to 65. Now just circulate..."

Question of the Day Number Two here.

Mass Produced:

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Hokey religions, ancient weapons, and "Vorrororowrmshs:" 60 down, 9,291 to go

Last night, the only part of How I Met Your Mother that I really paid attention to was the part where Marshall, at the end [HOLIDAY SPOILER ALERT!] cut the turkey with a green lightsaber.

Yesterday, too, a coworker mentioned to me that the iPod Touch has a feature where you can have it look like a lightsaber and when you move it, it would make the lightsaber sound. I said, and I quote: That is cool.

Then I made the lightsaber sound, which is kind of like Vorrororowrmshs. That is a sound that any man who has ever seen "Star Wars" or any of the "Star Wars" movies should be able to make -- and secretly loves making.

In fact, I will go so far as to say that at least, at least 75% of the appeal of the lightsaber is the sound it makes. I, and most men, would buy anything that makes that sound. If they built vacuum cleaners to make that sound when operated, we'd buy the vacuum and then we'd do all the vacuuming.

The other 25% of the appeal, of course, is slicing through stuff, which we would do incessantly. All our wives would ever hear is: Vorrororowrmshs. Vorrororowrmshs. Vorrororowrmshs. And all we would ever hear is That better not be my shoes you're slicing through.

But it wouldn't be.

It would be the couch.

Song 60: Long Long Time by Guy Forsyth. Because he mentions "Star Wars."

On Down...To Go, you get to see each song on my iPpod, coupled with moments of my life that I know you were dying to share. Song 59 is here.

Hey, remember when I went to Florida last summer? No? Well, if you read this, you will. And you'll laugh.


The Question of the Day: Number Two.

I'm pretty sure I've mentioned this before, but I'll make it the Question Of The Day to ponder. Today's Question of the Day is:

Why do people bother backing into parking lot spaces?

Think about it. It takes, say, x amount of time to pull into a parking lot space nose-first, and y amount of time to back out of that same space later on and pull away. So, algebraically:

x + y = total time spent on parking related matters.

By backing in first, don't you just reverse that? Doesn't it take just as much time to back in first as it does to back out later? And doesn't it take just as much time to park nose first as it does to pull out nose first later?

So backing into a parking space is pointless... except for this: It takes longer to back up than to pull forward. So by backing into the space, you are spending more time before your planned activity-- whatever it is-- and less time after it.

Meaning that when you back into the parking space, the message you are sending to the world is: Whatever it is I'm about to do, it's less important to me than whatever it is I'm doing after this.

Read Question of the Day 1 here.

Read about adventures in St. Nick's Nudity in Do you want to Woo Hoo?

Did she really say I would be likely to get a crocodile to babysit the kids? "
Thinking The Lions and 117* Other Ways To Look At Life (Give Or Take) is for sale... all the great essays that no longer appear on this website. The funny (My Christmas Tree Rules!), the timeless ("I Even Have Some Warning Labels Left Over") and the earth-shatteringly tremendous (Velociraptors, My Butt!) are all here. Relive old times with me, The Boy, Older and Middle, Mr F and Mr Bunches, and, of course, the ever-patient Sweetie! All true, all real... and all funny.
Click here to buy the book!

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

The question of the day: The first ever!

Starting today, I intend to post The Question of The Day here on Thinking The Lions, which may or may not become a daily thing, if I decide to stick with it.

Don't worry, I'll still be doing Down... To Go... and featuring the great stories that you've come to expect, but I need to keep things exciting for me and for you, so look forward to this each day.

Today's question: Is is really true that a fear of heights is not so much a fear of heights as it is a fear that one will throw themselves off that height?

As someone who has a fear of heights, I'm more than just intellectually curious about this. I read it a long time ago, and it seems crazy, doesn't it? Then again, it would explain why I'm afraid when I'm standing on the edge of, say, the Hoover Dam out in the open, but not when I'm on the 8th floor of the courthouse leaning against a window: no chance to hurl myself into space.

But, as a follow-up question: why would we evolve to have, somewhere hidden in our brains, the urge to jump off of a cliff?

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Do you want to Woo-Hoo?

Always carry the pooping toddler behind you, not in front of you.

That way, when the pooping toddler poops, it will not fall directly into your path, causing you to step in it, which will cause you to think oh my god this is possibly the grossest but most hilarious emergency I've ever been a part of, and which will also cause you to stop, take that sock off, and then continue on your way to the potty chair, which you have left upstairs, and upstairs is an awfuil long ways away when you are carrying a naked, pooping, and now upset toddler at arm's length.

That's what I learned last night, as I was helping to clean up the kitchen after tacos and smoothies made in the new blender using the high-end "Whole Foods" fruit we had, both of which we had because Sweetie got them for St. Nick's Day.

I'm not sure why "St. Nick's Day" exists, or even if it does exist outside of my family. I always wondered if it existed outside of my family when I was a kid, too, when we would, in the beginning of December, get candy in our stockings. Never presents or anything, just candy, which always included one of those giant, straight-up-and-down candy canes, the kind that would splinter when you bit them, so that if you sat on the brown couch eating them and watching channel 18 -- channel 18 was the only channel worth watching most of the time back then, because it was the only non-network channel, so it showed reruns of shows and cartoons in the afternoon, as opposed to showing "Phil Donahue," a show that by my memories was on at least 17 hours a day on all three networks in the late 70s and early 80s-- if you sat on the brown couch eating your candy cane and watching Channel 18, you would have parts splinter off and fall on your chest and be covered with sweater-fuzz, making them inedible. You would also get little tiny peppermint shards sprinkled down your chest and stomach, giving you a minty smell and a crackly feel the rest of the day.

No other kids ever seemed to get stuff for St. Nick's Day, which was why I thought maybe it only existed in our family, but, then again, I was the kind of kid who never really knew what was going on, either, so maybe everyone was getting St. Nick's presents, and I just didn't know it because I spent most of my time in fourth grade reading the "Emil" books and playing one-on-one football on recesses with Kevin Donnerbauer, the kid with only one thumb, and what time I didn't spend doing that I spent drawing "vipers" from Battlestar Galactica and getting beat up by Dean Larsen. None of which really lead one to conversations about whether or not the other kid celebrates "St. Nick's Day."

When I married Sweetie, I learned that she, too, celebrated St. Nick's Day, and that she celebrated it through presents, which seems odd, since Sweetie is always telling me how poor she was growing up, stories about poverty that make me feel even more guilty than I do most of the time about my relatively-privileged background. I, as a kid, generally got presents like the Millenium Falcon with Actual Cargo Bays for hiding Han Solo, or my "official" Dallas Cowboys helmet, or the Lego set that let me build an actual Lunar Landing Module (which I still remember was called the "LEM," even though I don't remember why it was called the "LEM") or any of the the 1000 other toys and junk my parents got us for Christmas, and that still wasn't enough, as most years there were plenty of junky things we didn't get. Realizing that, that I was so spoiled and privileged and didn't appreciate it, serves the valuable purpose today of making me feel guilty, guilt that I channel into areas that society desperately needs, like "working hard" and "giving to charity" and "telling my own kids how lucky they are that they have so much stuff, compared to how little stuff I had," which is only true comparatively speaking, because I had a lot of stuff, but my kids have more stuff, and they, too, do not think they have enough. Yes, The Boy has a great big TV in his room and a DVD player and a Playstation 3, but he still pines away for an Internet connection that would let him play Playstation online against other players, even though the other player he would mostly play against is his friend, who lives next door, and who would probably come over to play anyway, bringing his own TV and Playstation 3, so that they could harness the awesome power of the Internet to play a game against each other sitting two feet apart.

So the guilt I carry around lets me lay some guilt on The Boy and his sisters for having so much stuff, something that I do to relieve my own guilt and also to make sure that they have guilt when they grow up, so that they will work hard and give to charity and be good people and guilt-trip their own kids, and the Circle of Guilt will continue.

I don't guilt-trip the Babies! yet, because they're too little to feel guilty about anything, and also because they don't really want anything. We have not yet bought them that many toys -- all of their toys except the slide and their car fit into a laundry basket -- but we have bought them toys, and they generally ignore those toys and play with anything else.

Mr Bunches, for example, carries around a small red practice golf ball that Middle gave him. It's made of foam rubber and he has it with him at all times. I've never known anyone to have a "Security Golf Ball" but he does, and he gets upset if he can't find it. He got so upset the last time it was lost (we found it behind the Only Surviving Plant in the house) that Sweetie took precautions and found a second one, a Spare Emergency Golf Ball that is kept carefully hidden in the Babies!'s room. We all also make sure, at all times, that we are aware of the Red Ball: "Where's his red ball?" we ask each other, when moving Mr Bunches from one room or level of the house to the next.

He can't be fooled, either -- give him a different color practice golf ball and he'll throw it aside. Give him a different kind of red ball and he'll squeeze it to test it out, and if it doesn't give a little like The Red Ball, he'll toss that aside, too.

Losing his Red Ball is one of the few things that upsets Mr Bunches. He's pretty easygoing. The only other things I've seen upset him are when someone leaves the room he's in, and being whisked away to poop on the potty chair rather than on the living room floor, where he thought it was okay to poop because, after all, he was naked.

Mr Bunches was only naked because I felt sorry for him and also because I needed both hands free to clean up the smoothie mess that I'd created making smoothies on the blender I'd given Sweetie for St. Nick's Day, a blender that was big and expensive and more big and expensive than a St. Nick's Day present should be, but I tend to give Sweetie big and expensive presents because, like I said, I feel guilty about my privileged background and Sweetie manages to dredge up more guilt by telling me stories about her own unprivileged background.

I might tell a story, for example, of how I had all these Star Wars action figures and I used to set them up in elaborate scenarios in my room in which the dresser with its four shelves was the Death Star, because the books on the bottom shelf could be the trash compactor, and then I might say that I wished I'd kept those Star Wars figures because maybe they'd be worth money, and then Sweetie will say something like this, a story she actually told us:

"I didn't have action figures or dolls when I was a little girl. We couldn't afford them. I had marbles, though, that my grandma gave me. I used to pretend the marbles were people and play with them and make them go shopping."

Imagine hearing that on the heels of your story about having an actual Boba Fett that shot missiles. Then imagine yourself standing in the department store thinking "Should I get her that blender she asked for even though it's very expensive?" and as you think that, you remember that Sweetie, as a kid, had to have her marbles have adventures, things she couldn't even dress up or fix the hair of or whatever it is that girls do with their dolls and toys.

And then imagine standing in that department store, pushing your Babies! in their stroller, and feeling terribly guilty about having been so privileged, and deciding that yes, you will buy her the blender, and you'll also get her some other stuff because she deserves it, but then you get distracted and think How would a marble be a person? And did they have names? Were they, like "Judy The Marble?" Did she make them walk, or just roll them to the Marble Shopping Mall? And then before you can get the blender or answer those questions, Mr F leans over and starts trying to knock over the pile of Christmas dinner plates you're stuck in front of.

Mr F got to try to knock over a lot of things last week, as we finished up the shopping for Sweetie's St. Nick's Day present. Her entire present was that blender that she asked for, and a bunch of high-quality fruit from Whole Foods, and a Whole Foods $10 gift card (which I threw in to top it off, but which is useless because $10 at Whole Foods will get you one grape) and a book of smoothie recipes that had lots of recipes for smoothies made without yogurt, because Sweetie likes smoothies but hates yogurt. Or I should say, Sweetie wants to like smoothies, something she tells us all the time:

"I want to like smoothies," she'll say, "But I just don't like that yogurt."

When I ask why it's so important that she like smoothies, she answers: "Because they're cool."

Finding the blender was the easy part -- the department store had blenders, lots of them, some of them as high-priced as $159. I did not get guilt-tripped into buying that. Marble People or not, I don't buy $159 kitchen appliances. I settled on a tough-looking red blender that had an "Ice Crusher" feature. That sounded good (if not very romantic or Christmas-y) to me. Getting the fruit was also easy. It was the book that was tough, because I had Mr Bunches and Mr F with me in their stroller, and I had to go to three different bookstores to find just the right book of smoothie recipes, which meant three different nights of pushing the Babies! through bookstores, bookstores with shelves that were very close together and packed with books that were ripe for the plucking, so that as we walked down the aisles Mr F and Mr Bunches would reach out and grab books and toss them on the floor, and I would quickly scoop the books up and put them back more or less in the region they came from, hopefully also getting all of the "Teddy Graham" crumbs and smudges off of them. So if you are shopping for a book at any of those stores, the odds are that the book you want is about five feet further down the aisle, and you'll want to wipe it off a little before buying it.

I also could not stop the stroller, because they'd get really antsy then, and start arching their backs or taking off their socks and shoes and throwing them, and if there's anything that gets you judged to be a bad parent, it's having barefoot kids out in a store in December in Wisconsin. Plus, people don't think it's so cute the third time a shoe gets flung at them.

Most of the shopping, then, was done with me handing them "Teddy Grahams" and trying to calm them down and distract them by talking to them and singing Mr F's favorite song ("All I Want Is You" from the "Juno" Soundtrack) quietly as we walked through the aisles, and when that didn't work, I'd try to quickly scan the books as we walked by. When I'd see a book I thought would be good, I'd scoop it up and keep pushing the stroller, checking out the book with one hand and pushing the stroller with the other hand, eventually looping back to drop the book off more or less where I'd gotten it (I could tell by the trail of "Teddy Grahams.")

I had to do that because in public, I'll do anything to keep the Babies! happy, and also because I'm a pushover. I think I'm a tough dad, but I'm not, and I just give in to the Babies! demands no matter what the cost to me personally is. I will let them, for example, out of the cart while we're at the drugstore picking up cold medicine, even though I know that it will be physically impossible for me to hold both of their hands and get out my wallet to pay. I let them out of the cart and hold their hands and then, when it comes time to pull out my wallet, I let go of Mr Bunches' hand for just one second I hope and pull out the $20 Sweetie gave me, but it's no use: Mr Bunches has taken off towards the back of the store, laughing, and I have to scoop up Mr F and tell the lady behind the counter "put the change in the bag" and then I carry Mr F with me while I chase Mr Bunches around the rack of cold medicines in the back of the store, twice, before grabbing him and going up front carrying both boys to grab the bag, which hopefully has my change in it, and head outside.

Even then, I'm such a pushover that I feel bad for Mr F, who didn't get to run around the pharmacy, and I wonder if I should give him a chance, too. But Mr F gets his own special treatment, like when I keep playing The Tackle Game with him even though I'm afraid that he's given me a concussion.

The Tackle Game is Mr F's favorite. He invented it, and as you'd expect of a game invented by a two-year-old, it's pretty simple and also violent. In The Tackle Game, I sit cross-legged on the floor, and Mr F goes into the other room and then comes running at me while I say "No no no no no" in a scared voice (note: I'm not acting) and he then plows into me and we fall over backwards and I tell him he's very strong and how'd he get so strong? Then we do it all again, for about an hour. And I keep playing The Tackle Game under the most adverse conditions, like when Mr F the other night caught me just behind the temple with his forehead, causing him to momentarily cry until I calmed him down by tossing him in the air a few times. He was fine. I, though, was seeing stars and had a splitting headache, one that instantly set in and spread down to my jaw and my neck, and one that I still kind of have, two days later. But I kept playing The Tackle Game, and didn't let on to Mr F that I thought maybe I had a concussion.

That pushoveriness is how Mr F and Mr Bunches ended up running around buck naked on St. Nick's Eve, or the night of St. Nick's Day, or whatever. We'd eaten dinner, which was tacos and chips and non-yogurt-containing smoothies that I'd made using Sweetie's new St. Nick's blender, and I was helping clean up before taking the Babies! upstairs for their bath, and Mr F started getting into the wedding cabinet, which is the only thing in our house anymore that both contains glass and is in arm's reach. It's a curio cabinet with glass doors that's filled with wedding mementos and champagne glasses and pictures from our wedding and things like that, and we'd move it, but it's really heavy and it wouldn't be right to put it in the garage, anyway, so we guard the wedding cabinet using the high-tech method of taking the piano bench and the round table and laying them down in front of it, a giant barricade that completely fails to slow down Mr F, who likes to open and close doors, hard, to hear the bang! they make. Mr F frequently gets into the wedding cabinet doors, which make a satisfying glassy sound. He hasn't yet noticed that every single thing inside that cabinet is breakable, but it's only a matter of time.

While I was cleaning up last night, Mr F got into the wedding cabinet, and I got him out and tried to distract him from that by dropping him on the couch. That's "The Treatment," a game he and Mr Bunches like. In "The Treatment," I hold them and swing them back and forth and say "1... 2... Treatment!" and then drop them on the couch.

And, yes, "The Treatment" is a lot like "Cloverfield," but there are subtle differences that experts will note. Differences like: In "Cloverfield," I'm a monster, who walks around roaring Cloverfield! and then picking them up and dropping them on the couch, while in The Treatment, I am just Daddy, or sometimes Dr Slider, and I do not roar, but I do count. Cloverfield The Monster would never count. He's a monster.

"The Treatment" did not work on Mr F, who headed back to the wedding cabinet, so I took the next most logical step, which was to strip him down to his diaper. You would have to live in our house for a while to understand why that was the next most logical step, but it was. And it worked: soon, Mr F was down to his diaper and we were hollering, as he ran by, "Woo-hoo!" which is what we do when nearly-naked two-year-olds run around our house. (We even call it "Woo-hooing." "Do you want to woo-hoo?" we'll ask the Babies!, who will answer with "guck.")

Then, Mr Bunches wanted in on the Woo-Hooing, so he came over to me and I stripped him down to his diaper, too, but that wasn't enough: he wanted the diaper off.

So I put my foot down. As he pulled at his diaper and looked up at me and made pleading noises that were kind of like words but not really, I said: "No. You've got to leave the diaper on."

He pulled at it more and pulled at my leg.

"No," I said, firmly. "The diaper stays on."

He whined a little, looked sad, and pulled at his diaper, forlornly. So I caved in and said "Fine," and stripped the diaper off, which Sweetie might have objected to but it was my day to be in charge, so she didn't say anything other than that I sure am a pushover, and I then stripped off Mr F's diaper, too, letting them run around naked while we continued cleaning. I figured, they'll get some naked woo-hooing in before their bath, and I can get this cleaned up so that we can just relax," and I went back to cleaning the blender, but within about two minutes, I heard Sweetie yelling that Mr Bunches was pooping, and I rushed out there to see Mr Bunches by the Only Surviving Plant, with Sweetie holding a magazine under his butt.

I picked up Mr Bunches, who looked surprised, and held him at arm's length as we went through the kitchen, where he dropped part of the load and I stepped in it, forcing me to stop and hold Mr Bunches in one arm while I took off the now-needed-to-be-burned sock, at which point Mr Bunches got terribly upset and started crying, so I got the sock off, and got him upstairs into his room and sitting on the potty chair.

By then, Mr Bunches was thoroughly upset and was bawling, and I didn't want him to form some kind of permanent negative pooping attitude -- what if he ended up always being constipated because he was worried that if he pooped he'd get scooped up and whisked around? What if he went crazy because he was so scared of pooping? How would that affect my plans to have him and Mr F star in their own show on Disney so that I can retire? -- so to fix that, I told him it was okay, and then when that didn't work, I cheered.

"Yay!" I said, and started clapping. He looked surprised, but stopped crying and looked at me. "Yay!" I said again, and cheered some more. "What a good boy! Yay! Hooray! Good job!" and I kept clapping while he sniffled and then cheered up and then he gave me a hug.

We cleaned him up and then, still naked, I took him back downstairs to clean up the mess. I forewarned Sweetie and Middle to cheer for him, too, so Mr Bunches walked, naked, into the kitchen, to a standing ovation of Mommy and his sister clapping and cheering, while Mr F looked a little jealous, like he was wondering if he should poop, too.

With a lot of bleach, we got the floor clean, and we got the Babies! up to their bath and got them dressed, and spent the rest of St. Nick's Night playing The Tackle Game and watching their new movies they'd gotten for St. Nick's Day, and I had learned a valuable lesson, which was this:

Next time, put more ice cream into the smoothie.


Rachel's not sure where she came from or what she's supposed to do, unless she really is trying to take over the world with a little help from her Octopus, a Valkyrie, and her lover Brigitte. Read Lesbian Zombies Are Taking Over The World!

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