Monday, December 31, 2007
Based on the evidence I've seen, meaning the books, the surveys, and my own exposure to families, I don't think I'm really cut out for kids. I do not dream of picket fences or soccer games, packing lunches or playdates. When people reference these things I often fail to show the proper level of enthusiasm. When people used to ask me if I wanted kids, I would think of my friend's children, all of whom were wonderful people, but none of whom I really wanted to take home with me, and I would say no, not really.
I didn't really think I was cut out for marriage either. I spent several years trying to convince your mother that we should live in a commune, grow herbs, and rechristen ourselves with the names of wildflowers. Bluebonnet, I would say, why do we have to do what everyone else does? Why can't we just raise oregano and free ourselves from the little boxes that 'the man' is always trying to force us into? And then your mother would tell me not to call her Bluebonnet and the discussion would end.
The point is, I have a horrible fear of waking up one day and feeling like my life came from page 32 of some catalog. Oh, you got the one with the two kids and the Honda? My brother and my neighbor have that one. How's it working out? It's like driving through a suburban development where every fourth house is the same. I mean, your name's on the title, but if it's just like everyone else's, how can it really be yours? So when I think of marriage and kids in the abstract, that's what I think of, a house like 16 others on the block, and little terrors who try to pull it down when you put them to bed.
But I didn't marry an abstract concept, and to the best of my knowledge there's nothing theoretical about either of you. I married your mom, not because I was suddenly into the idea of doing what everyone else had done, but because I was madly, deeply, and ridiculously in love with her. And all my fears that simply going through with a ceremony would somehow make us like all those who had been through it before, were unfounded. I'm as stupid and she's as beautiful as we were the day we met.
So no, I don't want kids because I'm suddenly fired up about little socks and pink outfits, and when you ask me about those things I'm as likely to groan as I ever was. But when it comes to you two, the feet that kick my hand, the ears that have already suffered through my songs, the faces in soupy black and white, there's nothing I'm looking forward to more than shaking your hands and asking about the trip. After that I can't guarantee that I'll do a damn thing right, or that I won't occasionally panic about turning into everyone else and ask you to move to my herb farm, but that won't be because I don't care. It will be because I want you to be more mine, not less. Sometimes when you really want something to feel like it belongs to you, your biggest fear is that it will get mixed up with everyone else's.
Novel - 9 days until update
Dunking - I have several more pounds to move vertically
French - Bon nuit
Friday, December 28, 2007
We got a big check that's supposed to go towards getting you guys some furniture, but I'm thinking about hijacking that for an Xbox. If that sounds like it's for me, you're confused. I'm just more concerned about helping develop your hand eye coordination than giving you a place to sleep. Does that make me a bad parent? Well, yes, I guess when you see it written down it does kind of point that way.
I blame your mom. Walking around with the two of you hanging off the front of her, it's an invitation to talk about the babies. I love you two, but it's too much for me right now. I need a week or two without answering questions about your diapers or college funds. I need a weekend where someone doesn't talk to me about sleep deprivation. I need a day without pink.
Maybe you'll be inventors and you'll come up with some sort of invisible baby belt that expectant parents wear so no one sees what's coming. You tell them you're pregnant, you have a chat about it, and then everyone forgets for nine moths, until presto, out you come. Maybe I'm in the minority. Maybe there's a legion of folks out there who can't wait to talk about poop and preschool, the sooner the better. But I doubt it. I kind of think that if you could put together an invention like that, one that lets you simultaneously be pregnant and have a conversation about something else, well, my people would rise up and clear them off the shelves. I kind of think that if you do that, you can put yourselves through college. And if nothing else, that's one less question I'd have to answer.
I wonder if there's a culture that doesn't have a word for pink. If so we might have to consider relocation.
Novel - Update this week
Dunking - New year, new program
French - Your aunt speaks German, we're seeing if she'll work for 45 cents an hour
Sunday, December 23, 2007
Anyway, I was talking to some parents the other day, something I've decided I should probably stop doing, and they were filling me in on the cost of childcare. Apparently it costs around 15 bucks an hour to get someone to look after one of you, more for two. That means it would cost your mom and I 30 bucks minimum to leave the house for two hours. Assuming that we could somehow walk out of our front door and into a theater, by the time you added tickets and so forth, it would cost more than 50 dollars just to see a movie. I wouldn't pay 50 dollars to see a movie if I was starring in it and Angelina Jolie was playing my sexually precocious maid.
When my good friends had kids they always seemed to disappear. The rest of us would get together and wonder about them, remember them, pour beer on the sidewalk in memory of them. They seemed like prisoners. You can't come out for one drink? we'd say. You can't get away for one party? If they'd have said, 'look I like you, but you're not worth 15 dollars and hour' I would have totally understood. It's no wonder most of them haven't seen a movie since Titanic.
After I heard this I started looking at ads on craigslist for nannies and babysitters. One ad caught my eye as reasonable, 60 dollars a week for 12 hours a day. Sadly, it was someone offering to pay that amount, not someone offering to work for it. Presumably the people who would work for it had done the math and seen that it works out to 45 cents an hour. Now, that's in my price range.
The thing about me is that you never want me weighing things in dollar terms. I can spend twenty minutes in front of a value meal menu trying to figure out how to save a dime. If I have to start putting a price on GOING OUTSIDE then I'm going to go all hermit in no time. I will shun the light and grow a beard and stop communicating with the outside world just to avoid hearing about things that might cost 15 dollars to go do. If you knew how bad my beard looks you'd be as worried about this as I am.
I used to think that stage parents were some of the lowest forms of life, putting their kids in front of cameras in the hopes of vicariously living out their own failed dreams of stardom and vaguely hoping to get a cookbook deal out of the whole thing. Now I'm not so sure they're not just looking for a way to get some extra scratch so they can see a movie and grab a burger once in a while. Maybe this is why you see so many young kids dragged into R rated films. How many slasher films seem worth 50 bucks? Economically speaking, it makes way more sense to just scar your children for life. If you end up looking anything like me you probably won't have faces for the big screen, but given the numbers I'm afraid that we're going to have to seriously consider putting you to work somehow. Consider yourselves lucky we don't have any salt mines nearby.
Novel - Update after the break
Dunking - 29 inches. New program after the break
French - Saw and ad for a french nanny. Will let you know how she feels about 45 cents an hour.
Monday, December 17, 2007
1-10 These are good the good ones. Clowns and ponies aside, you essentially get a bunch of your friends together, add sugar, and everyone wrestles. Well, that's what we did at my parties anyway. Actually, I might have just had the one party when I was eight. And come to think of it, I don't remember any wrestling at other people's houses, so maybe I've got this all wrong. If your pin someone the first time we send you to a party and people look at you like it's inappropriate, tell them it's your father's fault.
11-18 Increasingly object oriented. You want things. RC planes, game systems, newer game systems, cell phones, cars, etc. and you evaluate the quality of the birthday based on what you get, which is mostly clothes and savings bonds (again, I can only speak from personal experience). Parties become increasingly complicated. You can't just move the furniture and scream "Cage Match!" anymore (the more I dwell on this the more atypical is seems). Who gets invited, who comes, what they wear, who says what to who, all this crap eventually begins to seep in and pretty soon no one wants to come to your lasertag and putt putt extravaganza because having fun is lame. You anxiously tick off the years the way inmates scratch at calendars so that you can be an adult and sell your stupid clothes and savings bonds and buy important things, like 40 inch speakers for your 15 year old car so that when you drive around people will hear your loose trunk lid vibrating and know that you are not to be trifled with.
19-21 If you do it right you've gone away to school and these are your first birthdays on your own. Likely there is heavy, though not legal, drinking, and you spend the first day of each new year on a bathroom floor. Everyone agrees this is way fun. You kind of stop getting gifts, or they tend to be the kinds of things your friends found in their car on the way over. "Um, we got you this package of gum and 73 cents. Happy birthday" These are as close as you will come to the wrestling parties of old.
22-28 Oddly, the more legal your drinking becomes, the less aggressively you do it. Eventually you decide that vomiting is not the only way to end an evening. The parties get progressively smaller until you end up just eating dinner with some friends and begging the waiter not to sing to you. If you've been in a relationship for any amount of time, your presents start being things that you were going to buy anyway, but timing dictates that they get wrapped and presented as gifts. This is how you end up with birthday vacuums and printers.
29-30 Suddenly the calendar starts reading like a death clock. You probably throw a big 30th, embrace the reaper as he saws the 2 off the two in your decade count and replaces it with a 3, and depending on how closely your life resembles what you predicted when you turned twenty, you may once again end up drinking yourself into a night on the bathroom floor. Gifts become cards, or if you have kids at this point you start getting stuff that's really for them by proxy (strollers, toddler carrying backpacks, etc). People think you're joking about that Xbox, and any suggestion that there should be wrestling results in weeks of unreturned calls and emails.
30+ So far it seems like the key to these is whether or not you're still getting better at something. If you're say, an NBA player (or a 5'11 individual trying to dunk a basketball) then these all probably feel like nails in your coffin. If you're doing a job you've been doing for say, 8 or nine years that you thought you'd be doing for one or two then the approach of this day starts to sound like a fire alarm and you may or may not drink heavily, and may or may not start talking about moving to Guatemala or going back to school to become like, a geologist or something. You may act out by actually having your birthday at putt putt. People come out of ironic detachment but end up enjoying themselves until they're in line for the go carts and the babysitter calls to say that the toddler is chasing the dog with a butcher knife. You end the night laying out radical plans like so many new outfits that you're going to wear in the year ahead and whether you're planning on getting that promotion or digging that well in Uganda, you quietly say to yourself, "This year is going to be my year." Some year's you're right, some you're wrong. At some point you may stop saying this to yourself.
Only then do you get old.
Novel - CH14
Dunking - 29
French - Bon anniversaire
Thursday, December 13, 2007
My new favorite question is, "So, are you ready yet?" Wherever I go people seem to feel obligated to ask me that the way you'll discover grandparents feel obligated to ask eight year olds, "How's school?" I'm not really sure how they expect me to answer, but lately I say, "well, it's kind of like being on Death Row. Are you ever really ready?" That usually prevents any follow up questions, but it doesn't mean it's not true. In either case it's something you know is going to happen, you know when it's going to happen, and you know that nothing is going to be the same when it does. One day you're just one thing, and then another day, you're not. Of course, inmates can get a call from the governor. I'm kind of on my own.
I know about the books and the classes and the everything else, but I haven't seen anything titled Sleep Deprivation: It's Not That Bad, or Poop Is Awesome: You've Just Been Smelling It Wrong, so I'm skeptical about just how prepared they can make you. I think the hard parts are probably just hard. Obviously people have been pulling this off for quite some time, and in so far as I'm a member of my species, yes, I'm totally ready. But being bipedal and largely hairless looks like it might make up the majority of my preparation, so you should know what you;re getting into. Looking at it what way I can tell the next person who asks me that I was, in fact, born ready.
Actually, I was thinking maybe we could all strike some sort of deal to make this whole readiness question moot. Personally, I think things are awesome the way they are. We see you once a week, we take you everywhere, yet you sleep when we sleep, eat when we eat, and I haven't had to figure out where Nickelodeon and the Disney channel are. It's like you're away at a top notch boarding school, only the tuition is free and no one calls us to complain when you won't stop kicking each other. I think this might be our golden era as a family. Let's not just rush through it. I know you had your hearts set on this spring, but what if you take a year, possibly two, relax, get some perspective, and then maybe think about coming out. Backpacking around Europe is played, the womb is the next place to spend time finding yourself.
Of course we both know you're going to ignore my advice, and I'm sure that will just be the first of many, many times. So rest assured that I may not know how to hold a bottle, or change a diaper, or have any idea who the hell Miley is, but between you and me, I'm confident that when someone finally puts you in my arms I will be ready.
Just not a minute before.
Novel - Ch14
Dunking - 29
French - Je ne suis pas prepare.
Sunday, December 2, 2007
At first your mom was sick all the time, which wasn't particularly romantic. Then came the sonograms. Once I looked through that little bulge and saw the two of you wrestling on the other side, it became impossible to forget you were in there. You may have noticed how often I grab and shake you, address questions to you when it feels like your mother isn't listening, or read your nascent minds and relay your thoughts to your mother, as in, "Ripley and Nixon really want you to get me some ice cream," or "Ripley and Nixon said they're never coming out if you don't stop watching The Young and The Restless". The point it, you're always there, and the degree to which you're always there becomes more evident everyday. Your mom strikes a Hitchcock pose (hopelessly before your time) so often in order to show you off that I'm thinking of getting her the theme music.
I've read where some men are more sexually aroused by their wives the more pregnant they get. All I can say is that there's something wrong with them or me, and usually in these instances it's safe to point the finger at me. I'm completely aware that you aren't harmed, can't feel, and won't remember any sexual activity, but I'm aware of all the same things when it comes to our cats, and I still have to throw them out of the room. It's not that I find your mother unattractive. To the contrary, she's more beautiful than I can remember her. It's just that it's the kind of beautiful that makes me want to squeeze her into a tiny ball and put her in my pocket. It's the kind of beautiful that feels like hugging a panda bear. Or three (counting you two) panda bears. Maybe these other men are also sexually attracted to panda bears and I'm just not in the loop.
Now that we're pregnant I find that we talk about sex the way people having sex talk about getting pregnant. Do you want to try that? Would this work? When's a good time for you? What does the book say? What does Oprah say? They're the kind of dialogs that could turn Penthouse Forum readers into monks. Seduction rarely begins with the words, "Well, I Googled this and..."
But it's only for a few more months right? I mean, those guys in the space station, they're up there for like, years. Surely, between insomnia, diaper changing, and feeding there will be ample time for us to return to the wild and crazy people capable of making you in the first place. I think this little piece of conversation illustrates how that's going to go.
Me: How long do you breastfeed?
Your mom: Months. Years.
Me: And people have sex while they're breastfeeding?
Your mom: Yes.
I think sooner rather than later is our only hope. I'm going to go see if I can find one of those Jewish wedding sheets that just have a small opening in them. Out of sight, out of mind, right? Maybe that's originally Hebrew. I'll Google it.
Novel - Ch13
Dunking - 28.5
French - Bebe, je t'aime.
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
Then two other people sitting nearby saw her walk past and turned to one another and said something along the lines of, 'Can you believe that? It's awful. Pathetic. There ought to be a law.' My next thoughts were pure reflex. 'Who are these two idiots? This is a free country, she can drink what she damn well wants. If it weren't for people like her, who would buy these specialized vans? You want a bunch of union guys to lose their jobs?'
The important thing to note here is not that I can see both sides of an issue, it's that when anyone is certain about anything I become certain about exactly the opposite thing, even if it means contradicting what I said five seconds before. It's called being a contrarian. It means you love a band or a song until everyone else does and then you think it's lame. It means you tell all your friends about a restaurant, and then when they start going you stop. It means you want everyone to agree with you right up until the moment they do, at which point they become idiots. Along with my cynicism and cheapness, it's one of the traits I hope you guys don't inherit from me. Of course that pretty much limits my potential contribution to a propensity for wearing the same clothes for weeks at a time, but I suppose I have to give you something.
I've been sending out the book chapters as I finish them to a small group of individuals, mostly to make myself feel obligated when deadlines roll around. Today one of my readers called to essentially say that reading them had been painful enough to injure her brain. She had clear and well thought out ideas about what had gone so wrong, which I will boil down for you by saying that she didn't care for the characters, story, structure, or execution. The font however, was presumably aces.
Not that I'm new to this. Remember the short story award that made me cry and earned me a free sandwich? Well, after I'd gotten the good news I continued to receive rejection notices from other places I had submitted it to for months. Most of the time a rejection slip is just a form letter, but a couple places took it upon themselves to provide feedback. One just wrote 'nonsense' on the slip and another told me in great detail why it was not just bad, but offensive. You would think, award in hand, I could just write these people off as cranks, but it doesn't work that way. You won't have to become writers (let me start pushing you towards law school right now) to know what this feels like. At some point you'll go to a party, meet ten people, hear that nine of them loved you and one thought you were an asshole, and all you'll be able to think about is that one. The words 'You Suck' have a way of sticking while 'great job' goes in one ear and out the other. Everyone will tell you that it's the other way around, but everyone will be wrong.
When this happens, you'll do exactly what I did, try to obtain overwhelming evidence in your favor. Long before I heard you two were on the way and got back to the book, the first few chapters had been circulated by my agent and met with positive feedback. Today, I suddenly wanted him to get all these people on the phone. Why did they like it? Were they sure? What did they like? Did they like me? Would they mind writing that down and swearing to it on a stack of bibles? Could I just stop by to have them pat me on the head and tell me I'm good?
But in the end, there aren't enough people in the world to convince you you're good if you don't believe it yourself, and no amount of positive feedback will restore your faith in your work if you don't have it yourself. When someone knocks you down you don't get up because a survey says that enough people think it's worthwhile. You get up because eventually we all get tired of being down.
Being a writer is the only job you just announce you have. You can't just decide you're an airline pilot or a nuclear physicist. There are rules, tests, qualifications. The only qualification for my job is access to pencils. This means that there's a lot of us who should be doing anything else. I've had jobs reading awful scripts, and if I could have gotten the authors on the phone and begged them to stop I would have. When you give someone a bad review, you don't do it to injure them, you do it to help, to save them from themselves. You're telling them it's bad. You're trying to keep them from making it worse.
But when people get bad reviews, they all tend to discover their inner contrarian. Tell a friend you hate their spouse, you practically guarantee they'll see their fiftieth anniversary. Tell them they can't sing, they'll do it louder. History is littered with people who stormed out of rooms saying 'I'll show you'. Most of them never do. I realize that putting Matt Lauer and a talking beaver in a manuscript is probably not something anyone would describe as 'wise', but I'm honestly comfortable with what I've written and what's to come. If I wasn't I wouldn't dare to put it in front of anyone. Whether that's because it's good or I'm an obstinate jerk only time will tell. What I think we can be assured of is that long after you two get here I will still be receiving rejection letters, some of which will inevitably include the word 'nonsense'.
Novel - Nonsense
Dunking - Wk7
French - nunucheries
Monday, November 26, 2007
We've recently been contemplating how or if we can bring a highly fragile duo like yourselves into this joint. In addition to lacking soft surfaces, it's not terribly large, and the only candidate for a nursery is downstairs while we're up. At first I thought that sounded perfect. Who wants to sleep in a room near a crying baby? Apparently when it's your baby you're supposed to do more than just put an additional pillow over your head. Also, your mother and I routinely ask one another to throw things down or catch things that are being thrown up to avoid having to traverse the stairs, but somehow 'Toss me the baby' sounds like it's going to get a different reaction than 'Toss me my keys.' We've entertained everything from moving to buying a bubble wrap factory, but none of these seem like good solutions. I mean, people in NY get by raising families in glorified closets, so surely we can make a two bedroom, one office, concussion generator work. Kid friendly it's not, but it's nice to me and I was here first.
Your mom has also begun researching and purchasing the vast quantity of crap that it apparently takes to help you sustain life. You haven't been born yet, so you don't know, but pretty much all baby furniture looks horrific. You have two style choices: things that a fairy tale threw up or things that your grandmother's house threw up. When I heard we were getting a glider I was confused but excited. Perhaps this was how we planned to deal with tossing you up and down the stairs? But it's not that kind of glider. It's an incredibly ugly chair that appears to function by sucking up the soul of those who sit in it. Then there's strollers. Twin strollers. For newborns. And then the ones for not newborns. And the ones for toddlers. And car seats. A neighbor wanted to give us her car seat, an 11 month old car seat that's verifiably never been in an accident of any sort, but your mom says it's not safe. She says you can't use a used car seat. Period. I asked if this meant that all car seats had a shelf life of about a year and that landfills should be filled with carseats the minute a baby gets out of them. She said yes.
All of this points to a bigger issue that makes me want to put my head into any one of the numerous sharp corners avaliable to me: baby advice. To be clear, some advice is welcome. Don't reuse diapers, avoid flammable clothing, your baby cannot fly, all seem like nuggets that will be good for all of us. But the fact is there is no shortage of 'experts' willing to prey on the desire of every parent to raise a happy, healthy offspring, and no shortage of products they're willing to sell that will get the job done. Food, clothing, and shelter don't cut it these days. Our job is now to stimulate you with colors, toys, and sounds. To foster the development of your language skills with endless chatter, your dexterity with clay and playdoh, your motor skills with physical activity, your brains with word games, your sense of self with positive reinforcement. We should shower you with praise but never criticize or physically punish you lest we destroy your self esteem or perpetuate a cycle of violence. You'd think that before all these advice books came along we raised kids like veal.
The truth is that almost all of this advice comes from useless studies with abhorrent methodology and a knack for confusing correlation with causation. I'll tell you more about it later since it's the study of twins like yourselves that have gone a long way toward debunking them, but the important point is this. Your mother and I will do everything we can to provide a stable, warm, nutritious, glider filled environment. We will read to you, we will play with you, we will encourage you to play with others. We will do this because we plan to like you and like spending time with you, not because we think it is the key to getting you into a good college or preventing you from being serial killers. I used to tell people that if it were an option I would gladly have created you in a test tube, selecting hair and eye color, maximizing IQ and height, minimizing any resemblance to myself. They told me I was a monster. But once you're here I'm supposed to buy you Baby Motzart cds, or take you to Gym Crawlers class in order to accomplish exactly the same things (well, technically there is no class for avoiding a resemblance to me). And if I don't, well, I'm back to being a monster. The irony is that no one disagrees that me putting you together is a lab would make a difference, while no one has shown that what I buy you once you're here makes any.
That said, you will be getting new car seats. Science is one thing. Sleeping on the couch is another.
Novel - If I'm not finished with Ch12 by the end of this week I will just write "Scene Missing" on about 20 pages and hope that no one notices.
Dunking - The workouts don't seem to be paying off in inches, but they are killing me, which should count for something. But doesn't.
French - To stimulate your language development.
Wednesday, November 21, 2007
Other bad news, I'm hearing that you might be ugly. At least when you get here. Apparently twins come early and look sort of strange. You will probably grow out of it, though that's what people have been telling me my whole life and I'm still waiting.
On the upside, now that your girl parts have been confirmed you're ready to graduate to your real names. Honestly, I forget which one of you was Bear and which was Danger, but I've got a system for which goes with which this time. When I face your mom the one of you on the right is Ripley Finn. The one of you on the left is Nixon Jones. There you go. Two kids, four last names. You will undoubtedly meet people who will tell you that you were better off as Danger and Bear, but trust me, when you're in a class with five Addisons and ten Ashleys you'll thank us. Nixon, it took your mom a while to come around on your middle name, and she still reserves the right to freak out and change it, but I think it's going to stick. Now that we've got you identified we've started asking you to stop doing things to one another like real parents, i.e. Ripley stop sitting on your sister's head, Nixon stop punching your sister in the liver. This isn't so you can get used to following directions, it's so we can get used to you ignoring us.
Have run into a sticky chapter, so I continue to fall behind you two on that score. It's really intimidating to sit here staring at a blank screen and realize that whether I get anything done or not, you're still growing, still kicking, still coming. I have a history of finish line surges, so I'm not licked yet.
And frankly, I'm pretty excited about having daughters named Finn and Jones. Please remind me of that when we're all on a plane for the holidays and you two won't stop crying and everyone wishes we would die.
Novel - Ch12
Dunking - 28.5
French - Joyeux Thanksgiving
Monday, November 19, 2007
Luckily the hunting came first. If it were second I might have actually killed something. Personally, I'm not really much of a killer. When I find a roach I generally build an elaborate maze leading from where the roach is to the nearest door and spend about an hour trying to help it find its way outside where it inevitably crawls back into my walls and lays millions of eggs. This kind of thinking doesn't really wash in Texas where there's certain things you're just supposed to do when you're a man. Hunting, fishing, and drinking beer are among the top three, and I'm not into any of them. I'll take your fruitiest cocktail over a cold one any day, I hate fish, and when I was a kid I shot at a bird with my BB gun and then tried to nurse it back to health when I actually hit it. It died and that was the end of my hunting career. Until this weekend when I upgraded to a 16 gauge shotgun.
The frightening thing is how good it feels to fire a gun. If I owned one I would be tempted to just sit around blowing holes in my walls and ceilings. The effort (moving your finger a fraction of an inch) and the outcome (KABLAM!) are so disproportionate it's a little like being a superhero. A superhero who kills things and blows shit up. Unfortunately, hunting is not nearly as exciting as shooting holes in walls. There's a lot of walking, standing, and dead animals involved, none of which are among my favorite things. In our case, the experienced hunters killed birds quickly and then took to flushing them out for the rest of us. When they would get a bird to fly past us we went off like an anti aircraft battery, guns blazing as a wall of sound and lead filled the air. And then whatever we were shooting at would continue on its way as if nothing had happened. The closest I came to actually killing a quail was when one hit my car. If I could have just condensed all of my wild shooting into the air into about a half hour and gone back to watching football, I'd not only be on board, I'd probably do it every weekend. As is stands I will continue to get my meat at the store and my drinks with umbrellas in them.
Which brings us to marijuana. When I was in high school I joined the Young Republicans and my brother got busted with pot. At the time it seemed like his actions were the dangerous and irresponsible ones. Who knew how bad the Republicans would turn out.
In high school the most important thing in your life is being cool. It influences what you wear, listen to, talk about, and do. I was never remotely successful at it. When you're as hopeless as I was, you sometimes go the other way, meaning that before all the various groups can disown you, you disown them, tell them you don't want to be in their stupid gang anyway, and you start cutting your own hair and buying Cure albums. Being anti-drug was less a philosophical decision for me than an avaliable niche. It was sort of like I showed up late on the day they hand out high school personas and ended up with Young Republican. I'm sure if they'd have known I was going to hate hunting and beer they would have kicked me out as well.
That said, the following is my experience with pot. In high school I smoked oregano with a bunch of other people and then spent an hour debating whether or not it was oregano. This put me off for many many years. Another time a good friend felt that it was absurd that I had achieved nominal adulthood without ever smoking and took it upon herself to get me high. This was almost as successful as the oregano and resulted in a lot of yelling about how I wasn't doing it right. Which brings us to this weekend.
This time the marijuana was baked into brownies according to a highly complicated and not well followed recipe. I ate a brownie. Then another. And another. And then one more. I felt nothing. Others were laughing, grinning, thinking deeply about the nature of the universe, but not me. Again, there was a lot of yelling about how I wasn't doing it right, how I wasn't 'open' to the experience. Say what you will about my umbrella drinks, it doesn't really matter whether or not you're open to them, after four or so you will be willing to show everyone how well you can do the robot whether they want to see or not. An hour after my last brownie, we declared the experiment a failure and I went to bed, still unclear why this was such a big deal for so many people.
Then I woke up. I have no idea what time it was. I had a series of thoughts, five of them to be exact, the third of which was that I was incredibly thirsty, and the last of which was something about being in a field. And then I had that same series of thoughts, in that same order. Over, and over, and over. If I tried to think about something else, dogs, toilets, being a Young Republican, I could hold it for a second or two and then, WHAM, I was thirsty, I was in field, etc, etc, etc. Each time the cycle repeated itself I got more and more freaked out until your mother woke up to use the bathroom and I tried to explain my predicament with panicked talk about fields, dry mouth, and fear that my brain was stuck on repeat. Tried, is the operative word. It really just came out as paranoid incoherent babbling and she rolled over and started ignoring me about the fifth time I said, 'there it goes again, see, I'm thirsty, see, now I'm in a field'. When I woke up the next day I was incredibly thirsty, not in a field, and not wild about anything that moved or produced light. That's it. What can I say. Not really the kind of experience that would make you an addict. Every time I see other people doing it, it looks like a ton of fun, and I'd love to have that experience. I just don't think I'm cut out for it. For me it's more eggplant than skydiving.
Which I guess brings us to the obligatory parent/unborn child drug talk. Here's the thing. If pot is the stupidest thing you ever try then I'll count myself lucky. I know it's not in my top ten stupidest things this year, let alone this lifetime. As a source of recreation it hasn't really worked out for me, but the idea that it's something we lock people up over while Budweiser sponsors the Superbowl strikes this Young Republican as ridiculous. As a father it's hard to see how I'd ever be okay with the idea that you might drink, have sex, or do drugs. But you will. Everyone I know has, and I don't think any of their parents were cheering them on. If the promises of every school sponsored film or 'just say no commercial' that I saw as a child had been fulfilled, the doctors and lawyers I know today would dead or knocking over 7-11s for their next fix. But life isn't that simple. It can't be reduced to a slogan. If being a parent or being a child were as easy as feeling one way or another about dead birds and dime bags then this whole thing would be a piece of cake. It also wouldn't be very interesting. I'll be glad to tell you about all the way I think I went wrong and the few times I think I got it right, but there are some things you'll simply have to decide on for yourself, even if it takes three decades to do it.
Novel - Ch12
Dunking - Wk5
French - Pomme de terre.
Tuesday, November 13, 2007
Now as soon as you become humans you're going to be fascinated by all the things you can do. Reading, speaking, running on your hind legs while waving your opposable thumbs in the air, it's all very exciting. And then one day you'll realize that there's someone, or more likely lots of people, who can not only do those things better than you, but they look and sound better while they're doing them. And that's when you'll discover the most critical tool in the human shed, self deception.
Show a bunch of positive words to a human, they'll explain how each of them seems to describe them. Negative words, they'll detail how none of them really apply. Show them where they've made an error, they'll show you where the problem was poorly designed, the test poorly graded, or the Do Not Enter sign too ambiguous. It sounds like a bad thing, but if each of us had to face the day with a true accounting of how smart, attractive, or capable we were in relation to the rest of humanity, no one would get out of bed. The ability to believe that, in spite of evidence to the contrary, there's something different, something special, about each one of us isn't what holds us back, it's what makes us go.
Self deception is tricky since its job is to tell you that you're doing the right thing no matter what you're actually doing. When you get in your car after nine margaritas self deception doesn't tell you that you're going to run over a light pole, it says that you're going to glide home on a little cloud. Once you run over a few light poles you realize you aren't always the most reliable judge of your own abilities and that maybe you should listen to the four identical spinning people who are demanding your keys. And of course the minute you give up the keys you'll convince yourself what a smart move that was and how you're really awesome for making it.
So how do you know when to listen to the little voice and when to tell it that it's ruining your driving record? How do you know when you're fooling yourself as opposed to the only one who really knows what's up your sleeve? I don't really have a good answer for that, but I do have a horribly uninteresting story that I hope explains why I keep getting behind the wheel (have I gotten enough mileage out of that metaphor for you?).
I was working construction in Los Angeles and had spent the entire day crawling around in a ceiling and arguing with my boss about how much I sucked at construction and crawling around in ceilings. After work I went to get a sandwich, still covered in dirt, ceiling guts, and an odor that made other people reconsider eating. My phone rang and, thinking it was my boss who'd come up with another reason I should be fired, I answered it by just yelling, What? And then this very polite person on the other end told me that a story I'd written and submitted so long ago I'd forgotten about it had won an award. And then I started... I'm trying to think of a manly word for crying... bleeding salt water from my eyes? To be clear, we're talking about an award no one has ever heard of in a magazine no one had ever heard of. To this day I doubt more than 200 people have a copy of it, no more than 20 have read it, and only 2 thought it was worth printing, and they're both related to me. But there I was, bleeding from my eyes. I thanked the person, hung up and tried to pay for my sandwich, but the cashier, mistaking my eye blood for tears told me that there was no charge and that, 'things would be okay'.
So what was the big deal? It barely paid anything, no one read it, and when I try to tell the story the reaction I usually get is something like, 'you skipped law school to write because you cried and got a free sandwich?' The problem is that there's really no way to explain the feeling. How do you explain what it feels like to connect your own dots? All I can say is that up until then I knew a lot of people who didn't know what they wanted from life, and I envied every one of them. When you get handed your life it's just this pile of clay. Everyone else seemed to be able to make anything they wanted out of theirs, and more importantly, to be happy with whatever they made. Having a dream, a desperate need to make the clay look like something in particular, felt like an affliction, and if I could have taken something for it I would have OD'd on it. But in that little moment I got to feel what it would be like to have your life follow directions, to turn the amorphous blob of years into something that makes you cry to look at it. That moment wasn't great because it made me rich or famous or even employable. It wasn't great because it made me anything. That moment was great because I made it.
So as for moving on, I'm afraid I'm hopeless. As humans we know we're weak. When something's hard we talk ourselves out of it. Invading armies used to burn bridges behind them so that turning back wouldn't be an option. I got a film degree which is kind of the same thing. Does this make me a good husband or father? No. If they administered tests for either position I'm sure I would fail. And I may well fail at being a writer too. If I weren't trying to be all three it probably wouldn't be an issue. But here we are.
You'll find out soon enough that most of what I say should rightfully be ignored and that leading by example is not my strong suit. But if I'm able to teach you anything, I would hope for it to be this: When you're young someone will ask what you want to be when you grow up and they'll tell you can be whatever you want. Sadly, if that were true we'd be a country of 250 million astronauts. But what they don't tell you is that that 'what you are' can't be expressed as a job description or a title someone slaps on a brass nameplate. The truth is, what you are is much bigger than that, and it really is in your hands. Accountants or opera singers, I don't give a damn. What I hope you grow up to be is the kind of people who never stop trying to bend and shape the life you get until it looks like the one you want. It will rarely cooperate, but the moments when it does, however brief, will be the ones you never forget. I've had two: one in a sandwich shop, and one at the end of an aisle with your mother. These moments don't pay, you can't live in them, they don't last, and if they could be bought there would be nothing else for sale. But until you have one, I'd argue you won't really know what it means to be alive.
Novel - Chapter 12
Dunking - wk5
French - C'est la vie.
Monday, November 12, 2007
If I haven't made it plain on other occasions, the broken leg is me. Here's how I addressed it in my wedding toast (the fact that it had to be addressed while she was still in her dress kind of says it all):
What I’ve chosen to do with my life isn’t easy and it certainly doesn’t pay well, and if at any time she’d ever asked me to stop, to give it up, I’d have done so in a heartbeat. It’s a testament to just how incredibly lucky I am that the only times she’s used the words stop or give up, they were directly preceded by the word never.
What can I say, it sounded better in person. Anyway, while you could certainly say that I've been lucky to find such a patient partner, you could also say I've been incredibly selfish to take endless advantage of that patience. But if you put it that way it would sound awkward in a toast.
For a lot of years your mom was doing what she wanted to and what I did made no difference. I guess we just thought that by the time it mattered I'd have gotten something going. Well, with your imminent arrival that time has come. If this were a slasher movie now would be the part where the ax murderer is bearing down and the cute girl just can't get the car to start. You two are the ax murderer. I'm the cute girl.
The short version is that your mom doesn't love her job. What I mean by that is that she gets depressed and yells before she goes to it. You know what sounds like a good job to your mom? Turns out it's taking care of twins. But since the only house my writing could provide would have to be made out of my actual pages our options seem limited. That's why I finally said what we'd both been thinking. That's it time for me to give up.
The truth is I feel guilty sitting here stringing together sentences that can't finance the computer they're typed on while your mom wades around in other people's barf and blood (that's how I picture it anyway). Whether the roles of men and women are the result of innate differences or playing with Barbies instead of Tonka trucks, it doesn't really matter. The fact that your mom has to work while I sit around chasing rainbows just feels wrong to both of us on some deep, politically incorrect, get fired from Harvard for mentioning it level. She's given me years to do my thing. It's her turn now. And yours. Someone has to make sure that you have every opportunity to do what you want to do, right? If someone has to do something they hate, it should be me.
That's what we agreed on. Sadly, it's not even a matter of just getting a job. I have to get trained to do something useful first. It would be some time before I could shoulder much of the burden, but just knowing that it was coming seemed to perk your mom up.
So, I sat down and I wrote all this up for you guys. It looked like I said all the right things. Growing up, facing reality. The end was something like 'dreams are what you have when you're asleep, a job is what you have when you're awake'. Incidentally, it's just that kind of hacky writing that's gotten me where I am, but that's not the point. The point is that I didn't send it. I don't know, I guess when I read it over it said what I thought it should say, what I'd already said to your mother, what a bigger, less selfish, more responsible, more fatherly person would say.
But I kind of thought it sounded like a bunch of Dr. Laura bullshit.
If you didn't have the attention span of bees and I didn't have to feed a cat through a tube I could tell you why. But, like your mother before you, you'll have to wait a day to hear me take it all back.
Novel - Ch12
Dunking - wk 5
French - unit 2 lesson 2
Thursday, November 8, 2007
As for you two, we visited the doctor who is sending us to a new doctor that will be better equipped to handle your twinly needs. We've been told that it's essentially inevitable that despite my warnings you guys are going to put your mom down with some extended bedrest and possibly a host of procedures designed keep you in that little bubble relentlessly punching each other (yes, we saw that). I tend to think that with her bedridden for weeks and me desperately trying to finish a novel in the same house, we're setting up a very Stephen King situation. I don't really have time to explain that to you, but imagine axes, sledgehammers, and pre-birth post traumatic stress disorder.
On the other hand, your mom is getting a little burned out on work. Maybe time off will make her fall in love with it again. Or make it impossible for her to go back. That's what really kills me about our collective situation. For all I know your mom would love to stay home tending your every need as much as I would love to avoid it. I just don't know how to make that happen. Various strikes and so forth have made the movie look impossible for the foreseeable future. Millions of books are written and never published, most of which probably aren't handicapped with a beaver character. And it's hard to see how dunking will improve my breadwinning skills unless there's a circus somewhere that needs me. The truth is, despite accumulating impressive amounts of school debt, I'm not qualified for many jobs that don't directly relate to the movement or checking of groceries. I said you guys worried me because I hadn't really done anything with my life. I think you really worry me because the reality of you will finally make it impossible to keep sitting on the beach imagining a large ship headed my way. On the upside, I really think I could kick ass in an express lane.
Novel - CH11
Dunking - wk4
French - Je suis faim.
Sunday, November 4, 2007
I don't really think that I can explain why I cried like a four year old over the death of an animal I'd known for less that the amount of time it takes my mother to program a VCR, but I think it was the sense that I had so totally failed. Failure itself I'm familiar with. I do it often, and like anything it gets easier with practice. It was the idea that someone else was counting on me not to screw up, or cut corners, or try and do better the next time, that I was unfamiliar with. Done right, failing yourself is inadvisable, but eventually tolerable. Failing someone that depends on you just to so they can keep breathing is a special kind of hell. I liked it better when the consequences of poor performance on my part were limited to feeling bummed out and eventually having someone send me a toaster.
I suppose this would be as good a time as any to tell you that all kittens end up in heaven and that Marvin is sitting among puffy clouds and Popes just waiting for us all. I don't happen to believe that, but after spending part of my day with a shovel in my hand I certainly understand the appeal. Personally, I think this is the good part, whether it lasts a day or a decade, a month or a millennium, and if you really appreciate how miraculous it is then you can't help but want to suck it dry. The only way I'm completely confident you can stick around is in the minds of those you happen to bump into along the way. Marvin showed that you don't have to do more than spend a couple weeks crapping on hands and asking to have your belly rubbed to secure a spot in someone's head for the long haul. And while I hope it's for more than my crapping and belly habits, if people manage to remember me half as fondly as I'll remember him I'd consider my time well spent.
I'm almost positive that there aren't any parenting books that say you should eulogize a dead cat to your unborn children, so please accept my apologies. I don't even pretend to know what I'm doing. It just seems important for some reason. I thought Marvin was going to teach me how to take care of you guys. Instead, he taught me never to take you for granted.
What a smart fucking cat.
Novel - Ch11
Dunking - wk4
French - Je suis desole.
Thursday, November 1, 2007
I'm also getting more comfortable with crap. Marvin, he's that kitten I'm bottle feeding, doesn't know how to crap on his own. I have to rub his butt with wet toilet paper in order to stimulate him. That often stimulates him into crapping all over my hand. If I'm lucky enough to put him down before he goes he tends to walk through his crap and drag it all over the place, meaning that one way or another I get to clean it up. Of course, I doubt that your mother is going to let me get away with just holding you under a running faucet and throwing you into a pile of towels the way I do Marvin, but we'll see. Maybe I can convince her it's a French thing.
I also find myself very interested in the color and consistency of Marvin's crap, something I hear parents talking about all the time. It seems that until you're able to start getting A's or applying to law school parents are still obligated to find something to brag about and early on feces is popular. I worry about it being too runny, or not runny enough, too brown, or not brown enough. It's like opening an oven to check on cookies only it comes out of a cat's butt and kind of makes you never want to eat again.
But every time I get used to one thing you two throw me another curve ball. It seems that in addition to your new due date you're now planning to put your mom down with bedrest for some extended period of time. Maybe you've forgotten who wears the pants in our family. It's not that I don't earn enough to bring home the bacon, it's just that once I've actually purchased the bacon I won't have enough to cover the mortgage, utilities, or another groceries we might want to eat. I can't stress enough the degree to which you are biting the hand that feeds you. Unless the thought of a bacon filled yet domicile free future appeals to you I suggest you sit quietly and keep your mom on her feet until someone shoves a speculum in there and politely asks you to come out.
Also, we were hoping the barfing would be ending soon, but somehow having two of you in there means there's ten times the hormones floating around so the sickness may never end. To be honest, your mom's gotten so used to it that she can pretty much be right in the middle of a story, run to throw up, and then continue \without missing a beat. My real beef is that it offends my cost conscious nature. I can't tell you how many times we've gone out to eat and by the time we drive home your mother has thrown it up. When she says we should go out for pizza I just want to give her ten dollars and say why don't you just put this in the toilet and we can skip the drive.
But the adjustment that's killing me is the lack of time. I remember watching the Olympics as a kid and wondering why the people who were losing the races didn't just run faster. Then I joined track and learned there are some things you just can't outrun. In my case it was anything speedier than an overweight junior high girl. This is my first week trying to do two chapters and I'm already behind. According to my schedule I need to not only successfully do it this week, but thirteen more times before you show up. And the truth is, even before you're here, you're here. You're here in doctor's appointments and showers and nursery decorating and cloth diaper research and stacks of books that I'm supposed to be reading but keep avoiding because they have pictures of babies not dressed as small animals on them. How can anyone with unborn children find themselves applying to a day care and still pretend that they're not yet a parent?
I'm the kind of person who spent his life asking teachers for extensions and postponements, and while I may be clinging desperately to the last bits of my youth, I'm too old to actually start taking deadlines seriously. I know it's crowded in there, but really, if you could just hit the snooze button for a few weeks it would really help me out. I had three decades to grow up and I didn't get it done. The least you could do is give me the full nine months.
Novel - Chapter 11
Dunking - wk3
French - Learning French nursery rhymes that have been guaranteed to make you fluent, or that was my understanding when they were given to me. Have added ants to my vocabulary.
Monday, October 29, 2007
So many people have been telling me what it will be like once you two show up, how much it will change not just my schedule, or my life, but my perspective. It's like being told that you're going to have a lobotomy and the people telling you it's going to be fine are the ones with stitch marks across their skull. I don't doubt them. The fact is, a lot of my friend's are different since they had kids, and to be honest, I liked them better before.
Now, human beings are notoriously awful estimators when it comes to what will and won't make them happy. This is the only reason anyone owns ferrets. Studies show that many things we wouldn't wish on our worst enemies (ferrets) turn out to be not so bad, and things that we pine away for tend not to be so great. The common mistake is assuming that we know ourselves. I certainly like to think I know myself, but that's largely because I can't possibly claim to know anything else.
What I'm really afraid of is that they're all right. That you're going to be amazing, the best thing to ever happen to me, and that I'll anxiously take up the job of being your father as opposed to being me. From where I'm sitting, that just doesn't sound right. I'm supposed to generate my own happiness by dunking basketballs and writing books, not get it by proxy from seeing you in matching outfits (and believe me, your mom is stocking up on matching outfits). It's the idea that all the things that are important to me will become secondary. I'll forget them or put them aside until one day you stop holding my hand and calling me daddy and start locking your room with a deadbolt and calling me Hitler and I realize that I'm old, bald, and I forgot to hitchhike through South America. If you don't think this really happens I invite you to visit a Harley dealership on a weekend. Lots of bald guys named Hitler looking for bikes.
Someday you'll hear a song that you love, and you'll have no idea what it is or who it's by. You'll try to explain it, you'll use non-existent words like da, dee, and dum and no matter how you put them together the people you tell will have no idea what you're talking about. It's one of the few downsides to having ears (along with John Tesh). But for all they can do, there's some things that words can't handle. You can't explain a guitar solo, people have to hear for themselves. I've heard every variation on how I'll feel when you two escape that weird little snow globe where you're floating around, but until it happens it all just sounds like a lot of da's, dee's, and dum's. I'm sure when you show up I'll finally hear what everyone has been talking about. I probably won't even miss my old tunes.
And that's exactly what I'm afraid of.
Novel - Into double digits
Dunking - Wk3
French - Unit 2
Friday, October 26, 2007
Unfortunately for me, it looks like you're a pair of gunners yourselves. Turns out, the fact that there's two of you means that you're going to graduate the womb early. If you were boys I might have some faith that my lazy DNA would more than counteract this, but since you're shaping up as girls I think we have to discount my contribution (thank god) and prepare for not only an early arrival, but the possibility that you'll come out doing differential equations faster than I can calculate the tip on a ten dollar check. I've been told I now have almost one month less than I thought in which to live out my meager dreams. This is going to call for some changes.
French is going to be a problem. I can finish my course ahead of your new due date, but to be honest, when it's over it's unlikely that I could navigate my way down a French street unless it contained nothing but cars, horses, and numbers under thirty. This seems like a limited vocabulary with which to try to raise you bilingually. A friend in Boulder tells me they start teaching foreign languages (including Mandarin!) in first grade. Perhaps your school will offer such things while you're still young and sponge brained. Or we'll just send you to live with these other people. Either way, I'll finish out the course, but I think we have to take 'learning' a foreign language off the table.
And we're going to have to increase novel production. Here's how the chapter a week is going. By Thursday I usually have like four paragraphs. Then by Saturday I have a chapter. Clearly there are some days at the beginning of the week that aren't pulling their weight, so we're going to try to wring a chapter out of Wednesday and another out of Sunday. At that rate I will successfully complete the world's worst book before you're born. See, I can do exceptional things too.
If I had any doubt about how impossible these things would become after you two made the scene it's gone now. In addition to at least 1000 people giving me some variation on the line 'a pair of twins are four times the work' I've somehow ended up nursing that kitten I mentioned finding right after you two made yourselves known. I took it to the shelter, but they said they'd have to kill it because they don't have the manpower to bottle feed it. As I previously mentioned I have a soft spot for small furry animals, so guess who's warming milk and feeding it to a little poop machine every few hours. I have no idea why they bother giving high school students bags of sugar and lectures about birth control. If someone had given me a kitten to nurse and then told me that babies are even harder I wouldn't have had anything more than a pen pal before I was 25. In fact, remind me to have you girls nurse kittens right about the time you hit puberty.
Novel - Double time!
Dunking - Wk 2 complete
French - Lowering expectations (don't worry, I've done this before)
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
Actually, I'm not sure it's that funny, but clearly you two thought it would be hilarious. So allow me to start all over, the way we apparently should have started in the first place.
Now that we have the pleasantries out of the way, I'd like to point out that one of you is clearly lost. Your mom and I, we have no twins in our family history and we didn't use fertility drugs (at least I don't think so, but you have to admit that things are getting pretty damned suspicious). So, one of you is in the wrong uterus. You work this out among yourselves and as soon as you know who goes where we'll work on getting this straightened out.
Until then, fetus number two, welcome. Obviously, you're going to need a catchier fetus name, and going from that same list of awesome but maternally rejected names that we got Bear from, that makes you Danger. Danger and Bear. Danger Bear. You're like a superhero that fights sleep. Apparently you're both also girls, or at least that's the current theory based on the angle of some bone you're both making, so expect your real names to be slightly less awesome. Of course, before you start thinking about prom dresses, please bear in mind that this guess comes from the same people who thought there was only one of you. Who knows what we find on the next visit.
Now, the cheapskate in me feels like any time you can get something 2 for 1 you've got to jump at it. And if putting diapers behind me the first time means I've put them behind me for the last time, then I'm all for it. That said, I was feeling like I'd be lucky to survive one of you. Now you come at me with the double team, I'm feeling a little shaky. When I got home from getting the news about you two I found an abandoned kitten under the porch, and if my efforts to feed this thing a bottle are any indication you're both going to have to get a lot of your nutrition off your feet. Think about that while decide if you want to pull any more stunts.
Bottom line, the nine months were not just for you. We, meaning I, need a long lead in to get the head screwed on straight. A little hint about you being a pair would have been nice. Then again, how often do you get to pull a prank while in utero? I kind of admire your commitment to the bit.
Seriously though, if we come back next month and there's four of you, I'm heading for Nova Scotia.
Novel - Ch9
Dunking - Wk2
French - Unit 2
Monday, October 22, 2007
Some thoughts on being a girl. In a nutshell, women don't get to be Offensive Linemen. Men can be utterly fat, lazy, and average without anyone making the slightest mention of it, but a woman could resurrect Jesus and someone somewhere would ask, "yeah, but is she hot?" Cosmopolitan, size zero, high heels, cellulite, breast augmentation, lipstick, eyeliner, pantyhose, waxing; all burdens for which there is no male equivalent. I, for instance, have been wearing the same clothes for several days and cut my own hair with dog grooming equipment, and yet they just let me walk around. None of this is fair, but I don't expect it to change by the time you show up. If you decide to go this route, try to steer clear of my DNA when forming all your exterior structures. Use me for like, the pancreas.
Some thoughts on being a boy. The smartest boys are still incredibly stupid. I'm confident even Einstein's pals got him to try jumping his bicycle over a mailbox a time or two. That's probably how he discovered gravity. If he discovered gravity. I can't say definitively because I've had a lot of head injuries, which is the point. The list of things I've jumped, fallen, or crashed into seems to refute Darwinism all by itself. And this is all just to impress other guys. We haven't even gotten to what males will try to impress females. The bottom line is, while the demands of being a girl can be absurd, at least you're far less likely to produce a headline like "Died On Fire While Backyard Wrestling".
So those are your options. Frankly, I know neither one sounds all that great, but I suggest you still pick one or the other. Trying some of each is something you should do when you're having tapas, not building sex organs. A lot of people have asked if I have a feeling about which way you'll go. Frankly, I have no idea. If we had waited for them to get cloning dialed in like I wanted, we could know that you were going to grow up to be a gorgeous brilliant woman. As it stands, any deviation from that will be my fault. When I'm asked what I want I usually say, 'an Amy'. But, if you do decide to take after me, I'd stop at the penis.
Novel - On to Ch9
Dunking - wk2
French - Lesson 4
Thursday, October 18, 2007
Humans are tribal. We constantly broadcast our affiliations. A Yankees hat says you like winners. A Che T-shirt says you like berets. A Sean Hannity bumpersticker says you're an asshat. Ditto with those barbed wire tattoos I warned you about. All these things cultivate a carefully assembled picture of how we want the world to see us.
And then you have a baby and it all goes down the drain. Whatever you were before doesn't matter. Suddenly, you're just the poor sap carrying a Blue's Clues backpack and pushing a stroller. It's what's inside the stroller that says everything. This is why you see babies with mohawks or crapping into Notre Dame diapers. Anything to try to get you guys on message.
Names are the obvious place to start. Between talking to a six year old and spending five hours in a police car yesterday (see what a full life I'm leading while I'm still free!) these are the names I came across: Presious, Tavory, Britney, Peyton, Skyler, and Ikea. You see what I'm saying? If we think it sends the right message about us, we'll name kids after strippers, misspelled words, or low cost Swedish furniture chains.
And you're not the only who gets a new name. Your prospective grandparents have opened discussions on how they want to be identified in the post-Bear era. Na-na, pop-pop, gam-gam? They all sound like foods for denture wearers to me, but who am I to judge. I'm thinking of going with something other than Dad myself. I'm sure it will be great the first time you call me Da-da, but how much better would it be if you called me Mr. President or Dr. Huxtable instead?
Nobody wants to be generic, not even your parents, even if that's how they'll always seem to you. And it if takes naming you Costco and making all your clothes out of grass to avoid the soul sucking SUV-driving-soccer-parent label, then Costco, prepare to wear lots of green. At least until you learn to dress yourself or file an injunction.
I should also mention that the news of your arrival is out. Lots of screaming, congratulations, etc. Several friends have attempted to reassure me that their own little Costcos are brewing and will arrive within days of you, so we'll have lots of support. It sounds good, but something tells me that none of them are going to wipe you butt or show you how to put a condom on a banana, so I'm guessing their support will be mostly moral, which everyone knows is the worst kind. For my money, your great grandmother had the best reaction, which was that she basically nodded, said she doesn't babysit, and went back to eating her dinner. I have a soft spot for people who hate babies. I'm thinking of building a shrine for the ones who can get away with saying it.
Novel - Procrastinating
Dunking - Hoping to find a program for just getting taller
French - Maybe we'll name you Jacques and you'll magically pick it up.
Monday, October 15, 2007
On that note, I wanted to update you the athletic component of my pre-bear to-do list. I measured my vertical leap so we'll know what we're up against when it comes to dunking. As it stands my vertical is 27 inches. I was expecting a single digit number, so I was pretty excited about that. Then, just for fun I decided to look at the results of the latest NFL combine where they put prospective draftees through a battery of basic tests. The lowest vertical leap I could find was 28.5 inches. There were a few of them. That made me feel better. Then I saw that they all belonged to Offensive Lineman, and they all weighed more than 300 pounds. I'm an inch and a half short of being able to out jump a bunch of fat guys. You see why I'm telling you to temper your excitement regarding your limbs and appendages.
I figure that I need to get about six inches over the rim in order to stuff the ball in. That leaves me an extra 9.5 inches to go. The program promises 11 to 15 inches, but the program probably works best for people with enough athletic ability to play catch without hitting small animals. It may be no match for me.
Novel - On to chapter 8
Dunking - 9.5 inches to go
French - Voiture = Car
Thursday, October 11, 2007
Your mom is supposed to let people in on the imminence of your arrival this weekend. I'm hopeful she'll finally get the excited screams she's been after. You of course know how I feel. I'm happy, but I try to reserve the screams for sightings of spiders and Justin Timberlake. Besides, there's lots left to do.
On that front, I've been working on the book. I kind of hate writing. I think I forgot that. It's scary how long it's been since I've actually written anything new. It seems like I've been doing polishes and revisions on other things forever. Part of me that was hoping that would be enough, that maybe we could just make do with what I've already committed to paper and finance an early retirement.
The hardest thing is just making myself sit down to do it. When I first started dating your mom I'd give her a hundred dollars at the beginning of the week and unless I could turn in a certain number of pages she'd keep it. I'll try to explain to you the depth of my cheapness at a later date, but suffice to say, it was effective. Now that we have a joint account it's less so. I'm thinking of bringing some other folks on board, handing in my pages on a daily or weekly basis, and relying on fear and embarrassment to help me keep them readable and on time. In any case, I'm on it, but you growing those kidneys was a big step. I think you might be getting ahead of me.
As for the other stuff, I haven't started my dunking program yet. It's supposed to take 15 weeks to achieve my maximum vertical leap. If I start next week that puts me above the rim right about my next birthday.
On the language front, I got a piece of spam today (difficult to explain, just bear with me) that was in English, but it was off just enough that you could tell is was written by a foreigner. This really brought home how long it takes to learn a language. Knowing all the words is just the beginning. Also, I was watching a movie today and this one character starts trying to seduce another by speaking in French. The best I could translate it he said, "I also speak very good French, and you, you are ham." I don't think that's right. If it is I feel like it was a sub-par come on. Anyhow, that pretty much tells you where I'm at linguistically.
Probably a lot of rubbing and patting coming your way this weekend. Best you learn to deal with it now. It only gets worse when you make it to this side.
Novel - Ch 7
Dunking - Next week we fly
French - You, you are ham
Friday, October 5, 2007
The thing about other people's dogs is that at least you can reason with them. With enough Pavlovian input, they'll eventually sit, heel, get you the paper, etc. Children don't seem to work that way. Maybe it's because shock collars and choke chains are off the table when it comes to child rearing. I've sat through enough tantrums on planes and in restaurants to make the thought of someone's retriever making love to my knee seem downright pleasant.
When you don't have kids, your first reaction to a kid doing something annoying is, "why don't that's kid's parents take him home and lock him in the closet." Now that you're on the way I'm having to examine the practicality of that strategy. As far as I know, closet locking is on the decline in this country, so there must be some newer, better way to deal with the madness.
From what I can see, ignoring the situation seems to be popular. We were at lunch yesterday and the adults seated around a screaming toddler just seemed to glaze over and plow ahead with their conversation. Maybe they're just numb to it. Maybe they're so sick of being at home they don't give a damn. I can't say for sure, but I think my sense of empathy for other diners is going to make this one tough to implement.
The other method deals with the time honored If this Then that scenario, i.e. if you don't shut up, then we're going to lock you in the closet. The problem here seems to be a misalignment of goals. If you've taken the child to a restaurant and what the child is screaming about is that it wants is to leave, then leaving would seem to reinforce the idea that screaming is a good way to get your parents to take you home. But if you stick it out, try to teach them a lesson, you end up torturing everyone else in order to make your point. Maybe this is that whole, it's takes a village thing.
I plan only to engage you in properly timed and formatted Lincoln / Douglas debates. The sooner you learn to effectively rebut the affirmative constructive the sooner you can get out of that closet.
Novel - Drafting Ch 7 (well, sort of)
Dunking - Still just jogging
French - Le cheval est sur le table.
Monday, October 1, 2007
Anyway, we'll call this a moral victory, and the thing to learn about moral victories is that they don't pay for shit but you can use them to make bagels.
Novel - Outlining
Dunking - I can jog again!
French - Cheval = Horse
Friday, September 28, 2007
I can only think of two reasons for this. One, they're terrified that you're going to steal the name. Perhaps they've seen that Seinfeld episode where George loses Seven one too many times. Two, they think you care. It's the name of a soon to be poop machine, not an Oscar nomination. If you think people are marking their calendars in anticipation of this holy revelation, you are grossly mistaken.
Parents in general make the mistake of thinking that other people care about their kids. I can relate. It took me a long time to figure out that no one else was impressed with pictures of my cat holding a pair of cards like he was Johnny Chan. But I did figure it out. Be sure to remind me of that when you see me getting ready to mass email pictures of your first stool.
Anyway, about your name. I've been pushing for Bear. Your mom hates this. I've simply started referring to you as Bear while in utero in the hopes that it will either become less grating or too entrenched to change. After Bear, the leading contenders are Jackson (apparently where you hopped on the train), Nixon, Ripley, Finn, Ranger, and Merritt. There's not really a, 'if it's a girl / if it's a boy scenario'. It seems likely that you'll just get stuck with a lengthy combination of our favorites regardless of what your sex organs reveal. For me, this is the best thing about your imminent arrival. It's like naming a band and knowing that elementary school teachers will have to ask if it's present for years to come.
Bear Nixon Ripley Killen? Are you eating paste again?
Novel - Outlining
Dunking - Almost walking normally
French - Mon tete hurts
Tuesday, September 25, 2007
Perhaps this whole discussion doesn't seem germane to you. Perhaps you're just floating around in some sort of disgusting bodily fluid and thinking that a pep talk for a penny sized entity is unnecessary. Maybe it is. It's just that as an ER doctor your mom is suddenly running into a number of women in the midst of miscarrying. She caught one last night which seemed to leave an impression. Obviously, if you've gotta go you've gotta go. One can't fight nature. I'm just saying that if you can stick it out, we'd appreciate it. I'm sure it's not easy in there, but the difficult things usually end up being the most satisfying. Remember that when you see the size of the exit.
As for me I'm now staring at a wall papered with 83 note cards of various colors which together, somehow, represent the rest of the book. By my early count, there's 33 more chapters to write. That's roughly one a week if you and I are going to be finished at the same time. That's a tall order, no doubt, but I'm game if you are. Honestly, I'd rather write five chapters a week than try to squeeze my head through... there's challenges ahead for both of us is what I'm trying to say.
Novel- On the wall
Dunking - Still crippled
French - What if I just teach you the accent?
Monday, September 24, 2007
Disney went the other way. Maybe they never bought the fact that I could live in Austin and spend every week in LA. Maybe it was the experience issue. Maybe they just realized that someone like me should be kept away from children (their lack of endorsement bodes ill for you). In any case, it now seems inevitable that your favorite movie, the one you paper your walls and inadvertently spend your college fund on merchandise for, will be the one that told your father to take a walk way back when you were the size of a coffee bean. I look forward to staring at stuffed reminders of this failure for years to come and having the words I didn't write seared into my brain as the film plays endlessly, helpfully sedating you in the back of some future minivan which I'll no doubt soon be piloting to things like T-ball, soccer, gymnastics, and other not real sports.
Obviously, I knew this was coming, but it's amazing how impossible it is to truly prepare yourself for bad news. It's just human nature that until someone finally tells you that it's over, really over, hope keeps creeping in around the edges. You want to shut it out, to blunt the inevitable kick in the teeth, but you build a wall, it just tunnels under (very illegal immigrant like, that hope). If you'd asked me to write down ahead of time what would be said when I answered the phone this morning I'd have been so close it would have blown your pre-natal mind. But even as I picked it up, there was a part of me I couldn't shut off, a part still saying, 'you never know...'
So what's the lesson here? Forget about crossing your fingers, rubbing lamps, wishing on stars, and all the other stuff that works for people when they're animated. In the world of flesh and blood, sometimes hope is just a pretty noose that you tie for yourself.
Is that too dark for an 8 week old? And to think I couldn't get hired to write a kids movie.
Novel - Big mess
Dunking - Still crippled
French - Mon Dieu
Friday, September 21, 2007
No news on the job front. That's probably not good. Good news they want you to have as soon as possible. Bad news they like to hold for Monday. That keeps the weekend suicide rate down. No one wants Saturday and Sunday to get a bad rep.
Anyway, trying not to think about it. In the event that it doesn't go my way I dug out the novel just to see what I'm up against. The good news there is that the chapters I finished and handed in so, so long ago were surprisingly entertaining. The bad news is that they must have been written by someone else. I certainly can't imagine doing it. There's also a dumpster's worth of highly disorganized notes to go through. Perhaps the secret is in there. I'll let you know.
I also got myself a French program. It's not that I care about being able to converse with angry smokers in berets, it's that your mom and I always talked about raising a bilingual child. Apparently learning multiple languages is a piece of cake when your brain is all young and spongy. Later it becomes cement and you wonder how far your child will get if the only foreign phrase you can teach them is, "The white horse horse is under the airplane." Why horses and airplanes are in the opening vocabulary section of a French course, I have no idea. There may be a whole side to French life I know nothing about. Regardless, I wrote a letter in French to a fluent friend announcing my intentions. His response began with "Dear God," and seemed to indicate that he thinks I have some work to do.
But hey, I've got thirty something weeks left and all I have to do is write a book, learn a language, and somehow add like 24 inches to my vertical leap. You have to do everything except grow a heart. I'd say I'm kicking your ass, but you're probably months away from having one.
Novel - Good as long as someone else keeps writing it
Dunking - I walk like I'm 80
French - Pounding it into cement head
Monday, September 17, 2007
When other people have horrible things to say about me it’s easy to share them. When they say good things, it’s hard. Maybe it’s modesty. Maybe it’s just so rare I lack experience. Suffice it to say, the interview went well. All I remember is talking for like two hours about toast, but for some reason they seemed to find that fascinating.
According to my ‘people’ I came in a big underdog. The other person they’ve narrowed it down to seems to have a lot more experience (they certainly couldn’t have less) and they probably live in LA. So it sounds like my interview was supposed to be a formality, but it went well enough to get them thinking seriously (insanely) that I might be able to pull it off. We’ll know by the end of the week. If you can grow fingers by then I encourage you to cross them.
I like the project, and I love the environment, but that’s not why I want the job. Honestly, I want that job because I don’t want to be a Stay At Home Dad. Currently my work allows me to stay at home. When you get here I’ll be a dad. You put those together and you can see why I’m worried.
It’s not about diapers, or watching football, or the projected costs of a college education in 2026. It’s the fact that pursuing something, especially if you suck at it, is an inherently selfish activity. And parents are supposed to be selfless. We’re supposed to subjugate our needs and desires to insure you have the opportunity to pursue your own. And for most of the people (men) my age, that’s not a problem. They’ve got the job they’re going to have until they clog an artery or bring a weapon to work. Kids won’t change that. Parenting is like a cell phone plan for them and they’ve got the nights and weekends option.
That's not how it works here. Your mom’s the one with the schedule and the big paycheck. Even if she wanted to give it all up and hang out with you, it just wouldn’t make sense. I, on the other hand, work downstairs and generate enough income to pay bar bills, and your mom and I aren’t big drinkers. So how long do you think it’s going to be before the reality of the situation means that I’m watching Oprah and playing airplane with strained carrots instead of arranging words that no one reads? It’s not so much that I’m not ready to have you and support your dreams and ambitions. It’s that I’m not ready to give up on my own to do it.
Who knows, maybe my insane toast rant will be enough to earn me an office in LA and paycheck for doing what I love and you can watch Oprah with a Swedish nanny. I don’t know if you’re a male yet, so I don’t know to what degree that appeals to you, but if there’s an Y chromosome in there, it’s totally on my side.
Novel - Haven't looked at it
Dunking - Several feet to go
French - I remember Bonjour