electric boogaloo

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To the father of my increasingly enormous children, on the occasion of your thirteenth Father’s Day (not counting all of your previous Fathers Days where you HAD a dad but weren’t yet a father yourself).

This year sucked.
Butts! It sucked buckets of butts.

Business was slow and complicated and I made a lot of mistakes that cost money so money was a source of concern in grownup land. For most of the year your job was stupidly stressful, with layoffs looming and a shitty commute, so I felt super guilty about all the money I was losing by being an idiot.
And in the background there were other things. We were all sick at various times all winter. Graham was sick.

I decided to adjust my dose of zoloft and OH NO that was bad WHY. Side effects may include deciding you don’t need this medicine even though you so very very much do.

The social life we had worked hard to cultivate went all wobbly as some of our closest friends ran off down a path we didn’t understand.

Graham was sick all the time and it made him afraid to leave the house so we were stuck at home with this miserable little person.

Everything piles up, you know? But somewhere in all of the pile of stressful bummers was us. This basic core, the heart of the house of Ards. We’ve never stopped talking and connecting and trying to find our way around all the obSTACles so we can move forward. New job for you, much better commute. Correct dose of medication for everyone involved. Testing for Graham, ruling out the scary stuff. Simplifying the business stuff so we can breathe. Making new friends, slowly letting go of old expectations.

We’ve talked through so much and found that we are absolutely on the same page. Parenting, goals, priorities, and the kind of things that other people do for fun… like woah, they’re having fun! Maybe WE should branch out a little?

“Would you ever –”

“No. I mean I might fantasize…”

“Well sure”

“But never…”

“Oh no, god no wouldn’t actually want to –”

“Me either!”

“I mean.”

“All those poor little animals.”

“Right??”

My friends don’t actually have sex with animals — I mean as far as I know, it hasn’t come up specifically in conversation and I know at least one of them has cat allergies — but it’s my blog and I get to retell events in whatever childish way I wish. I’m working on being less sad and unattractively bitter about it all. Plus this way I can be silly about it and not out them for what they actually do now, which lies somewhere between doing cocaine with hookers on my driveway and joining a Multi Level Marketing deal on the spectrum of things other people do that makes me not want to spend as much time with them. I realized that I need to update my list of different kinds of jerks. See below, where red is more annoyed, orange is less annoyed but still annoyed.
jerks

Anyway. The important thing is that we discovered that you and I agree on those kinds of things. We were also reminded that yes having friends is wonderful but at the end of the day, it’s us that matter. We are the ones we can rely upon, we are the ones raising these boys, it’s down to us. Village, shmillage; the rest of the world could be consumed by some fiery horror and we would be sad but basically okay here in our weird house with our weird kids.

The kids. Oh man. They are growing up to be SUCH awesome people.

Nicolaus thinks big thoughts, and at different points over the years we have worried that he could easily go down the path of depression and anxiety. This year I have been amazed by his resilience. He’s twelve. We are seeing some definite twelveness. He pushes to be allowed to play violent computer games, he wants to make sure there’s food on hand at all times, he sometimes rolls his eyes when we are being obviously hilarious. But so far no angst, nothing terribly intense. His moods are more even than ever, actually.
1_nicjump 1_nicjump2

This year he learned that people on the Internet can be mean, that some friends will always want more more more, some friends aren’t really friends, and some friends ARE friends but are also complicated humans who need a little benefit of the doubt sometimes. You helped him navigate that stuff and as hard as it is to watch a kid lose his innocence, I love knowing that he feels ready for more of life’s challenges. Where he used to fall apart, now he rallies.

No one can make fun of him because he is so well grounded that most rudeness bounces off. His favorite response to an insult is “I know, right? It’s SAD.” which lets the air out of the balloon instantly.

“You’re a stupid little kid!”

“I know, right?”

“…”

We could throw him into an arena with a pack of middleschool bullies, and he would laugh and shake his head and sit down and start inventing a game using whatever shards of bones were scattered on the ground. Pretty soon the other kids would be crowded around waiting for their turn to play his game, the audience would be trying to see the game and he wouldn’t even realize that anything unusual had happened.
1_game

I don’t know what we did to help him become this excellent human kid, but let’s take credit for it okay? It’s been a crappy year, give us this one.

And Graham oh Graham Graham Graham. Nobody’s brain works like his. If he didn’t border on misanthropic he could do anything. His moods are challenging sometimes, let’s say that, but he bounces back. He is so damned observant, nothing slips by him. He has become my editor and art director and not in a cute let-the-kid-pretend-to-help way. In a oh-wow-this-is-a-lot-better-now way.
1_G-game

1_bday

1_graham

They’re easing towards adolescence. This was the year we let them watch inappropriate stuff like the Simpsons and (eventually) Futurama before moving on to harder stuff: 1980s family movies. Graham learned to use the stove and the oven, and he loves proving his independence. He wants to learn how to do everything and is full of amazing questions even when he feels utterly like crap.

What does this have to do with you being an awesome father and this being father’s day and all? Well first of all they still think you are the coolest. That’s good because they emulate you. They see you working hard to do well at things you don’t always enjoy, they see you laugh at yourself (and me, thanks for that), they see you do creative work, and they see you make time for them and us. It all matters, it all goes in.
They are learning how to camp, how to talk to strangers, how to make friends when it’s hard to make friends, how to ask questions and make guesses and own your flaws and try new things and have the courage to be honest even when the fallout isn’t fun. They bicker, yeah, but when they get along they are unstoppable.
chess

Second of all, the biggest thing you’ve done this year is helped your crazy wife. When I was losing my mind worrying about Graham, you helped me keep things in perspective. You constantly help me sort through all the jumbled messes I manage to create because I avoid thinking about some (important, impending) things for too long and ruminate about other (trivial or unlikely to happen) things way too much.
us2
We take turns being the one who needs help. That’s how marriages work, right? Ebb and flow, wax and wane, gibbous and the other one.

This year let’s shoot for more ebbing and waxing, less of all the bullshit.

I love you,
Tiffany

posted by electric boogaloo in Journal and have Comments (4)

Postmodern kitchen experience piece

Nicolaus just cruised through and said, “I have an Absurd-world problem. A chicken ate my clementine while I was distracted by the mongoose coming in my window. I’ll SEE YOU IN COURT.”
Then he quickly made a turkey sandwich and scuffled sideways off to his room.

The weirdest part was when he made himself a sandwich instead of asking me to do it.

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Apple, tree etc

My friend Jill did this Facebook thing with her son and the result was totally cute and charming. So I mistakenly thought it would be nice to try it with Graham, age 9.

WITHOUT ANY prompting, ask your child these questions and write down EXACTLY what they say. It is a great way to find out what they really think. When you re-post put your Child’s age.

1. What is something mom always says to you?
“Graham put down that flame thrower!” *laugh* Okay no, really: “I love you.”

2. What makes mom happy?
Turds! Haha. No my real answer is Seeing me eat anything that is the opposite of junk food.
Also punching me in the face. *laughs hard*

3. What makes mom sad?
The thousands of times I have burned the house down. Seeing that I live in a cabinet. (Gets into a kitchen cabinet.) Hey this is actually a great place! Okay this is my new favorite hiding place. (comes out of the cabinet)
I don’t know actually. I know it makes you sad that I have to get scoped.

4. How does your mom make you laugh?
By doing this quiz on me and letting me give such honest answers. Like for instance that I live in a cabinet. *gets back in the cabinet*

5. What was your mom like as a child?
I’ll never come out!

6. How old is your mom?
This is my HOME NOW.

7. How tall is your mom?
I don’t know. Roughly three and a half feet.

8. What is her favorite thing to do?
(exits cupboard) Draw. Specifically pictures of turds. Hahahaha no, just draw.

9. What does your mom do when you’re not around?
Ummm well for one thing swear like a horse.
Stays in the bathroom all day because there’s no one to knock on the door and say Will you be out soon??
Eat sushi because she secretly likes it.
Probably something random I can’t even imagine like order 17000 5-gallon jugs that are empty and then fill them with oxygen using the tanks you secretly have set up in the basement and then breathe oxygen for the rest of the day.

10. If your mom becomes famous, what will it be for?
Having glasses. *laughs so hard he can no longer speak, takes several minutes to pull it together for a real answer*
Ummm okay probably making the best bacon ever.

11. What is your mom really good at?
Pooping. Laughs. Okay no, for real Okay. POOPING. I’m just guessing because she has done it so much in her lifetime.

12. What is your mom not very good at?
Juggling lit matches while balancing eggs while riding a unicycle, standing on the pedals. I’m just guessing because you’ve never tried it before and things like that take practice.
I have an actual answer but you’re probably not going to like it. Do you still want to hear it? Anger management.
(ME: What? Really? When? I’m pretty even-keeled.
HIM: makes a horrible, loud high-pitched noise and stares at me smirking and daring me to respond.
ME: Ugghhahrhrharhhr)

13. What does your mom do for a job?
She’s never told me but her uniform has the symbol for the Illuminati on it HELP ME.
She really makes cards. With letters on them. (whispers: help me for real)

14.What is your mom’s favorite food?
Honestly I don’t know. Ummmm

15.What makes you proud of your mom?
Let me go into my thinking placeā€¦ (gets back in the cupboard). I’ll be out in a few minutes when I’ve thought of an answer. (comes out)
Just how nice you are.

16. If your mom were a character, who would she be?
Gwen’s mom from Ben10.

17. What do you and your mom do together?
Go shopping at Target when Nicolaus and Daddy aren’t here. We draw pictures together when they are here.

18. How are you and your mom the same?
Our skin tone color is similar. Is that racist? That sounds a tiny bit racist but it really isn’t.
I just thought of three more things: We both have very rounded ears. We both like to draw, as mentioned earlier. And the third is we both have a large ugly growth on our noses. OH WAIT, that’s our face and body. (laughing, answers the rest from inside the cupboard)

19. How are you and your mom different?
I think the scarf things she wears on her head would be horribly uncomfortable and she obviously likes them.

20. How do you know your mom loves you?
Because she says so about 1700 times a day.

21. What does your mom like most about your dad?
Ummmmmmm. I really have no idea. I’m guessing his personality.

22. Where is your moms favorite place to go?
Turdland! A themepark all about turds!
Wait no that’s ME.
The oven. Because she is envious that there’s no way she could fit in this amazing cupboard.
I’m going to guess Target but she only likes it if she can go with me.

23. How old was your Mom when you were born?
I don’t know. I’m guessing 32! What’s the real answer? Or do I need to count when I was zero? Can I move these paper towels to another cabinet?

posted by electric boogaloo in Journal and have Comments (4)

How to help a child who says “I’m bored”

It doesn’t happen a lot, but when the boys complain that they are bored I nod and say yeah, it’s okay to feel that way. The discomfort of boredom is just the feeling that your brain is casting around for something to hook onto. Don’t rush to grab the first flashy thing just to end boredom as quickly as possible. Give in to it for awhile. Let your mind and your interests wander a bit, ruminate. Let ideas percolate. It is okay. The process always yields something cool. Like folding post-it notes into shapes of letters and spelling things out across the table. Or seeing how many times you can scrunch up and flatten out a piece of tin foil, or training the dog to find a treat hidden somewhere in the living room, or inventing a new card game. Or picking up a book you forgot to ever finish. Or going for a walk, or making toast for everyone, or seeing if you can cut a slick of pear thin enough to look through.

If they complain again, I offer to make them take the trash out or work on some exciting grammar exercises. Next I kindly offer to chop off one of their arms so A) the day would be more memorable, B) we could take an exciting trip in an ambulance and C) everyday tasks would be more of a challenge so they’d never be bored again.

If they complain again, “I’m bored!” then I say “Me too. Entertain me!” and then they have to find their harmonicas and dance me a jig.

And if still they complain, “WE ARE BORED.” I say “NO, YOU’RE BORED. The whole system is bored!”

Or I tell them the story of the old rabbit who fretted while he was waiting for his annuity to be funded, until finally after a series of mishaps he called his accountant who assured him that his retirement strategy was well diversified. In a delightful side story the rabbit looked up the word annuity in the dictionary to confirm that he understood what it was, but this only confounded him further as he needed to look up some of the words used to describe the term and on and on this went until he found himself deep in an Escheresque Webster’s fractal, a type of learning experience ironically known in research circles “as going down the rabbit hole”.

The seventh or eight time they say they’re bored I tell them I won’t believe them unless they write it backwards and show me in the mirror.

The ninth time I tell them that boredom is the inverse of de ja vu, and it only happens on days when time is running backwards. This gives them the delightful experience of explaining why everything I just said makes NO sense. The eye-rolling alone helps kill several minutes, plus counts as exercise.

If they complain again I congratulate them and say I will punch their loyalty card. The eleventh bout of ennui is free!

Next I make them look up the definition of the word ennui. Also: Annoy, angst, annuity.

If they’re still bored after a day that I have by now packed full of amusing activities, I point out that I for one haven’t been bored for hours. Maybe they should find a person younger than themselves who is bored and think of helpful suggestions for that person. Helping others feels great!

Eventually I will lose interest in trying to help them remedy their boredom. At this point I recommend watching me take a nap or reading one of my old college textbooks or watching a documentary about the Brooklyn bridge. Which sort of backfires because they sarcastically try my suggestion and then I wake up to them saying “GUESS WHAT. The first guy who designed the bridge DIED in a bridge accident and then his son took over and then HE almost died so that guy’s wife did most of the work and this is SO COOL!”

Then I don’t know whether to feel glad because my kids are documentary-loving dorks like me or lame because after all that I used television to solve their boredom for them. I settle for smug because I got to take a nap.

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Six things I don’t get

1. Trance/EDM, which sounds like a bowel disease. The name I mean not the music. The music sounds like techno that was taken out into the woods and left there and it had a plan to get home but someone ate the breadcrumbs so it just kind of hangs out in the forest awhile.

2. Watching youtube videos of people playing computer games.
I want to make a channel of baffled parents watching videos of their kids watching youtube videos of people playing minecraft

3. Coverlets

4. Advance meal planning. If you aren’t hungry, how do you get motivated to think about food? And if you ARE hungry, well you didn’t do this in advance now did you.

5. Trying new foods when you have no idea.
What if you try it and it’s awful? How can it be worth the risk??

6. 11-year-old humor.
Sometimes to be silly I will send my child messages over skype telling him to unload the dishes or something. The chore is real, but skyping someone who is in his room 15 feet away from me is silly. Being in a chat session with my kid gives me a whole new perspective on what he’s like in conversational writing. And he’s damned goofy, that’s what. Example:

ME: Congratulations! You get to go upstairs and bring the dog in!

HIM: NOOOOOOOOOooooooooo

ME: Yep. Go do it soon, please.

HIM: I can’t.

ME:

HIM: I’m a loaf of cinnamon raisin bread.

ME: OK

Nic: A peanut.

ME: Before she starts barking.

Nic: Cheesecake.

Nic: Apples. Pasta. Mango.

ME: …

Nic: Is grapefruit all one word?

ME: You know you can’t just list foods and expect to win an argument.

Nic: LOL
Nic: Grapefruit.

ME: You would make a terrible lawyer, you know that?

Nic: Sad face. NO!
Nic: Cereal.
Nic: Sandwich.
Nic: Hot dog. Salad. Potato.

The dog howls, and a kid made of giggles runs up and lets her in.

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