Friday, December 24, 2010

One Small Christmas Tradition

A few years ago my wife and I stumbled upon a vendor in New York City who sold these great leather bound books filled with gorgeous Dickensian paper inside. We immediately decided to purchase one for each of our children. I think it was my wife who had the idea for me to write a story in each one for Christmas - and so a little Christmas tradition was born. The kids have enjoyed it and it makes me happy to give them something that won't end up in the garbage or at the bottom of the toy box (hopefully).

Sometimes I try to deliver a message or a bit of subtle parenting into the story. Other times I just write something like this which is the poem I wrote from my Lego-crazed son this year:

Legos Legos Everywhere

“Why are there Legos on the chair?”
“Why are there Legos over there?”
“Why are there Legos in your sister’s hair?”

Joey’s father was not happy
He told Joey to make it snappy
And clean up his Legos before he went batty

So Joey did what his father told him
And cleaned up the Legos so his father would not scold him

He scooped up the Legos from the chair
And checked for extras in his underwear
He even picked out the pieces from his sister’s hair!

When he was done his father was pleased
“Now it’s time for you to clean the bathroom,” his father teased

“No way Dad. I think I’m done.
“Picking up all those Legos wasn’t much fun.”

So Joey vowed from that day on
That no one in the house would ever step on
Another Lego from his vast collect-tion 

So it's not Oscar Wilde but I guarantee the underwear line in there will get a laugh and that's all I'm looking for. What's better than making your kids laugh on Christmas?

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Time to Step up my Game

Yeah that's right - I'm not peeling my daughter's pears and therefore submitting her to the searing  4 year-old pain of eating the "black part". The black part being a bit of skin on a Bosc pear. Obviously this is a mild form of child abuse. Love the smiley face at the bottom of this note to soften the message from her teachers.

I've also been reprimanded for not cutting the crust off her sandwich...not cutting her sandwich into an X as she likes and then there was the great peanut scare of October when I received a phone call from the school to clarify whether my daughters sandwich had peanut butter on it - GOD FORBID. Allergies you know.

Editor's Note:  It was not peanut butter it was sunflower freakin' butter. I never knew you could make butter from tini tiny sunflower seeds but I guess you can - and it looks and smells like peanut butter. Too much in fact.

So I'm going to take this as a challenge. A challenge to construct the most PC, milk toast (is that allowed?), non-threatening lunch this Pre-K has ever seen. Since I'm not a very PC person can anyone offer any help?

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Ravioli Should Cost $30 a Pound

 In my never ending quest to make life harder than it needs to be, I decided to make ravioli from scratch the other day. When I say scratch I mean everything - the dough, the filling, the sauce, the meatballs to go with - everything. The meatballs and sauce I've done quite a bit so that was no problem.

The ravioli were another matter. It took my wife and I over two hours to get the ravioli set to boil. It was fun but I must say - not really worth the effort unless you're going to fill them with something fancier than the regular cheese ones we did. Maybe if you fill them with some yummy lobster it would justify the time. Otherwise you'd be better off getting them from the frozen foods section of your local grocery store. It pains me to admit that as a food guy but it's true. Next time I do homemade pasta I think I'll stick with spaghetti. 

Side note: Isn't this supposed to be a blog about being a stay at home dad? When did this become a food blog? The nuns always said I had trouble focusing. I'll try to provide some better insight moving forward. Can't promise anything though...

Monday, November 29, 2010

Macho Macho Man?

I made pickles today. Is this the first sign of stay at home dad madness? I'm not sure. But I can tell you that I don't even like pickles - actually I despise them. But my kids and my wife love them so I guess that was my motivation. I have to wait 6-7 days before I find out if they actually taste good but it was fun to do.

But back to my original point - I'm canning now? What's next - crocheting sweaters for the little tykes? I already clip coupons so I guess the macho line has already been blurred. Gotta run - some great stuff on the  Lifetime Network tonight.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

One of the Good Ones

Have you ever encountered someone and thought - "That is a really good person. They're so good I feel a little guilty that I may not measure up." Well I received sad news that one such person in my past has died.

Dr. Bernard Rosenberg lived for 92 years and passed away on Tuesday. I can't say that I knew him well. I can only say that my brief encounters with him made me want to be more like him.

It was 2000 and my wife and I were finishing the renovations to our first house - a lovely little Cape Cod on a quiet street. Since this was my former life I was not home with kids - I was working as a painting contractor. I had just been hired by Dr. Rosenberg to spruce up his house before he put it up for sale. He was a widower and was set to be remarried (at 84 years old!)

The moment I walked in the place I knew it would be perfect for us. It needed a lot of work but it was in a gorgeous neighborhood and the architectural detail throughout the home was stunning. I immediately called my wife and told her that we had to put an offer in on the good doctor's house (it helped that my mother was going to be the listing agent). To my wife's credit she didn't curse at me or tell me I was crazy. She obviously wanted to actually look at the house first but she trusted my judgment. Once she saw the place she fell in love too.

Dr. Rosenberg learned that we were interested in the house and he invited me (only me) to come over to discuss things man to man. Although he was an octogenarian he had a very sharp mind and had the energy of a man half his age. We sat in the formal living room set up with antique tables and cozy conversation areas. I felt like I was asking for his granddaughter's hand in marriage or something but he was direct and honest. Most sellers would want to know the bottom line - how much? But he was more concerned with whether we planned on raising a family in the house. I assured him that we would and this seemed to please him a great deal. We talked about a myriad of things before we got to the question of price.

Once we did broach that subject I presented our offer which I thought was fair. I guess he did too because he agreed at once and we shook hands like men do. No contracts, no lawyers, nothing. Just my word and his. And he told us that he could wait until we sold our house. And he did wait just as he said.

Not only that, he paid the landscaper through the spring, filled the 1000 gallon oil tank and paid the yearly association fees in advance. We didn't request any of this - he just did it because he wanted to get us off on a good foot in the house.

Looking back I'm struck by his generosity but I am more struck by his trust. I was a young kid who he barely knew and he trusted that I would honor my word. It was a powerful feeling. I guess the way he treated me made me feel more like the man I was becoming.

Bernard Rosenberg was a doctor, artist, father and World War II veteran. However, he was none of these things to me. He was a Gentleman. I think the world needs more Gentlemen. Unfortunately it just lost one.

Friday, November 5, 2010

The Garden of Eden?

At least Eve plucked the forbidden fruit from the tree before she (and Adam) damned all mankind to original sin. What kind of cro magnon eats an apple from a tree without picking it first? We pick things. It's what separates us from the giraffes and monkeys. Oh wait - a monkey would actually pick the fruit before eating it. Does this mean that monkeys are gaining on us? Are they actually more civilized than we humans are in the 21st century?

If the midterm elections are any indication I would say yes. The politicians were certainly slinging crap at each other like apes are wont to do. Shouldn't we have separated ourselves a little more from our primate cousins by now?

Therefore with this empirical evidence I will make a bold prediction. If we can't learn to pick our own fruit the monkeys will (continue) to win. Have I beaten this thought to death yet? I say yes. Ciao for now...

Monday, November 1, 2010

Why Won't My Body Do What I Say?

Every muscle in my body aches today. As a result I spent much of the day incapacitated. How did I get to this state? Allow me to explain...

I would say that I'm in reasonably good shape for someone pushing 40. I do the elliptical machine a few times a week, I do a lot of work in the yard, I do the occasional sit-up and push up. I even go for hikes when the kids allow it. Since I'm not a total load I decided that it would be a good idea to accept an invitation to play in a flag football league in my town. How hard could it be right? These weren't professional athletes - just a bunch of guys over 30 looking to run around a little bit on a Sunday morning. Great. I could run around a little bit, meet some new people,etc.

Yeah...well... not so great. Now as I said, I do stay active. What I don't do anymore though are wind sprints - which is basically what playing flag football this Sunday entailed. A punishing 1 1/2 hours of sprinting (on offense) and backpedaling (on defense). It didn't help that I was the slowest, least athletically gifted person there - so not only was I physically beaten (giving up at least 5 touchdowns); I also received an ego smack down.

At one point I turned to the jack rabbit quick Gastroenterologist who had already beaten me deep twice and asked:
"Am I pulling a plow behind me?"

He laughed and proceeded to run a blisteringly fast out-and-up route on the next play - taking it to the House yet again - highlighting my lack of conditioning to every player on the field.

At that point one of my teammates tried to provide support:

"You're in great position Joe. You're just giving up on the play at the very end."

Giving up??? What the hell? I never give up when I play sports (or anything). I am the most competitive person I know. The sad fact that I didn't share with my comrade in football was that I have an excruciatingly bad back which was just not allowing me to do what I wanted to. It was so frustrating...but I must admit it was fun to compete again, however badly. I'll be out there again this Sunday.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Cub Scout Camping Trip - Yay! (Read with Sarcastic Inflection)

I hate camping. Period. End of sentence. Outdoorsman is not the first, second or 30th word people use to describe me. It has been over 25 years since my last camping trip. That last line kinda sounds like something from an AA meeting doesn't it?

My first (and only) experience camping before this past weekend was when my parents took me to Maine in the summer for a nice rendezvous with nature. Sounds nice except for the fact that we suffered through two days of torrential rains in a Caldor tent. Of course the tent flooded and we ended up sleeping in my Dad's van for the entire weekend. Once the rains subsided and the sun came out we dried off. That was fine until mosquito's the size of Volkswagen's showed up to turn my pre-teen body into one giant itchy bug bite.

With that back story how could I say no to my son when he expressed great interest in camping out with his Cub Scout Pack up at the lake in town? So with my emotional and physical camping baggage packed the kid and I headed to the lake with my fingers and toes crossed that it wouldn't be too terrible.

Sometimes it pays to be guardedly pessimistic. Because my expectations were so low - the camping trip actually turned out to be almost OK. The kid had a blast - learning to lash together a wood stool, running around the woods with his buddies, roasting marshmallows by the campfire.And I must say I had an OK time too talking to some of the fathers and hanging out by the campfire.

But it wasn't all male bonding and kumbaya. The problems started when it was sleepy time. As soon as we retired to the faux-chateau it immediately started raining. Oh - and it got pretty cold. Certainly colder than my Walmart special sleeping bags could handle (you would think I would have learned after the Caldor tent, right?) And then there's this newsflash - the ground is hard. Really hard. I don't recommend sleeping on it directly. There are reasons why the mattress and box spring were invented.

So I woke up around 6:30 the next morning feeling every second of my 38 years. My son awoke a little cold but very pleased with himself. I could tell he felt he had accomplished something. He had braved the wilderness with his old man and lived to tell the tale. It was quite an exciting adventure for the little man and that made my minor discomfort worth it.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

A Little Bit of East Germany in Midtown

Have you eaten at a restaurant with sections of the Berlin Wall adorning the entryway? No? Well guess who has - Me!

This piece of history hangs outside Alto - a two Michelin star restaurant in New York City. You would think that Alto serves Sauerbraten and Wiener Schnitzels but you would be wrong. It's a modern Northern Italian establishment. So what's with all the concrete and graffiti? I don't see the relationship.

That is really the only complaint I have with the place. Wait...I do have another. I knew this dinner was going to be expensive but getting the check felt like being punched in the face. That said, dinner was bordering on orgasmic. I don't eat at such places every week but my father was having a big birthday and he wanted to try this joint so we schlepped to the City to celebrate. Nice job Dad. This was my entree. Nice rack if I dare say...

However my favorite part of the dining experience had to be my uncle requesting the much ballyhooed truffle shavings on his pasta entree. The waiter's eyes twinkled with delight.

"Yes Sir, the truffle. You know it's $95 yes?"

I've not seen a man's face contort in the way that my uncle's did upon receiving this news.

"Really?" was all he could muster in reply.

He didn't get the truffles and our waiter departed looking like a fisherman who just missed landing the Big One.

I did find it interesting that even with millions of people in this country suffering economically, this swanky restaurant was packed. Recession? What recession? The seven course tasting menu for $130 per person? Not a problem for the beautiful people around us. Maybe it's a good sign. Maybe I've glimpsed the light at the end of the tunnel. Or maybe we were just seated in a restaurant with really really wealthy people.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Stay at Home Dad Credit Crisis

As our cars both get up there in years and mileage my wife and I have started to talk about replacing at least one of them before the wheels fall off or the engine seizes. Being practical people we have vowed not to buy a brand new car but to get a slightly used car ostensibly saving us some depreciation costs. Good plan right?

So I took the bull by the horns today and located the exact yuppie wagon my Darling has set her sights on. Leather interior, climate control, MP3 hookup - the whole nine. So I called the dealer, spoke for a while and then started to give him some info to find out what kind of a loan rate they could give us.

The light bulb went off when the dealer asked:

"Who is your employer?"

"Uh, wait, umm...well I don't currently work so I'm guessing I wouldn't currently qualify for a loan."

With that I rendered the previously loquacious salesman  totally silent.

"I mean, you probably will need to speak to my wife who actually is employed."

"Yes, that would be great," the relieved salesman replied with visions of his commission still dancing in his head,  "Is she available?"

"No, she's actually working," I inform him. "But we'll be in tomorrow to take a look at the car."

Pleasantries were exchanged and I hung up the phone with a new realization. I wouldn't qualify to buy shit right now. I am completely dependent on my wife for any real buying power these days. It's a weird position to be in. I guess I'm OK with it as long as she's OK with it but I've never in my adult life had no answer for
"So who is your employer?"

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Knives at Dawn (or the Local Grocery Store)

Example #117 of living in a small town:

Scene: Local community center kitchen with Yours Truly attending a cooking class

Executive Chef:  "You know if you need your knives at home sharpened you can take them to the grocery store in town and they will sharpen them while you of charge.

Me:  Really? That's awesome. I think I'll bring them several tomorrow.

 But then I got to thinking about the logistics. How do I transport these knives? Canvas boat bag - check. But is it prudent to stroll into a major supermarket wielding weapons (although not of mass destruction). Imagine my humiliation if I'm caught, knives confiscated and I'm banned from ever buying kale again in my quaint New England town. I would make the police blotter for sure.

 Well gentle reader, I threw caution to the wind and cruised down to my local grocer this morning - cutlery in hand. I made a beeline to the butcher and here's how it went...

Me:  Excuse me, a chef friend of mine said that you offer knife sharpening here. Is that true?

Red Bearded Butcher:  Uh, yeah. How soon ya need 'em? If you got some shoppin' to do I can have them ready by the time your done.

Me:  Uh, great! See ya in a little while. Thanks  a lot!
 So off I went, happy as a clam - free is good! I zipped up and down the aisles and checked back with Red Beard. Lo and behold - he handed me a bag of razor sharp knives. I'm guessing security is not paramount at my supermarket. 

I'm nearly in the clear, thinking I'm going to make it out without incident. So I head to checkout armed to the teeth when I get a question from my intellectually challenged grocery bagger.

Bag Man:  Can I have your reusable bag please?

Me (panicked): No! I mean...No - I've got stuff in here. I'll just have plastic thanks.

 I get a searching look from the Camel smoking checkout lady but no one Id's my stash. I'm free and clear! Effortless dicing is  in my future.

And that's it. I wish for the sake of storytelling that I was tackled by security or tased by the police but I wasn't. People just trust people here. It's weird. And good. And how I wish the world could be.

Friday, September 17, 2010

So I Like Flowers...You Got a Problem with That?

 I cook, I clean and now apparently I arrange fresh cut flowers. Who knew I had such a skill? I'm really getting in touch with my feminine side now baby. At this rate I'll be crocheting by the first snowfall.

This flower arrangement just kind of happened as I was wandering around our yard pruning shrubs. The guy who lived here before us was some kind of super-gardener so we have an embarrassment of flora and fauna. I started to see all of these beautiful flowers slowly fading away so I thought it would be a shame to waste them. Why not bring them in the house and add a little pop of color, right?

Rather than making fun of me, I earned big points with the wife (ladies love when you flash the sensitive side). So that's me these days - family cook, homework helper, grocery shopper and now...manly florist (which is much easier to write than to say). Just for fun say manly florist five times fast. You're bound to say something dirty. Have fun with that one over the weekend everyone...

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

We Have Cool Birds 'n Stuff

Imagine my surprise when I turned the corner beyond my tool shed and laid eyes on this guy (or girl) today. It's a Great Blue Heron I believe and it's an amazing bird. When it opens its wings and flies over the house it quite literally blocks out the sun. It also seems to be extremely conceited. You can tell that this guy thinks he's the bomb. He even walks with his nose (beak) up in the air.

So why is our guest here? I guess our overabundance of frogs has brought him to the banks of our humble pond. An example of nature in balance but it's a shame that some froggies are gonna have to pay with their lives. Look out Kermit - Mr. Pompous is about to turn you into an appetizer.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Youth is Lost on the Young

I don't care if you don't like R.E.M. I just know that this song brings me to tears every time I hear it. I dream of writing this beautifully some day. If it doesn't remind you of what it means to be young - check your pulse.

"The recklessness of water." Wow. That's poetry people. Bow down to Michael Stipe.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Thar She Blows!

What do you think of my new whale? I think he has personality and he makes me happy when I look upon him. Art is supposed to elicit some emotion from the viewer, right?

We purchased him in Nantucket on our recent vacation there. It was done by a local artist using indigenous bark. Not just any bark mind you, NANTUCKET BARK. Makes it more expensive. Now that he's up on the wall he needs name. Any suggestions? I like Gus but I'm not settled on that yet.

Side note: When on vacation I spotted a lovely couple walking their two vizslas (a breed of dog) on the beach. The dogs names were "Nan" and "Tucket." Some people would think that's cute. I found it incredibly unimaginative. There were so many other choices: Bonnie & Clyde, Abbott & Costello, Ass & get the point.   

So anyway, the whale meets my simple criteria for display in my home - it is an original work of art. Not a knock off, not a lithograph, not a cheesy poster. This little rule of mine has driven my wife crazy over the years because we are not millionaires. We are more like thousandaires. As such we are not able to purchase wonderful works of art that we see on display at galleries and art shows very often. This also means that unless someone decides to do me a solid and give me an original Van Gough, none of his work will be hanging in my house.

I don't know when this rule of mine came about. It was certainly after my high school days when I had posters of (I hate to admit this) INXS and The Cure on my wall. Maybe staring at all of those men who looked like women warped my sensibilities or something.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Summer Wind

I think my kids have had a fun summer. We've been to lakes, beaches, fairs and parks. We've played games, watched movies, kayaked and hiked. The kids have been to several camps and toured museums. It's been quite a whirlwind. I can't believe that it's almost over.

This summer has been pretty special for me since it's the first one I've had with the kids as a stay at home dad. It's been the 3 of us all day every day. Most days that's been a great thing - other days I've prayed for September to come quickly. What it hasn't been is boring.

So what am I going to do with myself when they go back to school in a few weeks? Maybe it's time to get working on that novel my wife keeps pushing me to write. That would beat the heck out of dusting and vacuuming.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

You Give America...not Love... a Bad Name

When Charles Barkley famously said: "I am not a role model," he clearly was addressing the fact that parents, teachers and guardians should be role models for kids - not athletes and rock stars. But what do you do when your Dad decides that this is the t-shirt he's gonna go with while chaperoning you to the local summer carnival? I guess start idolizing Lady Gaga or someone. "Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happy Hour." Really? Last I checked the right to beer nuts and chicken wings weren't in the Declaration of Independence.

I spotted this pillar of the community while I was on the ferris wheel with my daughter. I'm going out on a limb here but I don't think he subscribes to The Economist. This chap was with his two young children wearing this advertisement for alcoholism. C'mon man. You're better than this. Is this the message you want to send to your kids (who were also on the ride by the way) and the public at large? Our founding fathers risked it all to set up a new republic so that we could all drink cheap beer at 4:00 on a Wednesday? Kids are sponges my man. They see and hear everything. You could be a Rhodes Scholar for all I know but with that get-up you might as well be wearing a dunce cap. How can we have high expectations for our kids if we don't expect more from ourselves?

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Anarchy in the U.S.

Never mind, here's the Sex Pistols, originally uploaded by jenX5.

Sorry for my absence faithful readers but I have been otherwise detained. We've been busy hosting our great friends and their three beautiful kids visiting from England. It was great but it showed me what having five little ones under one roof is like. In a word - ACTIVE. I may have forgotten how much energy 2 year olds have. And I never realized how much 4 and 5 year old girls argue. We actually had an incident at the beach where the two girls actually argued over rocks. They're quite plentiful here ladies. Enough for everyone! Meanwhile the 7 year old boys were busy unearthing fossilized dinosaur poop from the lake bed (or so they thought). Boys are like dogs, girls like cats. That's as simple as I can put it.

Despite the kid's bickering a good time was had by all. It was great to reconnect with our wonderful friends and have some adult conversation time. I was reminded during their visit about what a gift it is to have real, true friends. They used to live up the road from us in our old town but moved back to the U.K. shortly before we relocated. It was strange but it felt like some of our family had moved away. They were always over - for dinners, family birthdays, holidays. When they left I thought "You can't leave. You're part of our clan."

So now every time we meet a new couple my wife and I ask each other - "Are these are new best friends?" Sadly the answer has been no. But maybe that's OK. I hear the weather in England in November is lovely. Perhaps we plan a visit....

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Phony Facebook Friends

facebook, originally uploaded by benstein.

Since I'm nosy by nature Facebook has been a brilliant way to take my character flaw to the next level. I love checking up on old friends, looking at pictures and posting brilliant little nuggets of wisdom periodically. I don't like all the wacky farm and mob games on there but I deal. What I can't cope with are "friends" of mine trying to sell me stuff or trying to advertise their stupid company. Now I don't mind if someone has a business and sets up a Facebook page to advertise or to interact with their customers - in that businesses name. More power to 'em. Go get 'em 21st century business guy.

What I do mind is when someone uses their personal account to bombard all of their FB friends with promotional crap. This was supposed to be a social network right? Not a billboard for your crappy tchochkies. If I want to be a fan of your store or service I'll do so. If we're FB friends I'm looking for shots of your family on vacation and an occasional amusing/interesting link to a newspaper story. I don't want to buy your stuff and I don't need to know how much your business has grown. Don't make me un-friend you.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

I'm Gonna Party Like it's 1999!

"I think you're 20-something"

This is what my son said to me after I asked him how old he thought I was. His sister piped up at that point:

"No, I think you're 40," she said with a devilish smile.

"No Elizabeth, Daddy's not 40. He's definitely 20-something."

At this point I was playing it close to the vest. The 40 guess rattled me but I stayed cool as a cucumber.

"OK Joey - 20 what?," I asked.

"Ummm...I think you're 26."

"Yeah Daddy, you're 26," his sister chimed in as a consensus was quickly reached.

I didn't dispute their conclusion. I certainly have the mentality and maturity of a 26 year old (if not much younger. Read the name of the blog people!)

What does this story teach us? Well, I guess it shows that young children have no concept of time. It also shows that my kids must be blind! Now, I look pretty good but 26 is a number of years (and pounds) ago. I guess I should revel in this inadvertent compliment. I have my kids teenage years ahead so I'm sure compliments moving forward will be few and far between. For now I'm gonna party like it's 1999 - when I was actually 26!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

In The Name of Love

My wife has give me strict instructions that I am not allowed to blog about her job. A reasonable request for sure but I think I can skirt around that guideline and still make my point here.

I can't believe the news today...So my wife rocks in the corporate world. She's the Bono of HR. She's so awesome that her career has allowed one of us (me) to stay home with the kids. A dream both of us had way back before we even had the little darlings. Actually she had them. I hate when guys say "we" had the kids. Not anatomically possible. Anyway, I'm sure both of us would have envisioned my wife home with the kids in that dream scenario back then. Nevertheless, here we are.

Now that we've gotten to this place we're both adjusting to our new roles. Me as the primary care provider and chief boo-boo kisser and my wife as super-executive able to lead high level conference calls in a single bound (or something). I think there are times that we'd like to swap jobs but I don't think there has ever been a time (yet) that we've regretted the decisions we've made to get us here. We've been so blessed to find this town and have the experiences we've had along this wild journey. Who knows what the future will bring but the present is pretty darn good.

I promise to blog something a little edgier/angrier next time. I know it's not exciting reading when someone blathers on about how great their life is and how much they love their family, but you know what - I do and I will. The people closest to you need to here how valuable they are from time to time. I just thought my wife warranted a virtual fist bump for the amazing life she's provided for her peeps. She's the front man in our band these days. I'm happy to be the rhythm section.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Shave and a Haircut ... Holy Cow it is Two Bits!

When I lived in a major metropolitan area I got my haircut in a lovely men's salon. It boasted a TV at every chair, a cigar humidor and even ice cold draft beers for those who needed a mug of courage to get through their monthly trim. Consequently my haircut ran me $35 (tip included) every time I went. I accepted this as the cost of not looking like Frank Zappa.

Imagine my delight when I went to my "Village Barber" in our new town and discovered that the cost of keeping me looking pretty is a mere $10. Yup. 10 bucks! Look out Clooney because the J-Man might get trimmed little more often. So what if they only they only have 1 TV and I can't smoke cigars or drink beer. I have hair that grows as fast as a fertilized Chia Pet so I am saving my family tons of cash. Penny candy costs $2.00 these days for God's sake! I'm gonna squirrel away that $25 in savings per cut and I'll have a Caribbean vacation saved up in no time. Barbados here I come (perfectly coiffed I might add).

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Beet Stems Part Deux

At the risk of boring all 8 of my readers out there I will blog yet again about beet stems. You can't stop me. It's my blog and I'll bore if I want to, bore if I want to.

So my loving wife is out of town on business and I've been left to my own devices. Very dangerous. So what do I do while the cat's away you ask? I think of new and creative ways to pair seasonal ingredients sourced from my local farm and try to get my kids to actually eat them. I am so out of control! Did you think I was going to say throw a kegger or something?  I'm nearly 40 with 2 little kids. I think not.

So tonight was a success. Pictured above we have the aforementioned beet stems - stir frying in some olive oil at high heat with fresh local garlic, not local salt, not local pepper and not local orange juice. I live in Connecticut people - cut me some slack. I would so rock the kitchen if I lived in an area with a longer growing season. Anyway, once we let that sizzle for a while we added it to some sectioned fresh orange and red onion. Garnish with a sprig of local purple basil and viola!

Would your 7 year-old eat that? Mine did. Take that "Deceptively Delicious" cookbook writer woman who is or used to be married to Jerry Seinfeld. I don't deceive my kids when it comes to cooking like she recommends in her stupid book - I include them in the process - they see where the food comes from, how we prepare it - and it gets them interested in tasting it. What I don't have to do is try to trick my kids into eating a vegetable or a fruit. Do I really have to fashion eggplant into meatballs so that they'll eat something good? My Mother did that with me but I was a pain in the ass. I don't blame her for duping me. I ate butter sandwiches and apples almost exclusively until I was 16. Desperate times called for desperate measures.

It helped that I was gullible and trusted my Mother implicitly. That bond of trust was broken once I uncovered the truth. It took me an embarrassing number of years but eventually I realized that there was a reason why my Mother's meatballs tasted like no other - it wasn't that she was a great cook (which she is) it was because she was totally screwing with me! I'm glad she did. The challenging dishes she put in front of me as a kid opened me up to a whole beautiful world of cuisine that I'm just beginning to discover.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Suck It Bobby Flay!

I must have too much time on my hands these days because when I had a full time job and had to cook dinner, I was never struck by the beauty of what I was actually cooking. These are beet green stems. In a bowl of cool water shimmering in the late afternoon light they were amazing. People say that you eat with your eyes - I now I believe them. We also made some grilled strip steaks along with fried zucchini blossoms dusted with Pecorino Romano cheese. Unfortunately we ate the steak and zucchini so fast that I didn't get a shot of them. Just trust me - it would have made Mario Batali weep. Yeah - you wish you were at my house tonight. I am officially obsessed with cooking fun, seasonal stuff. It was so great to see my family devour what I made tonight. I can't think of anything that gives me a bigger kick than watching the people I love enjoying a dinner I prepared for them. It's my Italian heritage - I love to feed people.

Dinner tonight (and many nights) required me to go to my local butcher and my local farm. I'm just so jazzed to be living in a place where I have access to such things. People are so in tune with what's in season and what's good to eat right now. I suspect it's because there are working farms in the area that actually grow stuff - not just give pony rides. People around here really respect where their food comes from and that has profoundly affected the way I cook. Maybe we shouldn't be eating peaches and plums in the middle of winter. Asparagus is in season? - let's think of new ways to prepare it. I'm sure Chile is a beautiful country but why do we need to ship their fruit here? Maybe if we ate more seasonally we'd all be better off - the earth and us. I'm just sayin' - let's respect the ingredients people. Listen to Mother Nature - she talks a lot of sense.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The Games People Play

I love board games. I realize that statement dates me but I don't care. When I grew up family parties were always punctuated by a rousing game of Risk, Monopoly or Scrabble. Those were the big three and they were character building affairs. The older family members took no pity on the kids. It was sink or swim - if you couldn't hold Asia it was your problem. If you were too naive to realize that buying Connecticut Ave. was a waste of time...tough luck. Perhaps other families would find it cute if a 7 year old tried to put down "RRRRR" as a word. Not mine.  We don't suffer fools.

"RRRRR is not a word Joey, it's an exclamation." Oh, I just thought I have a boat load of R's and I need to unload them. Back to the drawing board. Is that hourglass thingy moving faster for me than it did for Dad?

It's with that background that I share the following milestone: Tonight my son and I played our first complete game of Scrabble together. I have dreamed of this day. He was actually very excited - although I'm not sure if he was more excited about playing the game or the fact that he got to stay up late with the old man. Nonetheless, he held his own. I dialed down my competitiveness and sat back and watched how he would fare. He did great (even though I totally dominated). He even put together some combo words - horizontally and vertically. He did his father proud. I look forward to our battles/bonding for years to come.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Eelectric Company

Screw you wind and sun. We don't need windmills and solar power because my son has come up with the most alternate of all alternate fuels - Eel power. I love how 7 year-olds think totally outside the box.

The idea is this:  get a lot of eels (which there are I believe). Next, run electrodes into the eel-infested water, hook them up to electric storing contraptions and observe the future. Enough kilowatts to spark up a large city my friend. That's right people - it's natural and it's renewable. Of course all he needs to move forward is funding. All interested investors should send checks to me - I am his father after all!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

It's A Man's World

It might not look like it, but being a stay at home dad is a ton of work. I do the manly jobs around the house - cutting the grass, fixing the workbench, re-sheetrocking the playroom. But I also do some of the "girlie" jobs - arranging play dates, vacuuming, grocery shopping. I'm actually folding laundry in this shot - you just can't see it. The funny thing is that living in both worlds doesn't feel funny. Maybe it should.

Of course after all of this work a stay-at-home Dad needs some me time. And what's more relaxing than taking your two idiosyncratic children who can't swim to the beach? Idiosyncratic you say? Yeah - did I mention that my daughter doesn't like the feeling of sand between her toes? She may be the only human being who doesn't like that feeling. People in Nebraska would kill for sand! (I presume that somewhere in Nebraska there is sand - I'm just not sure if it's located by a body of water. More research is needed). And my son - he doesn't like bright light or his sister.

It was actually fun observing the the group of moms near us. It started out as a small group of a couple of women with their toddlers. But then its turned into a Mommy Woodstock (OK maybe Lollapalooza).

"Hey...good to see you. Austin's gotten so big. You look great by the way."

"Is Madison going to camp?"

"That Dad over there is a total hottie."

OK - I may have made up some of those. Madison isn't going to camp. But I must say, I was almost jealous of this secret society as I thumbed though Sports Illustrated. These women had such a free and easy way of relating to each other. It would have felt lonely if not for the fact that it was a beautiful day and I was on the beach with my kids - idiosyncrasies and all.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Maybe if We Lived in a Trailer Park...

According to FEMA this isn't enough damage to be considered for disaster aid even though residents of my state have been approved to apply for federal funds as a result of the torrential rains we had back in March. They said it "wasn't significant enough damage." I guess several thousand dollars worth of damage is chump change - and that figure doesn't take into account the fact that I'm doing all the work myself. Luckily I'm pretty handy and don't have to hire a bunch of contractors to put the room back together. Maybe I should have and then showed the Feds all of the invoices. I must mention here that the only reason I went to FEMA is because my useless homeowner's insurance doesn't cover such things. They call it "an Act of God." Since when did insurance companies get religion? Only when it benefits their bottom line apparently.

 Now I don't want to sound grabby, especially when fishermen in Louisiana are trying to make a living in an oil slick, but why make the funds available if you don't plan on honoring legitimate claims? Maybe I should have tried to look poorer. Perhaps a wife-beater T with gravy stains? Maybe a car up on blocks in the front yard? I could have used a lot of double negatives during the interview: "I ain't seen nothin' like this rain in my whole life." I think the pride we take in maintaining our home may have worked against us in this case.

Several of the FEMA reps asked if the furnace or any part of the heating system was damaged as a result of the flood. Being an honest man I said no. Would others in a similar situation? Maybe if I lied and said yes I would be getting a check from Uncle Sam. It's just frustrating that honest people get denied while other people job the system.

Friday, June 11, 2010

I Cook Therefore I Am

I officially have an unhealthy obsession with food. It's not that I'm fat or anything (although I could probably lose a few lbs like most Americans). It's just that I spend a lot of time thinking about food - what to cook, what to shop for, what restaurant to go to and I won't admit how much time I spend watching cooking shows. We even joined a local CSA farm (Community Supported Agriculture). I'm so pumped that I may hug the farmer when we go to the farm for the first time on Tuesday.

"Thank you kind farmer for my locally grown arugula and Japanese mustard greens. I look forward to seeing you again. Call me."

I know, awkward. But it's true. I'm just so passionate about good food - for myself and my family. The real frustrating part is when I spend time prepping a great dinner and the kids just want mac and cheese. I am making some inroads though. My 4 year old daughter devours mussels and clams like it's her job and my 7 year old son loves eating salad. I would post more but Tyler Florence is exploring Low Country cuisine - gotta run...

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Modern Man or Just a Wuss?

It's probably better reading if I write about my struggle to accept this new role of mine. New stay at home dad is thrust into a new life and a new town...let the high jinks and missteps ensue. But it really hasn't been that way so far. I actually shared a bean salad recipe today with my daughter's pre-school teacher and no one laughed out loud. Enough said.

I've been thinking of the great Michael Keaton in Mr. Mom. Bumbling buffoon at home, unable to use an iron or change a diaper but a great guy at the factory - back-slapping his peeps at the auto factory as a union rep as I recall. I guess that made him more of a man back in the day but does it still? Does it make me less of a man that I cook dinner every night and I know what a duvet is or does it just make me more well rounded (and a well-informed Bed Bath & Beyond shopper)? Who knows but life is too complicated these days for everyone's family unit to look exactly the same. For us so far, it's working. I'm loving the domestic thing. If that makes me less of a man, then so be it. I can't be bothered, I'm having too much fun hanging with my kids and making quiche.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Point/Counterpoint with the Preschool Set

I'm always amazed at the ability of children to ask the most poignant, insightful questions. Charlie Rose has nothing on my daughter. Here's what she hit me with yesterday....

"Daddy how come you don't go to work?" My response?

"Because Daddy's manhood isn't tied to his career. Mommy and Daddy have decided to challenge traditional gender roles in the hopes of providing a better quality of life for all of us. And don't you like having Daddy home all the time anyway?"

Good answer? Maybe too heavy for a 3 year old? She's pretty sharp though. She sniffs out BS like a bloodhound. For what it's worth she seemed to accept my response. She kinda just looked at me like I'm from outer space (which is a look that all fathers get from their daughters at one time or another). Then she said:

"Yeah, but how come Mommy has to work?"

"Because we aren't independently wealthy Honey. Someone in this family has to work. Why don't you go to work? Do you want to go to work? I think you're old enough now."

"No Daddy, I can't work. I'm little!" she said with a huge smile.

"And that's why we have to make Mommy work."

Laughter ensued (but out of earshot of Mommy who was not laughing. She was working like an indentured servant from her home office upstairs).

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The hills are alive with the sound of killing

I'm still getting used to the silence of the country. No sirens or car horns. No ambient noise from the nearby highway. Thanks to our increased acreage we can't even eavesdrop on our neighbors barbecues. It's quite peaceful. What we do have are the sounds of nature in abundance. Croaking frogs, chirping birds and blood curdling cries from things being eaten alive. Ah the serenity of the country.

At about 1 a.m. last night I was in bed snug as a bug when I heard rustling and shrieking coming from the woods behind our house. It didn't sound human (thank God). I'm a city guy and I've never hunted anything in my life so I can't really identify what it was but I do know that some unfortunate beast was being ripped to shreds by something a little higher up on the food chain. It sounded like something taking a deer down. Maybe a wolf? I don't know...a cheetah? By the way, do deer shriek when their life flashes before their big vacant eyes? Maybe it was something else meeting it's maker. Any giant pandas in Connecticut? I have a lot of questions but no answers and I'm not about to go poking around in the woods looking for the scene of the attack. I've never even watched CSI so I'm useless there as well.

I might have to put on the ambient noise radio thing in the bedroom tonight to drown out the carnage. Sweet dreams for me.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Give Your Kids a Proper Name

I post the following link on Mother's Day as a way to encourage any new mother's out there to use some common sense and don't name that new beautiful baby girl of yours Kaetlynnne or Bryanna or George or some other nonsensical moniker.

My wife has endured more than a few of my rants over the years about the ridiculous names unfit parents are foisting upon their defenseless infants. I see it as a form of child abuse. I was watching a kids show today with my daughter and they flashed a picture of a cute little boy with his Mom. They didn't name the Mom but the kid? Dartanion. DARTANION!! Outrageous. Bring the mother up on charges. First of all the name is spelled D'Artagnan as in The Three Musketeers. It's bad enough that you name your child after a swashbuckling  frilly shirt wearing Frenchman from the 1800's but then you go with a phonetic spelling?! If you're gonna go there then go all the way. Maybe the kid will actually read some day.

You have to call into question the motives of these parents. Is it for attention? Is it because they think their kid is so unbelievably special that they have to create a name out of thin air? Sarah Palin is a great example here. People are actually considering that she could be qualified for the Presidency when she has named her children the following: Track, Bristol, Piper, Willow and Trig. OK, deep breath....

A Track is what you run on
Bristol is a city in southwest England
Piper is a dog's name
Willow was a bad 80's movie and a tree but not a kids name
Trig is short for Trigonometry which I can't explain because I was a journalism major in college

And can we use gender specific names please. I'm getting older people. I grew up when James was exclusively a boys name. I'm certain that any girl named James would have been laughed out of elementary school.When you exclaim that "Madison did so well at soccer this weekend" do you see what position you're putting me in? Is Madison a boy or girl? Am I the fool? I think not. Dartanion's mom might be though.

Happy Mother's Day everyone.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Faith in Humanity

I met a couple of extraordinary people today as a result of a a bit of misfortune. It just goes to show that when life craps on you it eventually turns into mind manure. Allow me to elaborate...

So my cool looking but recently not well running classic English car broke down today - stranding my daughter and I downtown with a thunderstorm brewing and my 2nd grader soon arriving at home via bus. Enter Awesome Human Being #1: Retired Teacher Guy (RTG).

So RTG not only asks if I need help when he sees me struggling to start my ride but he goes above and beyond by offering to drive me and my daughter to the repair shop. I already have a man crush on this guy but it gets better. Turns out he's a retired school teacher who volunteers his time to go into the schools and teach extra classes on a variety of cool kid topics - rockets, pond and lake ecosystems, etc. He had me at hello.We arrive at the shop and I get out and expect him to drive away - no. He says he'll come in to introduce me to the owner. Really? People do that here? By the way, RTG drives off before I can even thank him properly, making me feel like Bad Manners Guy (BMG).

Enter Awesome Human Being #2: Mechanic Guy (MG). I arrive at his shop desperate. He leads me to his truck, we hop in and he drives us back to my stranded vehicle. He spends about 15 minutes tinkering until he declares "You got no spark. It won't run with no spark."

I guess marriages and cars are a lot alike I think at the time but I don't share because I don't want him to think I'm crazy. He recommends towing it back to my house before the rain comes and he offers to give us a lift home so I can get back in time to get my son off the bus. Who is this guy? Jesus Christ Himself? (He did have a very large gold crucifix on). On the way back to our house I find out that this guy is a youth mentor in town who volunteers at 3 local schools. I also find out that he's 45, has a kid in high school and is yearning to be passionate about what he's doing - the mechanic thing is not floatin' it for him anymore. As he said, "I saw my 16 year old nephew playing the guitar and he was so passionate about it. I told him that I wish I was like that about something." Indeed my wise new friend. But what he didn't realize is that he is passionate about something - helping people. He helped me and I'm sure he helps countless kids in the community. He's doing far more for his fellow man from what I can tell than whatever he's doing to the cars he works on.

So the car is broken but my faith in my fellow man isn't.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Nursery School Darwinism

"Daddy, I can't have jelly sandwiches because of an allergy."

This is what my 3 year old informed me when I picked her up today from nursery school. Obviously I'm out of my gourd to think that it would be acceptable to send my kid into school with a jelly sandwich. Jelly?? OK. The peanut thing was far enough but now we've gone beyond the pale. It's bad enough that I've never been able to send my 7 year old son into school with a good ole American PB&J but now we've gone crazy. At the risk of offending everyone, I would say that if you're kid's immune system is so weak that an airborne sniff of raspberry jelly from another kids sandwich is enough to send them into anaphylactic shock, maybe there are other issues - like maybe if this were "The Wild" your progeny would have been a carcass years ago. It's called thinning the heard. Do you think the "Greatest Generation" ever had a peanut table in elementary school? I don't think so. If they did a bunch of blond haired, blue eyed Germans might occupy all of Western Europe today.

However I think there's something else afoot here. I blame the parents. We don't allow our kids to be kids anymore. They have to be little adults from the age of three. Well you know what? Kids are supposed to get dirty and play and make fart noises and wipe snot on their sleeve and drop food on the floor and eat it. You know why? BECAUSE THEY'RE KIDS!! Instead what do we do as parents? We Purell the crap out of them from the womb, expose them to nothing and basically raise them like bubble boys and girls. Then we send them out into the petri dish that is nursery school - with the snot and the mucus and such and we're shocked when Johnny has issues? Of course he does - just like his parents. Can we let our kids live life people? Putting their fingers in their mouths after squishing an ant won't kill them - we just think so.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

The Fingers Grasp Success

I think I'm going to start investing in 3M. I swear my son can do just about anything with a pair of scissors and a load of Scotch tape. He's a mini MacGyver. His latest creation is pictured above. What is it? The lead guitar player from The Fingers rock band of course. They're all brothers (Fingers is their family name). You haven't heard of them yet? Allow me to introduce them. They're a 5 piece band (obviously).
Lead Guitar - Index Finger
Bass - Ring Finger
Lead Singer - Middle Finger
Drums - Thumb Finger
Cowbell/Tambourine/Backing Vocals - Pinky Finger

Their success in the music biz is at hand. All they need is a fair shake. They have a great grasp of the business. They're poised to be the next big thing so move over Lady Gaga.

Who needs store bought toys when you have an active imagination, right?. Good thing he has one since we lost most of his toys in the flood! The funny thing is, since he lost his toys he's hardly noticed. It's just like he never really had them. Now he just creates stuff and goes outside and actually does stuff.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Sugar and Spice and Everything Nice...Not so Much.

What are little boys made of?
What are little boys made of?
Frogs and snails
And puppy-dogs' tails,
That's what little boys are made of.
What are little girls made of?
What are little girls made of?
Sugar and spice
And all that's nice,
That's what little girls are made of.

What an idiot. Did the author of this drivel ever have a little girl? I think not. Don't let this angelic picture of my daughter fool you. She'll cut you. Literally. She actually threw a pair of razor sharp scissors at her brother this afternoon. I kid you not. Luckily he was agile enough to get out of the way so Daddy didn't have to deal with a gaping chest wound to start the week. 

In addition to her penchant for cutlery she also screams...a lot...for no reason. Oh, and she lies.

A typical exchange in our house:

"Daddy, Joey hit me."

"Joey did you hit your sister?"

"No way Daddy. She's lying, I swear. She always lies."

Bingo J-Man. She always lies. Even when I catch her in the act of beating the dog or purposely smashing one of her brother's amazing Lego creations she denies it. And she's not even four yet. At least now I can pick her up and restrain her or take her blankie away when she does something egregious. What is her future husband going to do with her? I think he may spend a lot of time weeping softly to himself. All I have to say to the lucky man is...don't blame me. She was born this way - and  I swear her mother didn't drink or do drugs while she was pregnant. To quote the great philosopher B.A. Baracus: "I pity the fool."

Friday, April 16, 2010

The 8 Year Old Within

There are a few things on God's green earth that makes me instantly revert to my juvenile self -The theme to "The Dukes of Hazzard",  hearing Phil Rizzuto's voice on old Yankee broadcasts and seeing an exact replica of the Trans Am from "Smokey and the Bandit." When I saw this delightful vehicle today I instantly wanted a CB mounted on the dash of my Toyota. Stupid cell phones killed off that form of communication. Texting my wife that I would be home soon because I was "gonna put the hammer down" didn't seem as satisfying as barking it into a CB and screaming "HEEEHAWWW."

When I was a young lad I swore that when I was old enough to drive I would have Bandit's car. It was a fait accompli. I would have the t-top with the gold eagle on the hood. I would also have Burt Reynolds stash, the cowboy hat and a need for speed. In my vision I also had cute-as-a-button Sally Field, but that's another story for another day. I'll just say that it's unfortunate that she's doing bone density commercials these days. Makes me feel a tad over the hill.

I never did get that Trans Am. I also couldn't grow an impressive stash at 17. My first car was actually about as far away from my dream as you can get - an '86 Chevy Sprint that I had to push down hill and pop the clutch in order to start. Once it was started I think it topped out at about 58 mph. Zero to 58 in about nine minutes. Any faster than 58 and the doors started to get awful fluttery like they were about to get ripped off. Not exactly a vehicle you could outrun Sheriff Buford T. Justice in. These days I'm straightenin' the curves and  flattenin' the hills in a pretty sweet Highlander with Cheez-It crumbs and Legos smooshed into the upholstery. Someday the mountain might get me but the law never will.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Clam Pie, How Do I Love Thee?

I realize I'm late to the party since they have been around since 1925 but I ate at Pepe's Pizza in New Haven for the first time today. I have to say, it didn't disappoint. Sometimes you go to an over-hyped place and it falls flat because your expectations are so high. This place exceeded mine. I ordered a clam pie because I had heard that it was a must have if you found yourself at Pepe's. Well, it was a life changing event. I'm not one for hyperbole but it was the best pizza I have ever had and I consider myself an aficionado. It was a perfect balance of garlic, fresh clams and charred crust. Perfection on a plate. We will be back.

What made the experience even better was the neighborhood. Anytime you can have great pizza and take a stroll up the block afterward to Mary Magdelene Corner and come across the scene pictured above, it's a good day. Love the fact that the Mary Magdalene sculpture is encased in plexiglass. Funny, but when I was in Florence at the Galleria dell'Accademia I don't recall Michelangelo's David encased in a plastic box.  I have to imagine that Mike's sculpture might be worth a tad more than this rendering near an on-ramp to I-91 in New Haven. I'm not an art historian but I think I can state that with some level of certainty. I guess it's very valuable to someone and that's the point.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

We're a Disaster

It's never a good sign when two officials with clipboards knock on your door and ask if they can asses your damage. What damage were they talking about? Emotional, physical, mental? Before I could ask I saw their ID - Ah, they were from FEMA and talking about our flood damage and not the damage I'm causing as a parent. Whew! I wasn't in trouble. Better yet, it looked like the government was gonna write me a check. Why should I be the only one left out, right? They'll just print more anyway. So what if my kids futures are compromised because of the crushing debt our country is heaping onto their backs. But I digress.

The FEMA guys seemed downright disappointed that I didn't have even more damage. They kept dreaming up disaster scenarios that could have happened.

"You got a bathroom down here? No? Well that's good because you mighta had a sewage back up and then you woulda had real problems."

Yeah, free flowing sewage in my new basement would have been a major bummer.

"You're boiler functionin' awright? The water didn't get up that high did it?," FEMA Guy #1 asked hopefully.

No FEMA guy. I think it's fine. What I don't think is fine is that you're the first non-family members we've had over the house. Want to stay for lunch? By the way, did you meet any of our neighbors? Are they nice?

What I actually said was, "No, the boiler's fine. I just had to get rid of the floor, some insulation and the sheetrock."

"Well, that's a lot of work right there."

Why yes it is master of the obvious. Does my labor count toward the final tab? If that's the case, I slaved for days on end.

Did they want me to overstate my losses? I guess I'm naive but I just told them what had to be tossed out. I got the impression that if I told them I lost an antique Persian rug worth tens of thousands of dollars they would have bought it. The whole thing seemed ripe for corruption but I'm sure people are always on the up and up when they're in my position.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Turkey Vulture

Turkey Vulture
Originally uploaded by Steve Gilchrist
Is this guy handsome or what? How'd you like to run into one in your backyard? How about two? I took my dog out this morning for his constitutional when I spotted 2 of these sexy beasts up in the trees 20 yards from my house. They unfurled their wings (approx. 7 feet in diameter) and flapped off. I breathed a sigh of relief when they didn't attempt to carry my Labrador off for a light snack. Needless to say, I didn't encounter many of these in my old neighborhood where the houses sat on 1/4 acre lots. Maybe if I'm lucky I'll run into a giant python when I dump the garbage later.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

I Blame the NBA

At the risk of sounding like a completely out of touch Dad, what's up with all the tattoos? I saw a Chanel ad in Vanity Fair the other day that pictured an attractive girl with a neck tattoo (I think it's Rhianna but I'm not cool enough to be sure). The last time I checked the only people allowed to have neck tattoos were gang members, Hells Angels and anyone incarcerated. Now it's spread to musicians, Starbucks baristas and every player in the NBA.

It started out so innocently, this slow wave of tat ubiquity. First it was drunk college chicks on spring break getting a cute little dolphin or shamrock on their ankle. "Tee hee, my Mom is gonna kill me. Jen are you gonna get one too?  I will if you will. OK let's totally do it."

Then came the low rise jeans and the annoying butterfly on the small of the back. The proverbial "tramp stamp". I like that term. I think it may have dissuaded some young ladies from taking the plunge into white trashiness.

Let's not forget the guys. When I was in college every jug head athlete went with the barbed wire around the upper bicep. Nice. That's gonna look great when you're flabby and 50 Ace. Or better yet, the Chinese characters on the calf or the back of the arm. It may make me a bad person but every time I see someone who's obviously not Chinese with these things I pray that their tattoo reads "this guy smells like jerky" rather than "The journey is the reward" like he thinks.

My fear is that this trend will continue and my kids will grow up thinking it's no big deal to get some ink. Even worse, if employers start to accept it. At least now you know that you're limiting your job options and parents can use that as an argument.

"Billy, I'm glad you asked me first. You know son, getting a skull and cross bones on your right cheek is going to whittle down your potential employers. If you want to be a sword swallower at the circus I say go ahead. If you're looking for an IT job at IBM I would advise some restraint."

Unless you've killed someone, can sing like Chris Cornell or can dunk like Jordan you must leave the above the shoulder ink alone. We are a nation of laws people. Let's have some decorum.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Easter Outsourcing

My kids are getting too smart. They're already peppering me with questions that I don't have answers for. So J-Man (7) asks: "Daddy, how does the Easter Bunny make all of the toys?" Oh Jeez. I'm well versed on Santa but The Bunny has always been second rate to me. I never pondered such things. The basket arrived and I asked no questions when I was his age. I went with "Joey, he's magic like Santa." Apparently that didn't satisfy his thirst for knowledge. The note pictured above was taped to the side of the family room couch. What you don't see is the pen he also taped beside it. How thoughtful. I doubt Peter Cottontail carries a pen to respond to inquiries.

Unfortunately for Joey, Peter didn't respond. We pointed out that bunnies have no thumbs and maybe that was why he didn't respond. Wow. How weak. If we're being honest I would have told him that the truth is his father lacks imagination and the ability to think on his feet. However that may have crushed his image of the old man and we weren't looking to do that quite yet. He'll get there on his own soon enough.

Oh, and it wasn't over yet. I have two kids mind you. So my ball-busting 3-year-old follows up with: "How does the bunny make all the stuff?" In my head I said: "He outsources his manufacturing to China like everyone else. America hardly makes anything anymore." But I self-censored and went with the "he's magical" response again. Well, my daughter doesn't let things go so easily so mini Perry Mason follows up with: "So how does he know when we're bad?" At this point I just want to leave the room and curl up in the fetal position. Just take the freakin' candy ok!! What am I going to do with these kids when they actually start asking question about real people and real issues??

Unemployment is Exhausting

If you don't work can you go on vacation? Isn't a vacation from unemployment going to work? And it's not really much different if you bring the kids along (which we will). They don't sleep in, you can't bring them to swanky restaurants, casinos are out of the question and they don't drink wine. If you don't do the 9 to 5 thing a vacation is really just less vacuuming and more sun.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Witty Headline

My wife found out that our town's fire department pumps out basements for people if they require it. That would have been helpful information a couple of days ago. But who knew towns actually did that anymore? Do they rescue cats from trees too? In my old town the fire department was too busy dealing with union squabbling and politics to actually do such things. Where do I live - Mayberry RFD? Does the town drunk hang out in the jail cell and trade quips with the sheriff?  If I meet anyone named Goober or Aunt Bee that will confirm it.

Maybe it's already confirmed because we just attended an ice cream social at my 2nd graders school. Yup. The only thing missing was the soda jerk. It was a lovely gathering but as usual I was too busy observing the event than actually participating actively in it. One of these days I'm going to have to actually talk to some people around here. Maybe tomorrow when I meet the other local husbands to pitch in and clean up the baseball field for the little league kids. Free coffee for all volunteers. No, I'm not kidding. I think I'm going to have to learn to tone down the sarcasm around here. 

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The Tide is High and I'm Holdin' On

How high's the water Papa? Well, it's not 2 feet high and risin' like the Johnny Cash song but it's getting there. As you can see Barbie decided to go for a dip. We don't even have swimwear for her. I'm so ashamed. I can't help but harken back to the words of my house inspector as he was looking around my soon to be new basement.

"Wow, looks great. Dry as a bone. No signs of previous moisture. I bet you'll never have a problem down here."

Wrong shit for brains. We've got problems. And not just mental ones. We've been in the house for 3 weeks and it looks like we're headed for insurance claim #1. My agent is going to love me. On top of that my son has asthma and allergies so I'm sure a swimming pool in the basement will have a great effect on his respiratory system. Shoot me.

I've called every place that would have a water pump and they've all told me the same thing.

"You're not the only one with water in their basement. We're all out of sump pumps."

Why am I not comforted by being in the majority?

Monday, March 29, 2010

Bunny Ruse

 I'm having a hard time playing up the Easter Bunny to my kids. First of all I'm a terrible liar. Secondly I was never a huge fan of his work. I don't think I ever believed that he was hopping down the bunny trail to deliver me Peeps and Topps baseball cards. However an elf living in the North Pole with a team of flying reindeer seemed more plausible to me. Plus he brought kick ass stuff. The Easter Bunny never brought video games or a new bike.I just didn't want to crush my Mother's enthusiasm for the holiday so I let the charade continue until I was about 17. I put a stop to it when I started getting magazine subscriptions and athletic socks nestled in the phony plastic grass of my Easter basket.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Wild Kingdom

OK. So I'm not exactly a photojournalist but here is evidence that I now live in the sticks. The first one is the rear end of a fox. I would have gotten a shot of his face but I was so stunned to see him trot out of the woods and past my car that I fumbled with the camera for a few seconds. Did I mention that he had something dead dangling out of his mouth? Wonderful. I think the last time I saw a fox was in a Disney movie.

The second shot is one of 2 exotic ducks that my neighbor is raising. You heard me. Pet ducks. They actually have a little shed next to their pond for them. A duck house I guess. The kids love 'em. They wander from my neighbors pond to ours throughout the day. Our black Lab watches them hungrily from behind our fence. I have nightmares that he'll escape one day, jump in the pond and rip their throats out.

"Hi, we just moved in next door. Really nice to meet you but I have some bad news. Sorry but our dog murdered your super-exotic probably really expensive ducks. I thought I'd bring them over in case you wanted to perform a ceremony or something. By the way, do you know a good pediatrician in town?"

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

City planning gone wrong

I took my preschool side kick for a ride this afternoon to explore our surroundings a bit. After some rolling hills and pastoral landscapes we stumbled upon a little strip mall in the neighboring town with an unfortunate grouping of stores. From right to left: A scuzzy dive bar called Skrewy Lewys (actual spelling), a gun shop advertising Glocks (on sale!) and a law office (insert lawyer joke here). I'm not the best Catholic in the world but really?! If the mall had a name would it be the Seven Deadly Sins Plaza?

Monday, March 22, 2010

And now let me introduce myself. My name is Humpty...

Three weeks ago I quit my job, moved my family to a new town where we know absolutely no one and began a brand new life. It should be terrifying but instead I find myself insanely happy. It helps that I'm not working. I'm currently sponging off of my wife who's bringing home the bacon while I run around doing self indulgent things like starting a blog about myself! Oh, and I'm a stay-at-home Dad. Stay tuned.