Sunday, March 10, 2013

Daylight Savings Mess

It's like this: people look at something like Daylight Savings Time, and they think, "My gosh, it's so inconvenient to run around the house and change all those clocks!" They don't know the half of it.

First, no one even owns a VCR anymore, so there's no need to figure out how to set the time on one of those things. (Hint: It's not possible--when they were manufactured in Japan they were all programmed to perpetually blink 12:00. Payback, you know.)

Second, the time change is a completely different experience when young children are involved. Early in my married life, when I had disposable income and tools scattered about my house, Spring Forward meant losing an hour of sleep on Sunday morning. Or it meant waking up at the normal time and then realizing it was really practically lunch time and I was a lazy slob.

These days, it means that my children's biological clocks, which adjust to change about as well as the rudder of the Titanic did, are thrown off for at least a week afterward. It all starts off great on Sunday morning, when they don't come bounding into the bedroom (without knocking) until almost 8:00. But everything goes downhill from there. To make this easier to understand, I've documented it in timeline form below:

10:30 am Day 1 of daylight savings:
What do you mean you're not hungry? We eat snack every day at this time.
Oh, wait, we don't.

1:00 pm Day 1 of daylight savings:
Why aren't you in your bed? It's rest time, just like very other day.
Oh, wait, it's not.

7:30 pm Day 1 of daylight savings:
Why are you jumping rope in the basement? It's your bed time.
Never mind, it's really not.

7:02 am Day 2 of daylight savings:
Seriously? Doesn't your body think it's 6:00 am? How are you awake already?

The days that follow are a mass of confusion: late bed times, early waking times, altered meal times. Eventually an equilibrium is reached wherein the kids go to bed later and wake up earlier, all in the name of keeping the lights off a few minutes longer in the evening.

I'm sure everything will made right in the fall though.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

And the Oscar Goes To...

With the Academy Awards coming up, I thought I'd have my own award ceremony for my family. "Well that's rather pompous and self-serving," you might say. And you'd be right, but no more pompous and self-serving than an industry that gives itself awards several times a year just so it can get together and wear ridiculously expensive clothes and make incoherent speeches. 

 In typical Hollywood style, I'll be starting with the awards no one has heard of.

Visual Effects
 The winner for best visual effects is "Planet Cookies" by Brennen, Caleb, and Emily. Think they don't look like planets? You try making Venus out of sugar cookie dough and blue food coloring. Want to point out that Saturn's rings aren't big enough? Tell it to Uranus. And that last one? Yep, that's Pluto—once a planet, always a planet in my book.

Short Film—Live Action
Something has survived…again. Yes, 2013 marks the 20th anniversary of Jurassic Park, and Universal Studios has decided to further sully the great reputation of this film by producing Jurassic Park 4—also known as "Another desperate attempt to recapture the awesomeness of the first movie."  This short film "I Like Dinosaurs" is expected to have more plot development than anything Universal comes up with.  


Imagine you’re a tourist in a coastal Michigan town, and you approach this pirate ship parked on the sidewalk. It's filled with children, and they are singing pirate songs. Call the police? Search for the parents? No, give it the Oscar for best music.

Makeup and Hairstyling
It takes special skill and a tremendous amount of patience to fix a two-year-old's hair. My wife got my daughter to stand still for upwards of ten minutes to create this hairstyle, which I'm sure has a name. Centuries ago, someone who could keep a toddler quiet and still this long would have been burned as a witch. This year, I'm giving the Oscar for makeup and hairstyling to my wife, Debbie.

Costume Design
Weta Workshop has nothing on this family. It's one thing to put a bunch of beards and wrinkles on grown men, but it's quite another to turn three children into a transformer, a spider, and a princess, with enough time left over to scour the neighborhood for candy.

The Oscar for best actor is traditionally given to someone who performed in a movie that no one really liked, while movies that are actually good, like Blues Brothers and The 300, get completely passed over. Not this year. The Oscar for best actor goes to Brennen and Caleb, who reprised the roles of Tom and Huck in one of the greatest scenes in all literature. Except they used chalk instead of whitewash.

And finally, the Oscar for best actress goes to Emily. She's never had a wardrobe malfunction, and there's no silicone or botox in sight, but her performance in Girl with the Kitty Tattoo is Oscar-worthy.

That's all for this year's Academy Awards. Yes, I left out such popular categories as best cinematography and best documentary. Such is the benefit of having one's own award ceremony.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

State of my Family

I sat down the other night to watch the State of the Union address. Okay, I lied. I sat down to check the weather on the Internet and the address happened to be playing in the background. I'd checked the ten-day forecast and all four of my email accounts before I realized the State of the Union address was still going. I'm pretty sure I could plow through that Gettysburg speech in like three minutes, so I'm not sure why politicians today think they have to speak for so long.

Anyway, it was a quasi-patriotic experience having the president speak over my shoulder while I deleted messages in my spam folder promising…well, promising things that were about as likely to be delivered as anything the president was saying.

But the moment gave me an idea. As the (sort-of) president of my family, I should give a State-of-my-Family address. 

I'll have my children and wife sit on the couch, preferably wearing their most uncomfortable clothing. Then I'll have two people sit behind me to provide contrast. One will be someone who hates my guts. I'm thinking my high school driver's ed teacher, who told me on my last day that I would get in many accidents. He can grimace sourly at everything I say.

The other person behind me will be an absolute toad, who can nod approvingly at every word that comes out of my mouth like it was his idea to begin with. I have no idea who can play this role, as I've yet to meet a human being who agrees with everything I say. I do have a bobble-head doll that could work though.

I'll have to find a way to get only half the room standing and clapping at a time, while the other half folds its arms and shakes its heads with pursed lips. I could start by promising to ban princesses. This should get the male members of my family cheering, while winning dour looks from my daughter. I don't want to overreach though, so I'll focus only on extended capacity princesses. Snow White will still be fine.

I'll want to end the speech on a high note, possibly by invoking God, as so many politicians do. (Although given God's thoughts on lying, he's probably busy checking his Twitter feed like everyone else in the audience, rather than waiting around for the obligatory "God bless the United States of America" line.)

So I'll finish my address by passing out candy. Ought to win me another four years given the electorate I'm facing...

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

A Female Deer

My daughter has fallen in love. I thought I'd have more time to prepare for this day. More time to string barbwire around the house and set out Beware of the Dragon signs. But this romance might be worth encouraging. The object of her affection is a fellow named Georg. Nope, I didn't spell that wrong. But, you might know him as Captain von Trapp. 

We watched Sound of Music for the first time a few weeks ago, and it's taken hold of my children. My boys burst out into "Do-re-mi" with no provocation, and I was asked just the other day if we could ever hike to Switzerland. But my daughter is the most enthralled.

My little girl has transformed into Frauline Maria. Some days she pretends she's a nun and asks me to be the Wevwund Mother. Other times she serenades her brothers, her parents, or her dolls with "My Favorite Things."

And then there's the dancing. Multiple times a day she tugs on my pant leg, steps back and curtsies, then asks me to bow, so we can dance. The dance is more like a spinny carnival ride than any Austrian folk dance, with me having to switch directions multiple times so I don't get dizzy.

She is Maria, and she's in love with a story—with songs that I never tire of, and with the idea that a few notes can make her feel better when she's feeling sad.

And like the real Maria, she doesn't even mind that I can't sing Edelweiss. 

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Girls in Space?

I've never been a strong advocate for my favorite causes. I've never written my member of Congress, I don't complain at stores and restaurants, and I've never held a sign and marched anywhere. Mine is more of a live-and-let-live mentality—seeking my own happiness while letting others seek theirs. (An exception would be if Coca-Cola reintroduced New Coke. I'd likely end up in prison over that.)

But today that may have changed. I was reading a book titled Mousetronaut, about a tiny mouse that traveled on a space shuttle. (It's a true story, and the mouse had its own uniform and special training…budget deficit anyone?) Partway through the story, my daughter pointed to one of the human astronauts and asked, "Is that a girl?"
"Yep," I replied.
Then she turned around in my lap and asked wide-eyed, "Can girls be astronauts?" 

Wow. I've never done anything to suggest my daughter cannot be anything at all she wants to be, yet somehow this three-year-old had determined that going to space was only for boys.

I still won't be writing any letters—I'm too busy helping my kids build a LEGO castle for that—but I guess more needs to be done to show children that they can do and be anything their imaginations desire.

So, yes, my little girl needs to see that astronauts, mayors, and dump truck drivers can be girls as well as boys. Just like my sons need to see that teachers and veterinarians are not all girls.

It's my job to make sure my kids know that they can be whatever they want, and that they should choose something that excites and challenges them. Unless one wants to be a chemist modifying the recipe for Coca-Cola. I'd draw the line there.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

How to Screw up a Kid for Life

I’ve named three babies in my life. You may question whether that makes me a doddering amateur or a seasoned professional. I suppose if I said I’d hammered three nails in my life you’d likely not be inclined to ask my help on your next construction project. But if I said I’d defused three bombs in my life, you’d think I was MacGyver (Or James Bond if you’re too young to know who MacGyver was.) Given the relative scarcity of baby naming opportunities a person has in his life, I consider myself highly proficient at baby naming.

I named my first child, Brennen after bickering through a list of names with my wife. My second son, Caleb, was taken from the same list, being the only other name that we both agreed on for a boy. My daughter, Emily, is named after the greatest poet in the history of the universe: Emily Dickinson. 

Those are three pretty straightforward names. Chances are, if I asked you to spell all of them, you’d go two-for-three without breaking a sweat, and you might even luck into spelling Brennen’s name with an “e” instead of an “a.”

So if a noted weirdo like me can name three children without incident, setting them up for a life of normalcy (at least on the as far as their names go), why are so many people having trouble naming their babies lately without resorting to odd creations and perplexing spellings?  Celebrities, for example, apparently can’t even be bothered to think about their children’s names. They just shout out the first concrete noun in sight and go with it: Apple! Blanket! Coco! Done.

Possibly just as bad (at least for their future teachers) are those kids whose parents decide to test the limits of phonetics with their creative spellings. Ashleigh, anyone?

I fear we are raising a whole generation of kids who think spelling is like some sort of X-games event: make it up as you go, and as long as it looks pretty, you’ll get some points.  

Friday, January 18, 2013

Sick Day

Have you ever seen one of those movies where explorers find a journal written by some poor schmuck who was chronicling his civilization’s downfall right up until invading hordes swept the pen from his ink-speckled hand and offed him with a broadsword?

I bring it up because this blog might someday be a museum piece for this very reason. My family is in the throes of some unidentified sickness, and I’m slouched at the keyboard, with pieces of toilet paper scattered around the desk (because the Kleenex are long gone, and no one has had the energy to get dressed in days, let alone make a trip to the store). Cough drops are my constant companions, except when I’m actually coughing, which the aforesaid cough drops are powerless to prevent. I’m typing simply because my fingers landed on the keyboard when they dropped in exhaustion.

The coughing and sore throats came first, which led to the run on cough drops, then on honey, and finally on the leftover Halloween candy that would have never been eaten otherwise. Then came the fevers. At one point the mean temperature among the inhabitants of my home was 102. We probably should have all gone to the hospital, but who would have driven?

Nobody’s really eaten anything in a few days (except the Halloween candy). Nobody’s felt like cooking anything either though, so it’s hard to tell if our collective fast is out of necessity or lack of options. 

They are coming…I can hear the coughing in the distance. They are stumbling over empty Kleenex boxes and discarded cough drop wrappers, but nothing stops their relentless march. We have bleached the door handles and propped up our pillows. We do not hope to see the sunlight again…

See what happens when I get sick? I eat gross Halloween candy and have delusions that I’m Tolkien. Maybe somebody should drive me to the hospital.