Archive for February, 2011

A week off

February 26, 2011

Andrew Hicks

EDITOR’S NOTE: Andrew has really dug himself into a creative hole this time. He was going to write this blog for last Saturday on the following Wednesday. Then try to write a blog for Sunday, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. Then he had the thought — how about taking a week off, ex post facto, as a birthday present to himself? Then he weighed out the following pros and cons of a weeklong vacation from blogging:


A WEEK OFF: PROS AND CONS

PRO: Already five days behind anyway.
CON: Have enough material to write five current posts.

PRO: No one really reads blog posts that go up five days late.
CON: Every blog entry counts toward a body of work.

PRO: Will relieve pressure to overproduce or half-ass to make up for past mistakes.
CON: Will break commitment made in January to produce 365 blog entries in 2011.

PRO: Would allow me to just free-write and stockpile material to make future blogs better.
CON: Who am I kidding? If I give myself a week off, I’m not doing anything productive.

PRO: You’re gonna take the lazy way out anyway.
CON: You’re right, Pro, damn you.

See you in a week.

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Love letter to my iPod

February 25, 2011

Andrew Hicks

We have an anniversary coming up, you and I. Five years. Half a decade since you came into my life. I have a hard time remembering what things were like before you came along, and I can’t picture my life without you.

Yeah, we’ve had our rough patches. Remember when I lost your charger for like two months? Remember when the Bose dock bit the dust? Remember how mad I would get when I’d put you on shuffle, and you’d pick the same “random” songs every time?

But iPod, I’m not kidding — I love you, man. You were around before I had kids, when I used to party all the time. They called me the Music Nazi because I didn’t feel like a social gathering was complete unless you were front and center, spitting out jams from the My Top Rated playlist.

You’ve gone from the forefront to the background and now back to the forefront. These days, you have to compete with Barney, Kipper and Caillou for background noise in the room. Soon, I might have to silence your Geto Boys and all your ’90s West Coast gangsta sheet, but right now we’re kickin’ it like it’s the good ol’ days.

I both love and hate how you’re frozen in time. When you first came around, I had to load all your songs from my roommate’s Mac. I went crazy, cycling through all my old CDs and begging any friend who gave me a ride home to bring their CDs inside so I could stock you. I checked out 20 CDs from the library at a time so you’d be more full-bodied.

I thought I was being discriminating at the time, but now I wish I would’ve hidden more guilty pleasures in your 30-gig canon. Why did I think in 2006 that I’d never want to hear “Round and Round” by Tevin Campbell again in my life? I love that song.

Inevitably, there will be loss. One day, you will die or get dropped in the toilet or maybe even be stolen by a visiting Jehovah’s Witness with questionable morals. And on that day, I will be sad, inconsolable and probably too broke to immediately buy your replacement. But let’s enjoy what we have while we have it.

So how about we do a shuffle right now? Ready? Okay… What? Wilson Phillips?! Ah, you know me too well, iPod.

BABY PICTURE OF THE DAY

Sarah with a Funsaver camera. I can't wait till she's old enough to look at this picture and ask, "Daddy, what the heck is that thing?"

Old MacDonald redux

February 24, 2011

Andrew Hicks

EDITOR’S NOTE: This blog post is being written a day late, while — no joke — Andrew cooks three pounds of processed chicken breast in the oven.

Sarah has been singing “Old MacDonald” nonstop for an hour now. Which got me to thinking, the producers of the movie Food Inc. should rewrite it and ruin it for all the sweet, naive kids out there. I don’t have the time or ability to complete a full-bodied parody, but the general idea is this:

Old MacDonald had a farm.
E-I-E-I-O
And on that farm he had a cow.
E-I-E-I-O
And the cow spent his whole life with hundreds of other cows in a poorly ventilated building, being fed chemicalized byproducts, unable to turn around. And the unattended cow waste piled up, and by the time he was slaughtered, he was standing ankle-deep in cow feces.
E-I-E-I-O
With a moo moo here, and a moo moo there.
Here a moo, there a moo, everywhere a moo moo.
Old MacDonald had a farm.
E-I-E-I-O

Old MacDonald had a farm.
E-I-E-I-O
And on that farm he had a chick.
E-I-E-I-O
And the chicken was genetically engineered so it would reach maximum breast-heavy growth by six weeks, and disease-ridden chickens fell dead all around him and were left to rot, and migrant workers came in the middle of the night to cram him and his buddies into cages so their connective tissue could be ground into breaded slurry nuggets.
E-I-E-I-O
With a peep peep here and a peep peep there.
Here a peep, there a peep, everywhere a peep peep.
Old MacDonald had a farm.
E-I-E-I-O

Old MacDonald, by the way, has a contract with Tyson Foods that put him hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt, made him into an indentured servant and only earns him about $18,000 each year for his 80 hours a week of work.
Old MacDonald is plenty screwed.
E-I-E-I-O

Linda the ho-bot

February 23, 2011

Andrew Hicks

In the interest of continuity (for those of you who have been reading this blog for awhile), I should mention it’s been almost six months since The Event, and I’m still not back to work. Oh, I’m working around the house — dishes, cooking, vacuuming, laundry and multitasking the double-baby situation — but none of that draws a paycheck or cash tips. I won’t get to exploit all this family work until I’m close to death and need one of these lucky kids to change my bedpan or something.

So it’s about time to go back to waiting on people (unless YOU — yes, YOU — want to pay me to write stuff), since the injured ankle is almost healed. My movement is still restricted, I still have pain at the end of the day, and I never should’ve walked in the snow earlier this month. Also, if you break your ankle in September, and in February, your 2 year old begs you to get on the trampoline and jump with her, don’t do it. You will look foolish, you will ache, and you will regret it. But I’m feeling good, I’m writing, and I’m still not drinking.

I do owe some people some money, though. Can’t lie about that. I get all kinds of robocalls I don’t answer every day. Most don’t leave a message. Some leave an automessage that is joined in progress once my voicemail starts recording. And then, there’s Linda. Linda is a collectorbot who calls and leaves the same 12-second voice message a half-dozen times a day. Crazy thing is, every time I get a Linda message, it originates from a different area code. You know that Ludacris song about having hoes in different area codes? Well, for one ho, Linda is in 124 area codes and counting. That’s impressive, Linda. But annoying.

My birthday’s this Sunday, and already I’ve gotten a card from my mom with a very generous check in it. This proves once again that the most thoughtful gift anyone can give is a lump sum of cash. Made my day. Not a word of this to Linda, anybody.

BABY PICTURE OF THE DAY

This caption has yet to be written.

Counterclockwise perpendicular

February 22, 2011

Andrew Hicks

EDITOR’S NOTE: …aw, screw it.

When I take my babies to the doctor, I always end up feeling like a crappy parent when I fill out those baby-development questionaires. I don’t pay enough attention at home to answer “yes” or “no” to, “When your baby sees his reflection in the mirror, does he reach counterclockwise perpendicular toward the mirror baby’s right shoulder?”

Um, I think I’ve seen Silas look in the mirror before, and I think he reaches to touch his reflection. Should I just answer “yes,” or is “yes” the bad answer? Is clockwise parallel toward the mirror baby’s left shoulder actually the way a non-waterhead baby reaches to touch his reflection?

I’d tell the medical community exactly what they wanted to hear if I knew exactly what they wanted to hear.

BABY PICTURE OF THE DAY

Silas and his ornate Native American rattle shipped from Colorado by Grandpa Hicks.

New tooth

February 21, 2011

Andrew Hicks

Silas poked his first tooth through his lower gum today. He’s currently celebrating by screaming his head off.

Nah, nah, he’s asleep. It’s 11:11 pm, and the entire house is asleep except for me. I’ll be going to bed soon, too. I’ve got myself and the kids getting up at 8 every day now, not at 10:30, which is a lot more “normal” than things were going for a couple months. I will always put the word “normal” in quotes. “Normal.” See? That’s three times now. Three times, and it’s a habit.

Click here to read a funny Facebook exchange between me and fellow Illinois comedians C.J. Dodd and Mike Mayberry, re: tooth theft, homeless vagabonds and delicious soup.

HEADLINE: Mississippi May Honor Early KKK Leader On Commemorative License Plate

If approved, the license plate will be available in the following colors — Ivory, White, Off-White, Pearl, Snow, Ghost, Pale, Extra Pale, Blonde, Depigmentized, Chalky, 2% Milk and Pallid Tope.

FAMILY PICTURE OF THE DAY

Sarah, for some reason, loves to watch me play bowling games on the computer. I don't normally ever play bowling games, but one night I tried one out while she was sitting on my lap, and now it's a thing. Also, Sarah's favorite Disney cartoon to watch on YouTube is a Mickey Mouse short from 1929.

Grandparents’ visit

February 20, 2011

My mom held onto this French-tailored dress from her childhood and passed it down to Sarah. This picture itself looks vintage to me. First time I saw it, I told Tiffany it reminded me of the Kennedy assassination footage, and two hours later, we happened upon a "Kennedy Home Movies" special on TLC. Pretty sure I saw the dress at some point.

Tiffany's mom, Grandma Ginny, with Silas. My in-laws drove up today to have lunch with us. They brought lasagna and salad with strawberries, clementines and sweet poppyseed dressing. It was low-stress, high-quality family time.

Sarah kept Grandpa Jim in a constant state of activity during his visit. This is one of their quieter moments.

Sarah stands atop an upside-down Bumbo, shirt pulled way up, while Grandma Ginny gives her a hand and Silas stares at his right foot.

Microreadership drive

February 19, 2011

Andrew Hicks

EDITOR’S NOTE: This post for Saturday was written on Sunday, while Andrew listened to the new Radiohead album, which he recommends.

Most appeals for readership by blog authors don’t treat individuals as individuals. But I aim to pioneer the opposite approach. I know that each day people happen upon this site after they type in search phrases. Most of these web surfers will probably come by this blog once and never return, but I figure, if I address the specific concerns that brought them to my site, they might come back. Repeat readership is the name of the game, so bear with me as I address a few of my search-term readers specifically, one on one:

TO THE FIVE PEOPLE WHO SEARCHED FOR “BUFFET”
Man, you guys are people after my own heart. My favorite buffet experience right now is the Saturday breakfast at Golden Corral. Get there around 9:45 or so, eat a giant salad with baby shrimp, black olives, red onion, blue cheese crumbles and Thousand Island, make a single-plate run through the breakfast items and finish it all with a slice of “no sugar added” blueberry pie. It’s too early for me to eat really sweet food, but it’s not too early for pie. Previously, my only option was quiche. Also, the breakfast buffet includes free juice, milk and coffee, and Sarah is still free, and she always eats at least 27 cents worth of scrambled eggs and 4 cents worth of soft-serve vanilla. Added value.

TO THE PERSON WHO SEARCHED FOR “DELAYED BATHING”
When I was like ten, I once delayed taking a bath for an entire month. Is that what we’re talking about here?

TO THE PERSON WHO SEARCHED FOR “WHY DON’T WHITE PEOPLE USE WASHCLOTHS”
I can’t speak for every white person, but to me the washcloth seems like an unnecessary middle-medium. I can get the soap directly from the bar to my body by placing it in my hand and rubbing it on the body part I’m interested in washing. Seems easier and more efficient than rubbing the soap on the washcloth, then rubbing the washcloth on my body. The hygiene issue is moot to me, because if you rub the soap on a particularly dirty or intimate part of your body, it’s STILL SOAP. It IS cleanliness. It repels my ass-cooties or whatever. Can you tell I opted to take three years of science in high school rather than four?

TO THE PERSON WHO SEARCHED FOR “FINE LEATHER DIARIES”
I know a lot about diaries, but I’ve always kept mine on the computer or in beat-up notebooks of various sizes. I’m not a “fine leather diaries” kind of guy. But I want you to read my diary, so together let’s explore the opening paragraph of Wikipedia’s entry on leather: “Leather is a durable and flexible material created via the tanning of putrescible animal rawhide and skin, primarily cattlehide. It can be produced through different manufacturing processes, ranging from cottage industry to heavy industry.” That’s informative and entertaining — tell me the word “putrescible” looks anything less than electric on the page.

TO THE PERSON WHO SEARCHED FOR “8 MONTH OLD BABY WITH BROKEN NOSE”
Silas is almost 8 months, and his nose is fine, but when Sarah was around this age, I left her on the bed and turned to the dresser to get myself a shirt. In the few seconds my back was turned, she managed to roll herself off the bed and tumble down to the floor, where it seemed she landed on her shoulderblade and head. Little girl screamed her head off, and I spent the night cursing myself for allowing her to get severe brain damage before her first birthday. She fell asleep crying and acting disoriented, but she woke up normal, and I never again put her on my bed and turned my back on her. She didn’t break her nose, either. So I guess none of this is relevant to you. Sorry I lost you as a reader.

TO THE PERSON WHO SEARCHED FOR “GERMAN DIAPER STORIES”
Ich bemerkte gestern, als Sarah wachte aus ihrem Mittagsschlaf, sie habe ihre Windel entfernt. Es gab eine vage Geruch von Kot, aber ich habe nichts gesehen. Ich wischte ihr Bereichen und einen neuen Windel auf ihr. An diesem Morgen, wenn vaccuuming ihr Zimmer, stieß ich auf eine vertrocknete braune Stück Kot, viele Füße, von wo sie schlief. Sie warfen die Sauger durch den Raum. Es gibt keine Art, wie ich über diese Geschichte in Englisch schreiben würde, aber das ist Deutsch, so dass wir sicher sind.

TO THE PERSON WHO SEARCHED FOR “DIARY THAT IS LIKE POOP”
You are definitely in the right place, sir or ma’am.

BABY PICTURE OF THE DAY

End of the world

February 18, 2011

Andrew Hicks

When I was 10, I checked a movie out of the Grace Christian Bookstore. It was a 1970s evangelistic thriller from Mark IV Productions, a Christian filmmaking company that aimed to make Des Moines, Iowa, into a Branson Hollywood. Their most famous movie, A Thief in the Night, was the one I checked out that day.

I watched it by myself in the afternoon. It was Martin Luther King Day, so I was off school and hanging out in the office area of the church my mom worked in. There was a little upstairs reception waiting area no one ever actually waited in, so I’d plop down on the scratchy love seat and watch VHS while my mom worked. Occasionally, my mom’s coworkers would come through on their way to somewhere else and comment. A few asked what the movie was and seemed unfamiliar with it. A couple others said the movie scared the crap out of them when they were younger.

What was so scary? Not much, I thought the first time through. A Thief in the Night is a 70-minute Rapture movie where the Rapture doesn’t take place until 50 minutes in. The Christians disappear up to heaven, and the nonbelievers are left behind to live through a seven-year apocalyptic period that includes wars, plagues, the Antichrist and the Mark of the Beast.

This brand of premillenialist Rapture theology is a pastiche of seemingly unrelated passages from all over the Old and New Testament, not just the Book of Revelation. The Rapture idea wasn’t even really formulated until the 19th century. I didn’t know any of this at the time, but I was just the right age to identify with a little girl character in A Thief in the Night who comes home, can’t find mommy, sees her untended dinner burning up on the stove and thinks she missed the Rapture.

The cheesy chase scenes where one-world government stooges prepare to guillotine Patty, the protagonist, because she won’t take the MOTB — those kind of shook me up the second time through, after I’d gotten home that night. What jacked me up most, though, was the idea that I’d lose all my loved ones and then have to face the end of the world, the events of which were foretold, unstoppable and just around the corner.

I read all the end-times prophecy books I could get my hands on, and I watched the three sequels to A Thief in the Night, all of which scared me for different reasons. There were entire nights I could never fall asleep because I was obsessively terrified of the end of the world. I spent months sleeping on the couch in my mom’s bedroom, so I could be sure she was still here on earth and not snatched up to heaven at the holy trumpet’s call. I had a dream that I couldn’t sell sixth-grade camp fundraiser candy bars because I didn’t have the MOTB.

I remember getting ready for school one morning and overhearing Deborah Norville say, “1988 was not a good year for the ozone layer,” as part of a story intro. It ruined my entire day, because it was another sign the end was near. I was never going to grow up, I was going to miss the Rapture, UNITE agents were gonna capture and torture me. These kinds of things can distract a young kid from regular school subjects.

These, for an adolescent, were truly dark, living-in-fear moments of the soul. I’d pray for peace and comfort, and it wouldn’t come. I didn’t tell anybody what was bothering me. And it went on for years, with varying intensity. I imagine it’s not too dissimilar from the worst reactions to the “duck and cover” feeling of being a kid during the Cold War. There’s a lot of irrational fear going up my family tree on my mom’s side, and I’ve certainly dealt with my share of it in areas other than this.

It seems surreal and almost unfathomable to me now that I could lose entire happy years to a fear of missing the Rapture, but it most certainly happened to me. My tale is nuttier than most, assuredly, but talk to some Christian school kids my age sometime. I’m not the only one.

The baby name game

February 17, 2011

Andrew Hicks

Choosing baby names is tough. Luckily, I didn’t have to do it with either kid. Oh, I had my own name suggestions, but I ran into the same problem I always did when I looked through tattoo catalogs and stuff: There were ones I was fond of, ones I was ambivalent about and ones I knew I didn’t like, but none of them seemed good enough to commit to for life.

When we found out we were having a girl*, Tiffany came up with the name Sarah Grace. I was sold on Grace immediately — it’s an old name up Tiffany’s family tree, and it’s the name of the church and private school I grew up attending. And the name Sarah has always been a beautiful one to me. I thought it common but not too common, traditional but not too traditional.

Our only debate was whether to include the “H” on the end. I lobbied for Sara with no H, but in the end, we (“we” meaning Tiffany, in this case) decided to go with the classic spelling. And, almost immediately, I was glad we did. It seems weird to say, but even from a newborn, my Sarah was a Sarah with an “H,” not a Sara with no “H.”

Had Sarah been a boy, Tiffany wanted to name him Andrew Justin, after me, and call him A.J. (My mom tells me my grandpa tried to get everyone to call me A.J., but it never really caught on.) I wasn’t completely comfortable with the idea of having my own Junior. Naming a kid after yourself has always seemed to me like an obnoxious form of egomania. Besides, having two people in the house with the same name would just lead to confusion.

I think we were about six months into the second pregnancy when Tiffany gave up on the idea of naming the baby Andrew Justin. She came out of left field with the name Silas**. We watch the show “Weeds” together, and one of its main characters is named Silas. And I knew there was a Silas in the New Testament somewhere. Otherwise, I’d never met or heard of anyone with that name.

Each of our mothers initially thought it a poor name choice — I can’t remember if it was my mom or Tiffany’s mom who said the name Silas for her conjured up the mental image of a fat, leather-skinned, middle-aged dude sitting on a rusty chair in the gravel parking lot of a nowhere Southern gas station. One of my own friends, when I told her we were going with Silas for a name, asked, “Why? Is he from the Old Country?”

But when Tiffany and I mentioned the name Silas to the younger generation (my then-17-year-old stepson Josh and his friends, some high school kids I used to work with, et al), they pretty much universally agreed it was a cool name.

I wasn’t fully sold on Silas, but I had nothing better to counter with. I liked it, but I didn’t like it. It was a cool name, but it was a weird name. I had the thought in the back of my head that we would change his name at the very last second to something more mainstream. But they cut my wife open, pulled out that screaming male newborn, and we named him Silas. The second the name was in ink and official, I was sure it was the right name for my youngest child. And hindsight has only further 20/20’d that.

She’s a Sarah, he’s a Silas. I love them and their names.

* Actually, it was never a sure thing, because Sarah was always in very modest positions during the sonograms, but after getting the clearest view of the junk area that she could, one of our sonogram technicians told us she was 80 percent sure our baby was a girl.

** We had already decided the middle name would be David, which is my dad and my brother’s middle name. There was no existing tradition of that name being passed down the Hicks line — my mom says she thought of it for my brother completely independently of it being my dad’s middle name — but I guess there is now.

BABY PICTURE OF THE DAY

Sarah plays with crayons that were in much better shape before she got hold of them.