Archive for the 'Generosity of in-laws' Category

JT, iCarly, Overboard, Patience

April 6, 2011

Andrew Hicks

SUNDAY
11 am

We drive down to St. Louis for the day, Tiffany and the babies and I. It’s a peaceful drive, even though it’s cold and cloudy, and we left about an hour late per usual. Our entertainment for the trip is provided by my wife’s new phone, a Samsung Somethinerother that has a 4G connection. We’ve got Pandora Radio opened up, and we both think the Steely Dan channel is a great idea for about the first three minutes. We spend the rest of the drive listening to Justin Timberlake Radio.

A lot of people discount Timberlake’s talent or straight out can’t stand him. When he dumped the boy band and went solo, I wanted not to like him, but he hired The Neptunes and put out some perfectly good pop songs. Then he did “Dick in a Box” on SNL with Andy Samberg, and I couldn’t not like him. On top of it, for probably the first six months I knew Tiffany, Timberlake’s FutureSexLoveSound was the only CD she would play in her car. We got to know that album very well as we were falling in love and doing crazy shit like getting married and moving away after knowing each other for 11 weeks.

"Every single holiday, a dick in a box..."

When you create a station on Pandora based around an artist, only every third or fourth song is by that artist. The rest is matched up on an eHarmony-esque compatibility scale that encompasses similar artists and styles. So the JT channel had some good R+B I’d never heard and equal parts unabashed Britney/Christina-type stuff. During a family drive, when everyone’s in a good mood, I don’t mind that sort of music at all. My wife’s kept up on music and celebrity gossip over the years, too, so each song generally sparks a different mini-conversation.

1 pm

Eleven people sit down to our family dinner, which includes a hard- and soft-shell taco bar with chips and a vat of chili con queso. But attendance comes in two waves. The first group includes me, my two spawn, Tiffany’s parents, and my brother- and sister-in-law.

Sarah uses the occasion to bond extensively for the first time with her Uncle Tom*. Which means, in so many words, that Sarah’s seat is next to Tom’s, so she’s going to spend the duration of the dinner making sure Tom sees everything that Sarah sees. (“Tom, look, chips!” “Tom, you see a ceiling?” And so on.)

The second group includes Tiffany, my stepson Josh and two daughters of Tiffany’s best friend, who attend so many of our family dinners they should consider changing their last names. By the time they all get back, I’ve had a couple pounds of Mexican food and am finishing dessert.

Once Sarah lies down for her nap and Silas falls asleep in his car carrier, I stretch across the upstairs sofa. Fall almost instantly into a half-consciousness where I can still mostly hear what’s being said. Then fall completely asleep. I don’t often get the chance, but I love taking naps in unusual yet safe places. I end up on the couch for well over two hours.

8 pm

Tiffany and Josh leave to drive the older daughter back home so she can get some overnight stuff, and meanwhile I’m downstairs watching the younger daughter and my two kids. This little girl, who’s 6, has come across as bashful over almost four years’ worth of holiday gatherings. Tonight, she wants to talk.

Specifically, she wants to talk about “iCarly,” which is on the TV right now. She has complete vocal mastery of this episode’s plot points and how they fit into the bigger story arc of the “iCarly” canon. She also knows what on the show is funny.

[Teenage boy character’s elevator dumbwaiter door thingie opens. There’s a giant mound of pillows.]
“He ordered two pillows. They sent him 200 pillows. That’s funny.”
[Teenage boy character somehow gets stuck and immersed in the pillows.]
“Look, he can’t get out. That’s funny. The door’s about to fall on his back. That’s hilarious!”
[Sure enough, the door falls on the kid’s back, and he reacts with an overdrawn comic expression of pain, as the 6 year old and laugh track issue forth a cacaphony of mirth.]

To me, “iCarly” seems like it’s written on the second grade level. This kid’s going into first grade in the fall. She knows what’s up.

Midnight

Apparently, there's a soundtrack and everything.

We’re barely across the Illinois state line, headed home. Silas is asleep, Sarah’s quietly eating a snack, and on the three-inch iPod screen, propped up against the car’s radio and cassette deck**, the 1987 Kurt Russell/Goldie Hawn softball romance comedy Overboard is just getting to the fun parts. I’m ready to conclude it a peaceful ending to a peaceful day.

Then Sarah bites one of her fingers while eating. She starts crying and screaming, waking up her little brother, who starts crying and screaming, and the next hour or so is one tense ordeal. I’d describe it further, but I’ve already done an awful lot of mental work to dominate and subdue all memories of Midnight Overboard Road Trip Screamfest 2011. It sucked for everyone, let’s just say.

2 am

This is the peaceful ending I was waiting for. Everyone’s asleep but me and Silas, who is barely awake by the time I pick him up and hold him close while swaying us back and forth softly under the ceiling fan in the living room. It’s dark, save the light over the kitchen sink, and the iPod plays softly on random in the background. As I’m alone with my baby boy, having a daddy-son dance, on comes “Patience” by Guns-N-Roses. Normally, I’d skip it. Tonight, it seems so perfectly appropriate as to be completely contrived. Which somehow makes it even more appropriate. Silas falls asleep, a Bob Marley song comes on, then Daddy’s ready for bed, too.

*Yes, I’ve already mentioned in this blog that my kids have an actual Uncle Tom, and that I think that’s funny, and now I’m repeating that sentiment because I still think it’s funny. Uncle Tom. Tee hee.

**Yes, cassette deck.

BABY PICTURE OF THE DAY

Sarah's Silly Spider costume, the first time around.

Advertisements

Free vacuum!

March 13, 2011

Andrew Hicks

We did not end up going to the Magic House today. The drive in and the trip to the zoo wore me out more than I’d anticipated, and then I still went out for awhile last night. Just over to a really good old friend’s house. Sat outside for a little bit and talked about people I haven’t seen in months or years, then we went inside and watched the new SNL with her boyfriend. Also caught an end-of-season highlights episode of “An Idiot Abroad,” the show Ricky Gervais produces that features Karl Pilkington, who is a true reality-comedy personality. I’ll be watching more of that show soon.

On top of it, last night was the night you push your clocks ahead an hour. So it became 3 am pretty quickly, and aside from a couple wakeups from baby Silas, I stayed in bed far past the Saturday morning cartoons. Lazy stay-in-bed catchup sleep happens sometimes, and Magic Houses go unvisited. The zoo felt like plenty, though. None of this is the buildup to a joke, either. This is one of those paragraphs that looks like a nice, full-bodied chunk of writing until you get deep enough into it to realize nothing of substance is actually being said.

I spent some time today rooting through my old supply of floppy disks. I have backup disks that go fifteen years or more into the past, and nowhere along the line did I convert it to CDR or ZIP or any form of storage technology popularized in the new millennium. I have a laptop new enough that there’s no A drive, so I haven’t been able to get to that stuff. Now it’s on my in-laws’ hard drive and I’ve beamed it up and back down onto my hard drive. I’ll be combing the archives. From now until May, I may be slipping in jokes from 1997. Beware any forced reference to Chumbawamba.

This afternoon, Tiffany and I drove to a popular landmark in St. Louis — the gas station/car wash that has like 8 free vacuum stations. We’ve been there a few times and have always had to wait for a spot. Access to a free vacuum for your car is perennially in high demand. In-laws were watching the kids, so this was our most thorough visit yet. I was pulling stuff out of the trunk that I haven’t seen since George W was in office. A Six Flags Season Pass coupon book from 2007 and sheet.

Walked over to Lion’s Choice for a bathroom break during all this suction, and I spotted a seed spreader garden implement emblazoned with the brand name “Viagara.” One letter off from Viagra, and it made me wonder if anyone’s ever misspelled the name of the popular ED treatment pill and ended up ordering a garden tool by mistake. Then I Googled Viagara and got nothing but Viagra matches, so that thought was thereby scratched.

BABY PICTURE OF THE DAY


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.

5 comedy techniques that have stuck with me

January 28, 2011

Andrew Hicks

While on the phone with my dad the other night, we were talking about comedy and my history with comedy, and he asked me, “Well, what are some of the early types of humor you liked that still stick with you?” I was a little tired, a little brain dead, and my immediate answer was, “Uh… as a kid until now, I’ve always enjoyed silly stuff. But not all silly stuff. Some of it’s stupid silly, some of it’s intellectual silly, and there’s good and bad examples of each, which kinda makes it all more silly.”

I stopped right there, as I was making not a single lick of rational sense, but my dad’s question led me to think a little bit about which forms and methods of comedy I appreciated early on and still carry with me. So I wrote this:

5 COMEDY TECHNIQUES

THAT HAVE STUCK WITH ME

DEADPAN

At the age of 11, after seeing the 1989 Tim Burton movie, I became obsessed with all things Batman. The ’60s TV show, in particular. I took it rather seriously at first, but as I grew into my sense of humor throughout adolescence, I started to appreciate the deadpan genius of Adam West and a few of the veteran character actors on the show.

Neil Hamilton, who played Commissioner Gordon, was a master of finding the super-serious side of funny in the often-outlandish dialogue he was given and performances he was surrounded by. The man was a brilliant straight man, whether he realized it or not. The style and rhythm of his dialogue delivery influence me to this day.

Also, I fell hard for Airplane! at an impressionable age. I loved the combination of obvious, elementary-level jokes and straight-faced performances of Leslie Nielson, Peter Graves and Robert Stack. I recently learned that the studio balked at the casting of dramatic actors in those parts and wanted Chevy Chase, Dom Deluise and Bill Murray instead. Which would not have been nearly as sublimely silly.

 

INSIDE JOKES

This is more tried and true in real-life conversation for me than in written or performed comedy, but when I connect with someone on a comedic level, I relish developing and sustaining inside jokes with that person.

The magic of Facebook has allowed me to create and expand a central group of writers and comic thinkers, and we stumble on new inside jokes every day, lending a sense of inclusion and continuity to our humor.

As an occasional stand-up comedy performer, I strive to create shared references with an audience early on and cash in on it more and more as my routine unfolds. I’m not quite consistent at achieving this, but I get better and better, IMHO.

 

IMPRESSIONS

As mentioned numerous times in this blog, I have a lifetime devotion to Saturday Night Live. I started watching at 11, in the apex of the Carvey/Hartman/Hooks/Jackson/Lovitz/Miller/Myers/Nealon period. Immediately, my favorite SNL thing to imitate whenever I got the chance was Carvey’s George Bush.

Then and now, I have a soft spot for SNL’s comedy characterizations of famous people from pop culture, politics and sports. Most of the impressions I’ve been doing for 15 years or more — Carson, John Travolta, Ed McMahon, Paul McCartney, Tom Brokaw, Pat Robertson — owe their existence to old SNL.

Since being married and having a wife who straight-out tells me most of my stable of voices sounds pretty much the same, I’ve started to downplay that amateur SNL side of my comedy… Aw, who am I kidding? I’ll spend the entire night doing bad Jerry Seinfeld if someone’s there to laugh. Even if that someone is 2 years old. Actually, especially if that someone is 2 years old.

 

MUSIC-BASED COMEDY

When I’m not writing about daytime dad things, a lot of my humor revolves around music. Pop music, hip-hop, rock,old stuff, new stuff. Funny observations about songs and artists. I like song parodies as a genre, though most of them aren’t that great. I never liked movie musicals, but I liked a lot of older TV show theme songs, which are funny for reasons right and wrong but decidedly very geeky.

As a mid-teenager, I went through a brief but pretty intense “Weird Al” Yankovic phase, and now still think he has a couple dozen songs I’ll take to the grave. Only one of my standup bits relies on rewritten pop music for its humor, but right now I’m wishing I would have learned to play guitar in my youth. My father-in-law has contributed a spare acoustic guitar to the cause. Have not yet gotten around to doing anything with it. Unfortunately.

POP CULTURE/TOPICAL COMEDY

I’m sure it started with being in junior high and trying to figure out what current events SNL was parodying and Dennis Miller was cracking his lofty, obtuse jokes about, but I also got into David Letterman for several years as a teenager. The peak of it was during the O.J. years, where Letterman first declared sanctimoniously — to HUGE applause — that he wouldn’t do O.J. jokes because “I don’t find anything funny about double murder,” and later devoted hours of monologue time to the Juice.

Anyway, there’s something fascinating yet revolting to me about our celebrity culture, irresponsible government and corporate-owned media that makes me want to stay current enough on the news to instantly crack wise about whatever’s going on out there. I still strive to stay on the level of Stewart and Colbert, “Weekend Update” and late-night talk show monologues when it comes to current events. Some of my jokes are far better than others in this respect.

There’s more, of course, but these five things formed a pretty wide base for much of my humor over the years and still now. If you’d like to share any of your old favorites and comedic influences, please hit up the comments section.

FAMILY PICTURE OF THE DAY

Sarah, newborn Silas and Tiffany's parents.

Emergency contacts

January 18, 2011

Andrew Hicks

Tiffany took a week of vacation days, so we’re trying our best to achieve a harmonious balance of kid-watching, getting stuff done around the house, adult alone time and overall fun. This arrangement had the benefit today of allowing me to leave Silas at home and take Sarah out for an errand run and our first trip to a McDonald’s PlayPlace.

Sarah loved the indoor playground. I think her little mind was blown when she realized there was such a thing as a playground under a roof. She’s still little enough that she can’t or won’t climb all the way to the top in attempts to elude dad when it’s time to go, so we’re in a nice stasis. Kid can exercise, and dad can eat his 50-piece McNugget and sip Diet Coke in peace.

We had to stop at J.C. Penney to pick up an emergency pair of contact lenses for Tiffany. Sarah, who still won’t eat chicken for me, chewed up and swallowed Tiffany’s last pair of contacts yesterday. In the store, Sarah kept saying, “Oooh, pretty,” as we walked past the jewelry counter and a bunch of enormous, ugly purses.

Sarah’s Grandma Ginny, Tiffany’s mom, has been waiting more than two decades of her grandparent life to have a little girl to spoil, so by the time Sarah reaches kindergarten, she very well may have some jewelry and a huge handbag of her very own. She already loves shoes, which scares the crap out of her dad.

For now, we can walk past the merchandise with a lot of pointing and commenting but no actual stopping. Sarah was slightly impatient in the optical department, though, as there was a delay with the lady at the counter when I gave her Tiffany’s married name, yielding no results, and then had her look under her pre-Hicks last name.

My wife’s name finally popped up in their computers, but there was no record of her having called and ordered emergency contacts two hours prior. We got the whole thing straightened out, and there was no charge for the contacts. When I arrived home, I learned that Tiffany hadn’t called J.C. Penney at all — she’d called the new eye doctor and optical store we’ve been going to. I should’ve known that. That explains why we had the delay we had.

Some may be glad I explained all this, while some would’ve preferred the shorter, simpler explanation: I’m a bloody dolt who got his wife some free contact lenses.

FAMILY PICTURE OF THE DAY

The blue elephant shirt is Sarah's current favorite.

Twelve new Christmas memories

December 31, 2010

Andrew Hicks

I’m gonna blame Christmas for making me lazy this past week. My family and I spent three days and two nights at my in-laws’ house for the holidays, and even after getting back, the combination of cheer and leftover seasonal junk food left me glued to the recliner.

Now there’s one day left in 2010, and I’m finally getting around to writing about Jesus’ golden birthday. That’s right, Our Lord turned 25 this year. Again. While 25 was a depressing birthday for me, it wasn’t for Jesus, because he knows he’s got the best seven years of his life still ahead. Dude loves the number seven, what can I say? Anyway, here are:

 

TWELVE NEW CHRISTMAS MEMORIES

1. It’s noon on Christmas Eve, and we’re driving down in a snow storm. It almost looked like we couldn’t be able to come at all, but skipping Thanksgiving proper and Christmas the same year would feel like a cardinal sin. Luckily, it’s warm enough that the snow is melting instantly as it hits the ground. We stop at a gas station, and Sarah and I head in to find a little junk to hold us until the in-laws’ roast is ready at 4 pm. I find some Dill Pickle Pringles, and Sarah’s full attention latches onto the impulse bin of Charm’s Blow Pops at foot level. I decide, what the heck, it’s Christmas, and I get her a Blue Raspberry sucker. When we get back to the car, I unwrap the Blow Pop, and Sarah is overjoyed as she holds it, takes a couple tentative licks then goes to town on it. Many productive minutes pass as Sarah enjoys the second lollipop of her young life, then we start to notice she’s putting it in her hair and all over her forehead. It’s a parental moment where you want to stop the problem behavior, but you can’t stop laughing, and your laughing only makes your giddy toddler go to further extremes. Sarah is most amused by the practice of jamming the sucker into the recesses of her neck. She is a streaky, sticky blue mess for the rest of the car ride.

2. Just before two, we decide to stop into a 24-hour Mom and Pop restaurant in our hometown that I’ve previously visited well over a hundred times, though this may be my first time visiting when not drunk or hung over. We still have that roast ahead of us, so we just order their amazing house salad — lettuce, red onion, pimento, bacon, provel, house cream dressing and homemade croutons — and potato skins. The skins are basically full-sized potato halves of the daunting Russet variety. Sarah has some fries and water, our waitress is tattooed and strange, and it’s just quick, fun family time.

3. Some might have received my proclamation that my family would start our holiday shopping on Christmas Eve as a joke, but this is what in fact happens. The snow is still swirling from the sky as we spend well over an hour stuffing a Wal-Mart cart with our entire haul of presents. We pick out a couple things that we want for ourselves under the guise of, “This is your Christmas present to me,” and we later get a big box of bargain Christmas cards from Walgreens. I used to have a cheat sheet listing which relatives received which bargain cards (“Grandpa = puppy in stocking, 2008,” “Tiffany’s sister = winking snowman, 2009,” etc.), but now I get to experience the rush of possibly giving the same relative the same card several years in a row. Will they call me out on it? They haven’t yet.

4. With the wife and kiddies asleep late on Christmas Eve, I go on an iTunes binge with some freshly purchased gift cards. I’ve kept a list of songs I want to get my hands on for months now, so the choosing is easy. The logging in is damn near impossible. I have three basic passwords I use, and none of them hits. I also somehow manage to mis-answer my security question three consecutive times, so my account is frozen for eight hours. I then create a new account and get locked out of it somehow. Bells are ringing. Silver, angry bells. But I get my music.

5. On Christmas Day, Tiffany and I each open a mound of presents for Sarah. I’ve just figured out where to put all the toys she already has, and now she’s doubled her plaything inventory. She gets an indoor princess tent, a bookcase with dozens of books to put in it, a stagecoach wagon loaded with Lego blocks, and three coats. The grandparents seem to have done the Toys ‘R’ Us equivalent of the old “Supermarket Sweep” TV show, and we love them for it. Days later, hanging out around the house, I’ll still be happening upon individual Christmas gifts given to Sarah. Thank you moms, aunt, uncles and dad.

6. This is my fourth Christmas at the in-laws’, and it’s the first time my brother Matt has met Tiffany’s side of the family. While eating roasted pork sandwiches and a cornucopia of hors d oeuvres (thanks for having my back, Dictionary.com), I get to hear Matt and my father-in-law talk excitedly about classical music and opera. One of my simpler joys in life is watching people from different corners of my social and family sphere interact with each other. This is no Christmas miracle, but it’s pretty unique in its own right.

7. After my mom and brother leave, our family Christmas moves downstairs, and the younger generation takes turns playing Just Dance 2 on the Wii. I beg out of participating — the broken ankle excuse will hold me for at least three more months, and I will use it when applicable — but Tiffany and her older sister tear up some Rihanna and such. The highlight of all this is watching my mother-in-law hold her own by dancing along to the Ike and Tina version of “Proud Mary.”

8. I spend several hours on Christmas night hanging out at Harrah’s Casino with two of my best friends and partners in crime from my single days. They rack up a huge bar tab in a restaurant just outside the casino while I binge-drink Diet Pepsi and Mountain Dew and smoke cigarettes like I’m one of Marge Simpson’s wheezy sisters. Inside, we gamble. I bet small and play for hours on the same money. I turn my last three bucks back into $25 then make my friends go to the roulette table with me. They’re drunk by now, and the slowest, rudest dealer in history presides over our table. The time between spins is at least 15 minutes. None of the other roulette players at the table speaks any English — there was an Asian Concert* event earlier tonight — so my friends kill time and crack me up by loudly complaining about how much the dealer sucks and how much roulette sucks and how much it sucks that no one at the table speaks English. I win $40 on the next spin and am kept waiting another 15 minutes to cash in my chips.

9. Apparently, when you drink a dozen plastic cups of soda really late at night, you have a hard time falling asleep. The magic of Christmas does nothing to change this immutable law. I slide into bed around 3 am and am kept in an exhausted state of alertness until after the sun comes up. So it is to my great relief that my in-laws are enthusiastic about taking infant Silas upstairs and watching him while Tiffany and I sleep and lounge in bed until noon. It’s a great slow wakeup, lying there and talking and watching an episode of “Monk” on Netflix Instant.

10. One of Sarah’s gifts was a Mickey Mouse Clubhouse instrument set. It had a drum, drumsticks, maracas, plastic finger cymbals, nonfunctioning harmonica (thank you for the broken harmonica, Disney, seriously) and a recorder. You know, like the kind they give you in third grade band class if you don’t appear to have any other inborn musical talent. Sarah keeps putting her mouth around the recorder and making trumpet fart noises into it, while I’m demonstrating and telling her to just blow into it. Finally, her grandma tells her to blow it out like her birthday candles, and something clicks. It’s beyond cute to watch that little girl’s eyes light up when she realizes she just accomplished what she’d been trying to accomplish.

11. The day after Christmas, I talk to my dad on the phone for the first time since September. Our relationship the past couple decades has been sporadic to nonexistent, but we jump-started our communication this year and got to know each other as adults. Which was a great gift. We talk for a half-hour, and it’s great to hear the excitement in his voice as he describes his Christmas dinner spent with two Harvard PhD’s and how he’s been eating nothing but natural health food the past few months and feels better than ever.

12. Sarah’s gift motherlode included a full snowsuit and an orange plastic sled, and when we get back home, I take her outside in the snow. There’s a small hill at the end of our driveway that leads down into the backyard. I put her in the sled, have her count to three, then I send her on her way. Her reaction is one of sheer delight, and she joyously demands to go, “Again! Again!” until her out-of-shape dad is wishing he hadn’t chainsmoked all those cigarettes on Christmas night.

*Asian Concert was the official name of the event. No actual performers were billed. I assume when you live in the Midwest, and you are Asian, you’ll show up to an Asian Concert regardless of who appears because there really aren’t any Asian Concerts booked in the first damn place.

BABY PICTURE OF THE DAY

May-December shoes

November 23, 2010

Andrew Hicks

I made the 100-plus-mile trek to my in-laws’ house a couple weeks back, so I could drop the kids off at Meemaw and Peepaw’s Daycare (can’t beat the rates) and follow up with the orthopedist who performed my ankle surgery in September. I got the customary X-rays — for some reason, I love looking at my ankle screws from three different angles — and was pronounced Almost Back To Normal. Which means, first and foremost, I won’t have to drive 100-plus miles to any further appointments.

Snoop Docky Doc* also told me I could go bootless as I see fit. It’s still kinda weird putting that left shoe on again, after being foot-shod in post-surgery wrap, a fiberglass cast and then the space boot. The left shoe sat out for quite awhile. It’s not often a shoe partnership gets split up like that, with Righty continuing to go into battle while Lefty stares at the inside of the closet for weeks on end. It’s like one shoe’s having a midlife crisis, and the other shoe’s counting the days to retirement. I’ve got a May-December shoe situation.

I coordinated the doctor appointment to match up with the weekly big-city standup open mic, and invited the Facebook world at large to come see me. Usually, those kind of invitations provoke a couple half-hearted “I’ll try to make it out” comments and about a half-dozen “I would totally be there, but…” apology responses. I’m guilty of this, too — I love to claim I’d go do something, that there’s nothing I’d love more, but I tragically, unfortunately can’t due to some preexisting, tenuous reason. Which, these days, two babies and a broken ankle is pretty much a catch-all**.

I had a few friends that I knew would come up to see me, but imagine my onset of sheepishness when I got to open mic and found out it was canceled because Doug “Superhigh Me” Benson was in town doing a special engagement. Now imagine that, in the next few minutes, friends kept showing up. Old, close friends I haven’t seen in awhile, making surprise appearances. Nine in all, with the show canceled. I had no choice but to head out to a couple restaurants and bars with the entire group for the next four hours.

I’ve entered the stage of my adult life, previously thought impossible, where I am capable of holding my own socially without feeling like I need to drink. I hadn’t fully tested this until the night everyone showed up for my canceled open mic, so out we went, and I held court while downing ice waters. (I’m one of those customers now. Sorry, entire service industry.) It was a good night and a great group, and there was a strange moment a couple hours in where my assembled group of friends sat on the entrance stairs to the restaurant and I performed the four minutes of standup I’d prepared***.

I mingled, I played some shuffleboard, and I discovered alcohol wasn’t the reason I’ve always sucked at shuffleboard. Most importantly, I had a really good time with a group of close friends, friends of friends, significant others of friends, and my omnipresent ice water. My childless courtship time with Tiffany occurred in a whirlwind, with me quickly going from single party guy to married dude in a different town, working a different job.

Out of necessity, and with no personal precedent to refer back to, I neglected some fun, healthy relationships with some great young people after I got married. Three-plus years later, my life seems so much more valuable, and so does time spent with Hall of Famers from my social golden years. Thanks for coming out, all’a y’all.

*I give all my medical care practitioners nicknames based on prominent hip-hop MCs throughout history, though I have no further examples to offer at the present time.

**Also, this kinda makes me an immature jerk, but I think it’s great to tell someone online that you’ll definitely be there for their four-minute performance in the community college adult piano recital, then later on pretend like you forgot they live two time zones away. I mean, what do they expect when they send out an inconsequential blanket invitation to everyone they’ve ever exchanged a friendly word with?

***This was my second indicator, the first one coming from my clued-in, opinionated wife, that I couldn’t sell the following joke onstage: “When someone asks me a date-related question, I always round up.  Q. How old is your youngest?  A. He’ll be six months in January.  Q. How long have you been married?  A. It’ll be ten years in 2017.  Q. How long have you been waiting for a good laugh on this joke?  A. It’ll be one day tomorrow.”

BABY PICTURE OF THE DAY

Baby Silas chills in his buggy.

Birthday blog hiatus

November 20, 2010

Andrew Hicks

Would this be a good time to mention that my goal rate of blog posts is one per day? I want to have daily Mr. Mom diaper stories for you – I mean you specifically; yes, you, the person who’s reading these words right now. What time of day do you do your idle Internet reading? First thing in the morning, over a cup of coffee? During hours 3 through 7 of your state job? On your phone during rush-hour traffic? Or, like me, in the dead of night when everyone’s asleep? Whenever the time, my goal is to be there for you every day. Maybe not in the form of a fully-realized, 800-word comedic tour de force, but maybe with just a couple good paragraphs to tide you over on your way to go play Farmville until dawn.

So, yeah, I want to write good new stuff every day, and this is my first post in almost two weeks. I was without a computer for about a week while SpacebarGate2010 resolved itself in the form of a brand new laptop keyboard that was shipped in from California, I think via Pony Express. I had lofty plans to maintain productivity sans laptop. I was going to write blog posts on my phone, or I was going to hand-write them and type them up on the public library computers*. Neither of which happened.

Meanwhile, this blog slipped down my priority list in favor of the seemingly endless stream of multitasking that is taking care of very young children, keeping the house clean and finally testing out that Cubed Duck Steak With Pickled Rhubarb recipe for the Crock Pot. You’re really cheating yourself if you don’t let your duck steak and rhubarb simmer for at least half a waking day. And the atmospheric, grandma’s-house smell is better than potpourri.

It seems I’ve gently nudged Sarah’s body clock back since we returned home. During the ankle recovery exile at my in-laws’ house, Sarah was up at 8, down for her nap at 1, and in bed at 8, like clockwork. It’s still pretty clockwork-esque, but we’re living in some time zone a few hundred miles into the Atlantic Ocean. Sarah stays up until around 10 or 11, then she doesn’t get up until somewhere around 10 or 11 in the morning. Silas, meanwhile, doesn’t go to sleep for the night until somewhere between one and two. God help him, he has to watch the entire episode of “Last Call With Carson Daly.” Most 4 month olds go to bed after Jimmy Fallon. Silas is an incorrigible sleep maverick.

Sarah's untouched, unadorned birthday cake.

When she turned 2 this month, Sarah got to have three birthday celebrations she’ll never remember. The night of her birthday, we got a cake and a bunch of Hot-N-Ready Little Caesar’s Pizza**. She made a big old mess and was cute and loud. That weekend, we traveled down to Tiffany’s parents’ house, had pulled pork and opened presents. Sarah’s favorite gift is a trio of flat boards that contain rows of letter, number and animal shape blocks with little round plastic handles. In theory, the flat boards supposed to hold the blocks. In reality, this 2 year old prefers her blocks scattered throughout the upstairs of the house. More specifically, they’re scattered wherever my right foot is about to step when I’m holding Silas over my right shoulder and can’t see directly in front of me. Those little round plastic handles really hurt when you drop your weight on them. It’s been a bad autumn for me below the calf.

The third birthday observance was like a week and a half after Sarah’s birthday. Our next-door neighbor brought her four kids over, ranging in age from 3 to 8. We had more cake and, oh man, more Little Caesar’s Pizza. And Sarah was presented with a baby doll that the 8 year old kept reminding us had only cost her mom four bucks. It was fun to watch Sarah play with a group of bigger kids, and she took an immediate liking to the baby doll. In some cultures, 2 year olds take care of actual babies***, but Sarah’s chopped-and-screwed toddler attention span only allows her to be big-sisterly to the inanimate object for a minute or so. Inanimate Baby is outta luck with his toddler babysitter around these parts.

Okay, that’s it for now. See you tomorrow. Riiiiiiiiight…

*At various points in my modest life, the library computers have been my main means of accessing the Internet. It’s always an interesting scene at the library. Large, creepy middle-aged guy on my left is playing some game where he needs to find the Silver Sword of Samsifar so he can defeat the leather-winged griffin on the island of Kurr. Large, creepy middle-aged guy on my right is busy posting Facebook updates of how he’s doing in the eighth grade. I’m just there to pay my electric bill.

**Talk about a comeback. I grew four waist sizes to Little Caesar’s between seventh and tenth grades, then I thought they went out of business. Now you can walk into their restaurant and get a gooey, piping-hot, sweet-sauced pepperoni pizza immediately for five bucks. Maybe this was what finally snapped Snooki out of that anorexia. Well, that and the 1,500 empty alcohol calories she ingests before sundown. But I’m not here to bash orange-tinted MTV reality stars. I’m here to talk about freakin’ pizza. And my family. My loving family. Then pizza again. Then family, pizza, family, pizza, until the battery on my laptop runs out.

***Pulled that right out of my ass.

BABY PICTURE OF THE DAY

MVT (Most Valuable Time)

October 23, 2010

Andrew Hicks

I’m near the end of the glorious downtime that occurs only once in the daytime hours. Both babies are asleep. As parents know, an hour lasts 120 minutes when your kids are awake and 30 minutes when they’re not. So this is the most valuable time of the day for me. It’s my 1909 T206 White Border #366 Honus Wagner baseball card*, if you will. This is when I take my laptop outside and write this blog.

It’s another great day out, too. Even the faint smell of Liggett Lady’s secondhand smoke and the sound of her intermittent hacking cough seem to be harmonious with nature. Only the back issues of the Farmer’s Almanac will be able to say for sure, but I suspect this September and October have been home to the most beautiful days I’ve ever slept through.

This is the fourth day I’ve been getting around with a cane rather than crutches, and it’s been a major advancement for me. My in-laws are still taking good care of Sarah and Silas, for which I’m extremely grateful. Tiffany comes up on the weekends, too, but each day sees me resuming more and more of the responsibilities of caring for my own children.

Probably one more week of assisted-living exile, and I’ll be back at home, facing 45 hours a week of solo daddy time. I’m having to relearn old stuff and freshly learn new stuff. My body’s still healing, too, which leaves me feeling exhausted a lot more easily. It’s hard for me to resist sleeping when they sleep, and nap time is over far too quickly.

The naptime wakeup ritual has taken a strange turn this week. For four consecutive days now, sometime during her nap, Sarah has removed her pants and diaper. No poop episodes yet, but everything in her bed that could be peed on got peed on. Parents of kids older than mine have been warning me this would happen. And, yes, I had noticed Sarah randomly pulling her pants to her knees and then walking around with them like that, but I just figured it was because VH1’s been showing 8 Mile twice a day for the past month.

The potty-training days are drawing nigh. We’ve been watching the Elmo’s Potty Time DVD on almost a daily basis lately. Having seen “Sesame Street” with Sarah for more than a year now, it’s weird to watch their format be adapted to talk of poop, pee and diapers for an entire hour. Three quick examples:

  • A disconnected shot of a soundstage with twelve to fifteen preschool-aged kids standing around and all simultaneously announcing, “I really need to urinate.”
  • Lots of bathroom-themed songs, including one called “Dirty Diaper Blues.” It’s a decent rendering and all, but the great Elmore James recorded the definitive version.
  • When Baby Bear, the muppet character with the speech impediment, calls himself a “potty animal,” it sounds like he’s saying “potty enema.”

I’ve been more or less out of commission with Sarah since AB2KX**. She’s gotten better at her tricks. Sarah moves fast, she hides my cane when I’m not looking, and she frequently outsmarts me. After just one afternoon back on the job, I was ready to call local adult-contemporary radio and dedicate Sade’s “Smooth Operator” to my daughter. Some people count to 10 to get their anger under control. I get Delilah’s people on the phone.

Sarah is a really fun, warmhearted, loving little girl, and I treasure the time I spend with her. It’s been great to be able to play outside again minus crutches. Sarah likes me to pretend-chase her around the yard, and I can finally do it again. The ground is unlevel, so she kept falling down. I was moving conspicuously slow and unsteady and could never catch up with her. It was like we were reenacting a scene from a bad ’80s slasher movie.

Then we went inside, and I gave her cookies and let her eat the outside of a banana (pronounced “buh-mah-muh”), which Sarah insists is the tastiest part. I’m getting back into the swing of things.

*I just Googled a few “most valuable _____ in the world” queries, and that was the baseball card match. Several sites I hit first all proclaimed the most valuable thing in the world is “time.” Indeed, I wasted five minutes reading about the value of time and another five pondering the simple irony of wasting valuable time reading about how valuable time is. Then about 90 seconds typing up this footnote that no one in their right mind will read all the way to the end. Pickle shoes. Cinnamon and gravy.

**a.k.a. Ankle Break 2010. I’ve decided to get all acronymy on you. But aesthetically, especially with that double asterisk weighing it down, the phrase AB2KX looks like a hack-job. It doesn’t make me cool. Just Google AB2KX and see what I mean.

BABY PICTURE OF THE DAY

Sarah and Silas with my father-in-law Jim, our child-care MVP of the past month and a half. Thanks, grandpa!

Power Chair races

October 11, 2010

Andrew Hicks

Columbus Day, 2010, and I’m celebrating by taking the day off work. For those of you just joining my blog, that’s a joke. A very elementary-level joke. I broke my ankle a month ago, and I haven’t been able to work a day since.

But, while both babies are taking naps, and I’m able to sit outside and enjoy the quiet peace of an 80-degree October afternoon (it’s an Indian summer without the Indians — Columbus would be pleased), it’s a good time to reflect on the sum total of thousands of years of human ambition and folly. Yes, I’ve come a long way in my personal life, and I’m writing words I’m really proud of. Yes, I also can’t walk without crutches. There’s good with bad.

Oh, and the other night, I spilled about a half-ounce of baby formula into my computer keyboard. That was clumsy and dumb.  My space bar is no longer functional. ThisiswhatmysentenceslooklikebeforeIgobackandmanuallyinsertapastedspacebetweeneachword. I’d like to hide behind a claim that it’s deliberate, and I’m updating the printed word into its next grand innovation by reducing its bulk up to 20% and bringing each sentence in at a hyper-efficient one-word maximum. Truth is, words with no spaces between them givemeabigassfreakingheadache. Please stand by while I pop a handful of Tylenol with codeine.

There, that’s better. A whole lot better.

I’m entering my fourth set of weekdays spent away from my wife, Tiffany. The kids and I are still staying with her parents. The child-care situation is becoming a well-oiled machine. Saturday morning, for instance, I stayed up with baby Silas through the night, then my father-in-law took him around 6 am, then my mom came over to watch Sarah and Silas at 8, then my mom passed the kids off to Tiffany around 9:30. A couple more sets of hands, and there might be an actual village raising my children.

Sarah's horse moves especially slow on grass.

This neighborhood seems to be populated mostly with retirees, so I don’t feel overly self-conscious playing outside with Sarah in the common areas. I’m getting around on crutches and a space boot, Sarah’s pushing around this pink, four-wheel horse toy, and kind old Mr. Gunnaker is wheeling his walker out to the mailbox after the USPS mail truck putters by at 3 mph. We’re all taking it slow around here. The fastest thing moving is Mrs. Fishman’s Power Chair down her six-degree driveway decline.

Sarah is learning new words every day, and in the spirit of Columbus and America at large, her two most-used sayings are, “More?” and, “I want.” This girl is skin and bones right now, but she loves carbohydrates. Immobility has led to my couch homebase being laced with carby snack food bags and boxes. I usually try to hide it all when I hear her coming downstairs — I get about a 20-second soundbite headstart of an unseen Sarah saying, “See Daddy? See Daddy? I want! See Daddy?” before her actual arrival. But there’s always something peeking out. Crackers, chips, popcorn, the occasional loose Pop-Tart. When it comes to spotting junk food, my daughter’s vision exceeds 20/20. First comes “I want,” then comes, “More?” repeated ad nauseum.

Returning to normalcy is within sight. I’m close to getting freelance writing work. I’ve been putting slow but steadily increasing weight on the bad foot. I can take showers again, which is fantastic. And I’ve got a refrigerator, freezer and microwave setup in my little studio apartment area. I’ve acquired a modest, humble inventory of groceries. I have lunch meat, salad mix, bread (both kinds — slices AND heels!), cottage cheese, restaurant leftovers and pickles. I mean a ton of pickles. Every plate I make, breakfast included, gets a robust pickle garnish.

Sarah’s naptime is up, and I need to go wake up Silas. Every minute he sleeps when I’m awake is a minute he’ll be awake later when I have other plans.

BABY PICTURE OF THE DAY

Sarah, surrounded by exciting things like leaves, fences and storm drain sewer caps.