Archive for the 'Sentimentality=selling out?' Category

Group appetizer binge

January 22, 2011

Andrew Hicks

EDITOR’S NOTE: This blog post was also written twelve hours after the midnight cutoff, while Silas slept and Sarah ate yogurt and watched “Caillou” in her highchair. Two things Andrew has learned about “Caillou” so far — 1) It’s not pronounced “Kaloo,” and 2) The dad on the show cuts his lawn with an electric mower. Andrew’s grandpa had an electric lawnmower when Andrew was growing up, and Andrew was surprised to learn the cord didn’t always seem to be in danger of being run over and chopped up by a giant, rapidly rotating blade. Electric lawnmowers do just seem vaguely uncool, though, like when you see a kid wear a helmet while riding his bike at 8 miles per hour.

Tonight, Tiffany made an impulse stop into the supermarket. She was in the mood to fire up the oven, shove in a continuous stream of frozen appetizers and make a night of eating them and having fun. This wasn’t a couple boxes of wings, either; it was a Noah’s Ark affair — two of everything. Potato skins, jalapeno poppers, toasted ravioli with meat sauce, popcorn chicken, spinach dip, chicken fries and four Red Baron pizzas.

Our abundance of unhealthy food led us to consider doing the impossible: having people over. In 2007, we arrived in Springfield broke, living in a tiny apartment and not knowing anyone. Just as quickly, we were pregnant. Then we had a baby. Then we were pregnant again. Then we had another baby. Along the line, we moved into a house twice as big as the old place, and just recently we got our layout and setup the way we want it, based on the humble quantity and quality of furniture we do have.

Only now, in early 2011, does it seem natural to invite a friend or two or maybe four over to hang out. But we don’t usually actually do it. We arrived at the decision tonight sometime between 8:30 and 9, and we found a pair of couple friends available and willing to come over with their 7-year-old daughter.

In the period between realizing people were coming over and people actually coming over, we force-cleaned the neglected areas of the house. This provided a missing degree of accountability; the house would not have gotten cleaned otherwise.

The bringing of the 7-year-old daughter was key to our plan. Tiffany and I get pockets of time to ourselves — some time individually, less time as a couple. Sarah plays with us, and she plays by herself, but she rarely gets to play with another kid. This turned out to be good for everyone. Kid time for the kids, adult time for the adults, and oven-warmed appetizers for all. Silas even had a fortuitously gracious sense of timing and decided to sleep through almost the entire affair.

Sarah and her new little friend played well together, and the rest of us hung out and cracked jokes and played Guitar Hero. I haven’t done Guitar Hero in a couple years (at the peak of my abilities, I did an alright job playing songs of average difficulty, which makes me perfectly mediocre), but I enjoyed making fun of the entire Rush 2112” track* and its pretentious Spinal Tap/Stonehenge spoken-word nonsense breaks.

The friends we had over went to high school with my next-door neighbor, who bundles and buddies up with me almost daily for outdoor cigarette breaks, so we went as a group to retrieve her. She’s a single lady with four small kids, and it was going on midnight by this time. But through the magic of a double baby monitor, we brought the neighbor over, and sounds of peaceful kid slumber from next door filled the monitor**.

I happened into an unexpectedly poignant moment amidst all this. Sarah had already gone to bed***, and I went upstairs to check on our friends’ daughter, who had been lying on a blanket in Silas’s bedroom, watching The Swan Princess. I peeked in the doorway and saw the little girl holding a large white rectangle with medical-blue borders.

“Know what this is?” she asked me.

I didn’t. I thought maybe she’d found it in the back of a low dresser drawer, with all the stuff we’ve been given and never use. “Where’d you get that?” I asked.

She said, “It’s my pee pad. I pee all the time when I sleep.”

I had instant flashbacks to the bunk beds I shared with my younger brother. He was in the top bunk, with a rubber mattress cover. Sometimes, when he’d wake up and shift position to where his lower leg hung off the side of the bed, his body weight would depress the mattress and cause dribbles of his overnight urine to splash down in my direction.

“It’s no big deal,” I told the little girl. “A lot of people do it. My brother did it until he was like ten.”

“They say it’s disgusting,” she said back, “they” being the other kids, I imagined.

I wanted to give an impassioned speech about how it’s not disgusting, it’s a common problem, and screw those other kids. Having just written the “Rejector or rejectee?” blog post, memories of feeling like an insecure weird kid are still floating around freshly in my brain. I’m siding big with the underdog right now.

Letting other people’s jokes, opinions and snide comments hold you back is counterproductive and criminal, although I have to admit I’ve cracked plenty of jokes and snide comments over the years when I should’ve just kept my mouth shut.

Little moments like the above just provide quick reminders that I’m one of the grownups now, and any support, encouragement and rational thought I can provide for those younger than myself can only help. And beyond those things, I can also provide skins, poppers, toasted ravioli, popcorn chicken, spinach dip and pizza. Which makes the process of getting people to spend time at your house that much easier.

*I mean, this song lasts a ridiculously long time. “2112” is both the title and the duration of the song. It is two thousand, one hundred and twelve minutes long.

**The neighbor had to leave abruptly, and Tiffany and I realized later that we still have her monitor base, and she has ours. Theoretically, either one of us would be provided with daily opportunities to eavesdrop. If nothing else, though, we could coordinate our smoke breaks this way by speaking into the air. We wouldn’t even have to reach for our phones. The Information Age is so pathetically astounding.

***Sarah acted like she was going to fall asleep for about two minutes before remembering she had a new play pal who was still in the house. It was all crying from that moment until we relented and let our wide-awake toddler get up to play some more.

Advertisements

Mr Mom, meet Mrs Donkey

November 8, 2010

Andrew Hicks

The babies and I have been back home for a week and a half, and it’s wake-to-sleep childcare, house chores and writing for me, with some lazy patches in the middle. I’m enjoying it, and the days when I wasn’t surrounded by my tiny progeny seem distant already. Silas is a calm, sweet-natured baby with occasional fussy times. Sarah is an adorable, curious little chatterbox who is almost always amused, loving or both.

Lately, Sarah’s been really cracking me up, too. She grabbed one of her favorite books, opened it up and pretended to read, “One time, there was a story. The end,” and closed the book. I’ve since made those eight great words into a catchy Nate Dogg chorus. Ask me to acapella it if you ever run into me at Karaoke by Kris in the bowling alley lounge.

Another hilarious Sarah exchange came just after she’d woken up, bright-eyed from a good night’s sleep, and was lowered into her highchair to eat some breakfast. She stretched out her arms, threw her head back and announced, pseudo-dramatically, “Sooo tired.” I replied as if she was being silly: “You are not,” and she insisted, “Am!” Does Reader’s Digest still pay people like $300 for Very Cute Little Kid jokes? I admit, I used to love all the Reader’s Digest domestic niche-joke columns: “Humor in Uniform,” “Life in These United States,” “My Time in Juvey,” etc.

Fictional armchair philosopher and ADD sufferer Jerry Maguire would insist that we live in a cynical world, but it really doesn’t seem like it when I spend an unseasonably warm fall afternoon hanging out in my big backyard with my little play-buddy. Stuff like that truly is “what it’s all about,” even more so than the Hokey Pokey. My heart melts when Sarah excitedly calls out “Daddy! Daddy!” Although, I admit, sometimes I’ve already heard “Daddy! Daddy!” a hundred times in the last ten minutes, and I start to wonder where Mommy! Mommy! is hiding herself.

More than anything lately, Sarah likes to sit in my lap and have me read her books. Sarah’s current favorite little-kid book is called Mother, Mother, I Want Another. Very basic, intriguing little plot for a toddler. Baby Mouse is put to bed and, as mom’s leaving him to sleep, he asks mom, “Can I have another, mother?” Mrs. Mouse freaks out: “What? You want another mother?! Whatever will I do?”

Mayhem ensues as Mrs. Mouse dashes off to grab, one at a time, Mrs. Duck, Mrs. Frog, Mrs. Pig and Mrs. Donkey, and they all sing lullabies to Baby Mouse. Finally, Baby Mouse explains that their lullabies were great and all, but he really just wanted another kiss from his mother. Ohhhhhh… all the Mrs. Animals say, and they all realized they were yanked away from their families for a completely false emergency. Baby Mouse should’ve spoken his ass up sooner.

Good lessons here: Misunderstandings are a waste of time, clear communication is necessary, and damn, does Mrs. Donkey have some bad breath.  Sarah right now likes MMIWA at least as much as famed film critic Pauline Kael enjoyed Chinatown, “with its beautifully structured script and draggy, overdeliberate direction.”

Sarah subscribes to an activities magazine for preschool kids. It transfixes her even though she has no clue yet how to play the counting games and run her little crayon through the mazes. Her favorite thing to stop, point and shriek at is the tiny cover art of some PBS semi-all-star Christmas DVD they’re shilling in an ad. This particular picture, like an inch tall, is buried among lots of other visual noise, but Sarah is repeatedly drawn straight to it. And she’s always excited to point to the mini-image of each little kid mascot when I ask, “Which one’s Thomas the Train? Which one’s Barney? Which one’s Fireman Sam?”

Sarah’s good at pointing to those little head-and-shoulder shots of popular children’s characters that sometimes appear on the front and back inside covers of kid books. And she’s pretty accurate at identifying the purple horse, black sheep and white dog in the sophisticated children’s masterpiece Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? Sarah right now likes BBBBWDYS as much as Roger Ebert hated Mad Dog Time. “Watching it,” declared Rog, “is like waiting for the bus in a city where you’re not sure they have a bus line.”

Single me would bitch-slap married me for spending 800 words on the redemptive beauty of being around my children. I’ve already been accused of selling out, although to me the key component of selling out involves receiving money. Maybe I’m selling out on consignment. I should ask Mrs. Donkey what she thinks… What? Oh, Pauline. Her name is Pauline, not Mrs. Donkey. I always forget.

BABY PICTURE OF THE DAY

Sarah swings.