Posts Tagged ‘Netflix Instant’

Chinese butterfly earsheep

January 29, 2011

Andrew Hicks

Sarah has two new obsessions — rainbows and butterflies. We spent an hour the other day looking at Google Image results for the word “rainbow.” Only saw one tranny the entire time.

Then Sarah got really excited when I found a butterfly documentary on Netflix Instant. She climbed up on my lap to watch with me. Ten minutes in, there was a segment on butterfly sex, with the narrator remarking, “The female butterfly doesn’t want to mate, but the male engages in forced copulation.” Just another Butterfly Rape Wednesday at the Hicks house.

From my studious, regimented daily reading of the Wall Street Journal, I now know a Chinese mom would never let her kids look at rainbows or reverse-cowgirl butterfly sex, thanks to the article “Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior.” The piece is probably 2,000 words long and never once mentions the obvious answer — the Chinese probably make better moms because they’re only allowed to have one kid. I’ve got two kids and can barely keep up; I know a guy who can’t write his own name and has seven kids. I bet not a one of those seven practices violin for three hours a day.

Of course, I want the best for my own kids. I want to take advantage of opportunities and nurture their abilities. I need some of that Chinawoman mom discipline, applied first to my own life and then passed down to Sarah and Silas. Sarah seems to have natural talent for rhythm and dance, she can throw a ball at a predetermined target most of the time, and she’s becoming more masterful with letters, numbers and words.

Sarah runs words together now, too, which is adorable and entertaining. We had the Baby Mozart DVD on the other day while we were playing in Silas’s room, and Sarah said, “Look! Sheep!” I said, yep, that’s a sheep. And she said, “It’s got ears! Earsheep!” Which was just as clever as anything I could’ve come up with at the time. Two more years, and she’ll be ghostwriting this blog while dad sips Country Time in the backyard.

For those who don’t have very small children babysat by the TV set, Baby Mozart is a half-hour DVD that costs 15 bucks. Its music was all recorded free of copyright royalties by like two guys with synthesizers in a lady’s basement. Its visuals are still shots and action shots of toys and stuffed animals.

Cheap, simple, and Sarah has loved watching it since she was like 2 months old. The husband-wife team that made Baby Mozart sank $18,000 of their life savings to produce it, expanded it into the Baby Einstein franchise (Baby Bach, Baby Beethoven, Baby Hoobastank), then sold out to Disney a few years later and made buckets of money. They were geniuses, and though neither of them is Chinese, I suspect each was raised by a Chinese mother.

SPAM COMMENT OF THE DAY

“American English is not to be confused with Antartican English which can only be translated by . .It is estimated by the that American English will be replaced by sometime before 1986…”

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Crazy Watermelon Forehead

January 26, 2011

Andrew Hicks

We’re implementing a new routine in our house — the early wakeup*. I get up with the babies when Tiffany gets up for work. This brutal event happens every morning at the ungodly hour of 5:30.

I was dramatizing slightly in that last sentence, but I’ve had problems getting up early since puberty. But I’ve been the type of person who has a second-shift body clock and will only start my day early when forced to. So now I’m forcing myself to, and I have outside accountability.

So far, so good. The first day threw off Sarah’s baby body clock some, and she took a short, irregular nap, but I think she’s settled in now. If I get up, get in the shower and get moving, I wake up pretty easily. The hard part is staying active and resisting the temptation to prematurely slow activity and sit or even (Don’t do it, Andrew!) lie down. If I lie down, even “just for a minute,” when I’ve gotten up earlier than I’m used to, my activity level usually sits at zero for the next couple hours.

Kids will keep you up and running, but there is downtime, sometimes for, like, up to an hour. Getting everyone into an ironclad wakeup and sleep schedule will help me maximize and maybe even schedule my downtime with the kids’ body clocks. First things first, though. I have to actually get this routine cemented, which will take a few more days.

But it’s still morning, Sarah and Silas are both taking their naps, and I’m writing my blog already. I won’t have to wrestle with the midnight curfew tonight or, Lord willing and the creek don’t rise, really at all with the new routine in place.

I’ve already gotten some good cooking, cleaning and baby play time in, too, a rarity for the AM hours. I got on the floor with Sarah and Silas and kinda had them playing with each other. Silas was in his Bumbo, and for the first time, he gripped one of Sarah’s little plastic play balls and waved it around, which delighted Sarah to no end.

Crazy Newspaper Head

Sarah started passing Silas other toys she wanted to watch him grab onto, so he indulged her by latching onto the little bunch of bananas toy and the half-watermelon toy. There was no one over the age of 2 around, so I let loose with the old Adam Sandler SNL bit about easy Halloween costumes for people with no money**. (“Look at me, I’m Crazy Watermelon Forehead! Can you believe it? I have a half a watermelon growing out of my head. My life is filled with pain and torment. Won’t you gimme some candy?”)

And I still have the whole afternoon and evening ahead of me.

*Which reminds me of a great Ross Perot sketch Dana Carvey did on “Saturday Night Live just before the 1992 election. “So, Step 1: a National Curfew, nationwide, lights out, 8:45 pm. Now, you may say, ‘Ross, what am I gonna do after 8:45?’ Well, I suggest you sleep — you’ll be glad you did when you hear that National Wake-Up Siren at 4:45 am. And don’t you worry, folks, you won’t sleep through it; it’ll be loooouuuuud!”

**Today’s blog is brought to you by the Ghost of “Saturday Night Live” Season 18, now streaming on Netflix Instant with a bunch of good sketches missing but still plenty of quality laughs from the last gasp of the show’s true golden age.

FAMILY PICTURE OF THE DAY

Josh plays with Baby Sarah and her Elmo guitar. Summer 2009.

Old tapes and Disney trivia

January 17, 2011

Andrew Hicks

EDITOR’S NOTE: Andrew is still behind with his blog, thanks to a late but very rewarding night of social drinking minus the drinking. But, as was his vow when he signed up for the WordPress Post a Day 2011 challenge, he’s posting 365 new blog entries this year. So Andrew is writing this a day late, but being caught up is within his sights. Until he falls behind again. Which, really, is what his whole life has felt like for more than three decades now.

In the past couple months, my wife and I — but mainly my wife — have rearranged our kitchen, living room and downstairs family room to be more aesthetically pleasing and maximize space. We’ve been in this house for two years now, so it’s good to change things up and improve the look from room to room. The downstairs has even become a makeshift Man Cave… well, really, a Whoever Currently Has a Tiny Slice of Free Time Cave.

My VHS and DVDs, which appeared to be down for the count with the arrival of Charter OnDemand and Netflix Instant, have made what will probably be their final resurgence. I don’t mind getting rid of obsolete forms of entertainment, but you never know when something might change and your old stuff will come in handy again. Last year, I started driving a car with a tape player in it, and I wished I had my old, embarrassing cassette collection to wander through.

My mom unearthed a box with my 90-volume Encyclopedia Musicana mix tape set from 1997, though, so once again I’m flush with the guilty-pleasure sounds of Wilson Phillips and Weird Al. I’m giving all those tapes one ceremonious last listen before they end up in the landfill. I’d recycle them if I thought there was anyone out there with horrible music taste whose entertainment technology had not advanced past the 1980s.

Anyway, I can’t predict when I’ll get a free second, but they do come around once or twice a day, and it’s nice to retreat to the comforts of downstairs. Kid stuff is already encroaching, though. There’s a Pack-N-Play down there now, and Tiffany let Sarah get into the Disney Trivial Pursuit game she and Josh used to play years ago. So there are cards and little mouse heads everywhere.

I’ve seen all the classic Disney movies, but I agree with my buddy Ryan Krause, who said it’s impossible for even Disney lovers to play Disney trivia because they toss in really obscure questions about all the Disney direct-to-video sequels. (“I don’t know what happened in Lady and the Tramp 2! I didn’t even know there WAS a Lady and the Tramp 2! When did they make THAT crap?!”)

FAMILY PICTURE OF THE DAY

My mom and I fuss over 3-week-old Sarah at Thanksgiving, 2008.

Foreign phenomenon

January 6, 2011

Andrew Hicks

My 4 a.m. wake-up was short-lived. I thought maybe it was the start of a revolutionary body clock adjustment. Get up at four, stay up all day with the kids, have a nutritious Crock Pot dinner that makes the whole house smell beautiful and domestic, and go to bed while the sun’s still up in the summer. This idealism lasted about four hours. I was drinking coffee, being productive, I got Sarah up early, and then the problems began.

I don’t know if it was from her waking up early or because she was sick and barely ate anything the past couple days, but Sarah was having episodes where everything merited a heaving-sob scream reaction. It wasn’t quite a Terrible Twos fit, but it certainly wasn’t normal behavior, and it got worse when Sarah realized she wouldn’t be having cookies for breakfast.

Generally speaking, I don’t do well with crying. More often than not, I stand my ground if Sarah’s throwing a fit, and we reach a mutually agreeable conclusion. When her mom cries, it’s a different story. Tiffany, when she’s crying, can get whatever she wants from me. Luckily, she doesn’t seem to take advantage of this fact. That I’m aware of.

Being around a crying woman is still a pretty foreign phenomenon to me. There wasn’t a lot of crying in my house as I grew up. Present-day Andrew doesn’t really cry, either*. I’m not counting all those half-drunk times when tears would well up during the satisfying emotional payoff of a movie. I think the part in Jerry Maguire where Cuba Gooding Jr regains consciousness and celebrates his touchdown is probably the most archetypal example.

A crying wife gets whatever she wants, and so does a wife who’s ready to put out. One of the reasons I didn’t have an initial problem getting up at 4 a.m. was because Tiffany got me to bed way early with the lure of married-people sex. It was like ten when she said, “Don’t you want to come to bed now?” And I was like, Nooooo, it’s only 10 o’clock. I have a blog to write. I don’t want to have to backdate it just so I’ll make my daily quota.

And then she said, “Are you suuuuuure you don’t want to come to bed now?” And that’s when I was like, Ohhhhhh, you want to $&#@ me. Okay, then, let me turn this computer off. Nah, forget it, I’ll leave it on. Don’t wanna miss the married-people sex window.

So this morning, I put Screamin’ Sarah back to bed, Silas fell back asleep, and I realized it was still only like 8:30. My brain was confused and barely functional, so I thought, Why not just relax with a little Season 4 “Weeds” on Netflix Instant? It was a great way to find myself falling back asleep until noon, which is something my brain and body have become very used to over the years.

Pugsley, 1994.

*The only time I can remember really having tears and sobs in recent memory was in June 2007, when I went with my mom to euthanize Pugsley, our family dog of fifteen years. I went along as stoic support, because my mom knew she was going to lose it. That dog was her baby and companion, but I really loved Pugsley too, and I lived with him for half my life. When the moment of truth arrived, I bawled like a child. We both did. I’d even broke down and sobbed the night before, when I was telling Tiffany — my girlfriend, not yet my wife — old Pugsley stories. That I felt so comfortable around and comforted by Tiffany while I was having this emotional episode only further cemented my thought that she was The One.

BABY PICTURE OF THE DAY

Silas sleeps on Christmas.

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

Enter Kipper, exit Elmo

December 12, 2010

Andrew Hicks

Every now and then, when cynicism strikes me, I ponder the possibility that love by nature is fleeting. Two of the couples who were married at the last three weddings I attended have already gotten divorced. They didn’t even hang in there long enough to celebrate the exchange of fine leather in traditional observance of the third wedding anniversary.

I guess not everyone’s priorities and life goals match up, but I know I’m digging in my heels and holding on tight at least until I get the traditional fruits and flowers that are the spoils of celebrating a whopping four years of marriage. I never thought I’d outlast some of my peers just by staying married for a fifth of a fifth of a century, but actually, when I put it that way, it kinda seems like a long time.

Within the last few weeks, I’ve witnessed a love I thought was pure and eternal disintegrate right in front of my eyes. This is a love I could’ve sworn would last forever. I’m speaking of my 2-year-old daughter Sarah’s torrid, abiding passion for Elmo. Once, he was all she would talk about. She would awake in breathless anticipation of his headwide smile and way-too-frequent, self-conscious giggle. Now, it’s like Elmo never existed, and I’m wondering if he pissed her off. I saw her rip the crap out of his picture in a book last week.

Elmo is sooooooo May 2009 through November 2010. The reign of Kipper is now upon us. We’ve taken the nine-dollar monthly plunge into the world of Netflix Instant streaming through the Wii. I think it’s incredible, and I’m wondering where it’s been all my TV- and movie-overwatching life.

My Netflix strategy is to search for the obscure, diverse stuff that’s eluded me on video store shelves all these years. Sarah, on the other hand, has taken a vow of complete Netflix monogamy to this dude Kipper, who I’d never heard of until late last month. Kipper slipped in under my radar, and he sure hasn’t come around to introduce himself as, “like, you know, the guy who’s seeing your daughter.”

Kipper, Pig and Popsicle

But he’s alright. Kipper is a super-low key British cartoon dog from the late ’90s who talks in dry, ambivalent stoner speech while doing mundane things like fishing and asking his cartoon pig friend named Pig to bring him a Popsicle. Kipper is the king of Sarah’s television universe right now, and Barney has become the goofy deputy king that makes you wish the real king didn’t have the day off. I should add, before my wife makes me add it, that Sarah still finds Barney indispensable for the songs alone. She likes to dance, jump and spin. Kipper does none of those things. Kipper is too baked to move.

Here you’ll have to imagine an ending that brings everything full circle by cleverly mentioning Kipper, Elmo, love, marriage, divorce, fine leather, fruits and flowers.

BABY PICTURE OF THE DAY

Sarah, when she was a baby, loved hanging out in her swing.