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Natural selection: Survival of the rudest

Humans may be the most evil animals on Earth, but raccoons surely are a close second.

Certainly they are the most inconsiderate animals on Earth.

Right bastards, they are, raccoons.

Whoa, Ian, what’s with the raccoon hate? What, you ask, have these cute, cuddly-looking little bandits ever done to you?

Plenty. They’ve had it in for me from day one, and you’re a naive fool to see them as anything but the thieving, conniving bastards that they are. To wit:

  • As a small child, a raccoon mauled our beloved family pet, a soft, cuddly, and thoroughly un-maul-worthy bunny rabbit.
  • Frequently while camping, raccoons have raided my campsite, stealing the heavy food I packed in. And, surprisingly, all the beer. Though I haven’t ruled out my campmates on that.
  • On one camping trip, the raccoons broke into my car and stole all the Blake Shelton CDs that somehow found themselves, against all odds, in my car. They left all the classical music CDs untouched.
  • A few months ago, a domestic dispute between two raccoons unfolded on my roof. Loudly. At two in the morning.
  • Regularly while driving at twilight, I see raccoons skulking about the street corner storm drains, a shifty glint in their eyes. Clearly up to no good.

As I said, the most inconsiderate animals on Earth.

Which brings to me last weekend, when they went from inconsiderate to just f*cking with me.

About six months ago, my beloved kiddos, playing in the backyard, decided that throwing toys on the roof and then asking big, gullible ol’ Daddy to get them was the bestest, funnest game in the world.

Teenage Mutant Smug Turtle, more like

This crime fighter doesn’t inspire confidence.

It took me about three rounds of this sport to catch on, at which point I flatly refused to go back up and fetch their latest volley, a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle doll, a plush stuffed animal that shouted TMNT catchphrases when flung against hard surfaces.

Such as the ground and roofs with slate shingles.

So up it stayed on the roof, through sun and rain and wind. My refusal to recover it instantly converted this into their favorite toy. The kiddos still cry themselves to sleep at night, mourning the loss of that toy and cursing not just my name, but the date of my birth.

Which I find ironic, given if their curses against my birth had any weight or power, there would be no them to curse me.

Time travel has its paradoxes, and so too, it turns out, does black magic.

I’ve attempted to explain to them the dangerous lack of logic in such a curse, in case it turns out they do have magical powers, but apparently six-year olds aren’t that good at understanding where babies come from or how their Daddy’s genetics contributed greatly to who they are.

And as they are still six, I have no enthusiasm for the birds and the bees conversation yet because I know, when I make the Missus give it to them, I will bear the brunt of her irritation at making her do it.

So the kiddos, not understanding, just wail anew and spit at me.

Numbskulls.

(I will say, the spitting is an improvement over their pre-potty training days, when they found less pleasant things close at hand to fling at me when expressing their disdain.)

But speaking of bastards, back to the raccoons.

Last Sunday, I retired to bed early. I’d recently been tasked to hire an engineer at work, and the lovely recruiter scheduled an 8am phone screen with the latest candidate.

I am not a morning person. I have never been a morning person. If the sun wasn’t essential for all life on Earth, I would have it snuffed out just to sleep in an extra five minutes. This is how I feel about getting up early, let alone being well-rested when I rise.

So I not only had to be at work at the normal start time, but I had to be sharp and pleasant and ready to talk to potential talent.

Where_in_the_world_is_Agent_Carter

Greatest (British) American hero

Hence the retiring early, despite the Missus’ entreaties to finish watching Agent Carter with her on the DVR. I’d sat through the first hour, quite enjoying the episode, but it was one of those ‘two hour events’ networks often put on to generate excitement about a program, and I simply could not stay up another hour.

I left my poor Missus, wailing and gnashing her teeth at my absence from her side as she watched the second hour without me, and went to bed.

Except shortly after closing my eyes, I heard something in the crawlspace above my bed.

Well, possibly in the crawlspace. Or possibly on the roof.

It’s surprisingly hard to tell, when lying half-asleep in the dark, whether the thump thumps you hear above you are on the roof, in the crawlspace, or maybe the result of some Lovecraftian beast walking upside down on the ceiling directly above you.

I am not a morning person because the night terrors that arise from my twisted, dark imagination keep me up at night.

I am a morning person out of necessity.

I struggled awake. I threw on the lights. I reached for the cricket bat next to my bed.

Nothing on the ceiling, thank the Old Ones.

Still some thump thumps, though.

I went outside, still clutching that cricket bat, and checked the roof as best I could in my PJs, bare feet, and with no ladder.

Nothing, which told me a truly shifty bastard was at work.

Naturally, my thoughts went immediately to raccoons.

I went back to bed, light left on, and tried to doze off. All was silent and right with the world.

At first.

But then the thump thump again. Only this time, something new:

The Thing On The Roof (henceforth known as TTOTR): Thump Thump “Cowabunga!” Thump thump
Me: WFT?
TTOTR: Thump thump “Totally awesome, dudes!” Thump thump
Me: OMFG! The neighborhood teenage hooligans are playing on my roof, and they brought a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle doll with them! I mean action figure, I added, knowing they’d correct me as such had they heard my thoughts. Such are the teenage hooligans in my neighborhood – smug.
TTOTR: Thump thump “Cowabunga” thump thump I taunt you with my spooky ambiguity thump thump

I abandoned raccoons for teenage hooligans because come on, what raccoon plays with toys on a stranger’s roof in the middle of the night? It defies all logic.

I rose again from bed, blearly-eyed and more than a little put out. This time I went to the backyard, where a ladder leans against one wall of the house, left over from that game, many months ago, of Daddy Fetch From the Roof.

I climbed the ladder, and because I was tired and I couldn’t find a proper flashlight, used my cell phone for illumination.

Let me just say, when attempting to see something in the dark from far enough away that you have time to successfully climb down a ladder and flee in case said thing decides to charge you, a cell phone light is not sufficient.

This thought is the very one that went through my head as I alighted that ladder. It was not a comforting thought.

Made all the moreso by the fact that I couldn’t climb the ladder, hold my cell phone, and hold a cricket bat at the same time.

I felt naked.

Yes, my PJs are slight and flimsy (and mostly see-through), but I’ve never felt naked in them before.

Of course, I had forgotten all about the kiddos’ little game and the toy left up there as I ascended that ladder. I just knew that something very wrong was happening on my roof, and while I really, really had no desire to see what exactly that wrong was, the only way to get some sleep was to investigate.

I don’t do my best thinking when I’m tired.

Fortunately, in moving the ladder into position, I’d made a lot of grunting, groaning, and “Ow!”ing sounds. This, apparently, alerted the bastard raccoon on the roof that I was coming.

I was back to raccoons at this point because once my head cleared the eave and saw no living creature there, I knew only a raccoon could have slipped off so stealthily.

Almost like a ninja.

Teenage hooligans tend to make a lot more noise disembarking my roof in a hurry.

I speak from experience on that count…

The only thing to greet me, as I tottered on the top rung of my ladder, surveying my roof, was the now silent and dismembered TMNT doll.

This battle goes to you, raccoon, but the war goes on.

As is natural in these situations, I paused for a moment in order to tweet about it. I then scraped the remains off the roof, carried them into the kiddos’ room, and with a scream fit to reanimate a thoroughly dead-due-to-mauling toy, woke them so they might see the logical conclusion of fun had at Daddy’s expense.

I explained, as my father once explained to me while I lay sick in bed one morning, that a raccoon had mauled their precious, beloved companion.

There was much crying and wailing after this. Mostly from the Missus, who was not happy that I had awakened the kiddos in the middle of the night and distressed them so.

But they were out of school for the whole week and didn’t need to get up early like I did.

Why should I be the only one to suffer?

I am living proof that humans are the most evil animals on the planet. At least when they’re really, really tired.

No doubt the kiddos will carry on that tradition when, years from now and despite my protests to the contrary, they decide it’s time to unplug Daddy from life support.

Holy Disemboweled Ninja Turtles, Batman, the shingles on this roof look, well, OK, actually!

In case you thought I made this whole horrifying story up…


Yes, I’ve been away from this blog for a long time. It hasn’t just been raccoons depriving me of sleep and leaving me too stressed out and exhausted to post.
I had pretty much given up on life, and by extension, this blog, but then the raccoons came, and their outrageous disregard for common decency fired me up again. Gave me the will to live. Endowed within me a newfound zest for life (or at least revenge…).

 

 

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Speak softly and, if you must carry a big stick, do it without making any sudden movements around my kids

My kids are insane.

Oh, and when did you get your degree in Psychiatry to enable such a diagnosis, you heartless bastard of a parent, you ask?

While I could argue that several years of parenting is far more of an evidentiary trial by fire than years of medical training, I will instead just say the state of their mental health is plainly axiomatic. Case in point:

It is a typical day in the Dudley household / juvenile detention facility. At home are Monster Kiddo, his brother Sadist Kiddo, and me, the hapless Daddy. Monster Kiddo has Sadist Kiddo pinned to the floor, using his body to crush Sadist Kiddo’s head.

Sadist Kiddo is screaming bloody murder about this, drawing my attention away from whatever it was I was doing in an attempt to ignore my children and the disruptive influence they have on my peace of mind.

I rush to the scene of the crime and, after muttering, “I am crushing your head. Crush, crush!” under my breath, I separate the two pugilists. This involves some heavy lifting and invective on my part.

Mostly invective. As they get older, I expect the balance to tilt more towards the heavy lifting side of the equation.

Which is ironic, given that as they age, hearing invective is less inappropriate for them.

Having caught their breath, the boys shrug free of me and begin circling each other, licking their chops and sharpening their fingernails.

In an attempt to maintain my sanity, I confiscate both of their whetstones and, as I wonder aloud once again as to why the Missus would possibly see fit to provide them such instruments of mayhem, order the two bitter rivals to stay at least three feet apart.

They are small enough that this would keep them just out of arm’s reach of each other.

Sadist Kiddo, having recovered enough from his head squishing, immediately bursts into tears and dashes to his room, leaving me a trail of woeful wails to follow.

I find him on the floor next to his bed, curled in the fetal position, tears and mucous flowing freely from, respectively, his eyes and nose.

(Once it was the other way around, and boy was that a long night in the emergency room.)

Me: What’s wrong? Why are you crying?
Sadist Kiddo: Monster Kiddo is my best friend! I love him!
Me: But he was crushing your head. I had to stop it.
Sadist Kiddo: But now I can’t play with him! I miss Monster Kiddo!
Me: But he was crushing your head!
Sadist Kiddo: He’s my best friend ever! And now I’ll never see him again because of you!
Me: (sighing and knowing I will regret what I’m about to say next): Fine. I rescind the order. You can play together.
Sadist Kiddo: (running from room): Fat ass jerk rescinded the order! He rescinded it, Monster Kiddo! We can play again!
Monster Kiddo: (from the other room) I’m crushing your head! Crush, crush.

In the end, the kiddos make peace with each other and tag team me. I do the only thing I can, and make a strategic retreat: I surrender my tablet to them.
They immediately turn on each other, fighting over who gets to use it next. In the chaos, I slip away and lock myself in the bathroom.

There are now ominous clunking sounds coming from outside, but I have water and a toilet – I think I can hold out for at least several days.

 
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Posted by on 14 June 2014 in Life, Parenting

 

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Writer’s Block – A Simple How To Guide To Creating It

“There’s no such thing as writer’s block,” they say.

“Writing is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration,” they say.

“You have to make the time to write,” they say.

While I’d love to be living in they’s fictional world of Writopia, where time is elastic, the voice recognition is flawlessly accurate, and my responsibilities are mere suggestions, I am stuck here on Earth.

And it ain’t so easy down here in the world populated by reality and stuff.

They think writer’s block is just some abstract excuse for lazy writers to not write.

They are idiots. At best, well-meaning but naive idiots. At worst, insidious two-faced liars setting us up to fail.

Either way, I say they can kiss my posterior.

You’re not convinced, are you? You still see truth in those trite passages they feel compelled to share with us, don’t you?

You probably still put out cookies for Santa, alfalfa for the Easter Bunny, and think jury duty is a worthy civic duty.

Do yourself and your bank account a favor – don’t stockpile the alfalfa any more. It won’t change anything come Easter morning.

Want proof? Fine. I’ll give you proof.

Proof that I’m not just some lazy writer who hasn’t gotten around to writing because of intense personal apathy and a subconscious loathing of words.

Like Prometheus, I bring down to you the fire that is known as writer’s block.

Be warned. If you follow the simple steps I list below, you will get burned.

Oh yes, burned. Burned with the intensity of a thousand diaper rashes. All. Happening. At. Once!

Ian M. Dudley’s Surefire Recipe for Writer’s Block

(serves a family of four, best served with a lot of red wine)

INGREDIENTS
One full-time day job
One or more kids, to taste
Requirement to potty train said kid or kids
One spouse or significant other
One house (or rental property) requiring constant upkeep
Optional: one or more medical conditions that impact free time or writing ability (tendonitis, extensive pending dental work, severe diaper rash, etc.)

DIRECTIONS
Get up early to do some writing. Dress first, so you can get the maximum amount of writing before bolting out the door. Get interrupted by kiddo(s) waking now, demanding hugs and soaked in their own (you hope) urine. Put kiddo(s) on potty, find kiddo(s) clean clothes, make toast or something to stop incessant whining of kiddo(s) about being hungry.

Notice when kiddo(s) hugged you, your clothes also became soaked in (hopefully their) urine. Change into new outfit, noting that you just put on the last non-urine soaked shirt / pants / dress / sweats / whatever you own. Realize that dealing with kiddo(s) and clothes change has put you behind schedule. Skip breakfast to get to full-time day job only marginally late.

Skip lunch in order to write. Psych! Lunchtime meeting called because that was the only hour everyone still had available on their calendars.  Due to lack of breakfast, expend ludicrous amount of energy in not being snarky towards superior who called meeting. Eat crappy lunch that is served. Act nonchalant when some attendees ask if anyone else can smell urine.

If you have special dietary needs (e.g., vegetarian), quiver in rage at discovery that food offered is not compatible with your requirements.

If you have a nut allergy, seriously consider eating one of the PB&J sandwiches offered, just to end the misery.

Spend next hour dealing with stomach upset / constipation / food poisoning / allergic reaction that arises as a result of consuming sub-par lunch that was served.

Leave full-time day job early just this once. Yeah, right! Stay until daily 5pm meeting finally wraps up. Spend next hour and a half in traffic. Two blocks from home, glare at cause of traffic bottleneck: Critical Mass protest rally in middle of intersection. Then hit every remaining red light (there will be at least three in those final two blocks, including one construction site where traffic is slowed so they can install a traffic light).

Throw open front door of home and recharge soul in the gleeful hugs and greetings provided by spouse / significant other and kiddo(s). Just kidding! Spouse / significant other, having spent entire day with kiddo(s), has a not-even-remotely-concealed homicidal glint in eyes. Kiddo(s) greeting entails making you scream in pain (running full tilt into the family jewels is one example that comes to mind…from personal experience).

Fervently hope kiddo(s)-caused injury leaves you sterile.

Enter house and head straight for den / mancave / study to get some writing in before dinner. Oh, wait. There’s a mini lake in the kitchen, the result of the dishwasher exploding. Slip in said water, land on buttocks. Pass out from pain, allowing cold soapy water to soak into your (last set of clean) clothes. Come to, calm down spouse / significant other worried about your loss of consciousness, clean up mess. Then stare at disassembled dishwasher for ten minutes before ordering a new one online.

Check bank balance to see if you can afford new appliance. Take slow, deep breaths and an aspirin to try to quell the chest pains this triggers.

This also serves to remind you why you haven’t quit your day job.

Help spouse / significant other feed the kiddo(s). Endure tirade of “This is not my favorite / not what I want / yucky!” that follows. Scold, beg, cajole, and bribe kiddo(s) to eat at least one bite, and when this is accomplished deceive yourself into thinking it is a victory.

It is not a victory.

Eat your dinner – the cold, congealed remnants of the meal kiddo(s) refused to eat. Experience surge of dissatisfaction about said meal in addition to a complete lack of feeling full. Open and eat an entire bag of potato chips to compensate, then perceive yourself as fat and bloated for the rest of the evening. This is mitigated slightly by fact of kiddo(s) periodically snatching a chip out of your hands.

Try to hide write in den / mancave / study, but spouse / significant other’s howls of anguish at dealing with kiddo(s) for even one minute more force you to return. Endure/contain kiddo(s) while spouse / significant other hides in den / mancave / study not writing.

(Oh the irony.)

For each kiddo in the household, there will be at least three potty accidents, with a minimum of one involving solid waste that is only solid when using a very loose definition of the word. Hold back tears / vomit as you work through these trials.

At bedtime, put kiddo(s) to bed. Read favorite story to kiddo(s). When requested, stop and repeat favorite passages. Ad nauseum. When done, ignore pleas to not leave kiddo(s) alone in the dark.

Go to den / mancave / study to write. Ha! As if! Return to room of kiddo(s) every two minutes due to ear-piercing, soul-shaking screams. Soothe kiddo(s), explaining that the curtains aren’t ghosts / carpet is not trying to eat kiddo(s) / you do not have time to read another story / you cannot go to sleep in room with kiddo(s). Start making up vigilante characters, such as the Spank Fairy, who slips into rooms after dark to spank noisy children.

Be prepared to die a little inside when this ploy triggers laughter instead of silence.

After eighth trip to room of kiddo(s), lock door from the outside and put in earplugs. Go to den / mancave / study to write. Curses! Foiled again! Spouse / significant other now demands quality time. Pour entire focus of your being into spouse / significant other.

After marriage / relationship is on less shaky ground and spouse / significant other’s sanity marginally restored, go to den / mancave / study to write. Not! It’s after 11pm, you’re exhausted, and you need to get up early to write tomorrow morning. Go to bed.

Grind teeth in fury when spouse / significant other immediately falls asleep, leaving you to struggle to nod off in the wake of your partner’s ferocious snoring. Finally drift off shortly before 2am.

This is me on a GOOD day!

So. Tired.

Awaken at 2am to screams of kiddo(s). Rush into room to find kiddo(s), PJs, bedding, and carpet soaked in (hopefully just) urine. Turn to tell spouse / significant other it’s their turn, but stop short when you see the cold dead glint in their eyes.

It doesn’t matter what the tally indicates – it is your turn.

When finished, crawl into bed and just before drifting off, realize you forgot to start a load of laundry. You’d cry as you load the washing machine, but you have neither the energy nor the hydration to pull it off at this point.

On your way back to bed and the sweet, sweet embrace of slumber, you step on a toy.

A sharp, pointy toy.

The pain is nothing compared to the agony of discovering you are completely out of wine.

Repeat every day, except weekends when kiddo(s) cling to you every waking moment while exhibiting a pathological need to pound on anything they think even vaguely resembles a keyboard. You think I’m exaggerating, but I have been interrupted eleven times in the last ten minutes by my children, asking for irritating things like food, drink, and love.

It’s almost as if I’m cursed.

If anyone out there still naively thinks they have a suggestion for how to cure this writer’s block (that does not involve me ending up in jail / death row), feel free to chime in. Keep in mind that with the cost of replacing a major appliance every night, I cannot afford a nanny, and for some reason the Missus has explicitly forbade me bringing in a young, voluptuous live-in au pair.

I bet the kiddos would love an au pair.

 
 

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For whom does the bell toll? It tolls for thee, mustache and goatee.

Today I announce the least sought after outcome from a game of Clue:

The Missus killed the mustache and goatee in the bathroom with an electric razor.

Oh sure, it wasn’t her hand that held the razor against my face and tore away my dear, treasured friends. But hers were the hands pulling the strings that lead to this sad act.

It all started a few months ago, when I stopped shaving.

Now many who know me would argue that given my utter inability to grow a proper beard, shaving is merely an act of wishful thinking, me play-acting at being all grown up and able to front thick, lustrous facial hair.

I can’t.

I freely admit this.

I can work up a good bristle after a few weeks, but even that is embarrassingly sparse.

But every few years, in a fit of deluded optimism and an over-developed sense of manliness (usually after partaking of too many Rocky Mountain oysters), I stop shaving in order to try, once more, to hide my weak chin.

It usually ends within a few weeks, when I have nothing to show for the effort except worried expressions from friends and coworkers who are wondering if I have some sort of skin disorder manifesting on my face.

Not so this time.

This time I endured the worried looks, and then, when the weeks passed into still more weeks, the derisive giggles and lopsided, poorly hidden grins every time someone saw me.

And then, when the still more weeks passed into months, something amazing happened.

Enough of my beard grew in that I could plausibly claim to have a goatee. And maybe, just maybe, if you squinted at my upper lip while passing me by at a sprint, a mustache.

Wasting no time, I began to stroke it thusly during meetings, usually immediately preceding a thoughtful comment or penetrating question asked by yours truly.

And lo, there was much rejoicing within the cramped confines of my ego.

Yes, there was gray hair, but still, it was a youthful goatee

The dearly departed: Had I waited an additional six months, the rest of the beard would probably have come in on my cheeks. Alas, it was not to be.

I was happy.

I felt manly.

I had attained completeness.

But the Missus, she was working against me the whole time.

Oh sure, at first she said nice things. And didn’t even giggle.

Much.

But then one night, as she rubbed her temples and complained yet again of her splitting headache, she asked that question so dreaded by any bearded man who has a spouse or significant other:

“As much as I’ve enjoyed dating the evil Ian, are you planning to keep that?”

Nothing so direct as, “Lose the beard or you’ll never get any ever again.” Now that I had a goatee and mustache, I was far too manly for such a tactic to work on me.

But the Missus, she is clever. With those little words, I began to have doubts.

Was there something wrong with my goatee?

Had she noticed what I always suspected about the mustache, that it was a mere wispy shadow of the thick, burly lip brow I imagined myself capable of?

If the Missus was willing to admit my facial hair fell short of her ideal be-bearded man, what about my other friends? Those who said it looked cool – were they just lying to spare my feelings?

And more importantly, were those really lice I saw climbing around in my goatee, or just a side effect of going off my meds for a month?

So, naturally, I was already in a fragile state this morning when one of my toddlers came up to me, no doubt at the Missus’ instigation, touched my mustache, then my goatee, and said, “Daddy, make that go away so you’ll be like the three of us.”

And by ‘three of us’, he mean himself, his brother, and his mother.

All three of whom have an alarmingly apparent lack of facial hair.

Actually, I worry about my sons. I don’t exactly have the ‘beard you can cut glass with’ gene, and assuming they get 50% of their facial hair genes from the Missus, they will be even less adept at growing the chin rug and cheeky carpet.

That thought keeps me up at night. The only way I can get to sleep is latching onto the hope that someday, within my kids’ lifetime, Science may perfect the beard transplant.

Until then, I will always fret.

But that comment, about being like them, was the nail in my beard’s coffin.

So, with a heavy heart, I poured myself a whiskey, my beard a last brandy snifter of Diet Tab, and then quietly, unassumingly, with nary a tear in my eye, made my way into the bathroom.

Yes, it was my heavy hand that raised the electric razor to my face, my quivering hand that shaved off the beloved, hard-fought for hairs, my shaking hand that lovingly gathered my fallen comrades into a warm, moist towel and buried them in the backyard.

But it was my puppet-master Missus pulling the strings.

I have to go now. The Missus has just informed me that her weeks-long splitting headache has finally lifted.

Suddenly, I don’t feel so bad about losing the beard. After all, it was awful itchy.

And now, a word from our sponsor: me! Despite me being beardless, my books are still available!
 

The Santa Claus Gang:

The Santa Claus Gang: A Marlowe and the Spacewoman short story

Marlowe and the Spacewoman:

Marlowe and the Spacewoman

Kleencut (FREE, and a fine showcase for my artistic abilities!):

So bad it won a Voidy for the next THREE consecutive years (would have been FOUR, but 2012 was a leap year)

 
 

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How to turn raising kids into the best game ever (and circumvent child labor laws at the same time)!

Life with kids is hard.

You endure the morning commute, slog your way through work, and slow-motion dodge the traffic all the way home.

And what’s waiting for you there?

Hellions. Screaming, jumping, unreasonably happy to see you hellions.

So you have to hang out with them, make them feel loved and wanted until you can drop their sorry butts into bed.

Which takes an additional fifteen minutes because they expect you to hug them.

And kiss them.

And read to them.

Read to them! At night!

And then, once you’ve got the writhing monsters tucked in tight enough that it’ll take till morning for them to work their way loose, then the real work begins.

Laundry. Toy cleanup. Dish washing. Spousal attention paying.

This leaves very little time for Daddy to do what he wants.

Outrageous.

However, if my kids are any indicator, there is a sliver of hope.

Recently, I introduced my kids to computer games.

They became obsessed. To the point that getting home from work, they’d run to the door demanding I help them get to the next level.

Every night.

At first, the Missus and I thought this obsession meant we’d made a mistake.

The progression of their addiction only reinforced this concern.

The kiddos started running around the house, talking like this:

“Level 8! We’re at Level 8!”

“There are jumping cannonballs in the living room! Cannonballs!”

“Where’s Alex? Where’s Alex the Alligator now?”

“Watch out for the Daddy boss monster!”

“How do we get to the next level?”

It seems that exposure to video games has caused them to completely redefine their lives and surroundings in the context of a computer game.

At first, I was alarmed.

Alarmed and troubled. Troubled by the thought that, in addition to all the precious free time these kids suck up, they were now going to require expensive therapy too.

And then I hit upon the solution. If they think life is a game, I’m gonna make that game work. For me.

“You can only complete Level 4 on a full stomach. Eat all of your spinach if you want to beat Level 4. Mmm, yummy! Well done!”

“The only way past Level 5 is to brush your teeth. You have to get rid of that spinach somehow.”

“Very good! You’re at Level 6. Did you want to get to Level 7? To do that, you have to put away your toys. This is a hidden object game. You have to hide your toys in the toy box.”

“Oh no, you dropped the bowl you were drying and it broke. Back to the start of Level 7 with you! Stop crying! It’s just a game, dammit! If you keep it up, I’ll give you a real reason to cry!”

“Level 8 is the Festering Swamp Level. The only way out is to clean the clogged toilet. Put on these rubber gloves. The plunger is behind the toilet. That’s it. You know what to do from there.”

“Good job, kiddos, you made it to Level 9. How to get to Level 10? Simple. First, put the dirty clothes in the washing machine. No, not just your clothes. Mommy and Daddy’s clothes too while you’re at it.

“Then you add detergent and start the machine. Go on, you can do it.

“What are you whining about? Can’t I get a /moment’s/ peace around here? You can’t reach? Do I have to do /everything/ around here? Level 10 isn’t supposed to be easy. You have to solve the puzzle.

“Oh for the love of… Find the stool. No, the stool. Either one, it doesn’t matter. JUST PICK ONE, DAMMIT! OK. Push it over to the washing machine, like that, yes. Now put the clothes in. No, IN the washing machine. How else will it clean them? This isn’t rocket science!

“No, no! Close the lid. CLOSE it. You’re almost four years old, how hard can this be? That’s it. Now climb on top of the lid and grab the detergent package. No, that’s fabric softener. The one with the ‘D’ on the package, you illiterate…deep breaths, find my happy place. No, MY happy place, not yours!

“There. Finally. Now get back down on the stool, no, the STOOL, you’ll fall and hurt yourself climbing down the side. Yes, there. Geez. Now open the lid again. I know it was open and you just closed it, open it again. Trust me. JUST OPEN IT!

“There, see, that wasn’t so hard. Now put the detergent in, close the lid, don’t argue about opening and closing, just do it. No, DON’T GET INSIDE! You have to stay outside! Because the washing machine is for clothes only! To clean them! No. Because I SAID SO!

“No, I’m not showing you how to do this again. Weren’t you paying attention? See, you got it, yeah! That’s it. Now hit ‘Start’. No, I can’t help you. You can do it. It’s the bright red button with the ‘S’ on it. Just press the damn button already.

“Hurray, you did it! Welcome to level 11! This is the lawn mowing level. But watch out for the octogenarian vampire lawn gnomes – they spit.”

If you hadn’t guessed, Level 10 is the Boss level.

It’s the level that makes me question my whole approach to handling their gaming addiction.

That and the trouble the kiddos have pull-starting the lawn mower. I have to admit, even I have problems with that. I’m thinking an electric mower will fix that concern.

And I have to say, doubts aside, the house is looking pretty good.

Save for all the broken glass in the kitchen. Toddlers are clumsy oafs.

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The Santa Claus Gang:

The Santa Claus Gang: A Marlowe and the Spacewoman short story

Marlowe and the Spacewoman:

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Posted by on 25 March 2013 in Life

 

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Ha! Try the Terrible Twos when (they think) they’re Superheroes!

I recently posted about my efforts to raise my children to be superheroes.

Unfortunately, I forgot to take a few things into consideration:

Damage to the human body when a child attempts to fly. Off the roof of your house.

Ease with which a toddler can climb a ladder that is up and leaning against the eaves of your roof.

Unsympathetic expressions you must endure of paramedics, police, spouse, parents, in-laws, and later, child protective service employees, as you explain your philosophy of child-rearing to them.

And, most importantly, you are in big trouble if your kids decide you are a super villain.

I, unfortunately, fell victim to that last oversight.

This tragic misunderstanding came to light last night. Evidently, they decided I was El Diapero, a dastardly villain who wields super-absorbent diapers as his primary weapon, and pajamas with dinosaurs and/or rocket ships on them as his backup.

Given it was bedtime, this led to trouble.

He's so evil he's using the Jedi Choking Trick On Himself

The Brown Smear, bane of diapers far and wide

The Brown Smear, as we shall call him, was up first. His brother wisely hid behind the tent and egged his brother on as The Brown Smear kicked and punched me, delivering a blow-by-blow commentary to his cowering brother as he bravely wriggled free at ever opportunity, no matter his state of dress.

Or undress.

I mentioned a tent. This is a small dome tent, erected in their room as a sort of Fortress of Awesome Fun. I’ve found that you can take any object, no matter how pedestrian, and if you put it in an inappropriate setting, toddlers deem it suddenly “the best fun ever.”

I’ve gifted my children with many such installations:

  • Fist Through Wall.
  • Head In Hands.
  • Unacceptable Language In Front Of Brawling Brats.
  • Fist Through Another Wall.
  • Head Inadvertently, But Really I Should Have Seen This Coming, Through Wall.
  • Fist Through Wall II: Electric Boogaloo (followed immediately by Anguished Daddy In The ER, Getting His Burns Bandaged, and shortly thereafter by Electrician With Excessive Body Hair and Butt Crack Showing Repairing Wiring).
  • Weeping Uncontrollably In Front Of Car Parked In ER Parking Lot Because Of Their Antics.

All grand entertainment as far as The Toddler Twins are concerned. But I digress.

You’d think the pummeling of a toddler would be of no consequence to an adult male, even one as grossly out of shape as I am.

You’re forgetting one important factor:

Volume.

The high volume of blows delivered, and the high volume of the screams that accompanied those blows.

The Brown Smear has a seemingly inexhaustible supply of energy, and his brother, who I’ll refer to as The Tantrum, only fed him more energy with his encouragement and instructions.

Despite these odds, I did prevail over The Brown Smear, consigning him to the obscurity of a nighttime diaper and pajamas with a shark on the front.

Total humiliation. Daddy 1, The Brown Smear, well, he got some good blows in, so I’ll give him 8 points.

Crap, I’m losing.

Able to break sound barriers with a single scream

The Tantrum, sworn enemy of peace and quiet

I spend the next forty-five minutes chasing down The Tantrum, get him out of his diaper, and then spend another twenty minutes chasing The Pantsless Tantrum.

I would have caught him sooner, but I slipped on a puddle of … liquid, and threw out my back.

Once I had The (Pantsless) Tantrum pinned, I started to undo his pantsless state with my trusty double-action super-absorbent diaper.

I always carry at least one on my person at all times. Don’t worry, it’s legal. I have a CCD, or Carry Concealed Diaper, permit.

This is when I discovered the Tantrum’s second super power, the first being screams that you wish only dogs could hear.

The “Hand Sandwich.” He smacks your head with both hands, making a ‘sandwich’ of your face. With unclipped fingernails, it can be quite a painful weapon.

But I persevered, working through the haze of stars and little cartoon birdies circling my head to get him out of the old and into the new.

Just when the striped “Where’s Waldo” pajama top was almost on and victory seemed at hand, The Brown Smear recovered from the humiliating PJs that had left him curled up in a run-around-the-tent-screaming-with-excess-energy ball.

He started jumping on me. I’m sitting on the floor, bent over The (Now Pantsed) Tantrum, an easy target.

Arms come around my neck just as the weight of my son’s body makes itself, rapidly and unexpectedly, apparent on my weary shoulders.

He slides off.

Jumps again.

This went on far longer than you’d think a toddler would find it interesting. Perhaps the different sounds of agony that erupted from my lips each time kept it intriguing to him.

It went on for a long time.

Then The Brown Smear did grow bored. And switched to kicking the small of my back.

The one I threw out when I slipped on that puddle of … liquid … while chasing The Pantsless Tantrum.

My superhero sons are not only dexterous and full of energy. They are diabolically clever.

I can only imagine the horror I would have endured if either of them had had what is known, in parenting parlance, as “poopy butts.” Sometimes, it is only this, the thought of the horror I escaped, that sustains me during my trying time of slow, painful recuperation.

That and the fact that in my diminished state, diaper-changing duties have fallen exclusively to the missus. Though I’ve noticed the boys whispering as they make furtive glances between her and the diaper stash.

I should probably warn her, but she’s been complaining all day about my “whining.”

On the bright side, my parenting skills are readily apparent. What else could have taught my children how to cooperate so effectively?

I’m so proud.

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Posted by on 4 October 2012 in Conspiracies Out To Get Me, Life

 

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Hey, Who Turned Out The Lights? Toddlers.

Been a busy last couple of days, and way too tired to write anything extensive (or that makes sense). So, instead, for your enjoyment…something:

If they're planning to commit crimes, I think a ski mask would be easier to see out of

Future cat burglars, using whatever is at hand as a tool of the trade, even if it means improvising a mask? Or aspiring Mexican wrestlers, unable at this young age to afford proper masks, and using their imagination to overcome this financial shortcoming? Or worse, both?

And now, a word from our sponsor: me!
 
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Marlowe and the Spacewoman:

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Posted by on 12 September 2012 in Guilty Until Proven Innocent, Life

 

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So You Want (Your Kid) To Be A Superhero

I want the best for my children. What parent doesn’t?

So, as a parent, I am forced to ask myself, what is the best I can provide for my kids that also has a commercial upside for me?

The answer is surprisingly simple and obvious:

Make them superheroes.

They fight crime, stop evildoers, and I make a fortunate on the interview and lecture circuit.

Not to mention the tell-all biographies.

So, easy question to answer.

Not-so-easy answer to implement.

Sure, there’s the Batman model, where you let your young child witness your murder, thus driving him or her to a life of crime-fighting.

I can think of at least one drawback to this approach.

OK, two. In addition to the expensive therapy, this technique requires me to die.

I am way too selfish and self-absorbed to die.

In fact, I plan to avoid shuffling off altogether once I find the Fountain of Youth. Only I’m not so youthful anymore – anyone got any tips on a location for that? I need to find it in a hurry.

But back to the best for my kids.

Dying off and condemning them to years of painful psychiatric treatment just doesn’t strike me as the best approach. Plus this method doesn’t give them any superpowers either.

I tried to get a source of gamma radiation, but that led to an awkward conversation with a bunch of touchy FBI agents.

They show up at your door at like 5am with an armed team and an attitude and start demanding to know why you want something that gives off gamma rays.

Ridiculous!

And then I remembered what my high school gym teacher always used to tell me.

OK, yell at me. Repeatedly. As I tried in vain to climb that damn rope.

“Ya see that? It’s the Ruskies! There they are, just on the horizon! Boy are we in trouble with you lot!”

And, more helpfully, “Build that muscle memory! Then you won’t have to think about it and you’ll just do it!”

Muscle memory.

If I get my kids started early enough, I can train their muscles to make them superheroes.

Which is why I started early with the training program.

One of my kids loves Spiderman, so I’ve got him on the wall crawling regimen.

It’s great. He loves it, never complains. Actually asks for the sessions.

The other one is a Batman freak, but since Batman doesn’t have any superpowers, I put that kid on the flying program.

This is not so great. As he’s ‘flying’ around, all he does is whine about wanting a utility belt and a cable gun.
I don’t have high hopes for that one.

Here is some early test footage:

It's a bird! It's a plane! It's some guy's kids, trying to fly and climb walls.

My method is simple. Get them comfortable with the idea of superpowers
before forcing them to evolve into those superpowers.
That way, no awkward clumsy phases.
With superpowers, you don’t want awkward clumsy phases.

You can bet your top, middle, and bottom dollars that I don’t torment my kids with threats of Ruskies looming on the horizon. That’s so 1980s. I use Al Qaeda – much more topical.

If things continue to go well, I’ll be moving to Stage 2 soon, which involves a catapult for the flying and a visit to the roof of the Empire State Building for the wall climbing.

I firmly believe in the “Sink or Swim” school of, well, schooling.

No, no, please, don’t say anything. Step back. Sit down. You don’t have to thank me. Knowing my kids will grow up to save the world is reward enough.

Well, that and all the money I’ll make cashing in on their fame.

By the way, anyone got a source for good but inexpensive catapults?

And now, a word from our sponsor: me!
 
My books are available!

Marlowe and the Spacewoman:

Marlowe and the Spacewoman

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So bad it won a Voidy for the next THREE consecutive years (would have been FOUR, but 2012 was a leap year)

 

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Sing, O Muse, Of Your Superfluousness

I just recently came out of a long dry spell that I’d been enduring.

For writing. A dry spell for writing. The dating dry spell ain’t going away, cause I’m married. The sex dry spell, well, I’m married with kids. Young kids. You do the math.

Actually, one could argue I’m not completely clear of the writing dry spell just yet. I’ve jumped back in by editing a couple of ancient projects that have been avoiding dust in a hermetically sealed desk drawer for the last decade.

Yes, decade. I’m taking baby steps. And not just so I won’t wake my sleeping toddlers.

But this long dry spell got me to thinking about Muses, because I’m without one.

Oh, don’t get me wrong. I’ve had Muses before, and plenty of them.

My first Muse came to me in high school and stayed with me through college. As with most tales involving heterosexual male writers, she was a woman, I was madly in love with her, and I was too terrified to tell her.

Ah, happy days.

Instead of asking her out, maybe dating her, and, you know, being happy for a few weeks before my complete and total lack of social graces and maturity poisoned her to me forever, I did the next most logical, obvious thing:

I wrote for her from a distance.

She was in my poetry, short stories, not-so-short short stories, and a play I wrote.

Funny thing, that play. My muse actually ended up being cast as the character based on her. It struck me as a sign, and still I said nothing.

What can I say, today-Ian may be a mercury-poisoned mad man, but college-Ian, who hadn’t been exposed to mercury yet, was a flat-out idiot.

Which is not to said I’m sad and mopey and wish things had turned out differently. My life is awesome, with an amazing wife and adorable children, and I could never risk erasing them from my life by going back in time and bitch-slapped some common sense into my earlier self.

It’s true. And I’m not just saying that because my wife reads this blog. Or because traveling back in time, in addition to being impossible unless you’re wealthy enough to afford a DeLorean, could create a paradox that destroyed the very fabric of the universe.

My point is, I had a Muse. And holy crap, I had output too. Every free moment, even those that would have been better spent hitting the books, was spent writing.

And dating other women. There was some of that too.

I’ll bet those women, since I’m sure all of them, to this day, still think about me, wished I would go back in time now to fix things with that first Muse and prevent my ever meeting, let alone dating, any other women, potential destruction of the universe be damned.

To which I can only say, I am so, so sorry.

And then, one day, I moved on.

OK, my muse got married. To someone else. And he wasn’t even American!

Talk about adding insult to injury.

I had other Muses. Other women. Many of them also oblivious to me, or only aware of me in the most peripheral way. Usually dating my best friend or something. Not that I’m bitter at all. No sir.

But none of them were quite the same. No Muse is ever like your first one.

My wife was my Muse for a while, before we got married. In fact, and this is relevant later, she was my Muse when she lived far away and we rarely saw each other. I wrote some stuff I’m rather proud of with her in mind.

And some stuff I’m not proud of, but that was true of all my Muses, even my first. Sometimes I was just a hack and no amount of Musing can overcome that.

But somewhere along the line, writing changed for me.

I’m not sure where, but it might have been Nanowrimo, when writing became about the deadline and word count and turning off your inner editor. Then I got serious about writing, ended up self-publishing, and the writing became about marketing and selling books.

It became a business.

Which is about when the dry spell started. Hmm…

I also got a day job, bought a house, got married, had kids. Shit got real.

But whenever and however it happened, the end result was I stopped writing for someone beyond me anymore.

I lost my Muse.

And I didn’t even notice until recently.

Which got me to wondering. As writers, do we need a Muse?

I’m not so sure. For quite a while, I was doing pretty well without one. Sure, maybe not so much lately, what with the re-hashing of old work, but excluding the last six months or so, the last few years have been good for my writing.

Are the last few months relevant to this question about having a Muse? Or are they, perhaps, crucial? If I had a Muse six months ago, would I have still fallen off the writing wagon, or would I have climbed over the harness rigging the horses to the wagon and whipped them into a frenzied gallop of writing abandon?

So, there it is. They question of the hour.

Do writers need a Muse?

And if we do, who would be my Muse?

My kids? Seems like a great idea, writing for my kids. It’s an idea I had before my kids were even a gleam in my eye. But if having my kids as Muses results in stuff like Kleencut (FREE picture e-book, just released on Smashwords, should be hitting Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc. soon), then maybe they aren’t such a hot choice.

Plus kids get so territorial:

“Who’s the better Muse? Me or my brother?”

“I know you say we’re both your Muse, but it’s really just me, right?”

“I’m the Muse for your good books, right, but be honest, my brother’s the Muse for the terrible ones.”

I don’t want to break the heart of the lesser Muse by having to tell him that he sucked as an inspiration. That’s the sort of thing that leads a kid to grow up into a serial killer.

One that starts with his writer father.

So kids are out.

My wife is the obvious next choice. But I think there has to be pain and distance associated with a Muse. The Unattainable, set on that Pedestal of Too Highness that is just out of reach. Without a blend of angst and ‘maybe, some day’, well, you have nothing to which you can aspire.

This is what happens when all your dreams come true, when you marry and move in with the woman you love.

Suddenly the Unattainable is not just Attainable, but Attained, and that Pedestal of Too Highness has succumbed to the mighty lifting power of a shared bed.

Seriously. Our bed is on stilts. It’s this kink we have. Don’t judge.

So clearly my wife is out.

And just as clearly, at least if I want to talk about it publicly, all other women are also out.

Do you have any idea how rare it is to find a heterosexual woman with a stilt fetish who’s willing to settle down and marry? When your dreams have all come true, you don’t rock the boat with a bone-headed idea like dragging in another woman as your Muse.

How do you have that conversation with your wife?

Me: Hey, I’ve found a new Muse for my writing.

Missus: Took you long enough, considering I’ve been here all along.

Me: Oh, well, it’s not you.

Missus: Oh? Who is it then? Bill in Accounting?

Me: Bill? No! Why would it be- Never mind. No, she’s not someone I work with. Not directly, anyway.

Missus: She?

Me: Yeah. I saw her on the subway, followed her home, went through her mail to learn more about her.

Missus: I see. Tell me more about this Muse who isn’t me.

Me: Um, she’s…nice?

Missus: Nice as in better looking, or nice as in more loveable?

Me: Um, no, it’s not like that at all.

Missus: Really? Then how does it work? How exactly does she inspire you if she isn’t tugging on your heart-strings? Or…wobbling your stilts?

Me: Just because she’s a rich, successful heart surgeon doesn’t mean I’m interested in her like that. She’s way too young, like in her early twenties, and her bust is way too big for me to- ACK…GARKGLE…hurting me…please…release testicles from steely grip…

[End scene]

Yeah, neither I nor my boys need that kind of drama. So, what does that leave?

Men, you say?

No. Despite the huge surge in hits my blog would get if I chose, for example, Blake Shelton naked as my next Muse, it just doesn’t do anything for me.

And doing something for me is kinda the point.

Inspiring picture of the rarely seen, once thought to be extinct Muse Turtle.

Once believed to be extinct, the Muse Turtle, or Chelonia gregārius, was known to be common in Greek and Roman times, and appears in much of the literature from those periods. If this over-sized turtle choking down a weed inspires you, then you're an even bigger loser than I am.

So, that leaves animals. And plants.

Well crap, that sucks. I’m allergic to animal dander, so I’d end up doing more sneezing than writing if I went the animal route (though I suppose reptiles or amphibians might work). But animals require upkeep, too, and I’m barely keeping my marriage and family together as it is, what with the younger, bustier Muses and the testicle-squeezing and the high cost of stilts maintenance.

And pining after someone else’s pet frog? Would you want to read something written by a creepy person like that?

Yeah, me either.

And if I chose a plant, well, with my luck, it would be poison oak. Plus I have a pollen allergy too, so sneeze-fest.

And come on, a plant as a Muse? What kind of sorry life would I have to lead where I’m inspired by an unattainable vegetable? It would have to be one of those exotic vegetables that they don’t allow in California for fear of fruit flies or something.

I’d have an easier time finding another woman with a stilt fetish.

Which really makes me hope that Muses are superfluous.

Because if they aren’t, I’m screwed.

And now, a word from our sponsor: me!
 
My books are now available!
 
Marlowe and the Spacewoman:

Marlowe and the Spacewoman

Kleencut (FREE!):

So bad it won a Voidy for the next THREE consecutive years (would have been FOUR, but 2012 was a leap year)

 
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Posted by on 1 May 2012 in Life, Other Blogs

 

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Now THAT’S a spicy meatball!

Oh it burns, it burns!

Always read the fine print. And the slightly larger print. And the large print. Any one of them could have eardrum-preserving information embedded in them.

So I learned a valuable lesson about parenting this week.

Nay, an essential lesson about parenting.

When you go to the store to buy baby powder, pay attention to the label!

You’re thinking, baby powder labels? Who cares? Baby powder is baby powder.

No, it isn’t.

You’ve got your expiration dates. Yes, baby power has an expiration date. Who knew? And some unscrupulous stores will still sell it to you.

If the hot dogs on rollers look leathery, be sure to check the date before you buy that baby powder. I’m looking at you, neighborhood 7-11. If you weren’t open all night, I’d never shop inside you.

You’ve got your minor differences: talc, corn starch, with or without aloe, cut with cocaine, not cut with cocaine.

Yes, it works both ways on the cocaine-cutting front, and if you’re putting your kid down for bed, make sure you use the cocaine-free stuff. Trust me on this.

Then you’ve got your major differences: mild, medium, spicy, Thai spicy.

Don’t buy the Thai spicy.

Trust me on this.

The screaming didn’t end for days.

I don’t know what possessed the baby powder manufacturers to expand their offerings beyond ‘Mild’. I guess there are babies out their who enjoy discomfort that ranges from slow burn to all-consuming fire on their nether regions.

Or maybe it’s parents, sleep deprived one day too many, who enjoy inflicting it?

I don’t know. But I do know this: I’m not the type of parent who wants to inflict this kind of character-building pain, nor, based on the recent test case, are my children interested in experiencing it.

Their pathological fear of diapers has yet to dissipate. Here’s how diaper changes go following…the Incident In The Nursery (or as I call it, The Curious Case of the Baby That Did Scream):

Me: [sing-song voice] “Do you have a poopy butt?”

Son: [backing up, scaling wall to nearest window] God, no! Stay away! A pox on your house! [looking plaintively at brother] Please! Kill me!

My son isn’t three yet, and he spontaneously developed the above vocabulary after a careless application of Thai spicy baby power by yours truly.

So if you can get past the side effects, maybe you can use this as a learning tool. Personally, I’d rather have inarticulate kids than go through this again, but your mileage may vary.

Even his brother, who witnessed the sad drama as it unfolded, has not been left unmarked. Whenever I approach him with a diaper, he looks at me with eyes narrowed and his breath catches with fear. I can see the assessment of the room taking place in his head: exits, witnesses, is daddy wearing a cup today or not.

It’s very sad. My kids aren’t afraid of a monster under the bed, or in the closet. They’re afraid of a daddy in those places instead.

Seriously. When the missus puts them down each night, they say, “There’s a daddy under the bed! It’s gonna get me and burn my poopy butt, which isn’t poopy by the way, so I don’t need a diaper change!”

And the missus dutifully looks under the bed, in the closet, behind their pillows, in the dresser, under the carpet, and everywhere else my kids scream there might be a daddy lurking.

I’m worried how this will affect the ties I get on Father’s Day in the future.

On the plus side, this has proven to be an excellent excuse to foist all diaper changes on the missus. She’s not happy about it, but the logic behind the decision is irrefutable. I withdraw to a respectful distance and smile at the thought that I’m not the one dealing with the screams and thumps of my little diaper conscientious objectors.

So maybe, dads out there, you do want Thai spicy baby powder.

Just don’t use corn starch – it’s plain wrong and illegal in eighteen states.

And now, a word from our sponsor: me!
 
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Posted by on 18 April 2012 in Conspiracies Out To Get Me, Life

 

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