Counting Cars.

Always on the look-out for ways to keep the kids occupied, I institute new programs on the fly.  Some of you may remember last month’s installment, How To Control Kids: Question Quotas, a fine breach of free speech.  A far older institution, yet to be revealed until now (I’m such a tool), is Counting Cars, a fairly irresponsible practice if I’m driving.  When Mommy drives I’m like a seat-belted wolf, scanning the road for prey, quantifying victory, because in the end whomever collects the most sightings wins.  Game over.

Seems ridiculous not to identify the make and model, so here’s our list, in particular order:

The Ford Taurus

To judge by its style and frequency some might say the Taurus is plebeian, but they’d be wrong.  First introduced in 1985, the Taurus is now manufactured in its 6th generation, haughty territory for any vehicle.  If you really look you’ll see some of the old-schoolers out there, always on the road.

It's on.

It’s on.

The Ford Mustang

An audible riot, a Mustang is literally the wild west American horse, a freaking asphalt wolf! A common occurrence, each sighting is cause for unbridled celebration in my family.  This brutal equestrian rules the road.

BULLITT.

BULLITT.

The Corvette

Clearly the most exotic four wheels listed here, Chevrolet’s 2015 ZO6 makes a black hole shudder at 650 horsepower.  And the Corvette in general is a seasonal sighting–warm weather only.  It’s extremely rare to see a Corvette in winter, like a god-damned snow leopard!  Call me if you witness such an event as I’m committed to a longitudinal study.

yikes.

yikes.

I realize this is a decidedly American-made affair.  I plan to introduce the European sedan come Summer.

Again, my preoccupation with keeping the kids occupied leads to a new game.  Gradually all come aboard. Mommy mistakes a retro Camaro for a Mustang, and that’s ok (sorry purists).  They’re both American muscle cars.  To Reese everything is a Mustang, and she’s so sweet I could drive off the road.  My true competition is Jack.  Heading south, returning north on the GSP is like an Olympic event.  Shouting, grotesque posturing, unlike sportsmanship rule the day.

Closing Remarks–just learned that 10 and 2 on the wheel is considered highly unsafe–deployed airbags can send hands into the face, breaking thumbs, among other maladies. 9 and 3 is the new rule. This is my PSA.  Call me civic.

Happy motoring!

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How To Control Kids: Question Quotas.

Whether you’re a parent, uncle, aunt, grandparent, or some other source of influence on children, you know kids are wild cards, unruly quasi-citizens who require reigning-in.  Without structured discipline these diminutive devils will run us into the ground.  I’m all for fun, but there’s a time and a place, which leads me to my most recent parental practice: question quotas–I limit the number of questions my kids can ask in a given day.

Having just finished McCullough’s Pulitzer Prize-winning John Adams, I realize the colossus of independence would roar in defiance, but this imposition is mental survival considering the mind-numbing number of questions kids are prone to pose.  So there’s a quota, limiting free speech.

This dictatorship flies in the face of constitutional rights and ACLU lawsuits, but I’m ok with that as my agenda falls under career development–I’m preparing my kids for the workforce as many occupations require quotas.  I’m doing them a favor in service of their future careers.  Oh!  I’m so magnanimous.

Case Study:  Son Jack, a hearty boy, soon to be age 7.  It’s around 9am, Saturday.

“Dad…  Dad.    Dad.  What are we doing today?!”

“We have an agenda.”

“What’s that?”

“An agenda is stuff we have to do.  You have a finite number of questions you can ask today.  That number is 10.”

“What’s finite mean?”

“Good question.  In this context, it means you can’t ask more than 10 questions. You have 9 left, for the day.”

Furrowed brow, “What’s context mean?”

You could say I’m crushing his quota on purpose, maybe I am.  “Context gives us an idea on how to understand stuff. 8 left.”

“Ok. Are those pancakes?”  Mommy is, as always, industrious in the kitchen.

Wasted question!  You can see and smell what’s going on here.  Why ask what’s obvious?  7 left.”

“What’s obvious mean?”

“Ok, you get a pass there (again, so00 magnanimous).  It means you can already know what’s going on so you don’t need to ask.”

“Oh. Thanks, Dad.”

The rest of the day goes swimmingly.  Jack asks a boatload of questions, mostly good, so I’m lenient on the quota.  This system is a great cat and mouse game.  Our conversations are intense, anticipating the thread, we’re totally engaged in how we relate.  I didn’t anticipate this side-effect and I’m loving it.  However, nearing bedtime he makes a fatal error.

“Dad…  Dad.    Dad.  How many questions do I have left?”

“That was your last, son.  Wasted question.  What books do you want to read?  Pick two.”

“How come you get to ask a lot of questions?”

Abandoning my dictatorship, “Good question, Jackie-boy.  I’m your Dad, that comes with certain rights and privileges.”

“Oh, can I ask what that means?”

“You got it, my man.”

We round out the night with a couple Fly Guy books and I couldn’t be happier.  Like Pink Floyd said–All we need to do is make sure we keep talking.

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Comic Sans Must Die!!!

I’ve had it.  I mean it.  And I’m not alone.  Just Google the title of this post.  People are pissed!  They’ve gone so far as paying for domain names like bancomicsans.com and comicsanscriminal.com, advancing their campaign to the web in order to silence this odious font.  Ask anyone who’s currently breathing, “What’s the worst font in the world?!”

Really?

We’re just plain angry, revolted by this naive script, constantly confronted by missives from childcare institutions, elementary schools and adults who have no idea what the hell they’re doing.  It’s jaunty curves, lack of true serifs and overall casual nature are an affront to those who think.  Comic Sans is the opposite of sophistication, but that doesn’t make it rude or cool like Blutarsky.

AnimalHouse_082PyxurzAs a font, Comic Sans represents the equivalent of NJ Housewives–they’re on TV, in the headlines and they’re a plague.  For real.  Numerous studies–supported by the National Institutes of Health mind you–reveal some startling side effects.  In a double-blind study, reading more than four words jacketed in Comic Sans is proven to lower libido, deteriorate brain cells and, oddly enough, reverse the aging process.  This last side effect is likely attributable to the font’s childlike nature.  Although not widely reported, one study conducted by the World Health Organization purports when heard out loud, Comic Sans represents an audible carcinogen, making this font kinda like secondhand smoke.

Just stay away from it people, please, I’m begging you… on bended knee, reeling with disgust.

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Dead Goldfish: A Harrowing True Story.

The death of any child’s pet is cause for concern, be it dog, cat, ferret, crustacean, or in our case, the frighteningly disposable goldfish.  The death of Dashey, Jack’s morbidly obese goldfish, is not only a familial loss, it’s a terribly smelly affair.  A full week passes before we discover Dashey’s bloated remains.  While we were on vacation hamming it up, this bony fish went belly up.

dashey-goldfish

But let’s get back.  Halfway through our vacation Jack’s genuinely concerned, bubbling with clairvoyance.

“Dad.  Dad.  Dad!  Dad, are my fish gonna be ok?”

In full vacation mode, lounging in both mind and body, “C’mon Jack, really?  I fed those guys like a boatload of food before we left.  They prolly turned into sharks by now. They’re fine. “

“OK!  Let’s go to the pool!”

“You got it pal.”

Meanwhile at home, already expired, Dashey pulsates, pinned to the filter.  His scales slough off and revolve around the tank like off-white apparitions.

We hate to leave picturesque Rehoboth Beach and race home, but this vacation has to end.  Jack, Reese and Faye, backseat squabbling all-stars, crush our patience, hour after hour during this brutal minivan tour.  I eventually lose it and take a hand off the wheel.  The following is a moment in every parent’s career–we grab onto the closest backseat limb and constrict, teeth gritted, eyes glaring.  The act is cathartic but ultimately useless.  Anyways, we’re finally home.

The front door opens with customary flourish and we’re unwittingly confronted by a tidal wave of fetid air .. .  .   .     .   the living room reeks of death!!  Instinctively Jack rushes upstairs to confirm his suspicion.

The slow wind-up cry can be heard in the next county.

“DASHEY’S DEAD DAAAAAHHHHHD!  AHHHHH!”

I fly up the stairs like an Olympic athlete.  Requiring more oxygen as a result of this exercise, I take a few deep breaths upon entering Jack’s room.  Here’s where I throw-up in my mouth a little, followed by muffled dry heaves.

“Holy CRAP!  We gotta clean this up.  Go to Mommy and Daddy’s room and wait for me there.”

What’s the last thing you want to do after a vacation, after hours of putting out fires between your ungrateful kids?  Clean up a dead fish.  The overstuffed suitcases, mountains of laundry, getting ready for the work week–it’ll all have to wait.  I’ve got a situation here.

I’m halfway done with this hellish clean-up by the time Jack composes himself.

“Where’s Dashey?

“In a bag in the garbage can outside.” 

My eyes are teary, not because I’m mourning Dashey, it’s just that the air in here is like burning vapor, like living inside an onion.  It dawns on me–my birthday’s coming up–I’m requesting a Hazmat suit.

“Why didn’t you flush him down the toilet, like… like the other ones?”

“He was too big.  Probably woulda blown-out the toilet.”

Excitedly, “Well… when can we get another fish?”

My eyes distribute complete disdain.

“Dashey just died. Don’t You Want To MOURN?!”  I’m a counselor, can’t help it.

“I guess…  What’s mourn mean?”

I’m getting on a roll here, “And what about Spotty, what did he have to go through, stuck in here for a week with his dead friend gettin’ stinky and smelly?  What about his feelings?  Did you ever think about that?!

“No…”

“Ok then.  Go downstairs and ask Mommy if she’s needs any help.  We’re done here.”

We hold vigil for a week then buy “Ock-ee” presumably Oscar, this according to Reese who picked-out and named the replacement fish.  She’s such a doll!

So, what have I learned so far?  Parenting is a full-contact sport, that’s for sure.  Dealing with death is but one of the many joys.

Ω

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Side Effects ( ( ( ( ((May)) ) ) ) ) Occur.

Assuming you’re not Superman or Woman, it’s likely you’ve “benefited” from some form of pharmaceutical.  Born on Krypton, bereft of it on Earth, you don’t need pharmaceuticals.  Or do you?  What’s my point.  Have you ever r-e-a-l-l-y read the Prescription Information form, that dense jumble of words accompanying your pain reliever?  I have.  There are 10 dizzying categories: Common Brand Names, Uses, How To Use, Side Effects, Precautions, Drug Interactions, Overdose, Notes, Missed Doses and Storage. If you do end up reading through these morose categories (read: how they’ll ruin your life) you’re subject to a font size reserved for a master sleuth.  That text looks like size 3 font!  You’ll need a bifocal prescription when you’re through.

pill-manThere’s no reason to expose each of the above horrific categories.  To me, these seem like the greatest areas of concern…

How To Use:

If you don’t know how to use drugs by now you definitely need more.  Skip this category.

Side Effects:

Obviously a biggie, and the real reason for this post.  I love the implication that death is a possibility of taking said pharmaceutical.  What could be worse?!  And the co-interactions between other drugs–an unyielding maze of second guesses leading to such anxiety that we seek additional treatment.

Overdose:

Call Poison Control immediately.  Call another number if you’re from Canada.

Notes:

Do not share this medication with others (verbatim).

After having suffered through all that, the missive gently advises at the end of page 1, “Continued on reverse side.”  C’mon!   The reality is there’s even more to read, and these details directly affect our circulatory system. I know there are more “systems” affected, like the pulmonariotomizer and expialidocious, but I wasn’t a Bio major, so I can’t be sure. Forgive me.

And don’t get me started on those commercials where there’s some purebred dog on a pristine beach deftly catching driftwood, the graying couple awash in admiration, relishing in their canine’s facility, a dog who’s basically performing what nature programmed it to do.  The slightly aged couple embraces, ultimately ending up in bed, assisted by some form of pharmaceutical.  Really?!   In light of everyone’s problems, I’ll keep my own.

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School Bus Memories (Some Illicit).

Most of us had them, at least in the beginning, the bus that took us away from our parents–our security–to something called “school” where we had to sit still, listen and learn.  What a load of crap that was.  The driver generally had a sketchy look, a fringe character, some sort of growth leaping from their face.  Miss Jay boasted all these qualities and then some.  She seemed famous the world over for admonishing us with one crushing line: FIND YOUR FANNY!  More about her later.

My son now takes the bus, a little guy entering the big world.  His driver strikes me as a slim Wilford Brimley.

Bus DriverCanary yellow hull, striped in black, the feral hiss of air brakes, guttural clanging of the accordion door, all serve as time travel to my senses.  Although mostly a “walker” I do have very vivid school bus memories, both good and horrifying.  Get aboard.

3rd Grade

Back of the bus is hallowed ground, reserved for the coolest, often occupied by a bully or two.  You know you’ve “arrived” when you sit in the back.  After all, it’s the best place to get away with sh*t.  Your bus driver is miles away, preoccupied by maintaining our safety while we conspire in the name of evil.

Not normally an early bloomer, at the wee age of 9 I inexplicably receive an invitation from the backseat matriarchs–sit with themAll the way back there?  With them?  Really?!  Perfect timing in retrospect–I just started noticing girls in a new way.  They’re still annoying she-devils but I can’t get enough of them!  I book it to the rear and get a prime seat next to a sweet-smelling blonde–it’s like a perfume factory back here!  I soon realize why I’m invited–the girls can’t get over my hair, a spastic tousle of blinding white fiber.  They try to comb it every day, make a fuss and squeal, but it’s no use, my hair is a foreign organism.  But talk about heaven… back of the bus with girls!

7th Grade

Now, years later, I’m still in the back, a festering point for illicit behavior. On the way to school I notice our bus mysteriously lacks its regular number of passengers.  Nobody’s here.  I’m bored.  I decide to do something stupid.  For whatever reason, I have a pocket mirror.  I channel the sun’s blinding reflection into the huge rectangular mirror above our bus driver’s head.  The reflection acts like a goddamn laser, penetrating Miss Jay’s skull, this chain-smoking reptilian skinned human.  She nearly drives us into 7-11.  I think her thick, crusty glasses amplify the laser’s strength by a power of 10.  I don’t even know what that means.

Detention soon follows and with good reason.  The stupid deserve to be punished.

Sophomore Year, High School

Dead body!  I’m not kidding.  There’s a frickin’ dead body at the intersection of Hooper Ave and Rt 37.  Wind and cold whip about the two car pile-up.  John Doe’s tarp is blown clear just as we pass through… we see all these awkward limbs, lifeless.  Screams peel throughout the bus, echoing, shrill.  Our bus driver guns it, tries to put some space between us and the body, but the damage is clear, settling over us in an ugly pall.  Graphic, raw and creepy, just like Romero in his prime.

Field Trips

I’m now a full-grown adult (really?) and Camp Counselor for privileged kids in Lawrenceville, NJ.  The beloved school bus re-enters my life, our source for Summer transport.  I welcome her with open arms, an old friend, our field trip vessel.

Now I’m probably the best damn whistler you’ve ever heard–in your life.  I’m that guy.  Each and every field trip is marked by my ritualistic opening of a bus window.  The kids noticing my studied routine become restless with anticipation.  I desecrate the air with a devil-call, rattling random street-people to the edge of cardiac arrest.  Campers go bananas!  They love this crap and so do I.  I throw out a gravelly, “HEY LAAADEEE!” or “WATCH IT!” after each whistle.  Not everyone loves this move.  Our bus driver, Mr. Leahy, thinks I’m the Anti-Christ.

In Conclusion (Or, Trite Ending Title)

The journey was nearly always epic.  Looking down and making faces at other drivers, seeing friends hop on, spitting loogies on the bus ceiling, timing their departure.  That all changed when we got our licenses, making the bus totally uncool.  But I keep to my roots, still messing with school buses.  Whenever possible I flip the bird, propelling kids into a royal frenzy.  The middle finger is like a deadly virus, infecting every kid, faces plastered against windows, pleading–did u c that?!  Some are upset, some laughing.  Either way, this act gives me a good feeling.

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Sunday Mass: Hell on Earth.

At the gentle urging of my wonderful wife, I bring my 5 year-old and 2 year-old to 10am mass.  You know what’s coming–bedlam among the pews.  For those interested I’ve chronicled the debacle below.  Amen.

Bedecked in a proper cardigan, pressed shirt, sensible jeans and plaid Vans, I pack my youths into the Odyssey.  Ten and two on the wheel, a hair under the speed limit, I entertain what’s to come: a reasonable sermon from our Russian-inflected Padre.  He’s hard to understand but he means well.  I wonder if he’s from Chernobyl?

Typical of calamity, things begin harmlessly.  Reese lovingly carries her baby doll into church.  Jack sees some CCD friends, gives them a wave.  A few adults admire my kids.  We get good seats.  Settled.  Usher in the Russian Padre…

This is where I break churchgoer law, a venial sin–I laugh out loud at what Jack’s doing.  My laughter, a singular act, innocuous in any other setting, gives birth to the coming horror.  Jack’s raising Reese’s baby doll above his head in mock adoration, his eyes slitted, his smile Nicholsonian.  Then he offers this plastic Simba an off-key hallelujah!  I’m beside myself.  A few adults snicker.

Suffocating my laughter I glance at Reese.  She smiles knowingly, seeing my guard is down.  All bets are off as she books it to the end of the pew.  She’s quick as hell–I can’t get to her!  She’s loose!  Jack takes it upon himself to chase and ultimately tackle his sister in the House of God.  So, this is how things are going for me right now–my two delinquents are pew escapees, toppling over one another in the nave, prostrate creatures on display.  I pick them up as if they’re loose meat sandwiches and retreat to the vestibule.

I consider leaving, just get in the car and go, but I truly feel like I could benefit from the Eucharist right now, so I ride out this hellish campaign all the way.  In time, we’re given access to the altar when something occurs to me–I’m in the perfect place to ask for forgiveness for my unruly offspring!  On our way out I genuflect in front of St. Joseph’s statue, questioning, “How was Jesus as a kid?  Was he as much of a pain in the ass as my kids?  Probably not, considering his reputation. Ok, anyway, pray for us sinners.”

St JosephAhhhhhhhhhhhh-mhhhhen.

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