(De)Vice Family.

As of this writing–in real-time–all five of us are consumed, an entire family connected to seemingly divisive devices.  Raise your hand if this has ever happened to you–everybody’s on something.  Got it.  Let’s check-in with these humans and their vices.

Subject #1

Me.  I’m on a laptop writing a blog post about my family, doing my best to remain focused, surrounded by jarring sounds, graphic images, driven to distraction.  Forgive me if this written account sucks.

In an effort to concentrate I interrupt them, interview them throughout this post, gather lurid details on their habits, fact-check assumptions, compose a hardscrabble editorial. I love making the mundane meaningful.

Subjects #2 and #3

Mommy and the boy are glued to Xbox One, his recent birthday gift, his vision quest earned by a commitment to typical childhood chores. Making his bed, feeding his grotesquely bloated goldfish, getting dressed and occasionally making his breakfast, all served this one goal–gaming.

Hollering threats and near to tears–a train wreck lack of teamwork–Mommy and Jack eventually find their groove, and boy do they!  Crushing multiple levels on Lego Jurassic World, first time out, true artists at work.

JWorld

Mommy exhumes her Nintendo youth, latent skills erupting from untold hours playing The Legend of Zelda and Super Mario Bros.  Having dissected first-person YouTube archives, Jack deftly draws from a ridiculous memory.  His on-demand compendium serving as sage and guide, the go-to-guy for moves.

The two bond over the course of–at this point–3+ hours, and I’m cool with it because their relationship is evolving.  Mommy needs Jack’s advice, something unheard-of in life outside of gaming.  It’s soothing to hear the two flip-flop.  Jack learns, too, to keep his sh*t together, play on a team and communicate the needs required to advance.

Prior to Mommy and Jack’s obsession, Forza Motorsport 6 was the main draw, me and the boy free-playing, eviscerating track after track behind a Lamborghini Gallardo or Bugatti Veyron.  We’re exotic bastards.

Veyron

The Veyron.

I could go on and on about these cognitively and emotionally tethered players, but what about Subjects #4 and #5?

Subject #4

Roz and the iPad. Ultimate middle-child, a force to those who’ve witnessed her raw beauty and Jobsian “no blink stare.”  Currently rifling through content, Elsa videos rule Rozzie’s day.  Weirdest thing?  Spiderman shows up in a boatload of these live-action vids, rescuing Elsa across various settings, creeping me out–for real.  This genre makes me tense because costumed adults on the Internet ultimately lead to off-limits cosplay.  Party over.

In any event, here’s the Roz taking a device break, accompanying me to Home Depot.

Roz

So stylish!

Subject #5

Our youngest, Bleegs, vestige of vanishing innocence, reviews a smart phone.  Granted, she’s been given this device, which some might say is a no-no, easily a surrogate parent.  I get it.  To save us from DYFS, we’ve protectively dialed-up innocuous animal videos.  C’mon, you’ve done it, too.

Her gaze is fixed, frighteningly so, on dolphins playfully flanking a massive tanker cleaving the Pacific. No one is safe from devices and their beguiling content.

We Eventually Unplug

Each of us realize, either consciously or unconsciously–and in our own way–it’s time to unplug and reconnect.  Laptop, console and controllers power-down, iPad and smart phone lose their allure.  Something called “dinner” occurs.

I edit the remaining words you’ve read and we call it a day.  Baths, pajamas and prep for the coming week lead us to our final family device, the American staple of viewership–Television.  Remember when TV used to sign-off, too?

Sign off

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When Parenting Doesn’t Suck.

Bottom line?  Kids are maniacal, horrifying sub-humans hell bent on destroying our lives. They consistently push boundaries to the point where we lose it, consider leaving them adrift–one more word… AND YOU’RE LIVING IN THE STREETS!!  …Um, seems like I forgot the title of this post.  Got a little carried away there.  Ok.  I guess I feel guilty for complaining about my kids.  This post is my penance.

The moments where they’re civil cherubs, those moments where our hearts melt, all seems well with the world, my desire to be a parent confirmed.  But wait.  Before I get into all the mushy stuff, let’s begin with the simple, like putting your… DAMN SHOES ON!  Sorry about that.  Alright. Back to the point.

The morning routine, a ripe environment for chaos, my hope is that this goes well, a simple task…

“C’mon girls, let’s put our shoes on.”  Can’t let them leave the house without shoes, I’d be reported.  Can’t have that.

“Ok, Dad!”  They find their shoes among the miasma of footwear and actually put them on themselves–I’m overjoyed!  One more child chore I don’t have to do. It’s like we graduated from Foot Academy or something.

Then the screaming, the unholy reckoning, mortality on the line… over a plastic block?!  Really?  Sure, they have their shoes on, but the DEFCON 1 nature of this “block situation” drowns out their previous footwear victory. Someone has something someone else wants.  It’s on.  Possession is central to any problem, I’ve found.  Possession of an object, food, even possession of a thought is cause for unbridled anarchy.  There, I’ve gone and done it again, lost sight of this post’s purpose.  Let’s get to the mushy stuff.

“Dad… Dad?  Dad, I love you.” Completely out of the blue the boy hits me with a solo home run.  I’m weak.

“I love you, too, son.”  It’s the randomness of kids, their seemingly reasonless outbursts of care that get to me in the best way.

And what about the moments when I’m given a random token of affection–a leaf, an acorn, a scrap of paper, the object accompanied by, “Dis for you Daddee.”  I lose it, people.  The jacket I wear to work, a leather Indiana Jones number, my left pocket bustles with acorn hats.  My daughter gave them to me.  With the increasing cold my hands are drawn to my pockets, car keys on the right, more importantly, acorn hats on the left.  I thumb through them, reassured that I’m loved on my way to work.  Not a bad way to start the day.

And their observations, kids are just plain awesome in how they perceive things. Just this morning my son dropped an A-bomb of an idea…

“Dad.  What if E.T. was in a heavy metal band!”  He’s not asking.  It’s an utterly unique idea that has me laughing out loud.

“What did you just say?”  I’m trying to catch up to his thought process.

Not reiterating, he just comes back with a thundering, “YEAH!  He could be like, yelling and screaming PHONE HOME! …PHONE HOME!!

I’m beaming.

So, they’re a pain in the ass, kids.  But they’re everything else I need.

The kids

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Kids + BAND-AIDS = Unbridled Obsession.

I recently posted about kids and elevators highlighting their fascination with pressing buttons, transporting themselves up and down, a complete joke to adults.  But kids freaking love this vertical crap.  What else do kids dig?  BAND-AIDS.  This is totally appropriate considering their propensity for falling down.  Kids often fall in slow motion, too, revealing endless seconds of time before impact.  It’s fairly entertaining.

And what about the sheer number of BAND-AID brands?!  It’s ridiculous.   Kids gravitate to these crazy strips of grafted plastic because they’re seduced by the biblically sized monopoly of childhood representatives. Spongebob, Cinderella, Dora, Spiderman, Elmo, Curious George, the list goes on.  Hello Kitty, too.

Considering their massive appeal these badges of courage demand an in-depth study, rather than this–a passing blog post.  So let’s get scientific.  Let’s do a case study.  If you’ve come this far you’re crazy enough to read on.

Actual Scientific Case Study:

My two-year old wipes out on a regular basis, and I get it, gravity takes no prisoners, but it’s criminal that the slightest pitch in pavement is cause for a full-on face plant.  Her knees resemble crosshatching hieroglyphs.

Anyhooch, the kid is tough as nails but the need for a BAND-AID proves overriding.

AHHHH-hah-hah-haaaaa!!!”  Sounding a little like David Lee Roth, defeated by an uneven berm in the driveway, she‘s down. The result is grisly.

Rushing to her, employing one of her many ridiculous nicknames that make no sense, “I got you Beesh-kee.” I’m such a sap.

Of course, I know, she wants Mommy but I offer relief nonetheless.  Realistically, who doesn’t want Mommy when they’re hurt?  I take no offense.

“Mah–mee, mah-meeeeeeee!!”

I’m out of the picture, but not useless.  Like a savior I go for the ultimate panacea: a BAND-AID. This simple step makes me a hero, arriving astride on a fine medicinal steed, draped in a luxuriant American flag, adhesive in hand.  Fact.

Post-care triage my daughter eventually cools, returning to normal, admiring her badge of courage, constantly reminding us of her ordeal.

Bringing her knee into unmistakable view over dinner, “Boo-boo… boo-boo.”  She couldn’t be cuter.

So that’s it, kids adore BAND-AIDs.  But this gets me thinking, not so fast.  It’s not like BAND-AIDS are the sole experience whereby something covers their skin.  If we’re lucky, kids generally wear clothes.  So this must be a fascination with frequency.  Although super rare, I’m hyper-aware when I sport a BAND-AID mainly because irritation pangs from a location where none previously existed.  I’m constantly reminded of that paper-cut on my index finger, a separate droning heartbeat.  This–the adult BAND-AID situation–draws attention from both kids and adults.

Abandoning eye contact, glaring at the BAND-AID, motionless with horror, “What happened?!

“Oh, this?  There was a low-flying airplane.”  I’m a jack-ass.

People instinctively want to know why you’re hurt.  So maybe this isn’t about frequency at all.  It’s about mortality, the sight of blood.  I’m not making this stuff up, so watch your step.

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Kids and Elevators.

There’s nothing more intoxicating for kids than an elevator ride. Pressing buttons, freaking out, the range of emotions expressed during a short ride between floors is cause for drunken celebration, whacked-out posture, even inebriated fear.  They live for this sh*t.

Recently returned from Bermuda, ferried by the ridiculously well-appointed Norwegian Breakaway, we endured 16 decks of elevator Bacchanalia.  Now think about this.  Think about the uneasiness of close quarters with strangers–that staple of elevator travel–then add kids, those wildcard assassins of etiquette.  Witness.

IMG_0969

Cruise Creatures!

My daughter pulls off some Kurt Thomas sh*t, reverse-grasping the gymnastic mini bar, legs suspended, white bow unperturbed.  The boy succumbs to elevator music, conducting a wicked Bernstein symphony…

Leonard.

Home now, back to real life, I shuttle my 3 delinquents to an eye appointment, which, wouldn’t you know it, requires an elevator ride.  There’s a brief tussle as to who gets to press the button, 4th floor.  The doors close.  Inside the air seems deliriously thin.  Just then it’s as if they’re intravenously receiving massive amounts of Red Bull, careening off the walls, screeching like banshees.  There’s no bringing them down.  By the time we reach the 4th floor they’ve transformed into frenzied devil worshippers.

Until the next elevator ride I’m taking it all in like a sitcom.

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Wisdom Teeth: The Adult Pull.

I can’t afford to lose an ounce of wisdom, but numbers 17 and 32 have got to go.

bye-bye.

bye-bye.

I awake from the IV a dazed giddy madman, demanding my “book.”

Slobbering, a Titanic-sized bottom lip, “Bwhere’s by book?!

Genially, a tech informs me, “You didn’t bring a book.  How are you feeling?”

“Oh, ok…  bwhere’s by book?!”

“Let’s get up.  Slowly.”

She gently occupies my hands.  I hear music.  Swiveling in the dentistry recliner I rise.

“Take it slow.”  She’s like a damn angel.

Holding her hands, hearing the music, I ask, “Do you wan do dans?”

A total pro she fields my lame request, leading me to the recovery room.

“Did I ash abou by book?

“Yes.  Just relax.”

Feeling good, powers of speech emerging, “Ok.  Are you available?”

Just then Mom comes in and consoles me.  The process is simple and I’m good.  Soon after I’m on the road to recovery.

Once home, I deal.  The pain.  Man!  Although a die-hard fan of horror, spitting blood for a day or two is fairly unsettling.  I make a show of it for the kids, making this a lesson to brush your teeth. They’re properly appalled.

Now bereft, I’m ok with the loss of 17 and 32, but the aftermath is brutal.  Acetaminophen, oxycodone, gargling with salt water, this is for the birds.  And eating!  How I’ve taken for granted eating whatever I like whenever I want!  This is a real pain in the ass.  Lost a few pounds, though.  I’ll take it.

So, why did I wait so long, as this procedure is generally reserved for college-aged folk?  The teeth never gave me a problem.  Little cavities dictated their extraction.

Is there a lesson in this twisted fable?  Am I less intelligent?  Probably.  Not sure, though.  Too soon to tell.  If nothing else, I’ve been spared dry socket.  Bizarrely, I joked with the dentistry staff that I might go for the George Washington look.  Did you know he had only one natural tooth remaining when he took office?  Look at his dogs!

yikes.

yikes.

BTW, spell-check thought “oxycodone” was “oxymoron.”  Probably right.

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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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