Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Guest Blogger: Ted TenEyck

Introducing: Ted TenEyck. Guest Blogger, Social Worker and Funny Man. Close personal friend. If you're lucky enough to be on Ted's Christmas letter list, you already know how his mind works. Thought I'd pass the funny along and invite Ted to blog here now and then. Don't worry, he'll get his own blog up and running soon. Right Ted?


I love the promises people make to themselves about what what life will be like when they are a parent: “When I have kids, I am only going to feed them organic foods.” “I refuse to use the television as a babysitter.” “I vow to not let being a parent impact my relationship with my friends.” And sure enough, a few years later these same people are plopping Junior down to watch the same episode of Spongebob Squarepants for the fourteenth time while serving him some Jimmy Dean Pancakes & Sausage on a Stick: Blueberry (a real product, by the way). This, of course, buys Junior’s parents some time to go on Facebook and attempt to reconnect with friends they have had no contact with since they first learned the art of how to suction a baby’s nose.

As for me, my false promise was that I would not subject either myself or my kids to traditional children’s music. Nine years and four kids later, I have 5,670 songs on my ipod. And I listen to the same thirty-three songs by The Wiggles in heavy rotation until I am pretty sure that my ears are going to start to bleed.

This was not something that I ever planned, and it was surely something that did not happened overnight. No, it was a slow gradual process, which began when I realized that finding music to meet everyones’ needs and tastes is much easier said than done. As a result, I now have very stringent requirements for anything that may eventually wind up in my “Tolerable Kids Music” playlist. The following is just a brief sampling of what it takes to be immediately disqualified from ever making that exclusive and elusive list:

Songs that may cause my kids to one day need antidepressants.
I have learned the hard way that my cherubs do not enjoy any of the 193 songs that make up my “Despondency” playlist. My eldest son reported to me that the folksy songs from the soundtrack to Once were, “giving me feelings that I don’t like.” I wanted to shout at him to “lean into the pain and feel your emotions,” but I thought I should just cut my losses and play something different.

I-Would-Rather-Look-At-How-Much-My-Financial-Portfolio-Lost-Last-Year than listen to these songs:
Surprisingly, Alvin and The Chipmunks are not the main offenders in this category; even when they cover “Funkytown.” This is still more tolerable to me than anything associated with High School Musical. Zac Efron, I swear on my mother’s grave that if I ever run into you and your faux-basketball-playing cohorts, I will personally kick the crap out of each and every one of you. And not because you did anything to me personally; rather, I will beat you to a bloody pulp because you introduced my kids to the genre of musicals. If I ever have to take any of my kids to a matinee of “Cats,” I will hold you responsible.

Songs that mention any of George Carlin’s “Seven Words You Can’t Say on TV.”
Unfortunately, about a full one-third of my music library falls under this category. That probably wouldn’t happen if I had no taste and enjoyed “easy listening favorites.” Luckily, most of the time, the offending dialogue is really pretty blatant, allowing me to be a “good parent” and not play it for the kids. However...

One day while cleaning the kitchen, the song “URAQT” by M.I.A. started to play from my ipod. In a rare moment for me of pure excitement and joy, I picked up my daughter and danced with her for the duration of the song. Whenever we would hear the song again, my kids would beg me to do the “Silly Dance” with them. It quickly became a wonderful tradition. Around the seventy-fourth time we were enjoying this dance, my wife quietly asked me exactly what the words of the chorus were. Unsure myself, I looked up the lyrics on line. It was at that time that I discovered that the song is rather... well, filthy and profanity-laden. If I was capable of learning what the lyrics were, I was pretty sure that my kids one day would also discover what these lyrics were. And I thought that this was probably not the type of childhood memory that I wanted them to have of their father. There are already plenty of other memories that involve me that I wish I could permanently remove from their tiny little brains, so I did the only thing I could, and retired the “Silly Dance” immediately.

Songs that require me to have to explain how communist organizations work.
The Johnny Cash Children’s Album contains the extremely entertaining song “Why is a Fire Engine Red?” The song uses fun and silly word play, eventually concluding with the line: “The Russians are red. A fire engine is always rushin’ so it’s red too.” “I don’t get it!” my kids would shout when the song ended. “What does he mean by the Russians being red? Explain that to us Dad.” And that was the last time that I ever played that album for them again.

Songs that require me to have to explain how double negatives work.
I’m looking at you, theme from Ghostbusters. “Dad, I’m confused. ‘I ain’t afraid of no ghosts’ actually means that they really are afraid of ghosts, right?” “Yes, kids. You are correct. The writer of that song is indeed afraid of ghosts and is apparently also an idiot.”

Perfectly good songs that I ruined because I’m an idiot.
The soundtrack to Shrek the Third contains the classic song “Cat’s in the Cradle,” by Harry Chapin. The kids would listen to the song and recall the funny scenes from the movie when that song was played. And then one day I had to go and spoil all of their fun by shouting like a drill sergeant: “Do you know what this song is about? Do you? It’s about a father who didn’t spend enough time with his kids. DO YOU SEE HOW LUCKY YOU ARE TO HAVE A FATHER LIKE ME? DO YOU??” Surprisingly, the kids never wanted me to play that song again.

Any item in the wildly bizarre Kidz Bop catalogue.
What is better than a CD compiling all of the most popular radio hits from the past year? If all of the songs were sung by eight year olds! That's the concept behind this apparently popular product line. Not only are these songs painful to listen to, but they are at times downright creepy. That's because the producers didn’t apparently think about the fact that lyrics that were intended to be sung by adults would now be sung by third graders. For example, one song contains the line: “I can have another you in a minute. Matter fact, he’ll be here in a minute.” Sung by someone who will not be able to get her driver’s permit for at least another seven years. Isn’t that precious?

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is just an abbreviated list of reasons why I have resorted to just listening to The Wiggles as I drive around all day in my eight year old van. Feel free to call me lazy or a conformist. These labels may indeed be applicable. But listening to The Wiggles makes my life easier, even though now I have to explain to the kids on a daily basis why Greg Wiggle is no longer in the group because he has been diagnosed as having “orthostatic intolerance.” Although not an easy task, it is still better than the alternative: watching my five-year-old daughter walk around the house singing: “If you liked it then you shoulda put a ring on it.”

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Boogers, snot, and mucus; the childhood "triple threat."

I’ve spent the better part of the past two weeks watching my baby daughter perform magic tricks with her nose. (No, this isn't her. But I feel this parent's pain.) Every year February hits, and I’m crossing my fingers and legs that our family doesn’t get hit with the winter crud, but inevitably, everyone seems to come down with some version of the latest and greatest cold.

As a rule, my youngest daughter’s body tends to manifest colds and viruses in the form of fevers, ranging anywhere from four to ten days. I’m used to these fevers, know how to deal with them, and even keep a fever journal. It’s not uncommon for my daughter’s viral fevers to hit 105 degrees. I usually wait 72 hours, before taking her in, only to have our pediatrician tell me to “continue piggy backing Tylenol and Motrin, and come back in about 6 days if her fever hasn’t broken.” Well, okay. I can do that. The last time I brought my daughter in for her well visit, he asked me about her fevers.
“So, it looks like here (reading her chart) that she hasn’t had one of her fevers since November.”
“No, actually, she had another fever bout in December. It got up to 106,” I replied.
“You mean 100.6? Or 106? That’s a huge difference,” my pediatrician stated, with a tinge of worry on his face.
“No, 106,” I told him. “I just kept giving her Tylenol and Motrin, like we usually do.”
“Okay,” he starts off. “I know you’re used to dealing with her high fevers, but when it hits 106, we really should take a look at her,” he told me, incredulously. As I was leaving the office I overheard him telling another pediatrician, “…her child had a fever of 106, and she didn’t bring her in because she is so used to dealing with them…” laced with can-you-believe-this tone. Okay, point taken. Apparently there is a limit to how hot your child is allowed to be.

I mention this little episode, because until two weeks ago, my youngest had yet to catch the common cold, typical of every little person from birth to ten. Which is why I was so unprepared to deal with her nose. She didn’t sleep 24 hours a day like her feverish episodes. She’s in a quandary about whether to breath or suck on her binky, and at her very young age, has managed to create a hybrid system where she can do both. It’s suck-suck-suck-suck-BREATHE-uhh-BREATHE-uhh-suck-suck-suck-suck-BREATHE-uhh-BREATHE-uhhh. The binky’s enveloped in a web of snot, and she’s up, running around, leaving a slime trail all over the house.

One minute she’s playing with her toys, face clean as you please, and the next I look over and her head is a glistening pool of mucus. She’s got a snotty nose that could rival the best stereotypic-diaper-clad-trailer-park-two-year-old in winter. She was making some magnificent sounds the other day, until I looked over and found that the snot was bubbling around her vibrating lips, lending a new instrumentation that-while grotesque-was oddly pleasing. Curious to hear more, but feeling the mom-guilt stab at me, I grabbed for the tissue and put and end to her melody, but silently wondered what the rest of her opus would have sounded like.

In addition to her musical talents, she also performs a version of the rainbow-handkerchief-up-the-sleeve trick, wherein I’ll wipe her nose, and there’s a long string of booger that refuses to give in. I’m pulling-wiping-pulling-wiping, and it’s changing colors; it’s blue, now red, here comes the green one, next is yellow, and finally after pulling-and-wiping and changing tissues five times to no avail, I relent and break the dammed booger off, leaving the stringy end in her nose to be pulled again at a later date.

If it’s not the stringy booger trick, it’s the “where’s the slug?” trick. You’ve all seen this one; that thick yellow slug-booger slowly inches its way down the upper lip and just before you lean in for the kill, SUCK! its gone again. You wait, staring at your toddler’s nose for the booger-slug to emerge. Seconds later, there it is... the nasty little creature slimes it’s way out and down the lip, but you’re ready this time, you’ve almost got the fleshy booger in your grasp, and SUCK! it disappears. At this point I really want to yell at my 20-month-old daughter to “QUIT SUCKING IT IN!” but she’s running now, with the slug on her lip, and a new slug emerges, sitting-bitch to the next one, both going for a joy ride on my daughter’s face while she laughs and runs in the opposite direction from me. You can faintly hear those slug boogers chanting, “You can’t catch us, we’re the booger-slug men!” I finally trap my daughter in her room, coming after her with fifteen tissues, and find her “hiding” from me on her sister’s bed. “Hiding,” for my toddler, consists of covering her eyes and putting her face down so she can’t see you. Never mind she’s standing there in the middle of the room in plain sight. I make it over to her only to find…you guessed it. Dead slug-booger carcass all over her sister’s sheets. Lovely.

In fact, one doesn’t need to step too far into my home to see the slimy, gelatinous, mucus remnants from my daughter. There’s sticky residue on the light switches she reaches to click-on-click-off-click-on-click-off, there are clear stripes marking her place at the table, and of course the back of her chair where she pulls herself up. Clear dried residue from cheek to ear. Tacky little fingers encased in lint and dirt, from wiping her nose and playing on the carpet. At the height of the snot infestation, I would get her up in the morning to find a crusty, yellow conglomeration sealing the nostrils almost totally shut, save for two small air holes; looking like someone tried to paper mache a mask on her over night. The dried nose crust is the worst to try and remove. At some point in all our lives, we’ve tried to pop that little nose zit or black head, the one that makes your eyes water just contemplating, the one that you swear you’re going to let fester, because you cannot bear the pain of getting rid of it. I’m trying to figure which would hurt less; peeling the booger crustacean off with a putty knife? Chipping away at it with my pinky-nail? Trying to steam it off, with a humidifier and towel? Either way there is going to be screaming. My daughter is not going to be too happy about it either.

I’d like to know if anyone has ever thought of trying to harvest childhood mucus. My daughter’s yellow-ooze is so sticky I have a million uses for it at home. Hanging wallpaper, is one thing that comes to mind. Gluing the broken head on my Willow Tree figurine, is another. The kid’s many paper projects. Christmas crafts. Heck, I bet with enough snot, you could even use it as an adhesive under your laminate flooring. Forget super glue! Hot glue is so 90’s! Go “green” and repurpose your child’s infectious mucus. Imagine how much money you could save, if you follow the mantra, “Reduce, reuse recycle.”

But how to harvest the slime? A bucket around my child’s head, while cost-effective, seems a tad abusive and would get in the way of nap and bed times, which are prime booger-collecting opportunities. No doubt we’ve all got that classic blue bulb-syringe hanging around somewhere in the house. The standard-issue hospital parting gift, for dropping a few thousand at their facility to give birth to your baby. I love the fact that everyone gets one of these syringes, (which are sooo much more useful than, say diapers would be) and yet the pediatrician always tells you not to use them. My kids always had more fun using it as a teether (it can get way in the mouth for those back teeth cuttings) than I ever did trying to suck snot from their nose. We’ve all been there, one spouse trying to hold the child’s thrashing head still in vice-like grip, the other parent trying to keep the bottom of the bulb compressed while attempting not to give their child an accidental frontal-lobotomy cramming said bulb up child's very small nostril. No... decidedly, NOT effective.

I came upon the Nosefrida Nasal Aspirator, while doing a Google search on boogers. (It’s always amazing what you come up with when you Google such words.) This device actually has a mucus-catching reservoir, which would be perfect if you’re trying to use your child’s snot as family glue. Basically, you stick the reservoir end into the child’s nose, place the end of the tube in your own mouth, and then suck your child’s boogers right out their little nasal cavity. Don’t worry, you won’t get the salty mess in your mouth, thanks to the snot-trap at the end of the reservoir. Really, they’ve thought of everything. With only a $15 dollar investment, think how much snot you could harvest during a standard cold and flu season: 1 nose aspirator + 3 sick children= unlimited booger glue possibilities. Priceless.