Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Thanksgiving Knickknacks

I should do a proper Thanksgiving post, but here I am, a week out, and I find myself with precious little Thanksgivingy type stuff in my head.  My tummy?  Yeah, there's plenty of Thanksgiving stuff(ing) down there, sure.  But I've kind of moved on from the holiday.  Just imagine I did a mind-altering, comprehensive, tell-all Thanksgiving post.  There.  It's almost like I REALLY DID.  But I think you're going to get Quick Hits today.  Sorry.

Issue No. 1:  How does the Ittybitty Girl know precisely when Jack gets up in the mornings?  At 6:19 AM she is rolling around and muay thai kicking H.M.  Jack's already bumping around upstairs.  They're not (uh like, as far as we know) twins or anything...  But have they forged some sort of weird, unexplainable telepathic bond that they'll eventually use to defeat and control us?  Anyway, that's worrisome.  The very last thing children need is a secret weapon to triumph over the old folks.

Issue No. 2:  Jack had a cold last week.  "My neck hurts" is how he described his "throat" hurting.  Semantics.

Issue No. 3:  Majesty co-hosted a friend's baby shower one Saturday back.  Jack and I bolted out of there before the estradiol reached lethal levels.  We sauntered over to the Children's Museum and built the largest Lego structure I've ever been personally responsible for (I was structural engineer/design consultant on the project).  Jack could easily become a Lego real estate magnate.  The mom and her son next to us kept glancing over worriedly.

Issue No. 3 1/4:  We sat in a stripped-down Chevy S-10 on display, which was way cooler than it sounds.  We looked like two cops on a stakeout.  Jack also learned the names for all the buttons.  I worry now that I've given him the information he needs to break into and hotwire my car.  Anyway, we finished up our day with a trip to Coldstone for ice-cream, something that I'm not sure he's ever done, at least with me around.  The little turkey obliterated his cup of strawberry and then demanded some of mine.  Of course.  Sure, I'll do anything for my kid(s).  But giving up a whole quarter ounce of Sweet Cream and Snickers did give me some pause.

Issue No. 3 1/2:  The folks at the house (for the baby shower) included 2 extraordinarily well trained music teachers.  Jack had the time of his life siphoning off all the superdupersecret music knowledge they would share with him.

Issue No. 4:  Majesty's been teaching the sprog all about outer space this month.  (I'm trying to get Pigs In Space into the curriculum.  No dice yet.)  He's already naming the planets on his fingers, which was sort of cool to watch.  Hilarious, too:  JUPITUW... SATUWN... MOOKUWY... UWHF.... He pretends to be an astronaut and we blast off, from in front of the fridge, sitting in his little white chairs (the ones that nail my spine right on the T12 - it's like flying coach on Continental Express).  I provide blastoff sound effects, and was pretty pleased with my ability to rumble.  Just to bring it all home to him, I was taking the trash out one night, and noticed what I'm about 67% sure was Jupiter in the eastern sky.  He really dug looking at the bright spot in the black sky and declaring, "JUPITUW!  It's BIIIIDH [big]!!"  Sure is, big guy.  Sure is.

Issue No. 4:  Just finished up a semi-big deal remodeling project at the house.  After a brief explanation that Mr. Tylor is not an electrician but rather a contractor, Jack logically wanted to know:
"Does he drive a tractor?!"
Issue No. 5:  Jack's obsession with soap is bordering on mental illness.  He decides that dumping an entire bottle of hand soap in and around the toilet and on the wall an hour before friends arrive for the weekend would be a swell idea.  Another time, he dumped an entire bottle of vaporizing baby shampoo into a clay cup Majestad made in grade school.  Jack then set the cup on his book case.  Gravity ensued.  I could NOT for the life of me figure out where the unmistakable, elementary school janitor's cat litter vomit soaker-upper smell was coming from.  Soap oozed from the cup all morning before we discovered the mess.   Thanks to another of my very favorite physical forces - capillary action - the soap crept halfway up pages of just about every one of his books, ruining some for good.  Curious George Rides a Bike, we hardly knew ye!  Good riddance, you daft monkey!  You can't stay out of mischief for like, 7 seconds?

Issue No. 5 1/2:  Some questions, here:  Why exactly do we have so many bottles of soap?  Why are we so afraid of dirt?  It seems to me that cleanliness is overrated.  And who is responsible for buying baby soap in Old Lady Menthol-Cigarette flavor?  This person should be reprimanded.

Issue No. 6:  One weekend we went to the annual Children's Festival they have here.  Pure genius, that was.    Jack ran down a steep hill with a small parachute strapped to him.  Think NFL training camp.  He saw Thomas the Tank Engine.  He had his face painted.  He tried to brush a bald spot onto the side of a live pony.  He looked for "gold" (really just U.S. coinage) in a monstrously large sandbox.  He made bracelets - and this was the real focal point - with high school girls' help.  He had newspaper and masking tape hats made directly on his head.  And bestest of all, he got to make a kaht.  I mean kite.  Flew it pretty deftly, too.  I'll leave it up to you as to who had more fun doing that.

Issue No. 7:  Thanksgiving.... we stayed put at home, had excellent food, and my parents came down to visit for a day or so.  Was really great to see them, as always.  I ate so much that I almost fell asleep right in my gravy.

Quote of the Week
A Sleepy Jack One Morning:  "I want to watch Sesame Street... scratch that... I want to watch Bob the Builder."
Where does he get this stuff?

Short Conversation of the Week
(Upon seeing some old friends from our former church this weekend)
Gal That Naively Offered to Babysit Jack:  I'd love to!
E.C.:  Great.  Better bring a Clif Bar.
Gal That Naively Offered to Babysit Jack:  You're kidding.  He eats those things?!
E.C.:  No, no.  It's for you.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The Grocery Store Frequent Flyer Program

I propose a complete reordering of society.  A revolution, if you will.  Nah, not a political one, but for grocery shopping.  I'll get to all that in a minute.

As some of you know, I was drafted as the family grocery shopper dude during that dark period when the thought of food made Majesty turn pale and retch her cute little guts out.  And I've learned a few things.

The grocery store can be an intimidating place for men.  I've no idea what a good comparative metaphor would be, here.  Maybe a gym?  Let's use the gym.  Many women would walk into the freeweight/dumbbell section of a gym with at least a little unease.  It's (mainly) the Other Side's turf.  Same goes for grocery stores.  The people that really know what they're doing in there, the consummate professionals, are those fee-mail type people.  Guys are generally just sent on bumbling, one-off sorties to retrieve cold cuts and tubs of Cool Whip.

Of course, we men know roughly where our subsistence foods are (there are about five, and I'll leave those to your imagination) but that's it.  We have no clue where dried porcini mushrooms, applesauce and pita bread are.  None.  And we're not going to ask.  Because, y'know, we're men.

But I stand before you, the exception.  I now know (most) grocery shopping secrets.  I know where canned beans live.  I know how to acquire fresh catbah filets.  I know where they park the Desitin.  I have gathered this hard-won knowledge in the sub-zero corridors of the frozen food section.  I learned it by braving the 125 degree parking lot with single-bagged half-gallons of ice cream in August.  I've cheated certain death with moms in Audi Q7s trying to run me down out there.

And I bring a certain ruthlessness to grocery shopping.  I will cut off old ladies in the produce section.  I will look the other way, pretending not to see you as we both speed toward the same free cashier (I'll 'accidentally' get there first).  I will shamelessly step in front of any obliviot chatting aimlessly on a cellphone.  I will bump you (not too hard) if you're texting in the dead middle of the grocery aisle.  I will take the last one, without apology.

Because I'm on a mission, dang it.

And that brings me to my revolution.  We have to streamline the grocery shopping experience for the benefit of all humanity.  We must separate the professionals from the hoi palloi.  We need... a frequent flyer program.  For grocery stores.  You heard me.

When you shop, you get points.  Those points accrue.  But here's the kicker:  During peak shopping times like Saturdays and holidays, we only admit folks with a certain level of points.  So at 5pm the Tuesday before Thanksgiving?  No amateurs allowed.  Only the grown folks are in there, bro.  If you're like the two men I actually observed looking for cloves of fresh garlic on the spice aisle, you're gone.  We'll let you in at midnight.  Wanna shop at 3am?  Great.  Knock yourself out.

Who's with me?!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Say What? Accentuating the Negative

When I'm relaxed, tired, or not paying particular attention, you'll hear it.  It's worse in my own home.  Much worse.  The accent.  It's beyond drawl, that's not entirely it.  It's the quirky vowel swap that gets people.  If you're from roughly where I am, your long "I" sound turns into sort of a short "A" sound, more "AH" than "EYE."  Oh, that's not too bad, you say.  Barely noticeable, I'm sure.  Uh, no.  Huge problem.

An excerpt of an actual conversation I had Saturday:
E.C.:  That Children's Festival thing was great!  We took Jack over there and made kahts.  They were so cool!
Nice Neighbor Lady:  I'm sorry, cots?  They let you make cots?
E.C.:  Uh, no no, the ones you flah.  Kahts.
Nice Neighbor Lady:  *Glances at H.M. with puzzled look*
E.C.:  String.  Paper. Yah flah 'em.
H.M.:  *Interjecting, annoyed*  KITES.  He means KITES.
Nice Neighbor Lady:   Ohhhhh, kites.  Um, neat.
And lahk - sorry, like - everyone, I've got the typical southern habit of incessantly dropping 'G's, which at one point in my life was an issue so pronounced that I couldn't correctly say the name of my university.
Circa 1995 Neighbor:  Whereya goin'ta college, boy?
18 Year Old E.C.:  Hardin'.
Circa 1995 Neighbor:  Ah!  Hardin Simmons.  Great.  Daddy went there.  Baptist.
18 Year Old E.C.:  Nosir, Hardin'.  HarDING.
Circa 1995 Neighbor:  Neverheardovit.
Generally you try to clean this mess up when you're talking on the telephone with foreigners (i.e. native New Yorkers) or when you're reading Scripture aloud in church.  You concentrate hard then, trying to knock off the edges.  Or maybe Scotch-tape them back on.

At HarDING, it helped immeasurably that (1) I'm somewhat of a mimic and (2) had a Midwesterner roommate that spoke cleaner English than Tom Brokaw.  By the end of sophomore year, after bunking with a fantastic dude from Worcester, Massachusetts (!), folks back home believed I had suffered a stroke, having only partially regained the ability to speak.

Accents are funny things.  They conjure up preconceptions that may or may not be true.  They tip people off about your upbringing, social status, education... and can even comment on your level of real intelligence.  It's a common belief in the U.S (especially in politics) that a southern accent magically lops off 30 I.Q. points as soon as your mouth opens.

We know a few other things about accents.  One is that strong regional dialects (ones lahk mahn)  are disappearing.  Our speech is becoming more and more homogenous all the time.  (So THAT'S why our grandparents sound like Flannery O'Connor characters!)  Another interesting thing is that as income increases, dialects generally flatten out.  So as we grow wealthier, and watch the same TV shows, speech distinctions begin to vanish.

So how much of a big deal is it for Jack to screw up his vowel sounds me to screw up Jack's vowel sounds?  Does it (materially) limit him in an increasingly competitive world, where small advantages - heck, any advantages - are ruthlessly exploited?

In other words, should ah watch mah mouth?

Majesty is having a small, controlled fit over this.  (KAHTS, huh?!  Really?!  She couldn't even understand you!)  And ah finally found out whah:
Others monophthongize /aɪ/ in all contexts, as in the stereotyped pronunciation "nahs whaht rahs" for nice white rice; these speakers are mostly found in an Appalachian area that includes eastern Tennessee, western North Carolina and Northern Alabama (the "Inland South"), as well as in Central Texas.  Elsewhere in the South, this pronunciation is stigmatized as a working class feature.
 Oh dear.  Of all the things that could've done us in, who could have predicted accent bigotry?!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Firefighters, Dogs, and Madrugadores

Yes Virginia, There Are Talking Cars
As you can figure out from the picture, Jack went as a firefighter this year.  Majestad found him this rock solid outfit, complete with huge metal clasps on the jacket and coverall bibs with knee patches.  The lid looked pretty good, too, albeit more 1970s fire dude than present day.  No oxygen tanks, though.  Bummer.

We did Trunk or Treat at church this year, which is kind of the logistical next step in Halloween laziness.  (I'm a huge fan.)  Jack's favorite attraction wasn't the candy; it was the car our friends fixed up to look just like Lightning McQueen from Cars.  Jack just stared, in complete shock, like he was thinking, "I KNEW HE WAS REAL!  I KNEW IT!"  He spent the rest of the night demanding to see Lightning's motor.

Speaking of Pixar, each car/family in the lot kind of did their own thing, and my absolute personal favorite was the guy dressed up like Steve Jobs.  The dude is a dead ringer (sorry, couldn't help that) for Jobs.  It's freaky.  I go to shake his hand, and I get the Namaste greeting, his palms together, the whole thing.  Said he was unveiling his newest product:  iApples.  They were, of course, real apples lined up on the shelf behind him.  You have to respect the guy that goes all-in on the sight-gag.

The next night, we slowly toured our neighborhood, trying to lure folks to their doors to give me Jack candy.  Turns out that Halloween is an official dog holiday as well, because all the pooches hit the doors running, barking and swarming all over Jack as he nervously declared, "I'm okay.  I'M OKAY!"  The pups probably were hopped up on candy.  Hey, who wasn't?  Anyway, the rest of the night, he forgot his lines and began asking people about their current pet situation.

Conversation of the Week (Tie)
Think classifying people as either adults or chillrun is easy?  Think again.
Jack:  "Daddy's a child."
H.M.:  "No, Daddy's an adult."
Jack:  "I'm an adult."
H.M.:  "No, you are a child."  (To me as I leave to go back to work) "Bye, babe.  See you tonight."
Jack:  "Daddy's a babe."
Er, um, thanks.
Jack:  (Walking into the grocery store) "That signs says H-E-B.  That spells H-E-B, Mommy."
He just said that because he can't say "redundancy."

The Very Latest In Unexpected Parenting Dilemmas
Each morning, Jack used to (mercifully) stay in his room until somebody went and collected him.  But after our vacation (in eastern time) and then with the time change itself, he busts into our room at painfully early hours.  So you'll hear a door slam, and 4.7 seconds of thundering footfalls later, he arrives yelling "Mommy!" or "Daddy!" at the top of his lungs, talking incessantly.  It's my pet theory that the body wakes in sections.  In his case, his legs and mouth are working several minutes before the brain strolls in.

This needs to be solved well before February.  We'll now be taking your suggestions.  The phone lines are now open.