Friday, August 11, 2017

The Shadow Pooper

It had become such a universally accepted concept that I could recite it long before I had any children of my own: Girls are easier to potty train. There was a myriad of reasons offered for this phenomenon. They mature faster. They were less fascinated by the process. They maintained the same seated posture for all forms of egress.

Like most people, I accepted this without question. So, after struggling to get our son potty-trained I looked forward to what I expected to be smooth transition for our daughter. In my mind, it would go something like this:

Sweetie, for reasons both hygienic and financial, it is time that you cease to wet and soil yourself and use the toilet. 
Okay father, I had arrived at the same conclusion and now seems to be a developmentally-appropriate time. 
Love you honey! Let me know if I need to replenish the bathroom tissue.

For a brief moment, it almost seemed like that was where we were headed. Around the age of 2, she would ask to sit on the toilet and proceed to pantomime all of the motions of emptying one’s bladder. She would even request a modest square of toilet paper and flush it. Although she was not actually peeing during any of this, it already felt like a victory.

My wife and I told ourselves that the hard part was done and that the actual emptying of the bladder was just around the corner. This went on for months. Sit on toilet. Pretend to pee. Wipe. Pull pants up. Flush. Wash Hands. Hose down Pampers.

We had a contingency plan for this: big girl underwear. We would simply remove the convenience of a diaper or pull-up and she would be forced to use the restroom. This was not nearly as successful as we had hoped.

She would still pee in her pants and was heartbreakingly conscientious about it (“I make pee-pee in kitchen”). She has gotten much better and actually does a pretty good job now. Her reward for urinating in the toilet is 2 store-brand miniature marshmallows. I am certain that upcoming scientific studies will find our reward system to be deeply-flawed (reward with sugar, sudden onset of type 2 diabetes, glucose build-up leads to excessive thirst which results in increased urination and more sugar rewards, etc.) but it seemed to be the most reasonable motivation that we could find.

We have had a modest amount of success with this technique and her batting average is pretty respectable. The real challenge is when it is time for her “yucky poo-poo snake” to make an appearance.

The books and experts all tell you the same thing: catch a “big job” in progress and immediately place them on the toilet for the second half. Eventually, they will associate sitting on the toilet with pooping and will voluntarily got to the restroom to release the colon kraken.

The implementation of this strategy with my son had required very little effort as he had no bowel-movement poker face. He would cease his current activity, descend into a half-squat and assume the conflicted facial expression of someone being offered an extended warranty on a new couch. Even his denials were grunted in the unmistakable cadence of someone putting in work.

My daughter, on the other hand, is a defecation ninja. She can silently make a deposit in a pull-up with no discernible shift in posture. On at least one occasion, I am 99% sure she was looking me dead in the eye while singing “Let It Go” and doing just that. She will even deploy decoy flatulence to throw us off. I cannot tell you how many times we have smelled something and run her to the bathroom only to be presented with nary a skid mark.

Even the seasoned professionals at her daycare are miffed. They have confessed that they cannot get a read on her. Most kids will slip away to a corner in shame or openly grimace. Not my baby girl; she will soil herself with the breezy efficiency of Jamie Lee Curtis at the tail-end of an Activia challenge. My father has suggested we sweeten the pot with a higher reward. I am close to offering her half of our pull-up budget in cash because I would still come out ahead.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Are We Better Than This?

With the pending birth of my son, I decided to clear out some of the storage on my phone by removing and archiving photos. I came across a number of screenshots I took in the morning hours of June 12th 2016 while having spent a sleepless night outside my son’s bedroom door. He was having night terrors at the time and my wife and I would take turns outside his room so we could be nearby if he woke up screaming.

The following were all from the comment section of a developing story about the Orlando terrorist attack at The Pulse nightclub. It was an establishment that catered to homosexual patrons had hosted a “Latin Night” the previous evening. Around 2 AM, 29-year-old security guard named Omar Mateen entered the night club and began shooting people. Once it was over, it would be the deadliest terrorist attack in this country since September 11th. Forty-nine people lost their lives and another 58 were injured before the perpetrator was killed by Orlando police officers.

At the time these comments were made, details were still coming in and the headline was that a shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando had left 20 dead. These comments were made in the breathlessly-reported early hours of the story before the scope of the tragedy had fully unfolded. Nevertheless, they represented some of the most abhorrent reactions to a tragedy I can remember.

How did we get here? How have we become so blinded by anger that we show blatant disregard for human life while self-righteously editorializing on a tragedy stemming from a blatant disregard for human life? A year later, are we better than this? 

Friday, July 28, 2017

Naming a Boy

I am coming to the realization that our son will be born nameless. My wife and I have reached an impasse on what to call him. Objectively, we are both to blame. I have an unabashed penchant for homages to musicians and comic book characters and she taught public school for so long that each of the names we had previously agreed upon are now off the table because, “I had a such-and-such once and he stabbed a disabled-nun.”

My wife leans toward family-member tributes, but by the third child we had exhausted all of the reasonable ancestral names and were looking at the business-end of Flossy and Homer. One solution was to saddle them with a second-string family name, but indoctrinate them to answer to something completely unrelated. I realize that several people have successfully employed this strategy, but I could not bring myself to join the “we will name him Perforation Roscoe Thaddeus but call him Bill” camp.  

The select few desirable names that survived the previous-pupil gauntlet had been already appropriated by close friends or family members who would hopefully remain within our child’s social orbit throughout their lives. This left us no choice but to go to The Internet. I did not want to us to be Bandwagon-Christeners, so I went to the social security administration website and looked at the most popular names of the 80’s…. the 1880’s.

Having perused the list, my first impression was that there was a striking number of popular names from this time period later assigned to Sesame Street Muppets (Grover, Bert, Oscar, Ernie). My second impression was that people were determined to utilize the letter H no matter what the cost. Hubert, Hiram, Horace, Harvey, Harold, Homer, Harley, Herman and Harry all made the best-of list.  

Scrolling through the subsequent decades of our nation’s Social Security rolls, I was amazed that from 1880 until 1920 the top three boy names in America remained unchanged. John, William, James.* Then, in 1920, Robert staged a coup pushing John, James and William to second, third, and fourth respectively. Robert maintained its dominance until 1940 when James took the top spot. While the Big 4’s popularity has fluctuated some, we have not yet had a decade where at least one of them does not hold a spot in the top ten.

Somewhat desperate, I decided to jump on the bandwagon and see what my peers were choosing to name their offspring:

Come Hell or high water, my cohorts are going to insure that if we start your name with an “r” it will be immediately followed by a “y.” The list is peppered with Ryan, Ryker, Rylee, Ryder, Ryleigh, and Rylan. These are not statistical anomalies. The aforementioned names accounted for 136,625 citizens born between 2010-2016.

Barring an “ry” duo, we reserve the right to place a “y” wherever the rest of you chumps would drop a vowel. Londyn, Kylee, Lyla, Ayden, and Kylie comprise over 107,000 kids.

Let’s say you like Ayden, but a someone beat you to it. That won’t stop my people. We will relegate it to a suffix without breaking a sweat. Jayden, Brayden, Kayden, Cayden, and Hayden (which made the best-of list on both sides) amassed a whopping 230,706 in just six years of procreation. Throw in the “Aydens” and you could repopulate Orlando.

There even appears to be an ongoing feud as to whether our daughters should be named Adalynn (12,549) Adalyn (12,859) or Adeline (12,848).

Like previous generations, we still love our Judeo-Christian / Bible names like Sarah, Mary, Abraham, Noah, Jonah, Cane and Abel. However, we also reserve the right to name our daughters Genesis (28,039) Trinity (20,976) and Eden (13,684).

Just to keep our edge, Luna (14,013) Serenity (28,063) Harmony (11,102) Destiney (17,346) Valentina (16,908) Ivy (13,684) and Ximena (13,700) were all very popular girl’s names. 

Getting desperate, I clicked on one of the “Unique Boy Names” ads that tend to come up when you have been searching for baby names.

The first list sounded like an American Gladiator call-sheet gave birth to a biker-gang sorting-hat. 
Ace, Blade, Spike, Falcon, Hawk, Blaze, Thorn, Steel, Phoenix and Ajax were a few standouts.

I then tried the “Baby Boy Names with Swagger List.” Featured names included Zenon, Cadmus, 
Racer and Brees. There was also an entry for Waldo but you would never live it down if you lost that poor kid.

Next was the “Rebel & Heartbreaker” boys’ names. Steel yourselves ladies….

Ajax, Arsen, Bacchus, Biff, Gael, Gannon, Hercules, Jed, Lars, and Rock. That site even had a helpful column that told you each of the name’s meanings. For instance; Rock means “rock or stone.” I am not joking.

Perhaps we will just name him Playden and be done with it……

*On a side note, the name Adolph enjoyed massive popularity in the United States for several decades with over 7,500 boys having been given the name by the time World War II started. I imagine the majority of them immediately began going by their middle names.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

The Yard Sale

With a third child on the way and a pressing need to clear some floor space, my wife and I decided to subject ourselves to the most shameful of all domestic endeavors: the yard sale. The first step was marketing. So we placed an ad in the local paper and made some yard signs to position at nearby intersections.

Then, it was time to place an add on Craigslist. Before crafting my own ad, I perused a few of the other items listed under “Yard Sale.” The idea was to do a little opposition research to see what we would be competing with on that Saturday. The image below was lifted from the very first garage sale ad in my immediate area. I am not joking.

And yes, I added the black modesty bar so as not to run afoul of Blogger’s adult content policy. It seemed unlikely that anyone could remain that oblivious to their surroundings and still manage to navigate the Craigslist posting process, so I had to assume it was intentional. Since their posting was going to generate far more traffic than the handful of poorly—lit photos of a food processor I had at my disposal, I briefly toyed with idea of contacting the wonder-crotch twins and asking if they would just sell my items on commission (and burn anything that remained).

Instead, we forged ahead and ran the ads on Friday informing the general public that we would be open at 6 AM on Saturday. So, at 5:30 AM we arose to find a running car in our driveway helmed by a middle-aged woman on a Bluetooth headset. It became immediately apparent that she was the advance scouting party for the individual she was on the phone with because she quickly glanced over each item and gave a loud verbal assessment of it to the person on the other end.

Moments later a man in his fifties saunters in, makes eye contact with the woman and tells her to tell her sister Rose that he said hi. Pausing her narration, she informs he counterpart that Billy said hello and in the blink of an eye she was gone. Billy hung out and haggled over a used pair of men’s khaki pants before leaving empty-handed. In the next hour, we were hit by a handful of other yard sale enthusiasts who willingly traded sleep for the opportunity to browse our selection of teacher supplies and a gently-used hamster enclosure.

Fortuitously, there happened to be an estate sale in the vicinity; so while people were waiting for their assigned time slots, they hung out at our garage sale and made ridiculous offers on items that we were clearly not selling. We met one very sweet soft-spoken retiree who purchased a wicker bench from us. She asked if I could carry the item to her vehicle, which I soon realized was a small SUV.

After some finagling, I managed to work the majority of the bench into the trunk but we were unable to close the liftgate. After locating some spare rope, I managed to tie it down to where she could get it home. As I did this, we discussed the erosion of common courtesy and the lack of chivalry in our modern society. Discovering I had laid down my knife inside and needed it to remove the excess rope, I told her that I needed to run and grab something to cut the rope with.

Gently protesting, she began digging in her purse while assuring me that she “probably had something” that could slice through the rope. Foreseeing myself attempting to saw through a nylon cord with a fingernail file but unwilling to appear dismissive, I politely waited for her to conclude her search. Then, in one swift motion, she produced and deployed one of the largest serrated folding knives I have ever seen. Perceiving my shock, she told me, “Baby, I grew up on the southside of Chicago so you’re lucky this is all I found in my purse.” I returned her handbag machete and she sweetly thanked me once again before driving away.

Following her was not one, but two separate individuals who breathlessly approached my wife and I asking if we had any “saxophones we would be willing to sell.” This was perplexing since none of our marketing material mentioned musical instruments of any kind. Perhaps they were both participating in a band-camp scavenger-hunt.

Four hours in, we were visited late in the day by an older gentleman killing time until his estate-sale slot was available. We had a pleasant conversation and he inquired as to the curious behavior of modern parents always holding onto their children’s hands in public. Speaking for myself, I admitted that without physical restraint I worried that my children would wander in front of a car. He contemplated this for a minute, and then mused at how much the world had changed since his own youth.

From there, he began to recount an episode of Forensic Files he had recently seen. The episode featured a young mother who was in public with her preschooler and turned to get some water from a drinking fountain. By the time she turned around, the child was gone. He went on to explain that the child had never been seen again and despite evidence of a grisly demise, a body was never recovered. Grunting with amazement, he concluded his story by admitting that he guessed “that might be a pretty good reason to hold a kid’s hand nowadays…..” He then bid me good-day and drove off.

Finally, after 7 hours, we closed up shop. That night, around 8:30 PM, my daughter and I were sitting on the couch as I got her dressed for bed. The doorbell rang several times and I peeked through the curtain half-expected to see Forensic Frank holding a shovel and a bag of lime. Instead, there was a man I vaguely recognized as a neighbor pushing an infant in a stroller.

I opened the door and he looked at me and stated matter-of-factly, “I missed your garage sale.” Unsure exactly how to respond, I said, “Yup.” An awkward moment of silence passed between us before he asked if I was selling any clothing for little boys. I told him that we were not and then he asked if I had anything else for sale. I told him that I was still trying to unload some furniture. He asked to see it and indicated that he and his wife would be back to get it. I never heard back and he has waved at me twice since then while I was out getting my mail. I should have just taken my chances consigning with the Swingers' Sidewalk Sale down the road...