Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Sibling Class

My wife and I decided to sign our children up for one of the big-sibling classes offered by the local hospital. For a nominal fee, you and your children could attend a two-hour session designed to make everyone more comfortable with the impending addition to the family. The children would be given a tour of the nursery area and watch an informative video about how the dynamics of their home life could change.

So, on the appointed Saturday, we all arrived at the conference room. I checked in with the session leader and paid her the $20 for our participation. Each expectant mother in the class wore the official uniform of the final trimester (black maternity shirt and jeans) and all were eagerly awaiting the start of the class.

Slightly after the designated start time, a woman came in with her two daughters and asked the session leader what time she should “be back to pick them up.” Somewhat taken aback at the question, the facilitator responded that the parents actually need to stay with the children for the two hours. Unfazed, the mother replied that she would be “in and out” but should still be around the hospital. The facilitator gently indicated again that it was not a drop-off class. I would be more judgmental, but the truth is that her unsupervised children were much less disruptive than mine.

Eventually we began with the tour. Everyone was led into one of the labor and delivery rooms and given a brief explanation of the apparatus. The session leader kept alluding to the children visiting their mommy during this time. This prompted my wife to lean over and inform me that she felt little need to have our other children in the room with her once stirrups became involved.

We were then led back to the classroom where we all watched a pirate-themed video about fetal development. The video was hosted by a buccaneer who had been marooned on an island with only a poorly-constructed puppet named “Carrots” for companionship. At frequent intervals during the fetus animation, he would pop-up to interject commentary. For instance, when the video was explaining the umbilical cord, his face appeared on screen and he exclaimed, “Arggghh! That’s what I call room service matey!”

It was after this section of the video that the couple seated across from us began explaining to their son about the umbilical cord’s function. The father explained that when mommy was uncomfortable, it was because “nugget is yanking on his dinner bell to get more baby juice” from her. I could tell by the nurse’s face that she was torn between respecting this couple’s right to raise their children and the guilt she would feel by allowing a 5 year-old continue to believe that mommy’s womb functioned like the pull-bell on Downton Abbey. 

Next, the children were invited to choose a baby-doll from the box so that they could practice the proper handling of their new sibling. My daughter selected a cute little girl and handled her with expert care. She even made sure that the head and neck were properly supported in the crook of her elbow. My son, on the other hand, returned from the box with what I can only assume was the doll utilized by night-shift employees to frighten co-workers into soiling their scrubs. Only one of its eyes functioned and its limbs were contorted at unnatural angles.

Nevertheless, while the other children went about properly swaddling their newborn, my son was treating his as if it owed him money. Despite my protestations, he would violently shake the doll and then hang it upside down. It was around this time that my daughter got her doll swaddled on the table but became enraged when it would not open its eyes in response to her vocal commands. She started yelling, “WAKE UP! WAKE UP!” in the doll’s face like she was treating an overdose victim.  

Finally, it was time for each of the kids to design a bib to be given to their new sibling. White fabric bibs and paint markers were distributed to all of the children. After several minutes, some of the children began sharing with everyone what they drew. One little boy drew a picture of his new expanded family holding hands. Another little girl was making a rainbow because she loved them and was sure that her new sibling would too. My son drew an elongated brown cylinder on his bib and announced that it was “poo-poo.” Unsure how to respond to the turd-bib, the facilitator smiled politely and probably began questioning how badly she really needed the extra income from this class.

Ready to get our complimentary t-shirts and make an exit, my wife and I were relieved when the teacher began distributing the certificates on the opposite side of the room. This quickly ground to a halt when the second family she came to insisted that they had been informed the class was free. The nurse responded that there was always a fee associated with the class to which they responded that they “had seen something on the Internet” about it being free. This went back and forth several times until the teacher agreed that if they could find some official documentation on the website to back this up she would let it slide.

The couple waved their phones around and complained that they can’t because they were unable to get cell service. A discussion about the availability of WiFi ensued and the facilitator told them that she would come back to them. When she gets to the next couple, they sheepishly explained that the grandparents had signed up for the course and thought that it was free as well. Unwilling to see how her conversation with the next couple would end, my wife and I decided to abandon ship and forgo the complimentary t-shirt.

She noticed us leaving and kindly wanted to give us the shirts (since it appeared that we were the only people who had paid) and thanked us. I cannot speak to what happened after we left, but in my mind she locked the doors, turned the pirate video back on and informed everyone that if she did not see some dead presidents soon, “Carrots” was going in beak-first. 

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Dad Skills

Gender Identification Technician – On multiple occasions, my son has leaned over to my ear and then stated (at normal conversational volume) “Is that a boy or a girl? while pointing at someone. Depending on my mood, answers range from the profound “They are a person…” to the not so profound “I believe they are registered as an independent” See also, redirection.

Field Dressing a Car Seat – This skill becomes necessary when there is a spill or unsanctioned egress of bodily fluids. May also be initiated after a round of “What’s That Smell?” Motor-Vehicle Edition.

Snap Judgment – Summoned by tears and distress, you are faced with a crime scene and you must dispense justice despite conflicting witness statements and outright perjury.

Contextual Dictionary – Just the other day, my four-year-old son asked me if I knew what “liquor” was. I stemmed the rising panic and after a few clarifying questions realized that it was someone who spilled food on their arm and “licked” themselves clean.

Hostage Negotiation Specialist – A Cabbage Patch doll is being held against its will and release is contingent upon a swap for a stuffed cheetah and the offending party ceasing to be a “poo-poo snake.” There are no easy answers here.

Wounded Reassurance – About a week ago my daughter accidentally head-butted me in the bridge of my nose. My son, having heard my cry of pain, steps on my man-tenders while rushing to my aid. My discomfort upsets my daughter and my wife prompts me to reassure my daughter that I am OK. I assure her between dry-heaves that “Daddy’s Fine Sweetheart.”

Stain Removal – Children’s Motrin, marinara sauce, and wayward Crunch Berries mixed with tears of betrayal all leave a lasting impression on carpet. Just buy whatever carpet cleaner uses the most urgent language in the “If swallowed” subsection of the first aid label.

Redirection – Daddy, why don’t I have a penis? Because I just remembered that it was time for Oreo Cookies and another screening of Moana! Who likes songs about magical Tigers!?

Recreational Apparatus – One of my kids’ favorite activities is to throw themselves on top of me while I lay in the floor in the fetal position. This bears an uncanny resemblance to being jumped into a pre-school street gang.

Translator – My two year-old will (without context) approach strangers and make the following statements:
  • I get big cookie! – I recently received a Double Stuf Oreo for defecating in the toilet.
  • I pump my legs! – I have acquired the ability to swing without assistance.
  • Daddy boat-snack! – Moana reference, unclear whether this is derogatory.
  • I not in trouble! – My brother has committed an infraction and I am gleefully contrasting his behavior with mine.
  • They got stuck in gum! – I thoroughly enjoyed my screening of Despicable Me 3 and found the antagonist quite amusing.
Economist – “Daddy, why do you and mommy have to go to work?” Because son, we live in a capitalistic society and in order to secure food and shelter your mother and I must generate income proportional to our expenses. “Is that how Netflix works?” ……..Yes

Armchair Theologian
(passing a Waffle House renovation)

“Daddy, did Jesus build that?”

“No. It is being built by people whose jobs are to build things” (here I pat myself on the back and attempt to tie this back into the economist discussion) “So just like mommy and daddy go to work and do certain jobs these people’s job is to build things for other people to use and that is how they get Netflix.”

“But you said Jesus made everything. How come he did not make that?”
(under my breath:” because if Jesus ran that operation the silverware wouldn’t have that weird film on it…”)

Well, He created the universe and then a group of people got together and decided to utilize the resources they had access to on this planet in order to facilitate the sale of food to other people but Jesus himself did not descend from the skies and …..

“We went outside at school today.”



Friday, August 25, 2017

The Art of a Child

Before we became parents, my wife and I had idealistic notions of archiving and cataloguing each of children’s creations. Every daycare art project, Sunday School scribble and cardboard-tube sculpture would be preserved for posterity. After all, how cold-hearted would a person have to be to callously discard the product of those adorable little hands?

These notions, or course, were the product of industrial-grade ignorance concerning the sheer volume or work that could be generated in the first five years of life. A child’s portfolio becomes unwieldly after a few weeks of daycare. Letter-of-the-day paintings, scissor practice, gluing projects and handwriting exercises litter our cars and home. This excludes special “seasonal” projects (the last three months of the calendar year are an avalanche of artistic output) and birthday items.

At first, we just hung a few on the fridge and in the hall and let the rest pile up in the office. We couldn’t bring ourselves to throw them away, but what is the sentimental value of an unattributed piece of paper with a pair of stray crayon marks on it? One of my greatest fears was my son walking out of his bedroom at night to find his father gleefully stuffing his masterpiece into a ketchup-decimated Wendy’s sack. I could practically write the therapy session transcript:

When did you first become aware of the fragility of the human condition? 
The night I walked to into the kitchen and found my father treating the artistic manifestation of my soul as a buffer between his hand and the remaining refuse he was forcing down into the Hefty bag.

How did this affect you?
I had never really thought of crime as a full-time career choice before that pivotal moment…

Eventually, we implemented an informal hierarchy based upon whether or not our child handed us the item or editorialized on its significance. If the handoff was silent and perfunctory, we would place it in the special stack and then my wife and I would silently will the other to throw the stack away. If they presented the item and said “I make fwroggie!!” it would be displayed.

This stemmed the tide slightly, but as they have grown and become more invested in their work even this approach was unmanageable. This stage has collided with the upcoming birth of our third child which has re-appropriated the junk room we used to keep the ballooning stack of creations. Said stack now resides on the desk in our bedroom and remains largely unacknowledged by my wife or I.

This game of sentimental chicken cannot continue to grow unabated lest it spill into the floor and common areas. This would ultimately lead to an intervention by child protective services to save our children from the danger posed by their own artwork collections that their parents were emotionally-incapable of discarding.

We also wish to be cognizant of the amount we keep for each child. Since the art mediums vary, I am not sure if we should strive to keep the exact amount from each child or subject all archived items to the “jumbo buffet takeout” test and quantify by weight.

I do know that whenever I visited my father’s office as a child, my homemade desk organizer was always prominently displayed. It was a ghastly combination of popsicle-sticks, hot-glue and diffidence. I imagine that if he ever ate lunch at his desk he had to remove it from view to stem the nausea. I would always comment on it when I was there and he would smile and mention something about how it “livened up his office” as if the entire atmosphere of his building had been positively affected by its presence.

I am starting to understand why he did it. It is the look on your child’s face when they have created something that you value. Something you deem worthy enough to place in your daily sight-line at work or at home. I have a picture on my wall at the office. Objectively, it is an orange piece of paper with a few purple scribbles, an unidentifiable blob and a glued piece of construction paper. However, there are days where it catches my attention and I cannot help but smile because it conjures the presence of the young man who proudly handed it to me; and, like my father before me, I will delight when he visits me and sees that it remains where it was originally showcased. *

*For fun, sometimes I attribute the piece to a random adult co-worker when a visitor comments on “how creative my children must be.” 

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... 

Monday, July 3, 2017

A Vasectomy Story Part 2

Having survived the procedure, my next task was to survive the billing department. As I was urged by the service provider to pre-pay for my procedure, I was somewhat taken aback when I received a separate invoice for an “office visit” the day of my vasectomy. Dismissing this as an easily resolved discrepancy, I placed a call to my account representative and we had the following conversation:

Me – Yes, I had a vasectomy a few weeks ago and I pre-paid for the procedure but I just received a bill from you related to the procedure. 
Them – You pre-paid for the cost of the procedure, but not the office visit occurring during the procedure. 
Me – But it was an in-office procedure, by its very nature it wasn’t going to occur anywhere else but the office. So why wasn’t my presence in the office included in the cost of the procedure? 
Them – Again, because you were in the office for the procedure you were charged for an office visit. You only prepaid for the procedure itself. 
Me – Was there an option to have the procedure in the parking garage or at an Arby’s? 
Them – Of course not sir....
Me – So there was never a scenario whereby the aforementioned office visit wouldn’t be part of the cost of the procedure? 
Them – All I can tell you is that the office visit was not included in the pre-payment estimate.
I begrudgingly paid for the office visit and prepared to make my “deposit.” On the day of the procedure, I had been given a small green bag and two sample cups. I was told to just drop off my sample at the front desk and make sure it was recent and “still warm.” They assured me that they would be in touch once the results were in.

So, on the day of the deposit, I searched all over for the green bag but I could not find it. We had some plastic Wal-Mart shopping bags, but somehow that seemed creepier than just openly brandishing the sample cup. Instead, I decided to place the cup in the front pocket of my khakis. This decision was based on the idea that a “pocket carry” would provide the privacy I wanted while still keeping everything warm per my instructions.

Finally arriving at the front desk, I deftly removed the cup from my pocket and leaned toward the receptionist as I whispered, “I just need to drop off a sample.” I doubt if her reaction would have been any different had I actually placed my genitals on the counter and informed her that they needed to see a doctor. She recoiled dramatically and declared that she “wasn’t touching that” which immediately drew the attention of the waiting room.

Sheepishly, I informed her that I had been told to just drop the sample off at the front desk. While still maintaining her defensive posture, she invited me to “take it back to the lab myself” if I so desired. At this point, the clerk to her left (who had been valiantly pretending to be engrossed in a billing statement) broke and began snickering.

Dejected, I took my cup and walked back to the lab. Much to my chagrin, there wasn’t anyone there. I stepped back into the hall to make eye-contact with the wary receptionist and indicated that the lab was empty. She shrugged her shoulders and suggested that I “leave it on the counter” as if I was returned the keys to a rental car. I picked a spot next to a warm vial of urine and left the cup. Walking back out, I half-jokingly requested a receipt.

In hindsight, I realize that it is disconcerting to be handed the secretions of a complete stranger. However, when one works in a urology clinic these scenarios cannot be completely ruled out as part of one’s daily responsibilities. Had the same transaction taken place at the customer service desk at Hobby Lobby, her reaction would have been justified. Weeks later I would receive a separate bill for testing the sample. I was beginning to suspect that a “stirrup-rental fee” was pending with my insurance.

Then, the letter that I had been waiting for finally arrived. The doctor informed me that my sample had a negative analysis. This was immediately followed by the caveat that “no procedure is 100% effective” and the failure rate is “1 in 2500.” I was hoping for a “Certificate of Sterility” and a power-ring, but apparently their office does not do that sort of thing.

That number seemed rather low (I was hoping for something in the same ballpark as being struck by lightning at an indoor poetry slam in rural Mississippi) but until I had something to compare it to I would reserve judgement. It turns out that the “failure rate of a successful vasectomy” (I take issue with the phrasing) is nestled between a PGA golfer getting a hole-in-one and being born with a third nipple.

As a side note, the odds of a member of the general population choking to death is around 1 in 4,000. I am fairly certain that my odds of meeting my demise in this manner would increase dramatically if my wife were to ever to utter the words “I am pregnant” during a future meal. 

Friday, June 9, 2017

Reflections on a Beach Trip

There was a group of gentleman (I would guess in their 50’s) that occupied a suite on the first floor of our condominium. Each morning, they would emerge from their room between 9-10 AM and begin a solemn procession to the beach. The convoy was always led by someone carrying an LSU flag and they would place it beside the large tent they erected each day. Once base-camp was established, they would spend the remainder of the day drinking and enjoying a sacred kinship with mother-nature. There was one among their number (we will call him Bob) who would randomly break into applause throughout the day. Initially I believed this to be a non-verbal response to the appearance of a woman in a bathing suit, but as the day wore on the clapping appeared attributable to Bob’s Bud Light intake as opposed to any external stimuli. Once sunset was upon them, the lead man would again take up the LSU flag and the procession would reverse itself.


Someone had systematically removed the letter “L” from all signage around the swimming area. The result was that the entrance sign read “Poo Hours” (followed by the allocated defecation times) and the other two signs were labeled “Poo Rules” as if they were making a case for the superiority of feces. This drew an involuntary chortle from me each time we visited the pool and my wife speculated that such tomfoolery was the result of some teenagers. I choose to believe that the vandalism was perpetrated by a group of retirees.


Pool vandalism aside, our condominium was a tightly-run ship. The elevator reminded all guests that “overly boisterous” behavior in and around the common areas would not be tolerated. I remarked to my wife that the overall boisterousity of behavior would be difficult to objectively quantify.

Furthermore, the guidelines posted inside the unit – subsection 7 – prohibited the unreasonable volume of all “phonographs, radios, television sets, and musical instruments.” Either the rules pre-date the structure, or they are dealing with a wave of hipster retro audiophiles.


I am grateful that my son is still unable to read. We visited several gas station restrooms on our journey, and the percentage of male genitalia with a cell phone number is staggering.


Making the pool signage even more ironic, my daughter’s swim-diaper sprung a leak on our last day there. I was talking to another gentleman in the pool when she jumped in beside me. As she rose to the surface, I noticed what appeared to be an algae trail behind her. Once I realized the situation, I grabbed her out of the pool and wrapped her in a towel. Wishing to alert my wife and son without alarming the rest of the guests, I utilized all of the subtlety in my arsenal to explain that our daughter needed to go UPSTAIRS TO THE POTTY [wink, wink, nudge, nudge] before disappearing. I briefly toyed with alerting my new friend, but he taking a cringe-inducing open-mouthed lap around the pool and it was battle conditions.

Fortunately, my flight took me past a couple who were inseparable from their portable Bluetooth speaker (and the house music loudly emanating from it) so my daughter’s “I go poo-poo pool” statements were inaudible to most everyone but me.

When I got upstairs, I had to put her in the tub and hose her down while she emitted gurgled screams of, “No Daddy!!!! Please No More!!!!” as I loudly replied that if she kept struggling it would only be worse for her. In hindsight, I judge those in the adjacent condominiums for not calling the police.


One of my son’s fondest memories from the trip would have to be the garbage chute. The concept of placing refuse into a metal drawer and having it disappear upon reopen was nothing short of magical. 
He asked where the garage went, if there were people inside of the chute catching the garbage, and most importantly, why we were still taking our garbage out to the road like Neanderthals when such a contraption existed. My wife and I pretty sure that he utilized extras napkins to bulk-up the trash bag so we would need to take more trips into the hall.


In a telling irony, I noticed far fewer Salt Life car decals while at the beach than I do in my land-locked state of residence. This leaves two possibilities:

  1. Arranging one's life philosophy around the ocean is better in principle than practice.
  2. Those who actually enjoy living in close proximity to the ocean find it unnecessary to spend extra money to remind complete strangers that they enjoy living in close proximity to the ocean.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Ode to a Key Ring

For over two decades, you have remained steadfastly by my side. You were witness to the day my parents first entrusted me with independent access to my childhood home. You endured my ill-advised carabiner / belt-loop phase despite the fact that it placed you in unnerving proximity with my braided leather belt and stonewashed jeans. You swallowed your pride when I felt the need to affix you to a lanyard and leave the slack dangling from my back pocket (as if I was expecting the call about a head-coaching position at any moment).

You sat atop the dresser of my childhood bedroom as I constantly reinvented my identity via the artwork on my wall. You heard my endless hours on the guitar attempting to accurately recreate a riff to the point I did not have to prompt others to identify it. There are even a few occasions when you slipped from my pocket necessitating a return trip to a friend’s house which led to a conversation that would never have occurred otherwise.

You wordlessly bore the shame of my early automobile purchases. When I willingly gave money to someone in exchange for a white Chevrolet Cavalier (with optional Rally Sport fun package) you held your tongue. When I optimistically traded that car for a used Pontiac Grand Am, you allowed me to degrade you with the ignition key.  

Perhaps most importantly, you were being nervously fidgeted in my hands the first time I spoke to the woman who would later become my wife. You had a front row seat for the moment that she agreed to marry me and when we nervously slipped on the key to our first apartment. You sat on the table at the closing of our home anxiously awaiting the ceremonial moment we were passed the keys.

You laid upon a rolling hospital table the moment I met my son and became a father. You were dropped multiple times in our panic to rush that same child to the Emergency Room in the middle of the night when he could not catch his breath. I dropped you as I attempted to situate my daughter for her first car ride and often misplaced you in the sleep-deprived stupor parenthood bestows.

Currently, you find yourself festooned by evidence of my career (USB flash drives), my low sales resistance (I’m talking to you Books-A-Million “Millionaire’s Club” key-tag), and my improving taste in automotive manufacturers (I'll see you in Hell Pontiac). I even leave the unused gym membership tags just because I like making a show of moving them for the cashier at Kroger to scan my loyalty card.

If your longevity continues, you will likely bear witness to the day I am forced to say goodbye to my Mom and Dad. You will be there when each of my children start Kindergarten and eventually experience heartbreak. Someday you will become a bargaining chip when they insist they are old enough to drive somewhere by themselves. You will provide me a tactile distraction when I am faced with the prospect of watching them acquire and adorn their own key rings and all of the emotional implications that come with such a seemingly pedestrian act.   

I am ashamed to admit that there were times I was tempted to trade you in. Lured by the promise of magnetic quick-release fasteners and color-coded key tabs I tried newer models but always found myself crawling back to the tried-and-true circular cotter. I have even come to appreciate the resistance to change inherent to your design. I am given multiple chances to rethink whether an item is “ring-worthy” as I attempt to pry your metal bands apart with my thumbnail. Even the existing residents seem to protest once a new addition is at the halfway mark of its journey and I have to force them down to make room.   

Most miraculous of all, you always seem to contain one unidentifiable key. Is it to the old apartment and I just never removed it? Did my parents change locks and I kept a copy of the replacement and its predecessor? Am I, in fact, a highly-trained government assassin suffering from amnesia who will one day discover the key opens a safety deposit box in Prague filled with passports, paper currency, and intrigue?

Regardless, I know that you will be there for me. Providing both a practical service and a shamelessly-exploitable metaphor for the cyclical nature of human existence.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

A Vasectomy Story

Having decided that my wife and I had graced the planet with enough of our offspring, it was time to make a decision regarding long-term birth control. My wife was presented with a myriad of options ranging from injections and I.U.D. devices with names that could be easily mistaken for canine dental appliances (ParaGuard is my current favorite) to surgical options like tubal ligation.

However, the only real option for us was for me to get a vasectomy. It was cheaper and less invasive than a tubal ligation and by any objective standard it was time for me to take one for the team. So I called the local urology practice and explained to the receptionist that I wished to permanently retire my reproductive jersey.

She explained that I would need an initial consultation appointment after which I would discuss the different “packages” with the billing specialist. Unaware that there were different levels of male sterility, I asked what she meant by “packages.” Was there a platinum package where I was rendered unconscious during the operation versus a value bundle where I was asked to place a wooden spoon between my teeth? She indicated that all would be revealed on the day of the consultation.

If you have never spent time in a urology waiting room, there seems to be two dominate male demographics: AARP members who have developed an adversarial relationship with their prostate and non-AARP members who are in various stages of sterility. Neither category exudes enthusiasm.

Once I was called back, a urologist no older than myself asked me several questions and advised me that (regardless of what several of the billboards on the I-40 corridor insist) I should consider this permanent. He performed a brief inspection and gave me a pamphlet onto which someone had scribbled “Shave your scrotum the day before of procedure.” I was then taken to a separate desk where it quickly became apparent that I would not be worked in until the NCAA basketball tournament had resolved itself.

Next I was called to visit the billing specialist who asked if I would like to pre-pay for the procedure. Convincing myself that payment now might lend itself to a more powerful anesthetic later, I agreed. I asked if they would issue a refund in the event I sired a child after being fully disarmed. I was informed that there was no satisfaction guarantee on vasectomies.   

On the day of the procedure, my wife drove me to the doctor’s office and I sat in the waiting room scanning the reading material (“People of the Andes” was a particularly alluring publication) and responding to photos of grapefruits being sent to me by my coworkers. At one point, a woman emerged from the back and loudly announced “Anita Dickie! Anita Dickie please!”

Despite my near-debilitating anxiety, this produced an involuntary chortle which, in turn, drew an eye-roll from my wife. I mounted a spirited defense of my juvenile sense of humor by reminding her that use of that phrase in this context was tantamount to entrapment. She simply shook her head as if silently reaffirming our decision to prevent the further proliferation of my DNA.   

Finally, a compact, mustachioed gentleman called my name and led me to the operating room where I was greeted by his counterpart. They were irreverent, crude and I liked them immediately. Upon removal of my pants, I was informed that I was “packing a real set of sheet-draggers” and the two of them began commenting on how exciting it was going to be to witness a real-life penectomy. Grateful for the distraction, I immediately asked them if I should remove my diamond-studded taint piercing.

Our rapport now firmly established, we continued on in this manner as I situated myself into the stirrups and they called for the doctor. I asked if he was watching YouTube videos on how to perform a vasectomy and the mustachioed gentleman replied something about him “finally getting the hang of it.” I immediately assumed the pun was both intentional and premeditated.

When the doctor arrived, there was some rather serious discussion regarding my position in the chair:

Doc – Why isn’t he fully reclined?
Assistant – I thought this is how you liked them…
Doc – It is easier for me if they are fully reclined.
Assistant – *looking contemplatively into the distance* Must’ve been Dr. Wilson that prefers them like this…… Give me just a sec and we will get this..
Doc – It’s fine. We can make it work.
Assistant – Are you sure? It is no big deal.
Doc – This will work. Let’s just get started.

It was here that I graciously offered to re-position myself to suit the urologist’s dominant hand and was assured that everything was fine. After a few injections directly to the coin-purse, it was time to go to work. We covered Fleetwood Mac’s musical contributions and the increased propensity of young couples to cohabitate prior to marriage before he finished.

I was asked by the assistant to continue my current form of birth control (my personality) for the foreseeable future and was handed two specimen cups. I was then instructed to bring them the “16th sample” I produced. Reading the bewildered look on my face, he reassured me that I did not have to produce all of the samples on the same day.

Still unable to process what I was being told, he clarified that I was being given “a prescription for sex” so that they can verify that I was producing a “clean sample.” Given the two-month time-frame, I observed that this was a rather audacious goal and assistant 2 asked if I might need a magazine. I enthusiastically replied that I preferred Home and Garden or Conde' Nast Traveler.

Armed with the world’s greatest prescription, I moseyed out to the wife and broke the news to her. She muttered something about “good luck with all that” as we made our way toward the car. Once we got home, I liberally applied bags of frozen peas to the affected area for the next twenty-four hours and did my best to remain motionless. During the subsequent days, my wife conjured an award-worthy amount of sympathy considering that she had given birth on more than one occasion.

I was feeling pretty good by the third morning until my wife asked why I was bleeding. As it was the weekend, I had to call the “after-hours line” to speak to the doctor on call. When I explained that there was a “breech in the hull” of the Starship Enterprise, he calmly asked if I would describe it as “gaping.”

This sparked a brief discussion on what constituted a “gaping” hole (I believe a quarter was referenced) and I realized that the nature of scrotal wounds tends to be rather subjective. In my estimation, any egress point not sanctioned by the home office was unacceptable, but to a dispassionate medical observer this was simply a brief setback that would resolve itself.

The final hurdle I face is presenting my 16th sample within the strict parameters laid out in the paperwork (fresh and still warm). Depending on traffic and parking availability, this could be challenging to procure in my home and my wife didn’t seem very enthusiastic about fooling around under a blanket in the urology waiting room. If I am pulled over for speeding on my way to deliver the sample you can rest assured that it will necessitate a second blog post.  

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Das (toy) Boot

For the two years I have had the privilege of knowing her, my daughter has been fearless. She will throw herself headfirst down slides that would give pause to children twice her age. She purposefully submerses her entire head during bath time just to see how long she can hold her breath before me or her mother panics. She walked into her first day of full-time childcare as if the presence and reassurance of her parents was already hindering her social ascent.

So you can imagine my surprise when she displayed true, involuntary fear. The catalyst for this reaction? A wind-up toy boat. Months ago my son had received a green speed-boat toy. You could wind a tiny knob affixed to the faux outboard motor and then presumably the boat would speed along the surface of the water creating hours of fun and enjoyment.

In reality, once you wound the boat it would sputter on for about two inches before taking on water and rapidly sinking to the bottom. It was less of a bath-toy than a maritime disaster practice kit. The only accessories missing were hapless crew members and a poorly-maintained life raft. It was for this reason my son had quickly lost interest in the toy and it remained in the bathtub simply because we lacked the will to remove it.

So when my daughter recoiled in horror at one end of the tub, it took process of elimination to determine that the source of her fear was this same toy boat. Somewhat confused, I utilized exaggerated motions to remove the offending craft from the tub and place it into the nearby sink. Reassured but still shaken, she eased herself back into the water but never really took her eye off of the sink where I had placed the toy.

While drying her off, she continued to inquire as to the whereabouts of the green menace. I told her that the boat was “all gone” (utilizing sign language for good measure) and would not bother her again. I mentioned this to my wife but neither of us could understand why this tiny toy was able to locate the chink in my daughter’s psychological armor.

Despite my assurances that the source of her fear was gone, she would continue to inquire as to its whereabouts at odd intervals. Diaper changes, car rides, and even story time would be interrupted by her shaky voice asking “where boat?” One morning when my wife went in to wake her up, she frantically asked to see me. When I got in her room, she clung to me and whimpered “boat get Daddy!” over and over again.

I tried my best to assure her that, statistically speaking, my demise would more than likely be attributable to heart disease or Type 2 diabetes but nothing seemed to calm her fear. Since I hadn’t thrown the boat away, I theorized that I could make a production of destroying it in front of her. Perhaps I could place it in the driveway and make an elaborate display of running over it with the push-mower.

When I ran this idea past my coworkers, one of them pointed out that this would do nothing but transfer her fear from the boat to my push mower (since anything powerful enough to destroy an evil boat must be exponentially more evil). Faced with this airtight logic, I went back to the drawing board.

Eventually my wife, who is far more emotionally perceptive than I can ever hope to be, discovered that my daughter’s newfound fear of boats and their effect on the well-being of her caregivers was attributable to binge-watching the Disney movie Frozen.

As with any classic Disney film, the parents meet an untimely death before the close of the first act. In this case, the parents’ demise occurred when the boat they were on sinks at sea. To Disney’s credit this scene was understated and the emotional gravity was quickly undermined by a musical number, but the idea was there and somehow my daughter had connected the presence of a toy boat with the loss of her parents.

Once again, I was taught a lesson in how perceptive children can be. Ironically, Walt Disney movie studios may be the reason that my family never takes a Walt Disney Cruise line. Perhaps in their next movie, the protagonist’s parents will meet their demise at a Chuck-E-Cheese.