February 14, 2012

Cold Sweats, Drill Bits, and Other Tales of Romance.

Little-known Valentine's Day facts:

-Most historians believe that St. Valentine was never a patron of lovers.

-The first reference to Valentine's Day as a tradition was found in the fictional context of Geoffrey Chaucer's Parliament of Foules. Translated from the Old English, that's "Fools". Irony is fun.

-Although St. Valentine wasn't actually the patron of lovers, he did coin the term "cold sweat" when, in the year 261, he forgot to buy his wife flowers or even a card for their anniversary and was forced to run, in the freezing cold, to the grocery store, which had one disheveled bouquet of carnations left at that hour of the night. He then ran all the way home and, sweating and shivering, handed his wife the wilted bouquet. She was touched by his effort and forgave him, but it was touch and go for a while there. He described his "cold sweat" experience in his blog, and the rest is history.

-47 percent of men in a committed relationship say they dread Valentine's Day.

-63 percent of men say they think Valentine's Day is unfairly slanted in favor of women.

-The average price of a dozen roses increases by over 100 percent on Valentine's Day. This shameless gouging is second only to Mother's Day, when the increase is over 150 percent.

Ever made a Valentine's Day blunder? I sure have. Before we were married, I took my wife to what I remembered to be a very nice restaurant for Valentine's Day. In all fairness, my previous visit to this place left a distinctly better impression on me than it did when we returned. Our table was chipped. The dining room was loud and decidedly not romantic. The food was mediocre, and the service was more of the boisterous hole-in-the-wall variety than the stately and reserved. As kind and gracious as my lovely wife is, I could tell she wasn't thrilled. Luckily, she let me make it up to her and I learned a valuable lesson. And she married me, so I guess it all worked out.

Do you dread Valentine's Day, guys? If so, you're doing it wrong. Women have a hard-wired need to feel loved, and if you show them you love them the rest of the year, you won't need to take out a loan and buy them a trip around the world for Valentine's Day just to make up for the rest. You'll have nothing to make up for. I'm not saying you don't deserve a trip around the world, honey, I'm just saying...oh, you know what I mean. I love you.

An aside: I'll be giving my three-year-old daughter a Valentine's Day rose for the first time this year, and I'm really excited to see the look on her face. She narrated a Valentine's note to me yesterday (our awesome day care provider did the writing), and as I read it and gushed over it, I could see how pleased she was, how loved she felt. And there it was - that female need for love being fulfilled. I also want my boys to see how we treat the women in our lives, how we give them what they need because we love them, not because Geoffrey Chaucer or Hallmark Cards said so.

Maybe someday I'll get a bouquet of hardened-steel screwdrivers and a box of matching drill bits for Valentine's Day, but frankly, I don't care. If I'm doing what it takes to avoid that marital cold sweat, I'm good to go.

December 7, 2011


My wife and I had an argument last night. Okay, not an argument per se, more of a very lively and engaged discussion. There were a number of things we hadn't been able to address for a while due to being short on time and long on fatigue, so we finally went ahead and hashed 'em out. When my beautiful wife reads this, she might not be terribly fond of the idea of me airing our dirty laundry, but I'm doing it for a good reason, so I hope she'll forgive me. Okay honey? Thanks. I love you.

Did I mention that she's very, VERY beautiful? And smart? Yep, that's my wife.

And who doesn't have a little dirty laundry? I've never put much stock in the idea that I should put up a facade of perfection. The perfect marriage, family, and friendship do not, in fact, exist. I think that anyone who pretends they have it all figured out is in for a nasty surprise at some point. Why not just be honest? Ain't none of us perfect, so why pretend? It's exhausting.

So we're not perfect, and we had a heated discussion to air some frustrations. It wasn't entirely pleasant, but it was necessary in order to clear some things up and join forces to start coming up with solutions. I also decided that I would really not mind if there were about four more hours in the day; that extra time would have likely allowed us to talk about these things much sooner than we did. I would also be able to blog more often, and spend more time eating Cheetos. As you know, we have three little munchkins that consume most of our non-work time, and that's just the way things work. We love them with all our hearts, and wouldn't trade a moment of it, but it really cuts down on quality time as a couple if you're not careful. Then, frustrations can fester because you're not talking about them, and resentment can set in, and resentment can be deadly.

I'm a guy. I need cave time, as all guys do. At the end of a fifteen-hour day of work and kids, my brain is about to go caveman, and I'm close to the point at which I start grunting unintelligibly. I need some time alone to process the day, and I'm not always good at leaving my cave to connect with my wife. Our conversation last night really got me thinking about priorities, and I decided mine might not be entirely in order. I went to the ever-reliable internet for answers, and it turns out I've got a mild case of something called "priorititis". WebMD says that symptoms may include sleeplessness, irritability, shortness of breath, spontaneous rash, and unintelligible grunting. I think WebMD is mostly full of it, but at least they got the last one right.

Before we had kids, spending time together came easy. We didn't have to spend our attention and energy on nearly as many things and people. I admit that I've had a hard time getting used to the way things are now, but that's no excuse. An extra four hours in the day would likely help a lot, but since the physics involved in moving our planet the correct extra distance from the sun in order to accomplish that would result in roughly seven billion people-shaped icicles and I don't have that kind of power anyway, I guess I'll make do with the time I have.

And I guess that's part of marriage. You adapt to changes in your life and continue to make each other your top relational priority, or you don't. If you don't, you start to resent. You stop talking about anything meaningful. Over time, you turn cold toward each other. I'm willing to do anything to prevent those things from happening, so it's us that will need to change, not our circumstances. Or the earth's orbit.

Over our years together, when out for dinner, we've occasionally seen an elderly couple sitting at a table nearby who, throughout their entire meal, say barely a word to each other. They don't make much eye contact. They don't smile at each other. We always say we don't want to become "that couple", and really, what couple does? But so many couples don't understand in their early years what it takes to avoid it, the sheer amount of effort, work, and time that are necessary. "Happily ever after" falls apart if you don't work at it together after the credits roll on the love story.

Don't get me wrong. "Ever after" can be happy. But it's a long road, and you have to arrive together and still liking each other most of the time for that to happen. You can't grunt your way through it, letting your "priorititis" get increasingly worse. Thankfully, I think I'm on the road to recovery.

October 27, 2011

In Which I Forget My Own Birthday

In true sleep-deprived parent fashion, it appears I've forgotten my own birthday. Not my personal birthday, although that gets more tempting every year, but that of the Used Diaper Salesman. The Salesman turned one year old a couple of weeks ago, and to celebrate I picked up a cake that I thought would fit the occasion nicely.

Image copyright CakeCentral.com

One year old feels more like thirty-three to me, and thirty-three sometimes feels like seventy-three. Hence the Depends. You can never be too careful with incontinence.

It's been a fun year. My kids have grown, learned new words, and gone through fun phases. Some of those phases have been fun in the masochistic sense of the word. I've enjoyed every bit of it, however, because they're my kids and I love them, human nature, growing pains, and all. My goal as a parent is to build a lasting relationship with my kids that is based on trust and kindness, to teach them the values and good habits that will help them succeed in life. What you see here represents my best, albeit sometimes weak, attempts at that. Also, it's possible that my kids will someday choose my senior living arrangements, and I really want them to put me in a place that has cable and decent food. Got that, kids?

I don't have a whole lot else to say about what I hope is the first of many such milestones for our intrepid hero, the Used Diaper Salesman, so I thought I'd recap the year with a countdown of five of my favorite posts. Here they are; I hope you enjoy them. Again.

5. Don't forget to celebrate "Stick a Pen Up Your Nose" Day!

4. The origins of Ellie's swearing habit.

3. A celebration of all that is marriage and Frankie Sinatra.

1. How the ***** Stole Christmas, part one and part two. I know it's cheating to put two in one, but you can't have one without the other. The video in part two is an all-time classic.

I could easily add a lot more. It's fun to live out my family's events, milestones, and hilarity in writing with the knowledge that I have an indelible record of life I can show my kids when they're twenty and forty and sixty, assuming the world doesn't come to a screeching halt before then. I can show my grandkids all the sweet and embarrassing things their parents did when they were kids, assuming my nursing home has internet access. Still listening, kids?

It's strangely therapeutic to laugh and cry for all to see. And by "all", I mean you awesome people who take the time to join the brave and daring Salesman on his adventures.

Thanks for being there, friends. I appreciate you. Stay tuned!

October 20, 2011

Brady and the Excellent, Awesome, Super Great, Very Cool Day

Brady is the kind of kid who really thrives on one-on-one attention. Almost anytime we're hanging out at home, he'll usually ask, "Daddy do you want to play with me?" The answer, of course, is "Yes!", but with two other kids and various other responsibilities, "can" and "want to" don't always coincide, so he just has to entertain himself a good deal of the time. As my old buddy Frankie Sinatra used to say, that's life.

So it was with great anticipation that Brady woke up yesterday morning, an epic day of father-son fun ahead of him. My wife is a teacher and had to be at work all day, and the younger kids were at day care, but Brady didn't have school, so I took a day off  to spend with him. In the days leading up to it, he asked me at least a dozen times what we were going to do on our "special day". I kept some of it a secret, but gave him just enough for him to get really pumped. And boy, was he pumped.

We started the day by hitting McDonald's for some breakfast burritos, which are in Brady's top five list of things that are truly awesome. He told me he would have three but that I could only have one. I told him I would get pretty hungry with only one of those little things, but he said I could have a banana if I was still hungry. I'm glad to see our attempts at getting him to eat healthier food are rubbing off.

Fortified with bananas and burritos, we set sail for Fleet Farm, which I affectionately call the Man Mall. I got my hunting license and some other things we needed for the house, and we picked up a new winter jacket for Brady since he grows like a weed and the one we had seems to have shrunk three sizes since last winter. Fleet Farm has an awesome toy department during the holiday season which is conveniently located in the exact center of the store, so you can't go shopping without walking through it or taking a three mile detour to go around it. It's huge, sparkly, and has a siren song that calls to any kid who walks through the doors. Brady heard that song loud and clear, and I didn't mind because I love cool toys as much as the next guy. Finally, I tore myself...er, Brady away from the toy guns by telling him that Christmas is coming soon and that he could add the things he wants to his Christmas list. He got a smug look on his face, probably thinking about Santa huffing and puffing from trying to lug around such a full sack of toys. Life is so simple when you're five.

With a last wistful look at the tool set I want, we hit the checkout line and our day began in earnest. On the way to the museum of natural history in Minneapolis, we talked about convertibles and socks. We saw a convertible which, like all convertibles, looked a little funny with its top up, and once Brady learned what it was, he pretended that we were in a convertible and kept telling me how cold he was with the top down. Regarding the socks, he recently learned that he wears a size M for medium. He told me that I wear size E for enormous and that when he grows up, he will wear size H for huge. Hard to argue with that. He's a big boy.

Naturally, the museum turned out to be paradise for taxidermists and curious five-year-olds. Imagine being three and a half feet tall and looking up at a bull moose that weighed over half a ton back when he was still grazing on real grass and has a shoulder height about as tall as your daddy. Brady was in awe. He did a little bird-watching, and the birds sat perfectly still.

Hi favorite part of the museum, of course, was the touch and see room, where you can play with antlers, snakes, and dinosaur bones. He thought this was pretty funny:

Then he stuck his head into a cool little biosphere. When he got out, I told that he'd probably have corn growing out of his ears pretty soon, which got me a "You're crazy, dad." look.

Then, after listening to the ocean in some seashells for a while, he decided he was now an expert on everything he'd seen and that he was ready to go. On the way out, he took a brief ride on the back of a wolf that was stalking a moose. He told me I should get up on the moose's back, but that looked painful from where I was standing, so we headed for the car.

He was pretty quiet on the ride back. I commented that it was kind of a gray day, and he said, "Yeah, it's a down in the blues kind of day." Then Maroon 5 came on the radio with "Moves Like Jagger" and he sang right along, only in his version, the chorus goes "...I got to mooove my jacket, I got to mooove my jacket, I got to moo-oo-oo-oo-oove my jacket." I like a good mondegreen (Google it), and his was the best one I'd heard in a while. He laughed at the song's funny lyrics. No down in the blues for that guy.

We also talked about dreams. His dreams right now are to go deer hunting with a Tommy gun (I didn't have the heart to tell him that isn't exactly legal) and to work where I work when he grows up. "Right next to you, daddy.", he said. I love that kid.

With our bananas and burritos wearing off, we decided to demolish the lunch buffet at a pizza place. And demolish it we did. When I returned from a trip to the buffet for a pizza refill, a glass of Sprite had appeared on our table. "I ordered it for you!", he said, before drinking half of it himself. We were headed for a movie next, so I told him that if he drank too much, he would have to go potty right in the middle of the movie. He just waved me off.

Finally, we went to see The Lion King in 3D, which was super cool. But before the movie, we played Mario Kart in the arcade. This game is not about winning the race, it's about knocking your opponent silly with turtle shells.

Brady has a habit of using his outside voice to ask questions about movies. It's loud in those theaters, so naturally, he has to make himself heard. We got a crusty look from a mom who was there with her three perfectly-behaved kids, and I smiled back, secure in the knowledge that my kid was WAY more fun than her three put together. And sure enough, just as the sun was rising over the Savannah and the chorus of voices began to swell to start the opening sequence of The Lion King, Brady had to go potty. We missed Simba being born, which prompted more questions later.

What a day. We ate junk food, shopped for manly things and toys, checked out a bunch of dead animals, ate more junk food, played video games, and got to wear really cool glasses to a movie. For a day, we were in a constant state of hakuna matata.

And we talked. We were just together, and when the day was over, he was tired but very pleased with our adventures. I told him that I love to hang out with him and he just gave me a big hug. Time spent is what makes Brady's heart thrive, and I could tell he was flying high. I remember the times when my dad spent a morning's worth of father-son time with just me when I was Brady's age, and how important I felt, how cool it was to eat doughnuts for breakfast, to listen to him give me advice and teach me things about the world, or just talk about nothing in particular. I want to carry on the tradition with my kids, to show them how precious they are to me.

This is the junk food version of the Circle of Life. And it is good.

October 4, 2011

You Know You're a Parent of a Toddler...

...if you've ever polished off an entire pot of coffee and felt no less tired.

...if you can recite any children's book beginning to end without looking at the book.

...if your beer money has now become your diaper money.

...if you've ever had to sheepishly notify grocery store staff that they have a cleanup in aisles five, seven, and ten during a single trip to the store.

...if you prefer the smell of baby hair to almost any other smell on earth.

...if, as a result of that last statement, you sometimes use Johnson's baby shampoo in your own hair. Just admit it. It's okay.

...if you buy Cheerios and Goldfish crackers by the metric ton.

...if you consider waking up at 7:30 AM to be sleeping in.

...if you own stock in any major diaper manufacturer. May as well get some of that money back, eh?

...if you consider having poop on your hands to be no big deal.

...if you would calmly offer your cupped hands as a perfectly acceptable place for someone to vomit when the toilet is too far away.

...if you know the names of ALL the Disney princesses.

...if you have no problem whatsoever with eating leftovers from someone else's plate.

...if you eat peanut butter and jelly AND macaroni and cheese in the same week on a regular basis.

...if your must-have criteria for buying a new car include a DVD player, spill-proof vinyl upholstery, and doors that make it easy for kids to get in and out. This car has a name, and it is MINI-VAN.

...if packing for a trip requires three days and a list as long as your arm.

...if you've ever found an entire roll of unwound toilet paper piled in the toilet.

...if you've ever found smooshed green beans or peas hidden in a pair of socks.

...if you get annoyed by any loud music after 8:00 PM.

...if you can unfold and lock a stroller one-handed.

...if you've ever had any song by The Wiggles stuck in your head.

...if you enjoy complete silence more than the average person.

...if you break up more fights than a boxing referee.

...if you gave a sardonic nod of agreement at least ten times while reading this list.

I thought this little exercise would be fun, and I was right. This list could go on and on, because kids are the gift that keeps on giving, just like that Wiggles song stuck in your head.

And speaking of going on and on (no really, I'm almost done), please feel free to add your own contributions to the list. I've barely scratched the surface here.

Have a great day!