Asshole.

I’m going to preface this post by saying that there is nothing right about it. It’s all wrong. I mean, wait. Don’t misunderstand; it’s all accurate, but it’s wrong. So wrong.

My kid is an asshole. And I say this with complete confidence because I know that all 4-year-olds are assholes. I know it. I have done enough primary and secondary research to be able to definitively make this statement. And I have evidence, too. Plenty of it. So, don’t start with how awesome they are and how cute and loving and whatever. I know. I hear your counter-argument and I respectfully disagree.

I offer you these examples. Read them and then see if you can really stand there and tell me that 4-year-olds are not assholes. Go ahead.

  1. When I am trying to walk somewhere, he decides he wants to walk in the exact same place and doesn’t give a shit that someone else is trying to walk there, too. I am forced to hold his head with my hand to keep him in one place so I can squeeze through the doorframe before him. Then…
  2. …he complains that I messed up his hair when I was trying to pass him.
  3. On his way to do anything I have asked him to do, and after he has asked the mandatory “how come?” at least twice, he takes baby steps to do it. With a pouty face on like I am asking him to shoot the neighbor’s dog instead of go pee before he puts his clothes on.
  4. From the back seat: “Put my music on!” “I can’t HEAR it!”
  5. Interrupting.
  6. Interrupting.
  7. Interrupting.

There is, of course, more. But I’m gonna let Louis CK explain the rest of it to you. This is in no way safe for work. Or children. Or anyone who doesn’t have kids, frankly. There’s a lot of cursing. And oh so much truth.

(The relevant part is between 3:17 and 5:28.)
The Kids Do You In

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Asshole.

I’m going to preface this post by saying that there is nothing right about it. It’s all wrong. I mean, wait. Don’t misunderstand; it’s all accurate, but it’s wrong. So wrong.

My kid is an asshole. And I say this with complete confidence because I know that all 4-year-olds are assholes. I know it. I have done enough primary and secondary research to be able to definitively make this statement. And I have evidence, too. Plenty of it. So, don’t start with how awesome they are and how cute and loving and whatever. I know. I hear your counter-argument and I respectfully disagree.

I offer you these examples. Read them and then see if you can really stand there and tell me that 4-year-olds are not assholes. Go ahead.

  1. When I am trying to walk somewhere, he decides he wants to walk in the exact same place and doesn’t give a shit that someone else is trying to walk there, too. I am forced to hold his head with my hand to keep him in one place so I can squeeze through the doorframe before him. Then…
  2. …he complains that I messed up his hair when I was trying to pass him.
  3. On his way to do anything I have asked him to do, and after he has asked the mandatory “how come?” at least twice, he takes baby steps to do it. With a pouty face on like I am asking him to shoot the neighbor’s dog instead of go pee before he puts his clothes on.
  4. From the back seat: “Put my music on!” “I can’t HEAR it!”
  5. Interrupting.
  6. Interrupting.
  7. Interrupting.

There is, of course, more. But I’m gonna let Louis CK explain the rest of it to you. This is in no way safe for work. Or children. Or anyone who doesn’t have kids, frankly. There’s a lot of cursing. And oh so much truth.

(The relevant part is between 3:17 and 5:28.)
The Kids Do You In

Giving.

I was at the library the other day and a friend of mine was reading The Giving Tree. She was planning to check it out (and still may have) when I commented about how much I hated that book. She looked shocked.

I am no stranger to having unpopular parenting opinions. I don’t like my kid to play pirate, I am totally anti-Disney, and I refuse to lie to my kid about Santa Claus. I’m not saying I’m a perfect parent by any means and I am sure I make plenty of choices that other people disagree with (like not insisting that he eat certain foods over others.) But good-natured teasing and judgment aside, I am still sticking to my beliefs. And not reading The Giving Tree to my kid is one of them.

Today, I stumbled on this article in my feed and I was so relieved to hear that I wasn’t alone in my opinion. Although I do love Shel Silverstein (and we regularly read from his poetry books) I do not love The Giving Tree. I think that it sends the message that not only is it ok to take and take and take from our someone who is offering, but also to not reciprocate or even say thank you. On the surface, the story is about greedily destroying nature for one’s own gain, which in and of itself is problematic, but the real issue for me is the personification of the tree and the message it sends about interpersonal dynamics. Four-year-olds will identify the tree with his or her parents or teachers or other adults and will believe that these people are only there to give. And give and give and give, even to the extent to which it destroys the giver. This is not the worldview I want my kid to grow up with. I know, I know. It’s just one book. But it’s not. It’s the compounding of problematic messages via books, movies, television, and advertising that I am trying to mitigate while I still have control of the reins.

I know I will change my tune on a lot of things as the timing seems appropriate. I’m not laying down any hard and fast rules; even with only four years of parenting under my belt, I know how unrealistic that is. I was the mom who wasn’t going to let her kid watch any TV and, well, we all know how that turned out. And I am the mom who swears that her kid is not going to Disney World, but who knows what will happen in another four or five years. (For the record, my biggest beef with Disney is that the messages of sexism, misogyny,  racism, and classism are way too big for preschoolers to grapple with; yet, they are the target audience. Disney, in the name of making [a jillion] buck[s], thrusts troubling messages at little kids who are much too immature to properly process these things. I fully expect that my kid will end up watching and loving some Disney stuff. In fact, he has already seen a few of the more innocuous ones — mostly without my permission or knowledge until after the fact — but my hope is that I am able to stave off his Disneyfication until he is old enough to grasp some of the subtle messages being fed to him and have conversations about them. Maybe that’s overly optimistic of me, but it’s what I am hoping for.)

Aaaaanyway. So, yeah. The Giving Tree. Not a fan. (And since we’re talking about unpopular opinions about kids’ books, I also hate Love You Forever and won’t read that one to him either. It’s creepy.) Do you have any unpopular parenting “rules”? Any books you refuse to read or movies you won’t show?

Day.

I can’t imagine that hearing about my daily routine is all that interesting to anyone, but DresdenWest Philly Mama, and Cecily seem to be seeking descriptions from people, and I’m always up for a good meme.

That said, my days vary through the week, depending on whether The Who is at school or not and whether it’s a teaching day for me or not. But, each week cycles through the same series of days.

7am (if we’re lucky, and lately we have been):
The Who wakes up, comes into my bedroom, and pretty much insists that I get out of bed immediately and make him breakfast. If m* is taking the day off, she will handle this task. If not, she is generally already in the shower and getting ready to leave. She might make his morning chocolate milk (unsweetened vanilla almond milk with a squeeze of Trader Joe’s chocolate syrup, and a half-cap of Miralax, nuked for 45 seconds, and shaken (not stirred) and give it to him, but it is never long before he wants food.

7:05am:
Downstairs, making breakfast (and coffee.) Either scrambled eggs (with which he insists on helping) or toast with butter and cheese. Sometimes he asks if he can have “snacks” for breakfast and proceeds to pour various items into small snack bowls for himself (TJ’s cheese sandwich crackers, Ranch flavored soy crisps, Peanut Butter Bumpers cereal.) My only breakfast requirement is that it include some kind of protein. He loves the soy crisps for this reason.

7:20am:
Breakfast at the table. This used to be breakfast in the living room, watching a show, but we have changed that up so we only allow eating in front of the TV on weekends. (If it’s a teaching day for me, I leave him at the table eating breakfast while I shower and get dressed. I pick out his clothes and toss them down the stairs.)

7:40am:
If it’s not a teaching day, there is Netflix (Caillou, lately) or YouTube watching via AppleTV while I check email/Facebook/Instagram and otherwise chill. (Today, for example, I let a succession of various cake-making how-tos run on and on while I snoozed on the couch. He loves that shit. Don’t even ask.)

If it is a teaching day, I give him my phone to play games after he finishes breakfast. I get him dressed fast, pack his lunch (almost always the same: 4 Quorn nuggets, TJ’s ketchup, fruit — usually grapes, something crunchy — usually dry cereal or pretzels, a small handful of dark chocolate m&ms, bottle of water), pack up my laptop, and am out the door. I drop him at school by 8:30, drive to the city, stop at Dunkies, and teach two classes in a row. Then I end up at Panera (generally) to grade/plan/goof off/eat lunch, and pick him up by 5. 

If it’s not a teaching day for me, but is a school day for him, I am a little more relaxed about getting him up and out, but generally have him at school by 9:30 at the latest. Then it’s a crap shoot. I could spend the whole day at Panera working, if it’s a heavy grading time. If it’s not (which it isn’t just yet at this point in the term) I will have breakfast at Panera and stay there ’til about noon (reading FB, blogging, editing) and then run errands, paint t-shirts, or see a movie.

9am on a non-school day:
We go upstairs and I send The Who to his room to choose his clothes for the day while I relish a few moments of quiet on my bed. He gets himself dressed in my room (as best as he can — still not independent with socks and shirts) and I send him down to play.

9:05-9:40:
I shower, check email, maybe play some BingoRush, leisurely moisturize, and dress. (That is, if he is engaged in play on his own downstairs, which he usually is. Sometimes he comes upstairs, which is ok, as long as he is just playing in my room and not including me in his play.)

9:40:
Shoes on, dishes into the sink (from the table, where they have likely been since breakfast), lights off, and out to the car for whatever adventure we might be going on. Might be the zoo, might be the museum, might be a bunch of errands, might be a playground, or a walk into town. Today, it was some running around (literally) at the mall with friends and then the library. I try hard to make plans and keep us out of the house until close to dinnertime. It helps keep me sane. On Mondays, we often meet up with our playgroup in the afternoon and don’t get home until 5:30 or so. And, starting next week, we will have Spanish class on Monday afternoons during that same time.

5ish-6ishpm:
From here on, it’s the same no matter which night it is, whether we have come home from an outing or school pick-up. I work on making dinner while The Who plays alone. Sometimes this is a struggle and sometimes it’s a little bit of an argument, but usually once we get past the part where he asks me to play and I say I have to make dinner and my answer isn’t going to change, he settles into something himself. Today, it was a very involved game that included his car rug and some fire trucks.

6ish:
Dinner in the dining room. Sometimes m* is home by now and if she is, she joins us. Sometimes she isn’t. We eat when we’re ready, whether she is there or not because we jointly decided that it’s always better to feed him earlier if it’s ready than to wait for a family dinner during the witching hour, when he is (and, let’s face it — all of us are) potentially melting down.

6:30:
The Who sits on the pot and reads while m* and I stare blankly into space on the couch and/or chat about our days and/or stare at our phones/ipads.

6:45pm:
I take The Who up and give him a bath or shower (his choice) and get him (and myself) into jammies. I set out two books on his bed, and send him to go get m* for storytime. She joins us and I read two stories. We have “family hug”, m* says goodnight, turns off the light, and goes downstairs. I sing the ABCs while massaging Aquaphor into The Who’s scar and then I sing two songs of his choosing. Lately, I have also been snuggling with him for 5 minutes or so after songs. I turn on his Twilight Turtle (once he has chosen which color projection he wants), turn on his noise machine, and go downstairs.

7:15pm:
Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah. I sit on the couch with m* and we watch a couple of the many shows we have on our DVR before she hits the sack at 9:30. If it’s Tuesday or Thursday, I have my laptop open and I tutor online from 8-10ish. If it’s Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday, or Sunday, I usually just have my phone and periodically check email/Facebook through the night.

11ish:
I sleepily meander into the kitchen to do the dishes and pack m*’s lunch for the next day.

11:30:
I play a couple of rounds of BingoRush in bed, then turn on the LouisCK Pandora station on my phone, set the  sleep timer for 35 minutes, and go to sleep.

Weekend mornings are a whole different animal because m* graciously and wonderfully allows me to sleep in. Often, The Who comes up multiple times to tell me things, but I still get to lay around in bed as long as I want. I usually come downstairs by 9 or 9:30, make some eggs or pancakes, and get The Who and I out of the house for some activity by 11 or so. Sometimes m* will come with us on an outing, but generally this is her time to be home alone and we come back as dinnertime approaches.

So, what about you? I have actually loved reading these daily routines and I want to hear yours. Not even kidding.

 

 

Dogs.

You know what we all need more of? Tubular meat.

No, really.

There is an abundance of hot dogs around here, but none of them is particularly good. Certainly not gourmet. (What? Hot dogs can be gourmet. Shut up.) I mean, anyone can walk into a Wawa and grab a 99-cent wiener and it will be ok. It might even hit the spot. But it’s not a destination dog. It’s not a “Ooh, I really want a hot dog for lunch!” dog. It’s a “while I’m here, I’ll grab a dog” dog.

This is not the case at My Three Sons Hot Dog and Beer Emporium. Big name for a little place. But, y’know, it fits. It is, in fact, a beer emporium. There’s an entire case of craft and local brews and I’m told that although there aren’t any ciders representin’, there will be. (There’s also a case of Hank’s soda and bottled water, too.)

This is only a partial shot of all the beer. It's a lotta beer.

This is only a partial shot of all the beer. It’s a lotta beer.

For me, though, it wasn’t the beer that lured me in; it was the promise of a crazy good hot dog. (And let’s face it, a hot dog only needs to be mediocre at best to lure The Who in. He was game from the moment I mentioned it.)

Let me talk to you first about the vinyl tile on the floor. Just go with me. It’s grass, you guys. It’s like, each individual tile is printed with a macro photograph of green, green grass. And then the ceiling is painted sky blue. (You see where I’m going with this, right?) Then there are these impossibly shiny shellacked picnic tables and an old-school hot dog cart parked near the door, stocked with straws, condiments, and utensils. It’s a kicky little place.

The Who was totally enamored with the salt and pepper shakers. He asked to go back there especially to see them.

The Who was totally enamored with the salt and pepper shakers. He asked to go back there especially to see them.

Old school Ms. Pac-Man! The owner set The Who up (with my permission) and it was really fun to hear him talking about Inky and Pinky and the gang.

Old school Ms. Pac-Man! The owner set The Who up (with my permission) and it was really fun to hear him talking about Inky and Pinky and the gang.

The menu is limited, but delicious. If you want anything other than a hot dog, you’re out of luck. There are no alternatives and no vegetarian options, but what they do have is stellar. The hot dog is 10″. Ten. Inches. And it’s stuffed into a custom-sized, pillow-soft bun. The owner tells me that he makes regular pilgrimages to New York to buy the dogs and you can tell by the snap when you bite into it that it’s quality stuff. There are probably 10 or 15 different kinds of dogs you can get, including the one with chili, cheese, and crushed Fritos (which is the one I got) and the one with homemade sauerkraut and melted Swiss (which is the one I brought home for m*.) The dogs are all named after the cities that made them famous. Like the ‘Troit, which is “topped with onions, mustard, and our renowned, illustrious Detroit Sauce – consisting of a blend of ground beef, tomato sauce, chili powder, and unique, proprietary seasoning!” Proprietary seasoning! That sounds enticing, doesn’t it? The “Cally” has fresh avocados on it and I personally can’t wait to try the “Emerald” which has cream cheese and Sriracha (among other things.)

I forgot to take a picture of this before I took a bite. That's how good it was.

I forgot to take a picture of this before I took a bite. That’s how good it was.

Added bonus: they totally cut up The Who's plain dog before serving it. You wouldn't think that would be such a selling point -- unless you've been on the cutting end and had the joy of hot-dog smell on your hands all afternoon.

Added bonus: they totally cut up The Who’s plain dog before serving it. You wouldn’t think that would be such a selling point — unless you’ve been on the cutting end and had the joy of hot-dog smell on your hands all afternoon.

Here’s the downlow: if you’re local and you enjoy a mouthful of wiener (just stop it right now), go to My Three Sons and have lunch. Bring your kid because he will like it too. Even love it. Mine did.

Tell ya what. The friendly guys at My Three Sons will even give a free dog to one lucky commenter. That’s a 6-buck value (these are not cheap dogs, but they’re worth it.) You can even comment and win if you’re not local and donate your win back to the pool. I’ll make sure someone gets to use it. So, let me know what you love about hot dogs. Or what you love about beer. Or what you love about homemade macaroni salad (because they got that, too!) and I’ll enter you into the contest.

This was made an hour before I ate it. He makes all his own side salads (macaroni, cole slaw, and potato) and they're awesome. Fresh and tangy.

This was made an hour before I ate it. He makes all his own side salads (macaroni, cole slaw, and potato) and they’re awesome. Fresh and tangy.

Like their Facebook page and tell me that you did, and I’ll enter you twice. Link to this post on your own blog and tell me you did and I’ll enter you yet again!

Also? I am totally going there as soon as I publish this post. I think I’ll try the LaMontagne today (with a side of minty gum for after!)

***I was not compensated in any way for this review. I’m not even getting a free dog outta the deal, though The Who did get a free gummy hot dog candy. I don’t think it was in exchange for anything, though.

Bullet.

  • Yesterday we went to the Please Touch Museum. First of all, YES. This museum is awesome. This is not news to me and I may have even made a similar declaration here before, but it bears repeating. We were members of this museum when The Who was 2 and we used it a lot. I even kind of though we had “used it up” or that he was outgrowing it. But then we went again when he was 3 and all of a sudden, it was a different place. There were new things he was into. Different stuff he could reach. Other rooms that didn’t interest him as a toddler (the “space” room, for example) became an exciting destination as a preschooler. And that keeps happening. He spends more and more time in different places and it doesn’t seem like he is going to tire of it any time soon. Lucky for us, West Philly Mama has a family membership and graciously takes us along with her. We have decided that Mondays are the best because there are no school groups visiting the museum on Mondays. It’s chill and calm and every time is more fun than the last. (Plus, collaboratively, we keep finding new benches to park our rears on as our increasingly independent kids find their ways.) Our goal is to try to make it there as many Mondays as we can. It’s the perfect way to spend 5 hours on a raw winter afternoon. (Yes. Five hours. That’s how long we can spend there without even a single meltdown. Knock wood.)
    There are books everywhere in this place. Here, I'm reading to the kids from books placed in little bins next to benches in the line for the carousel. It's almost like they built this museum with kids in mind!

    There are books everywhere in this place. Here, I’m reading to the kids from books placed in little bins next to benches in the line for the carousel. It’s almost like they built this museum with kids in mind!

    Random yoga class on the purple carpet in the main hall. We were just passing by and The Who popped in for some Downward Dog.

    Random yoga class on the purple carpet in the main hall. We were just passing by and The Who popped in for some Downward Dog.

    And a little tree pose.

    And a little tree pose.

    I enjoy a winter day that is warm enough not to wear a jacket.

    I enjoy a winter day that is warm enough not to wear a jacket.

  • Last week, we went to the zoo. I used to be very anti-zoo. I didn’t like the ways in which the animals were cooped up and set out for display and although I still fundamentally feel the same, I love going to the zoo with The Who. The Philadelphia Zoo is a price-gouging establishment. $2 for a vending-machine bag of Skittles. Really. Twelve dollars to park. Photo-taking vultures at every little statue, offering to sell you the same shot you can take yourself. But, with a membership, it’s delightful. It’s a beautiful walk and there are lots of options for any kind of weather. The aviary is a total warm refuge in the winter and I’m psyched for the new Children’s Zoo that’s supposed to open this Spring. Plus — bonus! With our membership we can bring West Philly Mama along with us and repay her for all the free Please Touch visits!
  • We went to Boston a few weeks ago and are going up again in a couple of weeks. Then, in March, The Who and I will embark on a cross-country flight to Seattle. This morning, when he told me he wanted to go to France to see the Eiffel Tower, I told him that I did, too. And that we would when he was a little older. But that, in the meantime, we could look forward to taking the elevator up the Space Needle this spring. I showed him some pictures of both the Needle itself and the elevator. I don’t know if he will have the cajones to do it once we’re actually there, but for now, it’s fun to plan and think about. West coast! So excited!
  • We visited a new, local hot dog joint. I’mma review it for you and offer up a free 10-inch gourmet dog to one lucky reader. Soon.

    Good dog.

    Good dog.

Gravy.

I am not a chef. I am not even a cook. I mean, I cook because it’s my job in our household’s division of labor and I actually do take pleasure in feeding my wife and kid, but it’s neither my passion nor my strength. What I can do, though, is follow a recipe. And if I can just remember never to stray from the recipe, all will be well.

My crafty personality lends itself to recipe following. I have very clean and even knife-cuts. I am a careful measurer. I won’t empty any cup measure unless it’s level. I don’t do “dash” or “pinch” or “season with salt and pepper.” I want to know exactly how much and then I will put that exact amount in and it will come out good.

I have been trying for nine years to make a good gravy. (The first clue that this would be a problem for me is that I think gravy should be brown and made from flour and chicken drippings. But my Italian wife tells me that gravy is actually pasta sauce.) I have tried experimentation, seasoning plain tomato sauce with things that seemed like they would be tasty, in random amounts. Dried basil, garlic salt. (Just writing that hurts my feelings, now that I know the error of my ways.) Then I sought recipes from restaurants that I had visited and for a while, I thought I had a decent one (from Ralph’s, which used to post its recipes online, but now seems to have retracted them and has published a cookbook.) It was incredibly labor-intensive, but it tasted pretty good. Ish.

I kind of gave up, I have to say. The Ralph’s recipe — the best one I had — wasn’t really cutting it and I sort of believed that I just couldn’t master it. In retrospect, I realize that minced, jarred garlic is NOT fresh, minced garlic and dried parsley and basil are no substitutes for fresh. That just might have made the difference. It’s irrelevant, though, anyway because I have found my new bible: Italian Food Forever. (Please ignore the stupid name, which seems like it should be scrawled in pink pen on the back of a Mead wire-bound notebook with a heart around it.) It’s crazy, you guys. It’s just a huge biggest Italian cookbook right there for the taking. And it doesn’t suck.

Witness: successful gravy! The other night, I made the basic marinara sauce, which seriously took 5 minutes. It was great that night and even better the next. Then tonight, I made Bolognese, which I have never made before and it was a big hit. Perhaps contributing to its awesomeness is the four types of fresh meat I got from the butcher this morning and the perfect recipe-following, which I am known for. (Known only by me, but that’s enough.)

The Bolognese, half-done. In there: beef, veal, chicken liver, proscuitto, carrots, celery, onion, oil, butter, salt, pepper, nutmeg, hot pepper flakes. Still to come: chopped tomatoes, tomato paste, and beef broth. Next time, I will eliminate the chicken liver because, although I actually like the flavor of liver, I didn't enjoy getting little chunks of it in the sauce.

The Bolognese, half-done. In there: beef, veal, chicken liver, proscuitto, carrots, celery, onion, oil, butter, salt, pepper, nutmeg, hot pepper flakes. Still to come: chopped tomatoes, tomato paste, and beef broth. Next time, I will eliminate the chicken liver because, although I actually like the flavor of liver, I didn’t enjoy getting little chunks of it in the sauce.

The sauces were offered with this pasta bar that I served for a board meeting tonight. Peas, toasted pine nuts, fresh basil, oil-cured olives, marinated mushrooms, marinated artichoke hearts, cannelloni beans, and two [unpictured] heads of roasted garlic.

The sauces were offered with this pasta bar that I served for a board meeting tonight. Peas, toasted pine nuts, fresh basil, oil-cured olives, marinated mushrooms, marinated artichoke hearts, cannelloni beans, and two [unpictured] heads of roasted garlic.

I don’t have anything else for you. There’s no tidy wrap-up or touching moral. I’m just really psyched that I found some gravies that I can add into my regular rotation. The end.