Saturday, January 31, 2009

The Doughnut Tree

One of Ethan's Christmas presents included a set of pretend play
food --
everything from plastic ears of corn to grapes to French fries to a box of Hamburger Helper. And olive oil.

This morning we were playing:

"Daddy, I picked this apple from the apple tree."

"Oh, thank you. It's delicious."

"And I picked this doughnut from the doughnut tree."

Am I Married?

This afternoon, on the patio:

"Mommy, am I married?"

"I don't know, Ethan. Is there something you're not telling us?"


"Ask Daddy."

"Daddy, am I married?"

"Hmmm. Thanks, Mommy. You're still single as far as I know."

"Yeah, yeah. I'm single. Yeah, right. I'm single."

"Don't rush into anything, though, okay? You're young. You've got your freedom. You've got your whole life. No reason to hurry."

"Why did you get married?"

"Why? Well, first of all, not everyone gets married, but for us, Mommy and Daddy, we just decided to."


"Mommy and Daddy really like each other and so we wanted to get married. Plus we needed some new plates."


"Yeah, our old ones were pretty bad."

Friday, January 30, 2009

Lollipop Rain

Last week, on the rainy drive to school:

"Those guys are dancing, Daddy."

"Who's dancing?"

"Those guys. There."

"Where? Outside?"

"No. The wipers."

"Oh. The windshield wipers are dancing."


"You're right. They are. They're dancing."

"I wish there would be a lollipop rain."

"You wish it would rain lollipops? That would be cool."

"Green lollipops. It would rain and then I could eat some."

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Movies Is Magic

Tonight at dinner:

"Guess what, Mommy? I have movies in my eyes."

"Wow. Really?"

"How I get them is I close my eyes super-tightly."

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Coffee Talk

This morning:



"I wish the sun were the moon."

"You do?"

"And I wish that coffee could talk. That would be funny."

Friday, January 23, 2009

Roberts: Thou Shalt Not Split Infinitives

I've been fascinated by the whole presidential oath of office flub. Thankfully, blame has fallen on the proper party: Chief Justice John Roberts.

But could Roberts's screw-up have to do with the fact that he was performing a little impromptu copy editing of the Constitution?

That's what Steven Pinker proposes in a New York Times op-ed piece.

He says that Roberts, a "famous stickler for grammar" who has a "habit of grammatical niggling" (e.g., when quoting Bob Dylan's "Like a Rolling Stone" he took out an offending "ain't"), purposefully pushed the word "faithfully" to the end of the sentence.

Why? According to Pinker, Roberts couldn’t help himself and didn’t want to commit what he considers to be a syntactical sin and utter a split infinitive aloud. (The most famous split infinitive: "to boldly go where no man has gone before." In the case of the presidential oath, the split infinitive is "I will faithfully execute the office of president of the United States." There are some fanatics [not me] who believe you should never ever split an infinitive. These folks would argue that Captain Kirk -- no doubt distracted by yet another green-complexioned special lady friend -- should have said: "to go boldly..." instead, thus putting the adverb after the main verb of the sentence. BTW, another Roberts's gaff: he actually said "office of the president to the United States" rather than the correct "office of the president of the United States.")

I'm not sure if I completely buy Pinker's theory (was Roberts just nervous? did he simply not remember the oath correctly?), but it's an interesting piece. And any time the subject of the split infinitive makes news, I'm very happy.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Mother's Little Helper

Typical suburban scene: Friday night, late-ish, squeezing in a last-minute food run at Trader Joe's before they close.

It's one of those rare shopping trips that's kid-less, and I'm pathetically basking in the freedom of the moment and the freedom from answering questions like "Why are melons round?" and, well, just freedom. Sad, but it's come to this. And I'm okay with that. Sort of.

And I'm inspecting the southern region of the frozen aisle, having just picked up a new pesto and tomato flatbread I've never seen before. Straight ahead I see a mom, a four-year-old boy and a baby. The baby's in a car seat which itself is in the shopping cart.

An older gentleman offers a comment to the mom, after the young boy has put something in the cart: "You've got a great little helper there," he says.

The mother gives one of those tired, exasperated mom looks without making eye contact with the kindly well-meaning older gentleman.

"Sometimes," sighs the mother, and she starts pushing her cart, moving on.


And that got me thinking.

I've been in the same situation, many times, and I might have said the exact same thing (I don't remember). But why "sometimes"? Why not: "He sure is." Or: "Yep, we're real proud of our little slugger." Or: "You should see him when he bags the groceries too."

Why do parents -- including myself -- feel the need to disparage their kids in public like that? What kid is going to feel good about "sometimes"? It's a verbal slap in the face, even if it wasn't meant as such. The mother was just being honest. She looked tired. She was tired. As I write this, the bags under my eyes have their own bags. I fell asleep while feeding both Henry and Celia. Then I almost fell asleep at dinner, almost plowed my face right into a plate of carnitas (bought, by the way, that same night at Trader Joe's). So I get it.

These are the kinds of things I think about as a parent, perhaps too much. "Sometimes" was probably the truth. But isn't it better to praise a kid at the moment they're doing something good and not disparage them for something "bad" done at another time, in the past?

Again, I think about these things too much. Like: why and how has the word "kill" entered Ethan's vocabulary. I know he doesn't know what it means, but it's still unsettling to hear a sweet three-year-old boy say "I killed him, Daddy," when referring to two toys who weren't getting along. ("Can they be friends?" I asked hopefully. However, my diplomatic skills were about as good as W.'s. "No Daddy, he's dead now.")

Words are powerful. Kids listen. They absorb everything. You try not to put your foot in your mouth or say the wrong thing. But you do. And you will. Again and again and again. You just try to do better.

Next time: I'll try not to say sometimes. I'll say something nice about my son.

Friday, January 16, 2009

The Abuser

One thing -- and one thing only -- that I will miss about our outgoing 43rd president: his constant, comic and clueless abuse of the English language. Even in his farewell address the other day, he couldn't help himself and said "misunderestimated." Again!

If only there was a verbal spell-checker. But then again, if there was, we wouldn't have had all the lovely Bushisms from the past eight years. But then again again, a spell-checker wouldn't remedy the mangled syntax, the getting things wrong (e.g., calling the Spanish language "Mexican"), and uttering gems like "Too many good docs are getting out of the business. Too many OB/GYNs aren't able to practice their love with women all across the country."

Here's a list of the top 25 Bushisms from Slate.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Why Title TK?

I guess I should have addressed this in my very first post (last year?).

Title TK means "title to come." As in "title to come at a later date, because I'm too lazy to come up with a snappy title." The same holds true today.

The abbreviation TK is used in editing and copy-editing as a placeholder for text that still needs to be supplied, usually numbers or names or facts. I first started TK-ing when I worked for CNET back when the Internets were just taking baby steps.

Why not TC instead of TK? Well, the story goes that it's intentionally misspelled to catch the eye, since this is text that later needs to be filled in, and even grammar Nazi copy editors (I used to be one) miss things sometimes.

Which reminds of the time I saw New Yorker editor David Remnick speak. During the Q&A, an older lady asked him why she's been seeing more typos in the magazine since he took over. I believe his reponse was something like "Maam, we're human. We make mistakes. Everybody makes mistakes, even the New Yorker."

By the way, there is a Breeder's album called Title TK. I did not know this. I swear. And I did not know that the Breeders put out another album after Last Splash. But apparently they did.

I've Got Blisters on My Fingers...

... And bags under my eyes. Even more so than usual. Which is saying something.

Why? I stayed up late last night test-driving a guitar I'm thinking of buying from a co-worker.

It felt good. It felt great. I really miss playing. But I'm paying the price. Dragging. Up at 4:45 a.m. (crying baby). And now a full day of work looms.

These days I break out my guitar about once a month or so. Typically this consists of playing inappropriate songs for my kids -- things like "Ring of Fire" and "I Wanna Be Your Dog" and "Take the Skinheads Bowling."

My goal: learn some "traditional" kid songs. And to play more frequently so that my fingers don't hurt like hell after playing, hence the "Helter Skelter" reference of the title of this post...

Monday, January 12, 2009

Bath Talk

"Was that you?"


"Just checking."

"I made bubbles."

"You sure did."



"How do you catch a fart?"

"That's a good question, Ethan. Gee. I don't know if that's even humanly possible. We'll have to check the Internets on that one. What would you do with it if you could catch a fart?"

"Eat it."

Thursday, January 8, 2009




And this is how 90-plus percent of the conversations between myself and my three-and-a-half-year-old son Ethan (who claims to still be two, by the way) begin.

"My name is Butternut," he tells me.

"Oh, OK. Hi Butternut."


"Is that Ethan Butternut Roe then?"

"No, just Butternut."

"Just Butternut. OK. Like Cher or Madonna. Or Iggy."

"Who's Iggy?"

"Iggy? He's a singer. He doesn't like wearing shirts. And sometimes he wears diapers. He's a very interesting man. He has a song called 'I Wanna Be Your Dog.' I could play it on my iPod for you."

"Not right now, Daddy."

"OK, Butternut. Maybe later. And thanks for telling me that your name is Butternut. I like to know these things."

"You're welcome. Now can you play with me?"

And that's how 90-plus percent of our conversations end.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Brevity, Soul of Wit, Etc.

What can you say in six sentences?

That's the question over at Six Sentences.

I suppose this is my response.

The Penis Sleeps

We went to the zoo last weekend. This would be the world famous San Diego Zoo. Family visiting, the holidays, etc.

Besides witnessing some overzealous Orangutan love and the $3.35 cup of coffee, the highlight was a conversation with my three-year-old son, Ethan.

We were walking back to the main entrance and stopped by the bathroom. He wasn’t exactly cooperating.

We headed into a stall, the familiar cajoling began.

"OK buddy. Let’s sit on the potty and go pee."

"I can't."

"You can’t?"

"I can’t go pee."

"Come on buddy. It’s a long drive back home. We just have to try. Just try to pee. No biggie. Just try."

"I can't."

"Look. We always do this. Before we leave somewhere we go potty, we go pee. It’s just what we do."

"But I can't. I can't go pee."

"You can't? You can't pee? Or you won't? Why not?"

"My penis is tired. It's sleeping."

Somehow I managed not to laugh. Imagining the other people in the bathroom hearing this prime material. Kids say the darndest things. It's true.

"Your penis is sleeping?"


"Well OK. Let's try to wake it up."

It? Him? Whatever.

I made some kind of vague abracadabra gesture in the general vicinity of his groin.

"Wake up! Wake up penis!"

But it was a no-go.

"It's still tired. It's still asleep. I can't go pee, Daddy."

"You can't? Your penis can't wake up?"

"No, it's tired. It's sleeping."

Mission aborted. We left the bathroom and kept walking.

But there was one last bathroom by the main exit. This time my wife tried.

When they emerged, my wife gave the thumb’s up. Success.

"What happened, buddy? Do you go?"

"Yes, I did. My penis woke up and I went pee."

"That’s great, buddy."

"Yes, it is."

Happy New Year!