Tuesday, August 30, 2011


I'm surrounded by people of almost every age group.  I work with people ranging from their mid-twenties to mid-sixties.  All my friends have young children, most of them toddlers, but some as old as 8 or 9.  There's only one demographic that is so alien to me that any close encounter with them completely freaks me out.  Teenagers.  I see these little bastards tearing around town occasionally (helmet-less...which is fine).  I see the "School Xing" signs and I speed up.  I don't know what it is but I don't like 'em.  A few weeks ago this one little fucker was riding his bike on a sidewalk where Liam was playing and I thought that if he got too close I'd have to push him into oncoming traffic.  I kind of fantasized about that for a little too long.  I don't know why I've developed this blood-boiling hatred for teens, I'm not that old.  Hell, I was a teenager as recently as 1994!  Is it just that my experience with them is so limited these days, or is it because they're EVIL!?  Regardless, I don't want Liam becoming one.  I'm going to fight it.  Or if I can't stop it I don't want to see it.  I figure I can ship him off to prep school where he'll never talk to girls, have floppy hair, wear navy sweaters, and learn to become a kick-ass oarsman like his daddy.  Then when he's twenty he'll be allowed home for the holidays.

I've been dwelling on this because this past weekend my very sweet niece (there are always exceptions to the rule) had her 16th birthday party at our house because we have a pool.  As soon as the strange creatures her age started arriving I decided it was time to go spend an hour getting ice.

Friday, August 26, 2011

The Bapa is Coming!

My dad, known to the kids as Bapa, is coming for his semi-annual visit today, and I'm pretty excited about this. There have been a couple of changes in my life since his last trip out - mainly that I am now a tiny bit closer to be being divorced than I was before; and that I have moved out of my dream house into a crappy little apartment where my kids have to share a bedroom and I get to hear the sounds of my hoodlum teenage neighbor and his mom volleying "fuck you's" and "shut the fuck up's" back and forth at oddly early hours of the morning. They've kind of become my alarm clock.

None of this will phase my dad. Nor will the fact that not only do I no longer have a spare bedroom anymore, I also don't have a spare bed. I'll offer him the couch to sleep on, but most likely I'll find him bundled up on the hard and uncomfortable balcony for the very few hours of sleep on which he functions. And man, does he function!

Bapa is up with the kids every morning - taking a knee to the chest from Evie with a delighted laugh, building Lego's with Jonah, packing lunches for anyone who needs them. He picks his grandkids up from school and indulges them in a new toy every visit, which they obsess over and look forward to with near-manic anticipation as his trip gets closer. In general, they wait for about 45 seconds after Bapa's travel-wearied arrival to ask "when do I get my TOY?!" They're so polite - especially considering that I coach them, every single time, to not ask for any new toys.

When I get home from work, my kids ignore me as they spin around the apartment like whirling dervishes, screaming like banshees, jumping from furniture to floor to table to Bapa's back, all with a scary nutted-out look in their eyes. It's all a little bit manic and overwhelming. But, dinner is ready and I am able to take off my shoes, set down my bags, and eat.

During this visit, due to the fact that I don't have my kids 24/7 as before, my dad and I will get a little time to hang out by ourselves. I realized recently that this hasn't happened in a long, long time. Usually our time together goes something like this:

Wake Up. Hand Kids Over to Bapa. Go to Work. Get Home. Eat. Put Kids to Bed. Sit With Dad and Watch The Simpsons or Arrested Development for Approximately 15 Minutes. Fall Asleep on Couch. Repeat For Entire Visit.

So, I'm kind of looking forward to having a day with my dad. I can tell him all about what I've been up to, he can tell me about his winnings and losings at his weekly poker game, we can grab some beers at Russian River. For the most part, I like drinking socially with my dad, in small increments. I snagged my sense of humor directly from him and its fun being around someone who gets my jokes. He's not much a "deep conversation" guy, either, so there's never any pressure to talk about my feelings or anything like that. Thank god.

Because of my dad's incredibly mellow and somewhat lackadaisical grandparenting style, occasionally my kids' lives are put into danger (but no more than when they are with any other grandparent figures. These people are, in general, just a bit out of practice. Its a great opportunity for us new parents to feel smug and superior). There was the time he and Jonah were playing with a stick at the edge of the ocean out at Salmon Creek, and a wave washed over Jonah. Oops! Or the time I came home from work to find Evie out wandering happily on the sidewalk* while my unaware father made pizzas and jammed out to Phish in my kitchen. Ha!

I'm okay with all of this, because one of my favorite memories is of climbing to the very top of a disastrously tall tree when I was about four. I remember being at the top, the trunk narrow enough at that point for me to wrap my small arms and legs around it, swaying in the breeze. Down below was my dad, watching, encouraging, but definitely not freaking out. His young daughter was practicing her tree-climbing skills, her bravery, her independence - and also happened to be a good 85 feet in the air. Whatever.

The nice thing about my dad is that he will tell me, in the form of a casual "oh, heh heh, by the way..." story, about any dangerous experiences my kids had while I was away. I figure if he's telling me and they're still going totally wonkers all over the place, everything must have turned out okay. I appreciate his honesty. I'm someone who thinks its important to tell the parent if, say, a kid falls off of a horse.** Even if the kid is fine and all is well, I'd still like to know about it. Just sayin'.

On that note, I have to go prepare for my dad's arrival. For the next few hours I'll be tucking spare keys around my apartment complex for when he locks himself out, hiding all of the good wine, and trying to arrange a poker game - which should be an oddly intimate experience given the lack of space for things like raucous card games. But, as with everything, we Janik-folk can handle it. And we will.

*Turns out Evie was actually having a playdate with the neighbor and was completely supervised...I just didn't know it at the time. Silly over-reacting mom!

**No kids fell off of a horse on Bapa's watch.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

"Better to remain silent and thought a fool, than to open one's mouth and remove all doubt" ~ Abraham Lincoln...or something

I signed up to receive email updates from  Basically you tell them what day your child was born and in exchange you get weekly reminders that your child is behind the curve.  This week's finger-shaking was all about 'Talking'.  Liam isn't using the past perfect subjunctive just yet but just check out this vocab list:

No - all purpose expletive
Uh-oh! - (in the tone of complete anguish) usually indicating the desperate need for the thing he just threw on the floor
Kitty - any animal except a dog
Gooo - fist bump or "cheers"
Up - down
Down - up
Down please - we tried teaching him to say "please" when he wanted out of his high chair.  He said "down please" once and in the interest of positive reinforcement we shouted "YAY!!"  So now every time we say "Liam, say 'down please'" he shouts "YAY!!".  No, we don't know what we're doing.
Dadeee! - father
Mama - mother, father, or any familiar person
Choo-choo - any vehicle but a car
Cool shoes - He LOVES shoes (see video)
Egg - any food but bananas and toast
Whoa, whoa, whoa - objection
Night, night
Hey, where you goin?

So not a lot of complete sentences (apart from the last one which freaks me out every time) but I think he's got his bases covered.  He's two for crying out loud!  Besides what the shmoes fail to take into account is the genius of efficient communication.  Genius!  And how many people do you know who wouldn't be improved by talking less?  I can think of seven apart from myself. 

Monday, August 22, 2011


It's that time.  Time to kick out the squatters (sorry Kat), bust out the zero VOC paint, and get ready for the second coming (pun intended).  Erin is due the first week of October which is in a mere SIX WEEKS!  We just spent the entire weekend prepping and painting our guest room, not for the new baby mind you, but for Liam.  We figure it's the least we could do before we serve him his eviction notice from the one and only sanctuary he's known since leaving the womb.  Poor little guy, it's gonna be rough.  But to help him ease into this transition we took advantage of this laborious weekend and started getting him properly ready for the impending neglect.  We couldn't have him anywhere near the painting project**, not unless we were going with some kind of Jackson Pollock motif, so we locked him in the living room and alternated between Pixar films and Yo Gabba Gabba.  That way he was able to get familiar with some of his new 'friends'.  Sure he was robbed of his parents affection but he did learn that carrots want to go to the party in his tummy.....yummy yummy. 

This is Liam's first sibling.  A great leap into the unknown.  Will he love his new brother/sister (no, we don't know yet) or will he be a holy terror?  We'll know soon enough.  I'm encouraged by how sweet Liam seems to be with other people's babies.  He might have an innate gift for caring after small creatures but then again last week I caught myself shouting "NO Liam, kitty's don't like army men in their butts!"  Maybe that was presumptuous though, he might know something I don't.  Either way I'm determined to make the new baby thing painless for Liam.  I really am.  But like all things regarding babies, I have no clue what to expect.  I don't want him to feel neglected, of course.  I hate to think of anything causing him pain so I figure I'll be on "Liam duty" and Erin gets the newborn, right?  This could totally work!  Sure, we've never been able to handle one on our own but hey "necessity is the mother of invention" or whatever, isn't it?  Was there a father of invention?  Did invention have a toddler older brother?  Yikes.

**Liam did get into the paint.  He stuck his hand in the can while I was having a pee and Erin was carelessly roasting beets.  Naturally he tried to shake the paint off which caused some to get in his eyes but not to worry.  He's just fine all thanks to his fast-acting father who tended to his medical needs IMMEDIATELY after taking this picture.

Friday, August 19, 2011

I Need a MAN!

This morning I was in my kitchen, rooting around in the cupboards for something. Lets say it was popcorn. In terms of height, I'm what some might call "short," or perhaps "tiny." Personally, I prefer "pocket-sized." I'm 5'2" and married tall, but we all know how that ended up, so only recently have I had to start fending for myself again when it comes to things like...reaching stuff.

But that's not what this blog post is about. I can scramble onto a countertop like an adorable pocket-sized mountain goat if there's something I need badly enough - and was dumb enough to climb up there and place out of my own reach in the first place. Nope. Don't need a man for that.

I'll admit that for a split second early this morning I did, in fact, miss having a man around. But it was not for the handy or helpful reasons that tend to come along with some of the male species - reaching stuff, opening pickle jars, putting their heads under car hoods and pretending they know what to do there, etc. It was because when I looked in the mirror after being awake for several hours, I noticed that there was a CRAZY hair sticking out of my face. Not near my hairline, also not somewhere predictable and laughable like, say, on my chin. It was near my left cheekbone. Just growing there, obviously for a while given the length of it, luckily blond (?) and so I told myself that all of the people I'd come into contact with over the last, what, two weeks? hadn't noticed it.

Given my past experience, I assume that if I had a live-in man in my life, I would have been faced with a quizzical look ages ago, and had an interaction something like the following:

Man - "what the hell is on your face?!"
Me - (hand covers face) "what?!"
Man - "there's, like, a crazy hair sticking out of your face!"
Me - (muffled moan of humiliation) "leave me aloooooone!"
Man - "uncover your face, lemme get it!"
Me - "Nnnoooooooo!"
Man - (wrestling me to the bed/couch/ground and pinning me down while simultaneously peeling my weakling arms from my face) "stay still! Its freaking me out!" (peering closely at my face) "its so weird! I have to get it!"
Me - (bracing and wincing while hair is plucked from my face)
Man - (showing me the hair) "you are the hairiest person I know. You're like a hobbit."
Me - "I know."

I can believe that no one actually noticed this thing because now I rely on my children to tell me when something about me is unacceptable for public viewing. Fortunately like me, they have a very fuzzy definition of what a "presentable" appearance is. Pocahontas braids and running shoes? Not a problem. Two different earrings? Not so much. Evie will catch that and take it upon herself to forcibly correct it before I've even completely woken up.

Now that I think about it, I can depend on my kids for more than just calling me out on any of my freakishness or fashion faux pas. I can totally hold Jonah on my shoulders. And he can hold Evie on his. Together, my kids and I can reach all kinds of popcorn!

Problem solved.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

I'm Not Gay**

I'm not!  Sure I've had my moments but they've been pretty "Disney."  Okay a hint of "Peter Berlin" here and there but it doesn't mean that I should start checking off a different box on the survey....right?  Okay maybe I'd fill in the "Other" line but that's beside the point.  The point is I've started thinking about my son's future sexual orientation and I can't help but want him to be gay.

This came up the other day when someone asked me "Hey, what would you do if your son was gay?" and all I thought was "not invite you to the party".  I've heard the question before and it's intended to elicit one of two responses.  If you're a hate-monger (or from southern California) your answer is something like "I'd get them the help they need to get through it" or "I'd teach them there are ways to overcome it," in other words "I'd un-gay them."  If you're an open-minded and accepting person your answer is "I wouldn't 'wish' that upon my child, but I wouldn't love them any less or anything."  If you're ME the answer is "Gay? That would be AWESOME!  I do wish that upon them."

This may stem simply from the fact that I love me some gays, but I think there's more to it than that.  I think this has at least a little to do with my fear that Liam will be the world's coolest child which, as we all know is a bad thing.  I mean he's handsome and popular as all get out so, even though he'll be the "cool" gay kid, at least the challenges he'll face growing up gay will give him that "misfit edge".  The other part of this I think is rooted in something far more selfish.  I think I want to have a gay son for the same reason people post Facebook photos of themselves with their one black friend......."street cred."  I've have gay friends and even the little yellow equal sign on my bumper but what better way to assuage my privileged white heterosexual guilt than to be personally invested in 'the fight'?  So Liam, love who you will, but if you're straight at least think about keeping it in the closet for your dear old Dad, okay pal?

**Jake Gyllenhaal or Jake Ryan, if you're reading this, disregard the title  

Monday, August 15, 2011

Important Notice: I Missed My Kids

My kids returned from their vacation at Grammy and Grandad's house in Utah last night, and I have to say, they rock (as shown in this completely irrelevant picture of them, being soaking wet rock stars. Notice how Evie looks like Jack White).

The first thing Evie said when she got out of her dad's car after ten days away and a 15-hour drive was "I threw up my McDonalds breakfast!" Ha! Nothing about this statement surprised me. If you're going to undo years and years of non-McDonalds road trips, guess what's going to happen? Barf - that's what. I realize that certain people think its ridiculous and perhaps snobby and elitist of me to have insisted for all these years that my kids remain fast-food free, but hey, they don't vomit on my watch. Just sayin'.

Granted, the dinner I served them upon their return was made up almost entirely of frozen food - egg rolls and fried rice - with some fresh but mushily cooked and absolutely flavorless zucchini and yellow squash on the side. But still. I have fresh corn, green beans and bell peppers that will make an incredible dinner...maybe tomorrow.

During last night's crappy dinner, though, we had a guest that I hadn't planned on having, and so I didn't get the chance to warn (read: threaten) the kids about being on their best behavior. While I was nervous that they were going to go post-road-trip-apeshit, they were actually very polite, charming and engaging. After dinner there were games and dancing - Evie and I did our usual rendition of Princess Mosh Pit - I sang songs and read books and eventually the kids dropped open-mouthed and drooling into their beds. I quickly followed suit.

Having my Evie Alarm Clock this morning was no less of a killjoy than any other morning, but after eight full minutes of her high-pitched whining for breakfast, she managed to remember the whole 'ask politely' thing that I tend to think is important.

She cupped my face in her sticky little hands, kissed my nose for a bit longer and more passionately than neccesary, and cooed "Pleeeeease pretty-face mama, can you please make me breakfast?" She blinked her eyes very slowly in a 'look at me, I'm soooooooo sweet and adorable that you'll never be able to refuse me food' kind of way. And just this once, she was completely right.

Friday, August 12, 2011

A Fair to Remember

Erin took Liam to the Sonoma County Fair today.  He lost his mind.  Erin said he went "crazy" but she didn't mean Patsy Cline crazy, or even Cee Lo crazy, she meant full blown Jack Nicholson crazy...a goddamn marvel of modern science.  I wish I could have been there but someone has to bring home 1/3 of the bacon.  Speaking of bacon here are some of Liam's County Fair highlights:

He tried to upstage a trick-performing pig

He staged a Steve McQueen style prison break at the petting zoo (minus the motorcycle)

He intimidated a carnie


He led an intimidation and coercion campaign against the tyranny of the "single-file line"

He ate an "Elvis" funnel cake

He was cited by the Humane Society for mistreatment of a carousel horse

That's about all I could glean from Erin before she fell asleep with her shoes on.  Love her.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Sexy Bastard

My son is really attractive.  Now I know "every parent thinks their kid is the cutest" but I'm talking about more than that.  He's cute to be sure, but he's also hilarious, stylish, and popular.  This is a problem.  It's a well proven fact, A FACT, that the cool kids don't do well past high school.  Let's just look at the popular kids at my high school.  The class president and prom queen are both deceased (seriously! It's sad) and the last time I saw the prom king he was playing the bad guy in BASEketball which I think is actually totally awesome but some more discerning film buffs might disagree.  On the flip side there were the painfully awkward douche-nozzles in high school, like myself.  At sixteen I was my current height of 6'8" but only 150 pounds, I was ghostly pale, slouchy, I wore the same clothes to school everyday, my grades were excellent, I was horrible at sports, and I never had a girlfriend.  I was the kind of awkward that made people feel uncomfortable.  But NOW look at me!  I'm not only alive but I'm doing really well.  I'm not exactly winning any beauty pageants (apart from this one) but I am pretty happy with the way I turned out.  My career is great, I have a gorgeous wife, a nice house, and I even get hit on by gay guys occasionally which makes me happier than I ever dreamed I could be.  This is an all too common story among the former social misfits like myself so what's the deal?  Is it karma?  Who knows, but this isn't about me (yeah it is), this is about Liam who is totally getting laid at prom. I mean LOOK AT HIM!  Too much hot potential!  Sure there are the occasional signs of the young me emerging (he's got a bit of an overbite that I find encouraging) but for the most part I fear for his future and until the day he opts for drama club over football, I won't rest easy.

Monday, August 8, 2011

The Circle of Wife

When my wife read my last post about our trip to camp her only comment was "I'm 8 months pregnant not 7 months jackass...".  This glowing review reminded me of two things: a) My wife is WAY pregnant and b) this will most likely be her last pregnancy, at least with me.

Then I realized that her previous pregnancy was never really celebrated the way it should have been so I've come up with a list of ten fun and commemorative ways to better honor this, her second and possibly final, adventure into the land of prenatal wonder...

Here it is in no particular order:

1. Use her belly to serve martinis

2. Paint her belly to look like a basketball then watch her play basketball in a bikini top.  The other team will be so confused!

3. Smear peanut butter on the underside of her belly and see how long it takes her to notice

4. Make a plaster cast of her belly and boobies and take it to parties as a clever serving dish for tortilla chips, guacamole, and salsa

5. Buy her a GIANT garter belt to go around the belly and tell her it's to "spice things up" in the bedroom

6. Add jelly to the peanut butter after three hours

7. Post photos of her on the internet with her majestic naturally-occurring dome in the presence of other majestic naturally-occurring domes

8. Make her belly wear headphones

9. When she says the baby is kicking, smoosh my face against her belly and see if the little one can give me a black eye, bloody nose, or break a blood vessel in my face in some noticeable way

10. Remove the PB&J.....*wink*

While we are in the throws of pregnancy it's all too easy to become complacent.  We somehow lose sight of the miracle happening right here in our very own home.  So I say take the time to honor it...but before you do make sure there are clean sheets in the guest room.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Single Awkward Female Seeks One Jay Z

I've recently entered the world of dating after taking a 12 year, 7 month hiatus. Things have changed a little bit. For example, now that I'm over 30, apparently it is my responsibility to Make The First Move. In my day, this phrase meant perhaps approaching a guy and saying "hey..." or even, after spending some time working through the niceties and other bullshit, looking at him in a certain way which says "I would not punch you if you tried to kiss me."

I am in general socially awkward around men who are not my friends, unless I'm terribly drunk, and then I'm just loud and inappropriate. (Side note - turns out I am just as awkward around women. Just ask the lesbian I cornered at a party last weekend. "So should I have sex with a woman? Would that be, like, awesome or something? I mean, I like boobs...I just don't think I could eat pie." Yes, I'm equally classy around both genders)

To appease those in my life that are sick of waiting to live vicariously through my new singledom, I've been making a concerted effort to fight my "no, thank you" instincts when someone of the opposite sex asks me if I'd like to, say, go for a walk.

Surprisingly, I've found that my married male friends are particularly interested in my love life. When I say "love life," I mean that they pretty much just want me to get laid. They are very concerned about me, and in fact I have been ambushed no less than three times by the same husband-of-a-friend, with men he considers suitable prospects. As far as I can tell, the only qualification he looks for is the fact that they are men - as proven after said Man leaves and I say "what the fuck? Why are you always ambushing me like that?!" and husband-of-friend says "what? He's a guy, he's breathing, you totally could've gotten laid just now!" With the 20-year-old high-on-coke running fanatic? Or the 50-year-old Republican hockey player with the buzz cut and the football ring? Really? Hm.

Likewise, Mike has taken a keen interest in my dating life, and requires a play-by-play of my fumbled attempts at normalcy so that he can then mock me and tell me what an idiot I am. He loves to take an entire, detail-rich story and sum it up as such: "so...he's homeless?" or "who borrows money from a single mom for a garage sale?" or "oh my loser, Dammit Amanda!" His advice is to find myself a Jay Z. Not having the faintest idea what this meant, I googled Jay Z, and I think Mike is suggesting I date a super-rich black guy, which I will go out and do right now. Because there's plenty of those in Santa Rosa.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Camp Tuolumne 2011

I just got back last night from a week at Berkeley Tuolumne Family Camp.  I've always struggled to explain to people exactly what "family camp" is but I've settled on "It's like M*A*S*H*....but with way more kids and way less Korean War".  It's got cabins that are sort of 'tent-like', a dining hall, plus bathrooms and other such ameneties, and it's just seven miles from the entrance to Yosemite.  For some reason I get the same reaction out of everyone when I describe family camp and that's " it's not real camping"  Yeah it's fake camping asshole! Whatever!! This shit is ROUGH! The cell coverage is dodgy, power outlets are limited, and the nori they used on sushi night was grocery-store-grade AT BEST.

My family has been going there forever.  My grandparents took my mother there when she was a kid, my mother and all her college friends took all of their kids, and now all of us third generation kids are taking our kids.  By the next generation they'll pretty much have to shut the place down for us.  What's the appeal?  Particularly for someone like me whose out-door activities don't go beyond drinking in the backyard?  The place is basically a means to have a week-long bender while other people look after your kids.....bliss.

When I was a child it was unsupervised heaven.  For Liam, this past week, it was a place to full speed....during every waking moment.  I hadn't anticipated this.  If I had I would have trained or at least requested a cabin surrounded by some kind of natural barriers or something.  He woke up early every morning screaming to be taken out of his crib.  Once his feet touched the floor he darted to the little 'baby barricade' the staff had installed on our cabin and wailed on it like the place was on fire.  Once freed it was run to the river, to the cliff, into the campfire, into other cabins, up a tree, under a dumpster, into a bear cave, go go go go GO!!  By day two the camp nurse was escorting my mother from the dining hall to be treated for severe dehydration (she had watched him for us that morning).  By mid-week I'd developed a severe limp (probably psychosomatic) and Erin, at 7-months-pregnant, was googling ways to increase the odds of having a girl.  Incredibly he was able to sustain this unrelenting fireball of energy without eating?!  Mealtime was ridiculous.  The dining hall served three starchy meaty cheesy meals a day but feeding him was like trying to groom a feral cat.  Of course all of this was just fine because I'd never seen him happier.  That's the beauty I guess of going to a place where you get to do exactly what you want to for a week...even if all you want to do is run.  For me personally all I wanted to do was see my little man have as much fun as I used to and even though I'm exhausted, sore, bug-bitten, profoundly constipated, and have a three inch gash on my face from feral boy's tree sharpened fingernails, it all ended way too soon.