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Perspective

13 Jul

One of my pins says “Drinking rum before 10a makes you a pirate. NOT an alcoholic.” While this statement ranks with “Yes, sir, this serial murderer I just arrested is the same jerkwad who cut you off back there,” I’ll wager whomever originated this pin failed to poll a representative sample of drunks versus actual pirates before reaching the conclusion that alcoholism and pirateering are unrelated.

So am I against drinking? Is this column revealing the new, sober Seth Kabala? God forbid.

What I’m doing is giving you an example of perspective and how your life-position relative to any happening affects your interpretation of said happening. For example, my wife and I were traveling to Kansas City, sans children (Thank ya, Jesus. And Grandma), to visit my sister and brother-in-law. After we’d grown sick of each other’s conversation (those long waited for moments of peace without the kids? Creepy quiet), we opted to listen to Josh Groban.

Josh Groban is fucking awesome–for the most part, until he put out Illuminations. Stealing from Randy Jackson, I thought the album was “pitchy,” which is surprising considering the advances in digital recording and editing technology. Maybe he’d had enough years of being perfect and was going for an atonal outing?

Pitchiness aside, I really liked one song: L’Ora Dell’Addio. Then we got to the chorus, and, to my perspective, Groban went rogue, for it sounded to me like he dropped an f-bomb, though research revealed the words to be “fa piu,” not “fuck you.” I was sorely disappointed.

This got me thinking about perspective. About getting all the facts before jumping to conclusions. Notice, I didn’t say I objected to Groban mixing harsh words into the honey-milk music he produces, but aside from proclaiming how awesome the Kanye West tweets sketch was, that’s a discussion for another day.

When your wife finds rum in your golf bag on the way out for an early-morning round, make sure you tell her about the boat-building project, eye-makeup, and puffy shirt as well. It’s your job to shape her perspective, for rum without a purpose is a sad party of one.

 
 

Mr. Inappropriate

09 Mar

The small boy climbs the electric fence, able to succeed un-fried in his ascent due to a temporary power outage. He makes it to the top, swings a leg over, hesitates, and begins his descent.

But the fear loitering in the background on the first half of his journey suddenly makes an unexpected entrance to center-stage about half-way down. Though he grows ever closer to the ground, to safety, his senses betray him, and he feels he’s higher than ever and liable to fall to his death unless he stays put.

Miles away, workers find their way to the power sub-station. The station houses the circuit breakers for the property’s electrical grid. With smiles all around, doubtless anticipating return to modern powered conveniences (like not being eaten alive), the workers switch on the breakers, one by one.

They start at the top and work down. The last one is labeled “Perimeter Fence”.

Back on the fence, half-way down to safety, closer physically, miles away mentally, the small boy clings to the dead wires festooned between upright I-beams. His knuckles are white; his eyes, clenched; muscles, rigid. No way he’s moving. He’s had a good life, all nine years of it. Yes, he thinks, this is a perfectly acceptable place to end it all.

His comrades shout at him from the bottom. “Jump! Jump! We’ll catch you.”

He pictures Gallagher smashing watermelons, imagines his own head the target of the malicious mallet, and says, “No way.”

Then a siren sounds. Flashing lights illuminate atop the I-beams, indicators that the perimeter fence is in the preliminary stages of arming.

“You’ve gotta jump now,” his comrades say. “The fence is going on in a few seconds, and if you’re not down here with us, the dinosaurs will be getting barbecue for dinner.”

“What kind of barbecue will it be without sauce?” he asks. “I don’t have any sauce. Do you have any sauce?”

“Just jump.”

“No, I think they’ll leave my charred carcass alone and look for a more appetizing meal. Don’t dinosaurs like to hunt, anyway?”

“Why are we talking about this? Get your ass off the fence now. We’ll worry about preferred dino-diet selections another time.”

Realization dawns on him like a shot of espresso laced with cocaine. His eyes widen, sweating stops, heart slows, and he thinks, “Shit. I’m about to die unless I move.”

He forces delirium from his mind and prepared to release his grip from the fence. “I’ll jump on three, ok?”

“Yes, just hurry.”

“One. … Two. …”

The fence electrifies and blows him backward, into his colleagues, knocking them to the ground.

Is he alive? Is he dead? If you’ve seen Jurassic Park, you know the answer (and you’ll forgive me for taking liberties with the dialogue and minor plot points. If not, fuck you).

But alive or dead to my seven-year-old son is, apparently, of no consequence, as Will, upon seeing Timmy get his ass blown off the fence, started laughing his own ass off, right in the middle of the theater.

Was it inappropriate? Absolutely.

But think about it: if this had been real life, and you knew the kid was okay, who’s not gonna find this funny? Electrocution plus hair-standing-on-end plus smoke rising from burnt hair equals funny. Always funny.

If I have any advice, it’s to check to see if the about-to-create-hilarity party is injured to the point of requiring hospitalization. If not, laugh away.

Mr. Inappropriate lives a full life. Does he live with you?

 

Virtuoso?

02 Mar

The anger poured through the politician’s veins like boiling liquid on exposed skin, burning everything. He had exhausted his arsenal of arguments, negotiated with industry players, schmoozed lobbyists, and still, it wasn’t enough.

Still, they wanted to see results rather than attacks on other people. What a cruel world, where poison-tipped arrows flung in all directions was considered unequal to building an impenetrable fortress of accomplishments, an arsenal of facts. Oh, results, accomplishments, facts. Why the focus on what I have done, he thought. Stupid spotlight.

Let’s take a moment to analyze the players in the opening graf:

1. The politician is my son, Will, 7.
2. The industry players and lobbyists are my wife and I, aka the people with the money.

Applicability to real life? Will started taking piano lessons from my wife, Amy, a year or so ago. He has good days and bad days, and on this day, he was having a bad day, to the point he, who hadn’t yet been introduced to playing with both hands, told Amy, who has played for 20-plus years, she didn’t know anything about piano, and all this happened after he got upset because he wasn’t getting the song.

So, naturally, Amy’s skill level declined to that of the average mega-selling pop star, and Will increased to Rubenstein quality, because everyone knows that the way to get places in life is to shoot off rounds at everyone in defense of your failed ability.

Is my son is a failure? Never. Anyone who has breath has potential. But everyone that fails to use that breath to push their life forward to a better place, to a place where the structures behind them are taller and more powerful than those to which their criticisms are leveled, exists on a plane of selfishness.

The thing to do is marry an heiress, wait for her to contract some mysterious disease (nonexistent until you came into the picture), and die, and then you can live out your days in luxury.

Fuck that.

Get your ass in gear, take responsibility, and build those skyscrapers tall. Being the owner of your accomplishments is far better than the creditor of someone else’s screwups.

 
 

Cereal Punishment

23 Feb

If you kill somebody, you get the needle, or the chair, or three squares a day and cable and conjugal visits for life. You know–an appropriate punishment. But if you don’t finish all your cereal in the Kabala household, you get the worst punishment of all: getting one over on dad.

The Shredded Wheat box was low, containing as much or more crushed sediment as whole pieces. Will wanted the rest of the Shredded Wheat for breakfast, so I got it for him and gave him milk, as requested. He ate the whole pieces but left all the mush. I said if he didn’t eat all of it, he wouldn’t get cereal for a week. We went ’round this a few times. Then I said he had lost cereal for a week.

“Okay,” he said, voice cheery, and went on with his morning routine.

Wow. Really effective punishment. Apparently, the thought of the loss of cereal is as scary to Will as life in prison is for someone who–having no signs of constipation–favors the digestive regularity aisle at Walgreens, having a Favorite Suppository Experience journal on the nightstand at home.

In a word: the threat is ineffective.

You’d think I’d know this by now. Will is, after all, 7-years-old. I’ve had time to observe his behavior, to catalogue his pressure points, note argumentative lines of manipulation, and develop a database of appropriate punishments for associated offenses. So what’s the problem?

The problem is that every time I succeed in applying a punishment to an offense, the database resets. I am dealing with a modified adaptive human being who learns more than I do in a punishment situation, learns how to modify behavior enough to elicit an old punishment that will be rendered ineffective in application.

In other words, he’s a smart little shit.

But that won’t stop me from trying. Next time he leaves cereal in the bowl, I’m going for shock and awe.

Bring on the fire hose.

 

Greek Gaa!

16 Feb

Avoid gluten, do more cardio, walk with family members, go to the gym with friends, do a master cleanse, don’t eat fast food, eat all the fast food you want, eat only fruit, eat no fruit, avoid dairy, go buy yourself a freakin’ cow.

If we were to put all the health edicts into a book, it wouldn’t bore us to death; it would become self-aware and eat us all alive just so it didn’t have to listen to any more bullshit from the gurus. Now that I think about it, cannibalism may be a good idea after all.

I try to exercise six times per week. Three cardio, three weights. My wife (on days when she can’t find a suitable excuse, such as the air outside being infected with alien chemicals, i.e., bullshit) works out with her sister three times a week and does the treadmill for the balance of days.

We’re both in our 30s and looking pretty darn good. Maybe not underwear model good, but good enough for beach season. Since I know you all are picturing us in a photo shoot next to David Beckham, I’ll get to the point quick.

Physical activity goes hand in hand with healthy eating. The two can’t exist in isolation. Well, actually, they can, but then you end up pulling a Tom Cruise and going bat shit crazy and/or becoming a 300lb dietitian, a walking waddling contradiction, so balance is best.

But what to do when your efforts to live healthy bite back? When your own house tries to consume you in your attempts to strengthen your temple?

I went to put my empty Greek yogurt cup in the trash. But the trash was so full, my hand got stuck between the top of the cabinet and the top of the trash pile.

Ouch! And they say healthy eating is good for you. Whatever.

What to do? My conclusion is to continue on the same healthy course, eating healthy and exercising six days per week, going college weed munchy binge crazy on Sundays.

Unless, that is, the aliens release airborne toxins. Then, my friends, any day is a candidate for Sunday.

 
 

10 Ways to Be an Average Husband While Your Wife Is Sick

09 Feb

1. Offer to cook dinner, buy take-out Chinese, bring back home, plate, and serve as your own, counting on her delirium to mask the absence of kitchen activity.

2. Offer to watch Lifetime movies all day, knowing full well she’ll fall asleep after the first 15 minutes, leaving you free to catch up on the latest Grisham.

3. Offer to take the day off of work and watch the kids, and ring up your mom the moment your wife falls asleep, leaving you free to catch up on Men’s Health.

4. Offer to run a bubble bath. Then, after she’s naked, put on the moves and suss out just how sick she is. If she’s faking, probably wouldn’t be the first time, but now you’ll have leverage, which you should cash in immediately.

5. Offer to get to work on the honey-do list so the house is in better working order when she gets better. Once in the basement, fix the dang light that’s been hanging down from the ceiling, wires exposed, because you got carried away while doing aerobics (or whatever you call dancing and screaming while watching NFL football).

6. Offer to do the shopping and change the snack ratio to good food from 1 : 9 to 5 : 5. Hey, she said nothing tastes good to her, right? So the overall composition of groceries shouldn’t matter.

7. Offer to DVR the latest episode of vampire this and supernatural that, and accidentally erase everything (except Vampire Diaries, of course), justifying your mistake with the argument it’s good to start fresh with everything: health, mindless programming, yada, yada, yada.

8. Offer to look up new remedies for getting rid of achy muscles, and find research supporting the driving of golfballs for this purpose.

9. Offer to put the kids to bed while she sleeps downstairs, having expended too much energy to make it up the stairs. Then let the kids watch tv until they fall asleep on their own.

10. Offer to go out to stock up on disinfectants, and then wash down your insides with a stout craft brew. You’ll feel renewed. After all, you didn’t say what needed disinfecting. The loophole is yours, my friend. Use it wisely and sparingly.

 
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Mimicry

02 Feb

Our actions become our kids’ reactions. Not exactly new. Not exactly Newtonian (pause while joke sinks in). But it’s a truism all the same.

If I have to go outside at 11p in the middle of February because the wind blew a storm window off the house, onto the car, and the untempered glass shattered into a million (yes, I counted) jagged pieces, and the sonofabitch wind is now bullying me, forcing me to be outside in this horrible, good for nothing but ball-shrinkage weather (and who’s that good for, besides cross-dressers), and I scream obscenities too loudly, I can bet those same obscenities will be repeated out-of-context the next day, if not immediately.

Should the sounds of my lamenting carry into my kids’ rooms, I bet they will be practicing their new vocabulary all night long, just waiting for a chance to embarrass me with an out-of-context f-bomb. Because, well, that’s what kids do. They are the reaction to our stupidity.

The aforementioned story is partially true, in that I didn’t gauge my volume while cursing the damn window, so I don’t know if said suggested rehearsing was happening. But this next scene is a sure thing.

Anna, my five-year-old, spilled juice on the floor. I told her to clean it up. She acted like I’d shot her with a freeze-ray, standing in place without moving or speaking. I do have a pretty serious hobby of jumping into animated villain movies and stealing weapons, but not so in this case.

Eventually, I got her to kneel down with paper towels, and though I had to mime the circular and blotting motions necessary to clean up the mess, she eventually got the job done. Almost.

I asked her to move out of the way so I could check on the mess status, and the freeze-ray struck again. Fucking Steve Carell and his creations. Since she wouldn’t move out the way so I could check if the floor was clean, I again engaged in mimicry (if you want a lesson, come on by the house. Always a show going on), showing my five-year-old how to, in slow motion, rise to a standing position, no hyperbolic action, I swear.

At last, the case of lazy-ass-itis kicked, I was able to verify the cleanliness and safety of the floor and reopen the area to foot traffic, which my one-year-old, Ella, used to engage in her own mimicry.

Ella bent at the knees, raised herself back up slowly, then guffawed, making Chris Farley proud. You’ve got Chucky, and then you’ve got happy/angry baby laughter, getting a joke in on dear old Dad’s poor acting skills. And she didn’t stop there.

Salt in hand, wound open, Ella embraced her inner ham and continued mimicking and laughing, realizing quickly that she had an audience. Even a baby can tell the difference between stifled behind-the-hand laughing and smothering oneself.

I can see it now: 15 years from now, Ella and I will be at the DMV getting her driver’s license. Something will tick me off. I’ll act like a dick. And all of a sudden a trigger will trip in Ella’s brain, saying, “Use your skills. Embarrass Dad.”

“Hey, Dad,” Ella will say. “Look at this.” And she’ll start the kneel, slow rise, end with a guffaw motion. I have one defense against this sure-to-commence horrible event of my own making.

I hereby announce I’m starting a lobbying organization whose sole purpose is to raise the driving age for women to at least 35. What’s that you’re saying? That’s sexist? Don’t tread on me? I’ll forgive your misapplication of feminine bullshit and a wartime colloquialism, assuming you haven’t yet been caught making an ass of yourself.

If I can’t get a universal application, I’ll settle for my daughters, specifically Ella. Those who have made an ass (comically or not) of themselves, and those who will (read: all fathers), I hope you’ll take up this fight with me.

Actions and reactions. You cannot escape, my friends. Don’t believe in soothsayers? Try acting in your home, at your own risk.

 

Family Maxims #32

26 Jan

Many years ago, I worked as a cashier for a large retail chain. The job was so glamorous and fulfilling that I barely had any time at all to draw barbed-wire tattoos on my arms.

Okay, so the job sucked. What minimum wage job doesn’t? But I was on my way to better things, despite the interesting people that came through my lane.

One such person was a locally-famous, local personality at a local TV station, who lived locally, and had friends locally, and whose local face was, to my knowledge, never seen outside of local markets. Why the overuse of “local”?

Because I want to emphasize my confidence in the hypothesis that if I had stuck my nose down to the john immediately post-shit of this person, it would have smelled like–du, du, du, daaa—shit.

Well, Seth, you’re doubtless saying to yourself. It’s good that you have confidence in your ability to identify the smell of shit when it graces your nose, but why does this apply to me?

Application coming up. Backstory first. (I’ve been watching a lot of Phineus and Ferb lately, so …)

Local personality purchased several items, some of which were duct register covers. You know, the kind that direct air (hot or cold) in the rooms of your house. I assume one wouldn’t purchase these things for the heck of it (though local personality was at least as rich as, like, Donald Trump. Fo’ Sho), so when she left her bag at the lane and headed for the door, I grabbed her bag and ran after her.

I caught up with her just before she left the store, quite pleased with myself. She repaid me with a how-dare-you-embarass-me-and-waste-my-time-giving-me-stuff-I-paid-for-calling-into-question-the-stench-of-my-shit look.

I was confused.

As I’m sure are many low-wage workers who receive crap treatment from other derivatives of local personality. Why are we so sucky as a society? Why can’t we respect people for earning an honest wage, rather than taking a dishonest handout?

The Kabala family shall address service workers by name and engage them in conversation, whenever prudently possible.

These people are on their feet by choice. Respect them for it.

 

Chinese Challenge

19 Jan

How do you feel about the trade deficit? Does it keep you up at night? Do you find yourself scouring online news outlets at all hours, looking for the latest news on how far in the red America is with our imports vs. exports? Does it make you feel ill to see “Made In China” on everything? Have I got a solution for you.

Ignore the politicians, pundits, and protectionists. Forget the newspapers, blogs, and stages from which self-proclaimed idiots (if you listen between the lines …) kibitz about stuff that does more to enhance their egos than it does to protect America, and listen, instead, to the voice of reason. To the voice of a child.

Me: What is it you don’t like about stuff being made in China?

Will (my six-year-old): I don’t know. It’s just that everything is made over there.

Me: And you don’t like that?

Will: No. I’m fine with some stuff being made over there. Just not everything.

Me: So what do you think we should do about this?

Will: I don’t know.

Me: If you could talk to the leader of China, the guy in charge of making all the stuff they send back over here, what would you say?

Will: Stop making everything in China.

Me: So they should make stuff over here?

Will: Yes.

The answer, my friends, is domestic production by Chinese citizens. No longer will our products bear the shame of being made in China. No, no–they will be made by Chinese people in America.

Brilliance at its finest. I see a nomination for Commerce Secretary in his future. (Disclaimer: I have no idea if this position would in any way affect the balance of trade. But it sounds good, right?)

Will this open up new fiery debate on immigration? Will state and federal leaders start seeking advice from the grade-schoolers of America, eschewing the rhetoric of the talking heads?

Probably not. But once you get past the age of the speaker, the truth of an argument is there.

That and dirty fingernails.

 
 

Travel Truths

12 Jan

Drove up to see Grandma JoJo over the weekend for her 81st birthday. Always great to see her, and awesome that the older kids know their great grandma well enough to form permanent memories.

Alas, not all aspects of the visit were ice-cream sandwiches and pizza. I learned several more travel truths, and with three kids under age seven, I’m sure more truths are on the way.

Here are five:

1. The severity of garbage dump into which the backseat turns is directly proportional to the length of the trip. Across town? Backyard trash-can level. Across the state? You’ll be piping methane gas out of the garbage heap when you reach your destination.

2. Regardless what speed you set your cruise control, you will always run out of room with the car in front in the right lane before the faster car in the left lane passes, forcing you to brake for one annoying second before again accelerating to just below the speed at which you’ll get a ticket, you hope.

3. Car engineers constantly outdo themselves with stupidity re: the design of warning lights. When the Low Tire Pressure light looks like an Omega symbol, and all you can think of is Greek letters … green lettuce … SALAD!–the engineer probably failed at his job–unless, of course, he’s a revolutionary underground salad pusher. Health nuts. Takes all kinds.

4. Knowledge of the trip being long exponentially increases the “Are we there yet?”s from the back seat. So just call it a reeeeally long errand. And promise ice-cream.

5. You could put flame-throwers in every window of the old farm house in which your Grandma lives and it’ll still be cold. I think old houses have an evil cold-pact with one another. However, all it takes to transport you to San Louis Obispo and Morrow Bay is the company, conversation, and gamesmanship of family members playing a good board game.

Suggestion: Carcassonne. Instant warmth. I’m not responsible for blood boiling when your city gets expanded beyond probable completion. But if you do get to that point, it will probably be with people you love.

So simmer, baby, simmer.

 
 

Resolution Modification

05 Jan

Make your New Year’s resolution list yet? No, I don’t mean the list for next year (although, that may be a good idea for those of you already off the wagon). I mean have you made it? If you’ve failed, no biggie. You’re an average American.

But if you’re still hanging onto hope that your list will be useful and serve a function other than a paper airplane, think about adopting my method of New Year’s resolution modification.

Here’s how it works: Take the list you worked so hard on (that you thought about during brief bouts of being sober on New Year’s Eve. That you scrawled on toilet paper in-between hurls) and add a parenthetical qualification at the end of each goal to make it more manageable.

Follow my example:

1. Play more golf (multiple video game simulations will suffice)

2. Snowboard in Colorado (drop acid, board at Snowstar, and think you’re in Colorado)

3. Fix loose kitchen tile (wait until son is old enough to fix tile. Use as lesson to teach value of hard work. Years may pass? Meh)

4. Volunteer with family at soup kitchen (warm up canned soup in presence of family in our home’s kitchen, thereby satisfying aforementioned criteria)

5. Get down to single-digit body-fat (stay in the single digits when consuming Oreos)

6. Study for the LSAT and research more about law school (watch a movie about people who have studied for the LSAT and have gotten through law school. Far more inspiring. And easy)

7. Clean out garage (BUUUWAAAHAHAHA)

And on and on. You get it. If your family is as great as mine, they’ll appreciate your personal growth at losing the delusion that you can be above average without some kind of stimulant (legal or otherwise) coursing through your veins.

It’s a new year, everybody. Let’s settle now!

 
 

Relationship Retooling

29 Dec

The man stares at his computer screen, a bewildered look on his face. He has just spent the last several hours organizing invoices, only to find that he organized the wrong folder, leaving him with the decision of either being late for dinner or stuck with a huge mountain of work the next day. He can’t imagine either scenario working out well, so he does the natural thing and heads for the liquor store.

No matter how hard I strive for perfection, I fail. Every time. And if I can’t make it, the rest of you suckers have no chance. I often have the angry, sarcastic love-wasting-time speech with myself over a failure to catch a minor detail that could’ve saved me hours of work.

So it goes with parenting. What I once thought was a sure-fire method to producing great kids sooner or later turns out to be the antithesis of what is needed to move toward that result. Searching Pinterest, I found a pin that sums up what I, and my wife (she said it was okay to include her in this. Honest), sometimes forget:

“Don’t let yourself become so concerned with raising a good kid that you forget you already have one.” I won’t say I couldn’t have said it better myself, but I was feeling lazy, so Pinterest won this battle. You get the point, though.

To this end, Amy and I sat down and drafted a list of how we will approach parenting in the new year. Disclaimer: I’m not telling anyone they have to listen to me. Never have, never will.

I’m just putting this out there as an FYI, a way that my wife and I will try to become better parents, and if you happen to find some of it useful, awesome. If not, just shut the hell up.

I realize you haven’t said anything negative about this yet, but it’s on some of your minds to be Discord in my Equestria (yes, that was a My Little Pony reference. Deal with it), and I don’t need negativity; I just need another day to try to become a better person.

As do you. As do we all.

The list:

1. Volunteer once/month at a soup kitchen.

2. Engage in indirect charitable giving, e.g., packing Thanksgiving and Christmas boxes during the church’s holiday food drives, taking a name from the Angel Trees.

3. Don’t assume the worst when you encounter a conflict with one or more of your kids, e.g., not assuming they spilled something on purpose or out of carelessness, or that hitting was with the intent to practice MMA fighting skills on a live dummy.

4. Don’t jump down your kids’ throats. Bypass yelling and get started on fixing the problem. Hypothesis: doing so will make them want to work with you, not against you. Treat them the way you would want to be treated, e.g., treat them the same (or better) than the way you would treat a co-worker with whom you were having a conflict. Writing this one down made me realize I’ve been guilty of this, which makes me totally suck. Big-time.

5. Recognize age, loosen ropes, extend freedom accordingly, give more responsibilities. I’m a paranoid parent. I know, but this is necessary.

6. If they earn something, it’s theirs and cannot be taken away, e.g., Will earned money by scrubbing the shower floor. Then he turned into a jerk about something, and I reneged on his payment (since rectified, as by stiffing him, I was the bigger jerk). Have the punishment fit the crime, e.g., no dinner = no dessert, not no toys. The latter doesn’t make sense. It’s an illogical progression from offense to punishment and fails to get your point across. Fighting over toys = lose toys, etc.

7. I wrote about the glass jar concept a few posts ago in “Stones,” where we start out the day with a certain number of stones, removing them one-by-one as the kids get into trouble, and the remainder is what they have to purchase dessert. I think this is a good visual for them to keep track of their behavior, but now realize that it only focuses on the negative, so while we’re keeping this approach, we’re also employing its opposite.

We’re getting another glass jar, one for each kid, and when the kids show good behavior, we’ll put a stone into the jar, along with a short note about what the behavior was. Then, when full, or when the stones reach a specified number (TBD), the kids will get a reward, and we’ll read the notes in the jar. I try to make verbal notice of every good thing my kids do, but, again, I’m not perfect. With this, it’s a built-in method of ensuring you’ll have to praise your kids.

8. When the kids interrupt you in the middle of non-work, non-mandatory tasks, such as reading novels, watching the Packers (that last one was very hard for me to write), stop and be helpful. Don’t say you’re too busy. Also, when you help, do so with a positive attitude. No eye-rolling or other irritated gestures, i.e., no behaving in a way that would make you pissed at them if they showed a bad attitude when you asked for their help.

9. Don’t cut them off when they want to explain something to you, i.e., listen and don’t be an ass.

10. Periodically evaluate your parenting methods to make sure they align with where your children are with their development. We’re going to do this quarterly.

As I write this, I realize pretty much all of it boils down to the Golden Rule, which, in case you’ve forgotten, says, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” It’s amazing to me that I often forget this applies to my children.

Here’s to less non-singing vocal strain in 2013.

 

Top 10 Kabala Holiday Priorities

22 Dec

1. It is totally acceptable to sleep in past the intended wake-up time of 6am when the intent of waking up is to exercise, expend energy, and make one likely to miss out on holiday gorging due to fatigue-induced napping. After-gorging napping is, of course, acceptable.

2. It is totally unacceptable to sleep in past 6am when the best holiday donuts are up for grabs before the sun rises. If you must, rig up a bucket of water to douse you after the alarm has been ringing for more than 10 seconds with no movement on your part to shut it off. Small pain for significant, fatty pleasure.

3. It is unacceptable to decorate a Christmas tree with more than one ornamental theme, as this angers the OCD gods, resulting in numerous house fires every holiday season. In addition to the gods, you also have to worry about the OCD zombie mob. These creatures have uncannily good eyesight, able to spot offenders as the zombies cruise by houses. A brick through the window and/or eating of your flesh are possibilities.

4. If you live in the Midwest, it is acceptable to wait several days after a snowfall before shoveling your driveway, as equal chances exist that another, worse storm will come in on the previous one’s heels, or that the temperature will rise inexplicably by 50 degrees, rendering your back prematurely sore for no reason.

5. It is acceptable to work in the line “since Bing Crosby danced with Danny fucking Kaye” once during conversations you may have with anyone about the holidays. This is known as the Christmas Vacation Rule. This came about as a piece of federal legislation in the 80s, replacing, and forbidding, the wearing of neck-plunge man-o-tards. Sadly, 80s rock bands flouted this rule, and enforcement was lax.

6. It is acceptable to shovel your neighbor’s driveway once per living tenure as a gesture of holiday goodwill. Not once per year, once in the entire time you live in one particular house.

7. If the selfish bastard doesn’t return the favor, it is acceptable to a) shovel all your snow into his driveway b) hose down his walk, or c) tap into the zombie frequency controlling all snow plow drivers and instruct them to dump all snow in your neighbor’s driveway. On the upside: he’ll have a hell of a sledding hill.

8. It is acceptable to, once a year, drink to excess, get little to no sleep, achieve significant tone droppage in the voice, and sing White Christmas in the style of Bing Crosby. Men, this is as sexy as you will ever be for your woman, so make sure most of the alcohol is out of your system before you sing the first notes. You may need to crescendo sooner than you think.

9. It is acceptable to use the Christmas-will-come-faster argument when trying to get your kids to go to bed early on Christmas Eve because–SHOCKING NEWS–it actually works! And I’m sure some science … somewhere backs up the whole perception of time passage theory I’ve got going here.

10. If you’re a writer or story-teller of any kind, it is unacceptable to avoid unpleasant family members at holiday family gatherings. When the shit goes down (and you know it will) you should be close to the action. These are story ideas dropped in your lap, gems that deserve to be polished and edited until the whole world is privy to the dysfunction (and accompanying hilarity) that runs in your bloodline. To this end, holiday family gatherings are truly the gift that keeps on giving.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, Family Farcers :)

 
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12 Days of–NO

15 Dec

I have learned to admit when I’m wrong, deciding it’s better to look like a small fool than a blithering idiot. Word of a block-headed person travels faster than children run from unpaid chores. Best to take your licks and be able to enjoy the holiday party without parking your face in the Jack Daniels punch bowl.

I am 31-years-old, married for almost 10 years, and I still work on this every day. The allure of proving you are right is oftentimes more attractive than the real danger of a protracted argument, which, assuming your opponent is female and in some sort of relationship with you, is always weighted heavily in favor of the opposition. Personal pride and weak arguments are like the sirens in The Odyssey: beautiful at first glance, offering you the chance to have power and pleasure, but end up eating you alive.

In the case of a work argument, this takes on a metaphorical quality. At home, however, if you’re arguing with your wife, the rate at which the metaphor becomes reality is inversely proportional to how much of a dick you’re being and how far your wife’s reach is from the tool box.

As the saying goes, if you know what’s good for you, you’ll shut up while you’re ahead and avoid becoming “that man” in conversations your woman has with her girlfriends.

So I’ve got this on my to-do list, but my six-year-old son has neglected to include knowing when to shut up in his personal development plan.

This Christmas season, my wife decided to start a new tradition. Starting 12 days before Christmas, we would read one story per night with the kids that illustrates some positive principle of humanity. Each reading has a candy associated with it, e. g., the story of the creation of Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer had plastic reindeer that pooped candy (we’re all about working in bathroom humor whenever possible).

When Amy presented the plan to me, I thought it made perfect sense. Granted, not as much sense as my suggestion of interpretive dance/miming of Christmas carols, ultra-cool savings bonds as prizes for the first person to guess the carol being dramatized, but I take things with a grain of salt.

To Will, however, this was illogic on display. “How do you know when to start?” he said, referring to the specified lead-time. “We’ve never done this before.”

How do you reply to this? You invoke the because I said so defense. Also feel free to craft a defense involving the phrase “under my roof.” Threatening hand gestures, particularly the shaking fist, have been known to be effective as well. If none of that works, you can always threaten to give your kid’s candy share to another sibling, or to the cat, or have an impromptu reverse trick-or-treat event, where you throw candy at unsuspecting strangers passing by your house.

We did all except the last. I’m saving that one for when they have another road race that goes down our street. Did it get the job done? Has Will learned anything else about shutting up while he’s ahead?

It’s hard to tell. So far, he has sat through the stories with minimal protest. For all I know, his thoughts are racing through scenes of the next Adventures of Dr. D episode he’ll illustrate, or episode of Phineus and Ferb he’ll watch, or new way he can explain his way out of carrying the cat around like it’s an unconscious smoke-inhalation victim (yes, thrown over his shoulder).

I take heart when seemingly unrelated evidence supports progress. Example: Will recently begged me to put him and Anna to bed, a job Amy normally handles. I had something to do, said no, but Will kept asking, and asking.

Finally I said, “Why is it so important for me to put you to bed?”

“Because I like spending time with you,” he said.

Point: Will

That night, the kids heard Dad’s footsteps receding from their rooms after tucking-in duties were done. Just a trip up and down the stairs? Nope.

Progress.

 

Dated

08 Dec

Evidence has recently presented that I have either lost my mind or grew up pretty darn close to the beginning of time, which, I now realize, possibly makes me a vampire, seeing how I don’t age (I get that “Oh, great” look when I buy beer).

I also realize a collective “Recently?!” is on the lips of anyone who knows me and is reading this post, but you people can go busy yourselves with needlepoint or something and let everybody else decide for themselves. I reserve the right to prove my intellect or lack thereof to newcomers on a case by case basis.

As a member of the gender that has, at any moment, the potential to commit acts of extreme awesomeness or extreme idiocy, usually dependent on the level of coffee in our system and/or the time removed from our last sexual encounter, I believe God decreed this Right to Prove Awesomeness/Idiocy law in excluded sections of the Bible, which unfortunately got cut in the editing process–God wanting men to make fools of themselves without any advanced warning, ya see.

Scene: Will wrote a story, and I suggested that he date it so he could look back later and know when he wrote it. The date I suggested: 12/1/1. Interpreted as the modern calendar convention, this would be December of year 1.

Amy gave me an are-you-sure-you-want-to-stick-with-that-story? look. I was undaunted, giving her a what’s-your-problem?-why-don’t-you-get-this? look, which, after about five seconds, faded to an I’m-a-dumbass look.

So have I lost my mind? Am I a vampire? The most likely conclusion is that (drumroll) I’m a guy, and my stubbornness is exceeded only by the great span to which my mouth can expand to accommodate all varieties of footwear.

Date those stories, yes. Just do it out of earshot of your wife. Oh, and check to make sure you still have a reflection, just in case.