Tuesday, July 31, 2007

2nd Blogaversary!

I can’t believe it's been two years since I started this here “blog” – where’d the time go? Back then my daughter was 3 weeks old and I was still getting used to being “a parent”, “someone’s dad”, “old?”
It’s funny how things work; I originally had no intention of starting a blog, I read a few but that’s about it. I set up a blogger account to help a writer friend set up his and just started writing random stuff - I posted here and there, but nothing I thought anybody would actually read.
Somehow it evolved as I wrote more about my life as a dad, started reading other parents, people reacted, and my original 10 visitors a day grew (to 20…!)

I think I found “my blog voice” when I hit a bunny on the road with my daughter in the car (you can read that here.)

I’m not sure how many of you have thought about this-- but when do you stop? How long do you blog? Do we stop when our kids find out we write about them, their friends find out, and they’re embarrassed? Or maybe when they leave for college? Or when grandkids show up?
I'm not entirely sure... maybe it stops when it ceases to be fun.

A few highlights over the year:

Thursday, July 26, 2007

The Veterinarian’s Office Should Be Renamed “The Cleaners”

My dog is old. In dog years I think he’s around 248.

He’s been acting a little weird the last few months, coughing on occasion like the Marlboro Man, his barks sound more like Bea Arthur than a Beagle, his arthritis causes him to take longer standing up. I can see the warning signs - every morning when I check on him, I can’t help but to feel a little nervous.
My wife took him to the vet for a check-up and they pretty much told us what we expected – he's a senior citizen and now it’s time to find out why the vet drives a 7 series BMW.
Examination and blood work - $346. Pet prescription medication - $37/month (arthritis meds) $7/month (nutritional supplement) $27/month (prescription dietary food), X-rays/Ultrasound to find out what needs to be rebuilt... – “would you like to fill out a credit application and give us a tour of your house…?”

The timing is pretty ironic, just a few days ago my job had mailed me something called “Pet Insurance” listing all sorts of programs and fancy medical procedure coverage usually reserved for the likes of Michael Jackson's pet monkey. I laughed about how ridiculous it is to have $37/month taken out of my paycheck for something so odd. Now I’m actually considering digging through the recycling bin.

Maybe I've been living in a cave, but when did this all begin? When I was a kid - pet meds, pet chemotherapy, pet physical therapy, pet cancer treatments, or even prescription pet food was completely unheard of. And if you did hear/read about it, it was usually the old lady down the street who was leaving billions to her cat, or at the grocery checkout isle next to the “Batboy meet the president of France” article.

Now I’m in the position of trying to figure out what’s reasonable and what’s nonsensical without feeling like Cruella DeVille. And that's besides the fact that millions of people in other countries don't get this kind of medical care we're giving our pets - am I the only one a little bothered by that?

What does everybody else think? Has anybody been through this or are your pets on prescription drugs? Maybe had expensive treatments or surgeries? Or was my vet the “car salesman of the year” in a previous life?

Sunday, July 22, 2007

It's Official - I’m Starting MY OWN CIRCUS!!

We survived the Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey circus Friday night. My daughter could not stop talking about it for 2 days – elephants, horses, tigers, and bears (oh my!) Actually there were no bears, and to my disappointment no monkeys either. Somehow I thought those two were a requirement for all circuses? I need to write my congressman about that one...

As soon as we sat down, the vendors guys starting walking around selling their wares – are you ready for this? $12 for cotton candy (the kind from the $.99 store), $7 box of popcorn (how can popcorn be MORE expensive that a movie theater??) $15 for a snow cone (disclosure, it came a plastic horse head – which was pretty cool because it looked like you were eating “horse brain” – not sure if that was intentional or not), $20 for a plastic sword, and $3.50 for a regular bag of M&M’s.
Can you guess what we bought? The M&M’s. And we shared it. Next time we're sneaking stuff in, just like a real movie theater.

Overall the show wasn’t half bad. In fact, you can tell "the canadains" (Cirque Du Soleil) have had some influence on the “real” circus because they had a live band, an overarching “light” story about a clown named “Bello”, skimpy outfit dancing girls (whoa! Don’t get too excited dudes, they were kind of "carnie-looking"), and Chinese acrobats that were all, like 3 feet tall and combined together to form a giant robot! I wish...
They had the traditional tiger tamer guy (he yelled in Spanish – now, I don’t speak Spanish, but I swear he was cussing…), horses running in circles, elephant conga line, human cannon (a married coupled who looked like Bob and Helen from “The Incredibles”), clowns doing some Dancing with the Stars satire, and poodles turning all kinds of tricks (chika-chika, wa-wa! No not those kind.) Those poodles were VERY popular - I swear, when they were on, the kids sounded more like a bunch of screaming Elvis fans.
Since this was pretty much my first real circus (and the wife’s too) there were some things that kind of bothered us. For instance – they did some blatant product placement in the show (marshmallows?), we felt REALLY guilty about the tiger performance (they obviously weren’t smiling about being whipped around) and we weren't sure why they had zebra’s in the show (they didn’t do anything – shouldn’t they be running along with Timon and Pumba in the jungle frolicking, singing or something…?) And there was no tent; it was actually in the arena. O.K. first no monkeys and then no tent!? Now I’m no expert on circuses but isn’t that breaking all kinds of circus rules?

I couldn’t help but think what kind of acts I would do if I had my own circus:
1. Roller-skating Monkeys. Maybe to the Bee-Gee’s or ELO.
2. Kittens out of Cannons. They can wear capes, crash helmets, sport curly mustaches, and have crazy French names like Monsieur Pierre-Louis Lefèvre and Alice.
3. Live ska performance by The English Beat. They can sing Tears of a Clown with REAL clowns.
4. Circus tent made out of bed sheets --like on “The Little Rascals.”
5. Monster trucks that get eaten by that giant robot, crusher, truck eater.
6. Bears with tutu’s, sunglasses, and umbrellas on unicycles. Or just humans in bear costumes.
7. REAL Freak show. Like a dude on a bed of nails, the elephant man’s 12 children, some bald guy named "Rusty" that can spit fire balls and knock down beer cans, little ponies with little riders parade (and they all can have mustaches. Even the ponies!)
8. Midget Ringmaster with a voice that closely resembles Barry White. Or just David Hasselhoff (the real one.)

If you know of anybody that can do any of these, or maybe you have some talent or act that you'd like to add - leave a comment.
This is going to be the best circus....ever!

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Randomness: First Circus, Potty Training Part 2, Mommy MBA, and 80’s Sitcoms

First Visit To The Circus
Ringling Bros and Bartles & James Circus is in downtown L.A. this week and we're going tomorrow. The last time I went to see a circus was, I think, in 1980 (give or take.) and it wasn’t even a real one. It was in this place east of L.A. and I remember it had Mexican midget acrobats, Nacho Libre clowns, and scared animals. They sold Churro’s (tasty) and Horchita (probably made by the animals) instead of popcorn and cotton candy. We had gone because my dad was able to get some big discount on the tickets (he would go anywhere if there was a discount attached, even if it meant sitting near the smoking gorillas.)
Anyhow, we thought it would be fun to take my daughter to a real circus. And maybe I wanted to go too.

An actual conversion with my daughter:

Me: Wanna go to the CIRCUS?
Daughter: O.K.

Me: There are animals at the Circus

Daughter: ANIM-MALS?

Me: Yup! Real animals, like… Elephants, Tigers, Bears, Clowns…

Daughter: …and MONKEYS?!! Yeah Monkeys!!! I wanna see monkeys, Dad-DEE... MONKEYS!!

Friday is going to be fun...

Potty Training: Part 2
Now that my daughter is 2, we’re kicking the potty training into high gear. We first tried at 18 months, which pretty much trained her to walk the diaper over to the throne, dump the goods (with help), flush, and then cheer. And then there were maybe those 100 instances where she sits on the throne, sings, flips through a book, gets down, diaper goes on…5 minutes later poops/pees. Then tells us she pooped/pee.
Now I’m to the point of bribing. If she goes once on the potty - even a drop, I told here that I’d buy her a BIG pink pony - one that flys, and makes candy!

Mom's And MBA's
My wife was recently accepted into Pepperdine University’s MBA program and I couldn’t be happier for her. From her calculations she’ll graduate in about 3 years, which seems like a long time just knowing our daughter will be starting kindergarten by then. Have any parents out there juggled going back to school with family/work? Advice...stories

80’s Sitcom’s: On The Internet
I have a new addiction - some genius decided to put 5-minute versions of the best 80’s TV shows on the Internet. Now I can watch “Facts of Life”, “Silver Spoons”, "Diff'Rent Strokes", "Fantasy Island", “What’s Happening” (did you know Rerun almost got married? I KNOW!) and one of my personal favorites – “Who’s The Boss.”
I have some requests for more that would be perfect 5-minute episodes - "Small Wonder", "Mama's Family", "Charles In Charge", "Brady Bunch", "Perfect Strangers", "Family Ties", "Growing Pains", "Golden Girls" and "Alf" (haaaaa!) Any other requests?

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Birthdays That Last A Week, Bikes For 2 Year-Olds, Gymboree Party, and Contributing To Harry Potter’s College Fund

One of the benefits of my daughter being an only child (for now) is that her birthday has turned into a week long celebration. Every morning it's the same greeting "It's MY birthday!" To strangers she announces, "My Birthday!". I still don't think she really knows what that means.
On her actual birthday my wife made birthday cupcakes, had a small party with her weekday friends, and our sitter. And later we took her to one of those places with nothing but bounce-houses. We also gave her a gift - a bike. She’s been asking for one for about a month now because the bigger kids around the neighborhood have them.

Skip The Tricycle And Go For the Well-Design Bike!
The wife and I have had some disagreements about the type of bike we were going to buy her -- she wanted to get her one of those normal tricycles with like Princesses or Dora on it. I on the other hand wanted to get a balance bike, LikeABike, that trains toddlers how to ride a real bike (skip the tricycle phase.) And because of the minimalist design I wanted customize this bike myself with stickers I create. Oh, and did I mention the bike looks cool too?
I did end up buying the LikeABike knock-off at Target (only $50 compared with $270 for the “original” Sorry, LikeABike - the difference is $220… that’s a big deal.)
While putting the bike together, my daughter was jumping all over the place like an excited monkey. That’s until I put it on the ground and put her on it only to find out she’s about 2 inches too short to hold it up (I guess that’ll go in the closet for a few more months…)

A Birthday Party At Gymboree (Without Elvis)
This time last year, I sold my kidney for cash on the black market, recruited 8 extremely creative friends and together we put on a huge 1 year-old party for my daughter that made the ones from Cookie Magazine look like a get-together BBQ with leftovers (I’m never doing that again…) This year, we invited about 90 less people and did a simple, low-key party at Gymboree (Play & Music). It was great! 14 kids under 5 and their parents had a ball playing on the equipment, making music, dancing, singing, face-painting (boys called them “tattoos”), and running around under the parachute – perfect for kids this age.
The only drawback was the entire event was only 2 hours long so we didn’t have time to open presents (we had a no-gift party last year) other than that, success!

Harry Potter Rocked The Casbah
Ever since the job started summer hours on Fridays (out by 1), I feel like a normal person again. The wife and I actually get to see movies once more since our daughter was born. This week it was Harry Potter – which by the way, was great. I know the movie leaves out a lot of the book, but if they made that movie this thing would have been 8 hours long. For what it is, they did an excellent job, especially the effects at the end and professor Umbridge’s office (plates on the walls – nice touch!) The only weird part is seeing how big the kids have grown. Ron is looking more like a 50 year-old alcoholic while the others look like normal teenagers.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

To My Daughter On Her 2nd Birthday

Happy Birthday Miss Bean!

I just can't believe you're 2. Where did the time go...!?

It seems as if were yesterday watching you make your grand entrance into this world (I cut your cord and didn’t pass out), bringing you home for the first time (that nervous drive home took a lot longer than normal), and then staring at you in complete amazement wondering what adventures lay ahead and what kind of person you were going to be (watching you sleep was better than any TV show.)
Never would I have imagined the absolute joy of watching you grow, learn, walk, and talk. Most of all – the happiness and delight you bring to your mommy and I (your smile and laugh still make me melt...) I'm still in awe at how much that delicate baby I once held is gone, growing up fast, and getting a little more independent each day. Although, in my eyes, you’ll still be my little baby girl (even when you’re 30...)

Some of your favorite things:
Doodlebops, The Wiggles, Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, Cinderella, Animals (especially monkeys), Wooden Puzzles, your Cheetah Girls 2 purse filled with aliens, trucks and princesses, Books, Play Kitchen & Cooking, Coloring & Drawing, the slide in the park, Dancing, Singing.

Things I'm going to miss most when you grow up:
Cooking me Sushi, Rice, and Edamame in your play kitchen, eating "crackcorn" (popcorn), putting your stuffed animals to bed, your stinky blanket that has magical powers, how something simple - like a bug or a flower - can be a celebrity in your eyes.

What you asked for your birthday:
A bike (I bought you that LikeABike knockoff that you need to grow into), Ice Cream, Strawberries, drive the MINI Cooper (go ask your mom...)

Friday, July 06, 2007

Crazy People Searches, My Favorite L.A. Restaurants, Daddy And Daughter Days Part IV, And Slay-A-Thon

Crazy People Searches
I haven’t done this in awhile. This is what some people come here looking for:

pictures of midgets in overalls (I haven’t see any, but maybe I want too)
a bee peeing (now I’m curious, do they pee?)
18 month old doesn't like dad (Two words buddy: “Ice Cream”)
how long would it take to drive to uranus at 65mph (insert my jr. high laugh)
how to influence a dad to get a dog (when you promise to pick up its poop)
spanking in romance novels (don’t they all have spanking by "the governor" or somebody like that?)
kfc sleepwear (I want some that say, "I like my chicken... spicy")
i am looking for a midget woman (in overalls?)
dentist and alcohol jokes (What kind of awards to dentists get? A little plaque. If your dentist tells you that one, run.)

My Favorite L.A. Restaurants

Pixie tagged me for this meme - In case anybody wanted to know my favorite places to eat around these parts (excluding “the colonels” - because that's a no-brainer)

Tokyo Delves Sushi Bar (North Hollywood) - Also known as "Disco Sushi" by the natives. Really, really fun place where everybody gets to dance on the chairs while listening to disco and 80’s. Try making a phone call in the phone booth.

Palms Thai (Hollywood) - You could probably get better Thai food anywhere, like across the parking lot, but why? This place has "Thai Elvis" perform nearly every night. They even have Thai Celine Dion and Andy Gibb.

Magic Castle (Hollywood/Highland) – If Harry Potter were real, he would be performing here on Saturday nights. Really cool (and cheesy) private Magician’s Club. This is about the only place left in Hollywood that requires men to wear suits and ladies to wear cocktail dresses (or suits with a curly mustache.)

Weekday Gymboree Moms Who Give Dads The “Stink” Eye

I took a day off to spend with my daughter after the 4th, I like to do these days off once in awhile since my little girl is growing up like a weed. I thought is would be fun to take her to a Gymboree class - she normally goes on Saturday’s with the weekend crowd – which is MUCH different from the weekday crowd. I was the only Dad there among a crowd of moms who dressed their kids as if they were going to a fashion show. Next time I take her, I’m dressing as Gymbo the clown and putting a monkey costume on my daughter.
I did overhear some moms talking about another mom who had a boob job. That was cool; they looked natural.
The day was fun; we drew, colored, made play-doh pancakes, watched about 20 minutes of Cinderella/Finding Nemo, and chalked the driveway. Then she asked if she could drive the car.
I told her O.K., only if she uses the potty.

What? Some Crazy Man To Watch Buffy The Vampire Slayer For 12 Hours To Raise Money For The Make-A-Wish Foundation
I absolutely love this foundation. The wife and I over the years have worked with the organization and this is something truly original that’s worth mentioning. A friend of a friend, David Roberts, does a marathon to raise money for them. Last year he raised 20k and was able to grant 3 wishes.
If you want to help his cause, you can do so here (be sure to put David Roberts name in there.) If you want to read more about the Make-A-Wish foundation check it out here.
Good luck David! If you ever do a Golden Girls one, I’m totally flying to Chicago.

Monday, July 02, 2007

When Do You Take A Toddler To The Movies? My iPhone Experience, And Parents That Buy Kids Expensive Things.

On summer Fridays, the J.O.B. let’s me free at 1pm. “Summer hours” they call I; the wife and I call it “A chance to go see a movie while our daughter is at the sitter until 5:30.” The last real movie we saw together in a theater was that Harry Potter movie (the one that came out 2 years ago.) Although I did try to take my daughter to see “Meet The Robinson’s” a few weeks (or months) ago only to have her tell me “all done daddy – I want home! I wanna play!” 20 minutes into it. To be honest I wanted to leave too, that movie was really boring and didn’t make sense.
So last Friday, the wife and I wanted to see Ratatouille and we were really struggling whether or not to take our daughter. Her current movie watching record is about 25 minutes of Cinderella, then she’s off to pretend cook lemon-crusted pork chops with rice, or sing to the dog.
Fellow parents, when did you first take your to the movies? 3? 4? 13? I lost my child owners manual and I want to know.
The first movie I can remember was E.T. at a drive-in. I remember watching for awhile and then somehow, I ended up at the swings eating a Fudgesicle. I wish more drive-ins were around these days... parenting would be so much easier.
My quick review of Ratatouille – I really liked it (so did the wife.) In my Pixar favorites, this is #2 after Finding Nemo. The story is great, the animation and art direction are stunning. It makes the Shrek movies look like “Dude, Where’s My Car.”

That was my Friday afternoon, guess where I was Friday night? Standing in line with about 600 people in front of me waiting to get an iPhone at the Apple store in the Sherman Oaks mall (and I thought nobody would be there because it was the valley – boy, I felt pretty dumb.) Two and a half hours later, I finally made it to the front (about 10 minutes before they sold out), bought the thing and then the Apple employees high-fived me on the way out while hooting and hollering “Whoo-Hoo! All right! Way to Go! You da' MAN!” (they were high-fiving everybody… I guess to make you forget the amount of money you just spent...)
I went along with it. Then when I got to the car, I felt dirty.

I didn’t have any problems porting my number from Verizon, I was able to start making calls from the iPhone in about 2 hours, and started receiving calls on Sunday. I played with the thing all weekend like a kid with Pokemon on a new Gameboy.
I have to admit – the thing is freakin’ cool. It really feels more like a computer than a phone though, which isn’t so bad. I do have a few complaints, which are more techie problems (Why can’t I get any notes on it from my computer like my Treo? AT&T EDGE is really, really slow. The WiFi helps when strangers have open routers. I want games on the thing and I want to use my music for ringtones.) I hear all of those are suppose to happen sometime soon in a software update.
Good things? The maps (and real-time traffic), the Internet works really well (full access to Blogger), the camera is pretty good for a phone, video looks amazing, oh - and the phone part works pretty good too.
The oddest thing while standing in line - there was a mom and her 11 year-old son ahead of me. The mom was buying one for her son. Say what? What kind of parent would buy an 11 year-old a $600 phone!? I sure wouldn’t. What’s wrong with parents? No wonder kids live at home well into their 30’s. I bet that kid will be living at home until he’s at least 40.