When Girls Play with Dinosaurs

My daughter loves dinosaurs. I don’t know why because she plays with them wrong. Everyone knows that the correct way to play with dinosaurs is to grab one in each hand and bash them together over and over again while making noises in your throat that sound like a Rottweiler devouring a badger. My daughter prefers to tuck them in…

IMG_9959…dress them in tutus (even if they’re only puzzle piece tutus)…

IMG_0236 (2)…treat their boo-boos in her “Get Better Center”…

IMG_0325 (2)…make houses out of books for her Mama sauropod and turn Nerf bullets into hats..

IMG_0366 (2)…feed her T.Rex grape muscari blossoms, because everyone knows a T. Rex’s preferred diet consisted of flowers served with a splash of tea from a musical pink teapot… IMG_0434

So when I came upon this apparent feeding frenzy one day I had a glimmer of hope. Elmo’s days of infernal giggling had come to end. These adorable herbivorous dinosaurs from the Land Before Time had heard enough. I could almost hear his ligaments snapping as Petri tore flesh from his carcass. I could smell the stink of death upon Littlefoot’s breath. I could feel the bloodthirsty rage in Cera’s eyes. I looked down upon Elmo’s sad repose, imagining Ducky’s bill grinding his little red furry bones into dust. When I turned toward my daughter, with mocked concern for Elmo’s well being, she corrected me. “No! Kissing Dada! They’re kissing!”

IMG_0199 (2)Oh well.

Her dinos peaceful existence will come to a close soon enough. Soon my son will be able to crawl. Once he does, by the laws of sheer probability, the first thing he will put in his mouth will be dinosaur, and  I have a feeling that when that happens a battle will commence between the two of them that will rival anything ever seen during the Jurassic. And soon after that, unfortunately, some playmate of Josie’s will make an innocent comment about dinosaurs being “boys things” and they will be cast aside to Grant. He will undoubtedly pick them up with both hands, bash them together, and make sounds in his throat that will cause me to have the irrational fear that Clover is attacking a badger in the living room.

And I will be left in a pretty pink princess world awash in the nostalgia of the days when Josie was my baby Diplodocus and I was her Dada.



Top ten things that happen in your thirties that you thought happened in your fifties

10.  You begin to say ridiculous things like, “When I was your age you didn’t have to cut english muffins, they just tore apart!”

9.  When you push your kid on the swing, you’re the one who gets queasy.

8.  Switching sides of the bed with your wife is CRAAAAAZZZZZZYYYYY.

7.  To your wife at a party you utter the sentence, “I don’t know, I’d rather get home before it gets dark.”

6.  A friend at work has a genuine conversation with you about prostate health.

5.  You see a pair of New Balance shoes in a store and think to yourself, “Huh, those look pretty cool.”

4.  You brag to a friend about how you fell asleep the night before at 9:15pm.

3.  You’re still at the bar when you start to feel hungover.

2.  You buy a half-day ski ticket at 9am.

1. You look at a picture of yourself from before having kids and think to yourself, “Damn, I looked GOOD back then!”  The picture is from two years ago.

Cursing like a sailor

The other day Josie and I were driving around, and I found myself following behind a dump truck.  Josie loves big trucks.  She got excited.

“Dada! Dumb f#@k! Dumb f#@k Dada!”

It’s terribly hard to not to laugh at times like these.  And you don’t laugh, because if you do the next day you will be pushing her in the grocery cart and you’ll be that dad whose kid is calling everyone in the produce aisle a dumb f#@k.  And she’ll be laughing like the devil as she says it.  So I stared into the rear view and said, as calmly as I could, “Yes Josie that’s a Dump Truck.”

“Guy.  Guy in drive dumb f#@k.  Guy dumb f#@k.  Guy dumb f#@k.”

Apparently she doesn’t think too highly of drivers of dump trucks.

She also curses like a sailor when she tries to say “Sit.”  God help me if I am ever walking by a church full of Sunday school children on a nice day with the windows open and Josie should see a dump truck driver climb into his rig and sit down.  Especially if she thinks he sat down just a “bit.”

You start to conjure up wildly unlikely scenarios in your mind that could ignite a sitstorm of inadvertent swear words from your child.  I haven’t had the chance to use the word “lasso” yet, given that where we live the chance of seeing a cowboy throw a rope around a bull is pretty small.  Josie can sometimes  mix up the order of sounds in some of her words, so I’m pretty sure that if she ever saw a mother jump out of a dump truck to lasso a bull until it sat down a bit, there would be an clustertruck of obscenities worthy of landing her a bit in any Quentin Tarantino movie, whose role in the credits would simply read “Swearing girl: Josephine Axling.”

And I would excitedly point out her name and declare to strangers in the theater, “There she is, that’s my girl!”




Things you never say until you cohabitate with a toddler

What follows is a list of phrases that I had never previously used much or at all before having a child, but now use with disturbing frequency.  Most seem to be focused on telling the toddler not to put certain items in their mouth that will land them in the ER with Hepatitis or an x-ray that doctor looks while muttering, “Now how did THAT get in there?”

“Be careful with people’s eyes”
“If that is poop, should we be touching it?”
“Please don’t grab the doggy’s face”
“Did your bear go poop?”
“Way to go pee pee in the potty!”
“Sitting at the table comes with certain privileges and putting your feet up on the table is not one of them.”
“What’s in your mouth?”
“No, no amount of water is going to make that clean.”
“Oh my God, what have you been eating?”
“Mmmm…no that’s been on the ground way too long.”
“Don’t eat rocks.”
“Please don’t put the orange I just peeled for you between your toes.”
“Dog biscuits are for dogs sweetie.”
“Don’t run with your fingers in your ears!”
“No we can’t go today, it’s bouncy castle.”

And finally, something you never say until you become a dad.  As these words left my mouth, my feeble inner teenager exhaled his last breath, rolled over and died, and I officially became my father.  I said this in reference to an 18-wheeler who was tailing me as I was driving five-under on a curvy road at night with my family.

“I’m more than happy to pull over for some guy who’s probably coked-out on speed and hasn’t slept in 22 hours.”

Thankfully, this toddler isn’t a compulsive everything-in-the-mouth-putter-inner, so if you have better lines, I’d love to hear them.

Abstract Art

Excerpt from The New York Times’ Art in Review: Josephine Axling: The Refusal of Desire,” by Joseph Pepperidge. 

Newcomer Josephine Axling finds her work at the center of a new installation that opened last night at the Frigidaire, which is sure to solidify her standing as this country’s next Jackson Pollock.  Building upon her pudding phase, she has outgrown the understated brown and greens hues that marked this earlier phase in her life.  Now, working mostly in watercolor, her spontaneous brushstrokes have expanded on her earlier works such as ‘Pistachio’ and ‘Butterscotch’ with their frenetic energy.  This new collection of six paintings not only reflects Axling’s precocious abilities as a painter, but also the incipient duality of her human condition. Some have even commented that this collection almost seems to have been painted by two different artists.

Viewers have been delighted by the whimsical cerulean blues and lavenders in ‘Cookie’ and its sibling ‘Cracker.’  Their commentary on the demands of today’s post modern family’s dietary habits harbor no nostolgia for a more formal Rockwellian era of sit down meals. Together, their demanding brushstrokes firmly redirect even the most distracted viewer toward their gaze as if to say “Hey, they’re up there in the cabinet!”

In contrast to these lighter works, ‘Styx’ has been described by other reviewers as “hauntingly stark” and “foreboding.”  Similarly it appears in ‘The Letter O’ that Axling started with a floral effervescence of yellows and reds, but later she seems to have caged them in black brushstrokes.  Gallery attendees often speculated in front of this piece as to the artist’s alluded title’s meaning, with “Oppression” being the most popular guess.  ‘Styx’ and ‘The Letter O’ apper to be transition pieces – bridges (or rivers, as it were) toward a darker place, where viewers with more sensitive dispositions may not want to go.

Set against the gallery’s towering south wall, together hang ‘Exorcism’ and ‘Hades.’  A single bare light bulb hangs high above them, dangling from a cord that eerily is perpetually swinging slightly, casting shift shadows on these terrifying pieces.  More than a few gallery goers could be heard gasping as they rounded the gallery’s corner.  Most described a some sort of purple demon in ‘Exorcism.’  It’s been rumored that the artist painted this during a convulsive fit immediately after being denied a showing of ‘Cookie’ at the neighboring gallery ‘The Kitchen.’  The final piece in the collection, ‘Hades,’ is audibly powerful – seeming to scream so powerfully with the voices of those denied the gates of Heaven, that many viewers described feeling their eyes burn as they turned away from its cries.

Full of emotional range and artistic spontaneity, Axling’s latest collection at the Frigidaire sets the stage for an eagerly awaited encore.  And given her young age, I’m sure audiences will not be disappointed in the coming year, though given the noticeably dark subject matter of her latest pieces, fans of her work are bracing for a emotionally draining experience after she turns two next month.

Dogs aren’t Children

This my dog Clover.

We used to take pictures of her, videos even, and post them on YouTube.  For her first year with us, my iPhoto library was littered with cute little adorable puppy shots of her.  We bought her the super premium dog food called “Solid Gold,” which costs just slightly less than its namesake.  I even made her peanut butter treats from scratch to reward her for peeing in the yard.  When Clover started getting twitchy at night, running out in the yard when the fire started crackling in the winter, my wife and I would lie in bed at night psychoanalyzing her and theorizing what we could do.

Then we had a kid.

It was a bit of an adjustment for Clover.  Like any first born, her demotion on the familial totem pole was a bit of a shock.  For the first couple months, Clover was hedging her bets that this new little screaming addition to the family was anything more than a loud temporary visitor, who, if she could hold out, would eventually go back to the hospital.  Her hopes gave out eventually, and she now maintains a tolerant wariness toward Josephine.  However, this is changing lately toward general avoidance now that Josie is getting better at grabbing, throwing things and running.

Dogs can get a little lost in the shuffle when your family grows.  Heck, this blog is called Babies and Dogs, and how often do I write about Clover?  And how many times have I nearly forgotten Clover at friends’ houses after finishing the babyclothesdiaperssippycuptrainingpottysnacksmilkinthefridgeOmyGodhowcanone littlepersonhavesomuchcrap?scavenger hunt and getting Josie all buckled into her car seat?

Before having kids I remember my brother relating a story about his father-in-law accidentally leaving the family dog, Bishop, on Waldron Island (a remote island in the San Juans with no ferry service) for a few days before wondering where he was.  When he rushed back in his boat, there Bishop was on the beach, waiting expectantly.  And I remember being slightly horrified when I heard this story.  Now, this scenario seems completely understandable.

And therein lies the difference between dogs and children.  You can do that to a dog.  It’s not nice, sure, but they’ll be fine, they’ll forgive you and probably be really happy when you come back.  Dogs after all, are just training wheels for having children.  You can make mistakes like that with a dog and no one gets arrested.  So if you are childless and have a dog, and treat it like a child, and this makes you happy, more power to you.  But if you find yourself at a party surrounded by parents, who are bemoaning this or that about their kids, try really hard to avoid relating a story about your dog.  I know Fido is important to you, but he isn’t a child.  Instead try to chime in with a cute story about your nephew.

You don’t realize it yet, but the difference in the amount of time, mental and physical energy and money required to raise a child versus to take care of a dog is orders of magnitude greater.  I can best relate this with simple math.  When you got the puppy it took you about 3 months to potty train it.  Tough right? – a lot of little puddles.  It take on average 36 months to potty train a human – twelve times as long!  How about walking?  Dogs – pretty much immediately, children – around a year.  Obediently listening to you?  Dogs – a couple months, children – never.

This is advice forged in experience, because I too once just had a dog, and thought that anything I watched on the Dog Whisperer was also perfectly acceptable to be included in any unsolicited parenting advice I felt would be helpful to my friends with kids.  I cringe with horror as I remember questioning my friend Ali on why she was rewarding her toddler with hugs for negative behavior like crying after running into a coffee table.  Later when she was in the throws of potty training, perhaps I should have told her that she should keep a few peanut butter treats at the ready in her pocket when he pee-peed in the lawn.

The Winners Write the History (and Children’s) Books

The latest lineup of potty-time bathroom books includes Steven Kellogg’s beautifully illustrated Jonny Appleseed.  As a kid, I remember loving this book, and the other books of Kellogg’s we owned, which, like Jonny Appleseed, tended to focus on familiar tall tales of this country’s westward settlement like Paul Bunyan and Pecos Bill.  As I read them now though, through the eyes of an adult, I can’t help but squirm in my skin as Johnny Appleseed is welcomed by smiling Mohawk Native Americans as he stands, ax in hand, over the giant tree he just felled to clear land for the coming settlers.  Or later, as he comforts a wolf wounded by an arrow, while the shadowy Native American looks for his prey, I can’t help but shake my head at the irony. 

Not to be Debbie Downer, but this is not how things went down.  By the time we were clearing land in the Ohio River Valley, word had sort of gotten around that we were not to be welcomed with open arms (funny how we still thought we would be as we planned the Iraq invasion).  ‘The winners write the history books’ as they say, and winner’s like to think of themselves as the good guys.  Children’s books are no different.  The lessons we learned about the Pilgrims around Thanksgiving always depicted the Native Americans as friendly and bearing food for the bumbling Pilgrims through their first winter.  While this is true, the teacher never really touched on how, we later gave them blankets infected with smallpox, forcibly relocated the Cherokee, Creek, Seminole, Chickasaw, and Choctaw Nations from the Southeastern U.S. and marched them along the Trail of Tears to Oklahoma, and nearly eradicated bison from the Midwest by shooting them for sport from passing trains.  And Christopher Columbus is no different.  Same friendly “Indians,” but while the Arawaks paddled out to greet his ship with gifts, upon meeting them, Columbus, in his journal, noted how easy it would be to enslave the natives, which he did.

So what’s a parent to do in the face of our nation’s predilection to gloss over the violence of this country’s colonization?  Like Santa Clause, do you just go down the prescribed path and lie to your kids, leaving it up to some progressive high school teacher to tell them the truth later?  This is what happened to me.  In the eleventh grade our textbook for American Studies was Howard Zinn’s “A People’s History of the United States,” and I remember feeling like I’d been lied to for years, not for my sake, but so that the adults around me could avoid feeling guilty.  Wouldn’t telling children the truth be better, and in line with the values like honesty and openness which we espouse?

Then again, genocide and slavery are pretty heavy bedtime story topics.  The avoidance of disturbing topics like these is, in part, what helps to preserve the framework that makes the construct of childhood innocence possible for adults to feel a need to protect.  I’ll speculate that this need of ours is the basis for the majority of the myths we tell to them.

But let’s say we did give it to them straight from an early age.  Wouldn’t it undermine many of the ideals we desperately try to instill during their early years?  How could we teach them that their comfortable lives can be traced back, in part, to how their white ancestors stole Native Americans’ land, were responsible for millions of their deaths, and later dishonored treaties with them and prohibited them from practicing their religion, while telling them to share, be tolerant and not hurt others?  It doesn’t seem too much of a stretch for an elementary school aged child to conclude that to get what you want you should become the schoolyard bully.

So how do we teach our children about the consequences of our place on this continent without delivering a crushing dose of reality that contradicts the values we hold in esteem?  If you’ve wrestled with this, I’d love to hear your experience.  My daughter is not yet two, and just recently surpassed our dog’s intelligence, so I’ve got some time before I introduce a revisionist history of the effects of European colonization on Native American cultures.  Still it’s a weighty topic, so I’d like to be prepared when she brings home a handout from kindergarten around Thanksgiving with a drawing of a smiling Plains Indian handing over an ear of corn to a pilgrim in a pointy hat.