How a two-year-old eats a banana

Posted February 20, 2012 by lukens
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  1. The responsible parent will wash the two-year-old’s hands under warm water with antibacterial soap. With a proper lather, the two-year-old may commence clapping in order to watch the tiny bubbles of soap fly off in several directions at once. The responsible parent will rinse all of the soap off of the two-year-old’s hands. While the responsible parent looks for something to dry their two-year-old’s hands with, the two-year-old will hug the responsible parent around the parent’s leg, with their wet, little, two-year-old fingers coming to rest up near the responsible parent’s crotch so it looks like daddy pissed his damn pants.
  2. Next, the two-year-old will do something on the floor that requires them to place their freshly washed hands flat and square on the floor. They will also get magic marker all over their two-year-old hands. While the two-year-old does this, the responsible parent will choose a banana and begin to peel back the banana’s skin in the popular banana-skin-peeling method. The responsible parent will attempt to place the as-yet-unpeeled portion of the banana in the tiny two-year-old’s hand.
  3. With his or her free hand, the two-year-old will begin picking their nose.
  4. Once comfortable with the state of their nostrils, the two-year-old will remove the remainder of the banana peel completely and discard it deep within the folds of the sofa. If seated in their high chair at the table, the two-year-old may opt to toss the banana peel up toward the ceiling, hoping to land the peel somewhere on the chandelier.
  5. The two-year-old will then grip one end of the banana firmly in each hand. How firmly? Firmly enough that their fingers just begin to squish in on the banana. With the middle section of the banana left unscathed between the two-year-old’s tiny devil-fists, the two-year-old will now bite into the banana with all of their willpower. It is not uncommon here for the two-year-old to bite so deep into this portion of the banana that banana ends up in their ear, banana ends up in their hair, and they gag and throw up everything they’ve eaten in the last twelve hours all over the coffee table.
  6. If the two-year-old survives step 5, they may now choose to savor a few more bites of banana. As a general rule of thumb, considering today’s standard supermarket bananas and the average jaw size for a two-year-old, there may be anywhere from three to nine bites before progressing to step 7.
  7. The two-year-old will chew clear through the middle of the banana, leaving them with a fist full of banana mush in each hand. The two-year-old will most likely declare, “All done!” and place the two mushy, marker-colored, booger-covered chunks of banana on whatever flat surface is right in front of them. The responsible parent will likely comment, “You’re not all done, you barely ate any banana!” to which the savvy two-year-old will reply, “All done. Banana dirty. All done.”

The problem with two-year-olds

Posted February 5, 2012 by lukens
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I’m going to break with centuries of tradition and suggest that two-year-olds aren’t that bad. We’ve all heard about the “Terrible Twos,” but I think that this common myth is really just a misunderstanding between parent and child.

Let me be clear: Little Miss Cupcake has been a raving bitch much of the past week. At 25-months-old, she’s ahead of the curve as far as the amount of misery she is able to bring to our family. Her breakdowns inspire insanity in those around her. Her current hobbies include screaming, crying, carrying-on, shouting, breaking-down, advanced breaking-down, throwing a fit, and she’s quite keen lately on flipping her shit.

Know if you take a keen look at her parents, some of us (me) handle all this with a bit more patience than others of us (Leona). Not to name names, but seriously my wife can’t handle this all that well. Leona’s gameplan when a two-year-old screams at her is to scream back and then, to ice the cake, slam a door. I suppose even a two-year-old needs to learn about cause and effect, action/reaction, and Miss Cupcake needs to learn that her mom does not deal with stress in a way that inspires hope and joy in those around her.

I don’t mean to be critical of my wife, but this is true and she would probably admit to it. On the other hand, my child could throw a wooden toy in my face and I would probably not react too much either way. Leona has a huge problem with how I react, suggesting that I’m not showing who’s in charge. There’s undoubtedly some truth to that, but I generally find it easier to let Miss Cupcake’s Runaway Train of Rage run itself off its rails and then calmly help her get back on track. It’s easier than, through willpower alone, trying to push said runaway train back into the station. I think maybe that metaphor went on for too long…

Remember when I said that two-year-olds aren’t that bad? I meant it. Oh, my child? Yes, she indeed can’t be terrible. I suppose I should explain what I’m thinking and get to the point.

Sous Chef Cupcake

I don’t think two-year-olds intend to be bad. I truly don’t. I think what happens at this particular age is that two-year-olds are now getting so smart, and so curious, that they just can’t help but test things out. They need to push boundaries. Sometimes, what we as parents might interpret as destructive behavior is actually just a two-year-old genuinely curious what will happen if you throw the ball directly at the dogs face instead of away from the dog. You see in this example, the two-year-old probably is just trying to cut out the whole “fetch” thing all together, making it easier on the dog and the person throwing the ball.

Miss Cupcake loves tea parties, and when it comes to tea parties there’s nothing Miss Cupcake likes more than throwing her porcelain tea set across the room (Side note: it was a gift. We’d never buy a toddler a porcelain tea set.). At first, Leona was mad. Later, it was Leona who pointed out that Miss Cupcake wasn’t doing this out of anger or rage, she was doing it because she genuinely liked the sound that the tiny porcelain dishes made when they landed on each other.

Six months ago, Miss Cupcake wouldn’t have cared about the sound, or the dishes for that matter. Now though, at two, she’s curious about these things. She’s finding out how things work and these little acts that we see as destructive are her way of seeing how things work. Want some other examples? Sure!

  • Puzzles are fun, but you know what’s extra fun? Putting all of the pieces from all of the puzzles in one big pile and then telling Daddy my puzzles are broken because I can’t figure it out.
  • Hey check this out! These pieces from my favorite game just fit underneath the trunk in the living room. I think I’ll put them all there and put the empty box away like a good girl.
  • Daddy’s making pasta from scratch! Oooohhh…look how careful he is rolling the dough through the machine. I wonder if it tastes like noodles in this state. I know what I’ll do! I’ll take a massive bite out of the dough as Daddy rolls it through the machine!
  • Wait, you mean to tell me that this is a big girl cup and it’s for big girls and you’re giving me my chocolate milk in this big girl cup because I don’t spill? But mom, I can still spill, and this cup makes it even easier to spill. See?
  • I know I always sit in my special car seat when we go places, but what happens if I don’t? How come I can’t sit in a big seat? I got a great idea: I’ll scream at the top of my lungs until I get to sit in the big girl seat and then I’ll know what it’s like. Genius.
  • Daddy finds great videos when he types on the computer. I’ll try it. It doesn’t seem to be working. I think I better smash some toys on the keyboard. That should do it.
  • Mom and Dad are right: I am a big girl. And, being such a very big girl who can put on her own boots and clean up her toys and brush her teeth all by herself, I bet I can change my diaper all by myself without even telling mom and dad that I pooped.
  • Mommy spent so much time folding all these clean clothes in this basket that smell so nice and putting them into piles when we were downstairs. I bet it’d be a big help to her if I put them in piles here on her bed.
  • I know we’re late and have to leave in two minutes. I bet I can help by doing my own hair. I’ll start with the most logical step, which is clearly to dump out my entire basket of hair bows, brushes and clips all over the floor.

I really think that this is how a two-year-old’s brain works. They don’t yet know how everything works together, but they want to. So as parents I think it’s important to keep this in mind. Every time your two-year-old tests your patience through one of these stunts, just try to take a few seconds to think about why they might think about doing such a stunt in the first place.

And remember, you’re not guilt free here. I’m willing to bet that even as an adult you’ve thought about dumping cornflakes on the rug just to see if the vacuum will suck them up. I can’t be the only one.


I think I’m done with football

Posted January 16, 2012 by lukens
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I’ve never been much of a sports guy. I’m not all that coordinated. I wear thick glasses. I had asthma as a kid. Also, I was never that competitive about games. Games don’t really mean anything, and I could never bring myself to care about the outcome too much one way or another.

But as I grew older, through my teenage years and then especially in college, I grew to really like football and, in particular, the NFL. I know a lot of people think college ball is better – and it may be – but I liked the NFL. I liked the passing game. I liked the romance of franchise players sticking around for a while, which college ball just doesn’t have.

Living in Pittsburgh for a year, I really grew to appreciate the relationship between the working class and the local sports team. Although I grew up an Eagles fan, I’m a solid Steelers fan today. I love the way that people in Western Pennsylvania come together around their team. And, at McGovern’s bar in St. Paul, I love the way people come together for the Steelers even here in Minnesota!

But after this past weekend I’m ready to give it all up. I’m sitting here, writing this, so completely disillusioned with the NFL that I truly don’t care if I ever watch a game again.

Don’t get me wrong: I will watch an NFL game again. I truly will. But I won’t really care any more. I won’t try to plan my weekend around making sure I get to watch the Eagles/Cowboys game, or Steelers/Ravens. And, because I love lists, here’s my list of reasons why:

  1. Joe Buck. I can’t stand Joe Buck. He ruins playoff baseball for me, and I will not let him ruin football for me too. His robotic monotone just makes games boring, and I feel bad listening to Troy Aikman take it upon himself to try and make a game interesting by injecting some passion.
  2. Commercials. A football game is sixty minutes long and yet, televised, a broadcast takes over three hours. A HUGE chunk of this, but not all, is commercials. I don’t mind paying the bills, but commercial breaks have extended games. The NFL doesn’t deserve over three hours of my time for one game. Sorry.
  3. The game itself is slow. Plays are fast, yes, but the game itself is slow. Commercials are only part of what causes sixty minutes of football to take three plus hours. Now, with more video reviews, the game is even slower. When you listen to the color commentators you can tell that they even think the game is slow. It’s painful to hear Chris Collinsworth speculate on what kind of play the coach is gonna call next over and over and over just to fill in the dead air.
  4. Injuries. Within any given game, there’s bound to be one or two players on each team who leave the game with injuries. Injuries also contribute to the slow pace, add to the dead air with nothing to talk about, and are brutal to look at. On the surface, they might seem cool to watch, but when you really think about the damage these guys go through it really is just sad.
  5. Zygi Wilf. Wilf owns the Minnesota Vikings and is currently lobbying to get the public to build him a stadium, one way or another. Nevermind the financial problems of the state and most municipalities, Wilf is basically threatening to move the Vikings if the state and/or local governments can’t pony up some cash. Roads need work, schools are underfunded, and our governor and legislature are wasting their time – and our money – arguing over how much corporate welfare to provide to a billionaire. A billionaire who, just last month, bought a 19 million dollar apartment on central park. Wilf’s efforts here are nothing but greed at the expense of the people that keep the Vikings profitable in the first place, the fans.
  6. Player salaries. Players make a ton of cash. I don’t mind them making their money. I won’t claim that any of the players are overpaid. They work hard and should be well compensated for their work. But when you add up the rest, I don’t owe them anything. I respect what they do, but just because they make so many millions of dollars a year doesn’t justify any of the above points. It doesn’t justify extra commercials, corporate welfare, or anything else. So while I don’t mind the salaries in and off themselves, when you sprinkle that on top of everything else it ads fuel to the fire.
  7. My life. On any given Sunday, NFL football is on television for close to ten hours, not counting pregame shows. There’s a 1:00 game, a 4:00 game and a night game. Then there’s Monday Night Football and Thursday Night Football (although I’m not sure that exists). Enjoying a sport shouldn’t be a part time job. I already have a full time job, and when not at work I want to be with my wife and daughter, or puttering in the yard, or playing guitar or out with my friends. Could I watch just one game a week? Sure, absolutely. But still, that’s three hours and honestly, I have better things to do.
  8. If you’re not paying for it, you’re the product being sold. This is especially true when it comes to the NFL. There are so many games televised each week because we, the viewers, are the products beings sold. Ratings are tallied and sold out to advertisers. The more people that watch, the more money that comes back in to the networks, and the higher the price the NFL charges the networks to carry the games. I’m not here to feed that system, so I don’t mind removing myself from it.

I’ve thought about what it means to remove myself from our nation’s Sunday ritual. It might mean less to talk about with coworkers. I’m okay with that. It might mean less to talk about with friends and neighbors. I’m cool with that too. Because the flip side is that if we don’t have football to talk about, maybe we’ll have something more important to talk about.

At the co-op

Posted January 12, 2012 by lukens
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Co-op orange

I like my oranges deep inside an adult beverage.

Shortly after Miss Cupcake was born we began seeking out healthier food choices. We started buying more organic and local produce from the farmer’s market, Costco and the local grocery store. Eventually, we found our way to the co-op.

A co-op is owned by its members. You can be a member. I can too, but I don’t see the point really. It ends up being sort of a tiny little grocery store, like a Trader Joe’s, but with really healthy, usually locally sourced food.

Many times if you shop at your local supermarket they’ll offer a small selection of organic food, or maybe label some things as local. In my experience, this food still sucks. It’s bland, really expensive, and often either picked too soon or rotting on the shelf. See, the big grocery stores still get lots of their organic stuff from halfway around the globe, and that makes it hard to keep it in good shape.

The co-op is a little bit different. The price is still higher than the non-organic, or non-local, version, but the difference is the quality. The quality of the things we buy at the co-op is simply out of this world.

  • Oranges – So good that the hairs on your arm will jump up and switch follicles with other hairs on your arm. True. Ask a doctor.
  • Coffee – locally roasted, no more expensive than Starbucks brand beans, and strong enough to make me want to run. For fitness. With nobody chasing me.
  • Chestnuts – Years ago I spent thanksgiving with a friend whose family had chestnuts. I loved them, but was never able to get chestnuts of the same quality at the local supermarket or even Whole Foods. This year I got some from Iowa at the co-op and Miss Cupcake and I roasted them over the flame of the gas stove and devoured them.
  • Zucchini – Not gigantic sized, but absolutely packed with flavor
  • Tomatoes – It’s easy to forget what a tomato is actually supposed to taste like when you get them from the supermarket. The co-op, even in November, has tomatoes that I could just eat whole.
  • Avocados – Think about it: how often do you get a good one at the supermarket? 50% of the time? I’m talking about an avocado that is soft and velvety, but not yet bruised and brown. So far I’ve got a 100% success rate at the co-op
  • Tortillas – local, organic tortillas are the new crack cocaine
  • Beef – Local, grass-fed beef is the new crystal meth
  • Breakfast sausage – If you were next to me and I could get some of this sausage just by punching you in the face, you would be promptly punched in the face. Even if you are my mom.
  • Bulk teas – Yeah, okay, not the most masculine thing to purchase, but I do love me some tea. Once you have a tea ball, buying in bulk is the only way to go.

The co-op definitely costs more, but I’m okay with that because I know that my money is supporting local farmers, good wages for the workers throughout the field-to-shelf cycle, and sustainable farming techniques. I’d rather pay a small premium for that than to feel guilty because the apples I bought (while apples are in season locally) came from Chile, have been treated with a million pesticides, and have an almost undetectable layer of wax coating them to keep them from turning bad. I want to buy cereals that aren’t packed with corn syrup from a government subsidized mega-farm.

But mostly I just want that damn sausage.

My daughter is precocious

Posted January 5, 2012 by lukens
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My daughter is precocious. I’m not entirely sure what that word, “precocious,” actually means, but I feel comfortable using it to describe my daughter. In this age of Google and Wikipedia I could easily look up the word, but I won’t. I’m too lazy. I’ve got a real good slouch going in this chair right now and wouldn’t want to mess that up.

There are certainly words I would never use to describe my child and probably not anyone else’s child. Brittle comes to mind. I would never describe my daughter as brittle. That word calls to mind two things. She’s either incredibly stiff and also breakable, or has been sitting in a holiday-themed tin on top of grandpa’s fridge for way too long and gets stuck in your teeth. Either way, that’s not what my daughter is all about.

Likewise I wouldn’t describe her as granular. She has little to nothing to do with sand, salt or sugar in her day-to-day and the word really just wouldn’t apply.

I might describe her as robust. At times she certainly is. But she’s not barrel chested, doesn’t wear lumberjack plaid shirts, and has a relatively high pitched, soft voice. All in all, she’s not very robust.

I’ll stick with precocious because I’m really not entirely sure what it means. I think it’s one of those words that sounds fancy and interesting, but probably a great many people don’t actually know what it means. I think that applies to my little girl. She can be fancy and interesting, and few people (Leona and I included) can figure her out with any regularity. Some nights she screams herself to sleep. Last night she wanted me to hold her and sing her to sleep.

Precocious is a word that you need to be a little bit careful with when you handle, clearly enunciating the individual syllables. You have to be careful with Miss Cupcake too, or she’ll yell at you and maybe even smack you. You tend to admire someone who drops a word like “precocious” at a dinner party; you admire their ability to use it in a sentence! I admire my daughter and her abilities.

So I’ll keep telling people that my daughter is precocious because I have a delicate child, one with great abilities but also a fickleness about her. I have a child that is difficult to understand, but never ceases to impress me. And I’m okay with that.

The circus comes to town

Posted December 16, 2011 by lukens
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We have a friend who refers to her inlaws and their kids as “Chaos.” When my sister and her family come, we like to say the circus comes to town. And I mean that in a respectful way.

Our family of three humans and two dogs barely reigns in the hysteria long enough to function somewhat normally. For example, last night I got mad at one of the dogs because he’s a little princess and can’t just crap wherever like the other dog and it was cold and come on already, JUST POOP! So although he was ringing the bell to go outside after he ate, I was taking a stand and teaching him a lesson. He pooped next to me while I was eating dinner.

Now that got cleaned up real quick and wasn’t THAT big of a deal. I share that anecdote simply to highlight the fact that we’re barely keeping it together as things stand.

It’s not that my sister’s family is the circus, it’s that they bring the circus-like atmosphere. She’s got four kids, ages 0-6 or so, and usually comes with my parents in tow. So we’re adding eight people to the mix, at least two of whom still regularly pee their pants. Plus our family of three, and Miss Cupcake definitely still pees her pants. Plus our two dogs, each a pitbull-mix and over forty pounds. Things get hectic quick.

It’s Friday afternoon. Fridays are supposed to be about going home, having a drink, putting the kid to bed and then having more drinks and then drinking like a grown up through the weekend and being relaxed. Circus implies that none of that will happen. Well, the drinking will happen, but with the circus in town it’s liable to lead to unintentional insults, hurt feelings, and suppressed competitive natures brought sometimes violently to the forefront. Then we’ll have to spend our days doing kid-friendly activities with mild to severe hangovers. It’s exactly like a circus.

It’s great to see family, and this is definitely the time of year for it. Don’t get me wrong here: I’m embracing the circus coming to town. I’m definitely not the ringmaster but I’m in the running for lion tamer or maybe just the clown who drives the silly little car.

Kid, your taste in music sucks.

Posted December 14, 2011 by lukens
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Every day after work I pick Cupcake up from daycare and bring her home, and every day she requests the same crappy songs. There are three songs that she likes to listen to, and one of them I don’t even have on the iPod. When she requests that one we basically turn the music off and sing it. Over and over. Until we get home. It’s like a twenty minute car ride.

Kids songs are like flossing. If you mix up the flavors and only submit yourself to it once or twice a week, it’s not so bad. If you stick with the same flavor eight times a day, your gums bleed uncontrollably.

I don’t mind kid songs. In fact, pre-Cupcake, I stocked up on some halfway decent kid songs. A producer friend of mine even gave us a bunch of really decent kid song CDs that he had been a part of over the years. When Cupcake was younger, we had a nice variety to choose from. As nice as possible.

Then I also decided that the Beatles were practically children’s music, so I also stocked up on the Beatles. Pretty soon we were repeating what had been a family tradition growing up for me and listening to the Beatles on Sunday mornings. Cupcake even like the Beatles, except for the fact that she always cried when Ringo started singing.

Now we have her three songs. Let’s go in reverse order, shall we? Oh yes, we shall.

Number three is ABCD. This is basically a modern take on the alphabet song. The melody and cadence isn’t the familiar Twinkle-Twinkle-Little-Star/Ba-Ba-Blacksheep that we’re all familiar with. I don’t have this one on the iPod or in my car. This is one she listens to with Mommy, apparently on repeat the entire way to daycare every morning. I’ve heard this one on family car trips to church or Costco and I pretty much hate it. When Cupcake requests ABCD I have to turn the music off and sing the ABCs – the REAL ABCs – for five or ten minutes with her. Why would someone be so crazy as to spoil their child by singing this song to them? Easy. Because she claps and says, “Yay Daddy!” every time I finish the song. Don’t pretend like you wouldn’t do the same thing in my position.

The next song is Frosty The Snow Man. Cupcake fell in love with this one because we have not one, not two, but three freakin’ illustrated Frosty The Snow Man books. Also, to try and divert her attention away from the other two songs on the list I started playing, and getting really excited for, Christmas songs. So this one is my penance, I guess, for trying to purge the other two songs. I would have much preferred Cupcake to have fallen in love with Wham’s timeless hit, Last Christmas. If there’s one redeeming quality to this song it’s the Thumpity-thump-thump part at the end because we (Cupcake and I) get to pound our knees in time to the music. That’s always a fun time. Always.

The first song, or final song, depending on which way we’re going, is a Bette Midler classic off of the old Sesame Street In Harmony album, called Blueberry Pie. Or, as Cupcake says it, “Booie Bye.” Typically she asks for Booie Bye before I even have her buckled into her car seat. Sometimes she’ll request Booie Bye before I even get her jacket zipped up inside the building.

At this point, Booie Bye has no redeeming quality. It’s borderline unlistenable. I have a mild headache now, at nearly 10pm, and I’m 93% sure it’s because we listened to Booie Bye in the car at 4:45. I’m so tired of this song that when I hear it I just want to jerk my head violently to the left through my window in hopes that my head will actually come off of my body, roll through traffic and get squashed by a semi. Just kidding! Not really.

Tonight was the icing on the cake. Just to clarify the metaphor I’m going with here, the “cake” is this whole practice of Cupcake requesting these three and only these three songs all the time in the car, non stop. It’s like a cake made with pestering, belligerence and a total lack of appreciation for good music. With “pissing off Daddy” as a leavening agent. Now the icing to this cake was when Cupcake, 20-seconds in to Booie Bye, requested Frosty The Snow Man tonight. The nerve of this kid! Where does she get it? (her mother, duh)

To prove my superiority I did what any self-respecting father would do. I turned up Booie Bye even louder and made her listen to it through her cries of protest. You asked for it!