Thursday, March 29, 2012

It's a good thing you're bald

I know some moms who could use this Zombie Baby bib from etsy!

So today I had to take David to the allergist to find out what's up with his food issues (verdict: just the milk is a problem, and not even a huge problem, woot), and Kurt took a half day to hang out with Anderson downtown. They went to the library, Skyline, saw The Lorax in Newport across the river in Kentucky, and stopped by Media Bridges, where Kurt is involved at the board level. Apparently Anderson made friends all day, but this particular meeting with Kurt's friend there was both hilarious and slightly alarming. As recounted to me by Kurt:

"It's a good thing you're bald." (Anderson says to Kurt's friend, who I guess is at least mostly bald or maybe has a shaved head, not sure)
"Oh yeah, why's that?"
"Well, that way if the zombies came, they couldn't pull you off by your hair!"
"Oh... true..."
"OR, the zombies would take one look at your head and they would be so confused, they'd just turn around and leave!"

Then, everyone laughed. (phew)

Meanwhile, David sent out several DOZEN pictures from the iPad today of parts of his head and face. Some of them went to Facebook, several went through my Gmail account to people I haven't talked to in 5+ years... I guess it's better than him buying hundreds of dollars worth of Fish Bucks like my friend's kids. Knock on wood.

Cincinnati blogs you should be reading

The ABCs of Cincinnati on etsy.

The Cincinnati blogging scene is vast, varied, sometimes vapid and rarely violet, but fear not. I'm going to make this easy for you. These are blogs you probably aren't reading, but definitely should.

Make Cincinnati Weird
Yes, please! Let's do that already. Or maybe we already have? I love so much about this blog. The self-dubbed weirdos who write this blog routinely report on stuff that I had no idea about, as an out-of-touch suburban mom of very young children. And it's good stuff. They could so easily default to finding the most obscure or shocking examples of batshit crazy going on around town, but they don't. How could you not like a blog that was founded on the idea, "The single guiding principle is that diversity breeds strength?" I love that these people acknowledge that for all the criticism about the melting pot that isn't Cincinnati, that true diversity does exist here if you look beyond the oft-repeated narrative about the people here. 

Two Tykes on a Hike
One of the more original ideas I've seen for a blog in a long time, this is a fantastic resource, and not just for those wanting to take tykes on a hike. The mom who writes this blog explores local hiking options and gives you the scoop on things you can't really find out about on the typical trail or park map. Are there tons of excess branches that will snap your 2-year-old in the face? How steep and slippery are the slopes here, for shorter legs? Great information here, and it would useful for anybody looking for light hiking adventures (say, when your elderly aunt comes for a visit, or if launching yourself off the couch is a major event and you want to start slowly) that you've probably driven past a million times. I love that she finds so much woodsy adventure even in urban areas. It really highlights what a scenic, lush area we live in. 

The Cincinnati Monocle
This blogger covers things you've heard about in passing on what passes for network news around here with more depth than you'd see in a newspaper that still has a budget. Real scoops, man-on-the-street observation, allll the dirt. I feel like I'm in the know after time spent here, and I'm grateful that I don't also feel manipulated in some way. The vibe is newsy in that way that news used to feel before it was bought and paid for by corporations and politicians. There's opinion, too, but not in that I'm-an-asshole-with-a-platform vibe that is so common online today. I truly believe that places like this are some of the last remaining shreds of hope for real information in the modern age. For every ten obese, cigar-smoking cats lounging on Barka loungers, the internet gives us one Cincinnati Monocle, and that's far better than none.

Other favs
I could go on (and on), but I'll wrap this up with a short list of other notable choices that maybe don't get as much exposure round these parts. You should check out Downtownity, chickpeas please, and The City Flea. And while he is often mentioned, it's for a very good reason, so definitely keep reading City Kin.

Fill me in if you know of a great blog based in Cincy that I'm missing.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Google Image Search Wednesday

In which I share some of the more, let's go with "interesting" search results on seemingly innocuous terms. Images which have moved me. Scarred me. Confused the shit out of me. Which must be shared with those I love and those I have never even met. You're welcome, Internet.

Today's search term: Cincinnati Pants

Why: I wanted to find a place that sells those funky Bengals pants, like so:

And, I wasn't disappointed. Many a retail outlet is turning a profit on pants like this. Somehow. But then, something else caught my eye. This:

 The caption here read "Zubaz pants will never be cool again." These just look like... pants, to me and these people seem cool enough, really. I mean, not everyone can rock the real deal Cincinnati pants all the time, the attention would become cumbersome, but surely they are relatively cool by normal people measures. WTF are Zubaz pants?

Of course, there are those who have shunned pants altogether. Why this shows up under Cincinnati Pants I don't know, but it's a nod to our lazy-as-an-elderly- housecat, American sensibilities that there would be an obligatory Snuggie (a little concerned that my spell check knew it had an e on the end) shot in the mix:

Maybe it's the cheetah print? Welcome to the jungle? The one on my couch, with the remote control from 1983?

OK but then things got scary. From what I can discern, this had to do with something in the OSU student paper, and as a student paper alum, I get it to an extent. I've been awake at 3 a.m. with the completely annoyed printing press yelling at me on the phone while I desperately Photoshop together some kind of image to accompany a story about a new mailbox going up in front of the library. But while it may have come perilously close to something like this, well... let's just say I'm not sad that as a student journalist, I didn't leave this legacy for future generations to stumble upon:

Oh. And, my. Oh, my.

Finally, I leave you with this. It's not pants. It's not even tangentially related to Cincinnati, or pants, since squirrels don't generally wear them, but it's a super sweet orchestra-conducting squirrel so I feel compelled to share:

Kurt has since informed me that this is not a squirrel, which is pretty unfortunate because I already had a reputation for being unable to identify said species. That said, he didn't know what it is, exactly. Gopher?

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Fluffybutt: Now, those were the days

Me as a half-angel, circa 2000. This won't make any more sense later.

Have you ever done that thing where you pretend you don't hear someone who insists on dredging up painful, damning stories from your past life? That is, your Life Before Kids (LBK)?

"Hmm? Who? No, sorry. I don't recall that time you, me and someone called, what was it - Pube Ball? - ate hallucinogenic mushrooms and then went to the drive-in to see E.T. You must be thinking of someone else."


"Yeah, that does look like me in the background of that picture backstage at the Ratt concert in 1996, but obviously it's not me. I was in college then. Studying."

Well, for me, my LBK was not often comprised of illicit activities or exotic, picture-worthy escapades with heavy metal bands, but there have been moments I have happily let quietly live in the past, lest my new mommy friends find out about them. Until now.

Today, I'm coming clean.

Today, I present to you a chapter from my life called Fluffybutt.

Fluffybutt: Serious News for Serious Lives... or Not

There was a time, not all that long ago, when you might have come across my husband as a young, sandal-wearing guy in Chicago, passing out flyers emblazoned with a rotund rodent affectionately dubbed Fluffybutt. This was early days when it came to the internet, and it was actually more effective for us to stand around in the blazing sun telling strangers to go to our awesome website than it was to pay good money to advertise online. Crazy.

Anyway, so as a busy city-dweller, you'd get this neon pink flyer with this fat guinea pig on it and while you were pretty sure it wasn't porn, it couldn't hurt to check. Or that's how the theory went, anyway. Those who came for porn left unsatisfied for hopefully completely different pastures, but those who stayed were treated (?) to, well, it's probably best I provide some photographic explanation here.

Fluffybutt was this:

And it was this:

And sometimes, it was even this:

Primarily we wrote satirical news stories in the style of The Onion, but our favorite times in Chicago were spent making photo essays. Like the time we staged the Kitty Cat Olympics (prompting many email complaints about our alleged animal cruelty):

Or the worldwide adventures of the ill-fated Creamy the Creamsicle:

Oh, there's more. So much more. But I'm going to dole this out gradually. In my upcoming series about our Fluffybutt past, I'll post lots of excerpts from our stories, audio files of our awesome news show, share stories of stalkers, book deal offers, our unique version of brainstorming that almost burnt down our apartment block, and how this unlikely experience cemented the fact that when it comes to compatibility, I can't imagine sharing my life with anybody but Kurt. While a normal person's early relationship memories might be tinged with amber nostalgia, ours involve stuffing blankets and towels into an adult-size set of zipper jammies so Kurt could pretend to be a sumo wrestler for a Fluffybutt photo essay. And I wouldn't have it any other way.

Monday, March 26, 2012

My kid is not better than your kid and I'm OK with that

Easter on etsy is a dangerous search term. Find this here.

This article about aggressive parents ruining an egg hunt in Colorado got me all riled up earlier. This is a pretty easy feat, so don't be too intimidated by the power of the words here. They probably won't cause you to vent to your 3-year-old (who patiently stares at you with "oh great, here we go again" plastered clearly across his cherubic face) about the state of the world. But me? I'm still going strong.

Here's the thing. I get it. I get why parents get aggressive sometimes. Life can be hard, unfair, and competitive. It's hard enough to be the one getting the bull's horns in the groin every day, and it's that much worse when it's your kid. I can even get all bristly if one of my kids gets a well-deserved stink eye for kicking the back of someone's seat at the theater. I'm instantly all "Oh, no, you did not. This is a child." In my mind. In reality, thankfully (so far), the Golden Rule kicks in and I realize that I wouldn't be too happy about this, either, and my kid isn't made of glass, so I make my kid stop it and tell them to apologize. And if I manage to do it kindly, the kickee will usually soften considerably, and my kid isn't scarred for life (and stops with the kicking, already). We all want need to be treated with kindness and respect.

But. Here's the other thing. I'm sick of events like an Easter egg hunt for kids turning into an ultra-competitive free-for-all for adults. Stop that. Not only are you tromping all over the smaller kids to grab eggs for your own kids, but what, exactly, is the lesson here? Is it:

A. If everybody else is behaving badly, you need to do it, too, to "even the playing field"?
B. Life is about getting what's "owed" to you because you are entitled by your very existence?
C. I don't have faith in you to get out there and find your own eggs because you can't do anything well enough on your own?
D. In this family, it is shameful to come away empty-handed or with anything but the blue ribbon?
E. Having fun for the sake of just having fun isn't worthwhile?
or maybe
F. It's more important to me that these other parents don't "win" than it is for you to enjoy this experience?

I'm very worried about the helicopter parenting trend. I certainly participate to a degree, though it's an ongoing, conscious effort to relax and stop it. As a homeschooler, I try especially hard to make sure I back off when I can, favoring a lot of self-directed learning. While it warms my heart to hear Anderson talk about wanting to open a store so the whole family can work there together while we all live in the same house together forever, I'm even more excited when he talks about becoming the first astronaut to go to Mars or a chef who travels around the world selling worm-and-chocolate-chip ice cream and hot dogs with any topping anybody could ever dream of ever. I glean a lot of inspiration from places like Free-Range Kids.

I totally get the part about wanting to shield their hearts and shape their experiences so that they are all pain-free. I sincerely do. If I was forced to cry on cue, I'd just conjure up an image of someone hurting one of my son's little hearts.

But it's not our job to cushion their world, and it's a futile exercise, to boot. All we can really do is promise to love them, no matter what. To promise to be proud of them, even when the Easter basket comes back empty, for getting in the game.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Veggie tales from a family of professional carnivores

Veggies: generally not poisonous, after all. Who knew?

We haven't exactly been feasting on roasted mastodon hocks on a daily basis around here, but vegetables that have unwittingly found themselves in our fridge have typically suffered a rather unenviable fate, rotting away in their original grocery sack, or worse, naked, until they reach the stage of unidentifiable sludge/refrigerator compost.

We have good intentions: "My, those beets look yummy. Let's get 14 of those!"we proclaim in the produce section. I have even diligently prepared some of them, if only to add color to the plate, where Meat has reigned supreme, front and center.

They have been there for us all along, providing fodder for dinnertime screaming matches with our bewildered preschoolers (despite swearing, at their births, to the gods of broccoli that we'd never make them sit at the table until they forced something green down their gullets, like our cruel parents did to us).

Anyway, after some embarrassing analysis of our weekly family food intake, I decided to try a week of vegetarianism. Crazy talk, I know. But between having to adjust to dairy-free for the sake of David's guts (he seems to be allergic to milk and I'm not making 2 versions of every meal), and the puke-worthy pink slime coverage, I reached one of those "you know what - screw this" moments and ordered a vegan cookbook by vegan, blogging mom Dreena Burton (we didn't go vegan this week but it helped for dairy-free recipes).

And you know what? I'm as shocked about this as the poor pizza guy, who didn't make $400 in tips from us this week, but it was a great week! The kids had meat one night, and Kurt had meat a few times for his lunch, but by and large, it was a vegetarian week (100% for me). Here is some stuff I learned:

1. It is way easier to be a procrastinator when it comes to preparing dinner if you don't have to defrost meat.
2. When it is hot outside, it's much easier to keep vegetarian because the meals can be lighter and still fulfilling.
3. Vegan cooking is like a science project, but fun for someone like me who considers it a hobby to make complicated, odd-sounding recipes while cursing at rarely-used kitchen appliances.
4. My complexion clears up quickly with no meat (why? eek), and my energy level goes way up with either no meat or many more veggies, or both.
5. The kids didn't moan nearly as much as expected, and finding enough protein for them was no problem.
6. I had a lot of stereotypes about vegetarian/vegan people that were stupid and unfounded. I suck.

So we'll see where this takes us. Originally I'd wanted to follow the Engine 2 diet after watching that Forks Over Knives documentary, but realistically I realized it is far too restrictive for me to maintain, especially for the whole family. And I read a bunch of research on sites I trust that question much of the science in that movie (though I do maintain that finding a peer-reviewed study that actually finds that it is healthy to eat red meat is impossible). So for now I'm comfortable with calling this "mostly plant-based." I reserve the right to partake in burger night at Arthur's on the rare occasion. So far, though, I'm not missing the meat at all, which is bizarre to me. I found myself craving zucchini and spinach a few days ago. Who have I become?

Here's a little photo essay from our cooking adventures Saturday:

Veggie scramble for breakfast - kid rating:"I'm not eating the green part but the rest is good".

Baked sweet potato in possible need of exorcism.

Veggie pizza with frankencheese for lunch. Kid rating:"PIZZA! Thank god. We thought you forgot about the existence of pizza."

Quinoa soaking for a later science project. KEEN-wha. Say it repeatedly and with emphasis throughout the day.

Weird ingredients awaiting immersion blending. Nuts, seeds, almond milk, various weird stuff, somehow came together to make something called Pumpkin Seed Chipotle Cream sauce, a topping for our dinner.

Believe it or not, this is how you start making vegan mac-and-cheese from the cookbook. Nuts! Ha.

Black Bean Quinoa Sweet Potato Croquettes, before cooking, chilling out where cookies usually reside.
Croquettes after meeting their sizzling fate. Kid verdict:Mixed, but mostly good.

Vegan mac and cheese after baking. Kid verdict:Yes! And, More! Amazing.

It doesn't look much like a plate filled with veggies, nuts, seeds, and grains, but it really is!

Adult version. Our verdict:This was a hell of a lot of work, but very yummy and no pangs of sorrow over the lack of mastodon hocks.

Friday, March 23, 2012

What could be worse than an ankle-grabbing monster?

You should buy me on etsy.

Ninjas, as it turns out.

"Mommy, did you check for monsters everywhere?"
"Yep, even under the bed. And since they are, you know, not real, it's not surprising that I didn't find any."
"Not all monsters are real, but the real ones are the worst kind."
"Fair enough. There aren't any real or pretend monsters, so no worries!"

20 Minutes Later

"Um, Mommy, there's one other thing you forgot. What about ninjas?"
"You are still awake? Ninjas?"
"Yes, ninjas. Did you check for ninjas?"
"Well, I checked everywhere, so I'd have noticed a ninja."
"Well, see, that's the thing, Mommy. You can't see or even hear or smell a ninja. Nobody knows there is a ninja until he jumps on you and then it's *skeech* you're dead! So, how will we know there are no ninjas?"
"Mommy, one other question. Are ninjas still alive?"
"Mommy, you don't know anything about ninjas."
"Yeah. It seems that way. Sorry, buddy. We'll have to talk to Daddy about this tomorrow."
(deep sigh) "OK, then, but let's make it a priority. This is important to know about!"

So after that fairly brutal schooling by my 5-year-old with the $100 vocabulary, I went off to do some much needed Wikipedia reading on ninjas (can I just say the history of ninjas is far less impressive than one might imagine?*). Now, my cat does seem pretty familiar with the whole hiding-in-the-pitch-black-right-in-the-middle-of-a-stair-and-then-yowling-indignantly-at-you-when-you-inevitably-step-on-his-kidney-while-wheeling-around-wildly-in-the-dark-as-you-plummet-to-the-ground-at-3-a.m. ninja tactic(I think this qualifies as an "asshole cat technique"), so apparently we're not all a lost cause.

*For example: Uzura-gakure – The practice of curling into a ball and remaining motionless in order to appear like a stone. Falls under "earth techniques"

Sunday, March 11, 2012

My losing Erma Bombeck contest entry

Well, I'm officially a loser, at least when it comes to the judges at the Erma Bombeck Humor Writing Contest 2012. I'm taking it well, no worries. I learned a lot during the writing process, primarily that I have a hard time writing humor essays in 450 words or less. However, it was a good exercise in practicing ruthless editing, and for packing more into less.

I did get judge's comments, so that's something unexpected and appreciated. I think there's such a healthy dose of well, subjective judging (duh, that's the name of the game), and it's hard to tell what will really resonate. I think there's an element you can never account for, and that's personal taste. Here, it's hard to say if they are really looking for something closer to Erma's voice, or maybe they got too many in the same genre, or maybe my smart-assery doesn't play well in Dayton, or maybe it really wasn't that strong, maybe it was a little trite or seemed to try too hard... who knows. The winning entries covered the gamut and I enjoyed reading them for various reasons. It was fun, though, and I'm definitely going to enter more contests for the challenge and little thrill it brings.

Here's my entry, follow by the judge's notes.

Behavioral Modification

I’ve got all the parenting books. I’ve got the one about sewing yourself to the baby until college, the one where you sneak pureed spinach into cake and no one even notices!, the one by a doctor-turned-vitamin-salesman, and a shelf or two devoted exclusively to shaping your child’s behavior in seven days or less.

What does a parent do when Johnny won’t listen? It’s all laid out in How to Talk so your Kid Will Pretend to Listen. A Good Parent pulls Gandhi-type pacifist strategies out of their parental knapsack and merely exudes a calming presence, one that will facilitate a successful voyage through the sequel Never say Never – Seriously. Here, parents are encouraged to parent gingerly, intuitively and with relentless positivity.

If, for instance, one were presented with a precarious situation involving two small boys hiding behind the couch, jabbing at each other with homemade Popsicle shivs, a typical, Bad Parent reaction might include swift action and a lot of “negative speak”. This would be Wrong. Morally and emotionally Wrong, even marginally abusive. Good Parents employ an enlightened, delicate touch:
“Hello, small people who live in my home and who have every right to embark on their own valuable pursuits! I can’t help but notice you stabbing your brother in the cornea with a crude weapon. Now, I’m positive this is all on the up-and-up, but if I may, I’d like to suggest an alternate activity. Some Parcheesi, perhaps? No? Well, I’ll let you get back to it, then. It will be interesting to see where this fun game is headed!”

Soon enough, the stabbing will end and everyone will have learned valuable lessons about emergency room co-pays and the importance of checking inside the couch for possible shiv-making materials.

By now, I’m convinced the only behavior-shaping going on is the effect the publishers’ head games have on my wallet. Well, I say enough. I say the time for revolution has arrived. Down with these guilt-inducing panic manuals.

It’s time we demanded guides we can really use. I want to see titles like Places to Hide Until Johnny Turns 4, or Babytalk: The Answer is Always “Milk”. I’d find a behavior guide like That Gleeful Laughter Means Someone Just Voided the Warranty on your Laptop far more instructive. And while we’re at it, give it to me straight about the dreaded teenage years. Let’s stop pretending they don’t turn into pod people. How about The Feeling Is Mutual but Hopefully Fleeting?

Meet me at Random House at noon on Saturday with your indignant protest sign. I’ll be the one gently coaxing a 3-year-old boy from the roof and passing out chocolate chip cookies. You won’t even notice the spinach.
Judge's note: Although your essay Behavioral Modification wasn’t chosen a winner, it was in the top 20 and made it to the final round of judging. Here’s what your judge had to say:

This one made me giggle. Clever framing and a few funny lines make it a fun read.

Although your essay wasn't chosen as a winner, we appreciate the time you took in entering and encourage you to keep writing. There were 524 essays received this year and the judges had their work cut out for them!