Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Screw Athletes--I'm Glad to be a Role Model

Someone wants to be like Mike--not Michael Jordan, Michael Jackson, or Michael J. Fox--Mike Simpson. Me. The four year old boy that lives in a townhouse next to ours wants to be like me. I'm honored. I take this boy to pre-school with the Tomboy, and we all play outside together with the other neighbor kids. Here is the conversation as relayed to me by his mother:

Mother: "What do you want to do when you grow up?"
Boy: "Nothing."
Mother: "Honey, you can do anything you want or be whatever you want, but you have to do something."
Boy: "No I don't."
Mother: "You have to have somewhere to live, so you are going to have to work."
Boy: "I'll just live with you Mommy."
Mother: "Everyone does something."
Boy: "Not Mike. Mike doesn't do anything. I want to be like him."

When I started this journey, this might have bothered me, but now I just think it's funny, and kind of true. I know I know, I do things. Stay at home parents do a lot. We do a lot of cooking. We wash a lot of dishes--everyday, all the time, sometimes more than we need to because somebody doesn't want the pink plate or the orange cup. We do laundry. We drive kids to school. We clean up after creatures that are smart enough to imagine that a piece of cardboard is a spaceship, but evidently not clever enough to know how to put it away. We read books that make our kids smarter, but us stupider. Yes, I know that isn't a word. We answer questions that make no sense. We clean bodily excretions that make mere mortals gag. We settle brawls over who had the Buzz doll first. We sit through lessons of various kinds, and though I haven't had to do this yet, I know that many stay at home parents drive their kids to endless practices and other endeavors.

But sometimes I feel a little bit like Homer Simpson in an episode of The Simpsons where he was a truck driver. He discovered an on board computer that put the truck on auto pilot. It did everything so Homer didn't have to do anything. He flaunted this discovery, only to be attacked by the other truck drivers who didn't want their secret revealed. My wife thinks I need breaks when she gets home--I know, wonderful right, but I get breaks during the day. Having a second child was way harder than one at the beginning, but now it makes things infinitely easier. There have been days when I could leave the house for more than an hour and the girls probably wouldn't notice. They entertain each other better than I ever could.

I have been doing this as my full time occupation for more than five months now, still pretty new, but so far so good. I have never been so universally content with a career choice. If I were the little neighbor boy, I would want to be me too. He is wrong about me not doing anything, but in a way he is right, because I don't do anything that I don't want to do.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Advice for Potential Dog Owners

If you are considering adding a dog to your family, please read this and be warned. Dogs are great. I love our dog, but there are a few things that might have changed my mind about getting him in the first place. Here is a list of pros and cons that might help you make a better decision.

Pro #1. Love. Once you have truly made a connection with your dog, you truly experience unconditional love. I can be mean, dismissive, and downright nasty to my dog and he still prefers me to anyone else.

Con #1. Love. There is absolutely no way to get your dog to get the hint when you don't want him around. My dog will stand in front of me, wagging his tail, breathing stinky breath all over me, waiting for the slightest acknowledgment of his existence.

Pro #2. Protection. He would never hurt anyone, but he is a big black lab with a big black lab bark that has scared more than a few people. I let him out to pee once and a big burly utility employee happened to be checking the meters. My dog barked and charged the poor guy, sending him falling backwards into the bushes before nuzzling him in the crotch and wagging his tail. I felt bad for the guy because I could hear his buddy laughing at him from their truck.

Con #2. Protection. 8:30 pm. The bulldozer has just stopped crying from her crib--We were just about to give in, because it sounded like she was going to possibly make herself sick with crying. We can still hear the Tomboy flipping pages in her books at the top of the steps, but it is only a matter of time until she gives up and goes to bed. We are unwinding, almost giddy with the freedom of sleeping children. A ridiculous commercial plays on the TV where some giant termite with a pizza box rings a doorbell at someone's house. The dog, in his hyper vigilence, barks his big dog bark for about ten seconds. Just enough to wake the Bulldozer into a screaming fit and guaranteeing a night of little elbows and toes keeping us awake in our bed.

Pro # 3. Activity. There are many days that I begrudgingly walk my dog, and feel grateful for the reason to get outside and enjoy the air.

Con #3. Activity. There are many days that I begrudgingly walk my dog, and feel bitter towards him for needing to poop.

Pro #4. Kids that don't fear animals--especially the excitable eighty pounds of pure muscle that is our dog. My girls can do anything short of trying to stick something in my dog's rear end, and he will simply ignore them and walk away.

Con #4. Small children and dogs both want and need attention. This is the big one. If you have small children or plan on having them, stay clear of dogs. We had our dog for five years before we had the Tomboy, and he was a great dog. When he received the necessary attention and activity, we were all okay, but kids take that attention and activity away--at least for us it did. This all starts a downward spiral that slowly destroys all memory of why you got a dog in the first place.

You start to wonder if the dog just started to smell bad, or if you just started to notice. The occasional licking of paws, butts, and crotches gets worse with inactivity and compounds manyfold in its irritating quality. If you don't vacuum at least once a day, your kids' clothes start to collect dog hair and it makes you feel like a bad parent. If having two small children is enough to make you ignore your dog most of the time like we do, the dog searches for ways to get your attention. In our case, this includes pooping and peeing in the house, especially when he gets in trouble for something else. Here is a scene that has happened and will probably happen again.

It's seven pm. The girls and I have had a long day of ups and downs, and my wife has had a long day of work and we just went through a dinner that consisted of spilled drinks, uneaten food, and whiny girls. We sit down and guiltily hope for bedtime to arrive. It is hot and the girls insist on crawling all over us and fighting over who gets to sit where. The dog is standing, facing me with his hot stinky breath washing over my knees and a solitary drip of slobber drops from his tongue and lands on my foot.

"Get away from me!" He jumps back and happens to dig his claws into my wife's bare foot.
"Ouch. Get out of here!" The bulldozer has gotten up in the turmoil and in his haste to get out of the room, the dog knocks her to the floor. She screams and we yell at the dog and he proceeds to start peeing. He starts at the top of the stairs and wiggles a trail of urine down the stairs and onto the landing before I can shove him outside.

So, before you choose to bring that special puppy home to meet your family, think long and hard. Dogs are great--I love my dog, but I don't think we will be getting another one anytime soon.