* Blogger’s note: Due to the graphic nature of the following story and the family nature of this website, please note that throughout the blog, the word “laugh” and it’s uses will be used to represent the word “vomit.”
Ever had a stomach virus? For those that have, you may skip this next paragraph as I would hate to conjure painful flashbacks. For those that have not yet had the pleasure, let me describe a bout with a stomach virus. Imagine the worst 48 hours of your life. There. That’s pretty much it. Imagine dying of thirst, but not being able to drink even water because you can’t hold any liquids down. Imagine setting up a makeshift bed on the bathroom floor tile because there’s no real point in leaving the room where you’ll be spending most of the night plus you can’t waste precious seconds running all the way from your bedroom. Imagine involuntary chills, but a temperature of 102. Imagine if a genie appeared to you and said, “What is your wish, master?” and you unhesitant in your joyous answer, “Genie, kill me. I wish for death. Make it swift, but make it happen.” Of course this would be a strategic error because you could probably just as easily wish for the stomach virus to go away and still enjoy the rest of your life.
The TODDLER was taking a late afternoon nap when he laughed *(see above note) for the first time that Saturday. As adults when it comes to the unpleasant but inevitable task of laughing, we are experienced enough to run to the bathroom commode, laugh it up and flush it down. Toddlers can’t get to the bathroom so they just laugh and laugh. And man, there’s nothing more unpleasant than cleaning up projectile laughter. You find laughter in places that seem impossible. The TODDLER wasn’t done though. He began laughing every 15 minutes. The poor little guy was miserable. He didn’t understand what was happening. He only understood that he wanted it to stop. Every time he felt the laughter start to rise he would whine a meager, “No. No. Done. Done” as if to reason with his stomach that he was no longer enjoying this thank you very much. A doctor was called and prescribed an anti-nausea medication. Since it was after 6:00 on a Saturday evening, the prescription was called into an all night pharmacy. It was in the next town over and about a 15 minute drive. The FATHER raced over only to find that the all night pharmacy was closed from 7 PM to 7 AM that particular night due to “unforseen circumstances”. Of course it was. Upon arriving back at home empty handed the FATHER discovered that the TODDLER had been laughing in his own room, giggling in his parents’ bed, chortling in the hallway, and guffawing everywhere else. The MOTHER and FATHER would try to put a bucket in front of him, but the TODDLER began to associate that action with laughing and would push it away in hopes that it would stave off the next joke. Of course it didn’t and only made things quite a bit messier. Carpets needed to be scrubbed. The TODDLER’s bedsheets were soon soaking in the bathtub in an attempt to save them for future use. An attempt that would prove futile. The MOTHER and FATHER’s bedsheets were thrown into a washing machine that was about to have a very long night.
The FAMILY rushed to the Emergency Room of the nearest hospital. The title “emergency room” is one of those oxymorons like “jumbo shrimp” or “holy war”. Nothing about that place moves at the pace that emergencies should. And if you ever feel depressed because you’re sitting home on a Saturday night, take a walk over to your local emergency room. After spending 5 minutes in the packed waiting room of miserable, injured, and sick people, you’ll walk out feeling like a million bucks happily returning to your boring but healthy Saturday night at home. The FAMILY arrived at 9:00 and was seen at midnight. The TODDLER was given some medication that actually seemed to help. He stopped laughing long enough to hold down some liquids. The little guy was exhausted from his 6 hour ordeal however. The doctor looked at the PARENTS and said, “It’s so sad isn’t it? You just wish it was you going through it rather than him, don’t you?” Stupidly the FATHER agreed. And the irony began. When the FATHER turned to the MOTHER, he noticed that her face had gone deathly pale. She looked at him and said, “I don’t believe this. I’m about to start laughing.” She excused herself and went off to find a ladies room to chuckle in private. It was like the end of The Exorcist. The TODDLER was no longer possessed, but the evil spirits had hopped over to the nearest warm body. The hospital prescribed an anti-nausea medication (the same one the doctor had prescribed over the phone 5 hours before) and released the FAMILY. The pale MOTHER and recovering TODDLER headed out to the parking lot while the FATHER settled the bill. As he was filling out the paperwork, he suddenly felt the blood completely leave his face like the tide rushing out to sea just before a massive tidal wave. He felt his mouth go dry and his hands go clammy. You’ve got to be kidding me. The clerk handed his insurance card back and said cheerily,”You’re all set. Good night!” The FATHER grunted something incomprehensible and pondered turning right to the bathroom or left to the parking lot. Being the good father that he was, he decided to get his sick wife and baby home. He walked out to the car where the MOTHER was already in the driver’s seat. He was trying to talk himself out of laughing until he arrived home. No such luck. Things were just too funny on this night. The car was barely moving when the window was rolled down and the FATHER shared a joke with the parking lot. And then there were three…
Upon arrival home, the MOTHER and TODDLER wearily climbed into the master bed which was now a bare mattress with a bare comforter. The TODDLER quickly fell asleep while the MOTHER made a few more trips to the bathroom. The MOTHER and FATHER debated getting the prescription filled immediately or waiting until morning. The MOTHER reasoned that there would be no sleep without some form of medication. The FATHER reluctantly agreed, climbed into the car that didn’t have remnants of laughter all over the passenger door, and headed out to the other all night pharmacy which coincidentally was in the strip mall across the street from the previous all night pharmacy. This begs the question: what’s wrong with the inhabitants of this town that they need two all night pharmacies within fifty yards of each other? The FATHER felt queasy and exhausted, but was proud of his heroic efforts to take care of his family at 2:30 AM. In fact he felt downright thirsty. And he remembered that as a small boy, his mother always let him have Coke to help his upset stomach. So he picked up a bottle on his way out of the pharmacy. But always mindful of his weight, he settled for Diet Coke. Now this was stupid because A. he had probably dropped a pound or two anyway in the last couple of hours; B. the sweet coke syrup not found in Diet Coke was what helped upset stomachs and C. sipping the Diet Coke was probably the way to go rather than gulping half of the 20 ounce bottle in one swig. Needless to say the FATHER was halfway home when he felt the urge to cackle which quickly turned into a strong urge to hoot and holler. Having no time to pull over he rolled down the window and leaned out while acrobatically keeping the car straight. N
ow this was also stupid because if he had paid attention in Physics class he would know that expelling an object out of a vehicle moving 50 miles per hour would just bring said object right back into the vehicle at an equal velocity…or something like that. The joke was now on the FATHER not to mention the front seat of his car. Laughter: 2 Family Cars: 0. Had anybody been witness to this pathetic display, they would have seen a grown man driving a car down the highway screaming,
”AHHHHHHH! AHHHHHH! OH MY GOOOOODDD!!!!” Upon arrival at home, the FATHER quickly undressed and threw his clothes into the overworked washing machine. He jumped into the shower, scrubbed himself with the ferocity of an obsessive compulsive, toweled off, gave a pill to the MOTHER and took one for himself. He then staggered into bed and the family enjoyed a restless sleep for 2 hours.
The next two days were spent alternately on the couch and the bed. Frequent trips were made to the bathroom by both the MOTHER and the FATHER. The TODDLER was thankfully good as new and couldn’t understand why his parents didn’t enjoy it when he gleefully climbed all over them or jumped on their heads and why they remained in bed moaning all day. The MOTHER and FATHER were actually grateful that the TODDLER felt better. It would have been impossible to take care of him in this state. The FAMILY eventually recovered and actually relished in the weight loss. But they never will forget the night of 1000 Laughs.
So why do I recount this graphic tale that at times crosses the line of over sharing? Because looking back, it was a 72 hour period of time that can only be endured by people who truly love each other. Never has the term “for better or worse, in sickness and in health” been put to the test more. Because nothing says happy family like a night filled with laughter.
My wife and I are either crazy or stupid or so self loathing that we feel we deserve to be punished. It must be that, right? How else would you explain it? Why on Earth but for any of the above reasons would anybody want to go through this again and so soon after the first time? Oh by the way, my wife and I are expecting our 2nd child. Thank you. Yes, it is very exciting. We’re thrilled. Sure. Whatever.
It is said that the body and mind are able to block out memories of pain and misery. That must be true. If it weren’t, all families would only have one child. We would be a “single child” society. Maybe the Chinese are on to something after all. My wife is in the last weeks of her 1st trimester. She’s miserable, fatigued, nauseous, hormonal, oh and trying to raise a toddler on top of all that. It only gets better from here on out. Soon will come the heartburn, the restless nights, and the various physical ailments that accompany a pregnancy.
My wife will go through some of these symptoms too.
Then it will all culminate in that “wonderful day” that I described in a blog a few months ago. Oh, but wait. There’s more. Just when we trained our first child to sleep through the night, here comes baby # 2 to carry the sleep deprivation torch. It’s time to get spit up on again and time to look forward to another 2 years of changing diapers. Now once the baby comes, our little boy will be 3 years old so I’m sure he’ll be able to take care of himself by then, yes? No, you say? In fact he’ll require even MORE attention so as not to incite any sibling jealousies? Oh great. So I have THAT to look forward to as well.
We’ll be finding out the sex. I’m not sure I understand the “we want to be surprised” philosophy. There are enough surprises on the day your baby is born anyway so why not knock as many of them out as you can before hand? My wife and I want a girl. We would be happy with a healthy baby no matter what the sex … but come on. Neither of us can handle another boy running around this house. We’re just barely able to keep this one from burning down the neighborhood, why would we want to unleash another Y chromosome onto the world?
Our little boy sees the potential though. The toddler Sith Lord needs his apprentice and knows that together they can rule the galaxy. He has stated very plainly that he wants a little brother. He has also made it clear that he wants us to name the baby “Braden”. We have assured him that while it is a beautiful name, it is also his name and things could get confusing around the house if we duplicated it. So, while we would love a little boy just as much, my wife and I are hoping for a girl. And then we’re hoping she’ll magically turn into a boy when she reaches high school. At least I am.
So why do it? It’s not like it was forced on me. My wife didn’t suddenly leap across the bed and ambush me as I innocently read a book. (Believe me I would have loved it…) No, we actually tried to conceive another child on purpose and succeeded. In fact I am very proud to say that THIS time, we didn’t need any help from the medical industry.
Nope. All me, baby. A solo slam dunk with no time left on the clock.
So why go through all of this again? The answer is simple. Why the hell not? I can’t go out anymore anyway, so I might as well raise another kid and get them all out of the house at the same time so I can go back to enjoying my life.
Okay that’s only part of it.
The truth is our little boy needs a sibling. He has friends, but he needs to be a big brother. He’s only two, but we can almost feel his loneliness. On a recent trip to the park he slid down the slide, looked around and shouted “Hello?!” to an otherwise empty playground. It was if he was saying, “this is only fun if I can share it with someone.” It’s heartbreaking to me when he wants to play with his toys and doesn’t have a playmate. Oh, shut up, I play with him plenty, okay? I just don’t have the energy of a 2 year old. I have the energy of a 37 year old that’s raising a 2 year old which amounts to… not a lot of energy. There are selfish reasons for having another child too. I got a little teary-eyed when I took his crib down and put him in his “big boy” bed for the first time this past month. It’s only been two years but I get very nostalgic when I look at pictures of my boy as an infant and how small he looked in my arms. I had been warned about how fast they grow up and while my son isn’t exactly borrowing the car or moving out of the house, I do feel like those early stages of life are past him. I’d like to experience them just once more. I’ll savor them a little longer this time. I promise.
Then we’re done. Seriously. I don’t care how fast this one grows up. I’m not doing this any more.
Is it just me or is Curious George kind of an asshole?
Whenever my toddler brings me one of her numerous Curious George books, of course I’m always happy to indulge her; I want her to learn how to read and white and communicate, you know, good. I make a point to read her anything that she brings me: “Wonton Soup,” “jury summons,” “Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe—How did you find that old chestnut?” More often than not, my daughter’s reading preferences tilt towards a tall, lanky man in a bright yellow hat and his mischievous simian companion. Some might even say “curious.” But is he? Really? Or is he just a brat? (A brat who, amazingly, never seems to get his comeuppance.) “He’s a literary icon,” you say. “You can’t come down against Curious George!” I disagree; I think that if I saw a child do some of the things George does out in the “real” world, I’d want to drop kick him like the hard drive for my stupid computer (which, as I type this, is an overpriced doorstop that I can’t re-gift). “But he’s just acting like any normal, ordinary, two-dimensional, multimillion dollar franchise child,” you say. And I agree. Because what you’re essentially saying with that statement is, “He’s acting out.” And I don’t think it’s fair. My job as a parent is tough enough, man. Of course kids like Curious George because he gets to do all the things that they cannot. He gets to act out … without repercussions! I don’t need some irresponsible simian encouraging my toddler to do things she isn’t supposed to be doing. And I certainly don’t need said simian reinforcing the idea that after a particularly irresponsible action, everything is going to be fine, we’ll share a laugh and the sky is going to rain gumdrops. Why haven’t they published Curious George Gets A Time Out? Or Curious George Goes To Bed Without Reading Himself? Or Curious George Sneaks Into An Abandoned Nuclear Power Plant and Makes Himself Infertile? I can hear your response: “You’re overreacting,” you say. Or maybe, “You’re making too much of this. You’ve got issues. See someone.” “Do you have any idea how many of these stories they’ve published?” I counter. On Wikipedia, I count fifty-eight. That’s exactly fifty-six more than my wife and I. They outnumber us by, well—a lot. Those books are like the monsters in Aliens, or the Huns, or Mondays: they just keep coming and coming and coming. They’re unstoppable. We have to protect ourselves; we have to do whatever we can. Then again, as much as it pleases my cynical side to beat up on a character that brings joy to millions of children around the globe, there was a moment at the playground the other day that made me reconsider my position. The word “hellion” springs to mind. A mother sat reading as her child—who couldn’t have been more than two—played in the sand. Except that he wasn’t playing in the sand, he was throwing it. At people. Dogs. Other children. Himself. And between throws, he would return to his mother, not for a hug, or a “hello,” but to rip pages out of her book. Shredding them. Eating them. And what was the mother doing? Nothing. Well … she was reading. (How, I have no idea.) But was she doing anything to restrain, discourage or curtail her three-dimensional monster’s excessively aggressive mischievousness? No. And this is the kicker, ladies and gentlemen: guess what she was wearing. “A hat?” you say. Well, no, actually … She was wearing a scarf. But it was yellow! Mostly. Partially. Sort of. This made me think that maybe I haven’t been looking at the big picture. Maybe I need to take a step back. Insomuch as it is the job of my wife and I to nurture and protect our toddler, perhaps George’s mischievous behavior can be attributed to a certain fellow with a jaundice-colored sombrero. As my wife oh-so-wisely observed a few weeks ago: “Who the hell brings a monkey to a baseball game?” Or the ballet. Or a library. Or anywhere that doesn’t have bars and a padlock. Who is this mysterious “man with the yellow hat” and why is he such an irresponsible guardian? Have I been missing the entire point of these stories? Are Curious George’s adventures … not really about Curious George? Are they, in fact, a plea to parents to not be like the man in the yellow hat? Are we to learn from his poor—nay, dreadful—example? Is it up to us to fill in the times outs and the repercussions? Maybe this George character is cleverer than I thought. I think there may actually be a method to his mischievousness. Does that mean— Ah … My time here seems to have come to an abrupt end. My toddler is prodding my kidney with a book. “What title have you brought me now, my darling? Let’s see … Curious George and the Hot Air Balloon.” A hot air balloon??? Who the hell brings a monkey up in a freakin’ hot air balloon??
James C. Ferguson is an author, playwright and screenwriter living in Los Angeles with his wife, daughter and a dead plant that should probably be thrown away. His novel, Context Clues, is available on Amazon.com. And his film, Happy Holidays, will be available this winter. (Look for info. on MySpace and Facebook.)
It’s always a treat to go to Whole Foods. It’s good food, it’s fresh, and everything tastes pretty good. Yes, it’s a great experience until you get to the cashier and you always think they made a mistake. I actually took a bag of grapes back because I thought $15 for the bag was a mistake. It wasn’t. No one needs grapes that badly, even of your winery just burned down.
With two kids, I want them to eat healthier. I want to eat healthier. So why is it now so freaking hard? When as a society did we get to the point where it costs more to have less shit in our food? “Oh, you want food that’s not going to kill you? Now THAT will cost you…”
So we’re trying to adjust our budget so we can afford food that won’t kill us. We mix in visits with Trader Joe’s and try to eat out less. And I told our three year old daughter that she’s now going to trade school instead of college but to enjoy the organic broccoli.
But there are other reasons I do love Whole Foods. There is entertainment value while you’re shopping. I love watching overly thin women in baseball caps take four hours to pick out the right vitamins. I also love watching the “poser” healthy people. The ones who want to be seen and want you to think “Look how healthy I am! I shop at Whole Foods. Look, I have a bottle of water in my hand right now.” You know afterwards they go home, eat four packages of Ding Dongs and then throw up. My wife even had a friend who would go there just to pick up men. And was never unsuccessful.
I love Whole Foods because they are trying to help me and my family eat healthier. I hate them because they are expensive and they shouldn’t be. I’m angry that it costs more to get fruit not covered in pesticides and food without chemicals in it whose names I can’t even pronounce. It shouldn’t cost more to get actual maple syrup out of a tree than to manufacture it in a giant vat from a bunch of chemicals. So until Costco goes organic, my second mortgage and I will be at Whole Foods.
Wait, wait wait. Let me explain. Yes, I am guilty as charged. I saw the chickiest of chick flicks by myself….on purpose. But before you cancel my “guy” club membership and make me hand over my remote control, allow me to explain. First of all this is still a daddy’s blog so I’m writing primarily to the guys not the girls. I’m sure the girls think its sweet and have no problem with this confession at all. Okay fine. Thank you ladies, but with all due respect don’t help me. You’re not my target audience. Secondly this is not my clever way of coming out of the closet and revealing my true self to my family in McGreevey-esque fashion. While certainly far from an alpha male, I still consider myself a guy’s guy…but not a guy’s guy if you know what I mean. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
I admit that I was a fan of the Sex and the City HBO series. Call it a (very) guilty pleasure. My wife became a fan within the first couple of seasons and kept trying to get me to watch with her, but I refused wholly on principle. However by the third season I finally acquiesced. And what started as reluctance became a genuine enjoyment of the show. Decent acting, good story lines and character development, and some downright funny dialogue. And while I didn’t immediately bring up Carrie and Aidan’s breakup at the water cooler the next day, I was definitely drawn into the arcs of the characters. In fact I would go so far to say that it strengthened my relationship with my wife. No, no, really. NO, I AM NOT MAKING EXCUSES! My wife and I would watch and when a certain conflict or drama would erupt in one of the girls’ and their many men’s lives, I would turn to my wife and say, “Here’s why she’s wrong” or “Okay. Yes. That guy’s a jerk”, or “uhhh….I’m kinda on his side. Is that okay?” The show would kick off some pretty decent marital dialogue between us and sometimes I was even right! If given a chance, the show is a good study of relationships not only from the woman’s perspective but from the man’s as well. For the record I still like The Sopranos better.
So when the trailers for the long awaited Sex and the City movie started to appear I thought, “It’s not a movie I’m dying to see but my wife is constantly chastising me for not taking her to see ‘her’ kind of movies (i.e. chick flicks) so here is the perfect opportunity.” Then my wife saw it without me. Was I devastated? No. In fact I was almost relieved. Now I would be spared the inevitable ribbing from the boys at work that I would have had to take like a man. A Sex and the City-loving man. But I was a little disappointed. I just assumed that my wife would want to see it with only me. I mean it was our “thing”. The plan was to take her to the movie, share eye rolls with the other guys who were dragged there by their girlfriends or wives, and then secretly enjoy myself. But she saw it with some friends and came home bursting to discuss it with me. Just like old times. I told her she would have to wait a few months until I Netflixed it because there was NO WAY I was going to see it in the theatres now. Sorry, hon. You should have thought of that before you went to see it with a bunch of bimbos you just met.
Cut to last week. I was in Phoenix, my wife’s hometown. Phoenix in June means you better have some inside activities planned. I was bored. My son was napping, my wife was working and I had the choice of either going to a movie or hanging out with my mother in law. I ran for the car without checking showtimes or directions to the nearest Cineplex. (Just kidding, Mom. Love you) When I got to the theatre, my choices were slim. I had already seen the current blockbusters. My only choices were Sex and the City, Kung Fu Panda and Speed Racer. The theatre stubbornly refused to pay me to see Speed Racer. Since Kung Fu Panda was a Dreamworks animated film, seeing that movie would have put my status as a Disney company boy in serious jeopardy especially since WALL-E was about to open (playing NOW at a theatre near you!) That left me no choice. I sighed, looked around me like some kind of KGB spy and whispered “one for Sex and the City” to the unbelievably old woman at the ticket counter (this detail adds nothing to the story but I was truly amazed at how old this woman was). I got my ticket, left my male genitalia at the door and walked inside. Luckily the previews had started so the lights were down and I could find my seat incognito. I glanced around at my fellow viewers. The theatre was pretty empty being a Thursday matinee. A few old ladies and some fortysomething mothers. I was the only guy. I didn’t even see any gay guys. Then again I was in Phoenix so that’s no big shock. About halfway through the movie a fat old guy walked in and sat down. I was thrilled. He stayed for about three minutes, realized his mistake and walked out grunting. A single tear blazed a trail down my face.
The movie itself? It was fine. That’s all I can say. I didn’t hate it. I’ll give it a B. It was definitely targeted for women. I could have done without all of the fashion montages over the “girl power” dance music and I wanted to claw my eyes out during the slow motion naked guy shower scene, but the acting and the plot was pretty good. While it wasn’t as funny as I would have liked there were some good puns (“Mexi-coma”, “Poughkeepsie-d in her pants”). However I found that I can only take that show in half hour spurts. This was over two hours. Too much for any guy, I don’t care how in touch with your feminine side you are. But my biggest problem had nothing to do with the movie. I missed my Sex and the City buddy. I found myself relating to and agreeing with the guys in the movie once again. This time however I had no one to turn to and whisper, “He’s right y’know” In fact I related to one of the story lines a little too well and when it was resolved and the happy couple walked into the sunset, the only hand I could hold was my own. So the Sex and the City movie definitely required a team effort. No one should have to go through it alone. Just like running a stay at home business and raising a family at the same time. It’s definitely a team effort. But that’s a topic for a future blog. And looking back at this whole experience I couldn’t help but wonder: would it really have been THAT bad to see Kung Fu Panda?
By the way when I knew the movie was about to end I slinked out of the theatre, bought a 6 pack of Corona and raced home to watch game 4 of the NBA Finals just to flush the “chick” out of my system.