So Small And Humble You Won’t Confuse Them – With Mountains

Sometimes Rose sounds like the cutest bad impression of Captain Kirk. At the dinner table tonight, she was describing that some rotten child had punched her – area of the body unclear/not remembered by me – and then ran off laughing. Hold on, I have to put an appointment in my calendar.

Wednesday 7:30am: Find rotten child, get right in his rotten face, tell him he’s rotten and that everyone thinks his knees are stupid and ugly

Siri, please schedule the appointment above and then remove it from this post. Thanks, Siri.

Right, as I was saying, Rotten Child punched Rose, which she described in this staccato, Kirkian rhythm, while flailing her arm in the air in dramatic poses:

“And then! Mummy. He punched me. He really did. He punched me. And then! He ran off. And he was laughing! And he. Wouldn’t. Stop. UGH.”

To emphasise how UGH it was, she slapped her hand completely over her face.

After most of Rose’s statements n’ flails, Sara and I turned to each other to confirm that we were indeed witnessing this hilarious spectacle in front of us. Giggles were kept to a minimum, lest they send Rose into a Flail Tizzy.

On Sunday, Sara sorted out a Halloween/mega pop smash playlist for a kids disco happening on Thursday. Sara’s got all the hits: Katy Perry’s “Roar,” One Direction’s “Best Song Ever,” Scott Joplin’s “Maple Leaf Rag,” then 10 songs in a row by Warrant.

We left the playlist on while we were getting ready to leave the house, which was taking its typical 3 hours to do. It was during “Roar” that we came upon Ethan dancing. Ethan’s dancing was, to put it mildly, hip-intensive. These were swerves and juts that would have scandalised just a generation ago. Our Primal Elvis was GOING FOR IT. The couch was set aflame. Shakira was summoned. She declared Ethan’s hips unable to lie. And with a “ole ole oleeeee,” she was gone.

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Were You Aware That Prince Wrote It’s Just Another Manic Monday And Also That Children Will Ask You Questions That You Can’t Determine How Best To Answer And Also I Think Walnuts Belong In Cookies

I’ve been making pancakes every Sunday for what feels like 8 years, but is really more like 1. I found a recipe that I like and that’s the only one that I make, every time. I look forward to it every week, mainly so I can sing, to the tune of It’s Just Another Manic Monday., “It’s just another pancake Sundayyyyyy.” I have not devised any more lyrics than that yet.

No wait hold on, I have some more:

It’s just another pancake Sunday
We eat pancakes on Sunday
Pancakes on Sunday
Sunday pancakes on Sunday
Cakes pan a sun day cake pan Sunday

Anyway, speaking of talking to our eldest about the concept of sex, Sara told me today that Ethan recently inquired about how the sperm gets to the egg. She somehow deflected the question, probably by asking him which dinosaur was the heaviest. Sara told me this when the children were at their grandparents. We spent 5 minutes making grimaces at each other wondering what to say if he asks us again. This makes item 9,862 that no one told us about before we became parents.

From the beginning with the kids, we’ve taught them all the real terms for their bits. I think that’s how I was raised, but I can’t remember. My impression of how Sara was raised is that a book about such things appeared in her room when she was in her teens and was never spoken about. And by impression, I mean that’s exactly what happened.

I think if we tell him, all that will happen is that he’ll scrunch up his face, declare it weird, and say an incredulous, “Really!” a bunch of times. Then he’ll move on to more pressing matters, like if he’s in the mood for cream cheese or not. It’s not like he’s going to have follow up questions like, “Daddy, what are the emotional implications?” or, “Mummy, why does Dan Savage say you should be GGG?”

This evening I made two chocolate chip cookies with walnuts and had top-quality vanilla ice cream with it so that’s nice and had nothing to do with a child’s natural curiosity about the human body’s fluids and goings on goodnight

It’s 11:30 On A Saturday Night And While The Young People And Childless Are Frolicking I Am Blogging

November 4

It continually strange to realise that there was a time that I didn’t know things. I couldn’t read, write, swim, walk, type, carry things from one room to another without the contents spilling everywhere. There was a time that I didn’t understand that there and they’re and their and therr and therrr are all completely different words with the same sound because the English language is often senseless.

Ethan is learning math. Sorry – maths. They call it maths here. Not only do the English stick u’s in words, like colour or quueen, sometimes they have to stick s’s to the end of words, like maths and historys.

Ethan’s hardest question today: 20 take away 4 is how many? He got so frustrated, almost tearful. Addition’s fine.  Subtraction though – you can tell it doesn’t quite make sense yet, much like cars don’t make sense to me.  It can be frustrating in the moment to see him answer 20 take away 4 is 16, but then be completely stumped by 20 take away 3 right after. Because of course it’s 17!  But he doesn’t know that. He doesn’t see the pattern yet. And there was a time I didn’t either.

One of the great joys in parenting is watching him and Rose get more and more capable. These once-tiny, profoundlessly helpless, howling infants, are turning to us at the dinner table and saying, in English that they’ve learned, “Did you know, that before Louis Pasteur, children used to die more?” Rose saying things like, “Mummy, today I learned to draw a b [pronounced buh]. It goes like this,” and then she makes one in the air with her finger. She’s so pleased with herself that she can draw a b. I’m so pleased that she can draw a buh.

One thing that will be even more pleasing to me than Rose drawing a zed in the air, is Rose finishing any meal in under 30 minutes. For lunch, I served up a lovely meal of spaghetti, pasta sauce, ricotta, pesto, and kale. I made the pasta sauce, and I made it AL DENTE. Rose ate all available cheese, and some pasta, leaving the kale for last. How much kale? Make a circle with your thumb and middle finger. That’s how much kale. That is not a lot of kale. And it was the kind of kale you have to pull off the stalk yourself. That’s the good stuff – you kale-heads know what I’m talking about. 15 minutes after we’d all finished our food and were now doing house chores, Rose was still sat there, staring at her kale. We tried several techniques, from cajoling to threats of no dessert that night. 30 minutes after we were all finished she was sat there, now weeping, the burden of kale weighing heavily upon her. 45 minutes after we left the table, Sara had completely reorganised the car, I’d cleaned up the kitchen, and Ethan was into his 12th minute of bashing some toys together while acting out a scene in whisper. Rose was heaving sobs like a friend had died. But in the end, after almost an hour, she ate that kale. 10 minutes later she was laughing with her brother about farts and poo, vitamin K surging through her system. At the same time, we parents had a vitamin surging through our system: Vitamin Victory.

Today we travelled to Glossop, treated to rainbows and patches of golden hour sunlight on the hills of the Peak District.

We were there to see Jo and Al in their lovely house with a garden that stretches down a slope and back a ways to a pond. It’s a garden demanding the installation of a zipwire. I suggested that today and expect it will be completed by the next time I visit. That they haven’t put this in yet should bring them great shame.

Gavin and Catherine and Adrian and (Clare?) were there too. All of us have two children. Even Ethan can do that (those?) math(s) – that’s 8 kids. In the kitchen, wine was offered. All of us said no because all of us would have fallen asleep. The main reason parents get together to eat at each other’s houses and try to have a conversation over the din of a glut of children – is that their collective noun? – is to have someone acknowledge how tired they are.

The Dads stayed in the back garden long after the bonfire refused to stay aflame for more than 2 minutes without the liberal use of lighter fluid. It wouldn’t stay lit because the entire north of England will now be Generally Moist until approximately June 2nd, whereupon we will have our annual 8 hours of sun. I like to ask fellow parents, “What do you like to do in your spare time?” just to see the involuntarily torrent of expressions and emotions that flit across their face. Wistful, resigned, incredulous.

For dinner, it was baked potato, beans, sausage. It was perfect for a chilly autumn night. We all gathered outside to watch Al set off one firework at a time. Al was criticised for having no musical accompaniment, at which he offered to fly a firework into our faces, which was fair. We’re shooting off fireworks to commemorate Guy Fawkes day, because there’s no better way to mark the occasion of a public dismemberment than with multiple explosives.

By 7pm, the children had all lost their minds. They’d lost the ability to talk and all who had the ability to run and scream did so as much as they could. One child appeared to very gently lay down on the kitchen floor but then reacted as though the linoleum bludgeoned her leg. Gavin and I attempted to talk about good culture we’d seen, but were attacked by 5 children throwing soft cubes at us, deliriously laughing. The adults all agreed we should do this again much sooner, because we had been too tired to properly get into how tired we were.

Ethan and Rose collapsed on the stairs at home, too tired to move. Rose pronounced tired as “ti-yed.” One at a time, I had to carry the children up the stairs. I attempted to put them on their feet, but the legs had turned to jelly. I brushed their teeth with them on my knee, like I used to years ago, 1000 Things They Didn’t Know ago.  They had just enough strength left to get their pajamas on and crawl into bed. I said goodnight to Rose and made her giggle by speaking in a low voice close to her neck. I said goodnight to Ethan, who still sounds the cutest when he says, “I love you, Daddy.” I told them it was nice to see them today and it’s nice to see them every day.

Jason Writes Most Days In November In His Blog Instead of Trying The Impossible Task of Writing A Novel In A Month: November 3

The English do not understand Halloween deep in their bones like Americans do. I walked through all the grocery stores – where are the bags filled with 700 fun size candy bars? They are nowhere.

How don’t the English understand that the best way to commemorate a night that evolved from the Celtic belief that the spirit realm is never closer to being within our mortal grasp than to find a house that gives out FULL size candy bars? Even worse, most of the candy given out is Valentine’s-Love-Heart-type candy. I wept for Ethan and Rose. How are they going to get enough nougat?!

Exactly one Dad dressed up as the grim reaper. Everyone else dressed up as usual, in their evening houndstooth suits and bowler hats. It’s England, they’re weird. But then, we turned a corner and saw green laser light on the ground. We turned to face the laser to find it shining through smoke(!), smoke from a smoke machine that was behind a skeleton! YEAH. And there were candles hanging all across his courtyard, a wire barely visible between them! YEAH!! And a yellow Caution: Wet Floor sign that instead cautioned you against flesh eating zombies! HELL YEAH!! And Thriller was playing! SHAMON!! This was the only Englishman to Get It. He still passed out shitty candy, and he was houndtoothin’ it up, but the production values shattered everyone else’s attempts in Grappenhall. If any fairies made it through to our world, they would’ve gone straight to his house.

Jason Writes Every Day In November In His Blog Instead of Trying The Impossible Task of Writing A Novel In A Month: November 1

November 1:

lasdlkjfdslkj fdslkj asdlkj sdlkjasd jlsfdlkjasdldfalafsj fslkj slkj sdf

There we go, that’s Day 1, in the books. I wrote something. I mashed the keyboard.

Okay fine I’ll write some actual human language.

Let’s start with this: there’s a dog crate in the corner of the living room.  It’s about 4 feet tall and 4 feet long and a couple feet wide. Our living room is, at a conservative estimate, 6 square feet? That can’t be right. This thing takes up a significant amount of room. Inside, there is a dog bed. This dog bed is where our Future Dog Who Is Probably Going To Be Named Luna is going to sleep when she arrives in 2 and a half weeks.

I hazily recall, back in the days when Sara was pregnant and we had no earthly idea of what having children was like, when we slept more and Did Things That We Can No Longer Recall in the evenings that didn’t involve collapsing on a couch/bed and waiting for the sweet too-short release of sleep, that we used to say things to each other like, “There’s gonna be a baby here! It will be small and cry and need us to keep it alive!” It was this very real but equally abstract Baby Event that was going to happen. And then there was a crib, and then a mattress for the crib, and then baby toys, and more and more physical proof of the imminent Baby Event. And then Ethan did a poo in the womb, and he was c-sectioned outta there, and ever since I’ve been in an ongoing fugue state during which we had a second child. Now, every day I wake up and find that there are children in the room upstairs that I find I have a tremendous amount of love for and figure I should take care of, at least for the day, until I figure out how they got here and who they belong to. Pictures and videos purport to show that I have been taking care of these children all the while. There they are in nappies. There they are dancing to In The Hall of the Mountain King. There’s Rose sulking in a corner because we laughed at her sulking when she wasn’t in a corner.

And now, the cycle has begun again. “There’s gonna be a puppy here soon!”  Here’s the dog crate, the puppy bed, the collar, the plastic bone. Here is Rose’s baby blanket – which Rose still refers to as, “My baby blankah!” – repurposed for Luna.

We weren’t ready for the children, but no one’s ever ready. By the time they have graduated from university, I think I’ll be on the cusp of being ready. So, when I say I’m not ready for Luna, that puts her in good company. We’ve kept the children alive and loved and fed for the last 6 and 4 years. We can handle a little furry thing, one day at a time.

I Took The Road Less Karted By

How many friendships have been lost due to karting? How many have been irrevocably altered? Karting is a menace to relationships – a fast-paced, exhilarating, excellent menace that I want to do over and over again until the wheels completely dissolve into the tarmac.

I went a’karting at TeamSport Warrington a couple months ago. Warrington may be the least cultured place in ALL of the UK – despite our prominent statue of Oliver Cromwell AND an objectively top-notch Lidl – but the one thing it has not shirked on is the quality of its karting.

The Warrington location boasts the “largest purpose-built indoor go karting track anywhere in the UK.” It’s 1,000 meters long. As an American, I don’t know and refuse to find out how long that is, but I will assume this is roughly 8…fortnights? And when it says purpose-built, naturally, this leads one to wonder – is there a track that was accidentally-built that’s longer?

“What did you get up to last night, Fred?”
“I popped an Ambien and when I woke up, I found out I ate all the food in the fridge. Oh, and I accidentally built an enormous go karting track.”
“Yeah, we’ve all been there, buddy. How long was yours?”
“About 9 fortnights.”

A track of this Everest-ian length is contained in a large boxy building, located on Slutcher’s Lane. Here’s another thing I won’t look up – I assume that slutcher is an old English term for someone who slutches, which is to say, a slut who cross-stiches.

I was there to celebrate my friend Ben‘s 40th birthday. As a young, vital person of almost-37, still invulnerable to death and all ailments that don’t involve my traitorous lower left back, I am not 100% sure what I’ll be doing when I finally reach that advanced, very-far-away age. Before this night, I was resigned to an evening of dense chocolate cake, ice cream packed with at least 3 Oreos per square inch, and another solemn viewing of Magnolia. I will now reconsider the itinerary.

Outside the Kartesserie, two dudes, clad in official karting jumpsuit, were smoking, lookin’ like dudes who were out to have a good dude time, talkin’ about cars and how fast they go and CHICKS doin’ lame stuff like CHICKS do. Inside, 15 people of mostly Dad/Mom age were there to DadMom together like DadMom dudes, talkin’ kids and how fast they grow up and about POOP they’ve had to clean up recently, and where they cleaned it from. A bottom? A toilet? A floor? Off the stairs you say? Ha! How novel. The main reason parents of young children go wild on nights out is the extraordinary elation of not having to deal with a tiny person’s human waste.

Several windows allowed you to get a preview of the track you were about to race on. I don’t mean to brag about my lavish lifestyle, but I’ve been on several karts in my day. I was used to a prosaic 20 miles an hour, a speed so undaunting that you might use any extra mental capacity to think about taxes, or about how you might plate your next risotto. The karts kartin’ it past the window were going at Lethal Speed, the only speed I EVER drive.

At computer terminals, we had to sign ourselves in, ackowledging all of this was quite dangerous. Having jumped out of two planes, I had already looked danger in the face and told it to get stuffed. I’ve also been skydiving.

Upon signing our life away, we were issued standard issue full body motor-race-suits and our choice of balaclavas. For £3, a durable, sleek, black model, ideal for burgling or ninja-pretending, or, for 50p, a flimsy model made out of old celery fibres and reclaimed asbestos.

Down 50p, I changed into my motor suit. I simultaneously felt ridiculous and outrageously cool. I could tell that the fellow Dads in the room, bodies and minds weakened by childcare, were similarly charged.

To a soundtrack I imagined was a hip hop song I was unfamiliar with, our group strutted, in slow motion, across the bridge that lay over the track. Cars whizzed by underneath. Idle motors purred with potential, active motors blared. The smell of engines and exhaust was all around. Just by typing this florid description, I imagine that, somewhere, Jeremy Clarkson is positively priapic.

We were led into a briefing room with a large video screen. A portly, animated fellow with the deportment of a comedy night host ran through his safety spiel, the gist of it being, ‘Watch for our flags, don’t be jerks.’ But his talk wasn’t enough – we needed to watch the official video, a video I wish they would’ve popped into a combination TV/VCR on a tall stand.

The video was shot in tones of black, gray, red and yellow – like a more optimistic yet caution-minded David Fincher. The visuals let you know that you were about to enter a slick world of black-clad racers, whose only joy springs from precision driving and correct pedal usage. The soundtrack, a homeopathic distillation of Nine Inch Nails and Prodigy, let you know that you were in for en edgy, non-trademark-infringing event.

A narrator in a jovial but firm English accent took us through the basics. The one thing the narrator stressed we musn’t be: a black karter. Initially, I heard Black Carter, which is the name of a throwback blaxploitation film that doesn’t exist, starring Idris Elba in the titular role, as heard in this dialogue:

CRIMINAL PERSON IN LONDON ACCENT ACTING ALL TOUGH:
“Who the hell are you? I’m supposed to meet with Carter!”

IDRIS ELBA BUT WITH PROMINENT SIDEBURNS AND LAPELS AND ALSO A LONDON ACCENT:
“ I AM Carter…

RAPID ZOOM IN TO IDRIS’S PERFECT FACE, NOW SPORTING A DEVIL MAY CARE SMIRK THAT HAS SOMEHOW MADE HIM MORE HANDSOME
Black Carter.”

Training complete, we were ready to be unleashed onto the tracks, green karters, all. We donned big black helmets with cool visors and a very tricky latch that I needed assistance with.

I sat in the car. I promised the car I wouldn’t press both pedals at once. The car motored its approval.

Our Rules Informer motioned us up one by one. He checked that we were able to press the brake pedal. All of us were able to press the brake pedal. The radio was playing “Walking in Memphis” and I sure as hell was ready to drive my kart 10 feet off a Beale. And I knew then that I had the makings of a hit parody song, Karting in Cheshire. What’s that, you want lyrics, sure okay:
Well I was Kartin’ in Cheshire!
I was kartin’ with my hands gripping the wheel
Kartin’ in Cheshire
Do be do be do the way I wheel

It needs work.

I drove around the track tentatively for the first lap. “They” told me that my hours of Super Mario Kart, Daytona USA and Gran Tuismo were a waste of time, quarters and time. And I would have believed them, if “they” hadn’t also told me that I shouldn’t eat Kraft American cheese by itself straight out of the plastic packet; my cheese instincts – and therefore my regular instincts – were correct. This training, Matrix-like, snaked its way back into my brain from years ago. It completed just as I crossed the finish line for the first lap.

Then I fuckin’ floored that shit.

You know how in Jaws and Vertigo and other Fine Films, the camera does that neat trick where the foreground stays the same but the background zooms in or out to indicate that something freaky is happening? Well, I just spent far too long in a YouTube hole looking this up so now all of you are obliged to know that it’s called the Push/Pull Effect. I got pushpulled, hard. The karts here travel at speeds up to 40 miles an hour. As you will recall, I only ever drive at Lethal Speed, so I didn’t think this would feel so fast. But when you’re in an open-air car mere inches from the ground, let me tell you, it feels like a Porche mated with a Lamborghini and spawned the living embodiment of a sonic boom.

All I could concentrate on was steering and breathing. Steering and breathing. Steering and breathing. Oh, and also, an uncontrollable blood lust directed at any human that was anywhere near my car. Many of these people were known to me, friends of mine, several of whom I had enjoyed very pleasant evenings with that involved superb stilton and port pairings.

But now, I viscerally hated each and every one of them. The Black Karter manifested in the form of a tiny wingless fairy with a giant helmet. He whispered in my ear, urging me to ram them off the track. I had gleeful visions of my mortal enemies careening out of control, screaming like an anonymous X-wing pilot whose fate we don’t care about, exploding into nothingness.

I resisted Black Karter’s entreaties. If a fellow karter tried to pass me, I let them pass, though I silently swore eternal vengeance on everything they held dear.

Others clearly did not resist. At the start of the second race, in which the slowest people from the first race started first, someone from the back of the group floored it straight up the middle, slamming into about 10 cars at once. I saw others try to pass on the inside of a turn even though there wasn’t even room for even the largest of thimbles. At one point, I came upon the immediate aftermath of a crash, in which one of our party had, I assume, been made to collide into the barrier. She had been lifted entirely out of her seat, and crashed down hard on everyone’s favorite bone to say, the coccyx. She hobbled out of her car and off the track. She was done. The Black Karter had claimed another victim. Somewhere, Idris Elba felt a twinge of sadness, though he knew not why.

Why do this to each other? For glory? No. For personal achievement? No. Is it the children’s fault? Of course it is. Day after day, wearing us down with their constant demands for food AND water, and crying at the slightest thing, like when we gave all their toys to charity because they forgot to sweep up a pencil shaving. It’s chaos and unfiltered, unmangeable id. Out on the track, anonymous, whoever gets to the finish line first is the winner. It’s unambiguous. That’s worth a sacrificial coccyx.

When the last race was over, we took off our helmets and looked at each other, eyes narrowed, suspicious. True natures had been revealed.

We gathered in the post-race lounge. The birthday boy himself was the winner. His prize: a cheap gold plastic trophy, which he received to a chorus of boos and “It’s a fix!!” Had he run everyone off the track? It’s possible. A father of young children who turns 40 is capable of anything.

What will become of his trophy? What becomes of the thousands of other trophies? Some, I imagine, are kept, placed on a shelf to be admired and nostalgia’d over. One day, you can can say to your older, wiser children, “Children, stop reorganising the larder for a second. Come here. Look at that trophy. I karted hard that day. I stared into an abyss blacker than the kart’s tyres. Some of that darkness is in me still. For goodness sake, do not go karting. But, if you must: Run ’em all off the track. In this life, you never kart soft. You kart HARD.”

The lesson is, pay better attention to holes

A couple days ago, I opened the fridge. Cool story right? WAIT, it gets even BETTER.

I was looking for food. I can’t tell you how often I open the fridge, hoping to find food in there that I know is not there and has no chance of being there. Food like pumpkin pie, or a roast chicken, or a roast chicken stuffed with pie. I open the cupboards several times a day for the same reason. I’ll open the cupboards and exclaim, ‘SALTY SNACKS?!’ hoping beyond hope that a Reverse Burglar has snuck into my kitchen for the sole purpose of leaving behind pretty much any food that has been converted into oily salty crunchy crispy form.

In the fridge was some fancy pants mozzarella. It was squeezed out of a buffalo by artisan buffalo squeezers. Mozzarella like this comes in a water bath inside a special plastic container specially designed to cause mozzarella envy in your social rivals. I reached for the FPM and found that the water was gone, thanks to someone having tipped over the envy packaging on its side. Although I’m no fridge scientist, I had an instinctive feeling that leaving mozzarella water in the fridge would probably give us all mad buffalo disease. But there was no water. I said, ‘Well THIS warrants no further investigation or thought!’ and went about my business. My MAN business.

When I came home tonight, our kitchen smelled vaguely shitty. But not everywhere. If you could divide the kitchen into 10 smell segments, 2 of them smelled vaguely like a sneaky someone had spirited away a small shit. The other 8 segments smelled like they always do – wholemeal bread and child-borne exhaustion.

Through a lot of undignified sniffing around, it was determined that the fridge was the culprit. Behind the fridge. Sara thought it might be a dead mouse. Sara decided it would be a good idea to tell me this great story about a friend of hers who found a dead mouse WELDED to the back of their fridge. So with 500% more trepidation than I had before that fine yarn, I pulled the fridge out. And what do you know – a mouse AND a small shit were welded to the fridge!!

No.

No, what I found was that the small drainage hole that I’d previously spotted inside the fridge actually went somewhere. Where it went was a plastic collection tray. It would appear that 100% of the mozzarella water disappeared down the drainage hole and came to rest in this tray. The tray, by design, sits on top of the hot fridge compressor. Ordinarily, plain water drains down there and the heat evaporates it away. However, through the terrifying magic of chemistry, the mozzarella water was, now, at this moment, decidedly Something Else. The plastic tray was nearly overflowing with a pungent semisolid liquid combo that was about 37 shades of brown. The fridge manufacturer apparently did not envision that this plastic tray would become the accidental staging ground for a bioweapons precursor, and so did not design a way to remove said tray. Therefore the only way to clean it up was to soak a tree or two’s worth of paper towels into the tray until the nearly-sentient gloop was gone. The series of faces and sounds I made may prevent me from sleeping until the solstice.

Well. There’s no good way to close a post like this.

…got milk?