Archive for August, 2010

I’ve been paying attention lately to parental figures in film and television, and I think I’ve come to my first conclusion: Betty Draper is a bad Mom.

Let’s say your 10-year-old daughter is caught masturbating at a friend’s slumber party. Do you . . .

a) Slap her in the face and tell her you’ll cut her fingers off.
b) Explain that masturbation is perfectly normal but usually done in private.
c) Pretend the whole thing never happened.

I’m no seasoned parent, but I think you probably go with B there. Not C. And certainly not A – unless, that is, you yourself are saddled with so many sexual complexes that you figure your daughter should be saddled with them too. “No orgasms for you, Sally Draper!”

Anyhow, here’s a nice montage of the kind of parent I don’t want to be:

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A couple readers have noticed that my wife looks suspiciously like Jennifer Aniston, and I suspiciously like George Clooney. What’s going on here?

One of two scenarios. Either . . .

a) My wife and I are, in fact, professional Hollywood body doubles. (You may remember her scene from THE BREAK-UP or mine from SYRIANA.)

or . . .

b) I have replaced our real faces in order to protect our identities.

Which do you suppose?

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You know when you’re in a large group of people listening to — let’s say — a presentation, and some wise ass in the back of the room cracks a joke? And then the poor guy giving the presentation shakes his head and says, “Hey, looks like we got a comedian here.”

Well, I have my own version of that now.

It’s called, “Hey, looks like we got an ultrasound technician here.”

Everywhere we go, people want to tell us the sex of our unborn child. I’m not talking about friends and family. I’m talking about random people. Like the crazy lady at Bath & Bodyworks (boy), and the crazy lady who pulled up next to us in her Mercedes (boy), and the crazy lady not wearing any shoes outside of the Beverly Center (boy).

By the way, notice a pattern there?

That’s right, I like talking to crazy people. And I like unsolved mysteries. And I like spending an incredible amount of time agonizing over something that can be determined both easily and definitively.

So here, my lurking ultrasound technicians, is a picture of my wife at 28 weeks:

What does that look like to you? Is she carrying high? Or low? Is she carrying wide? Or out in front? Are we having a boy? Or a girl?

Go ahead and be the wise ass in the back of the room.

I’m encouraging you.

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Dear Person Who Just Searched My Blog for “cat prOn,”

Yes, I saw that. There’s this spot on my WordPress dashboard that lists “top searches.” And while your fellow readers were interested in heart-warming phrases like “father to son quotes” and “how to raise a child,” you were interested in “cat pr0n.” So a couple quick things:

First off . . . thanks for reading!

Second, I have a question: are you a cat too?

Because, if not, consider this your final warning. Until approximately October 21st, my kitties are my de facto children. And I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger those who would attempt to poison and destroy my . . . cats.

I’m not joking.

the Chris Hansen of Cat Owners,

Chris Hansen

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So today I decided to strap on our Baby Bjorn, and look who jumped in . . .

Everyone, this is Maxine. Maxine, this is everyone. She’s been with me for about 10 years and what you should know about her is that she’s crazy. But unlike the rest of us, she has an excuse.

When I first moved to Tuscaloosa, I lived on the wrong side of town. In the apartment next to me lived . . . I have no idea. There were about 47 people who randomly came and went, and I was never able to pinpoint exactly who the tenants were.

There was also a mangy black cat that hung around and begged those 47 people for food. She was not exactly their pet. She had no hair on her head, scabs covering her ears, and about 10,000 fleas. You think I’m kidding. When she sometimes wandered over to my apartment to try her luck with me, I would duct-tape a ruler to the end of an old comb so that I could “pet” her without having to douse myself in gasoline.

So, anyway, one night I was sitting on my porch feeding Maxine, and one of the 47 random dudes came over.

“T’sup, man?” he said.

I smiled at him the way you would smile at a person you suspected was on meth.

“So you’ve met Drug Kitty?” he asked.

“Who is Drug Kitty?”

“This black cat here. We bring her inside sometimes and give her acid.”

“Wow,” I said. “I’ll have to try that sometime.”

Of course, I did not try it. A few weeks later I also decided to move before the apartment next to mine exploded. In the wee hours of the morning, I took everything I owned and crammed it into the backseat of my 1997 Mitsubishi Mirage. You’ve seen cars like this before, right? Stuffed so full of books and clothes and CDs and dishes and food and laundry that you fear they’ll collapse? Well that car was mine. I was not sure I would have room to drive. But after I finally got the back door to close, I surveyed the situation and decided there was room for one more thing.

Drug Kitty.

And into the sunset we rode.

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I know, Nathan is like the most-grotesquely-popular-name-in-the-history-of-the-world-ever. But hear me out. It’s from the Hebrew natan, meaning gift, and that’s what we feel we’re getting.

Not to ruin everyone’s day, but this is our second pregnancy. The first ended in the emergency room after 11 weeks. I’m not going to say too much about that experience now, except that it was as soul-crushing as it sounds. And afterward there’s nothing you can do really but cry and sleep, and neither makes you feel better.

But you do start to appreciate things beyond your control.

So here’s to “Nathan,” as his mother and I will call him when he brings home his first C.

Or “Nathaniel,” as he’ll call himself when he publishes a stodgy novel about suburban discontents.

Or “Nate,” as his buddies will chant when he shotguns his first beer.

I’ll take any of these. It’s all gravy from here.

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It has nothing to do with this gal . . .

. . . although let’s pause for a second to welcome the 16-year-old boys who just found this blog by mistake. What’s up, dudes?

No, my wife and I chose “Reese” for two reasons.

One, that’s the name of the building where we first met — Reese Phifer Hall at the University of Alabama. Check it out:

If I had any sense of staging, I would have asked her out on the front steps between those Doric columns. But, alas, I did not have any sense. So I choose a dim-lit fire exit around the side.

The second reason we selected “Reese” is because of these:

In college, my wife had a jar of these in her kitchen. I believe they were there for decoration. But little did she know she was dating THE WORLD’S BIGGEST FAN OF CHOCOLATE PEANUT BUTTER CANDIES. And so I ate them. All of them. And every time I came back over, I found the jar had been magically refilled, as if replenished by some other-worldly life force.

Also, this is how I got fat.

TOMORROW: The name we chose for a boy.

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I don’t generally give advice on this blog.

Because I don’t generally know what I’m talking about.

But having spent the last seven months trying to come up with a name for our child, I feel it’s my duty to share what little I’ve learned. There are two basic rules, and they both concern things you shouldn’t do:

1. Do not work in public education. As a teacher, you will have (literally) hundreds upon hundreds of students. And although most teachers like to think that “every student is an opportunity,” the truth is that “every student is a opportunity . . . to ruin a perfectly good name for your baby.” I’m not kidding. You will be sitting in bed, watching Colbert, and you’ll say to your lovely wife, “How about Max?” And your wife will say, “No, I had a Max once and he kept drawing penises on the blackboard.” And then your wife will say, “What about Lindsay?” And you’ll say, “No, I had a Lindsay once and she couldn’t write.”

2. Do not under any circumstances give your pets human names. I swear to Jesus, the last seven months would’ve have been a breeze had I not used every first name I ever liked on the 1 dog, 9 cats, 6 gerbils, 2 guinea pigs, and 5 neon tetras I had as a child. If this means you have to name your dog Spot, then do it. If you’re lucky, Spot will get along fine with Whiskers, your cat. And Fluffy, your rabbit. Will friends think you were born from a Norman Rockwell painting? Maybe. But it’s a small price to pay.

COMING TOMORROW: the name we chose for a girl.

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So my brain’s about to get a make-over:

Since there’s no clear physical connection between a father and his child — at least not like the one seen with mom and baby — researchers are starting to look deep in the brain for better clues to understand the power of this relationship. A recent wave of studies are starting to bear fruit: We are now learning that in the first few days after birth, changes occur in the brains of both the dad and the baby, depending on whether the father is around or not. Perhaps neuroscientists have finally cornered the elusive father-child bond, and found the biological hook that makes sure a father sticks around after birth.

Brains are not static, and neurons constantly rewire themselves throughout life. Not only do brain cells alter their connections, but additional neurons can also spontaneously form, a process called neurogenesis. While the mechanism of neurogenesis is not fully understood, extra brain cell growth is strongly correlated to learning new things.

A recent study has shown that neurogenesis took place in male mice in the days following the birth of their pups. But the extra boost of brain cells only occurred if the mouse father stayed in the nest. In other words, if he was removed on the day of their birth, nothing happened. One new set of brain cells formed in the olfactory bulb, and were specifically tuned to the smells of his pups. Another set of neurons grew in the hippocampus, a crucial memory center in the brain, which helped to consolidate the smell of his pups into a long-term memory.

This means I’m going to get smarter, right? Awesome. In about two months this blog will actually be readable.

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We don’t know the sex of our baby.

On purpose.

Maybe there’s some really poetic reason for that. Like us wanting to keep the world full of possibilities. Are you a little girl? Or a little boy? Are you sweet? Or sassy? Are you quiet? Or loud? At this moment, you could still be anything.

But I suspect it’s also sort of a protest. Once upon a time, you didn’t get to know everything exactly when you wanted to know it. If you heard a new word, you had to look it up in the dictionary. If you had something mailed to you, you couldn’t track it across the country. And if you wanted your own recording of, let’s say, Michael Jackson’s “Beat It,” you had to sit at the stereo with your thumb on the record button and wait two friggin’ hours for the DJ to play it.

I miss that.

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