Some Fresh, Steaming Gender Roles

…all right, it’s roles, not “rolls,” but the gender role thing can really make me steam at times. I try not to scald my nearly 9-year-old in the process. But then there are the occasional moments of gender education like yesterday.

Let me preface by saying that my daughter likes to watch various shows, both animated and live-action, on Netflix that are geared toward the younger crowd but not necessarily as young as she is. As long as there’s nothing too outrageous going on in them, I don’t fret too much. I was being taken to R-rated movies like “The Enforcer” when I was her age by my mom (God rest her beautiful soul) and I managed OK, so I think my daughter can handle a few tween/teen-level references. However, in an unfortunate scripting choice, one episode of a show she likes led to this:

Little Goddess: Daddy, what are cahawnies?

Me: Huh?

Little Goddess: (Plays back the previous 10 seconds of the scene for herself) Oh. Cojones. What does that mean?

Me:Um. I’m not sure how to answer that. OK. I’m not going to give you details. It’s a Spanish word that refers to a part of the body and that’s as far as I want to go with this. But the phrase as it’s being used means to “man up” or “be a man”…basically, be tougher or more assertive.

Little Goddess: OK. Thanks.

Me: Now, wait. I’m not quite done. Remember that things like that…things that suggest you should be more manly to be tough…that’s not accurate. Women and men are different, but neither is better than the other. Not even tougher, really.

Little Goddess: All right, Daddy. Jericho told us the other day that his mom said “Men and boys are stronger than women and girls.”

Me: Physically and biologically, men usually have more muscle in the upper body and are stronger in that way, but by the same token, women often deal with pain much better. Both are toughness.

Little Goddess: That makes sense, Daddy. Today, when we were doing Field Day at school, we were playing tug-of-war and the boys won, but afterward they were all (rolls her neck and shoulders dramatically) “Owwwwwwww” and “I’m sore.” And we girls, our hands were all burning and stuff but we were just laughing and smiling and saying, “Whatever.”
So, that’s how I got from “cojones” to a lesson in gender roles and their usually idiotic nature. May all such lessons go so smoothly in the future. And may she not ask me about cojones again until she’s at least 16.

Might as well face it, you’re addicted to ‘Pod

So, how much does our little goddess love the iPod she got for Christmas as the really special gift this year?

Well, aside from filling it with way more game apps than she could ever actually play (many of them essentially variations on the same handful of themes: food-making, town-building and farming), she just now decided to text me from her room on my iPhone.

Mind you, her room is directly adjacent to my office, the door between our rooms is open and she has direct line of sight from the bed she’s on to my desk.

Still, silly is as silly does…



She then proceeded to go to her laptop (the big birthday gift last year from Grandad) and prepare to send me an email, until I noted to her that maybe her big brother might want to hear from her.

Oy vey…


The Prodigal Father

Yeah, so I see that my last post was in September. I know, I know, but I have a good excuse. You see, that was still pretty early in the school year, and I’ve been a bit distracted lately, having spent the last few months of 2013 realizing I was going to be moving up to chief editor at the magazine I work at (no longer the right-hand man but THE Man). And then there are other typical life pressures (bills, marriage, money, bills, car accident, home repairs, money, bills…) and, well…you see…I forgot to pick up my daughter from school one day in September and she kind of went a little feral and started skulking the halls for weeks in Phantom of the Opera fashion. A real mess. Naturally, the school wanted a parent to clean things up (what are my taxes paying for again?), so I’ve been awfully busy trying to track down the little goddess, find her lair in the catacombs underneath the school, and convince her to come back home instead of raiding the cafeteria’s supply of popcorn chicken nuggets, French toast sticks and turkey and gravy.

But I’m back now…I think…and maybe that means I’ll post some more about the wee darling deity-girl.

It’s Too Hot! …Unless…

Yesterday was one of those days when Summer says, “I’m not done with you yet, bitches!” From comfortable days and very cool nights to a day of 90+ temps and stifling humidity with no transition. A day, obviously, to stay home and hug your air conditioners more tightly than your children.

The wife and I managed to stay mostly out of the hellish wet-heat weather, but eventually, I had to drop her off at the air-conditioned neighborhood center she heads up and I had to go to the un-air-conditioned school where our little goddess has been attending third grade since just after Labor Day.

I park in the city library lot across the street and walk the roughly one-block distance to the back of the school, because I’m not trying to fight for parking just to get close. I can handle this.

The fans are going hard and heavy in the cafeteria where we pick up our kids if they don’t walk home or take the bus. It’s not cool, but at least it’s not stifling. I can handle this.

I get the goddess and we head out into the brutal heat. We walk toward the car, which will soon be air-conditioned. I can handle this.

“It’s really, really hot today, Daddy,” she tells me as we walk, her toasty hand in mine, and this is one of those rare times I’m thinking: I can’t wait to let go of your wee digits!I

“Yeah, it is,” I answer. “Brutal.”

“You don’t know, Daddy.”

“Oh, I do. I had to walk over here from the car. And your Mom and I went to the farmer’s market, so we were out in the sun for a while.”

“Yeah? Well I was in a classroom with no fans and outside for recess. You weren’t.”

“Believe me, I still know how hot it is. But you have an air-conditioned bedroom at home waiting for you.”

“Good!” she exclaims.

Then we approach the library parking lot.

“Daddy? Can we go in the library?”

I know the library’s air conditioning is sub-standard because of budget cuts. They operate at the bare minimum level to keep the books from suffering harm from heat and humidity.

“Honey,” I answer, “you know it’s not necessarily that cool in there. I thought you wanted to get home and…”

“Just a little while, Daddy?”

“Uhhhh…Jeez!…OK, sure, but we’re not staying long.”

I think I can handle this.

We get inside, and she plops down on a chair and sighs. Not what I expected.

“What’s the plan, kiddo?”

Another sigh.

“Yo! Daughter-of-mine! What’s the gameplan?”


“So, you’re just going to sit in a chair in just-OK air conditioning? I thought maybe you wanted to get some books.”

“Maybe later.”

I don’t know how to handle this. But at least it’s cooler in the library than outside. I plant myself in a kid-sized chair with my grown-ass butt to keep an eye on her while she’s in the children’s library area, and take out my iPhone. At least she’s not trying to play outside, which would mean I’d have to be outside, since for various reasons I figure I need to be in the vicinity to keep an eye out for threats…including threats she might pose to her own well-being with questionable impulse-powered decisions.

I don’t think three minutes pass before I hear, “Daddy?”

“Yes, hon?”

“Can Izabela and I go outside to play?”

“What? Didn’t you say it was way too hot today, even outside?”

“Yeah, but we’ll be in the shade.”

Oh, yes, the shade, where it’s only 90 degrees with high humidity instead of 92 degrees with high humidity. But I know this is a loser of a battle. If I say no, I’m a jerk for not letting her play like a kid and she’ll be poopy. If I say that it’s time to leave, I’m a jerk for not letting her have time with a friend her age.

So, I suck it up.

“OK, you can play outside, but not for long. Maybe 15 minutes, 20 tops.”

“Yay! Thanks, Daddy!”

When I get outside, all I can think of is: I can’t handle this. *sigh*

But still, I suffer it for at least a half hour, and hope it goes on my karmic credit card, because to her, it’s still too early to leave the moist-baking heat and she doesn’t grasp that she’s gotten twice as much time as I originally gave her.

I’ll handle this.

Bad Daddy! Put Down Those Beers!

There is a vast gulf…so many times…between what we say to our children and what they hear.

Today, I dragged my daughter along for a twice-monthly errand run to a health food store about 20 minutes away where we buy our coffee and sometimes a few other things, like the occasional organic/natural soaps, nutritional supplements, organic free-range chicken breasts, etc. Also, I typically grab a couple craft beers there.

But mostly it’s about the coffee.

And the beer.

So, as usual, I bribe the little goddess to come with me with the promise of a Happy Meal from McDonald’s on the way back, so that I can give my wife some “mommy alone time” for an hour or so. I tell my daughter that if I can find a reasonably priced bottle of red wine, I’ll be buying one for mommy from the health food store, but if not, we’ll have to make another stop on the way back home to our local big-name grocery store.

Well, while that may be clear to the rest of you, the little goddess had her own interpretation.

We get to the health food store, and she assists me with pouring the coffee beans into two one-pound bags and then dumping them into the grinder. She has this down to a science now and does almost all of it herself because it’s empowering or something. God know she doesn’t drink the stuff because she hates the taste.

Anyway, we finish with the coffee portion, and I stop at the beer/ale/stout section on the way to go look at the wines. I always stop at the craft beer area after the coffee.

This time, though…?

“Bad daddy!” my 8-year-old admonishes me.

“What?” I ask.

“You’re looking at beers!”


“You’re not supposed to be looking at beers,” she informs me.

“Since when?”

“You’re supposed to be getting wine for mommy.”

“We’ll get to that next,” I say.

“Mommy didn’t give you permission to buy beer.”

“Excuse me?”

“She told you to buy her some wine and she didn’t say you could buy beer.”

“I don’t need her permission to buy it. Unless she tells me the budget can’t handle it, I can do as I like. I’m a grown man.”

“No, you’re not. You need mommy’s permission.”

Well, so much for my daughter defending me anymore, I guess. That didn’t last long…

Speaking for the Defense…

I know sometimes it must seem like this blog is for one of two purposes: To show off my daughter’s creativity and to complain about the ways in which she drives me crazy at times.

Rest assured, she isn’t always driving me up a wall; I love being a daddy. But let’s face it: Blogging about her good behavior is rarely going to be as entertaining as sharing the missteps.

But, in the interests of fairness, let me say that sometimes, it’s good being the daddy when you have a little girl. Since shortly before turning eight and now just several weeks after the fact, the little goddess has taken to defending my honor almost every time her mommy takes me to task for something or says anything even mildly uncomplimentary about me.

It’s very sweet. It also makes me feel a bit bad for my wife at times, because it used to be estrogen central around here and daddy got piled on, and now she’s temporarily lost an ally in keeping the balance of power in the female camp.

Still, puberty isn’t that far away and before then (hopefully before then) the tween years with their own challenges, and those will probably be years in which I’m going to lose a lot of the affectionate support and legal defense skills of my little girl.

In the meantime, I’ll enjoy having a tiny protector for a little while…

One Indignant Girl

Our eight-year-old girl’s latest thing: Indignant, hurt outrage.

In fact, one of her key phrases now if we mention that, for example, she has some attitude and isn’t doing what she should because she’s obviously still stewing about that special something that we have to delay a few days, she’ll cry out: “You’re accusing me!”

Dear God, I thought I had until 12 or 13 before I started getting that.

Several days ago, at a restaurant, we told her something she didn’t like. I don’t remember what it was, but I think it was a change in some plans we had originally made for the coming days and activities for her. In any case, she had this poopy face that was really annoying, and totally out of proportion to what was going on. I mean, whatever we had changed, it only meant a wait of a couple days, as I recall. So I told her to stop looking so miserable and downtrodden, since it wasn’t like we had canceled whatever the hell it was.

“What do you want me to do? Pretend to be happy?! Put on a fake smile?!”

“No,” I tell the little goddess. “I’m just asking you not to so loudly and clearly advertise how much you don’t like one of our decisions, especially when you’re still going to get to do what you want soon.”

“I feel like you aren’t letting me express myself!”

“I’m sorry you feel that way. I don’t want fake smiles. It’s just that I also don’t want overblown, dramatic sad faces so that you can try to guilt us into doing what you want or make us feel awful for having to change plans.”

She remained unconvinced.

Then, just the other day, she asked that I remove some care tags from inside one of her shirts, because they were bothering her. I did, but pointed out that the washing and drying directions were on those tags, and I hoped I wouldn’t forget these directions and shrink up her shirt so that she couldn’t wear it.

She then tried to convince me she should hold on to the tags so we’d have the instructions. I declined to let her keep trash that would just end up littering her room, and told her that the shirt would probably be fine.

Massive poopy face, broadcasting her grief so much that I could feel it even when I wasn’t looking at her.

“Look,” I told her, “cut that out. It’s a shirt. You’ve had lots of shirts. You’ll outgrow it soon enough anyway. There are other cute shirts in the world. Stop looking so miserable.”

“I feel like this is the other night when you and mommy wouldn’t let me express myself!”

“You’re welcome to express yourself, as long as you don’t overdo it. What I’m bothered by is the way you obsess about things that aren’t that big a deal and act like it’s the end of the world. I don’t like that you get sad over things that haven’t even happened yet and probably won’t. I don’t want you to be finding ways to make yourself sad or upset when the world will hand you so many better reasons to feel that way already. Express, yes. Obsess, no.”

Again, her steely-eyed, Samuel L. Jackson-style glare told me that I’m going to be in for a long, bumpy ride even before puberty hits.

Hold me. I’m scared.


I might have mentioned this before, but my darling (now eight-year-old) daughter has not only a bubbly, energetic and charming personality, but also a very dark tinge to her outlook at times. Again, very deity-like, I suppose, and probably our fault for naming her after a goddess. She will fixate on the notion of death and evil sometimes, asking us to tell her all the details of any tragedy or crime she overhears on the radio. In playing with the Barbie dolls with my wife, the plotlines often turn into tales of zombies, curses and dismemberments—and that was long before she started adding “Monster High” dolls to the mix with the Barbies. Yesterday, she got cranberry juice at a breakfast restaurant instead of her usual orange juice, and loudly announced to us (and several people near us) that she was drinking and very much enjoying blood.

The level of her fascination with the morbid is alternately amusing and disturbing, but then again, I have to remind myself I wrote tales with vicious, bloody, gory battles in them when I was a youth, and I turned out OK (I think…my wife might disagree).

Frankly, I’m half convinced that with her frilly nature and love of bright colors, along with her fascination with the macabre, that she will grow up to be a pink-dress-wearing Goth with flowers woven into a long, dark braid down her back. Oh, and the Doc Martens on her feet will be painted with hearts, butterflies and unicorns…

Planes_film-posterSo, how did I get on this topic? We saw the movie Planes this week. Good flick. It’s based in Pixar’s Cars universe, where the world is a world of vehicles with human personalities. In essence, the cars, trucks, planes, etc. are stand-ins for people.

Late in the movie, the little goddess pipes up with a comment (don’t worry; we were at a drive-in, not an indoor theater): “Mommy, Daddy? There aren’t any people in these movies, are there? Not in Cars or Cars 2, either.”

“No, I don’t think there are any people,” my wife responds.

“Nope,” I confirm. “The cars and planes and stuff are the people. They don’t have humans in the movies.”

“I wonder what happened to the people?” the little goddess muses.

“Nothing, honey,” I say. “They just have vehicles instead of people. It’s like some of the old Warner Bros. cartoons…”

“I bet they all died,” my daughter continues.

“Uh, no, honey,” I insist. “There aren’t any people in the Cars universe. It’s a world where the vehicles are the people. It’s just a fun…”

“Yeah, the people all died,” she presses on. “I wonder what killed them?”

“Um, even if there were people and they died, that wouldn’t explain how cars and planes got personalities and eyes and stuff,” I note.

“I bet there were aliens and they came and killed all the people and maybe a few lived for a while and maybe they’re hiding out somewhere. And then the cars and stuff had no one to drive them or fly them and they got bored and made their own society.”

At this point, I realize there’s no point in dissuading her, so I return my attention to the movie and try to excise the sudden insertion of memes from The Walking Dead, The Day After Tomorrow and countless other apocalyptic movies that have no place in a Pixar animated flick.

I’ll start stocking up on cute Goth-wear for her soon. I’m sure she’ll need it.


They Call Me MISTER Hairylegs

Several days ago, my daughter, in her recently minted 8-year-old glory, informed me I was no longer “Daddy.” Instead, my name was to be “Cookie.”

Now, while I do bake an incredibly fantastic chocolate chip cookie (I have this on the authority of both immediate family and in-laws), I’m not sold on being called Cookie. The little goddess was, of course, unfazed by my reluctance.

Tonight, while she, her mom and I were having ice cream treats at a local shop, she told me I was getting an “upgrade” in my name.

Cookie Hairylegs.

“No,” she immediately corrected myself when I told her that didn’t sound like a good name to me, “You’re Cookie Cupcake Hairylegs!”

I fail to see how any of this is an improvement.

Handy(ish)man, Part II: Revenge of the Wallpaper

You may have noticed I’ve been kind of quiet around here, on the other blogs and on Twitter for the past week or two.

Or maybe you didn’t notice. If you didn’t, don’t tell me; I’d prefer to believe I was missed terribly.

Anyway, more than a month ago, I had a blog post called Handy(ish)man, wherein I talked about the project to redeem my masculinity with the wife, be a hero to my daughter and start getting this big old house in order. I mentioned back then when I posted pictures that I was probably 20% through the wallpaper removal process.

I wasn’t too far off, but it was probably a little under 15% of the total wallpaper in hindsight, and it was among the easiest part to get off. You see, near as I can tell, there have been various attempts to remove wallpaper over the years, but never an attempt to actually remove all of it. The house is like 120 years old or so, and I don’t think the wallpaper went back that far, since it seems drywall of some sort was put up over the old walls, and back when it was built that wasn’t a product available to be used. But I daresay that the oldest wallpaper I took down was easily 50 to 60 years old; maybe more. Worse, in some places the wallpaper was five layers thick (though only two or three layers in most spots). In the end, I didn’t literally get it all off because there were little bits that just refused to budge even spraying with the wallpaper removal chemicals. And there were patches near the top of the walls I didn’t try too hard to fully remove, as I was afraid I’d compromise the drywall, which was a bit crumbly in a few places and was slightly loosened from certain portions of the wall. But I got like 98% of it off, and that means I’m about 3 bazillion% more diligent than anyone before me was.

Fortunately, although there were bits left, and various holes, cracks and the like, plenty of spackling and caulking hide a multitude of sins, along with primer and two coats of paint.

End result: The little goddess was thrilled with her room. Better yet, I got it done before her birthday, despite the fact that I lost about two weeks worth of work due to the fact the dust was killing my wife via her allergies, we had a weeklong-plus heatwave, and it wasn’t until a few days before the little girl’s eighth birthday that my wife (God bless her soul) was finally able to finagle an all-day trip to Boston for both of them so that I could work non-stop to finish everything up instead of fitting work in a few minutes at a time here and there.

But, enough about that, since I’m not sure the horror of doing this job (10 to 12 hours of wallpaper removal and another 6 to 8 hours of priming, painting and detail work) when I’m not naturally inclined to like this kind of thing enables me to make funnies about it. How about I share some photos instead? (You can use the link up above to the older post to see the horror of the wallpaper, which doesn’t begin to capture just how horrible, but it’s close enough)

room-reno-01You can see above the lovely little brown bits of the oldest wallpaper I just gave up on. The pink/white is the spackling, which was still drying (hence the pinkness; it turns white when dry). You also see the blue. The topmost layer of wallpaper had been painted over with a dark blue by the previous owners, which made removal that much harder. These patches here are the only places in the whole room where wallpaper had been removed all the way down to the wall and paint was actually touching the drywall directly.

room-reno-02Above is, first off, a view into my office from her new room. Three of the four bedrooms simply connect to each other via doorways, with no hallway. That’s quaint…or inconvenient as hell. Fortunately, my office has its own set of stairs leading down to the first floor, and the door between it and her room will soon have a latch. Anyway, to the left of the door leading to my office is a wall that’s half drywall, half pegboard and a whole lot of plaster under the wallpaper there (there’s also a tiny alcove behind it). I knew there was no way I could remove most of the wallpaper without destroying that makeshift wall (that was put in to create that alcove, I guess), so I just gave up (sort of). At the top, you can see the floral pattern of what was the oldest layer of is with the walls mostly done (pale pink) and the wooden floor primed, but before I did the trim (pale purple) or the floor (forest green)

room-reno-04Above you can see how I fixed the messed-up little wall I “gave up” on. Instead of removing the hellpaper, I simply tacked up some fairy-themed fabric over it.

room-reno-05What fairy-themed and nature-inspired room would be complete without some fake flowers stuck in a hole that used to be for a pipe leading to the radiator we removed (along with all the radiators; we upgraded the heating system shortly after moving in eight years ago or so).room-reno-06More fake flowers, stuck in two small holes in the floor whose original purpose I have forgotten. I think it had to do with the hot water heater that we replaced in the basement. Also, these flowers have the addition of a little pink unicorn pony because…again…nature and fairies!

room-reno-07 room-reno-08 room-reno-09 room-reno-10The above four photos are the new switchplate and outlet covers we got from a local farmer’s market we frequent. They are hand-decorated decoupage covers from a small business called Sue’s Crafts, and if you live in Maine and like her work, her email address is … I don’t know if she has a website or mails products anywhere, but she does great work. And yes, I know it was lazy of me not to scrape the old blue and white paint off the outlets. Get over it. I certainly did.

So, there you have it. We’re still getting together her new desk and some other furniture, but even though the room isn’t fully decked out, she loves it. Plus, now she has two windows instead of one, a ceiling fan and an air conditioner, which is one more window and a fan more than she had before.