Friday, August 29, 2008

The Keys Are By the Door

These kids cannot keep their hands off each other. The living room has become like a cage match. And not the good Pay-Per-View, ultimate fighting kind, either. Nobody's paying to watch this; I'm not making any money here.

And they won't listen to my threats, so I've made a new rule: I will not drive any children to the emergency room. So if one of them gets hurt, then they have to wait until one of their siblings is old enough to get their driver's license. And that one of their siblings is able to pass the test. They'd better take it easy on C, you don't want him getting injured as he's the nearest in age to being able to drive.

There it is, a new law, written in stone. Kids, you may now begin ignoring it.

Thursday, August 28, 2008


It's my understanding that that acronym up there stands for "stay at home dad." I'm not one of these. In fact, I work six days a week, and have for about nine years now. But GK's school was closed this week and, though we had childcare for Monday through Wednesday, we were left in a lurch for today and tomorrow.

So I stayed at home to be a dad.

GK and I began the day by taking the older kids to school, and then made a run to Office Depot for some supplies. We dropped those off at my store and took a minute to sit and read the paper.

After that we went to Cafe Eclectic to have an Americano, Eggs Florentine and some of their homemade doughnuts with local auteur Craig Brewer and his family. Brewer and his family actually sat about five feet away, so I guess we weren't together together.

We went to the playground at Overton Park from there, but GK was only really interested in the water fountain, so we didn't stay long. We went home to read books, do the dishes, watch some Blues Clues and dance around to CDs before she fell asleep and I could finish reading my book.

I was only a SAHD until 2:30 when I dropped her off with her mother at school. I'm good at being the sole parent for about six and a half hours as far as I can tell. In that six and a half hours, GK ate a waffle sprinkled liberally with chocolate chips, a couple of doughnuts, two cookies and an ice cream sandwich.

Perhaps she should have run around more at the park. Perhaps she should learn to prepare her own lunch. Perhaps I should have asked Craig Brewer for some fathering advice.

Hopefully I'll get a call back tomorrow.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The GK Advisor

Time for more help from two-year-old GK!


With your perspective as a child, perhaps you can offer insight into a question that has baffled me for years: why are children so freaking loud?

Harley Fontaine

GK: Why are these people so loud? I live here with three children and their chatter is incessant. When they occasionally stop talking, it's only to screech and wail.
Me: Are you suggesting to the writer that you don't add to the din around here?
GK: Who?
Me: Mr. Harley Fontaine. He wrote the letter asking you a question about loud kids.
GK: Letter? I'm telling you to go in the other room and shut those kids up for once. I'm trying to pay attention to the rhetoric at the Democratic National Convention.
Me: Have you decided for whom to vote this November?
GK: That's really none of your concern.
Me: But I'm your father.
GK: And, yet, I wouldn't vote for you.
Me: I'm not running.
GK: Thank you for that.
Me: You're being very disrespectful.
GK: Close the door on your way out, those kids are on my last nerve.

[To have your questions answered, please write to]

GK: Lock it!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Most Mistake

The Commercial Appeal has released their special section Memphis Most in today's paper.

I worked on this section for two and a half weeks. Halfway through working on it, I lost almost half of what I'd written, yet still managed to finish three days before deadline.

If you look at the section itself, in the paper, I wrote every syllable from page 18, Most "Memphis" BBQ Sauce, to page 36, Most Boundless Beer Selection. That's 34 categories; nearly 9,000 words. And, if I may, it's all pretty good stuff.

For some reason I was left out of the list of section writers on page 1. I'm not sure yet why that is, but I hope to find out soon. In the meantime, the categories I was responsible for are:
  • Most "Memphis" BBQ Sauce
  • Most Beloved BBQ Joint
  • Most Prime Steak Dinner
  • Most Enticing Burger
  • Most Savory Slice of Pizza
  • Most Sensational Sushi
  • Most Profitable Business Lunch
  • Most Satisfying Biscuits
  • Most Revered Sunday Brunch
  • Most For The Money
  • Most Craved Catfish
  • Most Romantic Restaurant
  • Most Delicious Deli
  • Most Tempting Bakery
  • Most Vietnamese Restaurant
  • Most Bountiful Buffet
  • Most Fine Dining
  • Most Italian Restaurant
  • Most Indian Restaurant
  • Most Kid-Friendly Cuisine
  • Most Thai Restaurant
  • Most Chinese Restaurant
  • Most Mexican Restaurant
  • Most Mediterranean Restaurant
  • Most Japanese Restaurant
  • Most Exotic Cuisine
  • Most Scrumptious Seafood
  • Most Wholesome Health Food
  • Most Popular Pub
  • Most Cosmopolitan Night Club
  • Most Masterful Martini
  • Most Fanatical Sports Bar
  • Most Bona Fide Blues Club
  • Most Boundless Beer Selection

Friday, August 22, 2008

Little By Little

I've had to learn on the fly how to make the morning routine run as smoothly as possible. And I'll do whatever it takes. When the older kids were smaller, it was competition: who could get dressed first, who could get to the car first. It helped to propel them to where I needed them to be by a certain time so we could get downtown, or wherever else we had to be, on time and with little or no whining, complaining or insubordination.

I've learned this week that GK needs a task. It seems to take her mind off of the fact that her mother isn't in the house and that she's about to be left someplace. So she now spends the mornings delivering and fetching things. She seems to enjoy taking the kids their lunch boxes and I parcel them out one by one. She runs, calling out to them with their box in hand, "S! Your lunchbox!" When that's done I have her go get a brush or her shoes or whatever else I can think of.

This week has been rough, though increasingly better, and today was just beautiful. She did her various duties at home, chattered all the way to the big kids' school and then no crying when I dropped her off. Finally.

When I left her she was chattering away to one of her favorite teachers, Miss S, saying, without stopping or breathing, "That my lunchbox, My bag, My mommy's name is Kristy, My pants, My shoes, Saw a rat in the kitchen ... "

Of course, this is the start of the weekend, so she has a couple of days to forget all about how much she doesn't mind being left. But I imagine each day and each week will get easier and easier. I have a good imagination.

Thursday, August 21, 2008


I get some nice comments about my column for The Commercial Appeal, though not on their website, of course. For some reason people stay away from commenting there, but do so in person and through direct e-mails. It's very nice and I'm appreciative of any recognition.

Last week a guy came into my store, made a purchase and then said, "Are you the one who writes that blurb in the paper every couple of weeks?" I could almost sense my mother swelling with pride.

So, again, thank you for reading and check out the latest blurb freshly published today.

Monday, August 18, 2008


For my birthday last week I was given a Tarzan the Ape Man box set, the old movies starring Johnny Weissmuller and Maureen O'Sullivan. I grew up on these movies, watching them every Saturday afternoon that they were on, and was eager for my own kids to see them.

C and I settled in Sunday morning to watch a couple as the other kids bounced in and out. When Weissmuller makes his first appearance in the first movie, he comes swinging in through the jungle. And C says, "It looks like he's on a trapeze." Well, of course he's on a trapeze, but it took me years to figure that out. C spotted it in the first five seconds.

I don't know if these kids today are just used to the CGI special effects and digital animation, and expect everything to at least look real, or if they're just less willing to suspend reality.

He seems to know that sea sponges don't wear pants, square or any other shape. He understands that a spider bite doesn't result in the ability to climb walls, shoot webs or wear your pajamas in public. And he has been made to understand that there is no semblance of talent on American Idol.

So why pick on Tarzan? Why point out what's wrong with my childhood heroes? I don't go around making fun of Dora.

Okay, actually I do. And he can certainly expect more of that from now on.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Last Week

I'm not a fan of writing the posts just to tell you what I've been up to lately without going into detail. I've just been too busy lately to pick out one thing and extrapolate, yet I feel that some things need to be put down for posterity.

I'm probably wrong about that, but here we go. A few things from last week:
  • The kids began school and GK began at a new sitter that Kristy found online only two days before. GK was miserable going to this woman's house. And, apparently, this woman was miserable as well because only two and a half days into it - that's about 16 total hours worth of effort - she let Kristy know via e-mail that she was done watching our daughter as of the end of that day. Having that much notice was really helpful, but Kristy scrambled and got GK back into the place she stayed last year, which is fine, just more than we can afford. We'll figure something out.
  • I took the Volvo to be inspected a couple of weeks back and it failed due to a broken lens cover on the front driver's side turn signal, so I was unable to renew the tags. This city is really on top of things, a murder every two days on average, but they're not going to let me get by without that piece of plastic covering the bulb, by God. But I digress. On the way to school the other morning, just around the corner from our house, I noticed a police car turning on the road behind me, so I turned into the next parking lot so as not to have him behind me at the upcoming stop sign and notice my expired tags. C asked what we were doing there in that lot and I told him, which probably won't win me Parent of the Year.
  • Thursday was my birthday, and I got to begin that day by taking GK to her new (though old) daycare. She completely melted down when I left her, which was a great way to start my day out. That was followed up by a visit to the neurologist to find out what can be done about the numb index finger and thumb on my right hand. He prescribed steroids, thus quashing my Olympic dreams. There's no way now I'll be able to pass for a 15-year-old Chinese gymnast.
  • I ended up having a very nice birthday with cake and ice cream and presents and friends and family.
  • I put a wounded rodent out of its misery with a Louisville Slugger.
  • The Google kicked me out of their AdSense program. They sent me an e-mail telling me that "... we found that your AdSense account has posed a significant risk to our AdWords advertisers." I have expired car tags, a murdered rodent on my hands and Google running scared. This city makes you mean.
  • The kids finished out their first week of school and it was a rousing success. They all survived, they're all happy with their teachers and they all have most of their school supplies.

It was a hectic week and one that made it difficult to keep up with, both in real time and here on the interweb. There was a lot going on, and almost too much to handle on any given day. But it was better than being a rat.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Socially Studying

When I got home from work yesterday I asked the kids how school was and C chimed in right away, "My teacher is really cool. He taught us Social Studies and I didn't even know it. He was just talking to us and we were learning."

Isn't that the best way to teach and to learn? To talk to the kids like they're small people instead of puppies to be trained? To converse with them instead of lecturing or forcing a text book down there throats?

I think it's going to be a good year.

Monday, August 11, 2008

School Dazed

Today is the first day of school and the morning went as well as I could have dared hope.

Waking The Quartet up two to three hours earlier than they've been used to this summer was fairly easy. The excitement of new backpacks, lunchboxes and shoes had something to do with this, I know. I have no delusions that every morning will be so simple.

Everyone was dressed, fed and out the door in a timely manner. I took the older kids to school first. The building was packed with parents and children, teachers outside their rooms greeting their newest wards, and, though it appeared chaotic, it was surprisingly quick and easy to get in and out.

S was a bit hesitant as we entered her room, but her teacher was one of JP's last year and, so, familiar to her. And once she saw one of her friends, she was all set.

JP handled Day One as he handles everything - in stride. He said hello to his teacher, hung up his backpack and found his seat, no doubt ciphering just how long it would be until he could get himself back in front of a television.

C had gone upstairs to the 5th grade by himself and GK and I went to check on him after depositing the other two. He is not, sadly, in the same class with his two running buddies whom he's been with every year since kindergarten. He was already seated, so I just waved to him and couldn't speak to him to find out if this is a problem. Something tells me it is, though he'll soon see that they'll have lunch and CLUE together. He'll do well, he always does.

We left the school and GK was being chatty and sweet and was the kind of happy that makes me want to spend all day with her. But I couldn't. I had a chiropractor appointment and had to be at work, so it was off to the sitter.

GK was less than thrilled with being dropped off. This is a new sitter for her, but that isn't really the point. She cried at drop-off nearly every day last year. I know she doesn't cry for long, I know it's just the moment of being left behind that upsets her. But it's that moment that upsets me as well. Has been ever since I began dropping C off at daycare 10 years ago.

I hope they all had a good day. I hope they'll all forgive me for being the one to abandon them every morning. It's for their own good. They'll see that one day, though it may not be until they have their own kids and are dropping them off at my house for me to take care of and to explain that their parents aren't really bad people for doing so. They're just cheap.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

The GK Advisor

Another helpful hand from two-year-old GK.

Me: So, what do you think?
GK: I'm sorry?
Me: I just read you a letter from a reader asking your advice.
GK: My advice?
Me: I posted a while back on this blog that if anyone needed advice on any subject that they could write and ask you a question.
GK: You have a blog?
Me: Yes.
GK: Fine. These curlers have to set for about 15 minutes anyway, so shoot.
Me: Here we go. Chris writes, Dear GK, can you help me with the fewer and less predicament? Are there fewer calories or less calories in my beer? Please help!
GK: You know, this makes me think of a piece I read in The New Yorker not long ago about the reclusive physicist, Garrett Lisi.
Me: Really? How is it relevant to the question?
GK: Oh, it isn't. I just automatically start thinking of something else when you're talking.
Me: I see. So can you help Chris?
GK: He's a grown man concerned with the amount of calories in his beer. I think the only thing that will help him now is to take stock of himself, and of his wife's closet, to see if any of her skirts match those pumps I imagine he's wearing right now.
GK: My hair is ready. See you later, old man ...

[To have your questions answered, please write to]

GK: Bring me my mojito!

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Hit Me

Sometime in the last week, Urf! attained the 50,000 hits milestone. If I had a penny for every one of those hits, then I'd have $500. And if I had $500 then I'd actually only have about $485.16 ... it's a long story.

Oddly, on days that I have a column in The Commercial Appeal, my daily hits here actually drop. Perhaps you have a low threshold for me, it's certainly understandable.

Regardless, I have a column in the paper today. If you can stand any more, then please check it out. I actually get paid for that and I could use all the pennies I can get.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Do I Laugh Now?

Who among us hasn't woken up some mornings - eyes sleep-encrusted, pillow drool-soaked - wishing we could, instead of being ourselves, just for one day, be Fred MacMurray?

Ah, to be cool. Really cool. 1940s Film Noir cool, with its gin-soaked, clipped speech and wide-brimmed Fedoras. Not 2008 Facebook cool with its poking and whiny pleading for acceptance.

I feel, mostly, that I would be closer to 1960s television Fred MacMurray than 1940s Billy Wilder Fred MacMurray. I would find it easier at this time to pull off the cardigan and Canadian pipe look, living with my kids and a crazy, man-servant bachelor uncle; easier, certainly, than the look of a grey flannel suit, flask and Chesterfields, a sultry Barbara Stanwyck draped over my shoulder.

But father doesn't always know best, does he? In yesterday's post, I'm afraid I may have given the impression that I did, and that the day, and its errands, ran smoothly due to some wisdom or foresight of mine. Truth be told, I couldn't have done it without the teamwork of my Quartet.

To drop a dime on myself, as Walter Neff might say, I had to turn down the car radio on the way to registration to ask the kids what grades they were going into. I didn't want to look like a total chump when we got to school.

They each sounded off in turn: First! Second! Fifth!

Afterwards, as we sat in the McDonald's drive-thru line, C told me exactly what and how to order all the kids' meals. Right down to letting me know the number of boys' and girls' Happy Meals.

I'm also not 100% certain that it was a good idea to let the kids feed most of their lunches to those three squirrels at the park, but it seemed to make them happy.

The children, not the squirrels.

They're good kids, and I really do try to know best, but sometimes I flub even that.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Solo Daddy, Day Two

Just like in those old suspense movies, today was quiet. Almost ... too quiet.

This was the smoothest school registration I've been to in six years. The first one, when C was just entering kindergarten, began with me standing in line at the Fairgrounds at three in the morning sometime in February to secure him a spot at Downtown Elementary.

And each subsequent year, I've had to produce something to prove that my kids exist; a birth certificate, social security card, DNA sample, retina scan. Something. Every year, even after C had been there for a few years.

Except this year. Kristy printed out the necessary forms and filled them out ahead of time and I took them into school and dropped them off. The end. It was as simple and tidy as it should have been every year.

So after this short jaunt, I decided to take The Quartet for a picnic. It was 98 degrees outside, why not?

First, thought, I drove past the auto inspection station to see about getting the Volvo inspected to renew the registration. The line was too long, again. I've done this every day since early last week and that line is always too long. I just don't have the patience to sit in my car waiting for the government to do its work.

What I do have the patience for, apparently, is sitting in my car at the McDonald's drive-thru waiting for a high school kid to assemble four Happy Meals.

We went to Overton Park, at a picnic table near the Doughboy, where we ate our lunch and fed French fries to a few squirrels. The kids loved that part.

It was a good day. A good way to spend one of the last days of summer vacation. Tomorrow, Kristy is taking the kids to work with her, so I get the day off. I'm almost sorry about that.

Ask GK

Two-year-old GK has a knack for getting her opinions across. I often consult her on matters of finance, politics, the heart or entertainment options. She never fails to let me know just what she thinks.

Here are a few examples of our conversations from the past:

Sketches of GK
Politics and Poop
Upon Returning Home From Work Yesterday Evening ...
GK Critic

My thinking is that, as helpful as she's been to me, I'm sure she could help all of you as well. She's well-versed on many subjects, so if you have any questions at all for a two-year-old, please E-mail her at

Ask for her advice, her opinions, her thoughts. Go ahead, you give it a try now.

Me: GK, what do you think about all of this?
GK: All of what?
Me: Writing an advice column for my readers.
GK: How much advice could the two of them need?
Me: I have lots of readers.
GK: And they all have problems.
Me: Probably so.
GK: That wasn't a question.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Snake Bit

It's an annual happening. This is the week, as it is every year, that Kristy goes back to work, but the kids still have another week of summer vacation left, and I am in charge of them.

It's never pretty.

It's like snake handling. You can look at those poisonous serpents through the safety of aquarium glass all you want, but at some point you just have to reach in and grab one. Or four. This is the week I reach in and attempt to control the vipers.

This first day began well enough. I was up before any of them and showered, ready for the day ahead. I even did the dishes and some laundry. GK slept late and was upset by the absence of her mother when she awoke, but she quickly got over it and settled in to watch Sesame Street (Gabi seems ... older, doesn't she?). The other kids woke up, ate, got dressed and were ready to leave the house in a timely fashion.

I had a chiropractor appointment to have this ice pick, or whatever it is, that's jammed into my shoulder looked at. A chiropractor appointment with four kids in tow, it turns out, is counterproductive.

You know how when someone else's kids are jumping around, and acting like sociopaths, and the parent says, "I don't know what's gotten into him, he never acts like this" but you know for a fact that the kid always acts like that? Maybe that's how my kids are perceived, because I found myself saying, "I don't know what's going on with her" after S was scolded by the doctor for hitting JP, an aggression I couldn't see as my back was to them at the time.

I had to walk over to work afterwards because there were some things I had to get done. These kids all know that they are to behave and stay quiet when they're at the store because there are customers who have questions and I need to be able to talk to those people. The kids know this, they just don't care. The girls ran throughout the place while JP called out to them from the mezzanine. And, of course, you have to watch GK with the inventory, that girl loves a panatela.

We walked over to Roma for lunch. I ordered five slices, an order of pepperoni breadsticks and drinks, and the kids actually behaved for all of this. At one point GK, finished with her meal, got down to dance around and wave at people. This was too cute to cause a problem.

Once at home, though, things really heated up. These kids can't keep their hands off of each other, constantly in each other's personal space, pushing and hitting. Once it all went too far and S's hand was slammed in a bedroom door, I sent them all to separate rooms, where they stayed for the rest of the day. Or until 3:30 when Big Mama got home to relieve me.

I went to work. Alone.

Tomorrow is school registration, which is always a treat. Stay tuned ...