Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Happy bUrf!day

Thirty-six months ago today I started this little blog. What began as an easy way to aggregate all of my kids' funny, clever, weird, cute, goofy, abnormal and dumb actions and conversations eventually grew into something more.

Actually, it has remained exactly that, but more people than I ever expected have read it. It also helped to spawn a column-writing gig and a new career. And, possibly, another child; GK was born only two months after Urf!'s conception. So to speak.

I've enjoyed my time on Blogger, yet the posts have been coming fewer and further apart. This is in part because The Quartet is older and less funny, just more moody. It's also because I write for a living now and that takes more energy and time than I expected.

I'm not ready to abandon the blog, though I'd be lying if I said I haven't thought about it. I'm still working on finding the balance with working from home, taking care of kids, doing housework, spending time with the family and updating Urf!.

So there may be fewer posts in the future than previously, certainly more than those first few months, and there may be less on C as he gets older. I keep GK at home on Monday and Tuesday along with a friend's baby, so there may be more about those two and their love/annoy relationship.

Or there may just be more about me and what I think about things other than the kids and family; maybe save the good family fodder for the column.

Who knows? I've just been making this up, just as I raise my kids, all along and I suppose I will continue to do so, on both fronts.

But I do thank all of you for reading. With over 63,000 hits over the years, it seems that something I'm saying has struck a chord with the two of you to each come back more than 30,000 times. Thank you for that.

Incidentally, this post written back in May of 2006 is the most landed-on Urf! from Google and other searches. I don't know why, but people from all over the world have ended up here. So I submit it, I suppose, as a Best Of on this 3rd bUrf!day.

Please enjoy, and please keep reading.

March 31, 2009


I know there are people out there who feel that their dogs are their children. They are not.

And while it may be fun to take Skipper out for a run with no leash at a playground intended for children, and while you may be able to explain to me that little Skipper is very friendly and has never hurt anyone and loves kids, you can't explain that to a 2- and 3-year-old as your dog charges towards them.

Leave your dog at home. Or on a leash.

And, yes, this is intended for the ignorant SOB at Peabody Park about 45 minutes ago.

Monday, March 30, 2009


Things learned today at home with the gnomes:

  • When you're taking a 2- and 3-year-old outside to feed old bread to the birds, take extra bread for the birds
  • When a little kid falls down, I'm laughing with that kid, not at that kid. Even though I'm laughing when I tell you that, that's what it is
  • Sippy cups grow on trees
  • Babies who spend a lot of time together will sync up on their pooping
  • Enough wisteria will overwhelm and mask the smell of all that poop
  • Mr. Baby has 10 fingers, which means he will slam something on his digits 10 times a day
  • Bees do it
  • GK can't reach the martini shaker without standing on a bar stool

Friday, March 27, 2009


On Mondays and Tuesdays I keep GK (almost 3) and Mr. Baby (almost 2) at home as a kind of remedial home school experiment. I was outside with them the other day for our morning walk-fall down-cry-become distracted-bird watch-throw a fit exercise when they decided they needed to swing. Naturally they both went for the same swing, causing a scene, which I deftly curtailed by threatening to cut that swing in half. And then we flipped a coin, which Mr. Baby later swallowed.

As the kids were swinging I grabbed the overhead bar and did five chin-ups. And by five, I mean I did just over four. Just barely more than four. GK laughed and said, "Do it again!" which I couldn't, and I told her so, and she laughed some more.

So I took each of them and held them up to a lower crossbar until they held on and I told them to do a chin-up. They just hung there, wide-eyed, looking at me like babies do while I laughed and mocked them.

That concluded recess for the day.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Memphis Connected

I attended the launch party for the new website memphisconnect.com this evening. It was a lovely affair put on by the good people of The Leadership Academy and attended by movers and shakers and those in the know in Memphis. And me.

And people knew me! Well, they could read the name tag I proudly stuck on my costume, my threadbare sport coat I don when I'm going to be rubbing shiny elbows with movers and shakers.

I was surprised, though, by why people recognized me ... or, my name anyway. I never expect to be recognized, but when I am, I don't expect it this way. It wasn't from my column or this blog or Facebook or even the retail store I owned for 10 years. It was from Twitter.

Twitter? Really? A hundred and forty characters at a time compels people to walk up to a person they don't know and say, "Hi, we've never met, but I follow you on Twitter ... " Don't get me wrong, I'm glad they did. They were friendly and engaging people, and not at all stalkery. They were folks with dreams and kids and stories to tell, and just like you and me, for the most part. Although they probably make more money. There's no reason for me to think they'll be peering in my windows tonight or standing at the end of my driveway in the morning.

This Twitter fascinates me. All of the social networking sites do, actually. I'm relatively new to it all and it doesn't quite make sense yet. I can't wrap my virtual brain around it. I feel there is a sense of community, but I can't get my fingers on it, it's ephemeral. It's there, yet it's not.

Is Memphis really such a small town that we're all connected by just a person or two, or is the internet just that good of a host; putting people with just enough in common, yet unlike each other enough for conversation to happen organically, together at this friendly, pixelated dinner party?

I wonder how much Twitter and Facebook would have affected the end of a story, and an ideal of American life, as universal as It's a Wonderful Life. The inscription from Clarence in the copy of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer left for George Bailey at the finale of the film reads: Remember, George, no man is a failure who has friends.

But are those I've invited to be friends truly that? Are you all my friends? Had Mary put out a call for help with her laptop, would she have rounded up enough cash to keep George out of prison? Or would she have received only a collection of "Bar w/frnds drnkng all nite. Gd luck @GBailey! U rock!!!!" along with 483 pieces of flair, 39 people bitching about the new Facebook and PayPal donations totaling $14.72?

If my wife put out a call for help to you people, would you respond? I mean, with real money? (That would be good to know, actually.)

Should you want to see what the world would be like had you never been born, you don't need a guardian angel to show you. Simply delete your Facebook account, lose your Twitter login or do the unthinkable and unplug your wireless modem. But then turn it all right back on for God's sake, you might miss something! One of your friends might have found out what '80s movie best defines her.

I think about the future and whether my will kids grow up with good friends and a community of support. Will they have wingmen, confidants and supporters ... or just a bunch of twits?

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Spring Break 2009

Spring break has coasted to an end with a cool and rainy Saturday. Miserable. A good day, though, for sitting inside and watching the Tigers play in the NCAA tournament.

Luckily we got outside plenty during the week to play in the yard, have picnics, ride bikes and wash cars.

JP learned to ride his bike this week. Finally. And, in the tradition of his already-biking-siblings, he taught himself. He simply hopped on his bike and pedaled down the driveway and he hasn't looked back. Or forward, really. Not even side-to-side so much, which is why he's confined to the driveway on his bike. After a short ride to Richland Elementary's playground he crossed the street at the wrong time and at a slow and dangerous pace, he swerved off the sidewalk and into the street to avoid ... something, and he came to a stop once just before heading off the sidewalk. He's a menace to traffic on our street. He's the worst domestique ever.

I'm lucky, though, that he could teach himself. Lucky that C and S did, too, as none of us have the patience for me to teach them. That's one of those father and son and daughter bonding moments that would have ended horribly, with a lot of stomping and crying. The kids would have been upset, too.

One day I decided to take The Quartet in search of parks. We walk up to Richland almost daily, but I thought we'd get in the car and leave the neighborhood to explore. We all needed some time off the street.

We went to Shelby Farms and, I have to say, I was very disappointed in their playground. This patch of land is a jewel in the city with acres of lake, trees, trails and bison. The playground, however, is metal, rust and, in one spot at least, plywood. There is a "sandbox" which looks like a construction crew was told to dump whatever sand they had left over from a job at that spot. It's become a pile of sand, rocks and leaves.

The kids liked it, of course, they don't know any better. I'm surprised at how much I've come to expect molded plastic and recycled rubber on playgrounds. Maybe it's not so much the safety of it as it is the look of it all. After all, I grew up playing on metal and concrete and I still have all of my limbs. The playgrounds of my kids are just nicer looking environments to play on.

Maybe the Shelby Farmers have a plan for this playground. A plan to raze it and start over. If not, they need to start thinking about it because everything else in that area is picturesque and user-friendly, the one spot specifically for kids, above all, should be.

In contrast, we explored a little more and found a playground I'd seen just off of Humphrey's Blvd. or Wolf River Parkway or whatever that road is over there. It took a while to figure out how to get to it, I had to meander through some neighborhoods before stumbling on the entrance. The playground was large and contemporary with different levels of wood decking, picnic tables, lots of trees and a bridge going over a creek (read: ditch).

I'm not sure I could find it again, though we'll try. I'm not even sure what the park is called, but the kids loved it.

We didn't make it to the beach for spring break, but we did manage to make it outside, which is more than I can say for this cold and wet end-of-break Saturday. Go Tigers!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

mmm, Chile

I've been busy lately. Really, I have been. And just to prove it I'm going to type in some links later on in this post so that you can click and see what I've been doing.

I went on Monday to the offices of ArtsMemphis where I was supposed to interview a woman in Chile, via telephone, and via translator, for a story in the ArtsMemphis magazine about an exhibit on human rights coming to the National Civil Rights Museum for Memphis in May.

This was daunting for several reasons: I've never worked with ArtsMemphis before and wanted to make a good impression; I was on a very tight deadline, about 24 hours, in fact; I was working through a translator, which means I had to have some questions prepared ahead of time; and the woman I was to be interviewing, Marcia Scantlebury Elizalde, is an actual journalist, something I only pretend to be.

The translator, Juan, was very nice and extremely helpful and let me know first thing that Senora Elizalde is not, in fact, the artist who created the exhibit, but the curator, doing away with almost all of my questions. Skype, though perfect on a test run, 15 minutes later would not connect with Chile for the real deal, so we had to go with an intercom call on a phone.

Once we were all on the phone and Juan was speaking his rapid-fire Spanish, I sat poised with my pencil over paper as though I should be taking notes, but really just paranoid that he was making fun of my hair to her. Juan asked Elizalde to please hold while he explained to me that, not only was she not the artist of the exhibit - or the curator - but that she has actually never seen the exhibit and is not particularly familiar with it.

So that was fun.

I found out later that the exhibit, Crowds in the Shadow, will eventually be housed in Chile's Museo de la Memoria, as a warehouse of the Pinochet-era atrocities, which Elizalde is in charge of putting together through a decree by Chile's president.

And the magazine story? Well, that's why I'm up at 12:25 a.m. I'm trying to put something together that's readable.

Being up this late, though, has given me the opportunity to see the clock and calendar move to a new day and with that a new "Because I Said So" column in The Commercial Appeal. I wrote it about eating dinner with the kids. Wrote it, of course, with tongue and pork chop in teeth.

I also wrote it not realizing that my story on the Hope & Healing Center's nutrition class for kids, Alphabet Appetite, was running the day before. And, on top of that, the piece I wrote about Mike Palazola and his produce company, M. Palazola Produce, ran in the business section as well.

So I'm quite the food writer all of a sudden with stories on dinner time, mini pizza cooking, produce and Chile.

Tomorrow will be a story on the Assisi Foundation's grant to the Memphis Rock 'n' Soul Museum in the Business section of The Commercial Appeal. It doesn't have anything to do with food, but I wrote it anyway.

So that's what I've been up to. And why I'm up late. I'll be back soon to talk about JP (finally) learning to ride a bike and why he's not allowed to leave the yard on that bike. And maybe I'll post some pictures.

But for now, goodnight and bon appetite!

The links!
Alphabet Appetite
Because I Said So
Mike Palazola

Monday, March 09, 2009

Crazy 4s

Yesterday was sunny and in the 70s, so I laid down the law and declared the day a No TV, No Computer Day. I was the least popular person in the house with the kids.

We walked to the park and played, and then when we got back boredom ensued. I sat on the patio, content with my crossword in the sunshine. The kids were content to mope around.

At one point I was alone here with the kids and lost sight of them. I went back inside and found them all gathered around the computer while one of them played a game. I watched my approval rating plunge even more when I told them to turn it off and for everyone to go outside.

These kids are not self-starters. They don't have the ability to just begin play out of nowhere without prompting. For most of the day, JP walked around announcing that he was bored. I'm like my mother in that I have no patience for this.

So we sat outside and C and I taught the others to play Crazy 8s. They learned quickly and S even won the first game she played. At the end of the day, though, I always come out on top and the kids owe me, collectively, $7.38.

A good day, indeed.

Thursday, March 05, 2009


The podcast of the Drake & Zeke show at 98.1 The Max where they mention me and my column can be found right here. It's right in the beginning and is very nice. Thanks again, guys.

Your Public Library

I wrote my column for today’s Commercial Appeal about libraries because the kids and I have taken quite a few trips to a couple of branches recently, and because that’s where I first encountered so many books.

The truth is, though, I still prefer bookstores, especially used bookstores. I could spend hours in one, and have. And I’ll always have this need, this OCD need to own my books. I don’t like to borrow books, even from friends, and I don’t really like to lend them. I would be the worst library ever. When a library book enters our house – and many do – I can’t help but wonder where it’s been: someone’s bathroom? Someone’s sick bed?

I’m not defending that line of thought, it’s just the way I think.

I like the communal atmosphere of a library. They’re the early coffee shops where people go to work or relax or just sit in a comfortable space away from their homes. And I like the possibilities, there’s no telling what you might find around the next end cap if you’re willing to explore a little.

I recently took The Quartet to the White Station library branch on Poplar Ave. where I spent so much time as a kid. It was the first time I’d been there in a long, long time. It seemed much smaller to me and laid out a bit differently. It’s well worn, like the spine of your favorite paperback, and could do with some upgrades, especially in the children’s department.

The librarians were very helpful, as they are in all libraries. In fact, walking into any library anywhere is just like walking into a home away from home. It’s the same feeling I have walking into a jumbled mess of a used bookstore. it’s very familiar, like visiting old friends.

My column is 15-inches, about 500 words, but I could have gone on for another 500 about libraries and books and the importance of both. Gather up your kids today, take them to your nearest library and leave with a stack of books. Or take them to your favorite bookstore, buy a few books and start them on their way to their very own library.

[Thanks to Drake & Zeke at 98.1 The Max for mentioning me and the column on air this morning!]