Monday, April 30, 2007

Down In The Drain

Parenting seems difficult, though it’s actually pretty simple stuff. I make it sound harder than it is here for comic effect. The truth is you only need a few things to be a parent. Now, these are important, so any of you who might be expecting should write these down and stick them in whatever book you're reading that purports to teach you how to raise your child. For basic child rearing, you’re going to need an infinite amount of compassion and patience, a TV, cookies, a stern voice, grandparents, a bedroom door that locks and a drain snake. That’s it. That’s all you’ll need to take care of your child until he or she is at least nine-and-a-half. That’s as high as my experience goes.

Upon arriving home this evening, I took my post-work shower. I needed one doubly bad tonight because I spent an hour and a half at 201 Poplar paying a ticket for expired car tags. You local Memphians know just what I’m talking about and why that bar of soap and loofah were so important to me tonight. The shower wasn’t as refreshing as it should have been, though, because I was standing in water up to my ankles. Afterwards, I got my trusty drain snake and worked that drain until it gave up its obstruction. I can’t think about that obstruction now without throwing up a little, so I won’t describe it to you. Those of you who know me will enjoy the image, however, of me crouched down in the still-damp tub, my hands sliding all over that porcelain, trying to get who-knows-what out of the drain. I used 60-grit sandpaper to clean up afterwards.

Our drain clogs because we now have six people using one tub. Not all at once, of course, there’s a two-person maximum. Someday soon we hope to have a larger house, or at least an extra tub. And a bedroom door that locks. And possibly more patience as I watch what little I still have run down the drain with nothing to stop it but a wiry, wet nest of hair which falls out due, ironically, to the stress of raising all these kids.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Rocking And Romping

We went to the first Rock ‘n Romp of the year yesterday. RnR takes place by invitation only in some poor sucker’s backyard, and is a way to introduce kids to live music and for parents, clinging desperately to their youth, to get together and drink a beer. It can also be considered a gathering of the future of Midtown. I picture neighbors in Evergreen, Cooper-Young and Central Gardens, in 20 – 30 years, meeting while out walking their dogs, doing yard work or just sitting on their porches and, in the course of conversation, realizing they were probably at a Rock ‘n Romp together years before. And they’ll hopefully be carrying on their parents’ tradition of gathering for music, drinking from a keg and glowing - or glowering - in the fact that they’re hipper than the rest of the city.

We had a good time. We met with moms and dads, musicians and artists, babies and friends; saw slides and swings and toy tractors, Chloe and Connor, Miss M, Satchel and Jiro, musical instruments, goatees as far as the eye could see, tattoos and lactating women; heard some very loud music; had food and drink, chatted, laughed, made and painted maracas, and the kids put on enough fake tattoos to make a miniature Guns ‘n Roses.

Thank you to everyone in charge of putting these gatherings on, I know it’s a lot of work. The next one will be in June, so go to the Rock ‘n Romp website and get yourself signed up. We may be out of town for this next one but I’m trying to work a deal where The Quartet will be left behind, ostensibly to help out. C is big enough to tote amplifiers and hook up mics. JP knows his coins and could make change at the door or sell T-shirts. S, of course, can tap a keg, and GK is so cute you’ll just want her on hand to make people smile. So think about it, RnR people. I’m offering the services of four of Midtown’s finest to help pull that show off while Big Mama and I are in a hotel room in Atlanta, listening to too-loud music, drinking and applying fake tattoos.


Since I started running again, I've had an issue with too-old sneakers suddenly being too small and have found myself with a black toenail. Those of you who are runners know what I'm talking about. It's on my right big toe and there is no end to The Quartet's fascination. What normally happens is that the black toenail falls off, which I explained to S tonight. I told her that when it falls off I will put it under my pillow and the Toenail Fairy will come and take it away. "What do you think she'll leave me?" I asked S. "A cotton ball," she answered. These kids have clearly caught on to my nonsense and are handing it right back to me.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Questionwork, An Interview With Elizabeth Alley

I was able to sit down for an interview recently with Elizabeth Alley, creator of the 2007 Memphis in May poster honoring Spain, and mastermind behind the blogs Sketchwork and Listwork, for the continued series Get To Know Your Blogger. We met at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel in Beverly Hills, CA, for lunch, where the temperamental artist had a crustless open-face pimiento cheese sandwich, three-minute egg, kale, and one Old Fashioned after another throughout the afternoon. She ordered for me from her regular waiter, Henri, yet allowed me only half a cup of decaffeinated coffee with two Splenda, a baked Cornish game hen breast, kale, and two pieces of rye toast which she had brought with her and produced from her purse. I was told beforehand never to make eye contact with her or her plate of food. As we dined and talked, she greeted and spoke with friends, the likes of Cate Blanchett, Jeff Goldblum, Alan Alda, Dianne Wiest as well as fellow painters Tony Bennett and C. Thomas Howell, who, it turns out, was there actually painting the walls of one of the other dining rooms and had wandered in looking for the restroom. He was quickly escorted out by security. As the lunch came to an end and Henri limped over (I was told that he was missing half a hip, the victim of a land mine in Afghanistan, though I never would have asked. “French Foreign Legion?” I said, “No, he was just lost,” she answered with an apathetic, too-loud laugh) with yet another Old Fashioned, we opened our laptops facing each other like a game of Battleship and began the instant message interview.

Urf!: Are you ready?
EA: hit me!
Urf!: Here we go ... I’ve been an admirer of your work for some time now and there is one question, when I’m seeing one of your sketches or paintings for the first time, that always springs to mind, so I’d like to just go ahead and get this one out of the way: Who do you think would have won in a bare-knuckle fistfight, Katharine Hepburn or Audrey Hepburn?
EA: You'd be surprised how often people ask me that. Most people expect me to say Katharine Hepburn, because she was one tough broad and had knuckles like Brazil nuts. But Audrey - well she was scrappy.
Urf!: Do you model your own scrappiness off of Miss Hepburn?
EA: Like most short, petite women with dark hair, yes I do.
Urf!: When did you first notice you were sketching?
EA: Probably the first time I got in trouble for it in school.
Urf!: Which art school was that?
EA: It wasn't art school - it was grade school! It was the man keeping me down!
Urf!: I see. Have you ever etched a sketch?
EA: I used to have a 3-D etch-a-sketch. I made sculptures with it.
Urf!: Just like Matisse. Interesting. Is there any particular subject that interests you when you’re sketching? I know your paintings are typically taken from photographs of people like your older brother, but your sketches seem to come from every day life. Is there anything you look for to sketch?
EA: Sometimes I look at something and I wonder what it will feel like to sketch it. Or my hands just want to sketch - like Mom's hands just want to hold some cards. Sometimes I want to sketch and I look around and find something, but I can't always find something interesting - like if I'm in Germantown.
Urf!: Your mother has a gambling problem? Is she an addict?
EA: Not at all. She can stop any time she wants to.
Urf!: What do you sketch on or in? A sketchbook? Spiral notebook? Post-Its?
EA: I carry a sketchbook with me everywhere I go. It's small - a 3.5" x 5.5" Moleskine - so that I can always fit it in a purse. I have been known to sketch on the last page of my legal pad during meetings at work - shhhhh don't tell anybody.
Urf!: So you have no compunction about moles dying for your art?
EA: None whatsoever. What can I say - they work well with pencil.
Urf!: Have you ever found yourself without a sketchbook and sketched on, say, a cocktail napkin or matchbook?
EA: Pretty much daily. For instance if I'm doing something like talking - 9 times out of 10 I will grab something to draw on so that people will understand what I'm saying.
Urf!: You mentioned pencils. Wood or plastic?
EA: Plastic?
Urf!: Some pencils are made with plastic … You're Googling that, aren't you?
EA: I actually do use plastic pencils - mechanical pencils - a lot, but not really for sketching. More for making lists.
Urf!: You make lists?
EA: Boy, do I.
Urf!: We'll come back to that. What do you do for gainful employment?
EA: Direct public art.
Urf!: Is that like direct mail?
EA: Only if I'm mailing something.
Urf!: Do you have a family? Husband? Kids? Nieces or nephews?
EA: A giant one. Yes. No. Four, almost five.
Urf!: Tell me your thoughts on the Memphis art community. Is there one? Is it close-knit and supportive?
EA: There is a wonderful arts community and it is close-knit and supportive when it is not whiny and divisive - and usually it isn't. There is a lot of interesting art being made here and being shown here.
Urf!: Let's get back to blogs for a moment. What was your first reaction to Urf!?
EA: Probably "hahahahahahhahahha."
Urf!: Where did you go to kindergarten?
EA: Richland Elementary for a couple of weeks, then Shady Grove Road Elementary.
Urf!: Who is your favorite artist? Your biggest influence?
EA: I'm going to say John Singer Sargent. Usually I don't say that, but I'm going to say that this time. He could just paint like a son-of-a-bitch.
Urf!: Favorite sculptor?
EA: No such thing. Kidding! I like Giacometti. And Rodin - I went to his house! He's probably my favorite.
Urf!: Was he a gracious host?
EA: Very gracious for a dead guy.
Urf!: Who is your favorite architect?
EA: Probably somebody boxy like Mies van der Rohe, or whoever designed these.
Urf!: Who is your favorite author?
EA: Kurt Vonnegut Jr.
Urf!: What music do you like to listen to while you paint or sketch? Any particular artist?
EA: Depends on what I'm working on. While I was working on the Memphis in May poster I must have listened to Miles Davis's "Sketches of Spain" about a bazillion times. Right now I'm working on some paintings that I have titled "Extraordinary Machine" after a Fiona Apple song, so I'm listening to a lot of Fiona Apple. I also like to just turn on the iTunes on shuffle.
Urf!: I found a YouTube the other day of Fiona Apple and Elvis Costello doing "I Want You" live. She seemed very angry about it.
EA: awesome. she has a funny video with a comedian - it's a serious song but the comedian is very funny - i'll see if i can find it.
Urf!: When did you decide that Spain would be the Memphis In May honored country?
EA: here it is. I guess it was after I finished the six paintings that make up the poster. I just stood back and looked at them and thought, "That looks like a Memphis in May poster honoring Spain."
Urf!: Are you wearing something orange today?
EA: I am. But seriously I just like orange and happened to pick up my orange jacket. It was an accident.

Urf!: I’d like to wrap this interview up with the 10 questions made famous on "Inside The Actor's Studio," which James Lipton borrowed from the French series "Bouillon de Culture," hosted by Bernard Pivot. What is your favorite word?
EA: easy
Urf!: What is your least favorite word?
EA: infarction
Urf!: What turns you on?
EA: good grammar
Urf!: What turns you off?
EA: public spitting
Urf!: What is your favorite curse word?
EA: craptastic
Urf!: What sound or noise do you love?
EA: a lawnmower in the distance
Urf!: What sound or noise do you hate?
EA: TV whine
Urf!: What profession, other than your own, would you like to attempt?
EA: professional organizer
Urf!: What profession would you least like to do?
EA: garage attendant
Urf!: If heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive?
EA: "Good, you're here. Leonardo is looking forward to meeting you."

Urf!: Okay, I think we’re done here. Are there any questions you'd like to ask me?
EA: Who would YOU pick in a Hepburn on Hepburn bare-knuckle fistfight?
Urf!: Kate. No question.
EA: Sucker.

Thursday, April 19, 2007


It begins innocently enough. You're instant messaging with one of your most inquisitive blogger friends and the next thing you know it's turned into a formal Q&A. This is what happened just the other day between StephChockleyblog of One of Each and me. I am, by nature, a private person. There isn't much about me on Urf!, as it's mostly about The Quartet or parenting in general or the futile attempt to be funny. Talking about myself, my day-to-day, my dreams makes me feel exposed, vulnerable, naked, if you will. But I decided to allow it all to be put out there anyway. So, at the urging of Mr. Chockleyblog and Kristy, I got naked for Stephanie and she endured like a trooper. Be sure to visit One of Each to get to know your blogger.

[And stay tuned right here at Urf! for my interview with Elizabeth Alley of Sketchwork and Listwork in the ongoing series Get To Know Your Blogger.]

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Too Fast Forward

Tonight, as a family, we watched It’s A Wonderful Life, except it was called Click. This is a funny and heartwarming movie about a guy who misses all the good stuff in his life thanks to Christopher Walken. When he realizes it, he’s allowed to go back and do it all over. It’s like a 107-minute video for “The Cat’s In The Cradle,” with The Fonz.

I can’t believe I’m reviewing a year-old movie, but it was actually pretty entertaining and, mixed in with the adolescent humor, simulated dog sex and science fiction, was a message. Our society is busy. Somewhere among work and school and planned activities and meetings and phone calls and E-mail, we need to just stop and watch each other. I need to watch my kids grow, learning to crawl and then walk, talk and become little people. We should stop to sit with our friends and ask them how their day was or how their kids are doing, and keep in touch with family members scattered across the country.

Adam Sandler, of all people, shows us that when we race through our lives to get to what we think is important, we miss the small things, the truly important moments that make up life itself. His days speed up into weeks and months and, before he knows it, he’s skipped entire years of his loved one’s lives until, in the end, he’s dying and he feels alone, even with his family close around him. In this last scene it’s night, dark, and rain is falling, mixing in with his tears, and what we take from this is that life is too short, whether we have a special remote control to speed things up or whether we’re simply not paying attention.

Well, we take that from this last scene, and we take the urge to find whoever put all that make-up on Kate Beckinsale’s flawless face, making her look 40 years older, and punch that SOB in his stupid throat.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007


When I was a mere boy, I was promised three things in the world I would eventually inherit: flying cars, jet packs and shoes with wheels in them. Maybe I wasn’t promised that last one, but I really, really wanted something like that. Yet I never got them. Neither do I have a flying car or a jet pack. My kid, however, has the shoes with wheels in them. Heelys, they’re called. And they have become the bane of my existence.

C loves these things. So much, in fact, that they are currently his sole choice of shoe. The wheel pops out with the help of a special tool that is very easy to lose and very easy for his sister to take away from him, and lose. The fighting and screeching and whining that ensue from the tool being lost is only part of the problem. Another problem is that C is not the most … um … graceful boy. He falls down for no apparent reason on two normal shoes while standing still in the living room. So you put a pair of wheeled shoes on him and the likelihood of injury grows proportionally. Then there is the fact that they’re even worn in the house, on our hardwood floors. When he’s just walking normally, and not rolling through all 1200 sq. ft. we’re crammed into, it sounds like he’s tap dancing. It’s like living with an awkward, clumsy Mr. Bojangles. I’ve fantasized that these shoes might “accidentally” break, but C actually saved up his own money to buy them, so it seems wrong, somehow, for me to “accidentally” drive over them with the Volvo wagon. I’ve thought of simply banning them from the inside of the house, which is what the Memphis Zoo did recently. The Memphis Zoo, that wide-open space with miles of asphalt walkways, has banned shoes with wheels. The one place it actually makes sense for these kids to roll, and the first place I even saw a pair of these, has outlawed the shoes with wheels. So why can’t I?

I have to wonder, though, if part of my dislike for this conveyance isn’t jealousy. I mean, I dreamed of something like these as a kid, but never got them. And here they are. And I’m a grown man. But, as part of my relentless attention to detail and facts while writing this blog, I researched (Googled) shoes with wheels and I found that they come in adult sizes. Yes, I could have my very own pair of shoes with wheels. I could have my very own broken arm. My very own concussion. But just think of the fun and laughter as C and I race around the zoo, taunting the security that could never hope to catch us with their silly and staid 20th century shoes.

Thursday, April 12, 2007


This household lost a family member today with the passing of Kurt Vonnegut Jr. I call him family because he has been every bit the influence on Kristy and me and, subsequently, The Quartet, as a mother, father or grandparent. He will be missed with an unspeakable sadness.

In my very early 20s I would sit around with friends, listening to them discuss books and authors. This was before I was a reader. I would sit in the living room Kristy and I shared with another couple, before we were married, as though I were at a tennis match. My head moved back and forth as names and characters and plots were volleyed. One topic that always caught my attention was Vonnegut, specifically the fact that he had several of the same minor characters showing up in different books. My good friend Jim explained it as though our living room area rug was the world of Kurt Vonnegut’s mind, and he was able to take a glass (here, Jim took a glass) and put it over any random spot on the rug and write about what was happening under that glass at that instant. And that intrigued me enough to borrow one of his books, I think it was Cat’s Cradle. And from that moment on I was a reader. Kurt Vonnegut taught me to read.

Much will be said upon his passing regarding his politics, but I never read his novels for their political statements. I don’t really care what his political leaning was. As far as I can tell his beliefs were rooted in his abhorrence of violence and bewilderment by the absurdity of human nature, both perfectly logical tenets to me. I simply enjoyed his stories and characters, he entertained me endlessly and still does. And this is why I read anyway.

I have a vivid memory of my mother lying on the couch crying when John Lennon was killed. Lennon’s life and career were cut short, while Vonnegut lived a long and full life, but his death has had the same effect on me. My children didn’t witness my own silent mourning when I got the news, but this evening at bedtime, instead of reading them Curious George or Don't Let The Pigeon Drive The Bus, I read them “Harrison Bergeron” from Welcome To The Monkey House. I explained to them that one of Mommy and Daddy’s favorite writers had died today, and S, to make sense of it all, and in a way I’m sure Mr. Vonnegut would have found oddly pleasing, said, “Like Jesus on Easter?” Just like that, I told her. The story, of course, is about how beautiful life can be when people trapped in a world of mediocrity think and act for themselves. I picked the story quite by accident, but it couldn’t be more fitting to describe the man. In our world of 24-hour “entertainment news,” shock talk on the airwaves, overpaid sports stars and narcissistic weblogs, we have been privileged with the work of a man who was a true original. God bless you, Mr. Vonnegut.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Cause and Effect, Slapping, and Ibrahim

One of the earliest forms of communication I’ve had with my kids is by making silly noises with my mouth. At a certain point they’ll imitate these noises and then we’re off, discussing I-don’t-know-what, though I’m fairly certain they do. Some of this is so inane that it isn’t even dialogue, but more cause and effect, such as when I puff out one cheek with air and encourage the kid to smack it, producing a raspberry noise from my mouth. They get a big kick out of this. It teaches them that their actions have funny consequences, and how to slap me.

Interlude: When we were young, my mother’s threat to my siblings and me in times of frustration was that she was going to “slap your ugly face.” She never once slapped our ugly faces, a testament to her restraint, for there were certainly times when my ugly face deserved slapping.

Silly noises may not seem the best way to introduce toddlers to the wonder of the spoken language, but just look at your audience. It’s a baby. What’s sillier than a baby with their snaggle-toothed grin, drool, fat-rolled legs and barely-controlled limbs and bowels. They’re lucky anybody’s talking to them at all, much less making lip farts at them and allowing them to slap you. Incidentally, babies slapping you is funny, but you slapping babies is not funny at all. Not funny unless they know how to fill up a cheek with air and then release it at the point of impact. Be sure to teach your children the importance of timing in comedy.

Another way to introduce your babies to the wonder of the spoken language is through Spanish because, really, what is a foreign language other than a bunch of silly noises? Tonight, GK and I were listening to Ibrahim Ferrer sing his wonderful ballads of Cuba or, as those of us speaking English in this house heard, his silly noises. GK was mesmerized, just as I am when I hear Signor Ferrer sing, and her eyes opened wide, she tilted her head to the side as she does when she’s happy, and then she smacked me. Right on the cheek. And I stuck my tongue out and spit at her and she laughed and laughed. And there we were having a conversation, something about political persecution on communist-controlled islands, I believe, which doesn’t seem as funny when read in black-and-white.

Interlude: I was in New Orleans with Uncle Toby for my industry’s annual convention in the summer of 2005, just two weeks before Hurricane Katrina hit, when we heard that Ibrahim Ferrer had passed away. Just after that we heard his mellifluous voice over a transistor radio in a tiny little store we’d stopped in for a couple of bottles of beer. And then we had a moment of silence. Actually, I had a weekend of silence, and do you know why? Because my kids weren’t there. It turns out that once they become intrigued by the spoken word, and once they’ve mastered it, or learned some of it anyway, they never stop practicing. They just talk and talk and talk … one silly sound after another.

A very recent conversation between GK and myself:

GK: Ooh.
Me: Ooh.
GK: Ah.
Me: Ah.
GK: Eeeeee.
Me: Eeeeee
GK: Phhhhtttt
Me: HAHAHAHAHA (guess you had to be there)
GK: Mamamamama
Me: Dadadadadada
GK: Oooh.
Me: Oooh.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007


I’m currently reading Thunderstruck by Erik Larson, a book that details the development of the wireless transmission of information and data. This all took place in the late 1800s, early 1900s, by men such as Marconi, Tesla and Hertz. Here in 2007, I’m having trouble with the wireless transmission of the interweb from my desk four feet away. Thank you, Comcast, for everything you’ve done to void any progress of the last 100+ years. Idiots.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

The Snore Of The Penguins

I realize this post comes late. I know that I’m behind on my pop culture and what is being declared cute and popular at any given moment by People Magazine or The Oprah, but there’s something I just don’t get and I have to get it off my chest because it’s been bugging the hell out of me for some time now. That thing is penguins. Seriously? Penguins? I can suspend belief enough to watch an animated Disney film about talking mice or cats or dogs; a Warner Brothers cartoon about homicidal coyotes, talking rabbits and singing ducks; even a Pixar movie about sociable toys or talking fish; but penguins? Birds are filthy creatures to begin with what with their pecking and their constant scratching and pooping wherever they may be standing or sitting at the moment. But penguins aren’t even like real birds with their fake little flipper wings and that stupid waddling. My kids just received Happy Feet on DVD from the Easter Bunny (cute, huggable anthropomorphic bunny), which is what brings all of this on. This is one unwatchable cartoon. And what could make a film about dancing penguins worse? Other than Robin Williams? R&B music. God help me, I hate the R&B, and I’m beginning to hate penguins, and I know that tonight’s viewing was just one of many, many viewings to come. Some time back I rented that other penguin movie, La Marche de l’empereur, thinking the kids might get a kick out of it. I had heard nothing but good about it, too, and looked forward to it. The kids stayed in the room for the first six minutes. I managed eight.

Is there something I’m missing? Are these animals actually cute and I just don’t see it, or has Disney or whoever, run out of animals and pixies and evil stepmothers and whatnot? I know this penguin picture is for the kids, and they seem to enjoy it. And I’m sure it brings a smile to Al Gore’s face and a small tear to his eye, so that’s nice for him. But I just don’t get it. All I can do is gaze in wonder at their skinny faces and pointy beaks, their stumpy, flightless wings and that inane waddle and wonder what The Saucier could do with a penguin, a few pounds of charcoal and the element of surprise.

See You On The Radio

The thought of my daughters dating, even speaking to boys other than their brothers, gives me pains in my chest that run down to my toes. I’ve known since the instant the ultrasound technician said, “Look at the size of that head!” followed by “It’s a girl!” that no man would ever be good enough to go to a movie, dinner, or walk down the aisle with S or GK. But I changed my mind this morning. I came to the realization that there is one man who, if he came to my house in his sensible and safe car to pick up one of my daughters for a night out of dinner in a well-lit restaurant, a PG-13 movie or better, returning her home by 9:30, that that man would be Charles Osgood.

His bow-tied, bespectacled persona would be invited in for a cup of tea and warm handshake as he looked around, admiring and complimenting my home and my handsome wife, and taking one of my daughters by the elbow as he escorted her out to open the door of that sensible and safe car for her. I’ll wave them away as they begin their short evening, yet enduring courtship together.

An arranged marriage? That seems awfully regressive, yet I wish Mr. Osgood (Chuck, as I’m sure I’ll be told to call him) and one of my daughters a long and happy life together with many adopted children to fill up their home. You are all cordially invited to my house, bought for me by Chuck and some of that CBS Sunday Morning money, for the inevitable engagement party.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Anger Mismanagement

Kristy and I are at the end of our rope. And at the other end of that rope is a 200-lb. tiger referred to here as S. At four-years-old, this little girl has become the axis of evil in our home. She torments her older brothers and her younger sister and cannot be persuaded not to. We’ve tried everything. Everything legal, that is.

As I’ve stated here before, it’s not always fun and games over here at Urf!. Occasionally reality creeps in and the cast gets, well, angry with each other. And right now, this past week, our house has been one giant ball of angry. JP is angry at S. S is angry with C. C is angry at S. S is also angry with JP and me. I’m angry with every kid in my house and Big Mama is angry with all of us, except GK. So, stay away from our house as we might be contagious. Everyone at Urf! needs a time-out, the problem being almost everyone shares a bedroom in our 1200 sq. ft. castle. Most of the time we share one room. We could sentence everyone to a separate room of the house but anger, and its subsequent yelling, penetrates walls.

There are things that exacerbate the tension and the anger in the house as well: C has wheels in his shoes and is dressed like a king, JP throws things when upset, S is immune to punishment, GK requires being held all day and night long, no one can get away from anyone else, there is still no doorknob on S’s door, and there is a near-constant hum of noise emanating from these kids to lend a sort of soundtrack to their perpetual movement. They do all of this on minimal sleep and food, which really defies scientific reasoning. You’d think being this angry would require rest and sustenance, but I fear they feed off of something else. Television, most likely.

I hate to point fingers, but it’s just so easy in this case. S is the nuclear reactor in the family and she’s melting down, and I’m not sure we know how to contain her. So I’m putting this question out there to parents with more experience: How do you discipline a child who is impervious to discipline, who laughs at your threats, who is not overly-sentimental to any particular toy, which we could threaten to do away with? And we’re still looking at legal options, let’s remember that. Tazering, caging, gaff-taping, that’s all in the back of my mind, but let’s just keep it civil for now (or at least E-mail me directly with any of your ideas … let’s keep it out of the public comments, and possible courts).

Perhaps this is a good place to remind you that Urf! is not, nor does it claim to be, an expert in child rearing. You should always consult your doctor or a book or a daytime talk show host before making any serious parenting decisions. Urf! does, however, seem to know a bit about shouting, door slamming, throwing things, threats and revenge, so if you have any questions on those topics, please direct them to us here, in our asylum.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

My Boys

I suppose it was inevitable that all this talk about having kids would eventually lead to talk of not having any. Any more, anyway. I have a conundrum for my boys out there who I know are reading. I’ve been researching vasectomies lately, meaning I’ve gone to Wikipedia (which has some links to things that made even me blush) and was shown to a link about the No-Scalpel Vasectomy, which had my complete attention. Now, to me No Scalpel means just that: no knife cutting on the parts I hold dear. But this site states “ … a fine pair of instruments is used to create an opening in the scrotum.” But what it doesn’t tell us is what they mean by “a fine pair of instruments.” In fact, I can’t find that anywhere and that, above all else, is what I would like to know. What I need to know. Is it nail clippers? An awl? Ballpoint pen? Or is it some sort of musical instrument, a trombone perhaps? Has anyone out there had one of these? And lived to tell about it? The other problem with that piece of information is that they call it “an opening.” Not a cut, not an incision. “Opening” conjures up images of a rip or tear to me.

Kristy and I have discussed it and we feel very fortunate with our four healthy kids and see no reason to push our luck. We couldn’t afford a fifth anyway, so it would have to be raised by C, living under his bed in his room, fed whatever C could scrounge from the dinner table. So I’ve been online, looking at information, and I found that Kristy will have to go with me to sign a form saying it’s okay for me to get a vasectomy. The list of things around this house that I am not allowed to do is staggering, and growing every day, so I would hope that the one area of my life where I have total and complete control would be over my very own scrotum. But apparently not. I have to get permission from the wife. Kristy will have to give her consent for an opening to be made in my bag by an unspecified instrument, something she’s threatened to do herself many times, yet here we are about to pay to have it done by a professional found on the internet.

If any of you know what the No-Scalpel method is all about then please share. Meanwhile, we’ll be making the appointments, signing off on the carnage and asking a lot of questions. Question number one: Can I bring my own fine instrument? Question number two: Can that instrument be a scalpel?

[The picture of JP up there has nothing whatsoever to do with a vasectomy, this is just how he was dressed when I got home from work and I like the picture.]

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Happy Birthday, Little Sister

Today is my little sister’s birthday and I just found out that she’s 30, which seems much too old for a little sister, especially this one. Katherine, as far as I’m concerned, will always be 10-years-old, with wild hair and chubby cheeks, looking up at me with what can only be described as wonder and awe. Unless you want to describe it as fear and disgust. It seems I had a habit of tormenting her as a child. Nothing violent, mind you, just subtle things I would do to disturb her otherwise peaceful times with her Barbie Dream House or her Care Bears. There is the distinct possibility that I am responsible for at least some of her neuroses, but I prefer to think those are someone else’s fault, though I’m not sure whose.

I remember when she was born and how exciting it was to have another little sister in the house and the first baby I would remember. I was six-years-old when she showed up and her chunkiness then was no end of amusement. She was a good kid. She moved to Florida with our parents and grew up with lots of friends on the white sand beaches of the Gulf Coast into a smart, beautiful, fun-loving young woman. She married a good man and, this year, will become a mother for the first time to her very own daughter. We’re all very excited and couldn’t be more proud of her. Katherine’s first 29 years have been exemplary, except the thing with the teeth when she was a kid … and the thumbs, of course.

I miss being around her on a regular basis, but we do stay in near-constant communication, keeping tabs on each other’s lives. She’s a wonderful aunt to The Quartet, a good daughter, and great sister to her three brothers and one sister. I look forward to her next 30, watching her family grow and seeing how she handles the next phase of her life, which I’m sure she’ll do with as much laughter, care and compulsiveness as she does everything else.

Happy birthday, Katherine. I love you.