things we are learning about parenting in the time of quarantine

1) You cannot rule from the throne. The porcelain throne, that is. Husband always takes a long time in the a.m. in the bathroom and yells at the kids from his position. You can’t do it. [Sorry to be graphic. Quarantine times are tough.]

2) Don’t buy Family Feud the game for elementary school age children. Yup, told the kids to pick a toy in Walgreen’s two weeks or so ago while I took a conference call. That was splendid. First Son chose the mentioned game. They now all know what the following means: “Going postal”; “smoking marijuana”;[which First Son pronounced MAHR-RE-CHAMA, rhyming it with Parmesan-ah]; “the mile-high club.” Great!

3) Maybe be selective about podcasts. I like to listen to “Heavyweight,” which tells nonfiction stories in a fiction style, as First Son says. Some are fine for kids. Others cause him to ask “What’s a condom.”

4) Go outside. We are playing soccer outside together for one hour every day. It’s helped our collective sanity and we’ve learned the kids’ pattern. So far, Wonder Twin Daughter complains every day about it, but as long as we just say “okay,” her kvetching time lessens. (It takes her an hour of “I never want to go outside!” to die, but then she’s having a grand old time and we’re not burned out at all!”

5) We all need a routine and structure. My week day structure is:
1. Kids pile on top of me until I wake up from lack of oxygen. They do this when hungry.
2. Feed kids
3. Coffee
4. Dishes
5. Recycling
6. Compost
7. Wake up Husband. (See 1)
8. Check in for my work day emails.

7) Distinguish week days from weekend days. I actually don’t know how to do this one since all the days are a blur, but I think First Son did, because last night, which I believe was Friday, when I asked him what he was grateful for, he let out a huge sigh and said “I’m grateful it’s the weekend tomorrow and I don’t have to do anything.”

Huh. And here I was thinking he’s not really doing anything the other days. Interesting.

8) Maintain a stash of emergency chocolate for parents only. I don’t know why, but this has been more helpful than alcohol for me and Husband. I keep two expensive bars at all times in the freezer and now we sneak in a square or four, in Husband’s case. (Yes I am selling him out. What, he’s not reading this.) In those key moments we need a little encouragement, a little sweetness.

To be continued.

no more guns [drafted two months ago]

When I went to visit Cousin Ed in his latest hometown and meet his kid, we took the entire posse out to a local park where there happened to be gigantic Sikh temple party, and I thought about the massacre that happened at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin a few years ago. Someone came up to us and welcomed us, said we could eat their food, and play in their bouncy castles (there were like four different bouncy castle like options. This was like a kid fantasy. Who goes to a park to find amusement rides available for free?)

As a child in U.S. schools, I was spoon-fed the following: America is great! Things are so much better for women and non-whites than they used to be! Capitalism is awesome! Reality is not that simple.

I’m questioning all that now. So many of our greatest industries and companies that make beaucoup bucks do so on the backs of poor and working poor people. We don’t have an agriculture business without illegal immigrant working for less than minimum wage. New York’s amazing restaurant scene is partly due to the paid-under-the-table-less-than-you-can-believe wages to bus boys and dishwashers, who are definitely not citizens. And the gun industry is another one of these. I sincerely doubt the NRA want to lose their kids and grandkids to gun violence, but the need to make a profit is greater than the value of human life. (See Sandy Hook, see Parkland, see Pulse Night Club, see anything you want. The day I visited cousin Ed, there were two massacres.) (Currently, in New York State, prisoners are producing sanitizer for no pay, but cannot actually have sanitizer.)

There is something deeply sick about our country that values cash over lives. That is really too much to bear.

david chang/ugly delicious

For light TV, these cooking shows show just enough substance. I caught some “Ugly Delicious” over the holidays. I knew nothing about David Chang, but he’s the pretty famous chef of Momofuko, which he started at age 26. (Can you imagine? Did I even understand how to do my own laundry at that age?) Momofuko was supposed to be a dismal failure before it even opened its doors, so Chang said the hell with it and cooked wildly. He was rewarded with great reviews, commending him for his originality and inventiveness. His co-host on “Ugly Delicious” is a food critic who gave him one of his early stellar reviews. He says Chang came up to him at a concert, and he told himself, either they were going to become best friends and he would never review him again, or he could keep reviewing him. He chose friendship! (I didn’t catch his name. He is a white guy with glasses.) Now they are like an old married couple who don’t talk anymore.

Chang shows a lot of humanity for the peeps in restaurants and comes across as very humble (could be a lie. Chefs can be as rude and obnoxious as office CEOs.) In the Episode Two: Tacos, he mentioned a Philly taco mistress who walked across the Mexican desert to immigrate illegally to the US so her daughter could become a nurse. Her daughter is a nurse, but this taco mistress’s own status is up in the air. She’s married to a U.S. citizen but illegal herself. Her husband says it’s difficult to expand their restaurant when they live in limbo, how he wants to live in a country where you can be free to be yourself. I have read about people’s arduous journeys in these illegal immigration paths, but it hit me differently when I saw the person who did it. That’s some toughness. Someone like that does well in our country. That seems to be the type of people we’d want. Chang concludes that episode saying his dad became a handyman because it was a job he could do without knowing English. Chang says he has always empathized with the immigrant just trying to do right by their family.
On Episode One: Pizza, he vehemently defends Domino’s pizza as delicious. These is apparently a sacrilegious statement in his profession, since chefs are not supposed to like fast food. The other food experts with him look uncomfortable. Chang is being so public because he hates being told what to do and think. Same. Also, same for my dad. Is this a Korean trait? Can someone tell me? I so identify with it – I go against the grain simply because I’m told not to. For better or worse, it’s one of the instincts that have shaped my life path so far.

Anyway, if I’m not careful, I will end up summarizing every single episode, so let me quit while I’m ahead. Watching this show makes me realize professional cooks are part scientist, part artist. Chang’s wife mentions she didn’t know food could remind her of childhood (I heard of that idea in a play, but thought it was a flamboyant confection) and a Toyko-ian BBQ world-class chef discusses his charcoal as “a living thing.” All these chefs are humble and touched as Chang shouts and curses to the camera about how awesome they are. I love it. Also, the show features a plethora of Korean Americans and other Asian Americans with all sorts of American accents. They are funny, weird, irreverent successful dudes. It’s an ABUNDANCE OF KOREANS! Bring it. I’m ready. (My only wish is I’d like more, ahem, weird Korean ladies on the show.)

michelle wolf

You have to be smart to be a standup comedian. Correction: you have to be intelligent to be a good standup comedian. Most specials start strong, have about ten minutes of interesting, original material and then never deepens, which is why I’ve never really fallen in love with standup. I have flirted with it, exchanged glances, but it never goes further. The whole concept of standup, to me, is it’s a presentation on your thesis of life. to you. Basically, you make your quirky point, your different way of looking at things, and then recite three examples of how your rule applies. And if it’s truly original, the jokes get progressively funnier. Each example elicits a harder laugh. (I have not studied standup. This is just what I glean from the comfort of my couch.) This comedian Michelle Wolf is pretty good the whole duration of her act. She is fun because she’s mega-liberal and quite scathing. She has one bit about abortion, how we’re supposed to feel about it. Even the most devoted pro-choicer says in a whisper full of reverence “But abortion is very serious. It’s a very intense choice.” Like it’s full of regret and sadness – very true. Wolf’s point is this is bogus, that women can feel any way they want about abortion. If you have one, you can feel devastated and sad, or maybe you feel nothing. You feel fine. It’s just a P.S. in your life.

That’s an amazing true point I have never heard articulated before.

She has this other joke about blogs – “blogs are the conversation no one wanted to have with you.”

This, of course, made me think of you.

Thank you.

the witcher

Man, this show is so bad. “The Witcher” is the poor cousin of “Lord of Rings” and “Game of Thrones.” It is so incredibly stupid, and yet – it scratches an itch. The character names are lazy – instead of “Jennifer,” they have “Yennifer.” Instead of “Harold,” they have something like “Yarold.” In a pivotal battle scene, an actor yells out “let’s do this!” What did they invest their budget in? Not the writing. I will say the special effects of slimy monsters and athletic skeletons and dragons look as good as a Marvel movie (but keep in mind I don’t really have an idea how to discern that stuff and my eye sight is terrible – I have these stupid progressive glasses now, which virtually guarantees I see the world out of focus 99% of the time.) The actors wear some weird Emmy gowns and peroxide blonde wigs go through forests and hills. No pointy ears though. The setting seems like legitimate hills and forests, but I keep expecting to see a port-a-potty something else that betrays the budget limitations. Sure, the story says it’s taking place on a magic mountain, but is it actually like Van Saun Park in New Jersey? I make fun of it, but the jokes on me, because I CANNOT LOOK AWAY. Now that we have binged the first season, I don’t know what to do with myself.

brad behavior, essence of marriage

I was listening to this meandering, slightly crabby exchange between Brad Goreski, stylist to the stars, and his husband Gary Janetti, hilarious Instagram, TV and book writer, discuss about their mundane everyday routines. They’ve been together maybe 18 years and married for two. They kvetch like a senior citizen couple, about family and other normal things that make them cranky. I found their chitchat very comforting.

One of the things they talk about is New Year’s Eve, how they always go to bed well before midnight. Janetti goes on about how he hates the pressure he feels to have epic fun and kiss a stranger at midnight. His husband Brad picks at his idea and go back and forth before they settle on the perfect way survive a New Year’s Eve party: look up from their phones, exchange a midnight kiss, then go back to their phones. Perfect. But in reality, they said it was all for naught because they can never stay awake that long. Their biggest concern on New Year’s Eve is what they’re going to eat and watch on TV that night.
Now that is the essence of a good marriage right there. Why else get married? That is a little space of Nirvana.

On another note, I just read Gary Janetti’s first book Do You Mind If I Cancel, a series of memoir-ish essays. They are as funny as people say, but also poignant. I enjoyed them very much. He speaks very well of how sometimes how lonely and wonderful it was to be a young gay man in a way that helps me imagine it.

feedback: halloween edition

I want the custum,

But I don’t want

The mask. Buy the

Custum I just wont

Wear the mask, I’ll

Do face-panit

–[NAME REDACTED]

That note is from Wonder Twin Girl regarding a skeleton costume I just ordered from her on Ebay. It comes complete with gloves, shoe covers, head back, and of course, a body suit, all making up a Halloween human skeleton costume. I thought I had killed it this year, because the bones are GLOW IN THE DARK, but Daughter quickly put me in my place. To me, the note says: hey mom, it’s great that you tried, but you actually failed. Somehow, I will make do with your fallacy because that’s just the kind of mental toughness required of me to cope with this cruel, cold world to survive. J Just kidding. I don’t see signs of my failure as a parent everywhere. Just most places.

Ha ha!

Somehow, Wonder Twin Girl has side-stepped a ultra-girly princess phase, and I am not complaining. I’m not saying she doesn’t like girly things – she does. She has particular ideas about her hair, her clothes, and her nails, but she’s also pragmatic in terms of what outfits work best for hanging upside down at the playground. She still enjoys running as fast as she can, and she has told me that girls in her class already don’t move in gym. She is still physically very cute, but has this deeply weirdo spirit too. I can’t even say she’s part adult. It’s like she’s cute young girl + eerie, 1000-year-old swamp creature. Last year, she wanted to be Chewbacca for Halloween. When she tried on the costume, complete with the hair helmut on top of the full body hair body stocking, it was like the air left the apartment and there was no sound. My daughter was gone. It was just me and this deeply creepy alien organism.

There was another time she face painted herself to look like a tiger, but the result was like this disturbing face camouflage that reminded me of the news pics of the
VietCong in the 1970s. She was so proud and gave me her patented cute puppy dog smile but with her eyes shining from this strange makeup — it is the oddest dichotomy. I don’t get it.

liz phair

Liz Phair was big while I was in college. Her album Exile in Guyville did a lot of frank language about hookups without emotional risk, and had melancholy cranked up to 11 on some songs like “Nashville.” (“Nashville” is not even that first album., so I’m full of it. Apparently I am no Liz Phair expert.)

I read this recent profile of her in New York magazine, and it’s interesting to hear about her history and how her music still has appeal. She talks about how she and her brother were adopted, and he was always a trouble who determined the course of their family. (There is always that one family member who defines the direction of the family. I wonder who it’s going to be in my group of five.) And she tells the interviewer that when she was born, she was not held for two weeks. That sure, there were nurses who probably picked her up, but none were regular, and now she is a mother and sees how crucial the beginning of a person’s life is, that she will never be able to fully trust anyone because of that time in her babyhood.

That made me so sad for her when I read that. There are adoptees who are happy and see their adoption as a sign of being wanted, but not Liz Phair.

freedom dividend

Gosh, it’s October and I already have election fatigue. I’m pleased there are so many potentially viable options among the Dems! That’s good news! Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, Julian Colon, and I don’t know, maybe Andrew Yang? He could be a nut job, but man, I like the guy.

I don’t thank he’s necessarily a legitimate candidate, but I find his manner of speaking (just a normal dude) very appealing. When I was studying for an economic development project, all the consultants fretted over what they called Industrial Revolution 4.0, which made them nervous because we now have the ability to replace a lot of work with automation. Unlike previous Industrial Revolutions, there is fear that there will be no more jobs for certain sectors because they have now come up with artificial intelligence (robots) that can now simulate one of the unique things that humans can do: make decisions. No more jobs. More robots. Bad for people. So it was cool to see/hear a public figure reflect back what I’ve been reading.

He also sounds so crazy in other areas. Like in response to the gun crisis in the country, he said he’d add finger print recognition on every owned gun so that only the registered owner can use it — I don’t know. That felt too disconnected from most peoples lives for me. (Like how about no one has AK-47s? Like that feels kinda basic to me. Can we just see if we agree on that?)

But whatever, I’m not here to pontificate about any of the candidates, because what the hell do I know? I will vote for whomever is there in the end (Elizabeth Warren, please). I like when this guy responds to questions like a normal human. It’s been so long (actually, I have no memory of it ever happening) since I’ve heard someone normal at the podium. I actually love his Freedom Dividend idea. The concept is to give every American citizen $1,000 per month for one year. Yeah, I know, it sounds completely bonkers when you first hear about it, but I like his thoughts behind it — that it’s a way to help people deal with automation eating their jobs; that it’s not a ton, but just enough for a waitress to quit her job where she’s getting sexually harassed; it’s enough for a trucker to get off the road and buy a guitar and start playing in a band (true story); it gets to people who do invisible work like Yang’s wife who cares for their autistic son. This feels like an incredibly humane idea. And you know what is truly radical about it to me? It treats everyone equally — rich, poor, white, black, Asian, Latinx, Native Americans (who am I forgetting), old, young — everyone gets treated the same. There is nothing like that in our society. Nothing! So to me, this is a demonstration of true equality, and I think that scares the bejesus out of some.

Also? I like that he’s Asian and seems decent. I really like that.

vocabulary

This morning, Wonder Twin Boy (WTB) and I were looking frantically through the laundry for his chess club t-shirt.

WTB: We are never going to find it.
Me: Don’t be such a cynic.
WTB: What does cynic mean? Does it mean asshole?
Me: Does it mean WHAT?
WTB: Asshole.
Me: Who told you that word.
First Son (from the other room. he always wants to know what other people are talking about): What word?
Me: A bad word.
First Son: Which one?
Me: Asshole. Don’t say it again. It’s a curse word. And that’s not what a cynic is!

I assumed they heard it from school but when I was laughing about the story later with Husband, he said he has probably said it recently. *sigh*