Thursday, 25 October 2012

Zombie A-POP-calypse?

Well the signs are certainly there that my evil influence may be growing.

For one, one of my previous Pop Culture posts, Zombie Hockey Dad, now appears slightly repurposed on the worthy The Good Men Project site.

And for another... well that's about it for now... although I'm closing in on almost 1000 pageviews. Come on, Guinea and Hong Kong, haven't seen you checking in lately.

Look for a new post next week - this will likely have to hold you for now.

Friday, 19 October 2012


I spend a lot of time doing laundry

I did my first stint as a stay-at-home dad when I took parental leave for our oldest (now nearly 10 - wow) when he was under a year old. I did a lot of laundry and washed a lot of dishes and then just plain washed my hands a lot because of all the bodily fluids coursing around the house. After a few weeks I was complaining to my wife that I thought I had done something to my hands - they were extremely painful. She had a look and erupted into peals of laughter - "You have dishpan hands! Hahaha. Painful are they? Poor thing. Hahaha."

Suddenly, in a flash, I understood all those commercials of my youth involving Madge, Palmolive and how women waiting at the manicurist would be "soaking in it."

Dishpan hands are no joke, sister

As I recall I used a liquid of my own choosing to ease the pain - Glenlivet administered internally. Not sure it worked but after a few treatments I didn't care.

You're soaking in it

While I have learned many lessons about keeping my hands supple and soft even while I care for my family's every need (i.e. we bought a dishwasher) the amount of clothes washing has not diminished. It in fact has increased to an alarming degree - with three boys I need to do at least one load a day to keep on top of it. This is why it was so distressing when our recently purchased front loading washing machine stopped working. (AGAIN!)

Side note: Please allow me at this moment to express my extreme displeasure with Sears Canada and its so-called Protection Plan. After purchasing said machine, Sears' surly delivery men dumped it unceremoniously in the laundry room and refused to hook it up (the story of how I removed the original washing machine and in so doing broke off the hot water tap causing a jet of hot water to empty into my basement is, as Hammy Hamster used to say, "another story"),
... but that's another story

After a few short months, it started leaking through the front loading door. The baffle (the large rubber ring) had to be replaced. Eventually Sears got the new baffle in and sent a very confused looking repairman to replace it. With that problem fixed the washing machine no longer leaked but every 3 to 5 washes it would tear a clothing item to shreds. Now I'm not a doctor and I don't even play one on TV but it seemed pretty evident that the cause of this was the installation of the new baffle. Sears had to send 2 more repairmen over a few months to determine what was the problem. They couldn't. On top of that the machine just stopped working entirely before  the last repairman showed up. He sanded off a rough point on the inner rim of the machine and pulled a few clothing items out of the filter (and man did they STINK!) and explained it was my fault - we had to put all small items in mesh laundry bags so the suction didn't pull them into the filter. He just had come from a  call where he removed  a bunch of tiny thong underwater from a woman's washing machine filter. Awkward. But WTF? This seems a rather huge design flaw.

Did Sears take any responsibility for this? It did not. I spent the good part of a day arguing with people of increasing responsibility at Sears that they should reimburse me for the replacement cost of my damaged clothing which, but for the incompetence of their staff administering their misnamed Protection Plan, I would not have had to buy. The last joker actually demanded that I provide him the receipts for the original pieces of clothing damaged (Yes, that's right. Clothing we had bought over the course of the last 5 years he wanted to see the price of before he would consider my claim.) I offered to send him the box full of ruined clothes as evidence of the machine's work but he didn't want this. He later as much as admitted to me that his demand was in bad faith as even if we could provide receipts he wouldn't pay out.

I now understand that the Protection Plan should in fact be called the Protection Racket - similar to the way gangsters want protection money to protect you mostly from themselves. Note to Sears Canada: You Suck and I will never buy a product from you again - I can't afford it.

The lovely folks at the Sears Canada Protection Racket

In the meantime, what could I do? I bought a bunch of laundry bags and dutifully put all small items in said bags but, after a while, the machine started snacking on our clothes and then seized up again. I did what I should have done in the first place - I called up a real repairman who knew what he was doing. He arrived, I told him the story and in seconds (SECONDS) he said, "Well, here is the problem, the first guy put the baffle in wrong and you have a gap in here a cat could get through. And neither of the other guys noticed it."

I KNEW it! The dance of rage and vindication I did at that moment was one you might see in a documentary film about the rituals of people who believe in savage gods of retribution and justice. All I know is that it kind of scared the repairman. He did tell me that one thing I must do with these front loading machines is to be extremely vigilant about cleaning out pockets, each and every one, as small items can get through and block the filter. Great. Now the laundry process takes even longer. I will never buy another pair of cargo pants either for that matter. What does anyone need all those pockets for anyway? Well, I can tell you what boys need them for: tape, used Kleenexes, coins, buttons, rocks, sand, gimp, snail shells, pieces of wire, candy wrappers, stickers, stick on tattoos etc. You learn more from going through your son's pockets about what he's got up to than he'll ever tell you.

Maybe that's why during my first instance of pocket duty, I suddenly had a flashback to when I was in high school. I was lying on my bed, reading, when my dad poked his head in and said, "Your mother found this in your pocket while she was doing the wash." He tossed something to me. I automatically said "Thanks" just as the packet of condoms hit the comforter. I looked up, we locked eyes and he said, "We'll talk about this later." Oh, man... talk about a Protection Plan going wrong.

Thursday, 11 October 2012


So another extended period of time spent with my children is over and I can finally talk about it. Here we just celebrated Canadian Thanksgiving which, like in the States, is a long-weekend family affair about eating and giving thanks. It's basically the same celebration but earlier in the year. The other classic Canadian difference is that supposedly it comes from the expedition of Martin Frobisher's 1578 fruitless search for the Northwest Passage in an expedition plagued by ice storms, loss of ships and death. They held a celebration of thanks while anchored at Frobisher Bay. For what they were thankful, I'm not sure. Frobisher later returned to England with ships piled high with fool's gold. Give thanks indeed.

There's a one-way competion with the U.S. over which Thanksgiving is best or first. I will say this: we Canadian have more time between Thanksgiving and Christmas (another time spent with family) and this is no small advantage. I need that amount of time to recover as these holidays increasingly bring out the worst in me. And by holidays I mean time with my children.

Now let me explain something, I'm a loud fella. When I'm happy, I yell. When I'm hurt, I yell. When I'm angry or upset, I also yell. Excited? Yell. Guess what I do when I'm frustrated? You betcha - yell. And so since my children create each of those feelings in me I often yell at them. Say It Loud, I'm a Dad and I'm Proud. (Note: gratuitous James Brown reference)

This is very wrong, I know. It affects their emotional and possibly even their brain development.Will I change? Unlikely. Even worse, I don't usually feel very bad about it either. It's practically the title of a love song: It May Be Wrong But It Feels So Good. On a side note, there is a profound gap in popular music. There is an untapped market for songs where people sing about the emotional roller coaster which is parenting. It would be huge. I want to shake those skinny, hairy, pierced, hairy popsters crooning about heartbreak and unrequited love and snarl at them, "You don't know nuthin', punk. Wait until you're a parent."

My wife was concerned about me at the end of the weekend. Was it too much for me? (We had her family visiting) I seemed grouchy by Monday. Well, yeah. I was grouchy - I had an extra day of child management. This working from home has had a strange effect on typical holidays. They are not a break or a change or a rest - they are just more of the same. Imagine it's like you had to work an extra day at your office but to make things more fun you had your kids and in-laws there and a large traditional meal had to get made. Sounds fun, doesn't it?

Now my wife does all the holiday cooking and I gave up trying to get any outside work done during periods like this but it's still not the same as when I got a break from the office for three days. We did have lots of fun of course. But it is tiring. And kids are not rational or sane creatures. I often sink to their level. I have new insight into how Vice cops can go bad. After hanging around with that criminal element you start to think and act like them. If they made a sequel to Kindergarten Cop that could be good angle - Kindergarten Cop II: VICE Principal.

A couple of years ago, I went to my younger and single sister's birthday bash at a local bar. It was fun. I was regaling her and her friends about some nutty thing my kid had done - like flushing his underwear down the toilet thus blocking it and flooding the bathroom. I was riffing on how I was yelling at my kid for his boneheaded move while wading around in my boots avoiding floating turds -or something like that, all my stories tend to have a certain theme these days - when one of her friends interupted my story (BTW don't interupt my stories - I might yell at you) when she said, "Oh, you must never yell at your children." Silence.

"Do you have children?"

"No.  But I LOVE children. Nature's Greatest gift. Cherish. Someday I hope. Love and Kindness. Hearts. Flowers. Rainbows. Etc."

As you can see I wasn't listening too closely but I waited until she finished.

"You don't know what you're talking about. I love my kids. I kiss and hug and play and joke around with them non stop. But they drive me crazy. And I will continue to yell at them."

And I do.

Thursday, 4 October 2012

Father Knows Best

Young Laertes: Dad, Hamlet wants to borrow my marbles. He lost his.

Papa Polonius: Neither a borrower or a lender be.

Young Laertes: But I want him to be my friend.

Papa Polonius: To thy own self be true.

Young Laertes: Hamlet! I've got my marble bag!

Papa Polonius: Arggh!

This is an early conversation between Polonius, the king's advisor, and his son, Laertes, from Shakespeare's Hamlet. Hamlet is THE play about Fathers and Sons. Not only does Hamlet have to contend with his regicidal uncle as stepfather, he's got his own ghostly dad pressuring him to avenge his death.Then you have Polonius trying to raise Laertes and a daughter, Ophelia.

Polonius, a successful advisor to two kings, can't get his son to even listen to him. As Laertes tries to leave for France, Polonius chases after him giving him reams of ignored advice. I imagine Laertes rolling his eyes, putting his earbuds in and turning UP the volume.

A boy becomes an expert in all things by the time he is 8. I recall an argument with my son about whether the Blue Whale is the largest animal that has ever lived. He insisted the largest was some dinosaur a neighbourhood boy claimed to know about. I dug up a reference book that substantiated my claim. My son was still doubtful - who wrote the book?

It drives me crazy. What ever happened to Father Knows Best? 

But in Hamlet, the fathers give some questionable guidance. The otherworldly king pressures Hamlet to kill his uncle. WTF? And Polonius advises Ophelia to spurn her lover Hamlet but, when she and Hamlet follow their fathers' advice, they both end up dead. Thanks, Dad. When we jump in with our opinion we often don't have all the facts to offer good and helpful advice. So shut up and wait to be asked.

Maybe asking fathers to stop offering advice is futile but you can always adopt my policy - I give unsolicited advice, wait for them not to follow it and then say, "Daddy's right again." It drives them crazy. Perfect.

A version of this article also appears in Village Living Magazine, October/November 2012 issue.