Month: December 2007 (Page 1 of 2)

Give Me A Call -or- My Wife Rocks

There are many things I admire and love about my wife.

She’s compassionate and kind in every aspect of her life.

She knew what she wanted to do early in life, went for it, and not only reached her goals, but has excelled at every step along the way.

She has more patience with children than I do.

Wait, she has more patience when it comes to everything than I do.

And she gives out the best Christmas presents.

Yes, after a week (and an off-blog discussion about what on earth it could be) I am unveiling the what was under the tree for me this year. (For some reason the pics I took with my webcam won’t import, so you’re stuck with a stock photo.)

Yes, I received an iPhone from my lovely wife. Completely unexpected. She’s well aware of how deeply I’ve been sucked into the Cult of Mac, but rather than reinforce it, Christmas seemed like the perfect time for her to avoid the Apple Store and keep me from sinking deeper into my illness. But apparently I was good this year and she dropped the ultimate Apple anvil on my head. If that makes any sense.

I had played around with the iPhones many times at the store, but after actually owning one for a week, I can confirm they are pretty freaking cool. I was always very resistant to the idea of combining a music player with a phone/PDA/small computer. Given the size of iPods and cell phones these days, it didn’t bother me to carry one of each at all times. Plus, I’m a dad and a journalist; my wardrobe is heavy on the cargo pants/shorts, so I’m never lacking for pockets to stow items away.

I know there are concerns about what is missing on the iPhone, but as a first-time user of a smartphone, they don’t affect me. The simple fact that I can access the Internet using Apple’s Safari browser, just like on a Mac, instead of some watered-down browser made for a phone is the biggest selling feature to me. And with the release of the software development kit to programmers coming soon, there will no doubt be all kinds of fun additions to it this spring.

I need to revise my list, because in 2007, I received the greatest Christmas gift ever.

Favorite Songs Of 2007

This is hard work.  How do I filter all the music I listened to this year, and I listened to a ton of music, into 20 songs to represent the entire 12 months?  In the end, that’s exactly how I managed it: what songs most represented the past year to me?  What songs will I always immediately think of in the context of the year they were released later in time?  So while they may not be the best songs of the year, or in some cases the songs I listened to the most, these were my favorite songs of 2007.
Please note: I’ve added YouTube clips when available.  Not all are official videos, but at least let you hear the songs if they are new to you.
20 – “I Am the Unknown” – The Aliens. ELO for the 00s.

19 – “Circadian Rhythm” – Son Volt.  A haunting song good for closing out mix tapes or just staring into space and contemplating the world.

18 – “I Will Survive” – Art Brut.  The lads continue to talk about life for the modern, young man better than anyone else, keeping their sense of humor while they’re at it.

17 – “Shiftee” – The Broken West.  George Harrison’s ghost must have been in the studio when this was recorded.

16 – “You Don’t Know What Love Is (You Just Do As You’re Told)” – The White Stripes.  The best of several good ones off of Icky Thump.

15 – “Hard Sun” – Eddie Vedder.  Normally a cover wouldn’t make it.  But A) chances are no one ever heard the original and B) Ed did a fine job with this track, one of the few  stand-alone pieces on his soundtrack for Into the Wild.

14 – “Spring And By Summmer Fall” – Blonde Redhead. A spectacular, atmospheric romp.

13 – “Jigsaw Falling Into Place” – Radiohead. I’m still getting into this album, so while my opinion on the best track may change, it needed some representation. I love the way the sense of urgency and emotional distress builds from beginning to end.

12 – “Girls In Their Summer Clothes” – Bruce Springsteen.  A song for men who finally realize they’re not as young as they used to be.

11 – “Overture” – Patrick Wolf.  This falls somewhere between Peter Murphy and late 80s Depeche Mode, which means it is excellent.

10 – “Can I Get Get Get” – Junior Senior.  The most infectious chorus of the year.  “Can I get get get to know know know ya better better baby?

9 – “My Eyes” – Travis.  Their last album or two kind of sucked.  Their ’07 release was excellent, helped in part by this glorious, pure pop gem that left their normal woe-is-me tone behind.

8 – “Silent House” – Crowded House. Neil Finn cowrote this with the Dixie Chicks for their most recent album. After reuniting Crowded House in the wake of original drummer Paul Hester’s suicide, he reworked it, shifting the focus from an elderly parent or grandparent (Natalie Maines said she was writing about her grandmother who fought Alzheimer’s) to the demons that Hester battled in his final days. It’s dark and haunting, with a distorted guitar that ominously drones throughout the song, giving voice to those demons.  Where the Chicks’ version was bittersweet, this one has the sound of someone struggling with coming to terms with a loss that could have been prevented.

7 – “Finer Feelings” – Spoon.  Dropping Public Enemy lyrics at the open and then providing the sound for a summer block party.  See, all those indie kids who have been loving Spoon for years knew what they were talking about.

6 – “With Every Heartbeat” – Robyn.  Not too many tracks from the clubs make my list, but this one is fabulous.  Every layer of the song is perfect, unlike so many club anthems which are over-produced.  And where it begins as a statement of strength at the end of a relationship, by the end Robyn is admitting that indeed it does hurt with every heartbeat.

5 – “Dashboard” – Modest Mouse.  Reading through year end lists, a lot of people weren’t fond of this effort from the Mouses.  But I thought the addition of Johnny Marr was brilliant, and this track was nearly as good as ’04’s “Float On.”

4 – “Phantom Limb” – The Shins.  The Brian Wilson comparisons are too easy, but when James Mercer puts together something this beautiful, it’s hard not to imagine it was crafted by Wilson in his glory days.  The greatest 90 seconds of the year to close the song.

3 – “If You Fail We All Fail” – The Fields.  It’s a shame more people didn’t hear this fantastic effort off of one the the better debut albums you’ll come across.

2 – “Mistaken For Strangers” – The National.  I’m not smart enough to talk about music that is this intelligent.  One of the most compelling listens in recent years, a song that gets into your head and stays there until you learn to appreciate its greatness.

1 – “Intervention” – Arcade Fire.  I first heard a bad radio rip of this on December 27, 2006 (probably about the same time of night I’m writing this on 12/27/07).  I knew it was something special from that first listen.  It became the song that defined the year for me, the first thing I’ll think of when I think of 2007.  That final chorus, with all the musical parts of the band giving it up at maximum volume and the backing vocals screaming out their accompaniment  – “The fear is in your heart!” – is about as glorious as music can get.

Whew

We made it. The bulk of the Christmas rush is over. I realized something this week. When you’re a kid, Christmas is like rolling a boulder up a mountain: it seems like it’s going to take forever to get to the big day. As an adult, though, it can be a bit like being in an avalanche: things start spinning out of control and you feel like everything is zipping by you at 1000 MPH.

Don’t get me wrong, we had a great Christmas, but man did the last four days fly by. As we were putting the girls to bed last night, I thought, “Wow, Christmas is already over.”

Santa was very good to the B. family. The girls got matching dolls (they got the kind that cry, get rosy cheeks until you give them medicine, and then start laughing after you get them back to normal); and a retro kitchen set that includes a refrigerator, sink, and oven. Those were the big Santa gifts and they were very excited to get them. Their Mimi got them a very cool electronic keyboard since they both seem to enjoy making their own music. They’ve been banging away on the keys non-stop, and thankfully it came with a volume button.

M. was definitely more into things this year, getting so excited that she “helped” other people unwrap their gifts and a few times said, “I want to open more presents!” C. obviously had less an idea of what was going on, but seemed pretty pleased with the entire process.

Oh, and the Mrs. may have produced the greatest Christmas gift I’ve ever received. I’m still a bit in shock over it (no, it was not a positive pregnancy test) and not ready to share yet.

The real bonus of the whole holiday was C. deciding not to sleep on Christmas Eve. I was up with her for two hours, she finally went down for awhile, and then S. had to take her in the basement for the rest of the night because she wouldn’t sleep unless one of us was holding her. So we were both fried most of Christmas Day.
Christmas with the family was very good. We had seven of the nine kids in S.’s family here this year. The entire family will be reconvening in five weeks in Denver for sister-in-law #3’s (or is she #4?) wedding, so some of the trips home were shorter than in the past.

I’m sure there’s more but for now that will cover it.

Holiday Wish

“If I had one wish that I could wish this holiday season, it would be for all the children of the world to join hands and sing together in the spirit of harmony and peace.”

Actually, that was Steve Martin’s wish back in 1986. But trust me, my sentiment is the same. (See below for the entire text of his SNL Christmas wish.

I do want to wish all my friends, family, and even the occasional guest who visits here a happy and safe holiday season. May the next couple weeks be filled with good times with those you are closest to, good food, a chance to relax and enjoy your favorite beverage, and all that you wish for under the tree next Tuesday.

I know many of you will be checking out for the next week or so, but trust me, the blog will not be on hiatus. It’ll be chock-full of my regular year-end material. I’ll unveil my top 20 songs of the year next week. I’ll post my final Reader’s Notebook of the year along with a full review of my entire 2007 reading list. I’ll share how the girls do on Christmas. And I’ll see if I can find something in the sports world to mock/bitch about. I may even have some fun high school sports stories, as I’m covering a girls basketball game tomorrow night.

Be well, be safe, and happy holidays to all.

If I had one wish that I could wish this holiday season, it would be for all the children of the world to join hands and sing together in the spirit of harmony and peace.

If I had two wishes that I could wish for this holiday season, the first would be for all the children of the world to join hands and sing in the spirit of harmony and peace . . . and the second would be for $30 million a month to be given to me, tax-free in a Swiss bank account.

You know, if I had three wishes that I could make this holiday season, first, of course, would be for all the children to get together and sing . . . the second would be for the $30 million every month to me . . . and the third would be for all encompassing power over every living being thing in the entire universe.

And if I had four wishes that I could make this holiday season, first would be the crap about the kids . . . second would be for the $30 million . . . the third would be for all the power . . . and the fourth would be to set aside one month each year for an extended 31-day orgasm, to be brought about slowly by Rosanna Arquette and that model Paulina somebody, I can’t think of her name. Of course my lovely wife could come, too. She’s behind me 100% on this, I guarantee you.

Wait a minute, maybe that sex thing should be the first wish. So, if I made that the first wish, because, you know, it could all go boom tomorrow, and then what have you got? No, no . . . the kids singing would be great, that would be nice. No, no, who am I kidding! I mean, they’re not going to be able to get all those kids together! I mean, the logistics of the thing is impossible! It’s more trouble than it’s worth! So, we reorganize, here we go: first, the sex – we go with that; second, the money. No! We go with the power second, then the money, and then the kids. Oh, wait, oh geez! I forgot about revenge against my enemies! Okay . . . revenge against all my enemies, they should die like pigs in Hell! That would be the fourth wish! . . . and of course, my fifth wish would be for all the children of the world to join hands and sing in the spirit of peace and harmony.

Holiday Spirits

I’m just now watching my first Christmas movie of the year (Christmas Vacation), my traditional first movie each year). Between the four movies I own and the 3-4 I’ve added to the DVR in the last month, there’s no way I’m getting through them all, for the second straight year. I’m not sure what’s wrong with me.

M.’s Christmas program last night was great. It was exactly the kind of benign train wreck a kid’s Christmas event should be. All the kids in her school, from the three year olds to kindergardeners were included. The entire school sang a few songs, and then each class had their own set of songs or speeches. The kindergardeners got to dress like Mary, Joseph, etc. and had speaking parts. M.’s class just got to sing some songs. It was HI-larious (as Ross Perot would say) to watch the kids. The three year olds were just kind of sitting, looking around, and then when their teachers told them it was time to sing “Silent Night,” for example, they would jump up and get into character. M.’s class sang a song about loving Jesus, told a “story” about what happened one night in Bethlehem, and then had a fun little calypso number about Jesus complete with dance moves. The Bethlehem story went something like this:

“One night in Bethlehem, sheep ate grass, shepherds watched, angels prayed, Mary loved, Jesus slept, and Joseph helped.”

They had little hand movements for each section, so they put their hands together to pray, mimed cradling a baby for Mary, and pretended to be hammering for Joseph. For the sheep, they acted like they were eating something especially chewy. M. had been doing that part at home for weeks, to her great amusement, and chewed a little extra long in the actual program. She knew she was being silly, because she looked at her aunt, who was recording for us, as she did her extra long chew. (I can’t find my firewire cable to get the video to the computer, so that will have to wait awhile).

The train wreck part came from having that many kids in one place. Kids were constantly wandering off, only to be herded back by their teachers. During the songs, some kids would just stand there, others would be a few beats ahead or behind where they needed to be. And one kid was especially loud. It was impossible not to laugh at them.

M. sat by a boy who may be turning into a special friend. As on the day when her aunt went in and ate lunch with her, she kept hanging out with the Japanese kid. What’s funny is the aunt who was there that day, and was videoing last night, tends to lean towards ethnic looking boys. Apparently M. is taking after her aunt. I’m pretty sure something is up, because afterwards, the kid’s dad made sure he got pictures of his son with M.. The family has only been in the States a few months, so I’m hopeful that the young man hasn’t been corrupted by our over-sexed American culture and doesn’t push things too far, too fast.

M. was very excited and proud of her performance. She got to show her grandparents her classroom and got one more Christmas hug from her teacher. And she and C. both got cookies, which they were pretty pleased about.

Someone Is Beginning To Get It

It’s fun to finally be experiencing Christmas through the eyes of a kid again. M. is old enough this year to figure out what’s going on. Tonight, her preschool has a Christmas pageant. They’ve been practicing songs for it all month, and along with those songs, since she attends a Catholic school, has come a scaled-down version of the religious aspects of the holiday. In between singing the songs she’s learned this month, she talks about the baby Jesus and all the people waiting for him. Anytime we pass a manger scene, she launches into a pretty good description of what’s going on.

Yesterday, the secular portion of the holiday finally clicked into place. It was her final day of class before the holiday break. The teachers gave all the kids bags full of candy and a few small presents (A book and a snowglobe). M. took cards and small gifts in to her teachers (Thank goodness we remembered to get something!). When I picked her up, I asked her what her teachers did when she gave them their cards. “They hugged me, Dad!” I’m sure the teachers gave each student a hug, but from the way her voice sounded, you could tell she thought the hugs she got were extra special and she was very proud that she received them.

When we got home and I was putting her down for her nap, she asked in a very excited voice, “Dad! Is Santa Claus coming?!?!” I told her she had to wait one more week. She paused a moment and then asked, “Dad! Is Santa a boy or a girl?!?!” Obviously an important thing to clarify.

She also brought home a present for us that the teachers helped her to wrap. We put it under the tree at first, but then put it out of reach so C. can’t destroy it before Christmas morning. We keep explaining to M. why we moved it (It’s on a bookshelf now, in sight but out of reach) and although she understands, she says, “I really want to put the present I made for you under the tree.”

She now knows to say “toys!” when someone asks her what she wants from Santa. But the first few times, she gave very cute and very honest answers. The first time I asked her, she said she wanted a candy cane. And she wanted him to bring something for C., too. I have a feeling next year she’ll be busting out the exact toys she wants.

If I get some good video of her at her program tonight, I’ll try to get it shared. Depends on how close I am able to sit and if I’m able to tape her without any classmates in view. Hate to put someone else’s kid online.

Friday Notes

I heard a rumor people are gathering in Kansas City tomorrow night to celebrate the life of one of the finest artists this nation has ever produced. I will not be making an appearance at this year’s Sinatra Party. I do hope all of you celebrate safely, though, and honor his memory in the proper way. I’ll find something nice to drink tomorrow night after I spend some quality time with the snowblower. Another rumor has it we’re going to get 6-10″ of snow tomorrow. Yikes.

A couple points to wrap the week up. It would be nice if Le Affaire du Petrino (I don’t know if that’s proper French) and the release of the Mitchell Report was an end to the bad news from the sports world for awhile. But there are always going to be selfish coaches that take the money and run, and while Petrino has set an especially awful standard for comparison, I’m sure he or Nick Saban or Larry Brown will be up to their old acts again soon enough.

As for the Mitchell Report, I watched a lot of the live coverage yesterday and was a little surprised by the tone. Basically the investigation was able to confirm, on an extremely limited basis, what we’ve all known for years. Since it was a toothless investigation, Mitchell couldn’t begin to measure the true scope of the problem. And despite those neutered powers, he and MLB have managed to piss off the players union which means our era of good feelings in the labor world may be over. I would feel better if Mitchell had pushed for MLB and the union to readdress PED testing immediately and not wait until the current agreement runs out in 2011. As it is, this is just a face-saving measure, and very late, by MLB that will probably backfire on them.

It is great that Roger Clemens got dragged into all of this, though. It’s just a shame he’ll never get the same treatment that Barry Bonds got over the past four years since his career is probably done. Not only a monumental jackass, but a cheating one.

Not A Good Sign

We have a little manger scene that S’s mom put together from pieces she found during her travels back in the 60s. Most of the pieces are wood, so we have it sitting within reach of the girls. C. was running through the house with the baby Jesus yesterday, took a spill, and when she got up, poor baby Jesus’ arm was broken off. Santa may not be filling her stocking this year, or may be skipping our house entirely.

FOY Follow-up

We watched a little of the Best of Will Farrell Saturday night and caught the <a href=”http://video.yahoo.com/video/play?vid=395017″>Dissing Your Dog</a> promo. While not quite as extreme, my mocking of M. seemed a little like Dale Sturtevant’s methods. I must admit, the last part, “You’re a f&amp;(^ing dog!”, is something I’ve often thought of when we’ve moved both of our girls to solids and they’ve refused to eat. “The Palms wasn’t taking reservations, I didn’t want to try Morton’s because of the new chef, so let’s just go with the oatmeal and formula. I know it’s not your first choice, but you’re a f(&amp;ing baby!” I’ve never said it! But I have thought it a time or two.

FOY

I think I clinched the Father of the Year award last night. I’ve begun mocking my three-year-old.

Like most kids her age, M. has developed a potty mouth. She’s not dropping f-bombs or anything, but she does walk around talking about pee and poop all the time, and then acts like it’s super funny. Again, I blame the heathens in her preschool class for introducing her to these concepts. She’s smart about it, too. The other night, after warning her that she was going into timeout if that language continued, she dropped this line on me:

“Dad, I’m talking about the wetter P. P-P-P-P-P!” Evil laugh. (L’s are pronounced as W’s now, by the way.) Well played, three-year-old girl!

In concert with this potty talk has come a new sensitivity to odors. She never used to talk about things that smelled, but in recent weeks she’s begun making a big deal about them. If C. has a smelly diaper, M. throws a fit and says, “C. has a stinky diaper, Dad. Can you change it pwease?” I appreciate the assist, but she gets all worked up, to the point of tears some days, and it seems a little extreme.

She doesn’t limit this to offensive odors, either. The other morning, while S. was fixing M.’s hair for school, she claimed that S.’s hair smelled, even though she had showered that morning. “Mom, your hair stinks! I don’t wike it. Get away from me!” It didn’t seem to phase her that she had the same conditioner in her hair.

All this leads up to the mocking. Yesterday I was getting the girls a snack to tide them over until dinner. When I leaned in to put the pretzels on M.’s tray, she started her odor act. “Dad, you stink! No, no, no! Get away from me!” Fake tears, yelling, the whole deal. I started to do my usual correction of her behavior and offer to put her into timeout if she didn’t chill out. Instead, I decided to fight fire with fire. As I poured her some milk and prepared to give it to her, I backed off, made a horrible face, and repeated her words.

“M., wow, you really stink. Yuck, get away from me. I don’t want to smell you!”

A moment of surprise, shock, and indecision and then screaming and real tears. Awesome!

I let her cry it out for awhile and then asked her if she liked it when I told her she stank. She said no, and I told her no one likes to hear that they stink, so she needed to stop saying that. She said she understood, but we’ll see if we have to go through this again.

And for the record, I did not stink. I had showered in the morning, shaved so I still had a hint of aftershave going on, and in general, I’m a pretty good smelling guy. She had no reason for complaint. If anything, she should have been telling me how good I smelled.

So thumbs up or thumbs down on the mocking? I have to admit, it felt kind of good. Does that make me a bad parent, or just one using whatever means necessary to get through the day?

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