Archive for April, 2011

Enough with the candy

Enough with the candy already. And, yeah, sure, I’m the guy kicking poo pellets at the Easter Bunny’s candy-toting ass. Jelly beans, Peeps, fauxcolate bunnies—I’m not sure what the association is to resurrection, whether seasonal or Christian—but fortunately Easter marks the end of the candy season for American parents.

It goes on for over half the year. Two months before Easter is Valentine’s Day, where your kid could get a piece of candy from every kid in his class. Less than two months before that is the chubby and distended Christmas stocking, or whatever equivalent denominational candy purse. (Isn’t it funny how stocking sizes have grown on a parallel with obesity in America?) Two months prior to that is the grand Carnivale of candy season, the Fat Tuesday, the binger’s binge, Halloween.

As a personal note, Halloween is my favorite parent-child holiday. But what the hell are we as parents thinking? On this one day, we let kids give us the finger (sticky) to the failsafe of parental reason and justice, the law of because-I-said-so. We say don’t take candy from strangers: today, Junior, you can go up to a stranger’s home, the threshold of horrors, and beg for it. We say too much candy is bad for you: today, Little Miss, go fill up the biggest vessel you have and create a shrine to it in your pantry/basement/closet/room. Between the school parties and a modest Halloween circuit, kids could score 100 pieces of candy, including or excluding the leftovers from your bin and the sweet treats delivered by loved ones nearby and afar. Presuming that there is a daily ration for most kids, even when you factor in parental taxes, or quality control, or impressing the virtues of sharing—whatever you call looting your little one’s stash—the kid is left with a bounty that lasts months. Just as you and your child are finally ready to pitch the remaining dregs—a congealed candy monster of stray candycorns, generic lollipops, forlorn wrappers—along comes Christmas.

That’s almost seven months of uninterrupted candy consumption. Fourth of July parades might offer a miniscule spike but it’s mere tease for what’s to come. It’s not just culturally accepted but encouraged. I just dumped the remaining candy from my three- and five-year olds’ Valentine’s Day party at preschool to make room for their sweetly nondenominational Spring party. Is the alternative—a pencil and rainbow stickers—that bad? Yes. In a bag full of glittering beauty the pencil is the butthole.

Today, Easter baskets. When my wife asked me what the kids would get if I were in charge, I said nothing. Then I thought about it—I too like a sugary sweet chocolate treat—and said they would get Reese’s peanut butter chocolate eggs.

I’m not anti-candy despite the feature in last week’s New York Times Magazine, “Sweet and Vicious”, wherein the principal source urges that sugar (and high fructose corn syrup) “should be thought of, like cigarettes and alcohol, as something that’s killing us.” Parents have their kids’ best interest in mind, unlike our elected officials, so leave it to us to give our kids candy rations or to let them gorge till they puke. But really, has it always been this everpresent? Is there a parallel rise in affluence? What the hell am I thinking—if at all—by negotiating daily candy rations?

At least I’ll have the off-season to think about it, perhaps over an ice cream or a popsicle.


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Bulls, Bears, Hawks, Sox and Kids

The kids learned a new word: D. Rose. Whatever indifference my kids showed to televised basketball is, after the last three minutes of Saturday’s Bulls playoff opener, a fever. And the only prescription is more red towel.

It’s the kids’ first game thanks to their Uncle, who coaches basketball and got tickets for his sons’ birthdays, and it’s the first Bulls game I’ve been to since the Jordan era. It got me to thinking that Chicago’s major professional sports teams are in the midst of a pretty good run.

The 2010 Stanley Cup Champions have a pair of young forwards who should keep the Hawks in contention for years to come; the 2005 World Series Champs are consistent hopefuls; the Bulls, after posting the league’s best record with the league’s most explosive player, may be poised for another dynasty; even the Lovie Smith-era Bears have exceeded expectations by winning the division three times in the last six years, though Lovie won’t escape scrutiny until he wins the big one. The black hole is the Cubbyhole but c’mon, after 102 years what hasn’t been said?

We should enjoy this unusual winningness while we got it and let the kids sample this rare flavor. The following is a rating of the kid-friendliness of major pro sports Chicago homes. Winningness is too fleeting, so the following ranking is based on cost, accessibility, atmosphere and spectacle.

1. WHITE SOX at THE CELL: As a Cubs fan this is hard to admit: the Sox not only have a better team but a friendlier park. Never mind that aesthetically it’s only slightly better than a shattered bat in the eye. Not only are there batting cages and a pitching area for kids, but the layout is such that you can stretch the little ones’ antsy legs with a walk around the entire park and not miss much of the game. Tickets are easy to get, they’re not expensive, and the Cell is right off the Dan Ryan and the CTA.

Toddler factor: kids shorter than the turnstile arm (36”) are welcome without a ticket.

2. The BULLS at the MADHOUSE on MADISON: I was going to list this as #1 but I have to account for the influence of Saturday. There wasn’t much to cheer for in the first two hours and we were crammed into the nosebleeds, seven rows from the roof, which used to be cool in the old Stadium with those huge metal panels you could pound on. My boy didn’t want to look down at the floor, saying, “I don’t want to fall,” but I think he was mezmerized by the largest television he’s ever seen: the Jumbotron. With that and the flying Benny the Bull and the canon-shot promotions there was spectacle enough that the kids didn’t get squirmy till the fourth quarter. D. Rose took it from there. Nested between the highways, it’s easy to get in and out of, it’s easy to negotiate inside, and it will never get rained out.

Toddler factor: kids shorter than 36” get in without a ticket.

3. CUBS at Wrigley: The best thing about Wrigley is its historic status. The ivy, the obstructed views, the bleachers (as a sight, not a seat), the pee troughs, the place is filled with memories and legends. I believe the Cubs will never win a World Series until Wrigley is blown up and rebuilt (they’d have a better chance even if it was just blown up). Regardless, the place isn’t easy to bring kids to, unless you live on the northside. Taking public, which is a necessity, can add an hour each way to the excursion. You gotta teach the kids to keep score to keep them engaged and that’s tough when they can’t read.

He may be wondering "Why?"

Toddler factor: Fans age 2 and under may be admitted to Cubs games without an admission ticket. However, they must sit in the lap of an accompanying adult.”

4. BLACKHAWKS at the MADHOUSE: The only reason I can’t say put the Blackhawks at #3 is because I’ve never taken a kid to a Hawks game. I remember in my youth getting showered with beer and profanity at Hawks-Wings games, which I loved. I have no idea how it is now but if anyone’s spilling beer on my kid I want it to be me.

Toddler factor: It’s the United Center so it’s the same as the Bulls

5. BEARS at Soldier Field: Eight days a year, football fans bare their gladiator hearts and brave the extreme elements of Soldier Field to scream and chant, debone meat with their teeth, and do stupid shit in the name of feral masculinity. What makes a Bears game such a great convocation of manhood is exactly what makes it terrible for kids. Unless you’re rich. Which puts all five of the major pro sports teams on a relative par called private boxes.

Toddler factor: This is no place for children.

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2011 Shamrock Shuffle

A record-breaking 32,427 runners participated in the 2011 Shamrock Shuffle in Chicago, making it the largest 8K in the world, according to the sponsor’s website. 40,000 people had signed up. Two of them finished the five-mile course in well over double the time of the winner, Simon Bairu, who finished in 23:38. My wife, a marathoner, and I, who was not embarrassed to have stopped once, try to run every year to shed the winter fat and deceive ourselves into thinking we’re still in shape. We’re not.

This was the latest start date in the 32 years of Chicago Shuffles, according to ABC Local, and runners were rewarded with a beautiful 70 degree morning. Today was quite a departure from the last two years, when there was snow in 2009, then cold rain with bitter lakefront winds in 2010. So what if St. Patrick’s Day was over three weeks ago? The race date aligns more with events and availability at Navy Pier for the race expo than St. Paddy’s, according to Carey Pinkowski, Executive Director of the Shuffle. Whatever the case, it actually felt like an official start to race season in Chicago. And for this novice, the start and the end of the race season is fortunately on the same day.

2011 Shamrock Shuffle

My ankle is swollen, my head aches, and I think I shat out a vertebrae from my lower back. The runner’s high that my wife alluded to, the same one she gets in marathons that I said I could get after a block or two (I call the high ‘dizziness’), has devolved into what will surely be a painful Monday, when my ankles will feel shackled and an imaginary pole will lodge itself into the small of my back. Yet, I feel good. Accomplished. Like I finished something I had no business doing. I got to spend rare time (panting, heaving and cramping) with my wife, sharing what she loves to do. And the kids watched us, being pushed in the jogger by their Busia–a real trooper–and they even jumped out to run with us for a few blocks, their little legs pumping doubletime. They wanted to keep running, despite my face. It’s important to teach them what it’s like to be a fat ass. I still work out a couple times a week but five miles is like 26,000 feet. In high school it was easy. In college it was doable. In my twenties it was nonexistent. Now, for this year, it’s done.



Penis breath

There’s a scene at the dinner table in E.T. where young Elliot is trying to convince his family of E.T.’s existence. They don’t believe him and, tired of his older brother’s teasing, he jumps up and shouts, “It was nothing like that, penis breath!”

My five-year old has adopted this phrase. This is the second time he’s seen the movie but the first time he’s picked up on the sophistication of language. My wife and I have seen it as many times as the number of years since it was first released(1982). As the landmark movie of our generation, E.T. bonded us decades before we knew each other: we both cherished our E.T. action figure. Who knew that could make a baby?

OK, it didn’t make the baby but the iconic alien will forever be associated with our nascent family. Six summers ago, E.T. was playing in Grant Park when my wife leaned forward to tell me she was pregnant. And now, E.T. has introduced our family to penis breath.

The kids giggled, I giggled, then my son said, “Wait, did he just call him penis breath?” I looked over at him on the couch and couldn’t see his eyes. He was grinning as if he’d just been given side-door access to a forbidden kingdom. He said it a dozen more times—my reaction mirroring the reaction of Elliot’s mom—then quoted the entire line, “He said, ‘It was nothing like that, penis breath!’” He was exhausting himself and I tried downplaying it, but when he was still saying it at bed time, I could only ignore it.

Now that he’s understanding not just words but the context in which to use them—I’m sure at breakfast tomorrow someone will be a penis breath—I should step up my filtering of language. But who the hell am I kidding? Inappropriate language is as natural to him as his awareness of his penis.

It must’ve been a year ago—the record of my parental negligence transcends singular dates—when he tried to scare his mom coming around the corner. Holding his toothbrush like a sword, he said, “Mom, Mom did I scare the shit out of you?”

This is not a phrase we (note how I switched pronouns) use with the kids but I’m sure they hear it plenty. But the most egregious breakdown of our—all right, fine, my—already flimsy filter was when my three-year old girl was playing with her cars, lining them up in the rays of morning sun streaming in from the window. I stopped fixing breakfast and craned my ear from the adjacent room. Her cars were talking to each other: “the fuck are you doing? Hey, the fuck are you doing? Hey, fuck are you doing?” It sounded like I was driving.

ET: Penis Breath

“Hey,” I said weakly, stripped bare of any authority. “Honey, we don’t say that.” She smiled over her shoulder and went back to playing, omitting that one word from her act. She knew exactly what I was talking about and exactly how it was used.

It’s obvious that I should be more vigilant to avoid public shame but that hasn’t worked so well thus far. Perhaps instead I could help them work on their audience.


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