Letting the Rabbit Out of the Hat

When I was in middle school, I had a teacher who liked to do magic tricks for us. (This part is killing me: I can’t remember his name. I think it was Mr. Razzano. Ugh, the mind is the first to go…)  He would perform tricks for us in class (if we behaved), and I was fascinated by them. Because of him, I became very interested in doing magic myself. I remember going to the weird little magic shop in our local flea market where I would spend my allowance buying trick decks, magic milk pitchers, and other such props. I kept doing tricks for years afterward, even into adulthood. To this day I can’t be near a deck of cards without picking it up and doing a few tricks.

I’ve been doing magic tricks for the kids for years. I remember waiting for the Bean to be big enough for me to show her magic tricks. There’s something… magical, I suppose… about the way a child looks at you when you use your “magic” to do a trick for them. It’s something I’ve really enjoyed.

The Bean has really taken an interest in magic lately. She’s constantly asking me to teach her to do tricks. The thing is, I don’t think she understands that I’m not really using magic. She believes.  She believes in magic, and it’s just the most beautiful, innocent thing ever.

Today, the Bean and I picked out a beginner magic set on Amazon.  She’s buying it with money she saved. In fact, she was saving that money to buy one of those new, girly Lego sets, but she decided to use the money for this instead.  (That’s my girl!)

The Bean’s first magic set. :’)

It’s a cute little Melissa & Doug set, and I think she will like it.  While it warms my heart that she’s so excited about something I hold near and dear, I’m actually a little sad.  When it arrives in a few days, the Bean will learn that the tricks are just that: tricks. Not magic. I really hope that knowledge doesn’t somehow cheapen the experience for her. Will she still look at me with that innocent look of wonder when I perform a trick for her, or will she roll her eyes, knowing it’s all just a trick? Will she be mad at me for “lying” to her all this time? I’ll find out soon enough, I suppose. Just in case, I might need to show her a few tricks tonight, before she gets a peek behind the curtain. Before she crosses that point of no return where she can no longer un-know that magic isn’t real.

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Be nice. It matters.

I once read something, and I can’t remember exactly what it was, but it went something like this: “Be kind, because each person you meet is fighting a struggle that you know nothing about.”

I’ve really tried to internalize this. Specifically, when driving… and I’ll tell you why:

One of my dogs, Roxie, died on November 1st. She died in the night, at our home. While I’m glad she was able to go while she was at home with us, this meant I needed to transport her body to another location to have her cremated. I remember vividly that difficult trip: my wife and I drove her body to the local vet’s office that dreary afternoon. The most important thing to me during that drive was to make sure that I didn’t make any sudden driving movements that might send Roxie’s lifeless body rolling around the back of my SUV. All the while, I remember thinking about whether other drivers were getting angry at me for going so slowly.

Since then, whenever I am driving and I encounter someone who’s going too slowly for my taste, I try to remind myself that I don’t know what they are dealing with. I’ve taught myself to act as if every slow-driving “asshole” I come across might have a dead dog in the back of their car. And I remind myself that that person would appreciate me not riding their ass and being a prick just because I want to go a bit faster than they are.

So, to paraphrase: remember that every person you meet — every person that pisses you off — is probably dealing with something difficult that you don’t know about. Do them a favor: don’t make their lives harder if you don’t need to.

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A Slice of Christmas

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A number of years ago, I started a tradition.  I cut a slice off of the bottom of our Christmas tree before we get rid of it each year.  After the wood dries out, I then label it with the year.  I also try to label them with anything noteworthy for that Christmas — e.g., a child’s first Christmas.  Finally, I place them in a box to save. I’ve got about ten years’ worth of tree cuttings at this point, and it’s really fun to look through them each year.

(For the record, I stole this tradition from my cousin Clinton – he blew me away when he showed me his collection of tree cuttings years ago, and I knew instantly that I wanted to do the same thing.  Thanks, Clinton!)

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The Daddy Prerogative

The Daddy Prerogative is the right of fathers everywhere to do impractical, immature, or even crude things for the sole purpose of being goofy with their children.

These activities include, but are not limited to

  • wrestling with the kids
  • tossing small children in arguably unsafe ways
  • making fart jokes
  • actually farting / belching (both loudly)
  • pretending to not understand simple concepts (e.g., “I put these socks on my ears, right?”)
  • winding the kids up before bed
  • car goofiness (e.g., going over a hill quickly, doing doughnuts in snow)

These stunts have been the domain of daddies for years beyond counting. They often are met with eye rolling and other disapproving looks from Sensible Mommies.  It’s not really fair to the Sensible Mommies that we, as daddies, get to invoke this privilege…. but hey, I didn’t make the rules.  :-)

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How My Kids Ruined Christmas Eve Dinner

Around ten years ago, my wife and I started a holiday tradition: we put together a Christmas Eve dinner menu that we loved and decided to use it every year.  We selected lobster tails as the primary component of the dish.  We so rarely ate lobster, and it seemed like a nice way to treat ourselves.  Plus, while they’re expensive (especially if you buy massive ones like I did!), they are actually straight-forward to prepare.

But what to serve with it?

Around the time when we first started this tradition, we had just discovered something amazing: fried spinach.  One of the restaurants we used to frequent served spinach that they fried briefly in peanut oil until it became translucent and paper-like.  With the addition of a bit of salt and pepper, the spinach transcends its mundane vegetable status and becomes something truly awesome.  Fascinated, I  tried to replicate this recipe at home, and I was happily surprised to find it wasn’t that difficult.

To round out the plate, we decided to make horseradish mashed potatoes with scallions — a recipe we’d already perfected and enjoyed.  (Pro tip: you can use a forkful of the mashed potatoes to blot your plate and pick up all the flaky little bits of fried spinach you missed!)

Dinner for two?

Dinner for two?

(You’ll have to pardon the crappy photo – years of Instagram-ing my meals have trained me to take better food porn pictures than I did back then.)

Over the years, we tweaked and modified these three recipes to the point where they weren’t even separate recipes anymore, but one recipe (to rule them all!) for the entire meal, optimized so all the components could be plated and served together  at the right temperature.  Ah, how satisfied we were with ourselves.  <Sigh>

Enter children.

We were able to maintain this tradition for a while once we had kids, but it became apparent that it wasn’t really going to work.  We tried serving them lobster, which resulted in us spending a bunch of money only to have them turn up their noses at it.  I considered cooking them something different, though the thought of serving hot dogs alongside our very elegant meal made me cringe.  Then I realized that our dinners had ceased to be elegant a long time ago, so who was I kidding?

Still, I didn’t like the idea of excluding them from our holiday tradition by serving them something else.  It seemed… unfair.  I began to imagine a future in which our despondent, Christmas-hating children whined to their therapists about how their parents never included them in their holiday traditions.  I knew I had to figure out something we could all enjoy.  I was determined, however, not to revert to something pedestrian.  I didn’t want to make something from the standard dinner rotation.  I still wanted it to be special.

In the end, I selected stuffed chicken breasts.  It’s a recipe my wife and I love, though we avoid it because it’s simply too much work for a typical evening.  There are a variety of choices for the filling, but we picked our favorite: smoked mozzarella with broiled asparagus.  It’s a rather complicated recipe from Cook’s Illustrated, but it’s worth the effort.  (This is true of most of their recipes, by the way.)

Okay, they usually look sort of like this.  (Photo credit: Cook's Illustrated)

Okay, they usually look sort of like this.  (Photo credit: Cook’s Illustrated)

Believe it or not, the children eat this.  Sort of.  To the extent that they eat anything I make, I suppose.  We decided to stick with the potatoes and spinach as sides because we love them and DAMMIT, STOP RUINING EVERYTHING.

So, we have a new holiday tradition – at least until the kids learn to appreciate lobster.  Problem solved.

And that’s when I realized my kids had tricked me into making chicken nuggets (albeit fancy ones) for Christmas Eve dinner.

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How Barbie Ruined Christmas

On Christmas morning, there will be sadness. This sadness will be because of the Barbie Dream House. More specifically, it will be because of the absence of said dream house in our present pile on Christmas morning.

The Bean has been asking for the Barbie Dream House for Xmas for quite some time.  In case you have managed to escape the advertisements for this monstrosity, allow me to initiate you:

So, ignoring the obvious reasons for hating this toy, here are my specific objections to getting this thing for the Bean for Xmas this year:

1. She has Barbies and other dolls, and she doesn’t play with them.

Seriously, this girl has all sorts of Disney Princess dolls and other Barbies that have been collecting dust in a drawer for months.  She NEVER plays with them.  I have no reason to believe this thing will change that.

2. The Barbie Dreamhouse is an overpriced piece of junk.

I actually entertained the idea of buying her this thing for about three minutes… until I read the horrible reviews.  Apparently, the elevator that they talk up so much in the commercial is a piece of crap that never works. Also, it’s difficult to assemble.  And it breaks easily.  The complaints go on and on.  Seems like it’s not exactly the best use of our Xmas funds.

3. Did I mention it’s overpriced?

Thanks to the usual and totally planned supply shortage combined with opportunistic Xmas price gouging, you can’t actually buy this thing anywhere for less than about $400.  I’m not kidding.

4. The Ghost of Christmas Past won’t let me forget the Fijit.

Eff you, Serafina.

Eff you, Serafina.

The Bean begged and begged for this ridiculous toy back in 2011.  So we got it for her.  This was no small feat, I might add; it was hard to find and I visited several stores before I found the one she wanted.

Fast forward to Xmas day.  The Bean was very excited about the Fijit… for about ten seconds.

Can you spot the unceremoniously discarded Fijit in this mess?

Can you spot the unceremoniously discarded Fijit in this mess?

So, my gut is telling me that the Barbie Dreamhouse isn’t going to be a smart purchase, no matter what the Bean is saying now.

Unfortunately, none of that will matter on Xmas morning.  We better get ready for the wailing and gnashing of teeth now.  Wish us luck.  :-(

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Turtles and Tubbies

It’s been a while since I wrote anything on this blog, and even longer since I told you something about the Bean.  The last story I told about her was way back in July when I told you about how she was able to identify her toy animals when asked.  Compared to the things she does now — reciting the alphabet, counting to twelve, and parroting nearly every word she hears — the “find the piggy” game seems so simple, almost silly.  “Duh, of course she can find the piggy!”

Today’s Bean story also happened during bath time.  Giving the Bean a bath is generally my job, though I don’t really think about it as a job.  (Well, sometimes I do.)  It’s kind of like a scheduled play date for me and the Bean.

As you know from the last story, most of the Bean’s bath toys are animals.  She has several of them, but one of her (and my) favorites is a pair of turtles.

Turtles

 

As you can see, there is a big turtle with a smaller turtle on the big turtle’s back.  Now, if you’re like me, the first thing you think when you look at it is “mama turtle and baby turtle.”  The first few days we had them, I started referring to the turtles as mama and baby.  Not long after we got them, it occurred to me that there really wasn’t anything specifically feminine about the big turtle.  I realized that I must have unconsciously assigned sex to this turtle, and the only real rationale I could come up with was based largely on gender stereotypes.  That bothered me.  Furthermore, I thought to myself, this is a bath toy.  Bath time is daddy-daughter time for us.  So wouldn’t it be more appropriate to look at the pair as a daddy turtle and a baby turtle?

So, from then on, whenever the Bean pointed to the turtles and asked who they were, I would identify them as “daddy turtle” and “baby turtle.”  I felt a small sense of pride in having these turtles that served as our counterparts at bath time.  I began to wonder if the Bean got the connection, wondering if she thought of herself as the baby turtle and me as the daddy turtle.  It made me like the turtles even more.

Fast forward to last night.

As the Bean played in the bath, she stopped splashing for a moment when she spied the turtles on the edge of the tub.  She smiled and pointed at the little turtle.

“Who is that, Bean?”

She smiled.  “Baby.”

“Yeah, and who’s this?”  I said, pointing to the bigger turtle.

She paused for just a moment, then flashed her most impish grin and said, “Mama.”

I smiled.

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