FOUR? Are you kidding me? Four???? How the heck did you get so old?? Where did the time go? And yet here you are...funny, precious, exhausting, talkative, kind, energetic, annoying, beautiful, and perfect. All four years of you. Happy birthday, kiddo. Every day you expand my capacity for love.
There's a curious dark-side to the generosity of the holidays here in New York. Sure, New Yorkers are kinder and gentler than usual, but that masks a hidden stress that we all share this time of year. All these conveniences we enjoy here come at a certain cost, and at no time is that more evident than Christmas.
Doormen. Babysitters. Housekeepers. Supers. Mailmen. Everyone...they all get gifts.
This shouldn't be a problem. Our super is fantastic, and without him my air conditioner would probably be a pile of twisted, unrecognizable metal six floors beneath my window. Same with our babysitter, who does more for our mental health than any doctor. We want to give them something, and they certainly deserve it.
Where I start getting annoyed is when the paperboy, who struggles to show up before 10 AM on weekends, conveniently leaves a self-addressed stamped envelope tucked into our paper on Dec. 1. Or when our neighbors start asking how much we're giving the guy at the front counter in our local gym. You mean the guy who glances up from his book and nods as I walk by to get a towel labeled with it's grit number? How about nothing? Is nothing enough?
Somehow, New Yorkers have bought into the idea that everyone is supposed to get a bonus or gift for the holidays. They feed on each others anxiety about how much to give, slowly and methodically increasing the dollar values out of fear that they'll be the one who gave too little and will suddenly find chunks of sewage coming out of their pipes. "What if the grocery store clerk is expecting something? What if they cut holes in our bags, or charge us double for our fancy cheeses??? Is $100 enough for them?"
Maybe I'm a complete dick, but I hate the obligation of buying someone a gift. I want the spirit to move me to get someone something. I fully acknowledge that the spirit usually throws it's back out trying to get me to do anything, but I'm generally pretty happy to get something for someone if I like them or they've somehow directly made our lives better. To me, a gift is given out of gratitude or friendship, not expectation.
Oodgie doesn't agree with me on this; she accuses me (with good justification) of being a bad "thanker" with no manners. And if I wasn't so busy clubbing baby seals while defending myself I'd make a better case. But to me, if you're doing what you're already paid to do you should keep your expectations low. No one's giving me a holiday bonus for being a good digital strategist (or blogger, for that metter).
What makes me bring this up? Well, I've been watching a debate unfold over e-mail amongst the parents of Cheeky's school. The question? How much do we want to give as gifts to the pre-school teachers. Now, no one is going to deny that pre-school teachers are both incredibly important and grossly underpaid. I'm happy to toss a few shekels into the hat to thank them for teaching Cheeky to glue leaves to paper. Over the course of week,though, I witnessed the following exchange:
One parent sends an e-mail suggesting that we all figure out what we're giving the teachers.
School policy is quoted, in which it's clearly stated that gifts "should be
limited to objects of token value, homemade gifts, a card, or something
that can be used in the classroom, say, for example, a book. Under no
circumstances should parents present teachers with cash or non
6000 e-mails ensue, in which I swear the idea of a mix-tape was suggested
Somehow people settle on something cooking related. As required by law, a bread-maker is suggested.
Just as things start to settle around gift certificates and personalized aprons, we're informed that our contribution should also cover small gifts for about two dozen other people at the school who I've never seen or met, including the librarian, the elevator repairman and the dwarf that lives under the tree out back.
In a final, brilliant coup de grace, one parent decides we aren't paying enough and boldly suggests we each contribute $100, presumably so the teachers can go buy a plasma TV or something.
My face was a mask of horror as my inbox filled with responses and counter-responses. First of all, this isn't the Dayton Accords...let's just decide and move on. Secondly, IS NO ONE ELSE POOR!?! I have to buy presents for people I CARE ABOUT, and I may need to dip into my 401k just to buy broccoli (If I cash in the whole thing, I can get cauliflower, too!). And since when did Groundskeeper Willy and the lunch lady become essential to our holiday plans?
So here I am, stubbornly digging my heals in and wondering if my cold rationality is just my excuse for being cheap. Am I being a jerk, or am I the only sane one? Where do you guys draw the line?
I've been on a diet since last January, and I'm pleased to report that, despite many run-ins with rogue quesadillas and pale ales, I've actually managed to keep off a good 15-20 lbs since I first kicked carbs to the curb.
Tomorrow I predict I'll be starting over.
We're on the road to a feast as we speak, passing cars on the Mass Pike and crossing our fingers that most of the worst drivers left a day before us. I'm starving, but afraid to eat anything since I'll likely have stuffing and pie splattered all over my face in a couple of hours. And don't even get me started on the mashed potatoes...that stuff is like white, fluffy crack. Face it...this if there's a holiday that encourages excess, this is it. (OK, well, maybe St. Patty's Day, too....)
So let me take this opportunity to wish you all the best this Turkey Day! May your family skirmishes be brief and blood-free, may the elastic on your pants surpass it's load-tested limit, and may the Seahawks beat the living hell out of the Cowboys. A boy can dream, can't he?
It's hard to believe that this is the fourth year we've forced Cheeky to mimic some anthropomorphic character for a night of loud noises, fake blood, and sucrose-induced hysteria. It seems like just yesterday when she was a baby duck shoved helplessly into her exer-saucer, but the photographic evidence indeed shows that we've already been through bumblebee and kitty cat iterations. This year, she wanted to do something different, and in a not so bold move insisted on being princess. As long as she could be a ladybug, too.
"Cupcake in hand" was a common theme in all our Halloween pictures.
Not visible in this picture: the searing pain in my shoulders from holding the world's heaviest ladybug over my head long enough for a good picture.
Generally I don't let bugs this size land on my head. It reminds me too much of King Kong.
Not the perkiest princess I've ever seen. Perhaps she's been stunned by the intense collage of colors in her outfit.
Before you make any comments on how her mouth looks a little too much like the Joker's, it's worth noting she has about 17 oz. of Tootsie Roll in her left cheek, presumably being stored there for the winter.
Of course these pictures do little justice to my costume, which was that of an aging dork trying to awkwardly recapture a hip youth he never actually had by wearing a hoodie, and Oodgie's costume of a bored, lonely housewife masking the emptiness of her existence with bunny ears. I think we pulled both off fairly well.
I hope everyone had a great Halloween! Now I have to rummage through the leftovers for any remaining peanut butter cups and Butterfingers...
What a GREAT birthday gift! Incredibly thoughtful. Seriously, it's PERFECT!
I HATE the crap that gets caught in our sink, and I hate the way the stupid sink-stopper randomly plugs the drain. Who wants to wash dishes by hand when the sink is filling up with a pool of liquefied detritus and vegetable residue? It makes my hands stink of Teflon and rot, and if it weren't for the Palmolive they'd be dry and cracked as hell.
You know I love Good Grips, but I had no idea they made a sink stopper! The OXO Good Grips Sink
Strainer combines sleek stainless steel with flexible, stain-resistant
silicone. The easy-to-clean silicone basket traps food debris to
prevent clogs. When it’s time to empty the Strainer, I simply pick it up
by the center post and invert the silicone basket for easy debris
removal. And the silicone underside won’t scratch the sink basin!
Best. Birthday. Ever.
For the record, this is partially my wife's sense of humor, and partially the result of me buying the new iPhone and other long-term investments, all of which I justified as "my birthday presents." Frankly, an extra hour of sleep this morning would have been sufficient.
So when a group of comrades on a music bulletin board I periodically waste time on decided to split up the 70's and make mixes for each year of the decade, I volunteered for 1976. I was a little worried at first, since '76 was when Zeppelin and the Stones started phoning it in and just before punk really took off, but I was able to pull together a respectable retrospective of the year.
To celebrate your 4th, and perhaps transport yourself back to a time when there wasn't all the hand-wringing about flag-pins and patriotism, I'm sharing the mix with you. While you're at it, you should check out some of the great other mixes from the decade, like 1975 and 1978.
Here's the tracklist, and you can download it here. You go enjoy now.
Thin Lizzy - Jailbreak
AC/DC - Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap
Kiss - Shout it Out Loud
Aerosmith - Sick as a Dog
Boston - More Than a Feeling
Styx - Lorelei
Flamin' Groovies - Shake Some Action
Electric Light Orchestra - Do Ya
Rod Stewart - The Killing of Georgie (Part I and II)
Peter Frampton - Lines on my Face
The Modern Lovers - Pablo Picasso
Bob Seger & the Silver Bullet Band - Night Moves
Tom Waits - Tom Traubert's Blues
Gordon Lightfoot - Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald
Blue Oyster Cult - (Don't Fear) The Reaper
Bob Dylan - Mozambique
The Commodores - Fancy Dancer
Hot Chocolate - You Sexy Thing
KC & The Sunshine Band - I'm Your Boogie Man
Boz Scaggs - Lido Shuffle
Stevie Wonder - Sir Duke
We're doing the 80's next so keep your eyes open for another mix once we kick that off. I've already claimed 1982, and I've whittled the tracklist down to a cozy 41 songs.
New Year's Day is a weird holiday. It has no religious or historical context. There aren't any unique celebrations; it shares it's traditions with it's more pugilistic cousin, St. Patrick's Day. If it weren't for the cringe-inducing appearance of Dick Clark at Time's Square we'd probably have no shared memory of the event. It's a federal holiday by coincidence, based solely on it's lucky spot on the calendar.
But what a spot, eh? Right at the cusp between one solar year and another (however subjective that demarcation is) and at the tail of a flurry of family celebrations which provide an excellent base to soak up the alcohol consumed. It provides an excellent opportunity to look forward to the year ahead, and to reflect on the year that's coming to a close.
Which is a long and fancy way of saying it's time for the CroutonBoy's 2007 Year-End Awards! The envelope please...
Me. For the first time in a decade I didn't win or place in at least one of my fantasy football leagues. I actually missed the playoffs in ALL of them, including the Blogpound. (Congrats, Marginally Clever...next year, you bastard). Inexplicable.
I hope you all have a safe and happy new year! Here's hoping the next 12 months have fewer explosions, less Rihanna, and more ice cream for everyone!
This is normally the time of year when I turn into Scrooge and start dissecting everything that drives me crazy about the holidays. I started a handful of blogs about the agony of Christmas shopping and the presents for Cheeky multiplying like tribbles under our tree. I had a petulant rant about holiday parties worked up, and another one on ubiquitous "very special" episodes of TV shows designed to deliver "a message" or "the true meaning of Christmas," usually involving a special appearance by a homeless character or Santa (occasionally embodied in the same person).
But the absurd schedule I've been keeping since Thanksgiving (also the topic of an unpublished blog fragment) has meant less talk, more rock. But now the presents are bought, inane holiday specials have been missed, and I'm "working from home" for the next week. The part of the holiday I LIKE is upon us. And not a minute too soon.
So what are we doing? We're hanging low. A little nog, a little family, a lot of torn wrapping paper (I had to put an electric fence around the tree to keep Cheeky from diving in early) and enough cookies and fudge to choke Augustus Gloop, that's what we're expecting. The stockings are hung by the chimney with care, with hopes that Rock Band soon will be there. We've already caught a couplemovies, and are hoping to catch more, although we may settle for the 24-hour Christmas Story marathon instead.
(It's probably a good thing we're hanging low. Cheeky spewed so much half-digested cheeseburger and ice cream on Oodgie outside the Manhattan Children's Museum today she had to be run through the Wonka Wash.)
Anyway, we wish you and all your families the very happiest of holidays. Best wishes from Cheeky, Oodgie, and CroutonBoy!
I creaked and snapped my way out of bed this morning to find myself yet another year older. Not that I ever bounded out of bed or anything, but the significance of the day made me notice the strain in the joints a little more than normal.
You're as young as you feel, right? By that standard I'm still in my late 20's, largely because I was just as out of shape and irresponsible then as I am now. Hell, if Cheeky keeps demanding I launch her into the air like a rocket I may end up in better shape
than I was then.
We're keepin' it pretty low-key, I think, since I don't like making a big fuss about birthdays (he says, as he posts this information on the internet for public consumption). There's nothing I want that isn't expensive, impractical, or an unnecessary exercise in personal vanity. And until Congress gets off its ass and declares my birthday a national holiday (call your congressman!) I'd prefer to celebrate by kicking back and enjoying the day in peace rather than being serenaded by Benihana waiters with "Happy Birthday" in Japanese. Yo, tanjoubi omedetou!
They say that growing old is like climbing a mountain; you get more tired and short of breath, but your view of the world improves. Here's to another year of spectacular views.