That time we ate Big Bird’s cousin

When we eat restaurant food, we usually end up with pizza, burgers, or chicken strips. My wife and I don’t prefer these choices, but we don’t whine about having to eat pizza, burgers, or chicken strips as much as the boys whine about having to eat something that’s not pizza, burgers, or chicken strips. It’s easier to just choke down another burger in peace.

Occasionally, the parents set their hearts on Chinese food. This is a problem on two fronts. First, we don’t know how to get good Chinese in our town. Every place we once liked has gone downhill. My wife’s standing explanation for this is that the owners retired and their children took over, and, as we all know, children have a knack for ruining things.

The second front is our own children. Big Brother will tell us he doesn’t want Chinese food at least 14 times, though he ends up eating the part that looks most like a chicken strip. Buster will eat rice, if he cannot detect anything resembling a bean sprout, bit of egg, crispy noodle, meat or vegetable touching it. It’s quite a chore removing the shrimp and the fried from shrimp fried rice.

Big Man might eat all the dishes or none of them. Unless there’s crab rangoon. He likes crab rangoon.

The last time we got Chinese food, I ordered sesame chicken. Buster helped me eat the rice. Somehow I slipped a little sauce past his inspection and he decided he liked that too. But chicken, in that same sauce, was out of the question.

At last, I got him to taste one cubic millimeter of chicken. He made a face and spit it into the garbage. This was for show, to save face. A minute later, he asked for another bite of chicken. Soon, he and Big Brother were eating all my food.

When they were done, I explained to Buster: “Next time we’re ordering food, and you tell me you want that one kind of chicken, you know, that kind we had one time, the one you like, and I don’t know which kind of chicken you mean because there are lots of kinds of chicken, and you keep saying ‘That one kind, the kind I like,’ and get angry at me because I’m supposed to know what that means, remember, this is called sesame chicken.”

Big bird is a very popular and special character. His cousin is a very popular chef’s special.

“What chicken?”

“Sesame. Like Sesame Street, only it’s chicken.”

“Big Bird is a Sesame Street chicken. Did we just eat him?”

“It was a different sesame chicken. Probably just a cousin.”

I didn’t know if my advice would take; Buster has an artistic heart and he likes to keep his requests vague.

The next time we were deciding what to eat, he chimed in, “Chicken!”

Preparing to return to the status quo, I asked. “Nuggets or strips?”

“Sesame chicken!” loud and clear.

That’s progress. Now all he has to do is find a restaurant that hasn’t been ruined by the children.

 

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To infinity and beyond

Buster is developing a curiosity about infinite loops. The other day he asked me, “If two people were saying goodbye and one said ‘Have a nice day,’ and the next one said ‘Okay, have a nice day,’ and the first one said ‘Okay, have a nice day,’ again, and they kept saying ‘Okay, have a nice day,’ to each other, what would happen?”

“No one would have nice day,” I answered.

It wasn’t what he was looking for, but I’m not good with infinity. I can find the ends of it to wrap my brain around, and that’s disturbing.

Buster thinks these type of thoughts a lot. I don’t know if this means he’s destined to become a great philosopher, an accomplished astronomer, or the next Rain Man. It’s good to indulge in deep thought once in a while, but I’m not sure forever thinking about infinity will end well, or at all.

Buster would rather conduct his own thought experiments than accomplish the usual academic goals like learning to read. Two months in, he’s still not sold on Kindergarten, because, in his words, “They make me do things I don’t like to do.”

I can identify with that. It happens to me all the time at work. Still, he has to go to school and I have to go to work so we don’t both end up in an infinite loop of poverty.

They make you build things out of dominoes in Kindergarten? I had no idea it was that horrible.

The thing to know about these deep thinking philosophers who don’t always want to go to Kindergarten is they can be moody. The moodiness strikes hardest in the morning when it’s time to get ready for school. This morning, the disgruntled whimpering started early.

Sometimes when I ask him what’s bothering him, I get a whiny grunt that means, “If you were the kind of parent who loved his children, you’d know what’s wrong without having to ask.” Today I actually got an answer: “I wanted to sleep in the bed with you and Mommy. And I want you to make a fire.”

I explained that everybody had to get up and asked him if he were cold.

He shrugged. “A little.”

Mommy put on his jacket and we sent him to school.

The desire to climb into bed with us, I understand. It’s his favorite Saturday morning ritual. Making a fire is another story. We haven’t thought about our fireplace since last March and we’ve never built a fire before school.

It’s a good thing he told me the problem instead of giving me the “If you loved me, you’d know,” grunt. My love for him is infinite, but maybe that proves there’s a limit to infinity, because I still would not have loved him enough to know I was supposed to build a cozy fire on a random weekday before school.

It looks like I may have to crank the love up beyond infinity to understand him. I hope infinity + 1 is enough, because that’s the largest number I know.

The affection police are coming to hug you away

Some things from your youth flow into becoming part of the family culture you build with your children. From earliest childhood I was taught to stay out of the way. Doctors have their “first do no harm” principle and farm kids have their “first get out of the way” maxim. You don’t have to be doing the most important chore so long as you aren’t hindering the person who is. My boys aren’t farm kids, but I try to stress this awareness. I can’t teach staying out of the way as well as an 800 pound bull can, but I try.

Other parts of your upbringing you reconsider with your own children. I grew up in a non-huggy, non-kissy environment. My wife, who has far fewer Germans in her lineage, is all hugs all the time. While I am still not a confident hugger of adult people, I’ve adopted her system with our children.

I can’t imagine not hugging and kissing our children every day; it’s become so routine now for me to do it. Also, our children will not suffer themselves to be robbed of their rightful hugs and kisses. Mommy’s warm blood seems to have conquered my aloof genetics within them.

They are the affection police.

At bedtime I have to give three hugs and three kisses to make the world right for sleeping. Big Man’s kiss is actually a carefully choreographed series of kisses. He takes my head firmly between his hands and stamps my lips upon his face as he turns his head side to side. If I pull away before the process is complete, we have to start over. The same goes for Mommy.

This old picture of them kissing each other is more appealing than a new picture of them kissing their crusty old dad.

At 3 a.m. one morning I awoke to a boy standing beside my bed. I expected to hear the sad tale of a bad dream. Instead I heard mournful reality. “You didn’t hug me when I went to bed,” Buster lamented. That is, I didn’t hug him to his satisfaction. The midnight raid was just so I understand who is privileged to interpret the law.

Going to work is another ripe occasion for hugs and kisses. There is a program for this as well. Big Brother gets his at the table where does his reading. The little boys go to the door. Big Man is very particular about where he gets his hug and kiss. He will position me at the threshold if I am lax in my staging.

Mommy is last to get her kiss. Once, when I gave her only a quick peck, Big Man stepped forward, giving me a stern glance. “And a hug,” he demanded. I gave Mommy a proper hug and was allowed on my way.

Big Man isn’t always pro-hug. If I hug Mommy too long when neither of us is going away, he steps in to break it up. He doesn’t know where it might lead, but as reigning baby of the family, instinct tells him it could be dangerous.

All this sentimental garbage

I was feeling pretty lousy on Tuesday, so I went home early from work. Mommy and Big Man were leaving to take Buster to preschool. I climbed right into bed, hoping to take advantage of a silent house to get some rest.

Tuesday is trash pickup day for us. A half hour later, I heard the garbage truck stop in front of our house with the associated noises of its hydraulic lift and our bin clattering around.

At the same time I heard Mommy and Big Man return home. Big Man was crying like the end of the world. His wails were so loud I feared he’d had some kind of run in with the garbage truck or its machinery. He’s just the type of kid to want to run and put his hands all over a big, dangerous truck.

I listened to Mommy’s footsteps on the kitchen floor below. There was nothing urgent about them, so I knew Big Man was not hurt. He was most likely crying because Mommy wouldn’t let him go play on the truck.

As she brought him into the house the mystery was solved. “They take our trash away every week,” Mommy consoled him. “Do you want them to just leave all that garbage here?”

Apparently, he did. He was sure he was going to miss that garbage.

Anyone know where I can set up a tax-deferred account for future hoarding therapy expenses?

"I'm sure there's something I can still use in there."

“I’m sure there’s something I can still use in there.”