It’s a Jungle Out There: Letting Duckie Down Easy

There was a great ‘Sex and the City’ episode in which Berger dumped Carrie by writing her a break up note on a post-it. I would never be so cruel as to break up with anybody on a post-it. I am going to break up with my duckie in a blog, in public, for a thousand people to read.

Hey there, my good friend Duckie, take this box of tissues. And here’s a stiff drink. If this were a ‘Sex and the City’ episode it would be a pink Cosmo filled to the brim. But knowing you, it will be a 12-year-old Macallan, neat. You’re more of a Samantha, anyway.

Listen, Duckie. Augie Doggie is my new best stuffed friend now. That’s just the way it goes. You smelled good. You were soft. You were a good friend. You never argued. You never complained when I threw you in the toilet. You took it like a duck. But now, it’s over.

You must have seen this coming. I don’t try to sneak you in my mama’s handbag any more for field trips. I don’t put my mouth on your head and try to suck your eyes out. I don’t clutch you close to my heaving body in the night. I have, I admit, completely ignored you these past few months. The only trip you’re going to make is to the floor when I throw you out of the crib in the morning.

Hey, don’t cry. You know who suffers the same fate? Blue puppy, Little Kitty and elephant. I throw them out of the crib every morning, too. They are the Peter Lawford and Joey Bishop of my stuffed animal Rat Pack. Sure, they were vitally important in their time. But now all anybody remembers is Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis, Jr. Nobody remembers that Humphrey Bogart was the original leader, and that Lauren Bacall coined the name Rat Pack. Duckie, you’re Joey Bishop now. So sorry.

I know it’s a tough gig being a transitional object. But you should have seen this coming when you were never given a proper name. Augie Doggie started out ahead. Stuffed friends with names like Duckie and Little Kitty, well, you don’t have much personal branding there, do you? You’re going to get mowed down in the relentless drive of a toddler’s love. As toddlers we are incredibly busy people. Have you noticed that as soon as I get up in the morning I am building towers, crashing them over, stomping on cereal, chasing the cat and screaming? My plate is full, my to-do list is, like, crazy, and I felt you weren’t keeping up. Also, Augie Doggie has a collar that I can wrap around my finger so he can come with me. You have no such handhold. Sorry, your anatomy was your downfall and you were often left behind.

Can we be friends always? I know I’ll think of you at holidays, and in quiet moments as I walk on the beach with Augie Doggie. Just don’t drunk-text me, okay? Send a card or something. And don’t use a post-it.

Me and my buddy Augie, on the run.

Me and my buddy Augie, on the run.

It’s My Birthday Today

It’s my birthday today. I am officially two. Here’s a report on my birthday party, which was on Saturday. We ran around in a field. We had cake. Nice people gave me presents. That’s about it really, but you can look at the pictures.

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I like to read and should mention a few of my favorite new books that I got as gifts. ‘Duck in a Truck’ has a duck, a truck, a sheep in a jeep, a goat in a boat, and a frog who appears to be without transport. If you know the story at all, the moral of it is never help a duck who is stuck in his truck, because he will drive off, leaving you in the muck. If I were to think hard about this, I’d say it’s a parable of backstabbing in the boardroom, but I am not going to think too hard about it, because it involves a duck, and after reading this book I will never trust a duck again, particularly not a corporate duck.

My other new favorite book is ‘The Happy Man and the Dump Truck,’ which surprisingly is about a happy man and his dump truck. It was followed by the little-known sequel ‘The Crabby Man in His Pickup,’ which did not sell as nearly as well. ‘Harry the Dirty Dog,’ is also good, and has convinced me not to run off into the city by myself. ‘The Runaway Bunny,’ on the other hand, makes running away as well as shape shifting quite attractive. I also received a shirt with a tiger on it, a set of stacking cups, a puzzle, some big Legos, but I don’t need to inventory it all here as it will all appear in my mother’s Facebook feed this week.

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I’m being told that my opening paragraph suggests a certain flippancy about my party. I should acknowlege the massive preparation that went into it, and the high degree of cooperation between my parents that it required. My daddy, who does not like being told what to do, was told what to do to get ready for the party. My mommy, who is still insecure about her baking skills, baked a wonderful cake – her second for me, as she did one last year, too. She got these floaty things I call babloons, ordered pizza and salad, got party favors for the other kids that my father forgot to give out, and even had fruit and flowers on the table. Thanks, mommy! You did a good job. Catch you next year for number three.

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If You Have Any Small Emergencies …

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If you have any small emergencies, we have a small fire chief who can take care of them.

The Terrible Twos

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People call what I am about to enter The Terrible Twos. I don’t see what’s so terrible about them. There are the Discovery of the Self Twos, the Argumentative Twos, and the Negotiate Your Diapered Ass Off Twos. There are no twos that are terrible, not for me. I’m having a good time riding wooden motorcycles and such. How about you?

For those who haven’t been following along in this blog, I am indeed about to turn two. That, if you are curious, is the number that comes after one. If you are not curious, and have not been following this blog, I would like to pull over this large potted plant, okay? And play with my Dad’s iPad, okay? And throw things in the early morning onto the hardwood floor. Okay? Okay? Oh, I can’t do that? You mean, you’re on to me already? Can I have what you’re eating, then?

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The other day I was leading my mommy on a high-speed chase through a farmer’s market. I’d decided to recreate a chase sequence from ‘The Bourne Identity,’ with me playing Matt Damon, jumping up and down stairs, weaving this way and that, doubling back, riding a horse, smashing through glass windows. I think I forgot to tell my momma we were shooting the scene – but it sure did make her reactions genuine. I saw real horror on her face as I glanced back, flashing her a coy Matt Damon smile, and skipped between two heavily-tattooed hipsters who almost, but not quite, spilled their overpriced pourover coffees on me.

At this stage of the game I’ve learned that my tools can be way more sophisticated than sleep deprivation if I want to control my parents.  I think I mentioned in an earlier blog that I am using hypnosis now,  repeating want that, want that, want that, until they give in. It always works, except when they walk away muttering and it doesn’t work.  I am always testing, always testing the limits. This is the essence of being a child. You must innovate.

Example: After breakfast and lunch (but not dinner) I am permitted to have a cut-up fig or a cut-up apricot as dessert. (They haven’t heard of ice cream around here? Sheesh.) My parents always ask me, ‘Would you like a fig or an apricot?’ I respond, ‘want that fig, want that apricot, want that fig, want that apricot,’ which someday will confuse them into giving me both. Hasn’t worked yet, so this is what I do. I choose, say, the fig. They give me a fig. Then I cry for an apricot. Get it? Mind control! I can see the helpless confusion blooming in their eyes. It is only a matter of time till I say Want that pony! and they deliver a pony.

To show the power of this, you try it. Turn to the person next to you. Ask for an apricot. Get one. Then cry like hell for a fig. It’s an interesting experiment in human behavior and sometimes, fascinatingly, people’s heads explode. That’s really neat.

From time to time I have some provided some helpful tips for being a baby. Here are a few more, now that I am officially a toddler. They reflect a more mature, worldly perspective.

Tantrums are great for getting what you want, but not more than ten a day, otherwise people won’t take you seriously.

Battling about food is a good rehearsal for battling about potty training, which is coming next. (I am clairvoyant.)

When separated from your mommy, scream like crazy. Then, one minute after she’s gone, get over it like it never happened. All adult brains nearby will be scrambled, and you will get what you want. This will work on all adults, except Hungarians. My teacher is Hungarian, and it never works on her, probably because people from Eastern Europe have been around for centuries and don’t take any crap from little kids. Oh well.

Here are my career choices.

Singer. I can carry a tune, which is remarkable for a toddler. Ask me to sing Happy Birthday. I will blow your mind.

High Speed Chase Coordinator. I have experience.

All Terrain Tractor Driver. I have no experience, but this looks promising.

Thanks for reading, everybody! See you next time. I have birthday cake to eat, and presents to open, and there is trouble to be made in the early morning hours.

Quick program note:  My classes on negotiation will be forming soon. Do you want what you what, when you want it? The secret to successful negotiation is repeating yourself until your parents give in. And crying. Lots of crying. That’s just a taste of what I will offer in my online negotiation classes.  Coming soon! Unless my mommy says it’s bedtime.

10 Things I Love About My Daddy

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1.  I love that my Daddy jokes with me. Even when Mommy thinks the words or concepts are too advanced for me, Daddy goes for it anyway. And I always get the joke.

2.  I love that my Daddy sees that I am really interested in food and cooking. He tells my Mommy that I may be a chef someday. And he even lets me borrow his spatula and ladle from time to time.

3.  I love that my Daddy also sees that I am really interested and good at building, and tells my Mommy that I may be an architect some day. That sounds really good, but I don’t know what that means.

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4. I love that my Daddy has started to sing to me. When I was a baby, it was only Mommy who sang to me. But now that I’ve been around awhile, I think my Daddy has figured out how much I love music and how much I love hearing both of my parents sing to me, especially together.

5. I love that my Daddy teaches me how to fix things. He’s not worried that not I’m not even 2 yet. He’ll hand me a hammer and a wrench and tell me he needs my help.

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6. I love that my Daddy rides a bicycle to work. I am so into bikes. Motorcycles too. My Daddy even lets me play with his bike light when he comes home from work and lets me put it on the top of my tower overnight.

7. I love that my Daddy reads me the Daddy Cuddles book before I go to bed and that he cuddles with me as I drink my almond milk.

8. I love that my Daddy practices yoga in the morning because I like crawling between his legs like a little doggie and going flying with him. He’s only dropped me once.

9. I love when my Daddy chants OM in the morning because I can feel how powerful he is and like I told you before, I love when he sings to me.

10. I love that my Daddy sneaks me cookies every so often when my Mommy isn’t looking.

Most of all, I love that my Daddy is my Daddy because I love him.

Happy Father’s Day Daddy!!!

The Unbelievable Thing about Books that I Found Out

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If you are a regular reader of this blog, you know that I read a lot of silly books. I am a toddler,  so people give me silly books as gifts, not knowing that I’d prefer ‘The Atlantic,’ ‘Wine Spectator’ or the ‘New Yorker’ magazine  so I could look at the cartoons.  Since I have a lot of silly books, I like to throw them around and make towers out of them.  Sometimes I chew on them, although I am supposed to be over that by now. I will stuff them behind the bed to see what happens to them. (They remain there until my mommy takes them out.) Or I will shove them between the glass panels of the shower door to see what happens. (My father will have to remove their soaked, ruined mass, which sometimes requires a butter knife inserted just so to do the trick.)

Lately, though, since I am almost two, my attitude about books has matured and deepened. For example, I have seen their value as a way to delay bedtime and nap time. I will make my father read my new library book about trains four times in a row, and then make him read my new library book about trucks three times in a row. I don’t think he’s on to it yet, what I’m up to.

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He’s a nice guy most of the time, so he just keeps on reading, pointing out the wheels on the trains, the wheels on the tracks, the engineer in the cab. Little meaningless details like that. Just keep a straight face, make him read, delay sleep. That was the plan.

But I was wrong. So wrong.  The wheels on the tracks – not meaningless. Engineer in the cab, important.  You see, I had a revelation today. Baby mind = blown. Here’s how it went down.

This morning, my parents told me we were going to a place with trains ‘just like in your train book.’ Oh sure, I thought. This is no better than the usual gambit employed to sucker me into a long car ride to nowhere. Car rides like that are only tolerable with a lot of snacks. I’ve heard it all. We’re going to a park with swings. We get there, so what, there are swings. We’re going to a store where you will get to ride in a cart.  We get there, there is a cart. In the store, with produce.  So what. When you get to my level of experience with parents,  you know the crap they pull.  My assumption was we were going to a place with trains, but probably pictures of trains. Somebody’s impromptu train sketches, or some Cubist Picasso-esque train ripoffs, or an annoyingly derivative Calder-inspired train mobile.

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When we got there, though, there were trains. Real trains.

I admit, I lost it. I started running up and down the paths between the trains lustily shouting ‘twains, twains, twaaaains’ and flapping my arms around like a fool. I think I was overwhelmed for a moment to see that the things in books can be true. The trains had wheels, just as they did in the book, and those wheels were on tracks, just as my father pointed out.  We climbed up into the cab where the engineer would drive, and there were wheels to turn. I realized at once that this place was different. It hadn’t been sanitized, like so much of the experiences you adults present to us are. There was gravel, and tracks, and rust. There were sharp surfaces, and broken levers that complained when I moved them, and a delicious sense of danger.

Far off, I heard the mournful sound of a train whistle. My parents said, ‘Would you like to go on a train ride?’  I looked at them like, you gotta be kidding, right? We’re going to walk right into some kind of Johnny Cash song, listening to the lonesome whistle blow? What next? We kill a man in Phoenix, just to watch him die? (You need to know your Johnny Cash lyrics to get that.)  I mean, this is a train museum. There are no running trains here. But there is a running train here.  And we went on it twice.   Here’s a short video.

 

Sitting Down to Dinner

Sitting Down to Dinner

When you sit down to dinner with a toddler there is actually not that much sitting down involved.

My Book Reviews

I love to read, and I love my parents to read books to me. Here are some reviews of my favorite books right now.

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I Love Trucks

From the cheery optimism of its opening line, ‘Trucks, trucks, trucks, I like trucks!’ to its insightful character arc and shocking plot twist at the end, ‘Trucks, trucks, trucks, I love trucks,’ (italics added),  I can only describe this book as wheely, wheely good.  Not only can I not put it down (because it is stuck to my hands with apricot jam) but I have also literally devoured it. My copy has been repaired with tape, but it shows its history of repeated readings and chewing. No other book has as compelling a collection of trailer trucks, tow trucks and trucks that sweep the street.  There is also a haunting appearance of a clown riding a white horse, which will require a graduate degree in English to interpret. Since that is a few years off for me, I will content myself with the book’s charm, its relentless focus on trucks, and its deep understanding of trucks in all possible contexts.

If you seek an introduction to trucks and are anticipating forming a deep love for trucks and related vehicles, this is your book. You will never think of skid steers in the same way again.

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Goodnight Moon

Originally conceived as propaganda by a desperate parent needing a story simplistic enough to lull her child into a stupor, and I believe used avidly now by Putin as a brainwashing tool, I admit that I enjoyed Goodnight Moon’s  linear approach at first: (‘Good night kittens, good night socks’ and all that). But it quickly loses its way like a truck without GPS. Telling ‘nobody’ good night is nonsense, and the story is completely lacking in trucks. You can have your parents read it all the way through to you a thousand times, and there will be no trucks in it, which is a ripoff.

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The Little Red Hen

This tale of a hen defying all odds to make a loaf of bread lacks emotional punch because there is no truck character, and therefore, utterly fails.  I still like reading it, though, because I think of all bread as pizza, and I like pizza.

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The Very Hungry Caterpillar
I question the ‘very’ in the title. Would it not be more concise if it were simply The Hungry Caterpillar? The one good thing about this book is that it has introduced me to many different kinds of food my parents will never let me have, like chocolate cake and sausage. There are no trucks, but the contraband foods make it a guilty pleasure.  Worth reading 10 or 20  times (as opposed to I Love Trucks which deserves a thousand readings, and even then you are just scratching the surface of its haunting, eternal story. Still trying to figure out why there is a clown on a white horse in this book.)
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Who Will Tuck Me In Tonight?

This is an interesting story about a mother who abandons her child at bedtime, assigning first a pig, then a chicken and, I think, a beached whale to put her child to bed in her absence. It doesn’t go well. The mother finally returns, smelling of a barn (well, she is a sheep) and cheap beer. Her child forgives her in this touching testament to parental irresponsibility and her child’s wisdom to let it go and just move on. Where is the father in this story? He’s probably in worse shape than the mother.

There’s a movie version in the works with Julia Roberts as the mother and Emma Watson as the sheep daughter. There will be a lot of good acting involved, because Emma Watson will have to play younger than she is, and she will be a sheep.  If they can get Alec Baldwin as the absent father I think that would be good, or Adam Sandler, but then this would become just another Adam Sandler movie, and I would never see it.

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Listening Time
Basically this book hasn’t got a leg, or a tire, to stand on, as it’s a riff on teaching children to be quiet when a story is being read to them. For some reason I love it and make my parents read it almost as often as I make them sing the Wheels on the Bus song.
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Slide and Find Trucks

This is an interactive book that lets you slide a door and reveal a truck, learn about the colors of trucks, and about who drives trucks. It is absolutely fascinating. Do not read it just before bedtime, however, as your mind will be spinning with the different possibilities of trucks, their colors, and their drivers, and your daddy will have to come in, change your diaper because he doesn’t know what else to do, tell you to be quiet, and bump into the door on his way out because it is 3:15 in the morning.

Good luck with your own reading! If you can’t find a book about trucks, let me know. I have lots of them.

Conversations in My Head Using Words

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I’m working on words now. Using them to get things, I mean. I know I want some apricots, and I can say want, which is a pretty short sentence. Sometimes I’ve lengthened the sentence to want apricot.  When I need to make it the sentence a little longer longer, I just say:

want want want want want want want wantwantwantwantwantwantwantwantwant, and end it with a sinus-clearing scream. This is effective. It’s not the scream. It’s the repetition that does the trick.

Like pets, parents require repetition in order to learn. You wouldn’t expect your dog to sit or heel upon hearing those commands only one time. It’s the same with parents. You must repeat the commands in a loud voice so they will understand, accompanied by clear hand gestures.

If I am throwing a flashlight on the bare wood floor, making a tremendous racket at 7:45 in the morning and waking the neighbors, I have to do it six or eight times to make my point before my parents understand they are to take the flashlight away from me and hide it somewhere. My mother, who is very kind, will give me back the flashlight even after I’ve thrown it on the floor ten times, infuriating my father for some reason. My father has filled a large plastic container with blocks, plastic spoons and hard-edged toys and hidden it in the closet because he was, he claims, being driven insane by the racket. Don’t think I don’t know where it is. I am just waiting to grow tall enough or get strong enough to drag a chair over so that I can retrieve the racket-making items and resume my work with them.

I like watching his right eyelid twitch with repressed rage as he considers that plastic container of sturm und drang. He knows he is not supposed to yell at me.  It’s fascinating to see him turn all that anger inward. I wonder what will happen next.

Words are interesting. You can learn a lot about people by the way they use words. My cat spends a lot of time threatening the birds outside the window, shouting the same word to them over and over. (‘Meow.’) I think he might have OCD. My father spends a lot of time seething, simmering, hissing words about the WiFi when it is not working. My mother never raises her voice to use any kind of word. She has a very tasteful way of sobbing words quietly when she has had enough of my tantrums. She is very kind.

Have you ever read any books written for children? The way they use words, I can only conclude that children’s book writers must have old diapers for brains. They write repetitious words about cats who are friends with little red hens. The only reason a cat would befriend a red hen would be to eat it, and there is no sense at all to saying goodnight to a moon, or to a pair of mittens, or to clocks. It’s inane as hell. Yet it is also a classic of the genre, like any John Grisham novel. Go figure. I have a book that is about red dogs on top of things and blue dogs under things. I like making my father read it to me again and again and watching his eyelid twitch become more pronounced. I just want to see what happens.

Most books for kids have poor story development and shallow characters. Exception: The Very Hungry Caterpillar.  That sucker is a page turner. You never know what the caterpillar’s going to eat next, and it took me a while to see that each page added a higher number for counting purposes. (I’m not yet two, okay? Give me a break.)  It gave me a lot of ideas about eating cupcakes and ice cream, which so far I have only seen in books, never in real life. If you have any ice cream, see if you can smuggle some over here. I hear it’s good.

Also, any book about trucks deserves a close look. Have I mentioned yet how fascinating trucks are? And books about trucks? Those are the best books. Any book about trucks has a fascinating story and deep character development, and the nuanced shades of difference between a big rig and a forage harvester – it quickens my pulse. When I hear my parents read a sentence like ‘How do you climb into this tall tractor?’ the mind spins with possibilities. I have had my parents read descriptions of dump trucks that take my breath away. Half the fun of this is training my mother to read books about trucks, and notice trucks in real life, and say things like ‘hey, isn’t that a skid steer over there?’ Or ‘did you notice that giant excavator?’ I just love hearing those words come out of her mouth. She is really learning her trucks! It’s gratifying to see her catch on so fast, but a lot of the fun of being a kid is training your parents.

It’s Happy Day, so I am Watching a Screen

They tell me that it’s Happy Day today and we all should be dancing. You can see somebody behind me dancing in the video. But I want to call your attention to something else. There is a rectangle in front of me, just out of the frame, with a man on it, and he is singing. If anybody can explain this to me, other than saying it is some kind of weird magic, I would appreciate it.

I just realized that the person dancing around me is my mom, and she is busting some of her best moves and even diving in for some closeups, but apparently she hasn’t heard that this is the age of screens, and that is what we all should be paying attention to, even on Happy Day, and even when your own mommy is putting on quite a show. If anybody says the video goes on a little too long, I would take issue with that. If I were just able to watch it for a little longer I would get to the bottom of how and why that man is in the rectangle.