Top Four Things to Do on a Hot Day

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1/ When it is hot, try making a lot of noise and crashing things until you get your parents to drive you around in the car. It will settle you down. Remember to bring your dog.

Car Wash

2/ Go to the car wash at some point in the drive.  Every car is different.  It is very noisy.  Noise is good. Try to stay there until they close. But if you can’t, at least get a cold drink out of the deal.

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3/ Go to a store with escalators and ride them up and down, and up and down, and up and down until you are dizzy. Then do it again. The elevator also works, but it’s not as interesting.

4/ I am too hot and tired to discuss number four.  It’s nap time, anyway. Bye.

At 3:30 in the morning in a big boy bed

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I had a deal with my parents.  If I used the potty regularly I would get to sleep in the big boy bed. I have made enough deposits, so yesterday they made good on their part of the bargain.

A big boy bed is very comfortable. It has a railing so you don’t fall out.  My railing has a light on it, which is intended to be a night light so that the big boy is not scared.  It is a decent night light but functions much better as a reading light.

It was 3:30 in the morning. I wanted to get in a little light reading, perhaps Guess How Much I love You. I often don’t have time for reading during the day because I am too busy building things, asking for things without saying please, and running around trees in tight circles.  I got out of the big boy bed and walked into my parents room.  ‘Excuse me,’ I said.  I never say excuse me.  My parents didn’t answer.  They were asleep.  ‘Excuse me,’ I said again, ‘but you said one book in the bed.’

My father opened his eyes and said, ‘What?’ I thought that was a good start. He could have said what everyone says at 3:30 in the morning, which is, ‘Do you know that time it is?  It’s 3:30 in the morning.’

The line is customarily delivered with an acute sense of outrage, on a rising, slightly strangled inflection.  There was no tone of outrage in my dad’s voice, though. As he often tells anyone who will listen, he is a veteran parent, with two other children besides me who are now grown. I don’t think he should make so big a deal out of this, but he won’t stop referencing it.  From my perspective, having been in business for just three years now, experience is overrated. He got out of bed and we walked into my room and got a book.  I turned on my light to start reading.

Guess How Much I Love You is a wonderfully heartwarming book, but it is not the kind of page turner you need at 3:30 in the morning.  I needed a Nazi-chasing Ken Follett saga or Grisham, not a story of a bunny getting hugs from his daddy.  So I walked out of my room, because I can do that now, and started to play with my blocks.

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Construction is a noisy business.  There are city regulations preventing  it from being done at 3:45 in the morning, but I chose to ignore those laws, much like Uber ignores existing laws, or how Donald Trump speaks his mind.  When you are a truth teller, like Donald Trump, or a pre-schooler, or other part-time sociopath, you do not have to be politically correct. When you have a vision that happens to be illegal, and you are wealthy enough like Uber, you can get those laws fixed.

My father returned. He had word from the Ultimate Authority. ‘Mom says if you get out of the big boy bed again before the light comes, you have to go back in the crib.’ I was actually too sleepy to fight with him.  I was just awake enough, though, to bat back and forth his definition of ‘when the light comes’ like the Clintonesque lawyer that I am. ‘When the light comes?’ I asked, as though I had never before encountered the idea of dawn.

I slept through the dawn, and well past my usual breakfast time. But it had been a busy night, and a big boy bed is very comfortable.

Warming Up My Act

Lee Schneider (@docuguy) • Instagram photos and videos 2015-07-26 20-38-52

I have a big gig coming up this week. I am traveling back East to play six days in Rhode Island. It’s a pretty easy crowd, because they think I’m cute, but that doesn’t stop me from working hard on the routine. I like to play small rooms to warm up the set. I will try out jokes at school and on the playground. I’ll test some set ups on the cafe cashier selling me a gelato. If there’s a babysitter around or a friend of my parents visiting, I will run through a few lines. Of course, I work it pretty heavy on the plane out. It’s nearly five hours on the flight, so I can run through the set over and over. By the time the other passengers leave the plane they are crying from laughing so hard at my material, or at least they are crying from the experience of riding on a plane with me.

Here’s some of my best stuff. If you wouldn’t mind memorizing a few of these straight lines and set ups and feeding them to me when you see me, it would be a great help. For those of you keeping track, I go with a non-associative structure to the set. I don’t like to build stand-up set theorems like Jerry Seinfeld. This isn’t math. It’s comedy. It’s more a Henny Youngman or Jackie Mason kind of thing, spritzing as it used to be known in the trade.

What did the train say when it sneezed?

Chugga chugga ach-oo!

What did the cat say when it wanted to leave the room?

Get me meow-outta here.  

What did the dog say about the convertible?

There’s no WOOF! 

What did the mommy cow say to the dawdling baby cow?

Let’s get a mooove on.

What did the polite baby cow say to his mommy cow?

Excuse me, moo.

Knock knock.

Who’s there?


Boo who?

Don’t cry, it’s only a knock knock joke.

What did the duck say after it heard all these jokes?

You really quack me up!

Thank you. You’ve been a great audience.

Don’t Scream Monkey Water in a Crowded Theater

This is a dream I had recently.  I was attending a talk by Seth Godin, a respected author and an influential thinker. Unfortunately, the talk wasn’t that good, and it got worse when he singled me out in the audience to answer a question about talking puppets wearing eyeglasses. I know it doesn’t make sense, sorry, and anyway I did poorly with my answer. Then the talk was ruined by a child screaming monkey water in the theater. It was completely disruptive and people started to file out of the theater, disappointed and angry.

I woke up and realized that my own child was screaming monkey water in the next room. Monkey water refers to a red straw-equipped cup that we have with a picture of a monkey on it. If you saw the cup, you’d understand but I realize the reference might not hold a ton of meaning for you.

I think the lesson to be learned from this is to be true to your primate nature, and to get more sleep.

I didn’t run the marathon this year


The main reason I didn’t run the LA marathon this year is that I didn’t train. I trained for other things instead. I trained for the stamina to wear out my parents so they required naps more than I did. I trained for chasing the cat, and then trained for complaining that he swatted at me. I trained for building enormously tall towers of blocks that fell with a crash at eight in the morning. I trained for eating the crust of pizza only, only a half cup freshly-squeezed orange juice that cost $5, and I have trained hard to ask for vanilla yogurt in a bowl, wait for the parent serving me to sit down and begin reading the paper, and then ask for some strawberries to go in the yogurt, wait once again for my parent to sit down and read another paragraph about Hillary Clinton’s emails, and then ask for some almond butter to go with the yogurt and strawberries in the bowl, wait another moment, until my parent sits down again, and ask for some water. All reasonable requests! And sequenced perfectly, don’t you think?

I have trained to count to ten by myself. I have trained on the ABC song and know all of it.

I trained for lounging in the bathtub. I have trained for crashing into the bed and cutting my temple. (I am okay now.)


During the marathon I applauded the runners, and then, just to see what would happen, I threw a large pine cone into their path, to see if any of them would trip. This got me a stern lecture from my mama about the irresponsibility of tripping people who have trained hard to run for hours, but I don’t see the sense of running for hours anyway, and I am deeply involved now in testing boundaries. I have become a scientist of boundaries, constantly experimenting to see how late I can stay up, how long I can remain in the bathtub (a long, long time!), what happens if I throw something at my father’s face (result: not good!), and if I butt my hard head up against my mother’s jaw. (Also a bad experiment; will not be repeated.)  I have experimented with singing the Bingo song, and Old MacDonald, to help myself fall asleep.

Despite these experiments, or because of them, my mama says she wants to run a marathon with me, when I am old enough, she says. I don’t know what she is waiting for. I am ready now to run at least two or three minutes at a time. (Will somebody write in and tell me how long a marathon is?)


The Be Careful Voice

As a parent, you are always telling your kid what to do. You hope that a particular kind of voice gets inside their head. It’s called the ‘be careful’ voice. It starts with ‘be careful not to run into the street,’ ‘be careful not to jump around on the couch and fall off,’ and ‘be careful not to play with that sharp object that you somehow got ahold of and that you are not allowed to have.’ Later on it becomes, ‘be careful to take a job where they value you, ‘be careful not to drink and drive,’ ‘be careful to use protection when you have sex’ and all kinds of other cautionary statements that you don’t know you will need to say, yet. But you will say them all, believe me, and often.

That is the science of this, the information, the facts. There is also an art to it. The be careful voice can never have anything negative about your child in it. You want that voice in their head to guide them when you’re not around any more, and it has to be a positive voice always.

On the Importance of Dirt

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Creative life starts with dirt.  You take your dirty laundry, metaphorically, and metaphorically put it out there for everyone to see.  Nothing worthwhile that is creative is accomplished without digging into the subconscious, and it is dirty in there. I would like to think that we learn this first as children, mucking around in playgrounds. I don’t think that’s true. The creative connection with play is forged there, along with a sense of cooperation with playmates, and fighting with playmates, and together making something or destroying it. It is valuable, but it is missing the courage, the element of skilled daring that is required to dig into dirt and come up with something memorable that is not just more dirt.

I Work Hard to Stay Relevant

I work hard to stay relevant. When I go to a park, I seize the moment by creating sculpture using a traffic cone, eucalyptus leaves, branches and bark. Look out Louise Nevelson, because I might be more relevant than you already, and I am just two and a half. I am a seizer of moments.

At mealtimes with my parents, I repeat mommy mommy mommy over and over to break up the conversation when I can’t think of anything to say. I believe in staying on top of the conversation at mealtimes and this means talking a lot. My father refers to this as ‘sucking the oxygen out of the room,’ but I don’t know what he means. He talks about me being a blustery lobbyist or commentator on Fox, but I don’t think these would be good career choices for me.

Staying relevant means that everyone is looking at you. The best way to do this is to shout, ‘Mama, play with me’ when you want your mama to stop reading The New York Times Week in Review and come over and build a block tower right away. I have seen the Week in Review, and it is filled with fluff. Maureen Dowd is off for the holiday, so there is nothing to read there. Nick Kristof is okay, but David Brooks is a one-percenter apologist blowhard. Joe Nocera is a sophisticated complainer, nothing more. My mama will get a lot more out of making a block tower with me, trust me.

Sometimes staying relevant is challenging. There are moments, as impossible as it is to believe, during which I have nothing to say. At those times, I make buzzing noises to simulate words. There are times when I disagree with my parents’ choices for me but don’t want to hurt their feelings by saying their logic is outmoded, their morality bankrupt, and their creative impulses derivative. So in those instances I just say ‘woof.’ I mean, literally, ‘woof.’ It is easier to become a puppy in the moments when somebody in authority is mouthing an inanity like: ‘Two more minutes of playtime, and then we will be putting away the blocks!’ The only response to a statement like that is ‘woof.’ I use this technique often.

Staying relevant means creating drawings with my parents, but I do it Huck Finn style, getting them to do most of the drawing, while I direct them, telling them what to draw, and in what color.

Staying relevant means listening carefully to when my parents get up at 6:30 AM to do yoga and meditation, and then calling out ‘Mama come in here now’ to stay top of mind during their sessions.

Staying relevant means skipping or shortening my naps so that I can continue to build block towers and seize moments.

Adopt some of these techniques, and you too will stay relevant.

Afraid of the Vacuum


To My Parents,

This is a new year so I want to give you both a chance to get this right. Here is a caliper and a metric ruler so you can cut my waffle pieces into the precise sizes that I require. Here is a schedule to tell you when you may run the vacuum.  Please note that all the times listed are when I am out of the house. I don’t think it’s being overly picky to say that I forbid you from running the vacuum in my presence.  I am afraid of the noise of the vacuum, but I will never admit that publicly. It is a better choice for us all if you never use the vacuum. Who cares if the place gets a little dusty? The cat likes batting the dust with his paw, so this decision will benefit him as well as me.

Please never put a blue yoga mat where my mommy places her red yoga mat. If you do so, it will be upsetting for me. Please never move my block towers, yogurt cup towers, constructions, doors, fences, and other things that may be blocking your path. I understand that you believe that you should be able to freely walk around our place, but you have that wrong. Building things is important to my mental development, honing my sense of spacial relations, hand-eye coordination, and self worth. When you consider that huge value to me, what does it matter if you trip over a toy once in a while? Get a sense of perspective, please, and we will all live in harmony.

Here is a timer that will go off when I say it is okay to change my diaper. Here is a weekly schedule that describes when you will be taking me to school, how long I will be permitted to dawdle on the walkway before getting into the car, and how many minutes I will be allowed to fumble around in the car before I get into the car seat.  Here is a list of approved radio stations, when it is preferable to play them, and for how long. Here is a list of what I will eat. Here is a much longer list of what I will not eat. The short list just says ‘toast,’ ‘yogurt,’ and ‘figs.’ That is not a mistake.  The long list is too long to reproduce here, but I suggest you memorize it. This will make it easier for all of us. When I request food, such as an organic fig, please deliver it at once, no matter what else you are doing.

Here is a list of parks I play in, and a map showing the streets you will take to get to them. Please don’t repeat the same park two days in a row.

Here is a list of sounds I make inside, and another list of sounds I make outside, and at what volume and intensity for each sound. Note that these lists are identical. So get used to me screaming, shouting, singing, and whatnot in the location I choose. Do not attempt to modify this; it may affect my ability to self-express.

If I am tired of walking when you are holding my hand to cross the street I will signal this intention by lifting my feet from the ground or by dragging my knees on the ground, making a spectacle of myself in the middle of a busy street. This may cause you some embarrassment, but you need to understand that when I am tired of walking, I am tired in that instant and something must be done.

Wait – I need to update this blog. My father has said that I can’t be giving orders all the time, can’t yell at my parents, can’t repeat the same thing over and over even if I want it very badly, and that I have to live together with my family and be a ‘citizen’ whatever that is. I think he is wrong, but he seems as set on me being a citizen as I am in demanding an organic fig, no matter what else you are doing.

I know I am just two and a half, but I might have to budge on some of this because when my demands escalate, even my mommy, who is a goddess, has to walk out of the room sometimes. She talks about this thing called ‘cooperation,’ which has to be bad because she says it with a serious voice. Still, there is merit to having her in the room with me, so I might have to listen.

Guess what? I have decided that I am not afraid of the vacuum. When I go to a restaurant I will eat french fries with ketchup and will remain seated for almost the whole meal. Is that what is called being a citizen?

Photo credit: Calipers by Mauro Cateb. Toddler photo by docuguy.

5 Things I’ve learned so far…

Lee Schneider:

This is good, solid advice and learning from Chris Gaspic.

Originally posted on This, That & The Other:

So, in honour of all of the end of year lists out there, I thought I’d quickly share what I’ve learned just over the past year (Matilda is only 14 months). I don’t think listing only five will be enough, so perhaps I’ll carry this over. I’ll see. Well, let’s get this started.

1. You sleep more than you think.

We’ve all heard the stories when you don’t have a kid and you’re preparing to have that first child: “Oh, say goodbye to sleep” or “You’ll never have a good night sleep again”. Well, I’m here to say that it’s not entirely true. Yes, I will say that the first few days absolutely, positively suck. It’s the worst. I’ll never forget being in the hospital and watching nurses come in and out of the room checking in on Matilda and taking her out of the room. In those first few…

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