Another (Link to a) Video of Me on TV!

Jerry Mahoney, Raising America, HLN, Kyra Phillips, Mommy ManThanks to my friend Janice Browne, I have the image above to post of my latest appearance on Raising America with Kyra Phillips on HLN. (12pm weekdays! Check it out!)

Some people said my backdrop was a little blah last time. (A plain white wall? What could be blah about that?) So this time, I livened it up with works from two of my favorite artists. For those of you art critics out there, these were produced with mixed media (crayons and fingerpaint). Bennett’s (on the left) is titled “Fireworks” and Sutton’s (on the right) is titled “My Beautiful Picture”. Bids will be accepted in the comments section below. Proceeds go to charity (i.e., their college funds).

As for the video, well, the wonderful Kelly of Are You Finished Yet graciously put her technically-challenged head together with mine and made a valiant effort to help me embed it here. Unfortunately, we came up as blank as last week’s wall. So instead of an embed, I’ll direct you again to HLN’s site or my Facebook page (where you can also like me!). This week, I defend straight dads’ right to the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue and applaud Willow Smith for not wanting to make a hip-hop Annie movie.

If anyone tech savvier than me and Kelly wants to take a stab at helping me embed the next one or put it on YouTube, I’ll graciously reward you with your own moderate-quality reprint of either “Fireworks” or “My Beautiful Picture”, your choice.

Video

My Unexpected TV Debut

It’s appropriate that I used a Newhart episode to talk about my experience with the new HLN TV show Raising America with Kyra Phillips, because that episode was about a guest filling in at the last-minute on a TV show.

Well, guess how I made my first appearance on Raising America? Yes, somebody cancelled, and I took their place. This Jerry has something in common with the Unbelievable Jerry on Vermont Today.

Thankfully, Kyra handled the switcheroo with much more grace than Dick Loudon, and no one got called any names.

I apologize to everyone who was expecting to see me this Friday, because I won’t be on then after all. This is the world of live TV, I guess. The good news is I was on the air. I raised America. Kyra was delightful, my sparring partner ArmyWife101 was terrific and decidedly not a weenie, and most importantly, I didn’t embarrass myself. I don’t think so, at least. You be the judge.

You can watch video of the segment on the HLN site here or on my Facebook page here. (OK, I’m linking the FB page because I’m shamelessly hoping you’ll “Like” the page while you’re there. You thought TV would class me up maybe? Ha, fools! Seriously, though, if you’re interested in my appearances, you’ll get much more up-to-date info from my FB and Twitter than from the blog.)

Technical geekery footnote: Ideally, I’d be embedding the video right here, but unless I’m mistaken, WordPress only allows video embeds from certain sites, and HLN isn’t one of them. (If anyone geekier than me knows better, feel free to give me some tips in the comments.)

The 10 Biggest Secrets I Keep From My Kids

Hey guys, it’s me, Daddy, and I’m only writing this post because you can’t read, you don’t know what a blog is and because you’re still in that developmental sweet spot where you take everything I tell you at face value.

Suckers.

Your old man is full of secrets, things that could destroy my authority if you ever found out.  Here are 10 highly classified facts that I will take to my grave… or at least wait to tell you until you have kids of your own.

1.  TV is a reward for me, not you.

There’s a reason I never promise you TV for being good.  When you’re behaving, I don’t need to turn on the TV.  Overall, you guys are terrific company… but when you’re not, that’s when TV comes to my rescue.  Those 22 blissful minutes of Yo Gabba Gabba are my reward for getting through the crying, whining, fighting meltdown madness that’s become a recurring feature of your toddlerhood.

Here’s the big secret: if you want more TV, you should act out more.  You know how sometimes I’ll pop popcorn and we’ll have a “movie day”, where we get to watch all of Beauty & The Beast or Toy Story from beginning to end?

When that happens, you’ve been BAAAAAAAAAD.

You can never know this, of course, because that would encourage you to misbehave.  So I have to be clever about it.  I always make sure to calm you down first, so you don’t know that I’m only turning on the TV because I’m on the verge of tearing off your Tickle Me Elmo’s head with my teeth.

2.  While you’re napping, I shove my face full of chocolate chip cookies for two hours straight.

You don’t see me eat much, do you?  It’s not because I don’t require sustenance like every other human being, though if it adds to your sense that Daddy is some kind of awesome superhuman, I’m fine with that.  No, the real reason I never eat in front of you is because when you’re watching, I need to model good eating habits.  You think I like eating vegetables and chewing slowly?  Phooey!

I spend every moment in your presence suppressing my natural urge to shovel peanut butter M&Ms through my maw by the fistful.  When you’re asleep, oh boy, do I make up for lost time.  I practically funnel chocolate sauce directly down my throat.  I watch lots of TV, too, and I sit as close to the screen as I want.

3.  I fall for your crocodile tears about 90% of the time.

I don’t know whose side of the family it comes from, but I’d be willing to bet that you two have some Meryl Streep in your blood.  Your performances are unparalleled.  You are gripping emotional powerhouses, both of you, able to summon cascades of tears at will.  I feel like I should be tossing bouquets of flowers at your feet, or at least teaching you to act out Uncle Vanya so your talents can be put to good use.

Even when I’m sure you’re faking, I get sucked into the performance.  I want to give you that second cookie you’re demanding only because I don’t have an Oscar to hand over instead.

Seriously, I don’t know how you do it.  You cry over the most trivial things, but still, you get me to believe that nothing matters more in the world than you getting a turn with the “good” xylophone.

I don’t want to spoil you by always giving in, but I don’t want to stifle your theatrical gifts either.

Bravo, kids.  Brav.  O.

4.  I don’t know how we’re going to pay for your college.

I’m really grateful you guys have no concept of money, because if you knew what college costs versus how much money we have in the bank, you’d wake up crying at night even more than you already do.

Let’s put it in terms of Play-Doh.  If you add together all the various sources of Play-Doh at our disposal — the cans in the craft cabinet, the little mini tubs that came with the Cookie Monster Letter Lunch set, a few unopened packages we keep stashed in the closet for rainy days — it’s a comfortable amount.

Now picture all the Play-Doh in the world.  That’s what a year of college is going to cost by the time you guys are filling out your applications.  I’m not exaggerating.  Our Play-Doh supply would barely cover one semester of independent study credits at that college in Texas that gets all the oil subsidies.  We’re screwed.

I mean, sure, we have a few years.  We’ll keep stashing away Play-Doh in the meantime, but don’t get your hopes up.

5.  I find your speech impediments adorable.

I’ve written here before about how much I hate baby talk, and I stand by that.  Grownups trying to sound like kids are idiotic.  But secretly, I love hearing little kids try to sound like grownups, and failing.

I love Sutton’s slight lisp, and I get a kick out of the way Bennett drops his “S” from the start of words (“Daddy, ‘utton wants a ‘nack!”)  These things remind me, as you’re growing up, that you’re still going to be little kids for a while.

I know better than to encourage poor speech habits, of course.  I do the right thing, suppressing my smiles and correcting you gently, so you’ll learn to speak properly.  But secretly, whenever you mangle the English language, I’m thinking, “Aww!”

6.  Your other Grandpa, my dad, is dead.

Sorry, this one’s kind of a downer.  I’ve shown you pictures of my dad, and I’ve told you a bit about him, but I’m really grateful that you’re still too young to ask the big question: “How come we’ve never met him?”  To explain that, I’d have to tell you about death.  Then you’d figure out the really big secret, that daddies can die.

Ugh, I just can’t have that talk with you.  And it’s not just about you not being ready.  I’m not ready either.  I don’t know when I will be.

When we talk about your mystery Grandpa, I tell you the good things, and then I change the subject.  I know I won’t be able to get away with that forever, but for now, that’s the best plan I have.

Grandpa loved kids, by the way.  You would’ve had so much fun with him.

7.  “F#&%”, “S*@#”, A$$#@!&”.

You know that Madonna song we love to sing along to?  You’ve probably noticed how I always turn down the volume when M.I.A.’s rap part comes on.  Let’s just say there are a few vocabulary words which may come in handy later in life, but which I’m glad you haven’t picked up on just yet.

8.  I was an even pickier eater at your age than you are.

I spend way more energy than any sane person should trying to get you kids to eat things you don’t want to.  Even your junk food diet is limited.  C’mon, why can’t you see how awesome Taco Bell is?

Here’s the truth, though: If I’m always encouraging you to try new foods, it’s mostly because I don’t want you to end up like me.  I’m living proof you can live to the age of 14 eating nothing but peanut butter sandwiches and pretzels.

Sure, at some point my tastes got a bit more exotic (i.e., Taco Bell), but I’m hoping that, unlike me, you’ll have at least sampled each of the four food groups before you reach puberty.

9.  Someday, I’m going to go back to work.

I know you don’t understand work.  That’s why you’ll sometimes cry in the middle of the afternoon and demand to pick Daddy up at the train station, as if he’s just waiting there all day for us to swing by.

Work takes daddies away from their kids, that’s all you really grasp of the concept.  Well, this may come as a shock to you, but before you were born, I used to work, too.  Staying home with you is better than any job I’ve ever had, and it’s worth every sacrifice Daddy and I have had to make.  It’s not going to last forever, though.  In the future, you won’t need me as much, at least not as much as we’ll need the second income.

A few months ago, I was in the running for a job, one that would’ve been too good to pass up.  I’m not going to lie, I was excited about the prospect.  I was also heartbroken.  I imagined what it would be like to tell you I was going back to work, that you would now have two daddies you hardly ever saw.

Then you’d cry about how much you missed both of us, to a person we hired to take care of you all day.

10.  You guys are my best friends.

I used to think people who were BFFs with their kids were terrifically sad.  Now, I kind of get it.  No offense to any of my grown-up friends, but you’re way cooler than any of them.

Yes, I need adult conversation once in a while.  I need to talk about politics and celebrity scandals and last night’s Breaking Bad.  But in general, your reluctant, unfocused recounting of your school day is better than any of that.  Really?  Billy spilled his juice at snack time?  Tell me more!

Again, you can never know this, because the only thing sadder than you being my best friends would be if I were yours.  You don’t need a graying old doofus roughly 14 times your age as a buddy.  You need me as a parent.  My job isn’t to play trains with you and Billy after school, it’s to serve you juice… and to send Billy’s parents the cleaning bill when he spills it all over you.

F#&%in’ Billy.

******

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Everything I Needed to Know About Parenting I Learned From Marvin Hamlisch

I read a lot of parenting books before my kids were born, but none influenced me as much as the song “At the Ballet” from A Chorus Line.

It’s sung by three women, each recalling in turn how her miserable childhood at the hands of lousy parents drove her to that most destructive of lifestyles, dancing.


Maggie sings last.  Actually, she does some spoken monologue thing where her voice nonetheless goes unaccountably up and down in pitch because she’s just that perturbed.  She’s pissed at her dad because he ditched the family right after she was born.  She used to hold her arms up in the living room, waiting for him to show up and lift her triumphantly like a swan or something.  Also, in her fantasy, Daddy was an Indian Chief, but that’s not really relevant.

He’d say, ‘Maggie, do you wanna dance?’

And I’d say, ‘Daddy, I would love to!’

Everything was beautiful at the ballet.

Raise your arms and someone’s always there.

If you want to see a grown man cry, play me that part of the song.  Never fails.

I don’t really have any sense of rhythm.  I certainly know nothing about ballet.  And if I were Native American, there’s no way anyone would make me the chief.  I have every excuse to avoid dancing with my kids.

Yesterday, they were acting a little wild, and I needed a break.  I turned on the TV, then retreated to the other room to do a little writing.  Ten minutes later, Bennett came running in.  There was a perky song on their show, and they had both climbed down from the couch to run around like lunatics, as 2-year-olds are known to do.

“Daddy!” Bennett shouted.  “Come dance with us!”

I don’t remember what I was doing at the moment.  It really didn’t matter.  “Bennett,” I said.  “I would love to.”

I know I’m not a perfect dad.  I’m not the best athlete or cook or nurse.  I’ve been procrastinating on potty training for a long time now.  My Pigeon voice sounds just like my Bus Driver.  If my kids want to perform sappy monologues about me when they grow up, they’ll probably have plenty of material to work with.

But there’s one thing they can count on: when they raise their arms in the living room, I will always – always – be there.

Screw You, American Academy of Pediatrics! 5 Reasons TV is our BFF

If there’s one thing I heard absolutely everywhere when my kids were born, it’s that the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends a very strict policy when it comes to TV:

No TV under age 2, ever.

Well, now that my kids are 2 1/2 years old, I’ve come up with a reasoned and measured counterpoint:

GO SCREW YOURSELF, AMERICAN ACADEMY OF PEDIATRICS!

I spent two years feeling guilty and ashamed that I caved into the alluring glow of the magic box in the living room, but I’m here to tell you from the other side: my kids are FINE.  They’re not drooly, brain-dead hyperpunks – well, not most of the time, at least.  They are 2, after all.

I’m clearly not the first person to express this kind of sentiment, because just last year, the AAP softened its recommended policy on TV usage.  The new mandate:

No TV under age 2, please.

In that spirit, I’d like to soften my counterpoint:

Go screw yourself, American Academy of Pediatrics, please!

Really?  Is that the best advice you can offer parents?  An abstinence-only policy?  How about we try to be realistic instead?  TV shouldn’t be a substitute for parenting, but there’s no reason it can’t be a small part of a healthy parenting regimen.  Let’s focus on responsible TV usage.

Sure, there are miserable parents out there who leave their TV on 24 hours a day, but those people aren’t listening to the AAP, and they certainly aren’t reading parenting blogs.

This advice is for the rest of you.  Here, in my opinion, are 5 perfectly acceptable uses for TV before your kid turns 2.

1. TV as distraction – I can hear the TV haters now.  “A-ha!  That’s all TV is!  A distraction!”  Well, yeah!  And if you’re a stay-home parent, you need distractions.  Maybe you have to call the pediatrician for 5 minutes, or you want to cook some mac and cheese without the kids knocking the pot of boiling water off the stove.  Oh, let’s just be honest: this is about what to do when you need to poop.  Everyone poops, right?  You know that because you read to your kids as well, like all good parents do.  So if you have to step out of the room for a minute, there’s no better way to distract your young’uns than with TV.  If it’s only for a small chunk of time, it’s not going to hurt them, at least not nearly as much as pulling that pot of water off the stove would.

2. TV as triage – Pop quiz, hot shot: your baby wakes up in the middle of the night screaming her head off.  She won’t eat, won’t burp, won’t go back to sleep.  None of your go-to methods for calming her are any help.  Is it time to rush her to the ER or page the on-call doctor?  Not so fast!  There’s one fool-proof diagnostic you can try first.  His name is Elmo.

We did it all the time with my kids.  Just when we were convinced we were witnessing a baby appendix in mid-burst, we turned on the TV.  If the kid calmed down immediately (as they always did) then clearly this was something they’d be able to ride out.

Face it: New parents are terrible doctors, and babies are terrible patients.  Sometimes, it’s hard to tell who’s crying harder when something goes wrong.  If a few minutes of TV can defuse the situation before you wake your pediatrician up in a panic, I think that’s something even the AAP would sign off on.

3. TV as a coffee break – What kind of horrible boss doesn’t let you take a coffee break now and then?  Well, guess what?  As a stay-home parent, you’re the boss.  Don’t be a slave-driver.  When your hard-working employee’s frazzled and needs to decompress, pop in a DVD for 10 or 15 minutes.  It not only gives you a chance to catch your breath, but it can calm your kids down, too, so when it’s time to turn it off, everyone feels refreshed.

Of course, as with any coffee breaks, you have to be careful not to abuse the system.  If you show a 1-year-old the Little Mermaid in its entirety while you let Calgon take you away, then she’s going to get bored and cranky, and you’ve just blown the benefits of your coffee break.  For a long time, our TV limit was 15 minutes a week.  Yes, a week.  It may not seem like much, but you wouldn’t believe how much I looked forward to those 15 minutes and how much I appreciated them when they were done.

4. TV as teacher – Let’s assume you’re not a total loser and you actually read to your kids.  Good for you.  But do you have any Harvard PhDs consulting on your selection of material?  No?  Then why not give the Children’s Television Workshop a crack at your little ones, too?  I’m not saying TV can ever match the value of parental interaction you get from reading, but the right shows can reinforce the things you’re teaching them when you’re going through your favorite books.  And let’s face it, Mom and Dad, you don’t exactly have the production values of The Fresh Beat Band.

I drummed the ABCs into my kids for weeks, with mixed results at best.  But after just a few viewings of a DVD called “The Letter Factory“*,  my kids knew all their letters and the sounds they made.

I’m not suggesting that SpongeBob Squarepants is on par with Jaime Escalante, and I’d never say that TV is the best way for your kids to learn.  But just because you do turn it on occasionally, it doesn’t mean you’re making your kids into couch potatoes.  Encourage them to sing the songs, to repeat Dora’s Spanish back to the screen, and at the very least, to get up and dance when music is playing.

TV is only a passive experience if you let it be.  Anyone who still calls it the “idiot box” hasn’t been paying attention.

* I never accept any endorsements on this blog and I have nothing to do with this company.  But as a parent, I wholeheartedly recommend this DVD.  It really did wonders for my kids.

5. TV as incentive/threat – You nurture your kids, you feed them, you tell them all the time how much you love them.  And in the end, they still like Elmo better than you.  Them’s the breaks.  But you can use that to your advantage.  Nothing snapped my kids in line faster than telling them, “Well, we were going to watch TV after dinner, but now maybe we won’t.”  Yes, it’s petty and it’s probably terrible parenting for a thousand different reasons.  But it works.  And sometimes, you just need what works.

How does Lex Luthor get the best of Superman?  By exploiting his weaknesses.  (He cares about regular mortals.  He wants to hide his identity., etc.) Well, your kids have their own forms of kryptonite – puppetry, repetitive jingles and the warm, welcoming glow of an LCD screen.

If you deny your kids TV, you’re denying them a major weakness and thus a major opportunity for you to get what you need out of them.  You won’t get a rat through a maze if he’s never tasted cheese.  I’m not saying you let him gorge himself.  Just a nibble now and then is more than enough.

There it is.  My case for responsible TV usage.  Or maybe it’s my defense of my own TV usage when my kids were little.  I did it.  I defied the AAP.  I stand by my actions and still consider myself a good parent.

I know the AAP is an organization of highly trained professionals who’ve dedicated their lives to helping children grow and thrive, whereas I’m just a guy with limited parenting experience and a WordPress account.  Decide for yourself who you’d prefer to listen to.  My mission is not to tell you what to do with your kids.  But I want you to know that if you do let them watch TV before they’re 2, you’re not alone – and you’re not a bad parent.

Necessarily.

Confessions of a Bad Dad: 10 Reasons We Love McDonald’s

People say the nicest things in my comments section:

“You’re such a great parent!”

“Your kids are so lucky!”

“Will you have babies with me?”

I’m paraphrasing, but you get the gist.  Just pure, sweet, huggy affection.  When I read my blog comments, I’m filled with warmth, joy and hope for the future.

Then I kick back and go, “Hahaha, suckers!”

The truth is, I have you all fooled.  Sure, I sound like an amazing dad in these blog posts.  But guess who writes these blog posts?  Yup, that’s right…

This guy!  

Well, I gave that guy the day off.  Today you’ll get to meet the other me, the one my kids know very well but the rest of the world rarely gets to see…

Jerry the Bad Dad.

(Cue the sleazy 70s funk music.)

Jerry the Bad Dad doesn’t make “wise choices” for his children.

He doesn’t listen to Dr. Spock or the American Academy of Pediatrics.  Hmph!

Jerry the Bad Dad makes his own rules.  He goes rogue.  He makes mistakes… but not apologies.

Jerry the Bad Dad… you so BAAAAAAD!

Just how bad is Jerry the Bad Dad?  Well, get this:

I take my kids to McDonald’s!

Yes, that place!

(Record scratch, screams of horror and disgust.)

That’s right.  My two-year-olds are no strangers to the sweet, salty seduction of McFood.  I can feel you judging me already, but it’s worse than you think.  We’re regulars there.  We go once a week.  They know us there.

McDonald’s is our Cheers.

If you’re not already rolling over in disgust or calling Child Protective Services on me, then allow me to tell you why.

I have some very BAAAAAAAD reasons!

1. My kids are always the best behaved children there.  You want to feel good about your kids?  Take them to McDonald’s.  Have you seen some of the riff-raff toddling around that joint?  Yeesh, instead of booths, they should have cages.  There’s a reason they don’t give out nunchucks in Happy Meals – those little monsters would use them.

Sure, I’d love to take my kids to The Four Seasons, but there, the clientele tends to frown upon customers screeching out “Movin’ Right Along” at the top of their lungs while shoving Dora fruit snacks up their nose.  At McDonald’s, as long as your little ones aren’t running around knifing cashiers, everyone’s coming up to you for parenting tips.

Winning.

2. The meal comes with its own entertainment.  There’s a reason my diaper bag weighs 200 pounds.  It’s because every time we go out, I bring half the contents of our toy chest in hopes of keeping the kids happy for the duration of dinner.  At McDonald’s, I don’t need any of that stuff, because the kids get a brand new toy with their happy meal.  Yes, it’s always some piece of junk tied into a lame kids’ movie and it breaks as soon as we get home, but so what?  It kept them busy while Daddy ate his McSalad, so it served its purpose.

3. It kills time.  I’m sure I don’t have to explain this one to other stay-home parents, but sometimes the biggest challenge every day is just finding activities to keep the kids occupied.  I’ll come up with a brilliant idea like hide and seek, and they’ll get bored with it in two minutes.  You ever tried playing hide and seek with kids who refuse to hide or seek?  It gets old fast.

That’s why I love eating out.  Dinner at home might take twenty minutes, but a trip to McDonald’s, including putting coats on, loading them in the car, driving there and back, ordering and actually eating the food, can last a blissful hour and a half.  We don’t even go to a McDonald’s with a play area.  If we did that, they might stay all afternoon.

4. The zit-faced 16-year-old slaving over the grill for minimum wage is a better cook than me.  I don’t know his secret, but his Angus Third Pounders are always fried, flipped and oversalted to perfection.  McDonald’s is a welcome break for our whole family – for me not to have to cook… and for the kids not to have to eat my cooking.  So whoever that is in the hairnet behind the electronic order screen, my compliments to you, young chef!  And the red-haired clown out front, too.

5. It’s an excuse for me to eat McDonald’s.  Seriously, have you tried those Angus Third Pounders?  Damn, that’s the sweet stuff!

6. It’s cheap(ish).  Have you been to one of those chain restaurants lately, like Uno’s or T.G.I. Fridays?  These days, they all advertise on their kids menu that they use Kraft Macaroni & Cheese.  Well, guess what?  I know what Kraft Macaroni & Cheese costs, and it ain’t $6 a serving.  Sure, McDonald’s marks up their prices, too, but at least they don’t shove it in my face and make me feel like a moron.  My whole family of four eats there for under $20, and I don’t end up giving my kids something I could – and do – give them at home for $1.29 a box.

7. It’s low maintenance food.  It’s a tenet of dining out that the price of the food is directly related to how cold it’ll get before the parents get a chance to eat it.  Take your kids to a steakhouse and you’ll spend half an hour carving their filet into pebble-sized portions they’re actually capable of digesting.  Then comes the convincing.  “C’mon, it tastes like a hamburger!”  You know how to solve that problem?  Just get them a damn hamburger in the first place.  Done.

At McDonald’s, the kids recognize everything on the menu, and all of it is bite-sized.  I don’t have to cut, coax or cajole.  All I have to do is open the happy meal box and let them go to town.  I may not get to eat prime rib myself, but at least I’ll enjoy my McChicken before its core temperature registers on the Kelvin scale.

8. They eat a full meal there.  I often wonder why the kids don’t finish the meals I make them at home.  Were they just not hungry?  Or did my turkey meatballs suck?

At McDonald’s, I know they’re eating as much as they want.  They usually finish everything, but if there is food left over, it’s not because they didn’t like it.  Sure, the food is garbage, but honestly…

9. The food’s not much worse than what I serve at home.  I know that what McDonald’s scrapes off the slaughterhouse floor to put in their burgers isn’t exactly Kobe beef, but then again, what’s in those hot dogs I buy at the supermarket?  Are the chicken nuggets we heat in the microwave so much more full of vitamins and minerals than McNuggets?

Fair enough.  When I’m at home, I can at least try to make things nutritious.  Even Jerry the Bad Dad always puts a fruit and a vegetable on the high chair trays, and he does buy organic (well, you know, sometimes maybe he does).  Overall, my kids are better off eating my dinners than a fast food dinner.  But that’s why we don’t eat McDonald’s every day.

Which brings me to my final point…

10. McDonald’s teaches my kids the value of moderation.  It’s not like I tell my kids that McDonald’s is healthy food.  But by limiting the number of times we go there, I’m letting them know it’s a special treat we can’t have too often.  Only by going to McDonald’s can my kids appreciate the value of not going to McDonald’s, which, after all, is what we do most of the time.

They rarely ask for it anymore, and when they do, I just remind them that fast food is OK once in a while, but we can’t eat it every day.  It’s a special treat that we can only have when Daddy says so… just like TV.

Oh yeah, TV.  I know the doctors all say that kids who are exposed to even five minutes of TV before they turn 2 will instantly morph into raging chain-tantruming paste eaters with droopy eyelids, but… well… you see…

Eh, I’ll save that for another post.

Incentive

THE PLAN: Get the kids to clean up their own mess, then distract them so I can have a break.

——-

“Do you guys want to watch TV?”

“Yeah!”  “Yes!  Watch TV!”

“OK, then you need to clean up all those Lego blocks in the bedroom.”

“Yeah!”  “Clean blocks!”

“Don’t come get me until all the blocks are put away.”

30 seconds later…

“Daddy!  Daddy, time to watch TV!”

“Did you put all the blocks away?”

“Yes.”

“Then how come I can hear Bennett in the other room still putting blocks away?”

No response.

“Go help him.”

Bennett enters.

“Are all the blocks put away?”

“Yeah.”

“OK, let me see… No, guys, you barely put any blocks away.”

“Wanna watch TV!”

“No.  Not until the blocks are put away.  Get back to work.”

Silence from the bedroom.  No blocks are being put away.  Instead, the kids do this:

 

And this:

 

This goes on for half an hour.

They are quiet.  They do not fight.  They do not watch TV.

I get my break.

Then, it’s bedtime.  I clean up the blocks.

 

“Mommy Who?” – If My Life Were a Sitcom

Not too long ago, there was a tiny bit of interest in turning my family’s story into a TV show.  I never pursued it very far, preferring to focus instead on finishing my memoir.

But as this fall season kicks in and the ads for new shows are everywhere, it’s hard not to wonder what it would be like if my life were among them, another cookie-cutter sitcom with a goosed-up laugh track.

I wrote this first as a series of tweets, each meant to be a quick blast of elbow-in-the-gut comedy suitable for a 30-second TV ad.  Taken together, they tell a sort of complete, very contrived story of the sitcom pilot someone might adapt from my life.

For the record, the blood pressure is real… but I’m still too stubborn to hire a nanny.

And speaking of Twitter, now’s a great time to FOLLOW ME.

 

CONDO PROMO #1

Drew gets ready to leave for work in the morning.  The kids run around and play.  Jerry’s still in his pajamas.

Drew: “Can you believe we have two kids?”

Jerry: “I still can’t believe it’s not butter!”

[Cue: Big laughs]

 

PARK PROMO #1

Jerry plays with the twins in the sandbox.  A confused 5-year-old girl approaches.

Snotty Girl: Where’s your kids’ Mommy?

Jerry: She’s having lunch with the Tooth Fairy, Sweetie. Go climb a slide.

[Cue: Big laughs, applause]

 

PARK PROMO #2

Jerry pulls the kids away in their Radio Flyer wagon, waving goodbye to all the nannies.

Jerry: Adios, Rosa!  Adios, Rosanna!  Adios, Rosita!

Nannies (waving eagerly): Adios, Jerry!

Jerry (winking toward the kids): Chicks dig me.

[Cue: Big laughs, applause]

 

CONDO PROMO #2

Jerry’s on the phone.  Bennett tugs at his leg.

Bennett: “Me want cookie!”

Jerry: “Yeah, well me want Anderson Cooper to come out already!”

[Cue: Laughter mixed with “OOOOOOH”s and one muffled “Oh no you di’i’n’t!”]

 

DOCTOR’S OFFICE PROMO #1

Jerry sits on an exam table, blood pressure cuff dangling from his arm.  Doctor looks stunned.

Doctor: “How did your blood pressure suddenly get so high?”

Jerry: “You’ve heard of the terrible twos?  I’ve got 4 of ’em!”

Jerry holds up his iPhone wallpaper of his 2-year-old twins.

[Cue: Explosions of laughter.]

 

DOCTOR’S OFFICE PROMO #2

Doctor: If your blood pressure was an SAT score, your heart could get into Harvard.

Jerry: Great, so now I have to pay for three educations?

[Cue: Explosions of laughter.]

 

DOCTOR’S OFFICE PROMO #3

Doctor: “I can’t let you walk out of my office with blood pressure that high.”

Jerry: “Can I saunter out?”

[Cue: Appreciative chuckle, one guy bellylaughs.]

 

CONDO PROMO #3

Drew comes home from work to find Jerry passed out on the couch.  The kids draw on his face with crayons, laughing.

Drew: “That settles it.  We’re bringing in help.”

Jerry: “I’m not hiring a nanny!  The only one who’s going to neglect my kids is ME!”

[Bump into: promo for The Playboy Club]

 

KIDDIE RESTAURANT PROMO

Jerry eats mac & cheese from a teddy bear-shaped bowl with his friend Nick, while the kids run around screaming like maniacs in the background.

Nick: “What’s the big deal?  Just get a nanny.”

Jerry: “Great, then it looks like the gays caved in and hired a nanny to do what they couldn’t.  Two men can raise a kid without a woman’s help, thank you very much!”

Nick: “If that’s your issue, then get a manny.”

Jerry: “Pfft, male caregivers!”

[Cue: Explosions of laughter.]

 

CONDO PROMO #4

Jerry answers the door for a nervous Latina lady.

Cecilia: “You… interview me… job?”

Jerry: “Oh, I’m not interviewing you. They are!”

Camera whips around to reveal Rosa, Rosanna & Rosita sitting on the couch, arms crossed, judgingly.

WIPE TO:

Jerry and Drew watch, baffled, as the nannies relentlessly berate Cecilia in Spanish.  She’s about to cry.

Jerry: “This is going well!”

[Cue: Applause]

 

KIDS’ ROOM PROMO #1

Jerry shows off the kids’ room to their surrogate, Tiffany (Jennie Garth).

Jerry: “Kids, you remember your surrogate, right?  Aunt Tiffany?”

Tiffany: “I love what you’ve done with their room.”

Jerry: “Well, it’s not your uterus, but they seem to like it.”

[Cue: Shocked laughter – did they just go there?!?]

 

KIDS’ ROOM PROMO #2

Tiffany: “Y’know, my mom would make a great nanny.”

Jerry: “Doesn’t your mom hate gays?”

Tiffany: “Well, yes, but she loves kids.”

[Cue: Laughs and applause]

 

CONDO PROMO #5

Tiffany ushers in her mom, Bev (Doris Roberts), who has a disgusted look on her face.

Bev: “So which one of you do they call Mommy?”

Jerry: “Get out of our house, you shrew!”

Bev: “Must be you, huh? Meow!”

[Cue: Gasps, mixed with laughter]

 

PARK PROMO #3

Bennett picks up a doll lying on the ground.

Bev (to Bennett): “Put that down.  Dolls are for girls.  And your daddies.”

[Cue: Laughs]

FLIP TO:

Jerry: “Actually, we’re raising our children to be color and gender blind.”

Bev: “Well, excuse me, Martin Luther Queen!”

[Cue: African-American ladies laughing and applauding even louder than the rest of the crowd]

 

PARK PROMO #4

Jerry introduces Bev to the nannies at the park.

Jerry: “This is our new nanny, Bev.”

Rosa, Rosanna and Rosita simultaneously bow their heads and cross themselves.

Rosa (to the others): “Es el Diablo!”

All three nod, fearful.

[Cue: Moderate laughs; that one guy busts a gut again and repeats “Diablo!”]

 

CONDO PROMO #6

Jerry enters, his every muscle aching.  Physical comedy ensues.  He throws a yoga mat in anger.  It lands six inches away from him.

Jerry: “Grrr!  I hate yoga!!!  So what did you guys do while I was relaxing?”

Sutton: “I went poop in the potty!”

Jerry: “No way!”

Bev (holding potty): “Take a whiff!”

[Cue: “Whoa!!!!!”  Cheers]

 

CONDO PROMO #7

Drew consoles an enraged Jerry as Bev gathers her things to leave for the day.

Drew: “Remember, she’s here to keep you from having a heart attack.”

Just as Jerry calms down, Sutton runs up to Bev.

Sutton (to Bev): “I love you, Mommy!”

Jerry: “Oh, my heart!”

Jerry falls out of frame, clutching his chest.

[Cue: Laughter apocalypse, cheers]

 

BEDROOM PROMO

Jerry and Drew lie in bed, nightlights on.

Jerry: “She’s rude, she’s pushy, she voted for Prop 8! She’s everything I despise!”

Drew: “Yes, but she did potty train our kids.”

[Cue: Laughs, African-American ladies saying, “Mmm-hmm!”]

Drew sighs: “Is anybody on Earth as lucky as us?”

Jerry: “Yeah.  Kim Kardashian and Leona Helmsley’s dog.”

Click.  Jerry shuts off the light.  Darkness.

Drew: “Wanna snuggle?”

Jerry: “Ow.  Yoga.”

[Cue: Wild applause, acceptance]