Daily Operation, The Byford Files

RaisingElle Moving…Don’t Cry…Dry Your Eyes

Sometimes it’s easier to make a decision without thinking much and this one needed very little thought. Lemme put it to you this way…

Once Ellison was crawling, she was walking. Once she was walking, she was running. Once she was running, she was finding the quickest route to trouble and heading in with her forehead first. I’m writing this behind one half-empty (half-full) bottle of pale ale at 11:00pm on a Friday night which is precisely the first opportunity I’ve had to write all week. Once Ellison got up on her hind legs, the writing game changed forever.

I started in the blogging game back in over six years ago at The Root Down. It became a daily outlet for misdirected creative energy that would find light like a fart you tried your darndest to suppress. Eventually, it’s just gotta find it’s way out. That was The Root Down. It became a five year fart that ended with me attempting to countdown the greatest hip hop recordings ever. Never made it to number one on that list. Not because I didn’t know what number one was, but because my lovely wife got pregnant and we changed the format. Over the last year plus, I’ve been operating two blogs…Raising Elle, which you’re currently reading and IKnowYouGotSole which was originally intended to log my marathon training runs. Turned out that IKnowYouGotSole became The Root Down 2.0. The dual lives, however have become simply too much to handle and perform as a dad. And the last thing that I want this writing thing to be is a job or anything that resembles such. I already got a job and one that takes a ton of energy and, frankly, the last thing I wanna do at the end of a long day is to sit down and disappear into another computer at another desk instead of getting to know my sweet Ellison. Raising Elle, by it’s very design, was intended as an all-week, all-day, all-hour account of Ellison’s come-up like some sort of blogform of The Truman Show.

Ellison Jayne’s getting older and this fatherhood thing is getting better everyday…and more involved. I’m never short of material, but the “blog” format was just too long-form for a dad on the run. You need to be able to post-up in five minutes and be on your merry way. Like a good graffiti artist…do your damage, pack up, take a picture and be out before the law comes around. Blogs are great for people writing about astrology, literature, how to remove warts at home, but for a dad who only has two cups of coffee to write, the blog is way too involved. And my cups of coffee go down quick. I would consider blogs for the leisurely reader. It’s for people like the Keatons and the Seavers that go to work at like 10:00am after you get the kids to school, get a nice breakfast, maybe go to the supermarket and post office. That ain’t real life.

Real life is filled with diapers, light sockets, puking beagles, flat tires, cold coffee, crying co-workers and unresolved expense reports. The expectation that I could sit down and write 1000 words a morning is not only unrealistic, it’s downright ludicrous.

So we’re moving on. Raising Elle will still be open for business, but just no new business. Also, IKnowYouGotSole is no more. I’ve taken it down and in its place I’ve created a Tumblr site named NoSleepTillWolflin. This will be the location for all activity moving forward. Call it a “much needed, much anticipated downsizing.” The intent is to marry both the Ellison Jayne element of my waking life and, well, everything else. And a little tip for my mother and others who could care less about everything else, just save this link: http://nosleeptillwolflin.tumblr.com/tagged/Ellison_Jayne and that’ll take you directly to only the Ellison-related content.

We needed a site that was easier for quick posting. We need new posts to be somewhere between a tweet and a blog entry. We needed a site that was easier to read on mobile devices. We needed a site that was easier to post up on from mobile devices. We needed a site that had better mixed media functionality. Again, all for the dad on the go. These are things that Tumblr offers much better than WordPress. The new site, I believe, better positions us for future expansion too.

So why not RaisingElle.tumblr? What is this NoSleepTillWolflin crap? Change in direction, I suppose. I wanted to liberate the concept a little. I’ll put it this way, if you had 200 channels on your satellite offering, but I told you could you only watch the History Channel, I would imagine the amount of time you spent watching television would dramatically decrease. It’s not that don’t like the History Channel, but to be restricted to watching just one channel all of the time is ultimately going to result to less television. That’s what was happening at RaisingElle. I felt it was necessary to not deviate from one central concept. Problem was, I wasn’t always in the mood to write about Ellison. And I rarely had the time and energy to write at great length about Ellison. So, instead, I wrote less.

Well, we got our 199 other channels back now. Doesn’t mean we’ll watch all 200 channels and, trust me, we’ll still watch tons of the History Channel. And I ask you to trust me. I’ll be your guide through the entire transition. So, now, I present to you:

And, to welcome you for making the trek over, there’s an exclusive video of Ellison…and a doggy door. Enjoy.
Daily Operation

Parental Annoyance: When Parents Talk For Their Babies

You’ve heard it, however, you might not notice it. It’s prevalent. Everywhere.

I first noticed it by watching pet owners talk for their pets and now notice that it happens with babies too. And maybe more often.

Take this example:

Acquaintance is holding her baby daughter and I approach to greet both of them. I lean in to the baby cautiously with a big smile and say, “Hey there, sweetie! You’re getting so big!” The baby scowls at me nervously. The mother then says in an attempt to be humorous, “She’s like, ‘I don’t know you so step off!'”

Wait, the baby didn’t say that. Why did the mother say that she said that. Or is the “she’s like” part her saying, “If she could speak, she would say this.” Yeah, but she can’t speak so she didn’t say that. She’s a baby. Can’t she just have a natural reaction to a stimulus without someone attempting to speak for her?

I was speaking to a friend of mine one day while Ellison made her way around the room and probably twelve to fifteen times during our conversation, as he watched Ellison wander around from corner to corner taking in the room, he broke our conversation to speak for Ellison like some outtake of Look Who’s Talking. “She’s like, ‘Hey, this is cool!'” “She’s like, ‘I love light plugs.'” She’s like, ‘Where’s daddy?'” “She’s like, ‘Man, that guy’s shoes are cool.'”

Every time I hear him do this, I felt like asking him to stop. It’s incredibly annoying. And, what’s worse, is I’ve found myself doing the same thing. I try to catch myself when I do it, but sometimes, it’s unpreventable. Maybe it’s a nervous tick. For instance, when you’re talking with someone and you run out of words, but there’s still moments left in your conversation so you just fill it up with really bad comedic material. Stupid, lazy comedic material that includes trying to speak for babies and be funny about it.

What I love about babies is that they can’t talk. Their wonderment in the world is in their eyes, their expressions. Their grunts, screams, laughs. While they can’t speak in clear sentences, they do so with every other part of their face and voice. It doesn’t have to be a running joke for parents to write the punchlines. We don’t have to play the “what if dogs could talk” game with our babies.

And now, for my mother, a photo of Ellison.

Parental Advisory

Spirited Toddler Quiz, Pt. 4

You know, it only seems appropriate to post these after you spend a night staring at the ceiling for two hours in the middle of the night wondering why your child won’t let you sleep. Dealing with the midnight moans right now with Ellison. Girl was going last night. We went to a later sleep time in hopes to achieve one long continuous night sleep by keeping her up later. Worked a bit at first, but now she’s contracted the wakeups and then I spend two hours thinking about deadlines, the book of Daniel, retirement, Sun Ra’s impact on Funkadelic, fair trade coffee and how truly fair it is or isn’t, haboobs, Herman Cain, skiing, Theo Epstein (just a for a few seconds) and when I’m due for an oil change among other things. Not me but the Subaru.

Wake up three hours later with a crick in my neck and a nice dark cup of coffee and an Osibisa record. Gonna need it today.

Today’s topic is “perceptiveness.” Writes our author:

Perceptive kids notice the four-leaf clover in the grass; the color, make and model of the car that just passed; the Christmas tree hung on the construction crane; and the ant crawling on the window glass. It seems as though perceptive individuals have antennas out, picking up all of the extraneous information and stimulation around them. As a result it can be very challenging for them to sort out the most important information or to remain focused on their original goal.

Again, we’re going to attempt to objectively assess Ellison’s perceptiveness even though, as a 13-month old, she’s still developing many of these traits literally as we sleep. But in our pursuit for the truth of Ellison’s spirited nature, let’s proceed as best we can. Let’s go to the workbook.

Let’s start at the top: “stays on task and isn’t watching the birds outside of the window” or “notices things most people miss” as being the most perceptive. I’m going to score her a 2 outta 5 on this one. She generally gets locked into something and sticks with it. Now, where I struggle answering this is that it’s sometimes difficult to direct her to do something like, say, stay still for photos because she keeps walking off, but in that case, I see myself as the distraction to her intention which is to stand up, notice where she wants to go and then proceed to walk there. Might not be the task that I want her to stick to, but when she’s destined to go there, she’ll throw up a stiff arm like Heisman to get there. Birds? What birds? The bird would have to knock her over for her to notice it.

How about noticing rainbows in oil spills? I’d say no, although, we haven’t seen many oil spills around town. I will say this, though, last night we went to the park and around the park there were small plastic bottle caps on the ground. Some would be partially buried and others would be hidden amongst some grass. She’d lock in on one from about five or ten feet away and would dig it up using her small little fingers. She’d pick them up, hand them to us and then keep moving. I know it’s not the same as watching rainbows in oil spills, but she sometimes notices stuff that I’d just walk right by. Most of the time, it ends up in her mouth, but that’s just life with a toddler, right? I’m giving her 3 outta 5 here.

Lastly, Ellison’s abilities to follow multiple directions. This one’s tricky. One day, I spent five hours trying to teach her how to change out the bag on a vacuum to no success. Two days ago, I tried to teach her how to simply change the batteries out on her crib aquarium so that she could do it herself. Her look of both amazement and confusion made me realize that she’s not too good at following directions. Only “NO” at this point. She has competency to follow directions of a baby chimp or caveman. “Oven hot!” That’s because she’s only 13 months old. We’re gonna go ahead and defer on this one. Too early to tell here.

So, scoring 5 outta 10 or, to scale, 2.5 out of a possible 5 on perceptiveness. That brings our total score now to 2.91 outta 5 on the SPIRITED SCALE, slightly down from last time where she was at 3.05.

You’ll notice my posts have become even more sporadic and random. That’s life with a toddler. You can’t just lock her in a closet anymore (that’s a joke…a bad one, mind you). I’m working on the top ten realities of life with a toddler maybe for this weekend. One thing’s true though, once she hit her feet, the entire world changed.

And, if Ellison’s not the best dressed girl on the block thanks to Mommy who has an incredible fashion sense.

And like I need a mirror to better accentuate my forehead wrinkles, how about this photo from a couple of weeks ago.Coming soon: Life with a Toddler: The New Norm, Highway to Elle: Traveling with our Baby, and Who Needs Sleep?


Daily Operation

Just Like Daddy Drinks

Finally happy to report that we’re moving on to greener (er whiter) pastures on the milk front with successfully moving to whole milk…just like daddy drinks.

Yep, it’s been a long road and tolling financially (thanks, insurance, for being there when we need you…hint of sarcasm…okay, heaping portions of sarcasm…I haven’t used you, insurance, but probably five or six times in the last ten years and this is how you treat me?), but she’s healthy, happy and can chug it down like her daddy and uncle. So, let’s look back at our lactosian journey.

BOOBY: Rejected.

SIMILAC: Rejected. Irritability. Took a swing at daddy.

SIMILAC SPECIAL: Rejected. Same symptoms. Daddy decided to not press charges for the punch to the throat citing “colicky fits.” Cheap, you can buy it at Wal-Mart or at Sam’s by the case. Come in little bottles. Looks like milk. Tastes like river water. Words like “Allimentum” become conversational in the household.

SOME WEIRD GREEN CAN OF POWDER: Provided by the pharmacy on a test run. We’ve hit rock bottom. Our pharmacy is giving us sample cans of powder for milk. It doesn’t even look like something you’d feed a baby. More like something you dilute with water and kill weeds with. Doesn’t smell like milk, doesn’t look like milk and doesn’t work with Ellison either. Irritability and rashes appear. Next please.

NUTRAMIGEN AA: The Cadillac of baby formula. Or Rolls Royce. Smells like rotten bread. Looks grey in color. Priced like high-grade cocaine. Not that I would necessarily know. We move from buying from a pharmacy to the online “Nutramigen Chase” on Ebay. Like buying formula in dark alleys, off the back of a truck at a rest stop. We even visit a woman locally who sells us this crap out of her front door for cash in hand. Thanks again, Insurance. You’re real clutch. Doing so saves us about 40% in the cost of a can. It still ain’t cheap running about $25-$30 a can. Can lasts three days. Ellison takes to it though and that’s all that matters in the end. Just remember that if you hear the word “Nutramigen” followed with a battery size, start lining up a supply like Freeway Rick.

SOY MILK: Ah. Finally we’re purchasing milk at a safe, well-lit grocery store. Actually shopping in the milk section of the store! It’s actually happening. Took about a year to get here. Soy milk’s not really milk, but as least we’re buying it in liquid form. It’s readily available, cheap, looks like milk and has a generous expiration date. We still look for the best deal, but you’re not having to save $20 a purchase anymore. We’re saving $.50 here or there. Checking account appreciates the help. No longer complaining about insurance. Our formula is now on the grocery list.

STRAIGHT-UP WHOLE MILK: Took about a week or two on soy just to make sure she’s handling it alright and then began transitioning into whole milk. You look for rashes. Irritability. Violent outbursts of energy. Assault. None of the above. We’ve been battling some sleeplessness, but seems to be more attributed to travel throwing her off schedule. Yep. She and I can actually toast now to the wonders of $3.00 gallons of milk. A gallon of Nutramigen AA, I calculate, would probably cost you around $70, just to put it in perspective.

Sorry for the sporadic posting lately. Toddler life is a gauntlet. Ellison’s starting to run. There’s direct correlation of when your toddler moves from crawling to walking then walking to running and decreasing free time, I believe. Your head has to be on a swivel because if that girl’s getting into trouble now, she’s doing it fast. It no longer takes her a minute and a half to walk over to the outlet or floor lamp. Nope. It takes precisely five seconds.

Ya’ll be good. Stay up. Love your neighbor. It’s a daily operation.

The Byford Files

An Epic Post About the Red Sox and Ellison

If you know me, you know I’m a Sox fan. There’s many other things of which I’m a fan, but when it comes to baseball, I’m a Sox fan. Exclusively. I don’t watch the Rangers. I don’t root for the AL in the All-Star Game. I don’t even really root for the game. I don’t care if it’s good for “the game.” I care if it’s good for the Sox. Everything is in context of the Sox. Which is why I found playing fantasy baseball as a particularly frustrating past time because, all of the sudden, I’m having to give a crap about other players in the league. The only time I care about someone else in the league is when either I went to high school with them, the Sox are playing them or the Sox are thinking about trading for them. Other than that, I don’t really care.

So, in case you happen to be one of the five people in the free world that didn’t see that the Sox set a new low for late-season failure, let me quickly rundown what happened. Sox were picked by every writer in America and across the globe to, with very little challenge, win the World Championship because they went out during the offseason and picked up Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez…two acquisitions that apparently automatically made them the best team baseball has ever seen. One writer wrote that they could likely win 110 games. Another asked if this was “the best team baseball had ever seen.” The superlatives were nauseating. Most of the hype was generated out of the outspoken Boston press and sarcastic NYC press outfits. But they should’ve just handed them the World Championship right then and there because, even though they hadn’t played a single game together, it was clear they were the best team anyone had ever seen. Baseball had never seen such an assembly of talent in one locker room. On paper, they were unstoppable.

On paper.

They start the season atrociously because no one knows each other. The pitching was off the mark. No one could stop the bleeding early. Then, they turned the ship in the right direction and played some beautiful baseball. They went on an absolute tear in June and July. Then, there was a little slide in August. And then September came. When September dawned on the Sox, they were knocked out of first by the rival Yankees, but still had a comfortable 9-game lead on the wild card, a position that the Sox are quite familiar with. Let’s put this thing in cruise control and win the wild card, right.

Well, Sox would have an insanely disastrous September. The likes that no one could comprehend. They’d only win seven of their last 27 games. The lead in the wild card disappeared and, on the last night of the of season (game #162), they’d relinquish their playoff spot to the Tampa Bay Rays who, once again, everyone was rooting for because they spend no money on talent and still win and the Sox spend tons of money on talent and don’t. Everyone hates the Sox. Everyone loves the Rays. But no one shows up to their games. And no one can name anyone on their team except Evan Longoria. Okay, it’s really that everyone hates the Sox. Watching them lose brings great satisfaction and harmony to the world. That’s right, we’re the new Yankees. The Yankees are just, uh, the old Yankees. And everyone seems to forget that the Phillies stockpile as much as the Sox and Yanks do, but they’re in the NL and no one in Texas cares about the NL. In fact, most Texans forget that the Astros even exist anymore.

There was no editorial content in that last paragraph. It was all fact.

I knew it was coming. In fact, I was hoping it was coming. You want your team to do well, sure, but this team wasn’t championship ready. They had no leaders on the field. They had leaders in the locker room. They had leaders in the bullpen. But there was no leader on the field of play during the game. Everyone was an individual star. There was no glue that held this team together. It was all dumb money. Built for speed. Built for endurance. But no cohesion. The second it started to go south in September, there was no stopping it. Only a Sox fan would tell you with a 9-game lead on the wild card in September that “this is gonna be tough.” I stopped watching for the better part of the month. Bigger things to tend to. Like Ellison. My lovely wife.

I went into “wake me up when October arrives” mode. Passively watching. Avoiding sports radio. Dan Patrick. Conversations with friends about baseball.

Then it all went south and the inevitable happened. In all defense of the Sox, September was like murderers row all month long. An astounding 24 of their 27 games within the month were divisional matchups. If you lose just ten of those games, it’s gonna be tough to hold a lead. The Sox lost 19 of those games. The AL East, again, proves to be the premier division in all of baseball. The Yankees held the best record in the AL and then two teams underneath the Yankees are the only real contenders for the wild card (unless you want to count the Angels). So 90% of our remaining games are against the AL East. Of the top five teams in the AL in home runs, four of them are from the AL East: New York, Boston, Toronto and Baltimore. The fifth? The Texas Rangers. Who were are three non-divisional games against in September? Damn right, the Texas Rangers. There was no breathing room all month long. How I longed for a series versus, hell, the Oakland A’s. The Minnesota Twins. The Cleveland Indians. Anyone other than the Yankees, the Blue Jays, the Rays or the Orioles. And we went into Youk-less, with a battered piecemeal pitching staff and, in result to the frankenstein pitching staff, an exhausted bullpen. It was the perfect storm. We’d throw Wakefield out there and he’d pitch up five innings of BP to some of the best long-ball hitting teams in the league. Beckett was beatable and complaining about something else again. Think it was his ankle this time. Jon “Birthing Hips” Lester couldn’t beat a junior varsity squad. Busses were burning up the Boston-Pawtucket highway with call-ups to help stop the bleeding. It just got worse and worse.

I said that losing over an entire month was like watching your dog die of parvo. It gets sicker and sicker and then you’re thinking, “Geez, just take her peacefully, God. Have mercy on the poor pup.” She dies and you find consolation in the fact that the suffering is over. Thank God. That’s not anywhere near as scarring as the 2003 ALCS where Aaron Boone would walkoff versus Tim Wakefield against a team that seemed like the best team the Sox had ever formed. That was the Sox’s year to win it all. Then Grady Little left Pedro in too long. It all unraveled and the Sox lost in truly “epic” fashion. That was like watching your dog get shot in the head. Seriously. It took two championships to help rid me of that horrible night and it still haunts me. Worst. Night. Ever.

I went to work that next day crawling. It was back then that, as a Sox fan, people actually felt sorry for you. Then you start winning championships and it turns to absolutely unrelenting bloodlust. I get it. People hate winners. You can win one, but win two and you’re hated. I remember in 2004, it seemed like everyone in the world was rooting for the Sox to beat the Yankees. You’d be watching the game wondering where did all of these Sox fans come from? Well, seven years removed from that championship and a historic collapse to boot, I think we’ve officially shook the bandwagon. Good. Back to being a lonely Sox fan in Texas.

Of course, it feels like that. I know that’s not true. I’ll be back to wearing my Sox hat this weekend. I was frustrated in my team yesterday, but I’m glad they didn’t make it to the playoffs because then they would’ve gotten swept by the Rangers and I would’ve had to hear it from “act like you been there before” Ranger fans for weeks afterwards. Yeah, no thanks. They get to worry about the Rays now.

“Epic collapses” are offset by “historic comebacks” like the 2004 ALCS against the hated Yankees. Of course, like then, it was more about the Yankees shriveling up and dying more than the Red Sox and their incredible comeback. It’s about the Sox and their collapse and not the Rays and their comeback against seemingly insurmountable gap in the standings. I’d agree, it was a collapse. One headline read a week ago: “Sox try not to lose three games in Baltimore.” Not “Sox try to win three in Baltimore.” It was not lose. Yeah, that about says it all.

I’ll probably watch a bit of the playoffs, but with little interest. I got Ellison now (my mother was probably wondering where in the hell I was gonna tie this into Ellison). Before, I would obsess about baseball. Everyday was a ritualistic preparation for game time. Ellison keeps me busy enough these days. Games are taped and watched in fast forward between the hour of 8:00 and 9:00pm. Everything is secondary to Ellison and my lovely wife at this point and I like it that way. Boston gets knocked out of the playoffs? Who cares. Less to worry about. Sure, I love watching the Sox win. Everyone loves watching their team win, but it’s no skin off my back if they don’t succeed. Except that I still have to endure the jeers and snide comments from the fan of every other team in the league. “Daddy, why does everyone hate you?”

Because daddy roots for the second most hated team in baseball. They don’t hate me, they hate my flag. It’s just one of those facts of life. They hate you when you’re ahead and stomp you when you’re down. Man, how’s that for uplifting life lessons? Okay, mom and Grandma, here’s your picture. I’m sorry I’ve neglected you.

Daily Operation

Choo-Choo Soul and the Dancing Daddy

Choo Choo Soul is a children’s entertainment act composed of singer Genevieve Goings as a hip-hop train conductor and her partner, Constantine “DC” Abramson, a dancer and beatboxer dressed as a railroad engineer.–Wikipedia

Does any of that make any sense to you?

Watching the Disney Channel the other day (new regiment) with Ellison and we’re dusting off another episode of “Mickey Mouse Club House,” out of breath from doing the Hot Dog Dance, if you know what I mean. And when I say “we’re,” I mean “I’m.” Ellison begins walking away (which is how she lets you know you’re fun, just not that fun). I turn to follow her when, over my shoulder, I hear this faint echoing sound that actually resembles the genre formerly known as hip hop. It has the rhythmic quality, spoken vocals. I swear I heard someone beatboxing (spit-drumming). I look back toward the television to see kids dancing like their being tased, some dude hovering his hands above two circular devices that look somewhat like turntables, but they’re not (we’d call that “working the ‘ones’ and ‘twos'” back in the day) and some girl in this sort of goofy flight attendant uniform urging the kids to dance, jump, do the robot. Get down.

I’m perplexed. Struck. A little bummed.

“Choo Choo Soul,” at face value, is a harmless, fun, two-and-a-half-minute-dance-like-a-monkey green-screen extravaganza. If you blinked, you might miss it. It’s filler for a hugely successful Disney Channel who has little missteps and that, I’ve found, sticks to a fairly proven format of programming. Non-offensive, kid-tested, mommy-approved, educational, G-rated.

“Choo Choo Soul,” to an old hip hop head, represents something else. It’s like taking hip hop and diluting it, adding heaping cups of sugar, dressing it up in funny costumes and Wal-Marting the content to ensure that there’s nothing objectionable, nothing real about the end product. Let’s say that hip hop didn’t start in the seedy streets of Queens or the Bronx. No, let’s say that hip hop was born in romper rooms and pre-school classrooms. It erases 30 years of recorded history and just act like hip hop fell out of the sky overnight and got shoehorned into Disney Channel programming like a long-form commercial. See also Boogiemporium’s review of “School Bus Rap.”

But is it really necessary to be so possessive of hip hop? Like I’m the “realness police” that has to qualify everything on its level of authenticity. I mean does it really need to represent a realness? Should I shame them for misrepresentin’?  Does Mickey misrepresent mice? Does Jiminy misrepresent bugs? Does Simba misrepresent lions? Who cares, really? That’s what you do with the world, I suppose. You edit your own speech around kiddos. Does that mean you’re misrepresenting yourself?

So that brings us back to “Choo-Choo Soul” on the Disney Channel, where graffiti is apparently permissible, trains dance and where you don’t call it “rap,” you call it “hip hop” mainly because we never called it “gangsta hip hop,” it was “gangsta rap” and, since then, “rap” is bad and “hip hop” is conscious. As in, it’s not “Christian rap”, it’s “Christian hip hop” which probably why “School Bus Rap” didn’t succeed. Had L.Hood called it “School Bus Hip Hop,” he’d be happily retired now. What’s in a name? Everything. In fact, just call it “soul” because “hip hop” is still a little edgy for kids and toddlers. “Soul” implies wholesomeness, goodness and avoids completely that weird grey matter we call “hip hop.” Choo-Choo Soul. 

I was annoyed, a little irritated by what I saw at first. Probably the same thing foreigners go through at Epcot Center. Genevieve bounces around popping collars and dusting shoulders off while laughing moronically. She’s like if Tinkerbell and Fergie were one. That’s nightmarish. And Constantine, the chiseled grinning conductor of the train, achieves new levels of uncomfortable fake DJ where he fake-scratches on fake-tables with no crossfader while beatboxing like Justin Timberlake, who practically patented the “smiling beatbox.” See if you’re not completely hypnotized by this.

As I spent a week, waking up Ellison, getting her dressed, making our way to the living room for a little Mickey Mouse Club House followed by Choo-Choo Soul and spent four days on the Choo-Choo Soultrain everyday before heading off to work, I found there to be some endearing qualities to the show. Genevieve became less annoying and even slightly entertaining. I’d find myself audibly responding to her with things like, “Well, good morning, Genevieve!” or “Yeah, let’s dance!” Even if, at times, a little sarcastic and superficial, my dialogue would increase throughout the week. Constantine “DC,” however, became like some ninja, samurai, sorcerer or warlock that I couldn’t keep my eyes off of. That dude puts in two and a half minutes of absolute dynamite into ever episode. He’s the new hardest working man in show biz. His skills are freaking impeccable. I would marvel at him as he’d beatbox, backspin and then break out into some hawdcore pop-and-lock action seamlessly from one move to the next and never leaving that million dollar smile behind. His accomplishments in each field of hip hop studies are impressive. It’s obvious he’s put in work. Don’t believe me? Check out this nastiness. Dude puts in work.

The transformation that has taken place over this week within me is quite remarkable. I think, like little Ellison, I’m a little standoffish (which apparently is a word because spellcheck ignored it) at first, but it doesn’t take long to open yourself up to the experience. For me, Choo-Choo Soul is an unfortunate rule of the game. Toys are annoying. Shows are annoying. Lullabies are annoying. You even feel like punching Mickey somedays. But once you choose to accept that this is what you’re given to play with, it’s not that bad. And once you learn to dance to it, you can enjoy it. I could sit around and continue to evaluate all children’s programming on my unfair grading scale which holds all hip hop derivatives to a gold standard of Public Enemy, De La Soul and EPMD or I could just learn to appreciate them for what they are…fun for Ellison and daddy.

You can see where it’d be hard to fall into “I’m absolutely annoyed with all this stupid sing-and-dance crap, I’m tired, I’m pissed, I had a bad day and just leave me alone” routine. Disney Channel is always at level ten. There’s no Disney after hours. They’re always dancing like idiots. It’s a change of pace for a 34 year old who had enjoyed things his way (or, well, his wife’s way) for the last ten or so years. You want so badly to impose your taste on your child, but you quickly learn that your music is not as entertaining as Mickey’s.

Daddy dancing is a gas, though.

Return of the Product

Ladybug Themes (Continued)

Call me Old School. The Smithsonian has already called me about my cell phone. I haven’t listened to a new album in almost two years. I can quote Tribe Called Quest in delta sleep. I like James Brown and say “dad-gummit.” Call me Old School.

So, the other day, my lovely wife tells me that she’s going to start the hunt for a Halloween costume for Miss Ellison Jayne. She’s hunting for, what else, a ladybug get-up. Now, we all know that Halloween has turned into a billion-dollar industry. And they didn’t get there selling Batman costumes to six year old boys. Nope, they did crafting bizarrely horrific costumes for acne-ridding teenage boys and no-way-in-hell inappropriate costumes for pre-teen girls and, later, stripper outfits for women. Now, I’m no Halloween historian. I only know where I come from which is a small, middle-class block in Lubbock, Texas and Halloween was where you’d dress up in some crude representation of your favorite superhero cheaply manufactured with funny-smelling plastic. You wore it for as long as it would stay together and then it’d fall apart because the little elastic pieces would snap or break midway through the night leaving you to just kinda hold the mask over your face. They were uncomfortable, always about three inches too small in all dimensions (in my case) and you couldn’t wait to get home, toss it in the trash and eat your loot. That or you made your own costume which was completely acceptable if your parents were strapped for cash and, like most sensible family, didn’t think Halloween costumes and decor was more important than, say, eating and staying alive. But you had to wear something if you were go trick-er-treating. For more on the rules of Halloween, go ahead and click on this: THE ROOT DOWN’s RULES FOR HALLOWEEN.

Now, I don’t mean to be the downer or party pooper, but there’s some serious issues in this country if, as parents, we find it acceptable to dress our kids up like some pedophilia fantasy and strut them through a neighborhood going door-to-door of strangers like some sort of bizarre livestock show.

That’s the first time, I think, that I’ve used the “we, as parents” declaration on this site. I really thought that the first time would’ve been more honorable and valorous…not talking about slutty Halloween costumes. 

I know that many parents have carved out their own Halloween customs since the days of “razor blades in the caramel apple” days of the late-80s. Maybe they only visit houses of people they know or, like in Amarillo, where they only go to the rich neighborhoods because, let’s be frank here, you can only really trust people with money. Or maybe we go to Fall Festivals which gotta be really confusing for kiddos. Like you don’t call it Halloween, but we still dress up and get candy for what? The arrival of fall? I’d rather make the tradition sitting around and watching the Red Sox win World Championships to celebrate autumn’s arrival. Whatever, though. It’s safe. Reverent. Childproof. And the vendors aren’t poisoning the candy.

But you still see either the costumes becoming scarier (for boys) or sluttier (for girls). Now that I have my own baby girl, I’m not particularly fond of the word “slut.” Reality is that I was never fond of the word, used it a few times in high school when it seemed appropriate, but I kinda protest such derogatory terms these days because they’re somewhat slanderous to our beautiful daughters and sisters.


Not that it’s totally objectionable, but I would probably enforce the old grade school “below-the-knee” rule on these two. I might approve the older girl’s costume if she was performing in a ballet or playing volleyball, but not going door-to-door soliciting candy from strangers. The younger girl is safe only because she’s smaller and she’s wearing the same skirt. It just looks bigger on her. Or how about this ladybug costume:


Not even old enough to drive and she’s dressing like a trashy waitress at the bar in a brothel. What is this? What kinda world do we live in where parents are dressing their kids like this? I wouldn’t even approve this for a 21 year old. Not if you want you child to respect themselves and not feel it’s necessary to sell yourselves for validation from your male counterparts. How about, then, taking such notion to the absurd level…

Seriously. There’s only one thing on your mind if you leave the house wearing this here and it ain’t sitting around eating Skittles until you get a bellyache. Nope. This is the type of outfit that made Halloween a billion dollar industry. So, when I say that there’s no such thing as an honest dollar, this could be Exhibit A. Anyone that tries to tell you that this is consequence-less is blind, deaf and dumb.

These get-ups were five-to-one over what we were really looking for when we Google’d “ladybug Halloween costumes.”

What we were looking for was this:Had no idea that “ladybug” was some sort of gross perversion when we decided to dress up Ellison as one. Pretty obvious this ain’t the same world I grew up in. Is there some sort of rock I’ve been living under since I graduated college? Am I truly that clueless? I feel like unfrozen caveman lawyer here. Am I alone in defense of our daughters? I’m bracing for the chorus of groaning “just waits.”

Call me Old School.