PracticalDad Slang:  Of Opies, Forcepushing and Duckpecking

Every job has its own slang and over the years, I’ve heard any number of words and phrases to describe childrearing.  Here are some of my favorites.

Blowout (n)

A blowout is anytime that an infant or toddler defecates in such volume or force that the mess escapes the diaper and travels throughout the clothing.  The worst blowout occurs with the mess traveling up the back and soiling the clothing; since much infant clothing involves something that’s pulled over the head, this type will throw a wrench in the schedule as removing the clothing – and mess – will almost certainly get into the hair, requiring a bath.

Junior’s blowout was so massive that I almost called in the National Guard.

Colt (adj, n)

The stage in development in which a child’s body has outgrown it’s own capacity to adequately control and manuever it, marked by outsized hands and feet.

(After watching Junior trip twice and fall once enroute to the curb)  Junior’s looking rather coltish this morning, isn’t he?  See Also:  Now that his shoe size is higher than his ability to count, he’s officially in the colt stage.

Charlie (n)

The spoken part of the phrase, the unspoken first part being "half-ass".  Half-ass Charlie refers to those kids and teens who will do the most slapdash job possible just to say that it’s done.  This term was used by a school custodian in a conversation about students who’d been tasked with helping to clean as discipline for misbehavior.

She should know better than that, that job’s the work of an absolute Charlie.

Duckpecking (n, v)

Source:  A mother who was commenting on the parenting of teens, it’s like being pecked to death by ducks.  The repeated and sometimes infuriating practice of being hounded by ‘tweeners and teens who persist in their interruptions and requests, even despite having been consistently given an answer already.

When Junior doesn’t like the answer that he’s given, he goes right into duckpecking mode.  See Also:  He’s a nasty little duckpecker, ain’t he?

Facepalm (adj)

The physical reaction of rubbing one’s face with the hand out of sheer disbelief at what Junior has just done or said.  This is sometimes a precursor to a massive headache or mild stroke.

Mike had a facepalm moment when he walked into Junior’s room and found that the boys had used the wall for knife-throwing practice after practicing their signatures with permanent marker on the bedroom’s hardwood floor. 

Force Push (n, v)

An action, typically used by kids and tweeners, to keep annoying people away.  When the user is being bothered by someone, he either spits or heavily licks his palm so that it’s copiously wet and then sticks it in the face of the annoying party, thus repelling him backwards to avoid having spit rubbed in his face.  The term is inspired by the Jedi of the Star Wars films (although I’ve never seen a clip of Obi-Wan hocking a loogie into his hand). 

Randy wouldn’t stop looking over my shoulder during free reading so I did a force push to get him to go away.

Monkeyhammering (adj, v)

Based upon the premise that if you give a monkey a hammer, that’s what he’ll use for every problem and challenge.  This is the situation in which a child of any age uses what they know to achieve the task at hand, regardless of the damage done to the item.

Several days after reading this and mentally noting the phrase on Zerohedge just last week, my wife and I got to experience it first hand.

The kids really monkeyhammered the KitchenAid Stand-up Mixer; when I asked them to clean the dried batter off of it, they tossed it into a sink full of hot, soapy water and then rinsed it off with the spray nozzle.

Opie (n)

Name used to describe any (O)ther (P)erson’s kid.  Even if the kid winds up spending more time with you than at their own home, they’re an Opie.  Likewise, your own kid is someone else’s Opie.

I went to pick up Junior after practice and ended up giving rides home to three other Opies.

Waldo (n)

A child with a tendency to wander away, as in Where’s Waldo now?

Oh great, I’m chaperoning Fiona during the field trip.  I hear that she’s a Waldo.

Windowlicker (n)

A term once used by another father as we discussed the upcoming Kindergarten year for our respective sons, who are two weeks apart in age.  It refers to a kid who, while not retarded or dumb, is simply odd and spastic.

Y’know, every father’s fear is that when the bus pulls away on that first morning, his kid’s gonna be the windowlicker.  The one kid who, while all the other kids are waving goodbye, is licking the back window instead.

I still laugh when I think about that particular remark.



If You Give A Mouse A Cookie, v. 2

If you check on one of your kids before bed, you’re liable to be told that they don’t have any underwear for tomorrow.

If you ask whether they put it in the hamper, because you just did laundry and saw very little of it, you’re liable to be told that they threw it away.

If you ask why in the hell they threw away their underwear, they’re liable to say that it didn’t fit anymore.

If you ask why in the hell didn’t they tell you at a time when you could actually do something about it, they’re liable to say that they forgot.

If you ask them to wear something small for tomorrow until you get replacements, they’re liable to complain that it’ll be uncomfortable and whine about why can’t you go out to the 24 hour Walmart NOW to get it for them?

If you turn out the lights on them and proceed to say goodnight to another child, the other is liable to say that they overheard and by the way, his underwear is tight as well.

If you go the store the next day you realize that the two boys are similar enough in size that Medium is going to closely resemble Large and that if one of them gets the wrong size by mistake, he’s liable to refuse to wear it.

If you return the wrongly stored underwear to the original owner, he’s liable to complain that he won’t wear underwear touched by his brother and will pitch a minor fit.

If you tell him to suck it up since it wasn’t worn, he’s liable to complain and whine about why can’t you go to the 24 hour Walmart NOW to get a new pair?

If this continues, you decide to let them go to bed without any night-time goodnights and checks and they’re liable to complain about how uncaring you are.

If you then go back to checking on the kids before bedtime, you’re liable to be told that they don’t have any underwear for tomorrow.



PracticalDad Physics

The more time that you spend around kids, the more you learn.  When the kids were younger, I realized that you can quantify the backseat nonsense on a trip.  Now that my kids comprise the gamut from elementary to high school, I better understand the concept of the Space-Time Continuum. 

According to the theory, we exist in dimensions that comprise not only the physical dimensions of space – height, width, depth – but also time.  But I’ve realized that this only applies to adults since children and teens don’t exist in the two until they’re actually adults.  Like with jobs and responsibilities.

Smaller children exist first solely in the dimension of time.  They actually take up almost no space – you can easily fit eight children into a double closet – but require a considerable investment in time.  Can you tie my shoe?  No, the other way ‘cuz the laces are touching the ground.  Will you watch a movie with me for the thirteenth time?  Can we make cookies now?  Later?  Again?  Daddy, he threw my bunny in the potty!  Daddy, can you help me find Wally?  I really need him to sleep with and haven’t seen  him since last Christmas.  But I really need Wally NOW!  Children will expand to occupy the time continuum and that is exponential to the number of children in the household.

But that changes somewhere around the age of thirteen.  It’s as though the onset of puberty causes a mysterious shift as the structure of the time continuum collapses upon itself and the space demands blossom like an ebola virus in a closed monkey colony.  Teens have absolutely no concept of time.  They can pass hours engaged in electronic conversations filled with acronyms or watch the entire Hannah Montana weekend marathon without voluntarily shifting from the sofa.  Oh, it’s really Sunday night and there’s school tomorrow?  I’ve got a whole ‘nother day so no problem on the Science Fair project, I’ll get on it real soon.  Hey!  Why do I have to empty a trash can that’s overflowing?  Can’t you ask me earlier?  Oh.  The space continuum not only pertains to their corporeal selves, but the items that they generate.  Soda cans.  Waste tissues with dried blood, mucus and/or acne residue.  Clothing that blooms from the fertile soil of the recently emptied hamper even though it appears already clean.  My mind simply boggles.

I prefer to work in the time continuum with the smaller ones and I really do miss that element.  But the teens represent a greater challenge and I’ll just have to risk a warp breech as I impose the time continuum on the spatial requirements of the elder siblings.  The results are sometimes a bit destructive.


Why Isn’t It Done?  Pinball

What makes me most crazy about raising children is the issue with estimating the timeframe on completing tasks.  Having one children is akin to playing "If you give a mouse a cookie", but the presence of three makes it damn nigh impossible.  The constant back and forth amongst kids adds considerable time to any particular task, especially if you’ve curtailed the electronics.

Today is a case in point.

Chores are delayed in order to play taxi for Grandma, who’s having her eyeballs dilated.  After toting, hauling and having lunch with her and Youngest, I get home to find that Eldest is just returning from a babysitting gig and Middle is back from the pool.  Meanwhile, the rest of the yard needs mowing, the bathrooms cleaned, dinner cooked, Youngest must review flash cards and Middle needs to start a for-pay household project before eating and being delivered to a work session for an Eagle Scout project.

The scene commences with Eldest and Middle commencing to their tasks while I start cleaning the master bath.  With one ear-bud dangling to keep tabs on the activity, I get to the commode when I hear squawking from Youngest.  He’s responding to tart language from cleaning gloved Middle, who’s reacting to Youngest’s repeated play with a stuffed monkey that emits a nails-on-blackboard recorded screech.  Middle has repeatedly asked him to stop, but it’s a challenge to see if Middle can be delayed in his task.  That’s about three minutes of eavesdropping, quizzing, and separating the irksome brothers.  Since this isn’t the monkey’s first offense, he’s sent to the high-shelf hoosgow for a five day sentence.  I return to my meeting with the toilet.

Right after getting back, Eldest interrupts with the news that the mower and gas can are parched and have been since Middle didn’t tell me yesterday that they were suffering when he finished the front part of the yard.  Because of days of rain and growth, the yard needs done today lest I then have to adjust the mower height upwards and move up the next week’s cut.  So it’s off for a twenty minute jaunt to the convenience store pumps so that the lawn can be done.  I again return to my friend and then move on to the bathroom counters.

Now I hear the sound of a brewing riot downstairs as Middle and Younger bicker.  My policy now is to ignore it until the tenor reaches the level of incipient violence, at which point I descend downstairs again.  Charge and counter-charge are leveled until a comment is made about an earlier situation that requires additional investigation.  I’m moving from attempted assault to Conspiracy and more time with Eldest reveals further behaviors that require correction.  The child in question requires discipline but since it can’t wait any longer, more time passes as I handle the offenses. 

Unfortunately, since part of the discipline requires writing apology notes to the offended siblings, I now need to help him spell what needs to be said. 

Damn, another five minutes shot and the clock ’til dinner is running.  Note to self:  no more apology notes until they can operate Spellcheck.

I manage to finish the counters and move onto the shower when the phone rings and it’s my mate with the need to talk.  Some things can’t wait and I settle into the dining room chair to discuss things when she blurts out Oh God, Middle has the Scout session right now.  And I won’t be making it home for dinner.  I hang up and run upstairs to find that Middle is happily cleaning off in the shower and has to be chased out.  After several more minutes – with no dinner on the horizon – I grab the other two and we proceed with Middle to the meeting site.  Because this locale is much further away than the usual place, Eldest and Youngest fetch the ball and some gloves from the van – every well-stocked minivan now carries a ball and multiple gloves – to toss for an hour until Middle is finished. 

After which, we scoot to a nearby McDonalds for fast food and to hell with the home-cooking.  We arrive home near dark to find my mate – their mother – on the phone for business and fixing a quick meal, which I finish preparing for her.  Now the evening routine has to play out with bath, catch-up conversation and dogwalk.

And tomorrow, I plan to actually finish the bathroom.  And feel as though I’ve accomplished something.


Hangin’ with the Kids

Spend enough time around them and you’ll be amazed at what they’ve concocted to deal with life and language.  To wit:

  • The Force Push.  A means of discouraging the kid on the playground who chases you or constantly follows you.  As soon as you realize that the kid is approaching, either lick or spit into your hand and suddenly thrust it towards their face.  They typically recoil and you can further drive them back without contact by slowly advancing on them.  Simple, and it beats going to the teacher and earning the reputation of a tattle-tale.
  • Epic Fail.  A phrase meaning that you failed in a huge way.  I’d seen it on the internet, but was surprised to hear from a teenager.
  • Failtacular.  Shared by the daughter of an acquaintance, this is a failure of such epic proportions that it should be counted and considered as a win.

As I see them, I’ll catalog more…

You Know You’re Spending Time with the Kids When…

  • You startle a co-worker at lunch by sticking your finger in your mouth and reaching over to wipe a dab of ketchup off of his chin.
  • You get sucked into a heated debate whether Marvel is better than DC and all the reasons that Aquaman is a loser.
  • You’re in public and state that you have to go to the potty.
  • Your kid is in public and excuses herself to go to the restroom.
  • You have kid tunes in your head and find yourself searching for Roger Day’s Mosquito Burrito for your iPod.
  • You can name the characters on iCarly and any other Nick/Disney live-action show.
  • You rue the day that your kid refers to Barney as a giant purple cash-cow.
  • You can look at your kid and notice whether something’s going to fit before he even puts it on.
  • You can visualize how something happened between the kids without even being there.
  • Your kids come over to spontaneously hug you and try to pick you up.
  • You tell them you love them too, now put me down.

If You Give a Cub Scout a Pinewood Derby Kit…

With apologies to Laura Numeroff.

If you give a young boy a Pinewood Derby race car kit, he’s going to want to build it.

And despite being before school in the morning, it’s a snow delay so you say okay.

You ask him to get pencil and paper to draw some ideas of what he wants the car to look like while you pull out the peanut butter and jelly.

He can’t find a pencil, so you put the jelly jar on the counter while you help him find one and the elder sibling decides to open the race car kit box, causing a fight between the two kids.

You separate the kids and get the other child settled doing something else, and finish helping the cub scout find a pencil.

The pencil is brand new so you send the cub scout to sharpen it while you return to packing lunches.

He can’t get the sharpener to work so you go over to find it overflowing with shavings, needing to be emptied.

You give the shavings tray to the cub scout to empty as you return to the kitchen and you hear a crash of glass as the elder sibling – who’s decided to help – drops the jelly jar on the floor.

As you enter to see what’s happened, the boys start scuffling again as the older sibling squawks at and pushes the cub scout for walking across the spilled jelly.

When you separate the boys, you step in jelly as the tray of pencil shavings is knocked from the cub scout’s hands and across the kitchen floor.

The elder child then steps in the mound of jelly spewed across the linoleum.

You thank God that both are wearing shoes but have to keep them on amidst the shards of sticky jelly glass.  You have to have them walk out of the spill zone, spreading the mess like grape-flavored ebola virus.

You help each kid get their shoes off since they don’t want to get their hands dirty and toss the shoes into the garage, then quickly return to separate them in separate parts of the living room.

As you wipe off the shoes in the garage and return to start clearing the debris from the kitchen floor, the scout retrieves the kit box and returns to open it in the living room, then spilling four nail axles across the light colored carpet.

You respond to the yelling and insist that they not move while you run upstairs to don another pair of shoes so that you can carry them out of the living room.

The elder child sees the clock and insists that the bus will be coming shortly, so you carry them to the garage to put on their sticky shoes, then run inside to get their coats and backpacks.  En route, you look at the only-started sandwiches and tell them that they’re buying as you shove them out through the garage.

And once you’ve found the nails and finished mopping the kitchen floor, it dawns on you that one of them doesn’t have enough on the lunch ticket for lunch.  So you have to get the keys to take lunch money for a meal.

Or maybe not.

And the kids wonder why you’re cranky when the Pinewood Derby kit is brought to you that evening, because if you give a cub scout a Pinewood Derby kit…

IQ:  A PracticalDad Explanation

They say that life is a balancing act and as parents, we’re expected to maintain the balance in many ways.  Work versus home.  Mercy versus discipline.  Savings versus bills – well, not so much.  Keeping the kids during a trip versus leaving them at a McDonald’s Playland.

At what point do I snap?

Travelling with one kid isn’t difficult, but the stress level rises with the number and ages of the kids along for the ride.  The sheer volume of nonsense from the backseat makes the balance more difficult to maintain.

"Look at the Rocky Mountains!"  "Where?"  "I dunno, we’re in Virginia."

"My name Jimmy Bob, my name Jimmy Bob, my name Jimmy Bob, my name Jimmy Bob, my name Jimmy Bob…"

"Get your foot out of my cupholder!"  "I don’t have room for my feet!"  "I don’t care, get your foot out of my cupholder!"  "Yeah, well your butt’s touching mine!"

"Don’t do that, that’s gross!"  "Well don’t look."  Oooh, gross!  Dad, he’s looking at me!  Make him stop!"

And as I sat up front and let the nonsense wash over me like a muddy rain, I realized that the balance between tolerant and ticked is quantifiable and objective.

Tolerance exists where XL > IQ, but as IQ approaches XL, then the upper limits of tolerance give way to ticked.  Mathematically, XL is defined as the eXasperation Level and IQ is defined as the Idiocy Quotient.  For calculation purposes, the calculation of each and components of each are:

 IQ = (d)(t)(Vcs)n where d = distance of trip

                                          t = traffic levels (defined by NHSA definitions)

                                          Vcs = Volume of the confined space

                                          n = number of children involved

Also, XL = (e)(1/Vcs)(h)-n where e = ease of departure, as measured by blood pressure

                                                        Vcs = Volume of confined space

                                                        h = hours slept

                                                        n = number of children

All of these variables will have an impact on the delicate balance on the trip.  Some are uncontrollable, since you can’t start a trip having left a child behind, while others can be controlled.  If you have more than two children, don’t try to take them across the Southeast US in a subcompact, rent a U-Haul.

However, you can make sure that you get sufficient rest and plan ahead so that the departure is easier than it has to be.  This might even entail starting days in advance so that all of the bases are covered.  Setting ground rules and consequences that are fair and easily applied.  Have activities planned for the trip:  games, music time, video time, quiet time.

The difference is that while you can control your variables, your kids can’t control theirs.  Remember that, and you can actually sit back and enjoy some of the nonsense.  So long as they don’t touch and invade one another’s private space.

Career Training for a Practical Dad

It’s a sunny and hot July morning in DC, when you understand why the English used to consider the British Embassy posting as a tropical assignment.  The spouse has gone to work for the first time after her maternity leave and I’m on my own after a weekend of cramming and preparation for my first time with the infant girl.  I’ve managed to feed and change her without dropping her on her head or setting fire to the crib.  She’s been successfully tucked in for a nap – I hate the phrase "putting her down" as it sounds sinister – and when I descend the stairs, the swelling confidence is overcome by the clutter in the sink and the pile of laundry on the sofa.  And it’s the first of many times that I’ll ask myself:

     What the hell do I do now?

What can prepare a former corporate rat, a business/economics-degreed suit, for a life at home raising children?  It’s not like I took Home Economics – excuse me, it’s Family and Consumer Science now, thank you – or even paid close attention when we visited with friends and their newborns.

Fourteen years later, I understand that the business/economics curriculum is perhaps the best education for being a stay-at-home parent.

Child #1

With the first child, you spend your time focusing on the concepts learned in Human Resource Management.  As Maslow described it in his Hierarchy of Needs, you want your little prodigy to go beyond what you’ll ever accomplish and attain the highest level of the hierarchy:  self-actualization.  Even after an ‘A’ in the class, I’m still not certain what it means; I do know that it sounds suspiciously like what some old-line Catholics consider a sin.

Get out of there right now, Aloysius!  Are you self-actualizing again?  Father Tim preached against that last month!

Regardless, you work to assure that Junior can reach his full potential and astound the world.  Who knows doing what.

Child #2

That perspective changes when the second child arrives and in a short period, you’ve begun to spend more time utilizing your Business Law background.  Especially property rights.  And labor relations/negotiations.  Don’t get me started on justice and fairness.

Sharing and altruism might be innate in some children, but they require effort to cultivate.  Even when you’ve convinced little Vincent that he has old toys that can go to "Sister Mary Margaret’s Home for Destitute and Wayward Children", if he sees little sister caressing a disemboweled, scabrous Teddy Bear, it will become the most beloved friend that he ever had.  And then there’s: 

No, Vincent.  You can’t take that toy away from Hortense after letting her play with it for two weeks.  That’s not sharing.  It’s wrong and you’re estopped from doing that.

I grew up in a "Highway Household" – so long as your feet are under my table, it’s my way or the highway – so it’s still grating to have children try to negotiate with you.  I understand that it’s how they learn and test their limits, but cleaning your room is just something that you do. 

Daddy, if I put away ALL of my toys, can I have a cookie?  And if I really put them where they belong, can I have a 50% COLA in my allowance?

No, Vincent.  Clean your room before I put a 50% increase in your donation to Sister Mary Margaret’s.  Got me?

Child #>=3

By now, you’ve moved onto the Operations Management portion of the curriculum.  The daily schedule – especially with older children – becomes an exercise worthy of the "Traveling Salesman" problem.

Hortense has a 3:45 Tuesday basketball practice at St Matilda’s while Vincent has a 4:15 guitar practice across town at Mrs. Shyster’s studio.  Vincent will be done in a half-hour while Hortense has Brownies at 5:15 until 6:00, at which time Vincent has his soccer practice at the Fieldhouse.  Remember that the bus wouldn’t even arrive at their stop until 3:40, so you’re picking them up at school.  Being children, meaning that they sometimes can’t find their tushies with both hands, you’re obligated to pack the van with two sets of gym clothing, a guitar and sufficient books and toys for little Abner, who’s begun to grow roots into the carseat.  Given the above, what’s for dinner?  Extra credit is identifying what vegetables will be part of the meal.

The flip side to Operations is Inventory Control.  Cost Accounting teaches that there are various approaches to the control of a firm’s inventory.

FIFO (First In, First Out) – the kids’ clothes are used regularly and the drawer contents are rotated to assure that Vincent and Hortense routinely wear all of their clothing.

LIFO (Last In, First Out) – the kids’ clothes are managed such that the last items in the drawer are used first by Vincent and Hortense.  The consequence is that some clothes are worn more than others and that really lovely outfit from Aunt Florence will see the light of day just when it gets dontated to Sister Mary Margaret’s.

JIT (Just In Time) – the inventory mechanism in which the daily wardrobe consists solely of what’s available in the dryer that morning.  It would be easier to just move the dryer into Vincent’s bedroom, but that would entail upgrading the outlet to 220.

But although the focus changes with each new addition, you still make the effort to come back again and again to Maslow.  And one more extra-credit question:  Was Maslow Catholic?

First Lullaby

In War of the Worlds, Tom Cruise croons a war-zone lullaby to his daughter – a horrible, tone-deaf rendition of Little Deuce Coupe.  He can’t sing and doesn’t know squat about lullabies, but he does manage to do it right.

During the first several weeks of a child’s life, the feedings happen every several hours, non-stop.  But that doesn’t mean that the baby will necessarily want to sleep after nursing.  My first night stint with our baby was terrifying; my wife was back to sleep and I carried this small package that was only grudgingly giving way to sleep.  "Ah," I thought, "hit the rocker and turn out the light, sing a lullaby and turn out the kid."  Simple.  So we settled into the chair in a darkened nursery and the only song that I could remember at 3 AM was the Washington Redskins fight song.  You know the one:

Hail to the Redskins!

Hail Victory!

Braves on the Warpath!

Fight for old DC!

No, wait.  What was that one that James Taylor did?  Oh yeah, the Redskins fight song.  Wasn’t there one about the cradle and a treetop?  How does that go?  Yeah, being circled by braves on the warpath, that’s the one.  Geez, it wasn’t even preseason yet.  Multiple efforts and that same sorry team song continued to clutter my mind.  So, I gave in and worked with it and it finally came out like Tom’s Little Deuce Coupe.  Very soft and calm, and I found that when sung in waltz time, it worked in this bizarro way.  My little girl finally gave up and I tucked her in, then stumbled out of the room.  Only then did I do the tomahawk chop.

And the next day, I made it a point to learn some real lullabies.  But I haven’t forgotten the Redskins fight song.