Here’s the real debate.

You remember that great Seinfeld episode where they go to visit that couple that just had a baby? And the baby was kind of, well, hideous? Funny episode. But it made me remember when I first had kids. I prefer to go back further than that, but for the point of today’s story I won’t.

So let’s pick an age. How about when my daughter was four and my son was one. Man, were they cute. And lovable. Nothing they did annoyed me. Of course today I cannot stand almost anything about them, but this isn’t about that old, CONSTANT complaint. This is about how I used to hold them and play with them and they laughed and it was beautiful. And I remember whenever I saw another parent with an older child — perhaps a teenager, perhaps even just a ten or eleven-year-old — I would always wonder this: “Would I still love my kids as much as I do now when they are no longer this cute?”

Maybe it’s a strange thought. Maybe not. But it wasn’t so much wonder as it was worry. I worried that when my kids were no longer in the adorable category that I wouldn’t love them quite as much. I knew I would always love them. But I feared that it would just be less. And if that did happen, then that would take my superficiality to a whole new, lower level. And I didn’t want that. So, yeah, I guess this is actually more about my ego, and about how I perceive myself, than it is about my own kids.

Am I the only parent who has ever had this thought? Anyone else? Anyone? No? Oh well. So now of course I have the answer. My kids are older. They are no longer adorable. So…do I love them less than I did when they were scrumptious four and one-year-olds? Hell yes! Sorry. But that’s the truth. I know it sounds mean. But I’m nothing if not honest about my feelings. Thus this outlet called my blog. Anyway, does loving them less make me a superficial ogre? I don’t think so. Because here are the facts: At ages one and four they were cute, lovable, wanted to be with me, needed me, cried when I left them. Now? They are surly, rude, downright mean, cry when I approach. I’m a human being, people! I have feelings! There’s only so much unrequited love a man can take.

So now the only mystery is that when they get older, and nicer, and more pleasant to be around…will I love them more than I do right now? I know where the smart money is, but I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.

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Felix Baumgartner, the Debate #2, the Yankees, and Kobe’s big mouth…

…are all interesting topics. But you don’t need me for that stuff. That’s what Google, the Huffington Post, and my Aunt Merle are for. I know it’s been a while, but today I am here to talk about…my mother-in-law! Yes, again. You already know that she once tried to stab my father-in-law with a fork, that she turned me into a monster the day she made fettuccine and meatballs when I was anticipating spaghetti and meatballs, and that when she visits us, no matter how early I come down in the morning for my private cup of coffee she is there.

Well, turns out my mother-in-law is moving. Where you might ask? Who cares! All that matters is that it is NOT here!! Don’t get me wrong. She is a sweet old lady. But who the heck wants a sweet old lady living with them! That’s going to happen to me soon enough! Just kidding, honey. You won’t be sweet. Kidding again! Sheesh! Where have people’s senses of humor gone, huh?

So how does this impact me? Well, when we go back east to visit, I always stay at my in-laws’ house because my sister-in-law has cats and I am allergic. And in spite of all the former (my father-in-law is sadly no longer with us) yelling, stab-attempting, and 7:00am cursing, it was always worth it because their house had five levels and I could always find a place to hide. But now my mother-in-law is moving into a small, one-level, no hiding place ANYWHERE townhouse. And she’s already informed me that she has a sleepaway couch all ready for me when I visit. Lucky me.

My wife thinks it’s so cute that her mom is thinking of me. But I suspect it’s revenge. I haven’t been the nicest or overly tolerant guy with my mother-in-law over the years (refer back to the fettuccine and meatballs incident). So I have to imagine my mother-in-law would like to get even. And what better way than sentencing me to stay with her in what is basically a one-room prison cell?!

So for self-preservation purposes I’ve been lamenting about our finances and the price of gas in hopes my wife would say, “You know what, we better not fly back east this year.” But she’s not having any of that. As always, she sees through all my ruses. Especially my weak attempt of  “Hey, why don’t just you and the kids go. I’ll be fine.”  Fine? I’d be ecstatic! And I doubt revenge is far from my wife’s mind, as well. I haven’t been the nicest or overly tolerant husband over the years (refer back to ALL my previous posts).  So we are probably going to spend the $3,000 to fly back east where I will be forced to sleep on a back-ruining sleeper couch, while listening to my mother-in-law SCREAM my name from two feet away. Oh boy. Only 69 more shopping days until HELL!!!

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Father’s Day was great except for one thing…

And that one thing was that my kids were nice. To me! I’m not one to look a gift horse in the mouth (another saying I don’t get or care for, but couldn’t think of anythng better), but them being nice to me is just not, well, normal. So I eye it with a heathy dose of suspicion, and even nervousness. What are they up to, I wonder.

Yes, it was Father’s Day and they’re supposed to be nice to me. I’m sure their mother, my wife, threatened them harshly that if they weren’t nice to me this ONE DAY a year, then they would rot in hell. My daughter is agnostic so this probably didn’t faze her, but it’s hard to scare her with any threats. My son is still naive (i.e. dumb) enough to worry that there might actually be a hell and that we might have enough connection to get him in there. Parents can be such bastards.

Anyway, the day began with breakfast in bed. Not for me. My daughter came downstairs, grabbed one of the bagels that I went out and bought, gave me as unaffectionate a hug as was possible, then went back up to her room and ate her bagel alone. So far, except for the hug, not much different than any other day.

But then my wife, god love her, rallied the troops, made both kids come downstairs to watch me open my Father’s Day cards (personal note from my fearful son, a name from my daughter with “from” not “love”), and my gift, which was four black Gap T-Shirts. Before you laugh, know that this is my favorite thing on earth. I only wear black Gap T’s. Have for years. Though recently I nervously made a big change. I switched from pocket T’s to no-pocket T’s. I like them better, but it had my friends concerned for a while.

I won’t bore you with the whole day, but here’s a quick summary. We went to the beach (without incident), went to a friend’s house for a BBQ (no fistfights with friend or family member), then came home where I was allowed to watch MY show (the season finale of “The Killing,” which will be discussed at another time). My kids actually said “Good night, Dad,” my wife kissed me and went upstairs, and I was left downstairs by myself, which was the greatest gift of all.

But the whole day just felt weird. As if actors were hired to portray my family for the day. Now of course I prefer niceness to the harsh hatred or indifference I usually experience. But like that guy Gotye says in that really cool video where the naked backed girl comes out, “You can get addicted to a certain kind of sadness.” It’s true! I’m used to my family not being nice. I’m used to them treating me like an outsider who happens to live there. And after so many years, I prefer it. Is that weird? I think it might be, so when I blissfully got to work on Monday I kept my mouth shut when asked how my Father’s Day was. Maybe not answering at all told them more than I wanted to. Oh well, at least things are back to normal. I’m actually looking forward to the disdain my daughter will show me when I get home tonight.

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Wow, that was some nap!

Okay, I know this will sound like a kid’s excuse for forgetting his homework, but I just forgot to blog. For four months! Yes, I’ve been busy, but I should have taken the time to blog. Not for you, for Me!!! I didn’t realize what an outlet it was. That’s like four months without one bitch, moan, or whine! Sure, I complained about my family to my co-workers, and about my co-workers to my family. But none of them cared about the other, nor about my misery, so it was wasted breath. That means I have four months of unbelievable crap to catch you up on, so are you ready? Here goes…

I’m kidding. I wouldn’t do that to you. It was bad enough I had to live through it, why would I make you hear about it? And why would I want to relive it? Why would I want to relive my daughter not talking to me for a week? I know that sounds like a dream come true, but when you live in the same house and every time you walk by her she assaults you with quietly intense hatred it’s not a pleasant thing.

Why would I want to relive the month long (yes, MONTH) scare that my mother-in-law was going to move out here. Near us! I’m sure you can imagine the nightmare scenarios that went through my head. I couldn’t make those countless, sound arguments against her moving out here because everyone would have seen through that ruse. So using every ounce of restraint I had, I would say nothing other than, “Oh, that would be nice,” or “Really? Well, your sister’s had to deal with her for years, so I guess it’s our turn, right, Honey?” Then I would go to the bathroom and throw up. I did lose a lot of weight that month. Needless to say, the gods smiled down on me. My mother-in-law is staying put. She is coming for a visit, but knowing she won’t be staying permanently makes me dread that visit a hair less than normal. I’m still dreading it. I’m not insane!

And why would I want to relive having to drive three hours for an overnight basketball tournament where not only did my son only play four minutes and 43 seconds (who’s counting), but I had to hang with, I would have to say, the world’s most BORING parents! For an entire weekend. There is one dad who I actually like. We are simpatico. I actually grab an occasional drink with him even when basketball season is over (which is about one week of the year). Yeah, this dad would be my saving grace on this trip. He didn’t come. His wife came. I hate his wife.

So, anyway, I won’t bore you with what happened to me these past four months. That would be cruel. This is just a short, “Hi, I’m back.”  So…hi. I’m back. And you’ll be hearing a lot more from me. Here’s a little glimpse into the future: next weekend, we’re going to a wedding of a buddy of mine. It’s his second. His first was to my wife’s best friend, whom he cheated on and left, and who has asked my wife to pour some mysterious liquid into his beer. My buddy’s brother and me got into a fist fight at a barbecue this summer. He’s a dick. And my buddy’s soon-to-be new wife is, I think, 12! Oh, it’s going to be a fun event. I actually look forward to writing about it. By the way, I am writing this from my closet. Yes, I am hiding from my family. A coward, yes. But a happy one. For the moment. Is it Monday yet? Oh no! The vacuum just fell. Please don’t have heard it, please don’t have heard it…

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Tomorrow is Oscar Sunday – and the Winner for Best Meal Is…

Well, tomorrow is the Oscars, and my wife will be making spaghetti and meatballs with garlic bread. I am very happy. But this brings back a bad Oscar meal memory. So, now let me tell you the infamous (I figure if I call it that it will be) spaghetti and meatball story involving my mother-in-law.

Before I start, let me tell you that if there is an A-hole in this story, it is me. You might understand why I acted the way I did, but you won’t excuse it. And you shouldn’t. The only thing I will say in my defense is that I take my food very seriously. Okay, that’s the only defense I got.

So this was maybe 15 years ago. My mother-in-law was visiting us from back east, and she was very excited that she would be here to watch the Oscars with me. She loves movies, I love movies. This excited her. But even better, she was thrilled to be making me my favorite meal of all time – spaghetti and meatballs. I’ve talked often of what a great cook my mother-in-law  is. And I’ve had her spaghetti and meatballs. Possibly the best thing I’ve ever eaten. So good.

So it’s the day of the Oscars and she is up early, cooking. Making her sauce from scratch, browning the meatballs, oh man, the smells. I was in Heaven. All day long I am smelling the smells, and salivating with anticipation for my favorite meal. With garlic bread. And she drenches the bread in butter which is how I love it. Damn, I can’t wait!

My one request? To eat before the Oscar telecast. I like to be done with my meal so I can focus on the festivities. And she has timed it perfectly. So the evening is about to officially begin. Unbelievable meal, followed by fun, snack-filled Oscar watching. Everyone’s happy. I sit down at the dining room table because my mother-in-law wants to serve me. I love to be served, so I have a big smile on my face. And then I see her carrying a large plate toward me, slathered in marinara sauce, and I can barely contain myself. I already have the fork in my hand. She places it down right in front of me and all I can say to her is: “What the f@*% is this?!”

I should not have said that. Believe me I wish I hadn’t. But why did I say it, you’re wondering. Because it wasn’t spaghetti and meatballs. No. It was fettucine and meatballs.

I’m tempted to end the story there. Because really, what can I say? Some of you are obviously saying in reaction to the fettucine and meatballs, “So what?” To which I rebut, “fettucine is NOT spaghetti.” I am right in this. It’s a different tasting meal. Is it still good? Of course! But when you’ve been mentally tasting spaghetti and meatballs all day long, no, all WEEK long (she told me a week in advance what she would be making for me on Oscar night), then you want friggin’ spaghetti and meatballs!!!!

That being said…I never should have reacted the way I did.  How could I say that to my sweet mother-in-law? (By the way, check out Shit Nobody Says) My wife’s look alone told me what a HUGE mistake I just made. I immediately felt like shit and apologized profusely. And to make matters even worse, my mother-in-law kept apologizing to me! She understood my being upset, which only made me feel like even more of an A-hole. Which I was.

So, that’s the story. My mother-in-law and I joke about it nowadays. My wife, who still can’t believe I acted like such a baby, might make me fettucine and meatballs tomorrow night  just to keep teaching me a lesson. But the lesson is learned. Honest. Though in my heart of hearts, and I believe all true food lovers out there will agree with me, it should have been spaghetti and meatballs that fateful night. I’m just saying. Enjoy the Oscars!

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Oh Boy! Relatives Are Visiting. Again!

Yes, I have company. Invited company? No. Well, unless you count them inviting themselves. My mother-in-law is back. I know she is one person, but I use “them” because I still feel like it’s her and my deceased father-in-law visiting. Not beause I’m sentimental, but because she still complains about him as if he were here. “You know what your father-in-law used to do that would make me so mad?” No, I don’t and I don’t want to know. Leave the poor, dead guy alone. And for that matter, leave me alone.

There is one good thing about her visiting. Yup, unbelievably long dog walks. Three times a day. Whenever my mother-in-law visits I lose weight. Sort of. I mean I do get more walking in than ever. But my mother-in-law is a great cook. Actually she’s amazing. And even though I beg her NOT to make her famous cheesecake, or her ridiculously good spaghetti and meatballs (I have a long story about that, but another time), she thinks my “No” means “Yes.” And she’s right. I love her cooking. But she drives my wife crazy. She is the messiest cook, destroying our kitchen even if she’s just toasting an english muffin. It’s almost uncanny. Her cheesecake is to die for, and I probably will. I think she uses 40 sticks of butter per cake. It’s hard to eat it without clutching your chest. But I can think of much worse ways to go.

So then why do I dread my mother-in-law’s visits? Well…she’s my mother-in-law. It’s kind of built in. I doubt she’s worse than most. I guess it’s just that she’s there. Wherever I am in the house. She’s there. No matter what time. Once I came down to the kitchen in the middle of the night to grab a snack from the fridge and she was sitting there in the dark and I almost passed out from fright. My scream woke my wife who got mad at ME for overreacting. Overreacting?! A friggin’ creepy lady was sitting in my kitchen in the dark in the middle of the night!

It’s mostly that it upsets my morning routine. I love coming downstairs in the morning before everyone wakes up and having that quiet moment to myself before the Dad-hatred begins. Well, I can’t be alone while she’s here. Because when I come down, there she is sitting at the kitchen table drinking coffee that she made. Her way. I don’t like her way. I like MY coffee that I make. Yes, I sound like a baby, but I don’t care! I don’t care! At this stage of my life, routine is all I have. And she has taken that away from me.

Right now though I’m tolerating her because after my 2 ½ hour dog walk she is making me an 8 egg omelet loaded with a pound of cheese and thick rye bread toast dripping with butter. Maybe she’s trying to kill me. It would be hard to blame her. I’m not the nicest to her. Except when I’m eating her cooking. During those few minutes I love her more than any other human. Maybe she should never stop cooking. I’ll be 900 pounds. But so will my dog. Next time, the spaghetti and meatballs story.

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Shhhh. I’m Going to a Super Bowl Party. Shhhhhh…..

I have this friend, who when he goes to a bar he almost always orders Blue Moon with extra orange. Almost is the key word here because at our local bar whenever he goes there, there is one bartender who as soon as he sees my friend walk in the door he pours him a Blue Moon with extra orange. Now there are times when my friend wants something else. But when a bartender treats you like the regular you are by pouring you your favorite beer even if it’s the last thing on earth you want at that given moment, all you can do is say, “Thanks, Pete.” Even if his name isn’t Pete.

Yes, there is a point to this story. I’m a Giants fan. For their past six games I’ve been watching them at home, alone, from the comfort of my 23 year-old chair (23 today! Happy Birthday, Chair.) And in case you haven’t noticed, my Giants have been winning. Winning big. In fact, in case you really are in a news blackout, or my mother-in-law, let me inform you that my beloved Giants are in the Super Bowl! YEAH!!

Great news, right? Yup. Except for one small thing. My wife, who used to watch football with me before we had kids and now has no memory of that time, is planning the menu for our private, little Super Bowl experience. See, she has assumed that since superstitious little me has watched the past six games at home that, since my beloved Giants are in the Super Bowl (have I mentioned that), I would want to watch the Super Bowl. At home. By myself.

 But she is wrong. And I don’t know how to tell her. I mean, she is being really cute about it. Telling me she’s going to buy me chips and dip and peanut M&Ms. All my favorites. Even pigs in a blanket. And I love her for this especially since usually, at least for the last 15 years or so, she barely notices I exist. But…

…This is the Super Bowl for crying out loud! The Giants (yay!) vs. The arrogant New England Patriots! I don’t want to watch it alone. And by alone I mean just me and my wife. I want to be with my buddies. You know, guys who love football, who understand football, who scream with joy at a gruesome injury or with anger at a horrible call! I’m sorry, I need to be with a bunch of guys. And the guys I work with are all football fanatics.

So why don’t I just invite them here and kill two birds with one stone you are asking yourself? Simple. My wife has emphasized how unbelievably wonderful this will be to watch the Super Bowl, just me and her. Just the two of us. Me. And her.

And making matters even worse is the fact that Billy, the perrenial bachelor at work, is having a major Super Bowl bash at his man cave. Whatever you’re picturing, it’s even manlier, and better than that. I want to go almost as much as I want my Giants to win. But I can’t. Because to go to that party, no, to even ASK to go to that party is the same thing as telling my wife, “Oh sorry, I don’t love you, our marriage means nothing, I’d rather be with my buddies.” Of course it doesn’t mean that, but that’s how she’ll see it. Listen, would I love to watch the Super Bowl with my wife? Hell yes. As long as there are 15 beer guzzling, loud, obnoxious guys there as well.

I have exactly a week to come up with the most ingenious plan of my life. And I modestly tell you that I am good at this. But this one is going to be tough. My marriage is on the line. But so is my Super Bowl enjoyment. Both are very important to me. Any thoughts?

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Is It Safe to Come Out Yet?

I wanted to wait a few days to make sure it was really 2012 and not some elaborate hoax aimed specifically at me. That’s not ego talking, that’s just a by-product of how bad 2011 was for me. And here’s the kicker. I didn’t even know it was bad until I looked back. Which leads to my first and only New Year’s resolution: No looking back. Whenever I do it’s like failing. Twice. Who needs that?

Yes, I know what you’re saying. And of course there are some good memories. Some good moments from last year. But every time someone wants to reminisce about a past glorious moment it always leads to another memory that ain’t so great. Take this past Christmas break for example. My family and I went back east. Now, not counting the best pizza ever, that alone conjures up three nightmares: 1. My family was with me.  2. Flying. I believe I’ve mentioned my irrational, but life-shortening fear. 3. Staying with my mother-in-law.

My mother-in-law (and what kind of law is that anyway?) is a kind, sweet woman…who makes me want to drive the car off the bridge when I’m with her. And I’m afraid of heights! Any example I give will only make me look like a petty, intolerable person. I am those things. But I swear she would drive you crazy. Please believe me on this!

All my other bad 2011 memories are also petty. I mean, there were no real tragedies, unless you consider deaths, divorces, bankruptcies and Adam Sandler’s “Jack and Jill” tragedies. I guess my big gripe with 2011 is I have nothing to show for it other than more angst in my belly. I put on about 8 pounds of angst this holiday season alone. 

So now that it’s 2012 (it is isn’t it?) I’m going to try and do it better. What is “it” you may ask? I don’t know. But whatever it is, I need to do it better. So I’m going to try and only look forward. To block out each day the second it’s over. Instead of waiting a whole year to start a new, clean slate, I’m going to start a clean slate each and every day. So whatever annoying things my kids and/or wife do today (and in this unreliable world that’s one thing you can count on), tomorrow it will be as if it never happened. See? Clean slate. Great plan, right? It’s also impossible. I’ve tried this the past 17 years and it never works. Guess I am the definition of insanity. Oh well, as unhearfelt as it may seem…Happy New Year.

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You tell’ em, Jimmy Boy!

As if I didn’t already love Jimmy Kimmel enough, I just read that he’s on a campaign to get people to cut out a bunch of their so-called “friends” on Facebook. Some people have hundreds, some thousands! I have eight, so he’s not talking to me. But his campaign or gimmick (not that I care if it is one – You go, Jimmy!) brings up a topic I’ve been harping on (mostly to myself) for a long time.

You know, now that I’m about to share this I realize what he’s doing actually has nothing to do with my point. Hmmmmm. Oh well, it’s my blog, not Jimmy’s! So here’s what’s wrong with our computerized, Internet-based, fancy-phoned society: We are all just too damn connected. A friend of mine sent me a very intellectual article on this very subject. I couldn’t understand it. But if I could I’m sure the point would be that we’re never really alone anymore. Between emails and video chatting and texting and rumbles (sorry, just watched “West Side Story”) we don’t have a moment to ourselves. Especially our kids. I can hear my son at all hours of the night talking loudly in his room. He’s either video chatting or insane. In any case, I don’t like it! His voice is really grating.

But what I really hate about all this techno stuff (sorry for the big words) is that we — and by we I really mean ME — is so friggin’ reachable. My wife and kids can find me almost anywhere. It’s really hard to get anyone to believe you when you say, “Oh sorry, I was nowhere near my home phone, cell phone, computer or Western Union office.” There’s just no good excuse anymore for ignoring loved ones. And that is what’s wrong with this world, dammit!

But wait! There is one good excuse, and one good excuse only: “I was in a meeting.” Yes! And this is why I love my job. I have a place I can go to where I can pretend to be unreachable for 8 to 12 hours a day, every day. My boss can yell at me all he wants. My co-workers can annoy me non-stop. I don’t care! Because while at work no one in my family can reach me if I don’t want to be reached. YAY!!! I once even lied and said I had to work on Thanksgiving and it worked. Boy, did I give thanks on THAT day.

So forgive me as I hug and kiss my desk right now. My co-workers are looking at me strangely. And I don’t care! Know why? “I’m in a meeting, Honey!”

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I just NOW woke up out of my Yom Kippur fasting stupor. Did I miss anything?

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