Sunday, August 22, 2010

A Piranha Bit Me

A beautiful Sunday morning here at the Doyle homestead. The sun is shining, birds are singing, and my youngest son is apparently bleeding. Not a lot of blood, of course, but enough to make a little smear on the carpet while he was sitting down for breakfast. At least I think it was during breakfast and I think it was him bleeding, but he is only 3 and sometimes he has difficulty expressing the complex ideas in his head through his limited vocabulary. Perhaps he bled yesterday, or the day before, or possibly not at all and the stain we were looking at was from jelly or some other red substance. At this point the only thing I am sure of is that there are a few red splotches on the floor and that he is claiming that it is his blood. I was in the kitchen preparing the morning oatmeal when I heard his voice.

"Dad," he said, rather nonchalantly. "Blood."

While not unusual in our house, blood is still something that gets my attention. "What about it?" I asked as I ran to the kitchen table where he was sitting.

"Mine," he said, continuing to play with his toys. Clearly this blood thing bothered me more than him.


"On the floor. Right there." He pointed at the spot and looked at me expectantly.

I began to check him over to see where it might be coming from. "Where are you bleeding?"

"On the floor."

"Right. I got that, but where is it coming out of you?"

"Where is what coming out of me?"

"Blood? Remember how you said you were bleeding? A second ago?" I was a little frantic because there was blood apparently coming out of my son and I didn't want him to get any more on our already stained carpet.

"It is on the floor, Dad."

"Yes," I said, trying to remain calm. "Thank you. But I am more concerned about why blood is coming out of you. Did you cut yourself? Do you have a scrape?"

"I have a Lego guy with no arms," said Ethan, proudly holding up a Lego guy with no arms.



"Where are you bleeding?"

"On the floor," he said, clearly irritated with his imbecile of a father. With this pronouncement he got off the chair, walked to the counter, grabbed a rag, and came back. "There," he said as he threw it on the ground and covered the stain. "All better."

When he sat back down I searched him and didn't find any sign of blood. "Ethan, I know that there is blood on the floor and that you are bleeding there, but where, on you, is the blood coming out?"

He pointed to his clearly unlemished finger and said, "Here. A piranha bit me."

"A piranha bit you," I asked, skeptical. "When?" The boys have been on a bit of an animal kick with library books and recently borrowed a few on buffalo, walking catfish, manatees, and piranhas. Ethan really likes the piranha book and wants it read to him several times a day.

He looked at me seriously. "Last night. It bit me on my finger."

I paused a second, took a breath and began to check him again. attempted one last time to get some valid information from my 3 year old. "That finger looks like it doesn't have anything wrong with it. Are you bleeding somewhere else?"

He scowled and pointed to the ground. "The floor."

At this point my patience for playing a version of "Who's on First" with my son had worn out and I suggested that maybe it was time for some oatmeal. Thankfully he agreed and there has been no more talk of blood, or bleeding, or fictional piranhas for the past 45 minutes. I still don't know where the blood was coming from, but what worries me more is that I am not completely convinced that he wasn't just messing with me. A little blood is easy to deal with. A 3 year old that has already started to play with my head is a little more worrisome.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Can You Handle Me?

The other day, Jen and I were trying to get ready to leave the house and we were dividing up the child rounding duties. Ryan needed socks, a shirt, a bag of Apple Jacks, and his left shoe which apparently had migrated from the closet where his right shoe was located all the way downstairs under the couch. Ethan needed socks, his penguin (an ever present little buddy), a container of juice, and more pressingly, a diaper change. Jen peeked around the corner and said, "I've got Ryan, can you handle Ethan?"

Without missing a beat, Ethan, who had until that very moment been hiding undiscovered under his blankets ripped off the blankets and said, "Yeah, Dad. Can you handle me?" He then jumped out of bed and attempted to run away. I could, as it turned out, "handle him," as he found out when I grabbed him and tossed him onto the bed to begin the diaper changing process.

I think he got this phrase, or at least this version of it, from his uncle David. While playing with the boys on his visits to the area, David drops phrases like this that are always amusing and almost always come back again out of 6 and 3 year old mouths due to their fondness for their uncle. While playing baseball, soccer, Wii sports, or any competitive game, phrases like "You can't stop me, you can only try and contain me!", or "I smoked that fool!", or "Can you handle this?" pop out of David's mouth from time to time and, like little parrots the boys spit them back out.

While playing soccer with Ethan and I the other day, Ryan took a shot that went into the goal. Seeing what he had just done he said, "You can't stop this cuz I smoked that fool!" A second later, Ethan piped up, "Yeah! Smoked that fool!" A short while later after running past me he said, "You simply can't handle me! Can you handle me? I don't think so!" Apparently Ethan saw his window of opportunity to repeat this phrase when Jen asked her question.

These guys have gotten to be parrots of other things as well. Quotes from movies pop out of Ryan's mouth with seeming ease, and Ethan has taken to mangling quotes from his favorite TV show, "Back to the Barnyard". While playing football yesterday I watched Ethan score what he claimed was a touchdown but was really him throwing the ball onto the couch and falling onto the floor in celebration. He looked at Ryan and yelled, "Cows win! Moooo! Taste the milk!"

It was at this point that I think the boys developed into real brothers since Ryan took this insult hard and began wrestling with Ethan. "Cows don't win," he yelled as he shoved Ethan to the floor and crawled on top of him. "I'm the Cows, you are the Spider-Monkeys, and I WON'T TASTE THE MILK!" Ethan giggled the whole time and eventually the two ended up laughing. The whole thing ended after a few seconds and they got up and did it again, only this time Ryan was the winner and Ethan started the wrestling match. It was all going just fine until the fourth or fifth round when the action abruptly stopped and Ryan rolled over into the fetal position.

"Ow," was all he'd say.

Like a trained detective, I jumped on the case. I looked at Ryan first. "What happened?"


"Did you get hit?"

"Ow." Pause. "Ow." Pause. "Oh, man this hurts," came the surprisingly calm reply. Normally when he gets hit anywhere by anything he wails and cries and basically does whatever it takes to get attention. He is like a soccer player trying to win a free kick.

"Where does it hurt," I asked.

"In his testicles," yelled Ethan.

I looked at Ryan. "Really?"

"Yep." Pause. "Ow." Again, relative calm. "Make him never do that again."

Ethan, meanwhile, was sitting a few feet away with a big smile on his face. "I kicked Ryan in the testicles!"

"Yes," I said looking at him sternly, "Apparently you did. Don't do it again. It isn't nice." Then, I turned to Ryan. "Is it getting any better?"

"Yeah, but is still doesn't feel good."

"He couldn't handle me," said Ethan, still relatively proud of himself.

Suppressing a laugh, I said, "No, Ethan, he couldn't, but that is a mean thing to do to your brother. Testicles are not targets. You should not hit them."

"Ow," said Ryan, sitting up. "He better watch his little testicles because I'm gonna kick him."

"Let's not make disparaging remarks about the size of other people's testicles," I said, "and let's focus on the 'not hitting them' part, ok?"

"Moo," said Ethan. "Taste the Milk!"

I turned to Ethan. "Stop it! No more milk tasting and no more testicle kicking, ok?"

Chastened, Ethan said, "Ok. No more hitting testicles."

"Ryan? Are you going to hit your brothers testicles?"

"Yes," he said, smiling.

"Don't you mean, 'no daddy, of course not'?"

"Sure," he said, sighing. "I won't hit him in the testicles."

"Good," I said.

"Moo!" said Ethan.

I worry for both of them as they begin to wrestle with each other, but given the way the two of them eat, I worry for Ryan more. It probably won't be long before his little brother is bigger than he is. Then we'll really get to see who tastes the milk.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Scooby-Doo meets UFC

Ryan woke up screaming at approximately 4 am this morning. Apparently he had a bad dream involving ghosts and was in need of the kind of comfort that only a mother can provide. Or, as it turns out, a father, because Jen poked me and told me it was my turn. I promptly rushed into his room to help calm him down although, since we are being honest here, I didn't "rush" so much as "blearily stagger across the hall trying to remember the name of the yelling kid in the room," but "rushed" sounds much more dramatic, don't you think?

After my brain kicked in and I remembered that I was the father of two boys and that one of those boys was crying because he was scared of something, I sat down on the bed to try and comfort him. Eventually he relaxed and stopped crying.

"Dad," he began, still breathing hard from the crying. "Are ghosts real?"

I'm something of a no-nonsense kind of guy when it comes to this sort of thing. "Nope," I told him. "Ghosts aren't real." I see no reason to beat around the bush with questions like this. Mine will be the kids who, when it comes time for the ghost stories at Halloween parties will say things like "There is no empirical evidence for the existence of free floating specters of the kind you are referring to as 'ghosts', therefore your story involving the teenagers and the haunted house makes no sense and is, I am sorry to report, a complete fabrication and totally not scary in the least." Unfortunately they will also be the kids who are only invited to these Halloween parties once and then forever shunned.

Not satisfied with my answer, he continued, "But there are ghosts in Scooby-Doo."

"True," I said, "but how many of those ghosts are real and aren't just a person in a costume?"

There was a slight pause. "None," he said. This was followed by another slight pause and then, "Oh. Good point." There was another, slightly longer pause, and then he asked, "But how do you know there are no ghosts?"

"Because there is no evidence for ghosts," I said, confidently.



Still not convinced he asked, "How do you know there is no evidence?"

As a science teacher I was excited by this question because it means that he isn't just going to blindly accept what people tell him. As a father who just wanted to go the hell back to bed, I was less than thrilled. I then spent a few minutes discussing with him how there is no quality evidence to support the idea of ghosts, and that the few experiments that have been done have shown that the existence of these entities is extremely unlikely, and, just as I was about to enter into a discussion of observational bias combined with visual and auditory hallucinations brought about by environmental factors such as carbon monixide, I noticed that my lecture had put him to sleep.

See? Science is good for something.

Later the next day while we were riding out to a park in what Ethan now refers to as our "Swagger Wagon" after the Toyota commercial, ghosts were brought up once again.

Ryan got us started by asking the same question he asked at 4am. "Are ghosts real?"

"Nope," I replied, just like at 4am, "they are not real."

"But what if a real ghost was in my room?"

I started to answer his question, "Well, you don't have to worry about that because..."

"I'd punch it," said Ethan.

"Really?" I asked, shocked. I thought he was asleep and now he is describing how he would take down a fictional monster. Maybe Jen and I need to stop discussing "24" in front of the kids.

"I'd punch it, too!" said Ryan.

A few seconds ago there was one sleeping kid and one kid afraid of ghosts and now I had two fledgling ghost-busters on my hands. "Wait. How would you punch a ghost? They don't even have bodies."

"In the testicles," said Ethan as though this was the simplest thing in the world.

"Yeah," agreed Ryan. "In the testicles!"

"Bam, Bam!" said Ethan. "Get away, ghost!"

"And I'd punch it in the butt," added Ryan, laughing.

"In the butt and then the testicles," said Ethan, also laughing.

It basically continued like this until we got to the park at which time the boys promptly forgot about their strategy for ghost bashing and ran to play. Hopefully they will remember it the next time they feel the need to wake up at some godforsaken hour and worry about ghosts. I am now, however, a little more wary of these two when they come into our room at night and I try to look even less like a ghost now than ever.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Goodnight Moon, and Ryan, and Ethan, and Penguin, and ...

As we all know, sleep is an important part of health and lack of sleep can cause all kinds of problems from depression to irritability to wanting to physically assault someone for putting a spoon used to stir sugar into coffee back into the sugar container so all of the rest of the sugar begins to stick together in little brown clumps. Sleep is the time when little boys bodies do most of their growing and it enables them to get up at the crack of dawn to face yet another grueling day of running around, playing with Legos and destroying basically everything with which they come into contact.

My boys are generally less than eager to go to sleep. They will do basically anything to prolong the process of getting ready. Our nightly ritual, at least when I am home to put them down, is fairly simple. At around 7 o'clock, I give them the warning that we are approaching the time when we will have to start thinking about going to bed. At about 7:05, 7:09, 7:12, and 7:15 I repeat this warning so that anyone who might have not heard or, more likely, actively ignored the previous warnings will not be caught by surprise when I say that it is time to get ready for going to bed.

Getting ready for bed involves several steps which are, to my adult mind, nothing to freak out about or throw a tantrum over but which are clearly grievous injustices to a 5 and 2 year old.

"Ok boys," I say. "Time for last call." Last call is something Jen invented for Ryan when he was around Ethan's age. It gives the boys a chance to have one last thing to eat before they head off to bed and the kitchen closes for the night. It was instituted when Ryan kept getting out of bed, sometimes 5 or 6 times in a 20 minute window, to ask for something to eat. The "last call" eliminated this because he knew that he wasn't going to get any food when he got out of bed and therefore eliminated his favorite excuse for wandering around. Obviously being a little boy he came up with other, more interesting reasons to get up, including going to the bathroom, being thirsty, wanting a hug from mommy (which sounds adorable but rapidly becomes less so when it is 9:30 and he was supposed to be asleep 2 hours ago), and being afraid that his clothes were all going to leave in the middle of the night and he wouldn't have anything to wear in the morning.

They are supposed to have something healthy, like a piece of fruit or some yogurt for last call, but generally the phrases "I want ice cream", "but I don't want a fruit!" and "this is unfair" are uttered a few times before they are convinced that we will not be making brownies this evening before they go to bed.

After last call they get into their jammies if we can find any. They each have their favorite sets and, due to our tendency to not do laundry until the piles are big enough to use as soft landing zones when jumping off of the bed, these sets are generally not available to them. This results in more "but I REALLY want to wear my Star Wars jammies!" and "I don't want to wear that t-shirt!" and "I'll just sleep in my underpants", until we can find something suitable for them to put on.

Next comes the second last call in which Ethan weasels some more food out of us. He typically doesn't eat much during the day and our pediatrician tells us that we shouldn't worry that he isn't eating at the same times as the rest of us and that he will eat when he is hungry. He seems to know that this is what the pediatrician tells us because he uses it to squeeze a few more minutes out of us before he goes to bed.

After second last call we head off to the bathroom to brush our teeth. This consists of Ethan grabbing Ryan's toothbrush and using it as a lightsaber to fight off Darth Maul or Jar-Jar or Dora The Explorer or whoever the opponent of the night is while Ryan complains to Jen and I that Ethan is using his toothbrush as a lightsaber to engage in said battle. After getting Ethan to give the toothbrush back to his brother, they boys engage in something that would not easily be recognizable as actual oral hygeine. Typically there is another lightsaber battle, followed by a spitting contest and concluding with mom, dad, or both grabbing the toothbrushes and informing them that they have brushed long enough and it is time for stories.

Story time is an amazing time in that I am constantly amazed at how long it can take to pick out some books. I am also amazed at how innane many of them are. Additionally, I am amazed at how LONG some of them are. One of Ryan's favorites, "The Caboose Who Got Loose", seemingly rivals "The Lord of the Rings" for length. I don't think I am exaggerating when I say that it can take 15 minutes to read it if we include all the pauses where one of the boys has to get up to get some water or to go to the bathroom or to put on a new shirt because the old shirt is "too blue".

After stories comes songs and, while I am not the greatest singer in the world, the boys seem to get a kick out of my singing. I'll let them pick the songs they want to hear and on some nights they like the simple things. Ryan will ask for "The Boat song," which is "If I had a boat" by Lyle Lovett, and Ethan will ask for "The French Song," which is a song I learned from a podcast that helps teach vocabulary but is relatively soothing if you don't know French and therefore don't know that I am singing about where the train station is located in relation to the market place and the town square. Every now and then one will come up with an unusual request, like "Sing a song about Anakin Skywalker and how he turned into Darth Vader and eventually cut off Luke's hand and then had to kill the Emperor by throwing him down a long tube," or "Sing one about Chicken Little and the alien invasion," or "Sing Enter Sandman by Metallica."

After songs comes the tucking in and the recitation of the "Rules Which Will Not Be Followed" that include things like "Don't get out of bed unless you are throwing up," and "No laughing with your brother," and "Stay in Bed", and "No crying," and "For the Love of God, Don't Get Out of Bed."

The rules are often followed by a 3rd last call because someone REALLY needs some crackers.

Next comes the putting-Ethan-back-into-bed-21-times phase of the night. Ryan falls asleep much more easily than Ethan, so Ethan gets worried because he is the only one awake and gets out of bed or cries because he is lonely. I try to be a hard-ass about this and tell him that he has to stay in bed and he has to go to sleep, but I can't really follow through. I remember how when I was younger and had trouble falling asleep my mom would come in and sing songs and stroke my hair until I was tired enough to fall asleep on my own. This always struck me as being incredibly cool and it was one of the ways that I knew that she loved me, so I try to do the same for my boys when I am able. It is also one of my favorite things to watch one of my boys fall asleep while I sing to them. Don't get me wrong, it can be incredibly frustrating on Thursday evenings when Jen and I can finally sit down and find out what happened on Lost last Tuesday and one or both of the boys is having trouble putting head on pillow and keeping it there. But there is something really peaceful about watching a little boy slowly calm down and sleep who, not 2 hours ago, was attempting to break the world record for the most Lego heads eaten.

Finally, sometimes several hours after the process has begun, they are asleep and all is right in the world.

Now we just have to hope that no one pukes because of all the food they ate at the various last calls.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Frosty the What?

Ethan's vocabulary has been increasing relatively rapidly over the last few weeks and I am proud to say that he can now carry on a conversation with you. This is, of course, provided that you are willing to drastically alter your definitions of "conversation", "carry on", and "with". Also, you must be willing to listen to a whole variety of non-sequiturs generally involving Anakin Skywalker, penguins, or his bodily functions. He is very focused on bodily functions.

Along with these issues comes his seeming lack of knowledge about anything followed immediately by a statement which answers the question. A question like, "Hey Ethan, do you want a cookie?" will be answered with "I don't know yes," with no pause between the avowed ignorance and the emphatic answer. I have spoken to him many times about this, but it doesn't seem to make much of a difference.

As an example, the other day I asked him, "Ethan, who is your favorite Star Wars character?", and he responded with "I don't know General Grievous."

"Do you know who General Grievous is?"

"I don't know the leader of the droids."

"You know you don't have to say 'I don't know' before every sentence, right?"

"I don't know yes."

"In fact, you could change the 'I don't know' to 'I know!' and make it more of a positive thing."

"I don't know I know!" he said emphatically.


He paused for a second and then said, "I don't know."

I gave up. "Me neither."

This evening at dinner we were having a lovely conversation involving all sorts of things. The topics were coming fast and furious and covered everything from Star Wars to Clone Wars with an occasional foray into Legos and animals. Sometimes we talked about Star Wars Legos to spice it up a bit. Anyway, a few minutes into a discussion with Ryan about the fact that the Chicago Fire open the season this weekend, Ethan threw in his two cents. "I like penguins," he said earnestly. He held aloft his stuffed penguin and stated, for those of us who were not looking directly at him, "Penguin is here."

"That is great, Ethan," Jen said. "But should you have Penguin at the table while we are eating?"

"I don't know no," said Ethan, and tossed his stuffed animal on the floor.

"Thank you," said Jen.

"I farted," said Ethan who hadn't actually done anything of the sort.

"Eeeww!" laughed Ryan. "Dad, Ethan just said he farted!" That is Ryan, always one to point out the obvious.

"Got it, big guy," I said. "Don't encourage him."

Ethan then made a noise like in the old Transformers cartoons when the robots turned into cars and proceeded to "transform" himself into a robot.

Trying to keep a straight face, I said, "Ethan, we don't transform ourselves at the dinner table. Transform back and eat your dinner."

Dutifully, Ethan made the transforming noise again and was now back to being a boy.

Jen asked him, once again, to eat some of his dinner, to which Ethan responded, "I farted again." This set Ryan laughing again, and by this time I was having a hard time keeping a straight face. I have practiced long and hard so I don't laugh at times like this, but most of the time all my practice comes to naught when I crack up anyway. This time, my stern-father look held firm.

"Ethan," I said, "stop talking like that and eat your dinner."

He smiled, looked across the table at Ryan and said, "I pooped a snowman."

Ryan immediately lost it and fell on the floor, but it took Jen and I a beat to figure out what he had just said. After it hit us, we both tried, in vain, to keep from laughing. Eventually Jen was able to ask, through bits of giggling, "Did you just say that you pooped a snowman?"

Ethan, still smiling, said "I don't know yes!"

Jen tried to get him to say it again on camera, but he became bashful and wouldn't speak while the little red light was on. He did, however, transform himself into a robot one more time for the camera.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010


Ok, for the record, Jen has a slightly different interpretation on the ending of this story than I do, but, for the record, I don't care. I don't have to - I am writing it.

A few days ago while the boys and I were downstairs, we did what we normally do when we want to blow off some extra energy. And when I say "we" needed to blow off extra energy, I am, of course, referring to the boys and their copious amounts of it. I have no extra energy to blow off while they seem to be fully capable of running nonstop for days or weeks at a time, stopping only to refuel, go to the bathroom, or laugh uproariously after one of them farts or burps.

We decided to play soccer, the go-to sport of the winter, and as we normally do I put on a soccer highlight show to give some inspiration. In the past I did this solely for myself because playing with the boys often resulted in lots of downtime when Ryan would get distracted by something or Ethan would steal the ball and run into the bathroom with it. The show gave me a chance to catch up on all the English Premier League games I missed over the weekend. Now, however, the highlights give Ryan something to try to emulate. Apparently the tricks his old man can pull off pale in comparison to Aaron Lennon whizzing down the wing or Wayne Rooney pulling off an amazing turn. He now watches for a while until he sees something he likes and then attempts it himself, often with consequences that often fall just short of life threatening for either himself or the dog.

As an example, last week we were watching the highlights of the Spurs v Wigan game when Tom Huddlestone, one of the best strikers of the ball in the English game, cranked a shot from about 30 yards away and forced a save from the keeper. Ryan immediately tried to see if he could to that. He placed the ball on the ground about 20 feet from the wall, backed up, and ran at it. He struck it with venom and, had he also struck it with accuracy, it would have smacked into the wall about 3 feet from the ground right in the middle of our makeshift goal. However, accuracy is not a strong point yet for the little dude and instead he hit Hope, our dog, right in the face. It was all rather impressive, really, especially considering that Hope was under a table at the time.

Undaunted, he tried again and this time was more successful. He hit the wall in pretty much the dead center of the goal area with quite a bit of power. Apparently he had paid attention to another part of the highlights show that evening in which a player scored and, in celebration, pulled his shirt up over his head to reveal a message written on his undershirt. As soon as the ball hit the wall he wheeled away, grabbed his shirt, pulled it off, threw it into the make-believe crowd and ran around with his arms up shouting "GOAL!" Ethan, the little sponge, absolutely LOVED this and attempted to pull his shirt off. He couldn't quite get it, so he ran over to me, said, "Daddy! Shirt off, shirt off!" and again tried lifting his shirt over his head. Of course I couldn't let Ryan celebrate without his teammate, so I helped Ethan remove his shirt so the two of them ran around shirtless for a few minutes before dressing and starting over again.

Approximately 2 minutes later, Ryan passed Ethan the ball and he kicked it into another wall to score a goal. Ethan immediately ran over to me for a repeat of the "Daddy! Shirt off, shirt off!" episode while Ryan pulled his own off, again throwing it into the make believe crowd. It is difficult to put into words how proud I was as a father at that moment in time.

This process continued for a while longer with the boys taking turns scoring goals, pulling their shirts off (or, in Ethan's case, getting his dad to remove his shirt), running around, and then getting dressed again. Ethan eventually lost interest in having me remove his shirt after each goal and found some Legos to play with while Ryan and I continued in our quest to save the world while playing Lego Star Wars on the Wii.

A week later we were invited to what can only be described as a warehouse party. It was held at a warehouse and was organized by members of a friends church as a way to give all of our young kids a chance to ride their bikes and scooters, play in a bouncy castle, and shoot some hoops all in the middle of February. It was a great idea and a rousing success. The boys loved getting a chance to run around and play with their friends and Jen and I had a good time chatting with the other moms and dads.

Jen and I were eating some of the great food that people had brought when I looked up to see Ethan playing soccer near the basketball hoops. He would kick the ball, struggle with his shirt for a second, and then go get the ball and start it over. I glanced down to continue eating, and when I looked up there he was, standing near the basketball hoop, smiling, with his pants around his ankles and his arms raised in the air. I couldn't hear what he was saying but he was clearly saying something. I ran over to him to help him pull his pants up when I heard that he was cheering "GOAL!" Apparently he couldn't get his shirt off so he went for the next best thing and dropped his pants to celebrate.

Apparently in the future I'll have to ensure that all of his shirts are easily removed to avoid this problem.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Spreading Christmas Cheer

I hate Christmas music, and I really mean that. I am not a scrooge who hates the entire holiday season, but as soon as I hear the opening notes of basically any Christmas tune, I immediately reach for the dial to change the station. This is due to what psychologists would call "Classical Conditioning" and is entirely down to a series of jobs I had while I was in high school and college.

A long time ago in a place very similar to this one, I worked in a store called The Gift Source. It was everything that it's name would have you believe in that it was a source for gifts. This is, of course, assuming that your idea of a "gift" was a wooden duck with a chip in its beak, one of those Troll dolls with ample amounts of pink fuzzy hair, or a musical water globe in which, due to poor manufacturing, the objects inside floated around along with the snow when you shook it up. If this is not your idea of a gift, then you would have been out of luck and the only thing this place would have been the source of is frustration.

I worked there for several years and, in fact, started dating my lovely wife while she and I were busy stocking the shelves with holiday cheer and/or tasteless crap, depending on your particular viewpoint. The store was located in a busy part of the mall and was known for its holiday cheer. There was a giant display window in front and like little elves, every year workers from the corporate office would come and decorate this window with the most amazing displays of christmas cheer you had ever laid eyes on. There would be a giant stuffed Santa Claus sitting on top of a sleigh filled with snow and presents and helpful elves and candy canes and more presents and gumdrops and kittens and whatever else your little heart could desire. Additionally, throughout the store, there would be what we always called "foof" - fluffy, lacy, colorful displays set up to remind you that Christmas was just around the corner! If you have ever been in a Hallmark store that is decorated for Christmas you only have a small inkling of what I am talking about. This place screamed (sometimes literally, depending on what displays we had) "IT IS GODDAMN CHRISTMAS AND DON'T YOU FORGET IT!"

And then there was the ubiquitous Christmas music. Sometimes it would be classic songs sung by old crooners like Bing Crosby, and sometimes it would be some bastardized version of Jingle Bells sung by Debbie Gibson. And then there was the Kenny G - sweet Jesus the Kenny G. Nothing can kill a mood faster than having to listen to that smooth-jazz playing, rhythmic breathing, curly haired wanker blow into his saxophone for a few hours. Top all this off with the fact that approximately every 12 to 18 seconds, someone would come in and ask if we had any Precious Moments figurines.

Now, you might be just like the customers and think that with the Gift Source being owned by Enesco, the company that manufactures these big eyed pastel figurines, that we would have a few stashed away somewhere. You, like the customers, would be wrong, only they didn't handle this news nearly as well as you are handling it now. Often there would be angry accusations that we were keeping them for ourselves or that we were idiots for not carrying these stupid porcelain figurines. Each day was a battle and each day we lost because, as they say, the customer is always right. Unless, of course, they irritated me by asking one too many times for me to go in the back and see if we had what they were looking for, whereupon I would go in the back, sit down for a few minutes, and despite an entire case of their desired object sitting in the middle of the stock room floor, I'd return to tell them that there were none of what they were looking for and that I was terribly sorry.

So I hate Christmas Music.

This makes musical choices difficult when it comes time to decorate the tree and put up all of our Christmas knick-knacks. This year we decided to let the kids decide, and Ryan first suggested that we listen to the Charlie Brown Christmas CD which, despite the fact that it is technically Christmas music, doesn't suck as much as the rest. The disc finished up after about an hour and we still had plenty of decorating to go, so Jen posed the question to the boys about what we should listen to next.

Now, the day before I had gone on a little iTunes tear, downloading several old 80's hair metal songs which I planned to use while working out. While we were in the car I played some of these songs for the boys who, being my sons, immediately thought that they were the greatest things ever to come out of a speaker. We must have listeded to "Final Countdown" by Europe about 76 times on the 15 minute car ride back from wherever we were. This was by far the biggest it of the bunch, but "You Give Love a Bad Name" by Bon Jovi and "Rock You Like A Hurricane " by the Scorpions were well recieved as well. After Laurie Berkner and the Wiggles, it is good to see that they have not completely lost the ability to appreciate good music.

Anyway, when the question was posed to the boys, Ryan quickly answerd, "Hair Metal!"

Ethan responded, through his ever present pacifier, "Yeah! Air Ettal!"

I couldn't dissapoint my boys, so we tossed the iPod onto the stereo and the dulcet tones of the Scorpions began rocking us while we put lights on the tree. Eventually all thoughts of Christmas music evaporated (at least from those of us with only one X Chromosome) and the day took on a whole new tone. Ethan jumped around singing "...(mumble, mumble) Final Countdown!" along with Europe, and Ryan danced around and asked, "Dad, is love really a bad name?" All thoughts of Maria, Bing, and Kenny G were eradicated and we just sang along and had a grand old time.

We must have burned through that playlist 3 or 4 times before we finished trimming the tree, and it is now one of my favorite Christmas memories. I think my next job is to explain to the boys that "Dr. Feelgood," and "I Can't Drive 55" are not holiday classics, but like finding out about Santa Claus, this can wait a few years.