Take a List…

Lists seem to rule my life. There are honey do lists (honey, take out the garbage, honey, put away the dishes, honey, get your hands out of pockets, it’s not a toy), to do lists, and grocery lists. And, of course, if you screw up and forget something on one of these vital lists, you end up on the s*#! list.

Of course, in order to keep track of all these lists, you need modern technology. Pen and paper is no longer acceptable. That’s no problem for me. I have an iPhone, an iPad, a work computer, and a home computer.

Therefore, with all this great technology at my disposal, you’d think I’d have all my bases covered, right? Not so.

There’s one major problem: listening. When my wife gives me a shopping or to do list, the list is never right. After a couple of minutes of dictation, my mind starts to wander. (Who’s winning the ball game? Do I really put my hands in my pockets that often? What the heck did she just say?)

So I end up with strange entries like Garlic ice cream—possible with my wife—or Welch’s grape petroleum jelly.

I know this isn’t right but I don’t want to ask my wife to repeat herself.

“Don’t you listen to me?” she’d say, clearly annoyed.

She’d continue to rant and I’d then start tuning her out again, which just exacerbates the situation.

So I grab my list, enlist one of the kids to help me, and hope I can figure it out when I arrive at the store.

I try to get my daughter to come with me as she often shops with my wife. Though Lexy is usually sweet, it can be hit or miss.

“Lexy, can you come to the store with me?”

“No, don’t want to.”

“I could use the company.”

“What part of NO do you not understand?” with her hands firmly on her hips, she’s not messing around.

“So it’s a maybe?”

“Mom, daddy is bothering me. I don’t want to go the store.”

“What’s wrong, Brad? You can’t go to the store yourself?”

I can’t answer that.

So I bring CJ who listens worse than me. However, he’s eager to go to the store—most likely to get a toy—and remembers everything, when he listens. Between the two of us we should be able to figure out something. Besides, I have my incomprehensible list.

When we arrive at the store, unfortunately, my list is still incomprehensible.

Then the word chili pops into my head. I have a brilliant thought.

“CJ, I need you to talk to Mom and ask her if we’re having chili for dinner tomorrow.

I dial the number, repeat what to say, and hand him the phone.

“Say it exactly like that. Got it?”

“Sure, Dad.”

“Mom, Daddy, wants to know if we’re having chili for dinner tomorrow.”

Good boy—stick to the script.

“I don’t know. Maybe he lost the list.”

My heart sinks.

“She wants to talk to you.”

Disgusted, I pick up the phone.

“Yes, hon.”

She gives me the list again and warns me not to screw it up.

“Yes, I’ve got everything, hon. I won’t call again.”

I hang up the phone and immediately realize the store has chili with beans and without beans. Crap!

I take a deep breath and decide to text her. She didn’t say I couldn’t text her. See, I listen sometimes.

I fully expected a couple of angry texts including barbs such as, “do you need me to wipe for you, too?” However, it never happened.

“Hmmm. Maybe my question about beans wasn’t so ridiculous after all,” I said to CJ.

“No, Mom said she didn’t need the chili after all. She didn’t want you to get mad.”

Too late for that. “Anything else?” I asked with a scowl on my face.

“Can I get a toy now?”

Copyright © 2012, Brad Manzo

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Teachable Moments

My family only seems to know two volumes—loud and louder. The problem stems from the fact that the kids don’t listen or simply don’t react to anything the first time. Or the second. Or the third. Or the 16th time if they’re watching TV.

“CJ, time for dinner.”

His eyes remained fixed on the TV.

“CJ, I said, time for dinner.”

Again, no response. Annoyed, I jumped directly in front of the TV.

He cocked his head ever so slightly then continued to watch.

“Are you alive? Can you hear me?”

“There’s a naked lady outside.”

Wait, that only works on me.

“The ice cream man is here.”

“No, he’s not.”

This kid was made of stone. There was no breaking him.

“Get in here now or I’m throwing your toys straight into the garbage!” Diane screamed.

The walls shook. The dog covered her ears. Car alarms went off.

CJ started crying then stomped to the dinner table.

“Why didn’t you just turn off the TV?” Diane looked at me with bewilderment.

I couldn’t answer. I was in awe of how quickly she resolved the situation. Additionally, my eardrums were still throbbing from the scream as I stumbled to the dinner table.

Despite the scream that made CJ bawl and broke the sound barrier, five minutes later CJ hugged and kissed my wife as if nothing happened.

“I love you, Mommy.”

Who the hell was this woman?

Amazingly, though, her yelling worked. Unfortunately, the yelling ever ends. It’s become so engrained in our everyday life that a simple conversation is now a shouting contest.

“Pass the salt!” Lexy said as my eardrums almost burst.

“I’m sitting next to you. Why are you screaming?”

“I don’t know, Daddy.”

“Don’t scream at your father,” my wife screamed.

That answers that question.

Unfortunately, the kids are also loud at the most inopportune moments.

“That man has a booger hanging from his nose.”

“She has a big butt.”

“Is that man a midget?”

I think we all need to go back to kindergarten for one day and learn to use our “inside” voices again.

A perfect opportunity came up the other night when my son sleepwalked and mistakenly peed in the garbage pail in our bedroom. It would have been a great, as they say, teachable moment.

Yelling would only exacerbate the situation and result in pee all over the room.

We could even bring in a kindergarten teacher to help.

“Now, CJ, put on your thinking cap and pee directly in the pail,” she’d say, bespectacled, and speaking in a nurturing tone.

“Watch out for Daddy’s iPhone. That’s a good boy!”

We could then slowly integrate our inside voices to everyday conversation and begin speaking and acting like normal people.

“Daddy, here’s your iPhone,” Lexy would say in a quiet, dulcet tone.

“Why does my iPhone smell like pee?” I’d scream.

Maybe inside voices are overrated after all.

Copyright © 2011, Brad Manzo

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Play Ball!

Is there a 12-step program for sports fans? If there isn’t, there should be. Have you seen the TV commercial in which the Washington Redskins fans—all men by the way—put on dresses, makeup, giant pig snouts, wigs, and ladies’ hats then parade off to the game? Houston, we’ve got a problem. What about face painters or drunk fans who attend football games shirtless, in places like Chicago, in mid-winter?

I’m not wearing a dress to a football game (unless fans of my team start doing this), however, I’m not sure I’m any less fanatical than they are. I live, eat and breathe sports. Every morning, while I’m supposedly watching Scooby Doo or Sesame Street with the kids, I’m checking the sports scores on ESPN. It’s not until the kids scream or my son yells “Doo” fifteen times, that I change the channel. But that’s only the tip of the iceberg.

Half of my wardrobe says Mets or Jets on it. When we go on vacation, I’ll pack my clothes. My wife then repacks my clothes and replaces all my Mets or Jets shirts with non-sports related shirts (and shirts without holes). I also have a hat for every sports season.

My kids’ wardrobe is also laden with Jets, Mets, and Knicks attire. For my son’s birthday, an Uncle suggested that he’d get my son a baseball jersey for a team other than the Mets. “I’ll burn it,” I joked. However, I’m not so sure I was joking.

“I can’t have my kids root for another team,” I said to my wife.

“I know a good psychiatrist.”

“Is he a Mets fan?’”

Then there are the lengths to which I’ll go to watch a game. About 20 years ago, there was a movie with Robin Williams and Kurt Russell, The Best of Times, in which Williams is a fanatical football fan. Williams is invited to a romantic dinner and proceeds to set up his place at the dinner table so he can view a football game on TV, unbeknownst to his date. When one team fumbles the ball, Williams screams and blows his cover. I’ve actually done this, except, in my case, it was a family dinner and I didn’t blow my cover.

A couple of months ago, a friend of mine won a free luxury box to a Mets game, which included free drinks, free food, VIP treatment, etc. I was invited but it was the same day as a family christening. Of course, selfishly, I chose to go to the Mets game. At least I realize I have a problem. Unfortunately, I’ve also come to realize there are now about 10 channels of ESPN (not including pay-per-view).

My sports addiction isn’t all bad, though. In fact, it’s led to some funny moments. When my daughter was two, a neighbor asked Lexy what her name was. She excitedly responded, “Alexandra….Alexandra Mets.” I grinned from ear to ear—my wife, well, she didn’t find it quite as funny.

I also recently took my daughter to her first baseball game. We had a great time and it’s an experience I’ll always cherish. I can’t wait to take my son to his first game. (As long as the Mets win, that’ll be a great day, too.)

There are other positive things resulting from my sports fanaticism as well. Sports provide a special bond between my father and me. We have memories of games we attended and watched 20 years ago and sports always give us something to talk (and complain) about.

So maybe I don’t need a 12-step program after all, perhaps, just an occasional reminder to keep sports in perspective. As long as that reminder doesn’t come on Super Bowl Sunday, I’ll be fine.

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Cursed!

Jets fever was running high as my kids plastered homemade green and white Jets signs all over the house. My wife, who likes football about as much as an old-fashioned enema, suddenly sported a green Coach bag. Coincidence? I don’t think so.

Neighbors and friends even dared to utter the two words Jets fans were told to never, ever say in a public place: Super Bowl.

Adding to the hysteria, Mayor Bloomberg said the Jets were not only going to the Super Bowl but were winning it. As the Jets headed to Pittsburgh to face the Steelers, everything seemed to be in place for a return to glory.

Not so fast.

According to one of my friends, “Joe Namath sold his soul to the devil so the Jets could win the Super Bowl in 1969. And they haven’t won since.”

He had a point about the Jets long history of losing. But his story was pure fiction.

“You don’t really believe that, do you?”

“What do you think?” he said with a straight face.

Yeah, sure, I said to myself. I also believe in Big Foot, the Loch Ness monster and that Donald’s Trump hair is real.

Starting to doubt what I believed, I decided to check with an honest, reliable source: my eight-year-old daughter.

“Lexy, you don’t believe in fairy tales or monsters or curses or jinxes, do you?” I said half-smiling.

“Of course not; don’t be silly, Daddy. I’m not a baby,” she said as if I should be ashamed for asking.

“That’s what I thought, just checking.”

“Hey Daddy, guess what? My tooth is loose.” She wiggled her tooth. “The tooth fairy is going to come tonight and bring me $10.”

Some reliable source she turned out to be. And I was going to be out ten bucks.

On the morning of the game, my confidence in the Jets started to waiver. I even found video on the Internet proving Trump’s hair was simply a comb over gone awry. I was starting to believe in the curse.

Feigning confidence, I began texting my buddies to say we were going to the Super Bowl. I was searching for reassurance.

I approached the kids who were watching TV. “Who’s going to watch the Jets win today?”

“They’re going to lose.” Lexy was dead serious.

“No, they’re not,” my son said taking my side. “Who’s playing, Dad?”

And to think just yesterday they were painting Jets signs.

“Jets and Steelers. Are you watching the game with me?”

“He’s playing dolls with ME!”

“Sorry, I’m playing dolls with Lex.”

Dolls over football; it might take years of therapy before I fully recovered.

I then looked to my wife for comfort.

“Are the Jets going to win today?”

“Yeah, go Jets!”

“So are you watching the game with me?”

“I don’t like them that much.”

“But what about the go Jets and the Green Coach bag?”

“I can root for the Jets while I’m watching HGTV. And the bag is brown, hon. You’re color-blind, remember?”

Annoyed, I stomped back to the living room. I’d root the Jets to victory by myself.

Unfortunately, later that day I watched in agony as the Jets lost one game from the Super Bowl for the second consecutive year. The curse lived.

But, ironically, I was upbeat. There’s always next year. And in the Jets case, the year after, and the year after that, and the year after that, etc., etc.

Copyright © 2011, Brad Manzo

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Singin’ the Post-Holiday Blues

During the days leading up to Christmas, my kids were on their best behavior. Each time they started to act up, I immediately invoked the dreaded Santa threat.

“If anyone smacks or hits, I’m calling Santa Claus myself and telling him you’re bad. He’s in my Contacts list.”

I held my phone up for added effect.

The fighting ceased immediately. They even used please and thank you without being prodded.

However, a few days after Christmas, my kids quickly reminded me that holiday cheer and goodwill was long over.

“Does anyone want breakfast?” I asked.

No answer.

Enthusiastically, I prepared my eggs and coffee. Before I sat down to enjoy my meal, I knew better. I’d ask one last time if they wanted something to eat.

“Are you guys sure you don’t want any breakfast?”

“Yeah, we’re sure,” they responded.

Music to my ears.

I sat on the couch, placed my food on the snack tray and then stretched. I readied myself for the first delicious bite.

“Dad, I’m hungry,” my son said.

“Daddy, I’m ready for breakfast,” Lexy added.

“What the hell?” I muttered to myself, mixed in with a few other curse words.

I could simply pretend I didn’t hear it. That might work.

My son raced into the living room and tugged my shirt. “Dad, I’m really hungry.”

Lexy stormed in behind him to ensure I couldn’t ignore them. “Daddy, I’m hungry. I want breakfast now!”

For a brief moment, I contemplated any potential threats I might have at my disposal.

Ask nicely for breakfast or I’ll…cancel Groundhog’s Day or George Washington’s Birthday.

Wait until I start eating then ask for breakfast, huh? That’s it; the next time your friends come over, I’m going to dance in front of them…in my pajamas.

However, my wife would never allow me to do that. “We don’t want to traumatize the poor kids,” she’d say.

Unfortunately, without the threat of putting them on Santa’s naughty list, I found myself back in the kitchen bitching and making them breakfast.

To further annoy me, shortly after, my daughter handed me a barely-eaten plate of eggs. “I wasn’t that hungry.”

My kids may not appreciate me but at least I had my iPad.

I decided to check my email. Maybe there’d be something uplifting there, such as an old friend finding me on Facebook.

Free Viagra. Delete.

Wow, I’ve just won the lottery in some strange country. And all I have to do to collect is forward my social security number, my credit card number and my brain. Delete.

Sexy Senior singles in your area. (I’m not making this up.) I’ve been matched with a sweet single senior. Lucky me. Delete.

Now I was really depressed.

“Hon, can you shovel the car out?” my wife asked

I looked at the piles of snow outside and almost cried.

CJ then ran over and hugged me. “I loved your eggs, Dad.”

I was on top of the world again. Briefly.

“Hon, are you going outside? That car is not going to shovel itself out.”

Copyright © 2011, Brad Manzo

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Christmas Time in the City

Excitedly, I gathered my wife and kids around the lit Christmas Tree and began to read.

“Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
not a creature was stirring, not even my spouse.” I said.

“Daddy,” Lexy said with an annoyed look on her face.

I continued. “The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
in hopes that St Nicholas wore clean underwear.”

The kids giggled.

My wife rolled her eyes. “Be serious.”

“The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
while visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads.
And mamma in her Louis Vuitton ‘kerchief, and I in my cap,
had just settled our brains for a long winter’s nap.”

“When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter…”
A loud, long fart then erupted for several seconds. CJ looked away sheepishly instantly revealing that that he was the culprit.

“Holy clatter!” I said. The kids laughed.

“Can we finish the story?” my wife said, now clearly annoyed.

I cleared my throat. “I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter—ugh, reindeer fart?”

I was now on dangerously thin ice with Diane and quickly resumed the story.

“Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the butter and threw out the trash.

The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below.
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
but a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny reindeer.”

CJ was puzzled. “How does Santa find all the homes?”

“GPS.”

“Does he curse like you when the stupid GPS doesn’t work?” CJ asked.

“CJ, we don’t use that word,” Diane said scolding him.

She shot me a scornful look to emphasize that the bad language was my fault.

No argument there.

My gaze returned to the book. “With a livery cab driver, so lively and quick, I knew in a moment it must be St Nick.”

“What if Santa has to go to the bathroom?” CJ asked.

“CJ!” Lexy said in shock.

“He’s not your father; he doesn’t have to go the bathroom every 5 minutes. He holds it in.” Diane responded.

I disregarded her wisecrack and jumped right back into the story.
“More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name!
Now Dasher! Now Dancer! Now Prancer and Vixen!”

The kids joined in enthusiastically.
“On, Comet! On, Cupid! on…….”

CJ chimed in. “Ditzen!”

“CJ, it’s not Ditzen,” Lexy said matter of factly.

“Yeah, it is.”

The two of them continued to argue.

I turned to Diane. “At least he didn’t put SH in front of itzen. Then he’d really be the most famous reindeer of all.”

Before Diane erupted at both me and the kids, I attempted to fix the situation.

“Who wants to sing the 12 Days of Christmas? Deck the halls?”

Still no reaction.

“Rudolph? Jingle Bells? Grandma Got Run over by a Reindeer?” I said in desperation, suddenly squeaking like a pubescent Peter Brady.

As the kids continued to ignore me and fight, Diane stepped in. “If this doesn’t stop right now, no one is getting anything for Christmas!”

The kids snapped to attention.

“I told you guys to cut it out,” I said suddenly turning serious.

She glowered at me. “That includes you, too. I’m bringing back your iPad.”

Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night.

Copyright © 2010, Brad Manzo

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Back to School

“Don’t embarrass me on the field trip, Daddy.”

Hmm. This isn’t the same girl who last week begged me to be one of the chaperones on her school trip.

“Uh, okay.”

“You can’t wear anything with holes.

“What about underwear?”

“Daddy!”

Angrily, she grabbed me by the arm and brought me to my closet. “Let me pick out your clothes.”

“Just like your mother,” I mumbled under my breath.

“I heard that,” my wife said from two rooms away.

The woman has bionic hearing.

Lexy picked out a nice, black, buttoned-down shirt. “Here you go, Dad.”

I approved. “Thanks.”

I was off the hook. Temporarily.

A few minutes later Lexy approached me again. “Daddy, when we go the museum you can’t eat like you do at home.”

I wasn’t sure what that meant but was eager to find out.

“Mom is buying you a chicken cutlet hero but you can’t eat the whole thing. You can only have half.”

“What if I shove the whole hero in my mouth at one time so no one can tell the difference?”

“No.” She was firm in her position and unsure if I was kidding.

“Fine, I can do that. Anything else?”

“Yes, we can’t be late. You’re always the last one ready.”

My son passed by the kitchen long enough to agree with his sister.

Was I always the slowest?

“The kids are right. You’re always the last one,” my wife said.

I was starting to think the three of them were conspiring against me.

“And one more thing—no going to the bathroom. You take too long.”

“So you want me to hold it in all day? I don’t want to have an accident. Then you’d really be embarrassed.”

She laughed sheepishly. “You can go to the bathroom at home, I guess.”

“I promise if I go to the bathroom at the museum, I’ll be quick.”

She acquiesced. “Okay, but don’t bring your iPhone to the bathroom.”

“Promise.” I smiled.

I heeded all of her suggestions.

On the day of the field trip, I was ready for the time she suggested, but it didn’t matter. She was nervous. If I was ready the night before, it still wouldn’t have been early enough.

We raced to school and Lexy told me to wait in front of the school while she met up with her class.

I waited. And waited. And waited some more. About an hour passed before Lexy’s class boarded the bus.

I then boarded the yellow bus—which brought back strange memories of wedgies, wet willies, and boogers—with the other parents. I was annoyed by the long wait and hungry, to boot. Dam, if I wasn’t going to eat that whole sandwich.

But poor Lexy was forced to share a seat with me while her friends sat together. I didn’t want to embarrass her further so I left the sandwich in the bag. Besides, the thought of boogers didn’t exactly whet my appetite.

After about thirty minutes of silence, Lexy grew more comfortable with me sitting next to her. We started talking and I even spoke a little with her classmates. I felt like we were really bonding.

Then the whole bus started chanting “Justin Bieber!” What the hell was I doing here? And why couldn’t I be a filthy rich 16-year-old in a boy band?

Then I had to go the bathroom. It was all unraveling. I wanted that whole sandwich now.

But Lexy continued to talk to me and I felt fine again. In fact, it was going to be great—until they start chanting, “Hannah Montana!”

Copyright © 2010, Brad Manzo

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