Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Frogs Own It

Do any of you have a pool at your house?  Not one of those tiny, kiddie pools that you can fill with beer and have a wild party in with a bunch of sweet GI Joe boats and a stripper, no.  A real, honest to god, in-ground pool?


Good.  Never buy a house with one.  Let me tell you why.

When we were looking for a house to spawn offspring into, my wife and I came across many, terrible locations.  It was at the bottom of the housing crash, we were looking for cheap places, and there were more neglected foreclosures than I could have ever dreamed existed.

But when we found the house we would eventually make the mistake of purchasing, we loved everything about the place...until we went outside.

My lovely, and beautiful wife whose entrancing allure and intelligence knows no bounds decided that it would be a grand idea to buy a house with a pool. 

I objected.  Mostly because I knew I would be the one taking care of it.

It was a little like when your kid comes home with a half dead turtle and asks you to keep it, but then you're like, what do I do with a stupid turtle?  Don't they like pizza?  (They don't) But I think I saw that in a movie once.  (That was TMNT).  Oh, ok.

So here it is, almost July fourth, and my pool hasn't been touched, what with school, and child-rearing, and trying to make sure that my lawn/garden is somewhat upkept so my neighbors don't attack me with pitchforks. And you know, Fourth of July weekend is like the siren to all people to head toward water.  And this is what the water in the pool looks like.

And I'm trying to clean the entire thing through a filter the size of a shoe-box.  I may as well get out there with some cheese-cloth and hope for the best. 

Also, no joke, I've come across two over-sized frogs so far.  One was living the life and jumped off the diving board into the water, and the other (probably his mistress that his wife found out about) was lodged inside of my filter, deader than disco. 

So, I would like to take this opportunity to invite you to come over to my place!  No, not for tea, or for biscuits, or any of that, but to come and both help me clean up my pool and also to knock some sense into my dear, dear wife so the next house we buy is pool-free.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Month #5 in Pictures, or Sammy Wants a Job.

Sammy turned 5 months old this week.  And true to form, he's already contemplating his future career choices.  His mother is so proud of him for considering his future at such a young age. 

Here he is as a supermodel.

I'm pretty sure there's a lot more to life than being really, really...ridiculously good looking.
And I'm not sure anyone in the family is happy about his secret desire to be a......towel.....head...?!?!?

I'm gonna cry and poop my pants until I get my 72 virgins, infidel!
And there was, of course, that time he insisted he wanted to be Teddy Roosevelt's Safari Jungle companion.

Wait, was he the one with Polio?  Have I gotten my shots?
And finally, he wanted to be a food critic or some kind of professional taste tester, but...

Wait, get that thing away fro..m..MMPH! 

That dream didn't last long.

ACK!  Why did you do that to me?!? AND you're taking pictures?!?

I bet you Vasya over there with the cheap diapers hasn't even thought about what college he wanted to go to, let alone which career path would best suit him.  His parents must not love him enough.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The Proper Way to Raise a Child

For Russians living in North East Philly, raising a child is a magical thing.  A magical, but intense thing.

Ok, maybe not magical.  Intense is probably more along the lines of adjectives that describe this phenomenon. Intense with pangs of guilt, and judgey-ness.  Because you describe anything that happens in Northeast Philly without using the descriptor "judgey".

You see, my thoughts of childhood were always rife with memories of playing war in the backyard with the neighborhood boys, pretending I was treating a patient as a leading physician with the neighborhood girls, and living my life according to the tenets of Calvin and Hobbes before Bill Watterson even knew what a "transmogrifier" was.  I even played a version of Calvinball,but I called it "Billy-Ball".  Seriously.

But that's not how it works within the Russian Community.  You see, if you're a child being raised by Russian immigrants, your parents traveled across the entire world to give you a better life, and you'd better live that better life exactly as your parents dictate, goddamn it, even if you turn into a miserable wreck. It's a life-long guilt trip, and nobody does guilt better than Russian Jews.

As Sammy grows older, and discussions stray away from the consistency of his diaper droppings, the conversations are starting to get more centered around what activities we're going to involve him in. 

I'm the third one from the left.
My parents are advocating the position of the free range child - opening the door to the back yard and kicking him out until dinner time, and if he doesn't make it in for that, he'll make it back in for bedtime.  The more dirty, the more broken bones, the more trouble he gets into, the better.  Structure, for them, is bad parenting.  This is probably why I can't concentrate on anything for more than thirty minutes, and I've constantly got three hundred grandiose plans steeping in my brain matter - each one of them still on step 1.  This is definitely not an option, because I want Sammy to have at least some structure in his life.

But my in-laws are about as opposite as you can get.  Their position is typical of the entire Russian immigrant community: the more classes and extracurricular activities the better.  "Because WE never had these classes growing up, and we have decided for you that your future success will depend upon how many activities you've participated in before you graduated from diapers." 

This man is definitely not gay
So Sammy is in for it.  There are already plans for him to go to chess classes with a former chess grand-master, who will allow breaks from learning the Monkey's Bum Opening with mathematics tutoring. Apparently, Sammy will also be involved in dance.  I've been trying to compromise that if dance is a must, then let it be break dance.  How awesome would that be??  But the rest of the family wants either ballet, or ballroom.  "Look how far it got Maksim Chmerkovskiy!" is pretty much the best argument for anything, even those subjects not including dance.  There have also been long discussions over the optimum sport in which to participate.  Being a former swimmer, I suggested swimming.  But apparently, there's not enough strategy involved, and it has been suggested that Soccer would be a better choice. And over the summer, I've always dreamed of having a kid that went to Boy Scout camp, where he learned how to shoot bows and arrows, and build shelter from twigs and leaves, and not shower for a week.  But, there's a very good Science summer camp where he will be introduced to the basics of chemistry, physics, and biology.  Also, he must either play the violin, or the piano.  There is no room for argument there.

"BC" stands for "Birth Control".   
Maybe we should also get him some really awesome glasses too?  What the military calls "BC" glasses!  or perhaps a luxury pocket protector with matching calculator case!  They would be especially helpful on his trips to his math tutor's place!  Pretty much the only thing I'm 100% in agreement with is that they're also huge advocates of some kind of martial arts.  Good.  This way, when people who lived normal lives want to beat him up for being such a math and science loving tool-bag, he can protect himself better than resorting to throwing pawns at them. 

There's also the worry that if he DOESN'T do these things, all of the other Russian parents and grandparents will look down on him, saying "Oh, look at Sam-a-yul over there, who is already three years old and does not know how to do multi-variable calculus!  His family must not love or care about him.  What is he going to be able to do with his life?  He can't be a lawyer, or doctor, or financial professional, so he will obviously be a homeless drug-addict." 

Ahh, Northeast Philadelphia, if it wasn't for all the shish-kabobs and vodka, I don't know if our relationship could last.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Guest Posting at The Good Life!

Today, I have the distinct honor of posting over at The Good Life.  Stasha (aka @NorthWestMommy)  apparently lives in a place as close to paradise as possible.  As long as you like rain. 

But her photography speaks for itself, and she's in the process of her very own 365 project that pretty much sums up peaceful Northwest USA, what with the horses, and the beautiful blond child and...wait, what is that?  A walking shag carpet?  Oh, no, that's just Big M, her trusty Newfoundland steed.  The dog plays as much of an integral role in her life as her son - which is as it should be.

I wrote about the darker side of Russian Cuisine.  And while there are many culinary bright spots, like the BBQ, the desserts, and the perogies, they DO eat food that I'm not really even sure Big M would be into.  So head on over, and check out the list!  Just make sure you aren't in the middle of eating breakfast. 

Friday, June 24, 2011

Blah Friday

Ok so here's the deal.  I just wrote 8 pages to get something into my Professor for MIS by 12:00pm.  Class is officially over monday night.  

I want to do two things.

First, I want to discuss with you the requirements that are beset upon those in the Russian community in regards to raising their children.  They are insane.  And hysterical.

And second, I want to create drama.  A cliffhanger. So this wonderful, and imaginitive, and well-researched and discussed topic will be discussed in great length on tuesday.  After the MIS exam.  I start drinking heavily immediately after the exam, and thereafter I will be hastily writing extensively.  

From all the writing today, i'm adjective'd and adverb'd out.

So I will describe this photograph in only nouns.

Gangster.  Chronicles of Riddick. Geordi LaForge.  Grandpa.  Cyclops.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Never a dull moment

We ran Sammy to the Emergency Room last night.  Never a dull moment in the Borscht household.

He was with my in laws while my wife and I tried to put the finishing touches on our papers that are due tomorrow.  My MIL said he vomited like a fountain.

And he kept vomiting.  Violently.  He would vomit all over our shirts, look around surprised, and then smile from ear to ear at us.  This went on every five minutes, right up until the moment we got to the hospital.  Then he got his color back, looked right in the doctor's eyes, and laughed the biggest belly laugh a five month old can laugh.

Little punk.

We were both on the verge of having our brains melt from worry, and he was having the best giggle-fest he's ever had. He discovered the joy of putting his fingers in OUR mouths right while we were trying to discuss with the doctor what to do.  Laughing, fingers in mouth, laughing. 

Sorry, doc - we promise he really did throw up.

We left at midnight, with no answers, and no idea what to expect for the rest of the night.  Needless to say, we didn't sleep very much.  But thankfully, the ipecac fairy (cause that's as close as we can get to a real cause) has left him alone since then.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Summer Reading List

So I'm a day late for the first day of Summer.  Meh, not my favorite season.  Hot, muggy, sweaty, sticky.  And bugs.  If you haven't noticed yet, I hate bugs.  Worst things to have been created/evolved/brought here by aliens.  Did you know that even with all of the insecticides we've created as a race, we've never been able to eradicate ONE species of bug?  We've almost killed off some of the most badass animals ever (I'm talking to you, dead Siberian tigers), but a moth?  Nope.

I think that's true. Probably is.  I heard it once, so it must be.

Anyway, since it's Summertime, and the livin's easy (especially after monday, which is the end of my sandpaper-rubbing-on-my-eyeballs summer class), I plan on reading more.  And in the spirit of school, I've compiled for you my Summer Reading list, which I desperately hope to get through.

1.  Sentimental Education by Gustave Flaubert - I'm a big French Lit fan, and a medium Flaubert fan.  I mildly enjoyed Mme Bovary, and heard Sentimental Education was a home run book.  This book has been sitting on my bedside table for a month, and I'm finally looking forward to beating the crap out of it.  Intellectually.

2.  Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss, MD - I want to buy this book so badly because my wife is kicking the pants off me in reading to Sammy.  This book is really just a proxy for all English language rhyming books for children.  See here for more details on my reading angst.

3.  Betsy and I had a Stroke - This book was written in secret by my overly dramatic grandfather.  I only just came across it because of a manic bout of family-oriented Name-Googling whose impetus was brought on because of a case study in one of my classes.  My grandpa is a bit of a gossip, so I want to read it before it permeates the family and enters the "spin-zone". 

4.  Star Wars Encyclopedia - I think the title pretty much sums up every reason to ever read this book.  They say War and Peace is the best book ever?  Psh - move over Pierre Bezukhov and your three thousand other characters - Luke Skywalker's in town.

While I'd love to add some more to this list, I realize I've really only got eight weeks, and there's lots of "Summering" to do other than being boring by reading books. For example, I've been putting off War and Peace for...well, as long as I knew it was a book. 

Are there any books you can suggest I should substitute in?  What are you reading over the Summer?  And please don't say Charles Dickens.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Blog Maintenance Day

Today was a blog maintenance day. 

I updated my pages, and I think I'm blogged-out for the day. 

Check out my updated pages (blogroll and My favorite effing posts)!

I'm still trying to get up the gut-strength to switch over to my own domain, which is purchased, but sitting unused because I still can't figure that fo-shizzle out.  So, right now, is in limbo/purgatory/whatever the ending of Lost was.

That is all.

But, so that you don't feel like your trip here was a total waste, I have a picture for you. 

What're YOU lookin'at?

Monday, June 20, 2011

Things said this weekend

"Hey mom and dad, great to see you!  Long trip?"

"Of course, it's totally cool that you take a nap - it's been a tiresome journey for you guys."

"Good afternoon!  ...Late afternoon really.  Feeling rested?"

"No, really.  He's not hungry.  He just ate maybe 15 minutes before you guys woke up.

"Uh...hold on...please don't take off his clothes - we're perfectly capable of deciding whether or not he enjoys his over-alls".

"Wait, no - he doesn't need to suck on steak.  We just started feeding him solids as a supplement.  No need for steak."

"Hey, thanks for pushing baptism, but that's the thing about being grandparents, you're not parents.  You don't get to make decisions about your grandchild.  You only get to enjoy him."

"Much obliged for the advice on bedtime, but his bedtime is exactly the bedtime that we feel is proper for him.  Remember the whole thing about grandparents/parents?  Also, you've seen him for a grand total of ten hours since his birth.  I'm betting we know a little more about when an appropriate bedtime for him is."

"Wait, YOU'RE going to bed?  Already?  Ok, see you tomorrow morning then, right?"

"Huh?  What time did you leave? 6:30am? Without even saying goodbye?  Ok, well...Happy Father's Day, I guess."

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Gulag Vlog #2

For this Vlog, my lovely wife stopped by to discuss with you the thing that I hate the most.

I hope you like!

Looking back, I noticed my accent is sort of Russian/Austrian/Pirate.  Like if Arnold, Stalin, and Jack Sparrow were to get down and dirty.  Whoa...bad image.


Stream of Consciousness day!

I have nothing of substance prepared for today, so you'll have to deal with THIS: stream of consciousness in celebration of "I love impossible to read literature that no one really understands, but I pretend I do so I can seem smarter than everyone else because I'm secretly insecure" day.  Also known as "Yay Ireland! We include James Joyce in your list of historical figures, don't have any sober enough to really count" day. 

No, really, today is that day, but I forget what the name of it is because i'm too lazy to go and google it.  So if you could, Google it, mentally copy it, and paste it into the body of this blog post.  Thank you.  That's why I love you, reader. 

In other news of the stream of consciousness, I wanted to let you know that I have a deep love for something.  Deep like, in my gut.  Maybe even lower.  Maybe deep like in my bowels.  Yes, I have a bowels-deep love for being an obnoxious d-bag. 

Example: someone just emailed me and said, "oh, sir, lovely mr. Bill - you are so wonderful.  Can you please use your extensive knowledge of awesomeness and take a look at problem 'X' for me?  Because that would be so incredibly great that I would love you forever".

And I replied back.  "Yes, I can." 

And then I never looked at it.  Because they only asked if I was actually physically capable of doing so, not requesting for me to take that action.  ENGLISH LANGUAGE, FOOL.  If you look up "english" in the dictionary, you will NOT see your face, because you are dumb.  Also, people who do this are d-bags.

If you haven't noticed by now my consciousness is terribly immature and stupid. 


ok, I'm back.  with food.  and without...extra water weight *ahem*.

I wonder what would have happened if Ulysses had GPS and Skype?  No, now i don't wonder, cause I figured it out.  He wouldn't have gotten lost, traveling around trying to fight Cyclopses and Sirenes, and dragons (oh my).  There were dragons in the story, right?  *accessing mental database* - ok now there were.

After the war, he would have b-lined it straight back to his woman, who would have been all "oh Uly (pronounced You-Lee) You iz duh onlee man fo' me."  cause she speaks in creole.  Then they would have made creole-skype babies. 

Although I'm not entirely sure why, because it took him 20 years to cross the channel between turkey and greece.  By boat.  with an entire crew.  Something seems up.  Marco (polo!) went from Genoa to Asia and back in 24 years.  and he went BY FOOT.  Either old You-Lee is navigationally challenged (read: really effing dumb) or he spent 19 years and six months doin' his thang with one of the super-hot Sirenes.  cause really, no one believe the whole, "ooo, bee's wax in my ears!" crap.


I'm so sorry for this post.  Deeply, deeply sorry.  Like, bowels-deep sorry.  I was gonna vlog, but didn't get around to it.  so this is what you get.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The ICC - brought to you with great risk to my life

Sammy, what's going on with you?  You've been sleeping like a coke fiend recently.

Well, dad - you've gotta understand something. 

Yeah?  what's that?

I might get in trouble for telling you this, but you seem cool.  Still too early to tell, really, but I'm gonna go with my gut here.  Have you ever heard of the ICC?

Uh, duh.  The International Cricket Council.  They're the ones that dictate how many tea breaks there are in a cricket match.  What does that have to do with your sleep patterns?

Oh, boy, dad.  I can see our family's future is completely up to me.  No, not the cricket douches.  I'm talking about the International Child's Conspiracy.

What?  Conspiracy?  Are we in Nevada?  Even though you're what, 4 months old now, I haven't raised you to believe in that crap.

No, dad - listen.  Here's the phenomena - You know those two books you just read?  One of them said not to let children cry at nighttime lest they develop anxieties about falling asleep.  The other said that if you go and run to your child they will end up becoming severely dependent upon your help and thus not be able to function in society as independent adults. 

Yeah, I know.  It's insane. 

Exactly.  That's the point.  Studies by babies everywhere have come to the realization that they can better control their parents if they are confused, frustrated and sleep deprived.  So the ICC came up with a solution: publish books with vastly differing viewpoints to facilitate the confusion and frustration.  Get on forums and twitter and other online media and create rivalry between parents, saying that everyone ELSE is doing it the wrong way. Then, as a final measure, infiltrate the AAP, and control nation-wide baby-policy from there. 

Infiltrate the AAP?  How does a baby infiltrate the American Academy of Pediatrics?

Simple - they're incredibly likely to have children, aren't they?  And they're under a lot of stress already from being doctors and all that.  So we just get their babies on board.  It's as easy as getting an adult to give candy to a baby.

Clever line.

Thank you. 

But how do you communicate with them?  They're presumably all over the country, there's no way you get out of the house to travel.

It's sad how stupid you adults really are.  Do you really think those baby monitors are one way?  They've been engineered as long range walkie-talkies.

I'm afraid of you.

Eh, don't worry about it.  You're so sleep deprived, you'll get to work tomorrow and think that this was just some hallucination. 

No really, I'm afraid of you.  I'm gonna start tattooing clues on my body for me to remember this stuff later like that dude in Memento. 

Don't forget - that guy was actually a bad dude.

Was he?  I didn't really get that movie. 

Oh, dad.  Just be quiet and plug my pacifier back in.  WAAH!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Punk is not Music - it's a way of life

I'm pretty punk rock.  I mean, honest to god punk, not these eyeliner and mascara pop punk kids who think punk rock involves shiny spiky belts and an earring.

No, I mean, I grew up punk in the way that purposeful physical bodily harm was considered awesome.  That there was value in poverty - the lifeblood of the country ran through the veins of the poor and disaffected.  For me, punk rock was an expression of how Americans could, and should, rally together in a single expression of unified angst towards the uneven playing field that was corporate and political America.

It was almost as if punk rock was like my very own communist revelation.  A socialist epiphany that I had when I was eleven that grew malignantly within me throughout my teenage years.

I started lining my wardrobe with punk tee shirts.  And while I was fairly proud of how many awesome tee shirts I had, they sometimes ended up in strange places when I grew up.  Like this:

Me and the Fam at Washington Square Park
and then there was this:

My wife and I on our first day of our Honeymoon
The first shirt is a Guttermouth shirt that has on the back of it a list that a police officer gave to the lead guy in the band when he was arrested.  The list is 10 things to do to stop being so punk rock.  One of them is "Don't Injure Yourself".  I always get a kick out of this shirt.

The second shirt is a Bad Religion shirt that has a picture of zombies on the back and the caption, "they'll go anywhere their president tells them to".  That went over really well in a military household.

I must have been fifteen when I bought these shirts, and full of misdirected, communist angst.  And now, the shirts have such a poignant nostalgia that I can't throw them out, but they're so out of place in my daily life that I'm not sure I can wear them anymore.

They're just not relevant these days.  I'm so much more concerned with the happiness that my family gives me that I'm not disaffected enough to really give anarchy and revolution a real honest second thought.  They were beautiful ideals as a sixteen year old kid, but for a family man with a mortgage?  A guy who is now PART of corporate America?  Does that make me a sell out?  Or does that make me a victim of the machine?  Or rather, does it just mean my priorities shifted from global anger and uprising to family-centric happiness?

It's amazing to wear these shirts now when I'm at the mall, and some fifteen year old kid will sport a "Rise Against" tee-shirt, or have a skull tattoo on his or her neck and a spider-web tattoo on their elbow (both of which I once upon a time wanted to get).  I'll be wearing my other Guttermouth shirt that says:

That person will sort of glance knowingly, and I'll look back with nostalgia.  Neither of us will make any real sign of acknowledgement, cause that wouldn't be punk.

But I wonder to myself what that person will end up thinking of their 15 or 16 year old self when they're a family man/woman with a mortgage.

Monday, June 13, 2011

She's Gone...

I've been trying to figure out a way to relay this information in a funny and clever way, but every time I put something down, it just turns into a whining session.  So let's just leave it as it is.  Commence whining.

Our babysitter's leaving us.
Exactly at the worst possible time, because we were increasing her hours because there's a chance my wife needs to go back into the office daily (she was working from home since Sammy was born).

Granted, we were paying her slightly above slavery rates, but Sammy is an IDEAL child - with almost no crying, and he's immediately and easily consolable and he sleeps about as much as a narcoleptic cat.  And, when we offered to match and exceed whatever job she was leaving us for, she said that it wasn't about the money.

And now, oh man.  The candidates we're getting are characters.  They ALL want top dollar, but most are about as fit to take care of a four month old as a quadriplegic pedophile with tourettes.  One of them came in and insisted that we're not treating our son well because he's not eating yogurt and soups yet.  And if we were to hire her, she'd cook him all the soups he could possibly want.  I can't possibly imagine justifying paying these people so much money; it's almost enough money to make me seriously think about quitting my job.  Or training a chimpanzee.  At least with the chimp, I'd have someone to party with.

But, we wouldn't be in such a jam if the outgoing babysitter didn't instantly develop schizophrenia when she told us she was leaving.  She immediately pretended like it was OUR fault that she was leaving.  We tried to be polite and cordial, but this woman barely even says hello and goodbye.  She's got two weeks left (thank god she gave us at least a little notice), but I think she's actively trying to get fired. 

Example: whenever we're home with her at the same time, we'll make espresso and offer her a cup.  She has always accepted gratefully.  But the day she told us, we made her espresso, and she replied "do NOT do this again!" all angry. 

Given the fact that she could kill all of us with her mind, I'm not gonna make any more coffee for her, but I can't wait to get her out of the house. 

Anyone know of any good babysitters?  Preferably those that do not know how to handle an Uzi? 

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Wordless Thursday?

So, today is going to be awfully busy.  And I'm terrible at staying one day ahead of this blog, cause when I'm ahead, I think to myself...hey, cool.  I can take it easy and not write anything.

Then I get behind.

So for these two reasons, I'm gonna make this a wordless Thursday.  While it doesn't have the same alliteration, it does serve the same sort of purpose.

This is the wife's idea of a legitimate sun-hat.  Dumb, I know.

Enjoy the weekend, because tomorrow is #BlogBoycottDay!  I'll try desperately to keep up with you guys on my crappidy-crap-crap phone that doesn't tweet well, but I'll hope to see you there!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Guest Posting at It's Blogworthy!!

Today, I have the unique pleasure of being dubbed, "Blogworthy". 

The very sweet and always funny Amanda Blogworthy asked me to guest post over at her place today, and I have a beautiful tale of my inter-cultural wedding waiting for those of you awesome enough to make the jump.

Amanda is also the brilliant creator of the Celebrity Weekly Round-up, which is an always hysterical review of the week's happenings in the world of the glitter-azi.  No, I don't mean homosexual German fascists, I mean...well, I was never really clear on what glitter-azi meant.  But it has to do with celebrities.  And glitter.

She does a much better job than I do, which is why her blog is Blogworthy!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

When Slinky-Spine Comes in Handy

I love my in laws dearly.  But I've got a confession to make.  Despite my undying love for them, they do, unfortunately, have troubles with tact.  

Take, for example, our recent trip to PF Chang's in Baltimore.  These dear, lovely, and incredibly intelligent people tend to not do too well within the confines of an eating-oriented establishment.  It might be the terribly expansive menu, or the (legitimate) stomach issues my MIL has, or the stress that comes with having to make decisions under a time constraint.  Or perhaps they're simply trying to optimize the preference curve that exists in the relationship between the most varied and delicious cuisine choices vs. the ever-present fight for the lowest cost.  

My in laws are math geeks like that.  Or is that economics?  

Not important.  What IS important, however, is when my MIL pointed to one of the menu choices, and asked the waiter, "Tell me, Is it delicious?"

The other Russian couple we were with ordered their drinks with one single word, "Ginger!"  When the poor, sweet, and unbelievably patient African-American waiter wasn't entirely sure what that meant, they repeated, annoyed, "GINGER!"  They then commented to each other decidedly NOT under their breath about how black people are so stupid they can't even take drink orders.

My FIL is actually pretty good about these things.  He will actually not insult anyone when ordering.  He sits, silent, and points to the item he'd like on the menu.  The entire exchange between himself and the waiter is usually absolutely silent unless he'd like a shot of vodka.  I remember one time, the people at the restaurant said that they don't serve straight shots.  He then said, "Vodka on the rocks, no ice".

And just this past weekend, my wife was ordering a cocktail.  My MIL asks her what is in the cocktail.  My wife says vodka, schnapps, a little fruit juice.  My MIL wonders aloud if she should get one.  My FIL replies that she drinks too much, and is an alcoholic (which she definitely isn't).  My wife says that if she'd like one, she should get one.  My MIL then tells my FIL that if anyone in the family should stop drinking, it's him.  This exchange goes on for five or ten more minutes.

The waiter has still not yet finished taking our order, and is looking near comatose.  Or he's seizing.  Whatever it is, there's foam coming from his mouth.  (do these things happen with comas/seizures?  Please excuse my insensitivity/ignorance, also - my dear aunt sally {MATH JOKE!}).  Kapow!

I guess the point here is this.  Perhaps there is a Russian Emily Post?  Emilia Sergeivich Postova?  As much as I love them, my spine is starting to hate me from all the slinking under the table I've been doing at restaurant dinners with them.  I love them dearly, but perhaps we'll just get take out from now on.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Gulag-Vlog #1

Against my better judgment, here is my first vlog ever.  

I should have taken Jessica at My Time As A Mom's advice and had a couple stiff shots before I did this.  But then you never know, no one would have understood anything I was saying.

So without further ado:


So...I looked up "virulent".  This is what Webster says.
1: a : marked by a rapid, severe, and destructive course <a virulent infection> b : able to overcome bodily defensive mechanisms : markedly pathogenic <virulent bacteria> 
2: extremely poisonous or venomous
3: full of malice : malignant <virulent racists>
Nicely done, bill, nicely done.  Note to self: refrain from engaging in "the act" with this guy.  Might get rabies.

I think I meant something along the lines of prowess.  But after close to 20 takes, I was honestly kind of annoyed and didn't want to redo it another time.  Sorry guys, I've got perfectionist qualities, but only to a point.  Then laziness takes over.  And with laziness come malapropisms.

Speaking of malapropisms, it reminds me of one time when I went to a country club with KLZ from Taming Insanity.  It was a super-swanky country club, and when I came in and saw how beautiful everything was, I said something about how the place was the utter definition of ostentatious, thinking it was a nice thing to say.  But she and her husband are super sweet, and probably chalked it up to my being an idiot.

What I meant to say was "opulent".  This is why I do much better in writing than in speech.

Next time, I'll get drunk - just to see if there's a difference in how well I do in front of the web-cam. You know, as a scientific experiment, or something.


Friday, June 3, 2011

The Best Forever

My wife is putting Sammy to bed - it's her night tonight.  I stand in the bathroom, brushing my teeth and half-listening to the story she's reading.  I turn around, and move to watch from the entryway of the bathroom.

She sits sideways on a tiny black stool with one elbow resting on top of the crib.  She is reading one of her favorite childhood stories to him animatedly. Her book is turned towards him so he can peer into the book and wonder what the pictures are.  He concentrates.  For the first time all day, he is awake and motionless, trying to figure out the connection between Mama's voice and this flimsy square colorful thing she is holding in front of his face.

Her voice vividly impersonates the characters.  She makes sound effects the amplify the story, and whenever she does, Sammy will flash the faintest smile of comprehension.  He loves her so dearly.

And in this moment before bedtime, there is so much ecstasy oozing out of everyone in the room - Sammy ecstatic to be spending time with Mama, my wife ecstatic to be interacting with her son for one of the first times ever, and me...

I'm ecstatic watching the two of them feed off each others' happiness. I'm ecstatic that we've been blessed with such a beautiful son.  That we've been able to stick together since the beginning of our relationship - six and a half years of some of the most difficult but amazing times in both of our lives.  I'm ecstatic that my wife agreed to marry me, and that we'll celebrate it tomorrow.

Though we've only been married two years, it feels like we've known each other forever.  The best forever one could hope for.

Thursday, June 2, 2011


I can't study anymore.  I think I've got acquired-adult-onset ADHD.  That is, AAOADHD.  I just pronounced that out loud and audibly giggled.  At work.  Yes, folks - it's sealed.  I'm a victim of AAOADHD.

Take last night, for example.  My wife and I have papers due on Friday, and my wife had thoughtfully scheduled a couple hours where my in-laws would take the little guy so we could write our papers. 

She finished in LITERALLY FIFTEEN MINUTES.  Please allow me to reiterate that.  She wrote three pages single spaced about the inter-workings of a Canadian firm's ENTIRE IT department in less time than it takes to play one round of Pictionary.  I went to make a cup of coffee and she had finished it before it started along its journey to percolation. Fifteen effing minutes.

She then picked up the paper, put her feet up, and began reading the paper.  Just to be a punk.  Look, wife, no one reads the paper anymore.  You're not fooling anyone.  You purchased this newspaper with the explicit purpose of rubbing in my face the fact that you are studious. I think I'll buy you a monocle and a train ticket for your birthday.  So you can be all studious and judgy somewhere else.  While...seeing things...with only one eye.  Whatever, psh.

In the fifteen minutes that it took her to write her paper, I was catching up on twitter.  I can't read it, or even participate effectively at work, because I'm using a phone from the 1870's, and the touch screen is prohibitively stupid.  When she told me she was done, I was lost in thought - thinking about how awesome it was that Eratosthenes used stadia to calculate the circumference of the Earth.  Seriously, look up the story.  It's fascinating.

But when she told me, I was so shocked and devastated that I literally fell onto the floor and crawled around writhing dramatically.  And I'm using "literally" correctly here.

And just this morning, while I've been trying to write one goddamn post for today, I've actually written three.  One that was a stream of consciousness in the style of James Joyce's Ulysses.  But then I googled Ulysses, and started reading about its critical reception, and then I got into Irish literature and Oscar Wilde, and then Gay Pride, and Old Navy, and before I knew it, I had only three or four sentences written and I was bored with the idea of a stream of consciousness.

Then I wrote one of those six word stories but was supremely unhappy with it.  Especially when I took into account that I spent nearly 45 minutes thinking of six...stupid...words. 

And then, in frustration, I decided I was diseased.  With AAOADHD. 

I just said it aloud again.  And laughed.

Someone please help.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Anatomy of a Russian BBQ

I wanted to write a post about how to properly create the delicacy that is "Shashlik".  But with the research, all the different kinds, all the very important stipulations and rules surrounding its proper creation, I'd probably not only be writing for a week and a half straight, but I'd bore you to tears.  Because no one can make cooking meat THAT funny.  Seriously - there's a russki-rule against it.  Only slight chuckles allowed.  Belly laughs strictly forbidden.

So instead, I wanted to give you just one tiny slice into how one family prepares it, as literally EVERY family does it differently. 

And not just a little bit differently like with burgers.  You put cilantro in the ground beef, you say?  Putting butter on the bun before grilling?  Whoa - shakin' the foundation here.  You're still using beef, right?  In a circular patty?  Psh.

No, I'm talking WAY different.  For example, my family only chooses the highest quality meat: pork ass.  Apparently, my FIL thinks that the fat that's contained within that sweet swine rump soaks up the marinade so much better than anything else out there.  But other families prefer the juicy tenderness of veal or lamb or even fish. 

Sometimes I'm glad we don't live on a farm, because I could seriously imagine my FIL there in the pig pen, eyes closed and face pressed closely to the ass of the pig, and rubbing it lovingly.  Best Jew ever. 

The next most important part of my family's unique Shashlik tradition is the marinade.  Apparently, this needs to be done the night before the grill gets fired up so that the fat can sufficiently soak up the juices.  Again.  VASTLY different methods exist. My FIL describes some people who marinade with seltzer, or with yogurt, or with a crazy Milk/yogurt mix called Kefir.

My family opts for just vinegar, onions, salt and pepper.  This way the taste of swine butt can REALLY come through.  Then you're supposed to put the meat under pressure by placing a huge weight on the pot where they're marinading.  This aides in the soaking up of the juices. Don't ask me how this works.  I know it's counter intuitive.  You wouldn't squeeze the sponge to get more water in it, but apparently this is how it is with meat.

Ok, now you're ready for grilling.  No, don't even THINK of using gas.  People have been killed for using propane for shashlik.  And hands off the charcoal briquettes.  You have to use wood based charcoal.  This way it makes the meat taste as if you really just cooked it in the middle of the woods.  Never seen wood based charcoal before?  Hmm, strange.  Because it's the ONLY charcoal sold in the Grocery Store.

Oh god, I'm drooling just looking at this picture from last weekend

Notice anything strange about the skewers?  They're not some wussy round skewers purchased to cook stupid crap like eggplants or peppers.  These are home-effing-made flat skewers specially designed to sear the ass of all pigs they come into contact with.  They also double as fencing epees, though, in a pinch.  Or javelins.  Tent stakes.  Ear piercing mechanisms.  You get the idea - they're sharp.

Seriously, I'm having hunger pains just thinking about how delicious the picture looks. 

Best summer tradition ever.  The first time I ever had shashlik, they were so delicious I ate three or four pieces at once.  They got stuck in my throat and I had to lie down for thirty minutes because they wouldn't dislodge themselves.  I think it was the second time I met my wife's parents.  It was at that moment that my FIL knew I was the one for him.

Happy summer everyone, and welcome to Shashlik Country.