Just Sayin.

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Me and my kid have matching guinea pig shirts and cheeseburger hats.

I Took My Kid to See the Easter Bunny.

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I took my kid to see the Easter Bunny.

By which I mean I was conned out of thirty bucks by a slick, manipulative hustle, smoothly operated by blank-faced teenagers.

SCENE: The Mall. 5:48 PM. Like kids getting ready for the prom, we were nervous and excited. A little awkward, but full of resolve and playing it cool. Typical, twitchy, new parent stuff. That’s what we’re like, rolling through the mall with all our gear, pushing our baby, yo. Struttin’. Stylin’. We stopped at the Children’s Place and I bought my kid a cheeseburger hat.

SCENE: The Easter Bunny Shakedown. 6:15PM. I immediately note that this isn’t what I had pictured in my head. Not that I even had a clear image of anything in my head. My memories are fuzzy. Like, I’m somewhere back in 1988, in the back corner of a department store, staring down a beige/somewhat yellowed Easter Bunny, sitting on an also beige/somewhat yellowed wicker chair.

I can’t tell if my memories have this yellow tint because of the fading, chemically-smearing photos stored in a bin in my parents’ basement, or because everything in the 1980s kind of WAS that color.

So yeah, wicker chairs. With a massive fake floral arrangement around it, partially strangling the back of the wicker chair like a vine. The flowers aren’t silk. They’re the kind that almost feel like sandpaper to the touch. The flowers are pink and yellow and beige and PUCE. Oh yes, puce. It was a staple color of the 1980s. Everything kind of WAS that color, too.

I don’t remember this for certain — maybe it only looks that way in those fading photographs — but I’m pretty sure the 1980s Easter Bunny’s costume fur is ratty and smells like gym sneakers.

SCENE: We hesitantly approach the female cashier with a neck tattoo. 6:17 PM.

Wait, what?

Yes, a neck tattoo.

Holy shit dude.

This chick is hard. I’m talking Snoop from the Wire-hard, with the straight-up Baltimore-street accent sliding off the tongue as she tells me the full photo package is $29.99.

I’m not an easily intimidated person. I can actually be intimidating myself. Except here’s the thing about me now. I’m soft now. I’m standing there wearing a diaper bag strapped across my chest, gripping the foam handles of my Chicco Liteway Travel System Stroller, while wearing poorly-fitting jeans and dad sneakers and a shirt with a spit-up stain on it.

And my wife’s no help. She’s in full-on mom-mode kneeling down in front of the kid, simultaneously brushing his hair and digging in her purse to find a tissue to clean his cheek with.

You know what we look like?

Suckers.

Still, I manage eek out a teeny, tiny scoff at the $29.99 price. Snoop looks bored, but seems to take pity on me. She offers that I could buy just the one 5×7 for $19.99.

For twenty bucks, you get one stupid picture. For thirty bucks, you get a billion wallet photos that you don’t need, two medium pictures that you don’t need, but you also get the full resolution digital file.

The wife and I deliberate. Meanwhile, I take a moment to fully scope out the Shakedown. Unlike the mall’s Santa Village, which is an ornately-decorated walk-thru event in the center plaza, the Easter Bunny’s surroundings are stark. It’s a few pieces of propped up cardboard and fabric, quick to assemble and even quicker to disassemble, like some sort of sketchy tent revival that pops up overnight to take your money and heal the crippled. It sits in the quiet back corner of the mall, near the going-out-of-business artisan soap store.

In the middle of it all the Easter Bunny sits, completely still. Not a single movement. Is it an animatronic? Is it a serial killer? Is it dead?

Nope, it just moved. Phew.

It’s eerie.

It’s terrifying.

I take a stealthy picture, pretending I’m just looking at phone, somewhat afraid the Easter Bunny’s goons might appear out from behind the mall fountain and drag me off.

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SCENE: The Shakedown. 6:20PM. We decide on the $29.99 package. Suckers. And with that we are whisked through the Shakedown. I give my name, we’re herded like sheepdogs towards the rabbit, the kid get plopped down on the lap, is somewhat manhandled by the costume paws, a picture gets taken, I pass Snoop my credit card, and she passes me the pictures. 6:21PM. The deed is done. Happy Easter.

ONE OF US ONE OF US

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Becoming parents is like joining a cult club. It’s a non-exclusive club that 87% of all humans eventually belong to, a club that will sometimes unfortunately accept anyone. But still, you instantly feel really cool to be a part of this club.

You know how Jeep-owners have the “wave” that they do to other Jeep owners? I don’t even know if that’s real or not. My dad once owned a Jeep and decided it was real, and waved at every Jeep he saw. It was a little embarrassing, Being a parent is exactly like that, in the same endearing-but-cringey way. You nod and smile at every parent your age, just because. The club. That’s why.

There’s also a certain desperation in being a club member. It has this ONE OF US ONE OF US feeling about it. When new people get pregnant/indoctrinated, we’re all swarming around heavily breathing ONE OF US ONE OF US under our breath. It’s because we’re secretly glad they’ll no longer be the cool, traveling, bar-hopping, fancy-free young couples anymore. They’ll be like us — whatever we are.

Oh, we’re still us. Ahem. Believe me. We’re not those people who have to be home at 7PM to put the level-five nuclear-meltdown baby to bed. We go OUT. Just the other day… we went to a RESTAURANT. We go places. We do.

Of course, that restaurant was Red Lobster. In the burbs. And we got there at 5PM to beat the “crowds.” Because we’re suddenly afraid of vague things like “crowds” now. And it’s true, my kid is a champ who never melts down.

Instead, his preferred method of ruining evenings is taking mega craps that cause him to spit up volcanic amounts until it eventually pours from his nose and stains the nice luxuriant Red Lobster carpet.

Fortunately, I had already finished my meal and convinced myself that I was “having a good time,” so it was no big deal when I picked up the simultaneously pooping/puking baby. I’d just wipe him off.

And er, welp, more of it. Aaaand I’ll just wipe myself off now, too. Just a little spit-up. Whatever.

Still, more. Okay, I’ll just wear my coat over that. I’M STILL HAVING FUN BEING “OUT.”

Then came the regurgitated nose-milk, which soaked my jeans. And the aforementioned nice, luxuriant Red Lobster carpet. And then caused the kid to begin coughing, snorting, and crying all at the same time — a sound that’s much more dramatic than it really is. Then came his surprise, fear, and whimpering from the wildly new sensations of blowing up his sinuses, which is honestly just the stuff of heartbreak, the kind of thing that makes you want to go home, cuddle in bed, and stroke his head promising we’ll never leave the house again.

The family sitting behind me, who were also “out” with their baby, empathetically handed me an extra napkin and joked with me that they understood.

ONE OF US ONE OF US.

After having the kid, the wife gained like forty new parent friends overnight. I’m sort of awkward and twitchy, so I haven’t made nearly as many new friends, or actually any, but her friends are my friends, so there. And maybe, just maybe I’ll count that Red Lobster family among my friends, now, too. Actually, I’ve noticed a slight uptick in the number of “mom/dad blogger” followers I’ve gotten here. Oh, I’m counting you.

To the rest you, I’m so, so sorry. And join us. You should. It’s really fun. I swear.

PS: The Red Baron pizza-for-a-year winner was emailed!

Red Baron March Madness

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I’m going to give away the greatest prize in the universe to one lucky reader. A YEAR SUPPLY OF FROZEN PIZZA. Red Baron contacted me asking if I wanted to give this away. With zero hesitation, I was like hells yeah. Just think of the bragging rights you’d have.

“Dude, I won a year’s supply of random frozen pizzas off this random blog I read.”

More than pizza, I just wanted to give THAT SENTENCE to some lucky reader.

So please, please, God, people, enter this contest so I’m not just that sad blog that tried to give away random frozen pizza and failed. Running a blog contest is always the most nerve-wracking thing. Posting personal writing about my mom dying and son being born? Eh, that’s nothing. Trying to give away random frozen pizzas? OH MY GOD WHAT IF NO ONE ENTERS? IT MEANS I’M STUPID AND UNLOVEDDDDDDD.

Okay, I’m fairly certain Red Baron did not want the topic of my post to be nervous hand-wringing. However, when you contact The Surfing Pizza for advertising, it’s part of the package deal.

Now, let me shuffle through my talking points here. Ahem.

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To add to this bracket-crazed time of year, Red Baron is introducing a tournament of its own: The Red Baron Flavor Madness. Eight toppings – including two newly released options – will go head-to-head in a bracket competition that will crown the fan’s choice for top thin-and-crispy pizza.

Go here, go vote, go wild. Red Baron Flavor Madness

Flavors included in the bracket challenge: BBQ Chicken, Bacon Lovers, Bacon Luau, Bacon Club, Chicken Fiesta, Triple Cheeseburger, Vegetable Medley and Cheesy Alfredo.

Choose Bacon Luau because I just happen to like the word luau or possibly cheesy alfredo because I also like the word alfredo. I’m a little bummed that they gave the vegetarian option the worst name, “Vegetable Medley,” which no one is going to vote for, because the words vegetable medley sound way too much like the scoop of faded vegetables they serve in hospital cafeterias.

For filling out your pizza bracket, Red Baron is giving away a first prize flatscreen, as well as some other prizes, so check it out. They also asked me if I wanted to give away a year’s worth of pizzas, right here on the blog.

Alright, back to the GREATEST CONTEST YOU WILL EVER ENTER IN LIFE.

Seriously, you know this would change your life. You’ll have to freaking buy a second refrigerator to store your glorious treasure heap of five hundred Red Baron pizzas.

Don’t worry, it’s not really five hundred. And they send you coupons for the free pizzas.

Here is how your life will change after winning a year’s worth of Red Baron pizzas.

1) You freaking win. I email you. Slowly, the realization comes over you that this is the greatest day of your life.

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2) First, you call your mom, telling her your great accomplishment:

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3) You wait by the mailbox for the coupons to arrive.

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4) Coupons arrive.

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5) You make the pizza.

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6) You find what you’ve been searching for your entire life.

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7) This is you, twice a month, every month, for a year.

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HOW TO WIN:

1) Leave a comment (as well as your email address in the proper field)

2) The comment topic is: Pizza. Duh. How do you feel about stuffed crust? Yes, always? Sometimes? What’s up with Dominos changing their recipe? How do you feel about pineapples on your pizza? Is extra cheese for real or is it just a scam? Is the generic pizza place down the street from you a hidden gem or a disgusting hellhole? What’s up with the new Pizza Hut fancy swirl flavors?

3) The contest runs through next Tuesday, March the 10th. I will email the winner on Wednesday morning, whom I will pick randomly!

Idyllic / Ideal

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Yesterday I took a picture of my dog on my phone. Then for no reason at all, I began fiddling around with the filters. Then something amazing happened. As I happened upon a particular filter, I realized this was my dog’s album cover. This would be her album, if it came out in 1991 and was filled with lite-R&B/soft-rock pop songs.

I’ve spent a lot of time since then trying to think of what the album would be named. I keep going back to “Forever Your Girl,” but Paula Abdul already came out with that. And my dog is no Paula-Abdul-coat-tail-rider. Oh well. I’ll keep thinking on it.

Next I happened upon this shirt in my internet travels:

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Five bucks, people. Free shipping. The Children’s Place, yo.

Holy shit, I had to have it. For my kid.

Then I restrained myself. Because impulse-buying guinea pig shirts seems like a bad road to start down. First off, our kid is growing at a freakish mutant rate. He only wears everything a handful of times before he looks like a sausage in it. Plus we just got two bags of hand-me-downs. Plus I’m still a little burnt over the last time I splurged on a bomb-diggity Air Jordan sweatsuit that the kid wore twice. Twice. And he didn’t exactly fit in it the second time.

Yes, I used the word “bomb diggity.”

Also see:

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So later I mentioned the guinea pig face shirt to the wife. I expected her to tsk tsk me about wasting money, but instead she was like, “get it.” She said it with such firmness that it was somewhat alarming. GET IT. We disagree on many things, but apparently guinea pig face shirts for our son is not one of them.

I’ve been daydreaming about summer something fierce. So have you. It’s been perpetually four degrees forever. We didn’t make it to the beach last summer because pregnancy. I’ve already got a condo booked for an eight day beach vacation this summer. It will be our first “family vacation,” and we’re even taking the dog.

The other day the wife says, “the dog told me when we go to the beach, she wants to get a hot dog.”

The wife’s been daydreaming, too.

That’s what daydreams are. Thinking about buying a hot dog at the beach for the dog. Nothing more, nothing less.

“Where?” I ask.

“I don’t know. She wants to check out what’s available.”

Now I’ve spent the last few days running over the mental layouts and maps in my head of the beach, trying to locate a dog-friendly hot dog stand, where we can all sit at an outside picnic table, eating fries and ice cream and a hot dog. Daydreaming.

Another thing I’ve been daydreaming about is a place called King Kone. I have a BOGO coupon for a waffle cone. In some ways, I am planning my entire vacation around that waffle cone.

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I will be taking a picture with that gorilla. Oh yes. I can only pray he’ll still be wearing the Santa Claus suit come July. He probably won’t, and I’ll only be a little bit heartbroken.

My coupon advertises that King Kone is the home of the infamous Gorilla Shake, but the storefront is clearly playing up the Gorilla Split. So which is it? Are they known for the shake or the split or what? People, put it down on your calendars. I’ll be solving this mystery July 2015. When I know, you’ll know. I won’t let you down.

This is life. Life with a baby has been this. Everything — even the mundane takes on this level of novelty and excitement. Everything is new. Everything is neat. Everything is loved, except for pureed peas. Suddenly everything before was just quantifiable. Everything now is un-quantifiable. Oceans, skies, outer space, worlds and worlds and worlds. Love, love. Stoned bliss. Idyllic, ideal.