Can we fix it?

20 Jan 2008 In: Babies & Kids

If your response to above question is, “Yes we can!”, then you may be the parent of a toddler or preschool age child.  ”Can we fix it? Yes we can!” is the infectiously upbeat tag line to the popular children’s television show “Bob the Builder“.  

Since Adam & Tabitha were mysteriously hooked on the narcotic that is Bob the Builder, not a morning goes by without desperate pleas of, “Please,  please can we watch Bob da Builder?” followed by shrieks of disappointment, tears and whining when we deny them their fix.  Usually, by days end, Dick and I will relent and allow them to watch a few action-packed episodes in the mini-van (don’t judge me) on the way home from daycare.   This routine has resulted in a new predicament.  When Dick picks them up in his car, which features no DVD, children throw angry fits demanding that they be chauffeured home exclusively in the van so that their Bob addiction can be fed.  Threats of lost privileges ensue usually leaving any plans for a peaceful family dinner circling the bowl.

For those of you who are unfamiliar, Bob the Builder is an animated show aimed at the toddler & preschool set, airing on PBS Kids’ and PBS Sprout here in the U.S.  Bob is a 30-something  successful bachelor contractor. His office manager, and a successful builder in her own right, Wendy, is a comely blond 30-something remarkable for her exquisite elocution.  Scoop, Muck, Dizzy, Rolly, Scrambler, and Lofty are the anthropomorphized, plucky construction equipment that live in Bob’s yard and assist him with all his building projects.  The cast is rounded out by an annoying, troublemaking scarecrow named Spud and a character provocatively named Farmer Pickles, along with a few other minor players.  Typical episodes focus on the concepts of teamwork, problem-solving, and sharing.

Because Dick and I are usually driving while Bob and the gang are on means we’ve never actually seen an episode.   And where there’s a void, the imagination will oblige.  I suspect that the direction our minds take us sheds more light on ourselves than we’d care to admit. 

For instance, if his assessment of Bob the Builder is any indicator, Dick is a die hard conspiracy theorist.  With Bob’s consistent message of “hard work is its own reward”, the capitalist themes of working for the sake of maintaining the status quo lie at the core of each episode.  Dick theorizes that this show may have been designed by the powerful elite specifically for creating a whole new worker class.  He reads a lot into the fact that Bob is never seen collecting money for his hard work. He believes that this leaves impressionable young minds with the idea that one needn’t focus on working as a means of achieving material benefit and keeps the focus squarely on being a happy, productive worker.  To further support his assertions, he points out how Bob is never seen turning down work to vacation or socialize.  In fact, Bob seems to lack any ability to prioritize his work, simply jumping from project to project at the behest of the Sunflower Valley social elite. 

But if my observations on Bob the Builder serve to mirror my inner soul, apparently, I am preoccupied with sex and business management.  Anyone who’s listened (or better yet watched) Bob and Wendy together knows there’s some serious sexual tension there.  It’s like Dave & Maddie on “Moonlighting - part of me just wants to see them get on with it, and the other part of me knows that the success of the show relies on maintaining the crazy electricity between these two.  Even innocent phrases like, “Wendy, I don’t know what I’d do without you” are filled with possibility in my perverse mind.  My suspicisions are enhanced by all of the more overt displays of affection.  Bob gifts Wendy with things like a new home (he built her a vacation home), a pergola for her garden, and vacations for her and her sister, Jenny.  One can only assume that Wendy is Bob’s employee so his extreme generosity leaves one wondering if there’s, at least, a little quid pro quo implied in all of the gifts and innuendo. 

When I’m not focusing on the sexual friction between Bob & Wendy, I find myself doubting the competency of these characters as role models.  They can’t seem to manage even the most basic business functions.  For instance, resource management.  How many times are Bob & Wendy going to let that annoying idiot scarecrow, Spud, f-up everything he touches?  Seriously, why, in one episode did Wendy and Bob allow him to put on stilts?  Does that not have DANGER! written all over it?  In another episode, Wendy foolishly allows Spud to be in charge of painting a client’s house.  Spud decides to change color schemes without checking with anyone, completely ruining everything and causing everyone else to have to do twice the work to fix it.  Annoyingly, whenever Spud is called out for his behavior, he simply apologizes and all is made well – effectively teaching small children that an apology is like a magic wand, inflicting selective amnesia on their victims and freeing them from any responsibility should they choose to repeat their mistakes. 

Now, I’m no dope.  I can see that Spud is supposed to represent the idiot-screw-ups we’re all forced to deal with in the workplace.  But it seems to me, most of us learn pretty quickly that you don’t invite the idiot to perform crucial tasks they’ve repeatedly proven themselves incapable of completing successfully.  For the most part, in the real world, Spud would’ve been relegated to a low-profile administrative role, or would’ve been managed out of the organization altogether.  But in Sunflower Valley, Spud can roam freely, serving as the go-to-guy for conflict in any episode. 

Enough is enough.  I think it’s about time the Bob the Builder writers help out us parents who are forced to endure hours of endlessly repetitive G-rated melodrama.  Here are a few suggestions to keep the show fresh, and teach children about coping with more real life challenges:

  1. Stake the freakin’ scarecrow before he f’s-up another critical building project!
  2. Bob, for god’s sake, just ask her out!  Clearly she doesn’t get that you like her by the gift of the vacation home.  You’re going to have to stop being so coy and take the direct angle. Besides, even though you’re her boss, as long as the relationship is consensual, you have very little to worry about from a workplace harassment standpoint. And, since she’s the only other female character in your age bracket in Sunflower Valley, I think odds are pretty good she’s into you.  Unless Jenny isn’t just her ’sister’ in the familiar sense… 
  3. Let’s stop sugar-coating life in the workplace.  When any character screws up on the job there should be some sort of formal warning process.  We all know that when people screw up in the grown-up world there are consequences, both short and long-term.  At least show characters being given the standard verbal followed by a maximum of 3 sternly worded written warnings.
  4. Let’s do an episode on money management.  Maybe children can watch Bob go to the building supply yard and get his credit card denied or something?  Or, how about an episode on identity theft?  That’s quite relevant these days and I’m sure Bob and the gang would do a better job of explaining it than I ever could.

Last night we were all driving home from running errands listening, naturally, to an episode of “Bob the Builder”.  Adam routinely cracks up at the same point in this episode when Bob is seen using a jackhammer to break up some concrete on the job site.  With laughter in his voice, Adam says to us, “Mommy & Daddy.  Bob is being silly again!” 

“What’s he doing?” we ask knowingly, smugly.

“He’s using a pneumatic drill,” Adam replies with a note of disgust in his voice at the obviousiousness of the answer.

“A what?  I thought he was using a jackhammer?” I say.

“They are the same thing, mommy,” he says, clearly brushing me off as a complete idiot.

Dick and I look at each other, knowing that the end is near.  One day it’s the distinction between various types of construction equipment and the next thing you know, they’re not talking to you at all and you’re dropping them off two blocks from their destination so they don’t have to be seen with you. 

On second thought, Bob the Builder writers, you can scratch those suggestions I made for adding more reality to the show and just keep sugar-coating life’s truths a bit longer.  They’re growing up too fast as it is.

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Attention SkyMall Shoppers!

17 Jan 2008 In: Shopping & Miscellany

It’s not often that I get an opportunity to travel any more. I know some people travel frequently with their children (I’m usually sitting next to them on the plane, actually) but the fact that my children CANNOT sit still without me staple-gunning their legs to their chairs, leads me to believe that the world would be a better place for everyone if I left them at home with their father.  Besides, any child-free trip is an excuse for eating, sleeping, adult conversation and other indulgent practices normally denied to working parents.  

Because I’m travelling, I haven’t had time to think of a typically underwhelming post.  But luckily for you, I’ve opted to use my fallback topic: the SkyMall catalog.  In no particular order, here are my top three choices from my favorite seat-back pocket shopping resource.

NECKproThe NECKpro Traction Device is billed as an “over the door cervical traction device”.  After a life-long battle with my weight and two pregnancies in two years, my spine has taken a bit of a beating.  So, perhaps, what I really need is a good stretch to get all those verterbrae into alignment – and without the hassle and expense of so-called “professional” spinal care. 

On the other hand one has to weigh the promise of comfort with the potential risk of being found dead hanging from this contraption. While I’m sure the device comes with ample instructions for it’s safe use, I am the woman who was so confused by my strap-on baby carrier that it’s still sitting in the original box in the basement, untouched.  Assuming I am able work through my concerns with the NECKpro, I suspect it would be advisable for me to prepare some sort of a “this was not a suicide” note prior to use - just in case. 

Garden YetiThe Bigfoot Garden Sculpture seems like an obvious choice for any gardener/yeti-lover.  No longer do you have to choose between pastimes.  Finally, gardening and Bigfoot can go hand in hand!  According to the product description, “…The Garden Yeti will have guests doing a double-take as they admire your creative gardening style!”‘   Can I just say that I would LOVE to have my own Garden Yeti?  Forget, standard ornaments such as gnomes, lawn jockeys, or reflecting balls.  Any jerk can accessorize with those.  Bigfoot’s the real deal – the ultimate conversation starter! My only problem with this product is that he’s 2-ft tall.  Hardly the terrifying, looming hulk of a mystical creature that one expects.   Then again, maybe I’m not the target Garden Yeti audience.  I don’t want my guests to admire my gardening style as much as I want to scare the bejesus out of pesky neighborhood children and door-to-door meat vendors. 

Massage chairCervical traction devices and garden yeti’s aren’t your thing?  Well then, how about a nice massage?  The OSIM iDesire Massage Chair, appears to have been lifted directly from a sci-fi film.  I think it looks like the chair they strap you into before they insert the scary needle probe into the back of your head.  Perhaps it’s the arm & leg cuffs that are freaking me out?  The product description says that the arm and leg cuffs are, “…air bags (which) wrap around your lower arms and legs to firmly squeeze to release any tightness.”  I don’t know about you, but when I see the arm leg cuffs, I see potential toddler restraint.  The nearly $5k price tag is almost justifiable if one can use it on children.  As I’ve mentioned, my children are physically incapable of sitting still, but with the gentle air pressure cuffs around their tiny wrists and ankles, it would be hard to level any meaningful child-abuse allegations at me.  Any questions of your intentions could easily be countered with, “As a parent, I’m concerned about the damaging influence of stress on my child’s ability to learn & grow.  This relaxing chair, allows me to provide him with the therapuetic benefits of a comforting massage, as I ensure he’s kept safely out of harm’s way.”  You have to admit - this argument is tough to combat.

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I’m not who you think I am

12 Jan 2008 In: Relationships

Dick’s got a problem with my blogging.  He’s concerned about revealing our children’s names and personal details here where “anyone” (presumably he’s referring to riff-raff like you) can see them.  His argument is that the children are too young to consent to the use of their names in a public forum such as this, so we should respect their privacy.  

My take on it is this: Adam & Tabitha are a bunch of freeloaders; take, take, take – that’s all they do. The VERY least they can do for mommy is to serve as a source of entertainment for a few friends, some family and some strangers who accidentally stumble upon my site while searching for porn.   

This situation, where I casually use my name in public or offer other shocking personal details to strangers, such as my preference for 2% over Skim, is admittedly, a sticking point in our relationship.  My husband is a self-described “private person” so I suspect he greets my recent decision to start blogging with a mix of concern and amusement.  From his standpoint, I’m a loose cannon – capable of spewing TMI all over the place.

I think I always knew that Dick was big on keeping his personal life to himself, but this fact really came to light when I was pregnant.  In fact, I was about 8 months pregnant with Adam when Dick finally, reluctantly, told his coworkers (whose names I can’t mention…of course) that we were expecting.  Worse, I don’t think any of those same people knew I’d been pregnant with Tabitha until they saw the baby picture of her I forced him to put on his desk. 

You know those women you read about from time to time who find out that their husband has had another wife and family stashed in Kansas City for the last 15 years?  I think I know how they feel.  I always thought it was weird when we would bump into Dick’s coworkers around town and it would soon become apparent that they never knew of our existence.  These poor people would stumble out comments like, “Wow.  It’s so nice to meet you.  I can’t believe I’ve been working alongside your husband for the last 2 years and he’s never mentioned his family…”  

My husband’s extreme tendency towards shielding his private life from prying coworkers, alleged friends and potentially meddling family members totally mystifies me.  To be clear, I’m not saying that I routinely shout my life’s personal details to anyone within earshot.  It’s not like we’re on opposite ends of the spectrum here.  Discretion is one thing, I just don’t see what’s wrong with making chit chat about the little things we all have in common – kids, spouses, friends, hobbies.  Despite what he may think, I get that you’re not supposed to share intimate details with strangers.  That’s what I have girlfriends for. 

I’ve heard stories from other women that their partners are the same way, which makes me wonder - have I stumbled across some sort of universal truth of the male species?  Is their fear of commitment so ingrained in their psyche that they can’t even permit themselves to indulge in casual banter?  If so, how do they forge any kind of lasting relationships if they spend all their time NOT sharing? 

The more I think about this, the more I think this brand of isolationism is a learned behavior, designed to keep the male in a deluded state of superiority – functioning under the misguided belief that an absence of information disarms his enemy.  This could explain a lot about male/female relations. 

Here’s a crap theory for your consideration: Young men are the predominant readers of comic books.  Comic book heroes often have secret identities.  Why?  Let’s look at Superman, for instance.  What’s the big deal if the world were to find out that Clark Kent is Superman?  If the motivation behind his deception is to keep a low profile so he can stay focused on his quest for truth, justice and the American Way then I’d suggest he start with a more obvious attention-grabber – that superhero wardrobe.  If you want people to focus on your selfless acts, then maybe you should try making a fashion statement that’s a little less dependent on electric blue spandex unitards.  I think we can all agree that a properly fitted pair of jeans and a v-neck sweater are nice ways of looking sharp while keeping everyone’s eyes on your good character.  

On the other hand, maybe the secret identity was designed to attract the ladies?  Maybe his superthinking was that chicks, including Lois, would find the allure of the mystery man irresistible?  And, let’s face it, all of us, from time to time find a certain appeal in the unattainable man (this explains the reason I’m still lusting after Mr. Big).  But most of us know that no one ever ends up happily-ever-after with Mr. Can’t Commit.  

I suspect I’ve drifted off point.  My point is this: from a young age, boys are influenced through their culture and entertainment to disarm potential opponents by cutting off access to their ammo supplies.  By carefully screening out the more intimate details of their lives, they forge relationships very gradually, slowly increasing their confidence in the loyalty and reliability of their new confidants.    

Wow.  I think I’ve just experienced a break through.  Rather than being simply weird and annoying, Dick’s awkwardly guarded interactions with others are designed to protect his loved ones – his family!  Awww. 

Then again, maybe there’s a Serena in Kansas City right now married to her Dick, thinking the exact same thing…

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