Sunday, March 30, 2014

Unintentionally Spooky

When I took this video, I thought I was capturing a cute game of hide-and-seek in the supermarket.

After discovering the clip on my phone later, I realized I had shot what looks like found footage from a horror movie.

Wouldn't be the first time, I guess.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

A Family Portrait

Our 3-year-old drew a "Last Supper"-style tableau of her family (including Grandmama).

I like that her sister appears to be glaring at the rest of the family with some serious side-eye.

That part's pretty accurate actually.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Only Slightly Less Terrifying Than Velociraptors

The other day Kelly discovered that Lulu had learned to climb the bunk-bed ladder.

Really this is only a bit less disturbing than the velociraptors in "Jurassic Park" learning to turn door handles.

Now there's nothing stopping her.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The Etiquette of Cupcake ATMs

Today the Sprinkles shop on Lexington Avenue opened the city's first "cupcake ATM." (Critics have noted that unless you can deposit cupcakes in addition to withdrawing them, it's really more of a vending machine.)

The line stretched down the block, which made the usual ATM etiquette (execute your transaction as quickly as possible) even more essential.

Seinfeld also recommended giving people six feet of space at the ATM, though I'm not sure that applies here.

One problem with the cupcake ATM (at least on its first day): Every user spent half the time taking pictures of it. Hopefully that will get better as the novelty wears off.

Then again, once the novelty wears there really a point to having a cupcake ATM?

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Up-and-Coming Baby Name: Hazel

The name Jennifer began its long reign at the top of the U.S. charts in 1970, the year "Love Story" came out. Americans were apparently so moved by a leukemia-stricken character called Jenny that they became obsessed with the name for 15 straight years.

Well, now our nation has another opportunity to fall in love with a cancer victim (and her name). "The Fault in Our Stars," an upcoming movie based on the bestselling young-adult book, features a terminally ill girl named Hazel.

Hazel has already been rising in popularity (helped by Julia Roberts using it for her daughter), and I wonder if this won't be the nudge it needs to really hit the big time.

The name cracked the top 200 in 2012, the most recent year with data available. And it's surging in BabyCenter rankings, which often serve as a leading indicator.

Hazel is a century name, of course, meaning it peaked more than a hundred years ago (in the 1890s). It's also perceived as an old-lady name, but I think it's one that could transcend that status — similar to what other color names, such as Violet, have already done.

In short, I'm rooting for this one. If you're pregnant and expecting a girl, add it to your list.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Which Cities Stand Alone, and Which Really Shouldn't

Most copy editors have memorized the list of cities that stand alone — i.e., the places that don't need to be accompanied by a state name to be recognized. According to AP style, New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and 27 other U.S. cities stand alone. San Jose, Nashville and Kansas City do not. (In fairness, Kansas City could have avoided confusion by not adopting the same city name on both sides of a state line.)

United Airlines uses a different system. In its list of arrivals and departures, St. Louis, San Diego and Salt Lake City are all accompanied by state names. (You know, because of all those other Salt Lake Cities out there — it could get confusing.)

However, Thunder Bay and Regina get to stand alone. Huh?

I'm vaguely aware of Thunder Bay (it's somewhere in Ontario). But I had to use Google to remind myself where Regina was.

It's the capital of Saskatchewan.

I guess United is assuming that people traveling to Canadian cities know where they are. But c'mon, Regina is not even the largest city in Saskatchewan. (That honor goes to Saskatoon.)

So I think the ruling should be obvious here: Regina does not get to stand alone.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

A Map of Cities Destroyed by Hollywood

I've frequently written about San Francisco's allure as a target of cinematic destruction.

But according to this cool animated map, San Francisco is well behind New York and Los Angeles in this department.

The folks at Deadspin's The Concourse blog looked at all the ways that U.S. cities have been wrecked onscreen, including monster attacks, alien attacks and — of course — sharknado attacks.

It makes sense that New York and L.A. would have the biggest share of Hollywood mayhem, since they're the two largest metro areas, but San Francisco definitely holds its own. It has been targeted more times than bigger cities such as Chicago.

Still, it's odd that it didn't do better in the "geologic events" category. The city should have ruled that one.

It has, however, been threatened in 100 percent of J.J. Abrams' "Star Trek" movies (here and here). If he continues on that trajectory, it should really boost San Francisco's rankings.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

A Winter of Childhood Memories

When I was a small child in rural Massachusetts, winter was unrelenting. The snow would fall in late November and stay on the ground until March or even April. The wind would howl, numbing our fingers and reddening our cheeks.

At first we would rejoice in building snowmen or igloos, but after a while — as the snow took on a copper crust — we would grow weary and long for spring.

At least, that's how I remember it. The fact is, there probably were long stretches without snow. Every Christmas wasn't a white Christmas. And the occasional warming trend would let us ditch our coats for an afternoon.

But my mind prefers to paint my childhood winters in white.

When we moved to California, snow became an object of nostalgia. And the threat of global warming made the frigid winters of my youth seem all the more like a bygone era.

So I wonder if when my own children think back to their winters in New York, this past season won't be the one they remember.

It was bitterly cold, and snow really was on the ground for months. Even now, on the last day of winter, the brown snowdrifts have survived — barely.

We built snowmen, tunnels and snowball forts.

In short, it was a season of childhood memories and I'm glad the kids got to experience it.

But I'm also glad it's over.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The Baby Bjorn as a Movie Prop

Since the first "Hangover" movie, I've definitely seen an uptick in movie posters featuring Baby Bjorns (or the generic equivalent).

The latest example is "Neighbors," a film about a new dad (Seth Rogen) finding himself living next to a frat house.

Visually, a baby carrier does more than show that a character is a dad. The infant literally becomes a burden to bear — symbolism! Plus, let's face it: It makes a man look ridiculous (and the Baby Bjorn is the most ridiculous-looking of all baby carriers).

Some posters also riff off the incongruity of otherwise cool-looking dads with babies strapped to their chests. Here's the poster for the show "Guys with Kids" (see, they're wearing sunglasses!)...

..."What to Expect When You're Expecting"...

 ...and who could forget this one? (As much as you may have tried.)

Of course, the ultimate befuddled-dad movie was "Three Men and a Baby" in 1987. No baby carrier in sight.

Believe or not, Baby Bjorns did exist back then — they were first made in 1973 — but they hadn't yet become a pop-culture phenomenon. I'm sure if they ever remake this movie (and they will), the poster will feature baby carriers aplenty.

In real life, I see relatively few dads using Baby Bjorns. (I'd say backpack-style carriers are more popular.) I've always been a fan, though.

I guess I don't mind being a movie cliche.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

You Can Never Be Too Safe

Like a lot of toddlers, Lucy is cautious around stairs and prefers to face inwards when she goes down them.

The problem is, how does she know when to stop?

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Happy Little Clouds Over New York

Central Park's southeast entrance, one of the city's best spots for seeing temporary art installations, has a new piece: Olaf Breuning's "Clouds."

Photo courtesy of Kelly.

The work consists of six blue clouds, hoisted 35 feet in the air by crude-looking steel supports. The idea is to evoke "the set design of a school play or child-like drawings of the sky," according to the website of the Public Art Fund, which sponsored the piece.

It also evokes the logo of, but that probably wasn't the intention.

Mostly it makes me think of Bob Ross, the PBS host who encouraged us all to paint "happy little clouds."

If thinking of that doesn't make you smile as you're walking up Fifth Avenue, I don't know what will.

Sunday, March 09, 2014

Tooth Fairy Summoned Too Soon: Part Two

The Tooth Fairy visited our house again last night, harvesting another tooth that was lost before its time.

After Alice fell off a wall last September and knocked out one of her front teeth, we thought the episode was over. Unfortunately, the tooth next to it was also traumatized. The dentist told us this weekend that it had to be yanked out as well.

Alice had already become wary of doctors and dentists before the latest incident. When we went to the dentist yesterday, we told her it was just going to be a cleaning. In fact, before she agreed to go, Alice wanted assurances that (1.) she wouldn't get any shots and (2.) none of her teeth would be extracted. Kelly swore she had nothing to worry about.

Turns out, Kelly lied on both counts. Alice got a shot (the novacane) and then a tooth was pulled. Poor girl. To comfort Alice, the dentist gave her a whole roll of SmileMakers princess stickers. (The dentist also calmed her with fruit-flavored laughing gas. I wasn't aware this sort of thing existed.)

The promise of a Tooth Fairy visit provided Alice some solace, though I didn't have time to go to FAO Schwarz this time to get her gift. Instead, I bought her a Hello Kitty doll from one of the stores on Roosevelt Island. (We could have just left money under her pillow, but giving a 3-year-old cold, hard cash doesn't feel like the right choice either.)

The doll cost more than $20, which puts me on an alarming trajectory. After all, we have three kids' worth of teeth to pay for.

But a tooth that's lost in a traumatic situation (and several years prematurely) feels like it warrants something special.

On the plus side, there is one benefit to losing both your top front teeth: Alice's smile is back to being symmetrical.

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Decorating Tip for People Who Have (Mostly) Stopped Caring About Appearances

When you have three small children, you start accumulating a lot of artwork. But you also probably no longer have the time/money/inclination to get picture frames. So here's a nice alternative that Kelly came up with: electrical-tape frames.

It gives your home a slightly more polished look, while still conveying the message: "We're barely holding it together here, folks."

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Paying It Forward...and Getting It Back Again

When Elliot was born, we were given a hand-me-down shirt with an alligator on it. The alligator is wearing shoes and it says "alligator shoes." (Get it?)

After Elliot outgrew the shirt, Kelly packed it up with some other clothes and gave it to another family.

When their child outgrew the shirt, they gave it to yet another family.

The other day Lucy was playing at a friend's house and got her outfit wet. The mom gave Lucy a dry shirt that her son had recently outgrown.

It was the alligator-shoes shirt.

Now it's ours again.

If only the universe always worked this smoothly.

Monday, March 03, 2014

Turning Strollers Into Snowplows

This week's New Yorker has a delightful cover depicting baby strollers as sidewalk snowplows.

Otto Steininger, the artist who created the work, was inspired by his own experience taking his daughter to preschool in this particularly harsh New York winter. “I have been thinking: What if ordinary citizens were put on duty and ordered to harness their baby strollers to help plow New York City’s sidewalks?” he says.

The New Yorker even created an animated GIF version of the cover. (Way to stay current, guys.)

Much as I like the cover, plowing snow with a stroller is much harder than this makes it look — especially when you're dealing with the kind of icy crust we've been getting lately. (Of course, I don't have a blade attached to the front of ours.)

Sunday, March 02, 2014