Friday, March 10, 2017

The Dog Life

Copyright 2017, Travis Ross (Simple Man's Survival Guide)

Recently we made the questionable decision to add a puppy to our household mix that until then had consisted of 4- and 6-year-old girls, my wife and I, and our two cats. Until last summer there was also a hamster named Rat, but it met an untimely end after a series of unfortunate events involving the cats and jackhammers. May Rat the hamster rest in piece.

It should be noted that we are not an uber-religious family, but if there is a higher power driving the karma car around the cosmos, I'm convinced its punishing us for not being better guardians of that hamster by steering us toward a dog that may kill us all in the very near future.

Enter Mavis, a 10-week old beagle and doberman mix (yes, you read that right) with an energy level comparable to a squirrel who chewed through an entire bottle of uppers and an endless methane leak, who's only real skill seems to be taking all of the sticks from the wood pile and forming them into Blair Witch symbols in the back yard. My wife will argue that the dog fills a void in her life. If she'd have just told me she wanted holes dug randomly all over the back yard, all of our furniture whittled down to toothpicks, and the house to smell like piss, I'd have backed off on the efforts to keep moles out of the back yard, rented a wood chipper, and invited Donald Trump and a few Russian hookers over and we could have achieved the same end through different, more memorable, means.

In a lot of ways, having a puppy is liking having another toddler in the house. I spend one half my time yelling at it to stop ruining whatever nice things we have left, and the other half trying to keep it from choking on Shopkins -- the ultimate why-the-fuck-couldn't-I-have-thought-of-this toy. Also, she can go on a rampage and wreak havoc for hours, and then cap that off by demanding that you help her go to the bathroom, which is a whole other fiasco. It's a regular shit showdown in our front yard every night just to get the dog to drop its final deuce of the day. I wouldn't blame our neighbors at all if they grabbed a beer, saddled up to a window every night at 9:30, and played the whole thing out in their head like a prize fight.

"In the blue corner weighing 10 pounds, sporting black fur, and refusing to shit -- Mavis! In the red corner weighing 210 pounds, wearing pajama pants and sandals, and just wanting to get out of the freezing cold and get back to watching Game of Thrones -- Travis! Are you ready? Are you ready? Fight!"

It's not so bad when the weather is warm, but when it's 5 degrees outside the dog needs to learn that we don't have until the 2020 election and she needs to expedite dropping a Donald Dump so we can get back in the house. There have been a few times where I know the dog has to shit, she knows she has to shit, and Jesus knows she has to shit, where I've informed her that we're not going back inside until something drops a fiber grenade in the front yard, and I don't care whether it's her, me, or a homeless person.

And sometimes when the Mavis does unload, you'd rather she just saved it for the next person to take her out. You never know whether the 10-pound dog is going to unfurl a small dirt snake, or give birth to something larger that, with glasses, would look like a smaller version of Steve Bannon's head.

Getting the dog has probably affected the cats' lives more than ours. They've been on suicide watch since the dog rolled in. One cat lives exclusively downstairs and doesn't even want to deal with the dog. The other cat still spends a lot of time on the main floor, but he keeps moving to higher and higher ground. I can't tell if he's doing it to feel safer, or if he just hasn't found a spot high enough where he's convinced that if he throws himself off it will kill him. Mavis is also so far up their butts they can't even eat their food. More often than not the cats don't eat, the dog eats the cat food, and to keep costs down I've resorted to eating the dog food.

As the Shopkins and cats can attest, anything on the floor is fair game. A few weeks after getting the dog, she ate through one of the girls' craft boxes, which included bags of glitter. We only know this because she dropped a glowing, sequin-y turd that looked like Guy Diamond from Trolls popped by and took a crap in our yard. If there's one argument to be made for having this dog, it's that I won't have to put up Christmas decorations. We can just introduce glitter into the dog's diet in early November, and by Thanksgiving we'll have a full-on light show.

All that being said, Mavis is part of the family, and the girls love her to pieces. However, after she kicks the bucket and my wife starts making a pitch for another animal, I think I'm going to suggest that we just get another cat -- and name it Dog.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Dear 21-Year-Old Self

Dear 21-year-old Self:

Enjoy the relative ease with which you can put on socks. This only gets more difficult as time goes on.

Hold your nose and buy Apple stock. That Steve Jobs fellow is really on to something with that iPod thing.

There's a thing called Facebook coming right around the corner. The temptation is going to be strong to post drunk party pictures on there. Don't do it.

Strong work ethic = good

Blondes = bad

All that money you spent buying DVDs and CDs was a waste.

Don't break up with women via email.

Don't snort powdered sugar.

Float trips are fun. Float trips without water shoes are still fun, but much more painful.

No one thinks your car stereo with the remote control is cool. Idiot.

I know you don't fancy yourself to be a romantic, but you're considerably less romantic than you think.

Seriously, you're not romantic.

Do the world a favor and stop wearing your hat backwards.

You do not need to bench press a Cadillac. Let's up the cardio and try living longer.

If someone offers you a cup of purple drink and you didn't make it, turn that shit down. Nothing good comes from purple drink.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Father's Day

Copyright 2016, Simple Man's Survival Guide

Recently my wife and I switched responsibilities, and I took our 5-year-old daughter to her ice skating class with her sister in tow. All was good. We rolled down the windows and rocked out to Kidz Bop and its infectious blends of "Worth It" and "Bad Blood," got to the rink on time and got our ice skates on without any tears, and all without the 3-year-old dropping a crap grenade. #smallvictories

And then at the very moment I thought we were gonna slip into cruise control for the rest of the evening, she inexplicably lost her mind and exploded in tears -- right in the middle of the doorway. While I was consoling my oldest, my red-headed youngest giggled, turned around, and took off running and laughing along the side of the ice rink, a Disney princess doll in each outstretched hand, and destined for God-only-knows where; like a tiny Joker, I think she just wanted to watch the world burn. If there were any parents judging me at that moment, I can't imagine they would have scored me much higher than 3/10. It wasn't pretty.

A few years ago we packed a lunch and took the girls to Cocoa Beach. It was a very big deal for them because it was the first time they'd been to the ocean. When I was younger, I have very clear memories of my mom and uncle throwing McDonald's french fries into the air for seagulls to catch, and how cool I thought that was. Fast-forward 20 years and I thought I had a wonderful opportunity to throw a piece of a sandwich in the air and lure some birds over so the girls could get a better look. What I didn't know was that over the last 20 years those birds had adopted a more aggressive (not nearly a strong enough word) approach to their pursuit of human food, and that feeding them was looked at as more of a required sacrifice than a voluntary donation. In a matter of seconds we had retreated back to the van, the girls were both sobbing like busted fire hydrants, my wife was calling me names that Donald Trump wouldn't even call Rosie O'Donnell, and I was was legitimately considering exiting the van and letting those pterodactyls have their way with me. It was definitely not one of my finer moments as a parent, and even years later when the girls hear anything that remotely makes them think we're going to a beach, they look at my wife and say, "Mommy, we're not gonna let daddy feed those seagulls are we?"

Saturday, April 2, 2016

The Farting Ninja

"Daddy. You're bald."

The girls have made a habit of dwelling on my follicle misfortune after I tuck them into bed at night. They'll actually hold the "a" in bald and let it drag on to really hammer the point home. The minute they sniffed out that needling me over being bald bothered me, they proceeded to sink the hooks in deeper and rip my heart out with the joy and zeal of a 1-year-old working through an endless pile of paper mache. There's very likely more than a few rounds of sensitivity training in their future.

But if there has been any one good thing to come of being bald, it's the Farting Ninja story.

One day I was shaving my head in the shower and I nicked myself with the razor. It happens. So I got out of the shower, got dressed, put a small piece of toilet paper on my head to keep from bleeding all over myself, and went downstairs.

My oldest daughter saw the toilet paper and blood on my head and asked what happened. So I did what any good father of two young daughters would do on a Saturday afternoon: I made up a tall tale that involved an Uber, pirates, a whale -- and a farting ninja. And, I drew it out on a white board to get myself out of playing dolls for 15 minutes.

So with that, I give you The Farting Ninja.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

SMSG 06: Sh*t We Build for Our Kids

Travis reads the Some Assembly Required blog post, and then Travis and Greg discuss the pains of building swingsets, bikes, and other terrible things for their children.

Have you got a story to share about something you've built for your kids? We want to hear it in the comments section!

Don't forget to visit the Facebook page for the band Poor Dirty Astronauts. If you're in the St. Louis metro area, make your way over to the Stagger Inn and hear PDA perform live.

All sound effects were sourced from and have a Creative Commons 0 license.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

The Day the Hamster Died

"You need to come down her and look at this," I told my wife. "The cat caught a mouse."

"Well, take it away from him and throw it out."

"I don't think it's a mouse," I said. "I think it's Hamster."

One year prior we made the mistake of telling our girls that if they displayed some modicum of responsibility we said we'd consider getting them a small pet -- like a hamster. Of course, in toddler speak, that means you're getting them a hamster. Not in a few months, not in a few weeks and not in a few days. To them, that means you are loading up the van, making the mecca to PetSmart, and rescuing some poor, unsuspecting creature from a glorious life behind bullet-proof glass, with an endless supply of food and friends to run around with, and dropping him straight into hamster Hell -- a house with two cats and two toddlers. Because one of the many things I've learned about being a parent is that you can only stand firm for so long against your children before you give up and allow yourself to get willingly steamrolled.

Looking back, it's a miracle his run even lasted two years. The day we brought him home we set up his cage and then went out to eat. We came back home to his cage door unhinged and flung open, and one of the cats sitting with half of her body in the hamster cage and the other half out, and the other cat standing guard one foot away. I yanked the cat out, trying to remember if we had any shoe boxes we could bury this thing in and mentally mapping out the eulogy in my head. I was also thinking about whether or not this was the right time for one of those no-bullshit children's books like The Tenth Good Thing About Barney, and wondered if there was something along the lines of Tough Shit: Your Hamster Died and Your Cats are Assholes. But as I was rustling through the cedar chips, I heard a squeak and saw two very-alive tiny, beady black eyes looking back at me. Against all odds, the little bastard was alive.