Thursday, May 30, 2013

What We Found Will Shock You

We're back now at 7:38 and I'm joined by national investigative correspondent Chris Rossen- or is it Jeff Hansen?-- who is taking a look at kids' behavior in Day Care and other public places compared to what they do at home.

Thanks Matt. That's right, we followed two kids to school and Day Care, places where their caretakers say they have exhibited exemplary, even award-winning, behavior. And then we followed them home, where things take a drastic turn. What we found will shock and frustrate you, especially if you happen to be these kids' parents.

This is six-year-old Sophia - not her real name, but the top girls baby name in 2007, so more likely than any other name to be her real name. Sophia is in kindergarten, and we hired a staffer to dress as a parent volunteer to follow Sophia throughout a day in school. We also followed her to Day Care during a teacher In-Service day. We noticed Sophia playing beautifully with other kids, picking up after herself, politely talking to the adults in the room, even earning an orange water bottle from her Day Care teachers for helping to clean up the class garden when all the other kids ran to the bathroom or the toy shelf. Her kindergarten teacher goes so far as to call her "a joy to have in class" and one young lady calls Sophia "my BFF."

At home? Well, we hired another staffer, a really hot, young, tan, well-built staffer, to pose as Sophia's dad. We saw a vastly different Sophia. Aloof, lazy, argumentative. With our hidden cameras rolling, we see her room, a complete mess. Dress-up clothes all over the floor, regular clothes all over the floor, doll baby clothes all over the floor, stuffed animal clothes all over the floor. Basically there is no floor.

And watch this exchange between Sophia and her mother that we also caught:

Mom: Sophia, I need you to clean up your room.
Mom: Sophia, now.
Mom: Sophia, did you hear me?
Mom: Sophia, I said I need you to clean up your room.
Mom: Now.
Mom: NOW.
Mom: Sophia, you also have to clean your easel.
Mom: Sophia, it's time for dinner.
Sophia (staring at iPad): OK, in a minute.
<10 minutes later>
Sophia: I said I'd be there in a minute!

We also followed Aiden, who is three. Again, our cameras caught Aiden playing reasonably well with his friends and acting shy most of the day. We have Day Care staff members admitting on camera that they wish he'd "come out of his shell" a little more often. Like his sister Sophia, he was commended for his work in the "picking up after everyone else" category, which earned him a trip to Chik Fil-A. (Note: He did not earn the trip to Chik Fil-A just because it was Wednesday. Promise.)

Once again, we saw a different side to Aiden at home. That shy, kind helpful little boy at Day Care? He had transformed into a back-talking, lazy, belligerent fellow at home. We saw Aiden push his little brother to the floor over the TV remote, which 3 minutes later was lost for days. He also had some heated discussions with his mother over his role in helping the family clean the living room, which you'll see here:

Mom: It's time to pick up your toys, Aiden.
Aiden: No, it's time to pick up YOUR TOYS, Mommy.
Mom: Aiden, I don't have any toys. These are your toys, and you need to help pick them up.
Aiden: <unintelligible>
Mom: Don't you talk to me that way, Aiden! Go to your room.
Aiden: No, you go to YOUR ROOM, Mommy.
Mom: That's it. You're going to bed now.
Aiden: No, YOU'RE going to bed, Mommy.

We confronted both Sophia and Aiden after taping and showed them some of the footage for their reactions.

Hi, I'm Jeff Hansen with NBC Dateline.
Wait, That other guy wasn't my daddy?

When shown the video of their shenanigans and rude behavior at home, both Sophia and Aiden giggled. Then they giggled some more. Then they asked to see it again. Then they giggled. Then they giggled some more. Then they asked to see it again. Then they giggled. Then they giggled some more. As we tried to move on in the interview, they asked to see the video "just one more time," and we agreed to show them the video just one more time. Then they asked to see some of our video equipment and proceeded to make pig faces into it and recite in unison the "Someone help me, I have a flat tiiiiirrrrre!" line from the GEICO commercial. Then they asked to see that and they giggled. Then they asked to see it again...

Matt, this type of behavior seems to be taking over youngsters in many parts of the world. Gone are the days when teachers challenged our kids with, "Are you allowed to do that at home?" These days  it's the parents who are asking, "Are you allowed to do that in Day Care?" It's quite a transition.

Jeff, we look forward to your full report tonight on Dateline, where I also understand we'll hear from the Grandparents Coalition?

That's right, Matt, we did speak to the Grandparents Coalition, who released a statement on behalf of all grandkids yesterday saying, "They're fine." We'll hear their side as well tonight.

All right, Jeff, we'll be watching, and we'll be watching this weekend for your in-depth expose on Kids And Boogers. What makes them so interesting to our kids?

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

One Down

Nothing interesting ever happens on trips on the Pennsylvania Turnpike between Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. You can make mental progress reports on your favorite rest stop renovation projects. You can trade choice words with drivers who slow up to 32 mph inside the Kittatinny Tunnel, as mandated by the Scary Monster who waits outside to snatch you up if you exceed 40. And, of course, you have church in a foreign language all over your radio dial. And that church comes in clearer than anything you've ever heard on satellite radio, which confounds on multiple levels.

We all sat up a little straighter today, then, when trudging between Blue Mountain and Carlisle, from deep in the third row came a sudden announcement from a person we thought should have been sleeping or at least been engrossed in something electronic: "Hey, my tooth came out..."

This is a big deal. We (mostly the kid) had been leery of this day since the day the first tooth wiggled a little. Does it hurt when it comes out? What if my mouth bleeds? What if it comes out when I'm sleeping? What if I swallow it?  What if the tooth fairy forgets to show up? Do I really need to tie it to a moving car to get it out like they did in the Jackass movie?

Fortunately, the answer to these was either No or N/A. We were relieved that there were no hysterical tears from the girl who has mastered hysterical tears for everything from elbow scrapes to commercials before YouTube videos. And on the turnpike no less, with the next rest stop a helpful 244 miles away and possibly closed for renovations.

Very soon a critical error was made, as critical errors often follow kids around like little brothers. Always the helpful type, she tried to open a juice box for her brother, the three-year-old, and entrusted him with the tooth. Predictably, within seconds the tooth was gone. Four minutes after her first baby tooth extracted itself without incident, we had lost the tooth. Cue the hysterical tears. On the turnpike, no less. With the next rest stop now just 239 miles away.

Fortunately, my wife is tremendous with this stuff. She already had three alternate plans available for the Tooth Fairy:

1. We'll write a letter to the tooth fairy and explain the mishap.
2. We'll provide a reasonable facsimile of the tooth from stones from the driveway.
3. <biggest longshot> We'll pull over and find the tooth.

Remarkably, this eased my daughter's concerns. Even more remarkably, for the first time in his young life, the three-year-old boy showed remorse for something he was directly responsible for. He was genuinely hurt that he had lost his sister's prized tooth. "We'll find it, I PROMISE, it was a accident," he explained in a pitch-perfect attempt at damage control. I would have liked to have seen similar remorse last week when he wrote his name in toothpaste on the bathroom carpet.

Of course there were no more rest stops before our exit, so we drove 30 more minutes and pulled into a Red Lobster parking lot and began searching for the missing tooth. Happy to report that within mere minutes the tooth, roughly the size of a sesame seed, was retrieved. Mortified to think what I would have done with the tooth had I searched first, because even after I held it and examined it, I did not think it was a regulation tooth. Kids are so tiny.

The tooth was then transferred to a Ziploc baggie (Are we sure it's a Ziploc?) and then onto my wife's purse, which is the best place on Earth if you need to keep something sacred, but the worst if you need to find it quickly. Luckily we had the time.

That night, my wife came up with a second ingenious idea...instead of giving our daughter money for the tooth, we'd give her one of those stupid dollar coins instead. (Stop. I'm well aware those dollar coins are legal tender, but really. You feel totally ripped off when you receive them, and you feel genuine relief when you give them. Plus they're gold-ish. So kids think they're worth over 12 bajillion dollars.)

Also, we bought our daughter a book about tooth loss that the Tooth Fairy herself signed and dated, and my wife slid that under her pillow with the coin. We'll do something similar 30 years from now, when we plan to start talking about the birds and the bees.

The next morning, my daughter found the book and the coin and glided out to the living room to show her mother, then into our bedroom to show her brother and me. Cris(e)s averted. And the little brother is asking when he can start losing teeth. Let's hope he doesn't watch the Jackass movies.
The Tooth Fairy

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Memorial Day Weekend

Not sure if I knew this and forgot it or never knew this, but Memorial Day used to be celebrated annually on May 30. In the early 1970s it was changed to the last Monday in May to create three-day weekends for the American workforce. There has been a movement for some time to re-establish May 30 as the official holiday. The thought is that by creating a three-day weekend of picnics, parties, pool openings, and ushering in the unofficial start of summer, people are losing sight of the reason why for celebrating the holiday in the first place.

While that may sound a little crotchety and "back-in-my-day"-ish, the point is well-taken. As someone who lives far away from most relatives, Government-sponsored three-day weekends are golden. But there is no reason why we can't take the time on May 30 to fly the flag at half staff until noon or to mark a moment of remembrance for our nation's fallen heroes in addition to the normal Memorial Day weekend blowouts.

Speaking of blowouts, are Memorial Day parades ever advertised? To be fair, I was never a big fan of parades before I was a father, but now that we have kids, I enjoy them even less. Still, we can tell you the exact minute of the Rose Bowl Parade, Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade, and most St. Patrick's Day drunkenfests, but I seem to never know when and where the Memorial Day parade is, or if there even is one in my town.

Essentially, parents, take it from a teacher's husband that if you want to save yourself a little embarrassment on Tuesday when/if their teacher asks, take a few minutes this weekend to remind your children that the reason we are celebrating this weekend is not so we remember "to open our beach house" or "to uncover the pool." That is, if you might be embarrassed by those sorts of things. Your kids are just reporting the facts.

To see ways to appropriately celebrate Memorial Day, click here.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Take Your Daddy to School Day

Monday I volunteered in my daughter's kindergarten classroom. My work provides us two volunteer days annually to "give back" to the community, and while the company doesn't specify exactly how they should be used, it seems one of those days should be used to do something constructive -- literally, like building a house for paralyzed orphans with the corporate logo emblazoned on the siding-- but, according to my interpretation, the other day can be used for something else altogether.

I chose the something else altogether.

Plenty of corporate ninnies such as myself have done the volunteer-in-the-classroom thing before, and after two hours, are backpedaling out the door, flattering themselves and humblebragging all the way..."I'm used to giving daily speeches in front of high-powered Fortune 500 investment consortiums in fluent Mandarin, but these kids wiped me out! Especially the one who needed his shoes tied! I have such an appreciation for what you teachers do and..." and before he can finish his thought, he's back to closing another deal or haggling over a corner office with the view of the mountainside.

I did not do this to gain an appreciation of the teaching profession and what teachers go through on a daily basis-- I'm already keenly aware of that, being the son of four parents who taught everything from kindergarten to college, and then marrying another teacher myself. I know what they go through. The $250 pre-Adjusted Gross Income tax deduction for out-of-pocket classroom expenses is a joke. (Teachers spend way more than that.) The eight weeks they get off in the middle of the summer should be sixteen and should come with an all-inclusive week-long getaway to Any Place That Doesn't Have Kids.

No, I did this for my daughter. It gets harder to spend time with just one kid as your family grows, and until she develops a genuine interest in sitting down with her old man and watching an entire hockey game on tape delay, it won't get easier. (I'm still waiting.) We could have just gone and got ice cream while her two clueless younger brothers played tug-of-war with the Slinky, but I thought maybe this would mean a little more. I also banked on her not being old enough to make the gag reflex when she heard of my plan.

"I can't wait until Monday!" she squealed when I told her on Friday. This will be the last time she looks forward to a Monday on a Friday for the rest of her life, so already it's a little special.

Having not been in a real, live kindergarten classroom since I was young enough to consistently pee my pants without serious repercussion, I wasn't totally sure what to expect. My wife, who teaches in the same building, gave me three simple pieces of advice to get me through:

1. Be yourself.
2. Don't follow the teacher around like a puppy dog.
3. If you break the copy machine, we will kill you.

Copy machine? Nobody told me there would be a copy machine. I was seriously worried about making copies, not because I thought I was above it, but because my own history with the machine at work was not stellar. I feared a stack of papers shaped like church fans or a call into the repairman. Probably both. I don't know how to "collate" anything. This may be a bad idea.

Luckily, there was very little copying to be done that day, and they have a really nice, user-friendly machine that doesn't ask you 13 detailed questions before it lets you make a copy. I actually would have killed myself if I had done it any harm.

I met all of my daughter's classmates throughout the day. We chit-chatted while they completed their work assignments. They called me Mr. Jonathan and Mr. Criswell and Mrs. Daddy (gender confusion is hilarious even at the kindergarten level.) In our spare time we played Restaurant, where I could order anything I wanted, and it was pretend-handed to me by an eager and plentiful wait staff. We danced. Actually we didn't dance, we stood and acted as a de facto twirling post for the girls in the class, so they could hold our hand up high and twirl beneath it. When kindergarten girls have an excuse to twirl, they don't pass up the opportunity to twirl. We could have twirled some more.

We goofed around at lunch, watching her best friend try to eat cherries and spit out the pits without it looking like this. (She failed.) We stood quietly in line as we exited the cafeteria because nobody leaves the cafeteria until every single person is quiet. [We very suddenly had horrible flashbacks to 4th grade, when our homeroom teacher drained every last bit of recess from our hyperactive bodies by applying that same Draconian "nobody gets recess until are silent" law to 200 third- and fourth-graders. We couldn't stand that woman.]

In the afternoon, we listened helplessly as one boy burped 27 times in our faces because he could, and he thought we'd enjoy his little gift to us. We were powerless to send him to the principal's office, so we waited him out and humored him. He had more staying power and air than we anticipated. We read books, we did math, we went to music class. School might have changed some in the last 30 years, but other than the paddle no longer hanging on the wall, it hasn't changed too much.

My daughter thoroughly enjoyed having her dad there. She would often come sit on my lap, something she rarely does at home any more. She was showing me off, which was fun, because I often do the same to her in public. This day was her turn. 

But she wasn't the only one to show affection. One boy and one girl also put their arms around me. The girl informed me that I smell like her dad. I asked if that was a good thing or a bad thing. She made an X out of her index fingers. I have no idea what that meant.

When the school day was over, we prepared to leave, and my wife caught us and said, "Oh good, you can pick up the other two from Day Care." What? The day is over, no? No, it's just begun. And there is the level of appreciation...dealing with two dozen six-year-olds is one thing. But when there's was a part of you that wants to get in the car and drive in a straight line for about 2 hours, you've got to summon up some more energy. Energy for the 1-year-old and the 3-year-old who haven't seen you all day and who expect you to provide unlimited chocolate milk and officiate their arguments about who gets to stand closer to your legs. This is why you get the call at 7:30 at night asking how much longer it will be until you get home.

But this day was about the girl, and the obvious follow-up question persisted, "Are you going to come to my class again soon, Daddy?" which received the answer, "How about when you're in 1st grade?"

Maybe this will become a tradition that lasts until she's old enough to gag at the thought.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Parenting Pyramid

We're playing Parenthood Pyramid today. If you're not familiar with the rules and procedures for playing the bonus round of the old $25,000 Pyramid, hosted by Dick Clark, you can see it played at its finest here. In the interest of equal time, if you want to see how hard it usually is, click here but skip to the part where they actually play the game. 

We're not playing today with Billy Crystal or Vicki Lawrence or that other guy, we're playing with Phyllis Diller. I don't know why. So strap yourself in, literally, put 60 seconds on the clock, cue the knife-in-the-back, psycho-sounding counting down seconds that only serve to add to the tension and get ready to play Parenthood Pyramid.

For 25,000 dollars. Here is your first subject. Go!

Phyllis Diller: Blocks. Books.
Me: Things kids play with?
PD: Blocks, trucks, mom's hair dryer...
Me: Things my kids use as blunt object weapons


PD: "Well, I fell face first into the corner of the coffee table the other day and nobody moved an inch to help me. My dad even seemed genuinely annoyed. I'm sure when my Princess big sister did the same thing 5 years ago, they debated calling the god-damned ambulance..."
Me: Things a third child would say...


PD: Ketchup, mustard...
Me: condiments?
PD: Ketchup...mayonnaise... mustard...uhhh...
Me: Things you put on a sandwich...things you put on a hot dog...
PD: KETCHUP. 12,000 cheese doodles...
Me: What my 3-year-old ate for dinner last night


PD: The Infantino Go Ga Ga Deluxe Twist and Fold Gym, the Fisher-Price Snugamonkey Deluxe Newborn Rock 'n' Play Sleeper
Me: <shaking my head>
PD: The Fisher-Price Discover 'n' Grow Kick & Play Piano Gym
Me: <shaking my head> Pass
PD: Pass
Dick Clark: Next...

PD: The bathroom. The garage. The shed...
Me: Parts of your house
PD: <nodding> The garage, the kitchen, the bathroom...
Me: Rooms in your house...bad places to have lit candles...
PD: <nodding furiously> The BATHROOM...the kitchen. The BATHROOM.
Me: Places I can never go by myself for 2 minutes


PD: Diaper rash. Uhhh... <struggling, pausing> Severe diaper rash.
Me: Pink things that show up on your ass.
PD: Diaper rash,  mosquito bites...
Me: Things that hurt, things you probably shouldn't scratch, things you put ointment on...
PD: <nodding> Mosquito bites; screaming contests; excessive bathtub splashing; dump trucks in the toilet; anything that talks like Elmo, Chica, or Caillou; lost shoes; the impossibly high number of snaps at the bottom of a toddler's pair of sweatpants...
Me: Things that are irritating.

<applause> (and maybe a "woo" from the crowd)

Dick Clark: Hurry, hurry!
PD: <flustered> Uhh....uhhhhhh... the Skip Hop Hug-N-Hide Tummytime Mat that looks like an owl, the Bright Starts Pretty in Pink Giggle Garden Activity Gym, the Infantino Go Ga Ga Deluxe Twist and Fold Gym....
Me: <equally flustered> Umm...uhhh...
Me: <sighing, leaning back in chair> Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhh....
PD: <sighing, leaning back in chair> Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhh...
Crowd: <sighing> Awwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww....

Dick Clark: <with hand on my back> Let me see if I can help here. A pacifier.
Me: <rolling my eyes> Baby things! I should have known that...I even have kids back at home in Delaware...
Dick Clark: Well that is a shame. Let's see here, 3, 550, 7, 8 hundred and 50 dollars.
PD: <to me> I'm so sorry.
Me: <to PD, as I shake her hand with both of my hands and as we outro to a NutraSweet commercial, barely audible over the music> It's OK Phyllis, I should have known it...  

Join us next week when we our guests are Teresa Ganzel and, from Hotel, Nathan Cook. For now, Dick Clark, so long.

"We spend the first twelve months of our children's lives teaching them to walk and talk and the next twelve telling them to sit down and shut up." Phyllis Diller

Monday, May 20, 2013

Week 8/Week 9 Soccer News and Notes

There was a very poorly communicated time change on the 3-year-old's soccer game this weekend, resulting in us arriving at the field an hour early Saturday. Which worked out well, because if you ever have a chance to watch a bunch of three-year-olds who you don't know play soccer, you have to take it. (Same goes for reading about it, I'm sure.)

Once those games were over, the girl took the field, and dreams of her all-girls team ever facing another all-girls team have pretty much been extinguished. (Seriously, you can't find five other 6-and-under girls in the town and lump them together just for fun?) Two weeks ago, they faced the probable Brazilian men's 2018 team, and last week we believe it was the Germans. This week it was probably just the local high school team.

This team is clearly getting better. I'm convinced that if they ever faced five girls of roughly equal experience levels, they'd at least come within 10 goals. They move with the ball better than they ever had, once in a while they connect on a pass, and sometimes they'll block a shot. But then they get pushed out of the way by boys who have spent half their lives perfecting the stiff-arm. 

However, she has mentioned she wants to play in the fall, which is good news! She doesn't totally hate it yet, so we have something to look for.

I missed the second game because of the scheduling change and had already agreed to work the concession stand. My fearless correspondent, who doubles as my spouse, reports that the boy scored just once, and into his own net, so we've experienced a setback. However, on the plus side, he showed some emotion out there, bawling audibly when his teammate took the ball away from him and scored a goal that was rightly his. Sometimes soccer with three-year-olds is like playing with a bunch of wide receivers. (Holy smokes, I just linked to a book written just as I was old enough to drink.) Also on the plus side, the boy very often comes home with a jersey dirtier than his sister's. Usually, though, that's because of ketchup or chocolate syrup.

One quick note on the concession stand, if you take nothing else away from anything you've seen here, take this: Always volunteer for the concession stand toward the end of your kid's respective sports season. All you have to do is collect raffle tickets and tell people "we're all out of that," and they can't get mad.

On the way to the car after the games, big sister said, "That was awesome!" I put my arm around her, told her how proud I was of her, and to keep practicing and getting better, but then she said, "No, the concession stand. That was more awesomer than the soccer." She definitely has some avenues when her playing days are over, in public relations, marketing, or food services.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

I Just Hope You Understand...Sometimes the Clothes Do Not Make the Man

The three-year-old is starting to demand a say in dressing himself every day. That results in some mysterious clothes combinations and a beginning of the end of the days when his collar somehow matches his socks, which makes his mom sad. (Mom insists on dressing her boys like they have graduated from schools we'll never be able to afford. She obviously has never paid attention to what she married.) But before we examine some of the issues we encounter with the boy trying to dress himself, let's take a look at his storied career in clothing so far:

--Three time winner of the prestigious yet vague "Slugger" award, according to his pajamas.
--Two-time "Pitching Ace" award winner, according to a shirt he has repeatedly barfed on.
--Six-time "Mommy's All-Star" even though Mommy needs to have at least three more boys to field a team in any major North American sport.
--Various positional/sports activity designations such as "Short Stop," "Slam Dunk" and "Football."
--Uniform #05 retired because no athlete in the history of sports has ever worn the number 05.

Maybe someday Daddy will start a separate boys' clothing line that promises kids will become "Daddy's Long Snapper," "Off Sides," "Nana's Bench Warmer," "Fumble Prone," or "20-Game Loser." But that's for spare time.

For now, though, while we appreciate his efforts to save us little slices of time during the morning free-for-all by dressing himself, mostly Mommy and I would rather he let us (by us we mean Mommy) pick out the boy's clothes. This week, we picked out a perfectly fine set of clothes, if it were January, or if we lived at the North Pole, but not for a 75-degree day. This means that we actually have to start paying attention to the local weather girl, not just debate whether her boobs are real. (I do that with my wife, not my kids.)

A truly great thing about kids is their innocent ignorance of societal norms. (It explains why they love riding in minivans so much. Except when the van's air conditioning is shot and they have just the stifled breeze from the back windows that open outward, only to the width of their noses.) But it's also what possesses them to pull their socks up so high when they wear sneakers. So we dial back his socks to a less Catholic schoolgirl uniform-ish level.

One rule of toddler haberdashery is that if they like it well enough, who cares if it still fits. We've worn hockey jerseys better suited for displaying navel rings. We try to wear shoes we've already bequeathed to our little brother. We consistently attempt to wear flood pants.

Color coordination is at best optional but mostly coincidental. Any two items can and will work, and if something doesn't have a sports team logo on it, it damn well better be littered with smiling animals that will rip your face open, like dinosaurs and sharks, or eardrum-obliterating vehicles, like jets and bulldozers.

Even after we decide what to wear, he still struggles at times with his footing. We were thinking about putting him in ballet, like the great Lynn Swann. Not so he could make catches like this in the Super Bowl like Lynn Swann, but so he could stand and put his pants on without needing to wear a helmet like Lynn Swann.

He also has a tough time putting his socks on. Although so do we, because he retains the gene that causes his toes to fan out like a peacock's feathers when his socks are only 22% on. We would all save 3 minutes per school day if he didn't do this. That's 540 minutes per person per year. That's 45 man-hours lost every year to an infuratingly tedious, highly preventable ritual that MUST STOP NOW. But I think he thinks deep down it's funny, so it will go on until the day after his wedding day.

The type of shoes he wears daily is determined exclusively by which pair we can find. The other pairs are usually stuck under a table in a room other than his bedroom, so by Thursday each week he's wearing a baseball shirt, baseball shorts, socks pulled up to just below the knee, and shiny black tuxedo shoes.

Once Mom finally gets her way and he's wearing something borderline appropriate with minimal haggling, we'll notice as we're unloading at Daycare a crooked white stripe starting at the sternum and ending somewhere around his heart, like a crudely drawn reverse Nike swoosh. 

Kid also likes to brush his own teeth.


This is so wonderfully, fantastically shitty

This is why I favor segregation in America. One disney for the regular people, and one HamptonDisney with no lines, for the rich ass holes.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Some Springtime Uninvited Company

Every third weekend or so, sooner if we feel ambitious, we'll try to clean the basement. A finished basement proves one of the harder rooms in the house to clean because of the diversity of the mess. For every old pillow-and-blanket fort ravaged, seized and razed by a one-year-old, we have an entire pouch of Welch's fruit snacks smushed into our late-'80s mauve carpet. (Some say that's an improvement.) If we have a pizza box on the coffee table from supper, we also have tiny, misplaced choking hazards from toys we (by we, I mean I) never knew existed strewn all over the room, because of course the basement is Where the Toys Are. Ladies and Gentlemen, introducing Connie Francis.

Oh who am I kidding. Every room in the house is the toy room. The living room has a few shelves of toys and books a table that speaks both English and Spanish and plays music and names colors. And there are two train sets. In the dining room is an easel. In the kitchen we have another, smaller kitchen with 200,000 plastic hot dogs and french fries. In one bathroom there are various nautical items and water-dwelling animals. In the other bathroom is all our bathroom stuff all over the place because some 1-year-olds with long reaches think contact lens cases and toothbrushes are also toys. The garage looks like a kiddie episode of Hoarders. Maybe our house is Babes in Toyland instead.

Last time we looked to clean the basement though, we saw all the usual-- the pillows, the books, some clothes drying on a rack, a chocolate chip Ritz cracker, enough toys to open a Salvation Army satellite store, some critical tax information, an overturned hockey net, and two or three helpings of "rancid chocolate cottage cheese-like substance in a sippy cup" hidden under the furniture. (We're putting the other "rancid chocolate cottage cheese-like substance in a sippy cup" guy out of business.)

The chocolate chip Ritz cracker got my attention. I'm used to not being able to keep up with advances in snack food - they turned my favorite cereal, Special K, into flatbread sandwiches for God's sake-- so it's not surprising someone at Nabisco was able to engineer a chocolate chip Ritz cracker.

Except when I picked it up all the chocolate chips started spazzing out and crawling all over me. Silly me, it's Delaware Ant Season! And now they have a very willing accomplice, that 1-year-old who leaves large pieces of food in very bad places. Crackers on the floor, M&M's on the edge of the countertop, half-eaten ice cream sandwiches in the couch cushions. At least I'm not crazy -- there really is no such thing as a chocolate chip Ritz. 

Note the capital letters on Delaware Ant Season...if you capitalize something, you can easily explain it away as some sort of rite of passage or tradition that you cannot get around. Like Cherry Blossom Season, but more unpleasant. Instead of just saying "we have ants" we capitalize it in an attempt to distract ourselves from the fact that, indeed maybe within these walls just live five total scuzzbuckets.

The ants must have gorged themselves or were sleeping or both because they were motionless until I picked up their little tanning bed and threw it out the door. Then I found their little trail of followers, in a single-file line just like in the cartoons, and went to find the nearest pest killer.

I couldn't find any pest killers - so unprepared for Delaware Ant Season we are-- so I squirted the first thing I could find in a trigger bottle at them, which was Armor All. Not sure if that helped or hurt, but it slowed them down enough that I could wipe them up and throw them out. I kept a watchful eye for more but am happy to report we have been ant free for almost a week now. 

Obviously we have not heard the last of the Delaware Ants this year; the tiny little things multiply and grow and somehow manage to get into your cereal bag no matter how many Bag Clips you choke it with. Of course, one ant in a bowl of cereal, and the whole bowl is ruined. Just be sure to find it before it's too late, they taste like what rotten potpurri might smell like. Very pungent for something so small.

But we'll be more prepared in the future. As a seventh rule of the kitchen, we will no longer permit anyone (adults included) to take any food out of the kitchen ever again. We also need to get more of this stuff. That stuff draws all of the ants out of their hiding places, then murders them instantly. The little packets fill up with dead ants faster than your toddler can throw his entire plate of spaghetti on the floor. Given the damage the one-year-old can do, we'll need all the backup we can get.

(Editor's Note: The house is not as bad as my husband is making it sound.)
(Blogger's Note: Most of the time.)

Monday, May 13, 2013

Three-Year-Old Capitalizes on Rookie Mistakes, Inches Closer to Bathroom Mark

If today were a football game, my three-year-old would have beaten me by three touchdowns. I'd have to sit, sullen, in front of a microphone with a makeshift backdrop sponsored by some unknown bank, explaining to my wife what went wrong, how I strayed from the gameplan too early, and how the other team capitalized on all my mistakes and didn't make any mistakes themselves.

The three-year-old made no mistakes today. To paraphrase the great former Oakland Raiders broadcaster Bill King, "Jascha Heifetz never played a violin with more dexterity than this three-year-old boy is playing his Dad..." Meanwhile, Dad could not get out of his own way.

Let's review where Dad bungled his way through the day:

1. He let his kids know he had the day off. As soon as somebody saw that Dad was putting on a plain gray hoodie instead of a plain white dress shirt, everybody knew that Dad might try to stay home and get caught up on stuff, and there wasn't going to be any of that. Because the oldest is in kindegarten, she couldn't stay home with Dad, so there were some jealousy tears. Because the one-year-old doesn't know what's going on, we could take him to day care without issue. But the middle child knows exactly what's going on, and still in half a haze from another night of cosleeping, asked, "Can I stay home with you Daddy?" Dad crumbles under the pressure.

2. He took his kid seriously when he said he was hungry. Dad went for a haircut, which means a free Dum Dum lollipop for any kid who can tag along and keep quiet for 15 minutes. The promise of Dum Dum lollipops, for whatever reason, causes normally irrational kids to do perfectly rational things like behave themselves for short spurts. Not terribly sure why, since a Dum Dum is almost half gone before you've taken the wrapper completely off. But my kids could win a lottery for an all-inclusive playdate at Caillou's house and would turn it down if dad is getting his hair cut that day and they could get a Dum Dum lollipop.

Today there were no lollipops, and on the way out to the car, the kid, after letting me know that the haircut store should get some more, then declared "I'm hungry." He was not hungry. He had two peanut butter and brown sugar sandwiches (the official lunch of childhood diabetes) earlier but somehow Dad forgot that, and took him to a place he had never been, a place that has been voted to have the best hamburgers in the history of Delaware, where he ordered a hot dog.

3. When kids are bored, they say they are hungry. When kids are bored in an eating place, they suddenly have to go to the bathroom. Dad forgot this too. So when my son was considering his hot dog like it was abstract art instead of eating it, nobody was surprised when suddenly we had to go find a bathroom. Even me.

But that's the good news. With our visit to the previously unexplored bathroom, there are now only 9 public bathrooms in the Mid-Atlantic region that we haven't visited. One family trip to Potter County, PA, and another to extreme upstate New York and we should have that wrapped up. That's when we take our act to the New England states, and by the time the youngest is potty trained, we hit the Deep South. I predict that before anyone graduates high school, we will become the first family to visit every public bathroom in the Continental US.

My only regret is that we won't accomplish this feat thirty years ago, when the five of us could have appeared on "That's Incredible!" I would have worn a brown suit and worn my hair out a little too far over the ears as Fran Tarkenton asked each of my kids about their favorite bathroom in the US. And when Cathy Lee Crosby says to my wife, "Surely there must have been a time when you were ready to give up," my wife would respond, "Absolutely not. If you can survive the bathrooms on the PA Turnpike you can survive anything."

Speaking of my wife, leave it to her then to salvage something out of this day. When I made the boy bring home his unwanted hot dog for supper, and his sister compained vociferously that he got to eat a hot dog that he didn't want instead of the regularly scheduled dinner that she didn't want, my wife just pulled a switcheroo and gave the girl the hot dog and the boy the other stuff.

That wasn't hard, for a seasoned veteran at least. I'll need to cut down on the rookie mistakes or else it will be a long season ahead.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

It's 2AM: Do You Know Where Your Kids Are Sleeping?

Probably the biggest "dead horse" parenting issue in the blogiverse is what to do with kids who don't sleep in their own beds or who need some parental assistance or attendance to get down in their own bed. I haven't exhaustively researched the topic, but if you took most parents' statements, put them in a blender, and hit "puree," the answer is:

OMG, my spouse and I have a hard enough time sharing our (high-ranking chess piece)-size bed as it is, I can't imagine having to share it with one or more of our kids. Any time my kid cries or has a nightmare or doesn't feel well, I make him stay in his bed until his tear ducts crack apart or he throws up repeatedly in his shoes. Because if I let him sleep in our bed this time, he will sleep in our bed every night until the day he's asked to set it on fire for a fraternity initiation. We can't have that because, most days, bedtime is the only "me time" I get in a day. Plus we haven't had meaningful sex since the last time the Steelers won the Super Bowl anyway...


In our house, our kids are required to co-sleep with us until they are 12. After that, they are free to sleep in the makeshift bed we have crafted out of bamboo shoots at the side of our bed. You have to keep your precious kids with you at all times, especially those times in the wee hours when everyone is unconscious. That way baby will form a bond with you that will last throughout the years, so that she will be totally fine with it when you tell her she can't see boys until she has her doctorate degree. Also, she won't suck her thumb and will be nicer to all the kids in school than her selfish, independently sleeping peers.

I dunno. Of our three kids, only our three-year-old sleeps in our bed as a general rule, a rule he made up himself. Around Thanksgiving 2010 he had bronchialitis that required breathing treatments every 2 hours, and we didn't have this lady (or even this chick) handy to administer them. Though I'm not sure I'd trust her with a nebulizer. As a result, we kept the boy close, and he kept us closer, to the point where my wife is now considering going Sinead O'Connor or Susan Powter or GI Jane -- or any of a host of other bald '90s women-- to keep the kid from needing two fistfuls of hair to fall asleep each night.

But aside from that inconvenience, having a kid sleep with me ranks #3,193 on the "List of Things I Worry About," behind why kids can't ever clean up that glob of toothpaste out of the sink and how we'll remember which week is recycling week once the 1-year-old throws the magnetic calendar in the trash. (Hint: During the NFL season...odd numbered weeks are recycling, even numbered weeks are not.)

It's not like we sleep in luxury now as it is. Our bed is a full-size with a beat-up mattress with a surface of a tilde. My wife and I probably each have spines that look like question marks, but we don't move that much in bed, so the annoyance of an extra body is signifcantly outweighed by the annoyance of running an all-night shuttle service back to his bedroom, where he will invariably wake the 1-year-old. (We tried that a while ago, and sometimes he snuck back in with us anyway and never woke us up. I think the medical community advises tying a bell around his feetie pajamas in those cases.)

Remember, we're parents with full-time jobs. So we get our sleep. Sleep finds us. If things ever get too bad, one of us goes to the sectional and sleep there, or down to the basement. We could sleep tied to railroad tracks. This is such a non-issue.

And there are advantages. After he head-butts me once in the nose, I turn the other direction and use him for lumbar support. He doesn't snore. He doesn't talk in his sleep. He rarely pees our bed. We set up an agreement early on where he waived his right to the good pillows, so we get those. It's easy to wake him up in the morning, since he's right there and is a relatively light sleeper. (Compare to his sister, who requires an interrogation lamp and the several hours of WWII footage.)

Would we prefer that he sleeps in his own bed? Of course. But he has said repeatedly he won't sleep in his own room until he gets a "big-boy" bed, which he already has but wants a bigger one. We as parents don't negotiate like that. We don't give the kid exactly what he wants every time he wants it. We give him the second thing on his list just to keep him (and all of us) happy.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

The Wonders of TiVo: Watch Your Favorite Teams Lose Way Past Everyone's Bedtime

Shame on the NHL for starting their playoff games at a decent hour...don't they know that, on good days, I don't get home from work until after the game has already started, then sit down to a nice dinner with my family that ends with the little one shouting "uh oh" as he turns his food dish upside down on the floor and the middle one singing "Bringing in the Sheaves" at the top of his lungs (that actually happened) followed by three baths, an untold number of stories, a bottle, two bowls of cereal, then the start of bedtime preparations?

Ah, but that's why they invented TiVo. TiVo, quickly becoming the world's greatest generic eponym since Kleenex, Jell-o, and the Davenport, allows you to do essentially the same thing that VCR's did 35 years ago, (tape stuff on TV) except now it actually works. You can tape the whole game and watch it on your own time. Couldn't think of anything else I'd change...ok, one thing.

NHL, you could stand to add more TV timeouts. Yeah I said that. More TV timeouts. You need to be more like the NFL, where each team gets 35 challenges per half, plus five media timeouts per quarter, which often creates the dreaded field goal-commercial-touchback-commercial-challenge-commercial sequence where you can go milk a cow and not miss a single play.

We TiVoers love football for those long stretches of no action...running the Fast Forward thing up to 4, refusing to slow down for that Discover Card commercial where the two African-American ladies amuse each other (they are the same lady though, right?) for your son who has the whole commercial memorized, down to the cackling, then slamming on the TiVo breaks to see that the coach in fact can't challenge the kickoff.

Not so in hockey. By my count you get 4 media timeouts per period, each lasting a paltry minute, plus two 10-12 minute intermissions that the 4-speed on the TiVo blasts through so fast you don't even see Mike Milbury (not so bad...) You make up no ground whatsoever, unless you fast forward through all the Penguins goals against; which is where you can make up some time.

Tonight, by the time the Penguins got through s__tting the ice on Long Island, the BlackHawks/Wild game was in the first intermission, and everyone who had attempted to stay up to watch the game with me was asleep. NHL, by keeping your regulation games to a tidy, efficient 2-and-a-half hours, with limited sideshow interruptions, you are losing millions of tiny Tivo fans who simply can't stay awake long enough to get caught up. Please consider this the number one agenda item at your Summer Meetings, if you have them...longer games.

Confession: I don't have Tivo...just a "DVR." And I use "tissues" to smear "petroleum jelly" on my baby's butt.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Week 7 Soccer Notes

1. Due to a scheduling quirk, my daughter's team of Age 6 Ladybugs found themselves matched up Saturday against something resembling the 2018 Brazilian Men's World Cup entry, and the results were predictable. They lost 241-2. Adding insult was that one of the 2 goals came immediately as our one-year-old was falling out of the giant wagon, so our light cheers for a relatively meaningless goal could easily have been construed as derisive, mock cheers for a baby falling out of a wagon and landing on his head.

Frustration was clearly mounting for the girl, who told me several times during the game, "They're pushing me!" and I did see some extended arms and elbows. But rather than channeling that anger into pushing back, it eroded into more of an "I give the s__t up with this," attitude. It's unfortunate, but we could be seeing the beginning of the end of soccer for her. Who knows, maybe next week they'll actually play other 6-year-olds (girls, even) and have a chance to do something.

2. During the hour between games, we walked around the track and witnessed parts of one softball game and two baseball games. We saw 33 pitches thrown via a variety of methods (kids, coaches, machines) before one was mercifully put into play, a short grounder to a player of indeterminate position, who bobbled, fielded and threw wildly to first base, which was uncovered anyway, despite there being 22 defenders on the field, including three first basemen. CAN NOT WAIT for our kids to start playing that.

3. The second game of the day featured our 3-year-old, who did not score a goal but did tally a nice assist ("nice" in 3-year-old soccer = "extraordinarily lucky") on a teammate's goal. Since he was mad that he didn't score the goal himself, we had to remind him that he helped a teammate score a goal, and that was just as important. That works on a three-year-old, who then reminded us throughout the remainder of the day that he helped his teammate score a goal. Next we'll ask him to make a nice assist to his parents as they clean his room.

4. For the seventh straight week, I am smacking myself on the back of the neck for not wearing sunscreen. When it's 49 degrees when you leave the house, the last thing you're thinking about is sunscreen. It's all i'm thinking about now. 

Friday, May 3, 2013

Everyone Out of the Kitchen Unless You Plan on Sleeping There

Something good will happen the day I decide to move the three-year-old's bed into the kitchen. Either he'll finally sleep in his own bed since he is addicted to the kitchen, or he'll finally get out of the kitchen. I suspect the latter, since his mama has no desire to sleep in the kitchen, and he can't fall asleep unless he's holding two fistfuls of her hair. I would offer to buy him a wig to hold onto in his kitchen-bed and release his 259 negelected stuffed animals to the nearby shelter, where they're sure to find a more loving home.

Either way it's a win. Getting all the kids out of the kitchen is a fine way to start. Parenthood has come with many surprises for me, but somewhere in the Top 15 is how stupidly unproductive the day is when kids are in the kitchen. Nothing good EVER happens when kids are in the kitchen.

We then are enacting several new kitchen rules, effective immediately, which should increase our daily household productivity 10-fold, by which we mean we can fold about 10 more pairs of unmatched socks daily.

1. All trips into or through the kitchen must be pre-arranged and pre-approved. This will put an immediate stop to (a) that game where they chase each other using the the baby's high chair, or sometimes just the baby, as a temporary speed impediment, and (2) the mid-morning, mid-day, mid-mid-day, post-lunch, pre-supper, post-supper, pre-teeth-brushing, bedtime, and pre-post-bedtime snacking, none of which includes their bowl of cereal. Not so much because we aim to curb childhood obesity, (though that's cool too) but because we don't have enough room in our cabinets for all the half-eaten sleeves of Saltines and Ritz.

Going forward if kids want to set foot in the kitchen, we will require them to fill out an application stating the reason for the visit --eating at designated times (see #6 below), answering a ringing telephone, or actually cleaning the kitchen are the only acceptable reasons-- the length of their prospective visit, (not to exceed 9 minutes) and three valid forms of identification.

2. Nobody is allowed to touch the dishwasher under any circumstance. This seems counter-intuitive, given that the oldest could be soon mature enough to have "loading/unloading the dishwasher" as an official chore, but right now the only chore is watching the kids empty it one... spoon... at... a... time.

3. The 1-year-old is not allowed in the kitchen at any time. Period. Maybe to eat. If there is a market somewhere for re-arranging the bowls in the lower cabinets via the kitchen floor, we should send him on a plane tomorrow to that land and no longer encumber him with our simplistic, short-sighted ways; we are only stunting his earning power. Also, he uses an open dishwasher like half of a see-saw.

4. The next person who drops more of their meal on the floor than in their mouth will be forced to lick...wait, usually that's me.

5. We are not entertaining the thought of adding doors to the kitchen. This suggestion was brought by the middle child, who while attempting to sneak a piece of brownie, was so startled by his Dad I could have been Chris Hansen. Afterwards, the rankled boy, using his best "Don't you know how to knock?" voice asked why there were no doors to the kitchen. It's so Dad can catch you eating brownies, boy!

6. We will eat dinner together as a family in the kitchen. Except the nights when Dad works late. Or the kids have soccer practice, or dance practice, or violin practice, or the Steelers play at 4 o'clock (which means we get to eat downstairs!!) But all other times we will eat together as a family. We'll ask each other how our day was. We won't ask you what you learned in school today, because you'll just mumble out "nothing" with a big gob of meatball in your mouth. But we'll talk and we'll listen and maybe we'll laugh, as long as you kids don't overdo your comedy routines. And then somebody will have to go to the bathroom, particularly if he doesn't like what's on the menu that day. Then we'll do it again the next day.